Welcome to our reality-check site.
In laymens terms, they are livestock that look like small llamas, but you shear them like sheep.
Can you eat them?
What good are they?
Nope. Alpacas are herd animals and need to be kept in a herd. Most reputable breeders recommend at least 3. If anyone ever tells you it’s fine to keep just one by himself, you’re probably dealing with someone who is overdue on their car payment – and not a reputable breeder.
Can I keep them with my horses, goats, donkeys, cows, and sheep?
What makes a pet boy different from a non-pet boy?
Who sells pet alpacas?
What if I can find a boy a little cheaper at the goat auction, or flea market?
Again, I come back with the reputable breeder plug – because these people have a vested interest in the happiness of their customers and health of their alpacas. Reputation is everything in this business.
What’s so complicated about these animals?
Like what for example?
Or how about thinking it’s OK to put your new boys in your back-yard. The grass is really nice and green because you use Scotts Turf Builder with Plus 2 Weed Control – and since it says to “apply anytime weeds are growing” you’ve been spraying the heck out of your weedy lawn in anticipation of your new grass-munchers. Your toddlers have been playing on the lawn so it must be safe -- right? Wrong. Result: same as above, they’ll be dead in days.
You’re not going to learn these lessons from the auctioneer, or the guy trying to make his car payment. You’re going to learn them from a breeder, one with a good reputation, one that cares about your animals once they cash your check.
Anyway – that’s why we put this site together. We can’t possibly teach you everything you need to know, but we’ll give you a clue. By the time you finish – we hope you know just enough to be dangerous………..or at least, to make a good decision concerning whether or not to buy some pet alpacas. Want more information, have a question or two, or want to explore the possibility of buying pets – feel free to contact any breeder on this site. You'll find links to their farm sites at the end of each section. Hope you learn a lot, and Welcome!
I have declared myself an expert on male alpacas, having had 11 of them out of my last 12 crias (and over a 5-year period!). As hard as that has been on my financial picture, I have to say that I LOVE MY BOYS!
Young male alpacas are more curious and more adventurous than the young females, speaking generally, of course. They are quicker to approach humans, and easier to handle when young. And therein lies the problem.
These guys are SO cute when small, that we all have trouble resisting their friendly overtures. Some people even find that they cannot resist making real ‘pets’ out of them---cute little ‘kissy-face’ boys. Yeah. Right. They are forgetting that these adorable little crias do grow up, and like children, what may be unbearably cute at a very young age does not translate well into maturity. This can be particularly true of alpacas.
I had the most adorable cria born here two years ago. A true black, little male with white on his extremeties. He was extremely athletic and very well put together. In his little green coat, he looked just like a young race horse, so I named him Triple Crown (aka, Trip). Now, this was one of those rare alpacas who was overly friendly from the get-go. I could see trouble brewing and knew that I needed to take a great deal of care with him.
At the time, I had a woman and her son helping me out at the barn on a part-time basis. They raised goats at home, and I guess thought they knew all about alpacas, too. I explained to them about the berserk-male syndrome, in which a mature male alpaca does not distinguish between humans and other alpacas. I also explained how they needed to leave Trip alone, even though he came up to them—that they should demand he respect their space and give him time to learn the difference between humans and his own kind.
I guess either my explanation wasn't convincing enough, or Trip’s charm was just too much for them. Around me, they would behave as I asked, but right before they quit working for me, the mother showed me a cute picture of her son squatting and doing the kissy-face bit with Trip. I had already seen signs that Trip seemed to be growing in confusion. Now I knew why.
Over the next year, I used every trick in my bag to train this boy to behave properly. He was lovely under halter, and won quite a few blue ribbons showing in obstacle courses with my granddaughter. But without the halter, his behavior was definitely in the questionable range.
At eighteen months, I gelded him. Although he was beautiful, it was clear that his behavior would eliminate him as a herdsire. Unfortunately, even though gelded, he got progressively more aggressive, as he approached age two. I am not saying that he could not be sweet and lovely, he could. But he could also be an aggressive male, blocking my way as I moved through the boys’ barn, growling at me, and generally displaying a threatening posture. One day, as I was walking back down from the boys’ barn, he caught me by surprise and knocked me flat on the ground. From then on, I did not walk back down without my head turned to see what was happening behind me. If he came running at me, all I had to do was turn, hold up my hand, and say, “Aht!”
What would I look for in a young male or cria? I would like to see an alpaca that is not fearful of humans, one that has self-confidence, one who may be willing to be approached, but has spatial limits and recognizes yours. The perfect pet? One who also is willing to stand quietly and let me trim his toe nails, accepts worming and all of the other more routine care that I will have to give - without a fuss. Put all that together and you will have found a boy to fall in love with!
9. So, this alpaca is looking at you those big hypnotic eyes. To you it means – take me home with you! Then, you do. But, your alpaca is not happy with its new home. Why not? You thought you were perfect together! The reputable breeder would explain that alpacas are herd animals and should never be alone. A happy alpaca has lots of alpaca friends!
8. You bring your alpacas home and they don't fit in the guest bedroom. You thought someone said they could come in the house? Well, the reputable breeder will teach you that these are outdoor animals and should not be kept in the guest bedroom.
7. On a beautiful summer day with the temperatures around 85, you notice that your alpaca's fur is getting pretty long. It'll take too long to braid, so it must be time for a haircut. You take him to the nearest barber, but your alpaca won’t sit or stand still! Not even for that red lollipop! You wish there were an easier way. If you purchased from a reputable breeder, you would have learned that an alpaca must have his fiber sheared in the spring, before it gets hot. No braiding required and you get to eat the lollipop!
6. What a beautiful day! You go out to feed, pet and snuggle with your new alpacas. Suddenly, they're running at you and trying to body slam you to the ground! Are they reincarnated wrestlers from the WWF? Your flea market dealer tells you to put on your Hulk Hogan outfit and take advantage of a good workout! A reputable breeder would have warned you that your cuddling has over-socialized your alpacas, and would give you advice on how to turn their behavior around pronto before someone gets hurt!
5. Your beautiful alpacas have been doing a great job of eating your lawn. What a thrifty way to save on gas for the lawn mower! Fall is coming and it's time to reseed the lawn, and hey, that seed mixture at your local superstore is on sale! Another way to save money! This is great! WRONG! Alpacas need a specific diet to thrive and regular cheap grass seed is not likely to have much nutritional value. The reputable breeder will help you determine the best type of forage to grow and/or purchase in your area. They would also explain how to have it tested.
4. You've seen dogs drooling before, but this is ridiculous! The auctioneer didn't tell you that your alpacas used to be part of a Pavlovian experiment! You don’t remember ringing a bell, do you? Where is the vet’s phone number? They work on Sunday, right? The reputable breeder you could have purchased from, would have told you that they've seen this before & would explain to you why your alpaca is drooling and calm your heart rate!
3. Those alpacas got out of their pasture again!! Why do they keep walking over their 2’ high fence? The flea-market guy said they don't challenge fencing, so what could be wrong here? The reputable breeder would have explained to you that fencing is both to keep alpacas in, and to keep predators out -- and that fence height differs from location-to-location, but anything chest-height would be a joke to your new herd!
2. The alpacas are so cute! Look at them running and playing with the white tail deer in the field! You never knew that they would get along so well! The people at the flea market said they get along great with everyone! It sounds precious, doesn’t it? But it could be a deadly combination. A reputable breeder would have explained to you about Meningeal Worm, how alpacas get it, and how to prevent it!
1. Finally, you decide that the alpacas are just not for you, not at this time anyway - but you've already bought them!!! The auctioneer has cashed your check and your money is long-gone. Maybe someone in the neighborhood will want them or maybe you could just let them loose in the woods. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!! Alpacas are not disposable pets that can survive in the neighborhood munching on lawns and food from garbage cans. Yes, a reputable breeder will do what they can if you're ever in this situation, but they would have saved you a lot of time and heartache by making sure you understood the commitment you were getting into, and didn't make an impulsive buy, in the first place!
Please, take the time to learn about alpacas: visit as many alpaca farms as you can, ask questions, and learn about their care. Think about the commitment you're about to take on, and decide before you buy!
And at the end of those five days, if you’re as sure as you were the week prior, welcome to the fold! The alpaca community will be there for you, helping you learn about these soulful creatures, as there is so much yet to learn! The next twenty years will be some of the most peaceful in your life.
The authors of this site have given collective permission for anyone to reprint their advice in full,