Alpacas require just 20% fibre and 10-12% protein in their diets, which can usually be obtained from eating good quality grass and ad-lib (free access to eat as much and as often as desired) hay, but can be given a supplementary feed where appropriate.
How much grazing does an alpaca need?
The typical stocking density is between 4 and 5 alpacas per acre, with the exact number depending upon the quality of the grass. According to the British Alpaca Society, "The stocking rate for alpacas varies depending upon whether the grass being grazed by the alpacas is of a native low density variety, also referred to as rough grazing, grassland under five years of age and grassland over five years of age. The stocking rate of alpacas not only depends upon the amount of grass but also the quality (energy and protein) available which is dependent on the frequency and intensity of the grazing schedule and the mixture of species found in the lay.
In general the stocking rates for alpacas are as follow
– Rough grazing land: 4 to 5 alpacas per acre – Permanent pasture which is over five years old: 5 to 6 per acre. – Temporary pasture which is less than five years old: 6 to 8 per acre."
Do I need to rest grazing for my alpacas?
Ideally, the paddock should be split into two halves so that one half of the grazing can be rested at any time. Rotation should then occur every 6-8 weeks to help reduce worm burden and ensure that the grass has time to rest and recuperate. Soils found within the UK are often lacking in certain minerals and elements; pastures and soils can be easily analysed to assess any areas of deficiency.
Are any plants toxic to alpacas?
It is really important to check your pasture regularly for poisonous plants. Foxgloves, Rhododendrons, Ferns, Rye Grass, Rushes, Daffodils, Privets, Rapes, Ragworts, Laburnums, Hemlocks, Marsh Mallows are toxic to alpacas. Check out this helpful document from the BAS for an extensive list on what to look out for.
What supplementary feed is best for alpacas?
Alpacas are so efficient at absorbing nutrition from grass and hay that supplementation should only be provided during times when pasture is poor, at times of compromised physiological state (i.e. during pregnancy, lactation or growth) or when an alpaca has a poor body condition score. There are various general livestock feeds available on the market, but we highly recommend considering a camelid specific feed. Camelibra is a vitamin & mineral supplementation designed specifically for camelids and can be used in conjunction with another feed, such as Fibregest. Whichever feed you opt for, make sure to measure out the appropriate amounts for weight, age, sex, condition (this will differ from feed to feed). Beware of feeds with added molasses, as this is sugary and fattening and coarse mixes in particular can cause dental issues.
What can I feed a thin alpaca?
If you notice an alpaca is looking thin, make sure you have allowed at least 4ft trough space per head to reduce aggression amongst alpacas at feeding time and to ensure shy alpacas get the nutrition they need. It is also worth running a FEC (Faecal Egg Count) to identify if worms might be the reason for the alpaca losing weight. When you need to put condition on an alpaca, sugar beet can be fed (our preferred choice is Speedi-beet), but ALWAYS make sure it is soaked as according to the packaging because it can be fatal if fed dry.
What can I feed alpacas as treats?
Alpacas can enjoy the following foods as a treat in small quantities and cut into small chunks to avoid choking:
It may take a bit of trial and error to find what your alpacas like the best!
Vitamin D Supplements
Alpacas need Vitamin AD&E paste throughout darker months in places of lower sun levels, such as the UK, as they are susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency. This is particularly important for growing alpacas to prevent rickets, those with darker skin/heavy fleeces (which may block UV light and reduce absorption of vitamin D) and pregnant females to aid growth of unborn cria.
There are two recommended methods of administering ADE & B12 vitamins.
1. Administer ADE & B12 paste orally every 6 weeks during September/October - March/April. Check the dosage according to the label and do not overdose, as this can be toxic to the alpaca. You can purchase this from Alpaca & Llama Care, Homestead Farm Supplies or Eggsport, If buying a 300ml tube, an applicator gun will also be required.
2. Administer vitamin injection - consult your vet for further information on this.
Can you give mineral licks to alpacas?
Vitamin blocks, licks or buckets are not recommended as alpacas do not readily lick themselves or anything else, so it is unlikely they will get the minerals and vitamins they need from this method.
Disclaimer: Fostings Alpacas are not veterinary experts, so always consult your vet when considering appropriate feeds for your herd.
Learn how to look after alpacas
This 95 page E-Guide is packed full of information for new and prospective alpaca keepers, covering Alpaca 101, Requirements, Diet & Pasture Management, Husbandry Tasks, Disease & Parasites and an Introduction to Breeding & Cria Care. Download upon purchase so you can dive straight in! For the full contents list and to get your copy, click the image below.