Spend time with your alpacas
Alpacas, most of the time, are straightforward to look after and their routine care is not time consuming. Don’t let anyone tell you they never become ill, because they can. However, good management will minimise problems. The routine care of alpacas starts with regular checks when they are out in the field. Alpacas should be looked at least twice a day. It is important that you learn to recognise the behaviour pattern of each individual alpaca. What is normal for one may not be normal for another. All animals can become ill and knowing what to look for or which behaviour is not normal at an early stage can make all the difference. Even small signs should be noted monitored. Alpacas, being prey animals, tend to hide illness from others as a survival mechanism. Always seek advice from your vet if you are unsure.
Every day routine care
Have a look at your alpacas general demeanor. Are they paasing urine and faeces and is this normal? Are they chewing the cud and behaving in a normal way for them? Check eyes for discharges, lameness or cushed unusually. Sunbathing is normal, although not all alpacas do it.
Fresh water must be provided at all times. Buckets and troughs should be cleaned regularly, especially in the summer when algae tends to build up. It is also important to ensure cria can access water, especially during hot weather. Alpacas will not break through ice to reach water so removing ice from water at least twice a day is required when very cold in winter. if you want to spoil them, they love warm water!
Good quality hay should be provided all year round. Hay should be good quality, sweet smelling and free from dust, moulds and poisonous plants such as ragwort. Long stem fibre is important for digestion and any changes to the diet should be made gradually. Uneaten hay should be replaced regularly. Alpacas are selective grazers and will leave what they don’t like.
A camelid specific mineral supplement should be fed daily according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Alpacas require a unique formula and should not be fed sheep, goat or cattle feeds. Feeding them in a catch pen provides an easy way to check them over more closely. Soaked alfalfa pellets or soaked grass nuts is useful for underweight animals once the cause has been established. New feeds should be introduced slowly over 7-10 days.
Alpacas are not prone to foot rot. However, foot problems can occur, especially in wet, boggy conditions. Fly strike during the summer months is not common but can occur. Check your alpacas for presence of lots of flies, dirty fleece from loose stools, wet areas on the fleece, surface wounds and lameness. Alpacas don’t require chemicals baths (dipping) or regular trimming of fleece around the bottom (dagging).
Every 2 – 4 weeks
When an alpaca is covered with fleece the only way to check body condition is by getting your hands on their backs and assessing their body condition. This should be done every 2 weeks, all year round. Walk on platform scales are recommended for breeding herds.
Once a month
Check to see if toe nails need trimming. The need to trim toe nails is dependant on the colour of the animal and the environment. Black alpacas do not need to have their nails trimmed as often as white animals. Alpacas with nails that twist or curl will need checking and trimming monthly. Animals with hard standing to walk on will tend to wear their nails down, much like a dog. There are different methods for trimming nails including teaching the alpaca to pick up his or her feet.
3 – 4 times a year
There are many factors which affect whether worming is required or not. Environmental factors to consider include the weather, the type of land, drainage, rotation of species and stocking rates. The age, health and breeding status should be taken into account when planning a preventative worming strategy. Faecal testing and discussion with your vet is recommended. Giving drugs too often or without need leads to dryg resistance.
Twice a year
Vaccination against clostridial diseases is recommended. Advice should be sought from your vet as to which vaccine should be used and the frequency. Vaccinations are usually injected twice a year but can also be annually.
Once a year
Shearing of your alpaca is carried out once a year, during spring /early summer ideally. Incisor and fighting teeth will be checked and trimmed at this time if required. Book your shearer early to avoid delays during a warm summer.
Microchipping is a requirement for permanent identification of alpacas. Ear tagging is recommended but optional. It is useful for identifying an animal quickly.
Routine care is straightforward. Full training is included, as required, at the time of purchase and our courses are refundable when purchasing alpacas from us. We strongly recommend working closely with your farm vet on all aspects of preventative health. For example, variable weather patterns will influence parasite management. Prevention is always better than cure.