Alpacas with their gentle nature and cute faces seem like the perfect animal to have around. Having them for over 10 years we can definitely say they are wonderful animals.
But there are some things you need to know before deciding to bring a few home.
- Alpacas should always be kept with other alpacas. Alpacas are herd animals and need to be kept with others of the same sex. 3 is good, 4 is better.
- Males must always be kept separate from females. Even gelded males can cause harm to females and should be kept with other males. If you decide to have both males and females, you will need separate pasture areas to keep males, females, weanlings, breeding areas, etc.
- Alpacas need shelter, clean water, and a good food source. They need protection from wind, sun, rain and snow. A shelter with visible escape routes will make them feel safe. A shelter with no exits will look like a trap.
- Alpacas are browsers and enjoy pasture, but they are not big weed eaters. They can be particular about what they eat and do well on grass hay in the winter months. If you are looking for an animal to clear weeds from your land, it’s better to consider a goat.
- Alpacas need to be shorn once a year.
- They need routine health maintenance (vaccinations, etc.), and the type and frequency can vary depending on where you live.
- Depending on where you live, you might need livestock guardian dogs to protect the alpacas from predators. Stray dogs have killed more alpacas in N. America that any other predator.
- Alpacas are not cuddly pets, and most of them do not like to be touched.
- There are cute videos of sweet little alpacas (often males) being treated as a pet or raised apart from a herd. Once over-socialized these animals can become dangerous as they mature. If they haven’t learned to respect humans, they could think of you as an equal and have been known to attack. Search for information on Berserk Male Syndrome in alpacas, there are many articles to read.
- Find a good mentor. There is nothing more valuable than having someone to learn from or call upon when in doubt.
- Find a local veterinarian that is familiar with camelids. There are sometimes situations that need an expert opinion or hands-on treatment by a professional that could mean the difference between life or death.
- Want to keep alpacas with other livestock? Read this article by Jill McElderry-Maxwell.
- The intent here is not to discourage anyone but rather to educate. Alpacas and their new owners deserve the best.