Pet Male:  Jack Johnson, owned by Soulshine Farm.  Photo © Copyright Alpaca Atlantic of Tennessee LLC.
as Pets
Pet Male:  Juan Valdez, owned by Soulshine Farm.  Photo © Copyright Alpaca Atlantic of Tennessee LLC.

The First of the Eight Essentials, of Alpaca Survival:
Basic Care
by Liz Lena
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      Raising alpacas, whether for fun or profit, is a responsibility. Just as with any other livestock or pet, we believe before you buy or adopt alpacas, it is important to do your homework and find out what the animals need to live happy, and healthy lives. You will need good information about fencing, shelters, equipment, haltering, caring for feet and teeth, good nutritional information, parasite control, pasture management, and transportation. You'll also need to learn how to combat environmental extremes: keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And let's not forget veterinary care, first aid and assembling handy lists of good resources! Nothing like a refreshing hose-party on a hot day! Photo © Copyright, Rock Chimney Farm Alpacas.
      Alpacas are native to Peru, Chile and Bolivia. They are members of the Camelid family along with the Llamas, Vicuna, Guanacos and Camels. They typically weigh 120-200 pounds and live 15-20 years. While alpacas are not difficult to care for, it is important to learn how they differ from other animals you may be familiar with.

Alpacas are herd animals, and can not be kept by themselves.       First and foremost alpacas need other alpacas or camelids as companions. As herd animals they feel very vulnerable and insecure if housed by themselves as single animals. Before we brought our alpacas home for the first time we purchased 2 llamas to keep them company. We thought a mother/daughter pair of llamas would be OK alone until the 2 pregnant females we had purchased arrived. The day we brought Tara and Penny home was exciting for us but terrifying for Tara. She had been raised on the same farm she was born on. She had her Mom and Grandmother as well as many aunts, cousins and sisters around her. Penny was about 6 months old and still nursing. Tara got off the trailer and started pacing the fence. Nostrils flaring she paced all night long. Her distress was obvious. We went back to the llama farm and bought another mother/baby pair of llamas the very next day. As soon as the 2 new llamas got off the trailer Tara settled down and the 4 llamas to this day are fast friends. Tara has taken the lead and is our guard llama. She is clearly in charge and will alert us to any intruders or perceived threats with her load alarm call.

      Alpacas can be kept as pets but maybe not in the traditional sense of the word. Although they can be taught to tolerate human contact they do not (and should not) enjoy being fondled, hugged or kissed. You'll want to train your alpacas to behave though during basic care, such as toe nail trimming, injections, dental work or health exams. There are many acceptable training methods via books, DVDs, and seminars, which are readily available.

      It is very important to purchase your alpacas from a reputable breeder. You will need ongoing support as you learn more about the care of your new pets. A reputable breeder will offer to let you visit often and work side-by-side with them to learn how to feed, trim toenails, halter train, vaccinate, worm, and perform other routine procedures. They should also provide and encourage ongoing support once you take your animals home. Trimming alpaca nails may not be fun, but it's an important necessity! Photo © Copyright, Rock Chimney Farm Alpacas.
      Living with alpacas can be very rewarding. There is nothing like sitting on the front porch watching these gentle, graceful animals graze in the pasture, lay in the sun, or roll in the sand!

Author: Liz Lena of  St. Nicolas Ranch, West Virginia.

Helpful Links with Additional Information:

  • Starr Cash of  Venezia Dream Farm wrote an article called, I'm thinking of getting alpacas.....What should I do to get started? which has lots of good thought-provoking insight: examine your heart, research, think, facilities & fences, budget.....
    Want to treat your alpacas to something fun? Buy them a load of dirt! King-of-the-Hill is the alpaca's #1 recreation sport!
  • Get comfortable for this site! John Merrell of  Gateway Farm Alpacas has a wealth of information at this link. He covers farm basics, land, pasture design, fencing, veterinary care, shearing, feed, shelter, and supplies. You'll be here for a while!

  • Kim Tollers and Linda Olver of  Dougherty Creek Alpacas admit that there are as many opinions concerning alpaca ownership as there are..........alpacas, but their opinions are worth reading. Topics are varied: planning, visits, farm plan, pasture, feed, water, shelter, health, shearing, manure, fencing, and predator control. Whew!

  • Along with buying your alpacas, you'll need to buy a few supplies. Carol Karsten of Hidden Hill Farm Alpacas, put this list together to save you some gas! Thanks Carol! Click here, for a listing of  Basic Supplies.

  • Shelley Wetherill, of Tick Ridge Alpacas does a great job of addressing lots and lots of topics we've addressed on this site. Included are: farm layout, fencing, guard dogs, pre-purchase considerations, and shopping tips. Just Getting Started?.

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