Alpacas need room to run!
Alpacas
as Pets
???
They also need room to walk!

Welcome to our reality-check site.
The advice you're about to read comes from long-time alpaca breeders.
We're not trying to talk you in to, or out of, buying alpacas as pets.
Our hope is only that you make an informed decision. Surf on!


Site Index:
Requires a bit more care than a goldfish!              
 

Click Away For
The 8 Essentials of Alpaca Survival:

Basic Care
by Liz Lena
Health Issues by
Chuck Rademacher
Feed
by Laurel Shouvlin
Shearing
by Lucy Farrar
Pastures
by Bill Fletcher
Shelters
by Linda Gardner
Fencing
by Laurel Shouvlin
Protection
by Lisa Olsen

Additional
Interesting
Links
Miscellaneous Really Important Sites.   Happy Reading!

How can you resist this face!

Alpacas as Pets???

      On July 21st, a conversation took place on an alpaca chat group called AlpacaSite. The dialogue had to do with the sale of pet male alpacas. As a result of that spirited thread, long-time New Zealand member, Chuck Rademacher, came up with the idea of educating the public. It took reading another thirty-five posts for me to hear what Chuck was recommending, but here you go: a public service site intended to inform. You won’t find any huggy stories, sale presentations, or arm-twisting – just the facts, advice, and opinions of 10 alpaca breeders who have been around a while!

What are alpacas?
      In laymens terms, they are livestock that look like small llamas, but you shear them like sheep.

Can you eat them?
      Sure. You could eat just about anything I suppose, and they are eaten in South America. In the United States though, they have more value as fiber animals.

What good are they?
      Alpacas are prized for their fiber, which can be turned in to yarn, felting, or fabric.

Do they make good pets?
      No, not in the traditional sense. For the most part, alpacas don’t care to be touched – unless they know there is food involved. They can be taught to tolerate handling – but most alpacas prefer to be left alone with their herdmates. They will come to you on their own terms, like a cat; and are a pleasure to watch, like humming birds -- but don't expect them to appreciate you like a good dog might!

Are alpacas good with children?
      Depends on the child. Young children need to be supervised around any sort of livestock, but teaching a child to be responsible for other lives, instills quality values.

Young children should always be supervised around livestock.
Can I buy just one?
      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?
      Sure, but you shouldn’t. More on this topic later when you read the essentials.

What makes a pet boy different from a non-pet boy?
      Breedability. That may not be a word, but it should be. Only the best of the best males should be used for breeding. All others are sold as pet, fiber, or companion boys. It’s the goal of discriminating breeders to always breed up in quality – which is why 80-90% of their male offspring might be classified as non-breeders.

Who sells pet alpacas?
      Most reputable breeders sell pet alpacas. They may call them “fiber boys” or “companion boys” but it’s the same.

What if I can find a boy a little cheaper at the goat auction, or flea market?
      If you know enough about their health, or are married to a large animal vet, you probably don’t need to buy alpacas from a known healthy environment with a health guarantee. But if you bring your bargain-boys home, one dies the next week, then you wind up in debt from vet bills – you probably haven’t saved much.

Imagine if a child had been here!
A single accidental kick from a friendly alpaca!

 

Are they vicious?
      No, alpacas are very shy animals. If you get spit on, you’re usually just caught in a crossfire. If you get kicked, as I did in the photo on the left, you were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you get bit, your alpaca may be possessed, as alpacas should never bite humans.

Do they ever fight?
      Alpacas tend to have a strict hierarchy, and males will often wrestle to establish their position. Alpacas are herd animals though, and if an alpaca is so aggressive that it can’t live with others of their kind, something just ain’t right.

How do they defend themselves?
      They run.

How can I learn how to take care of them?
      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?
      Well, considering alpacas (for the most part) have only been in North America since the 1980’s – we're really still learning how to best care for them with regards to nutrition, health, and herd management.

Like what for example?
      Well, their intolerance for chemicals for example. Let’s say you have a lot of weeds in your pasture. You go to your local feed store for help. They've never heard of alpacas, but know that all the cattle guys use Grazon, and tell you it's safe to spray around the animals. You check the guide, and it says "Uninterrupted grazing," so you spray away....and your alpacas die (horrible deaths) within days.

      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!

Author: Lisa Olsen of  Alpaca Atlantic of Tennessee LLC

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The Perfect Pet Alpaca -- or -- Know When to Run!!!


      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.
      So, for you folks out there considering getting your first alpacas and wanting to start with a couple of geldings, or just wanting a nice little fiber herd, I have some cautions for you. Beware of the young fellow who seems really friendly, gets in your face, and generally does not seem to be aware that there is space around you that should be respected. Often you will see this youngster give you the submissive posture: head slightly lowered over a crooked neck with his tail lifted. When you look at him, you either wonder, “What on earth is he doing?” or you recognize it for what it is. This is a youngster who is confused over just how you fit into his scheme of things. Are you an alpaca? Should you be treated as such? If not, what are you and how is he supposed to react to you? His curiosity will have him coming up and sniffing you and even accepting some affection, but do not be deceived. This is trouble waiting to happen!

Lots to consider when choosing the perfect pet alpacas!
      Do not fall in love. Do not think that you can retrain him. Do not pass go. Simply say, “No.” This is not an alpaca that you should buy…and I know whereof I speak. Let me tell you a story.

      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!”
Triple Crown. Photo © Copyright, Jo Overbey, Rock Chimney Farm Alpacas.       I worried though, about others who came to my farm, particularly children. I was responsible for this male and his behavior, and I certainly did not want him doing to someone else, what he had done to me. Although I loved him, he was a dangerous animal to have around. I began to consider euthanasia. Finally, one morning as we were standing out behind the barn, he chest-butted me for no apparent reason. At that point, I knew what I had to do, for the safety of all concerned. This male was not going to improve, and he was certainly not an animal that I would be willing to pass off on someone else. So I called my vet, and by the next week he was gone. I grieved mightily over this decision and the senseless loss of this beautiful boy. I'm convinced that I made the right decision and I do not regret it for one moment. Trip was not a mean alpaca. He was confused and that confusion had been caused by the humans around him. However, this was a male who would have eventually hurt someone. I simply could not allow that to happen.
      So take my word for it. When you meet an adorable little cria or young male who wants to cuddle with you or who crowds your space, take heed. This should serve as a red-light for you that this is an animal who can grow up to be a very serious problem. Move on. There are lots of well-raised, well-behaved geldings around who will make wonderful companions for you. You will grow to love them and respect their space and to love their willingness to respect yours. Spare yourself the heartache that I have gone through with my lovely boy. It is simply not worth it.

      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!

Author: Jo Overbey of  Rock Chimney Farm Alpacas

 

  • Please check out this article for additional information. The author, John Mallon, is one of our industry's leading experts in the field of camelid training. The title of the article,  Aberrant Behavior Syndrome, is considered by some to be a bit more politically correct than Berserk Male Syndrome as the former includes the rare crazy female as well.

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Jodi Wever, who laughed often and loved much. She exemplified the reputable breeder.  Rest in peace Jodi - we are better off for having known you.

10 Reasons
Why You Should Buy Your Alpaca Pets
from a Reputable Breeder:


      So, you have seen your first alpaca and decided you can’t live without them. We've all been there. But you don’t want to rush into a 20+/- year commitment with your new found pets unless you know what you're getting into! You should always buy from a reputable breeder. Why? Well, let's start with reason number ten!
      10.  You buy an alpaca at an auction and when you get it home, it spits green slime all over you. Eeeww! What happened? Is this how they say hello and thanks for bringing me home? An auctioneer will tell you all sales are final. A reputable breeder will tell you, that the alpaca is showing their displeasure with the current situation!

      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!

Author: Linda Lachanski of  Pic A Paca Dreams Alpaca Farm

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Reflections of Alpacas as Pets
(aka: conclusion!)


      Well, you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of the page and you’re still reading, so you haven’t changed your mind and decided to get a goldfish instead! That should mean that you are ready to check off all the following boxes:
Lots of great information here for you to reflect upon!
  • You have a pretty good handle on what alpacas are like, and that they won’t be like having a dog or having a horse.

  • You are ready to commit to their care and feeding for the next fifteen to twenty years. That’s as long as a child, you know!

  • You have the space to pasture them and means to protect them from harm.

  • You’ve thought about what you will do when you want to go somewhere for a weekend or a vacation. They can’t feed and water themselves – you’ll need a caregiver that comes daily.  If you like to travel a lot, are you really prepared for a 24/7 responsibility that you can't carry along with you?
      Alpacas are amazing! They are unlike any other creature I have met before, and I’ve met a lot! They deserve you taking a carefully considered five days to make sure you are making the right decision before signing on the bottom line. After all, any alpaca breeder worth their salt will be very glad to hold those darlings for you while you try – very hard – not to think about how those eyes looked at you, and think about poop scooping, hay purchasing, hauling water in bad weather, and – especially – the long term commitment you are making to these creatures.

      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.

Author: Jenny Brundage, DVM of Ahualoa Alpacas, Ahualoa, Hawaii.

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Additional
Interesting
Links
Miscellaneous Really Important Sites.   Happy Reading!

The authors of this site have given collective permission for anyone to reprint their advice in full,
as long as author credit (name & farm name) is given.
If you would like to link to this site -- link away!
Our intention is to educate the public. If you can help us do so -- many thanks!

Unclaimed photos, narration & site construction by Lisa Olsen of   Alpaca Atlantic of Tennessee LLC.
Comments, suggestions, input, output???   Please don't hesitate to write:  
AlpacaAtlantic@gmail.com