Requirements for keeping alpacas are relatively straightforward, however, there are a few factors to bear in mind. Females and non-breeding males should be kept with members of their own sex. Alpacas have a distinct hierarchy and are likely to be stressed if not allowed to exhibit natural behaviour. Some stud males / herd sires are best suited to being in a paddock on their own but in sight of other alpacas. Alpacas can be kept with other animals such as poultry sheep, goats, donkeys and horses provided both species have time to get used to each other across a fence beforehand.
Stocking rates of up to 6 alpacas can be possible depending on acreage, soil type and quality, type of pasture and drainage. However, we recommend no more than 3 alpacas per acre. Alpacas like to roam so the more space the better. They will not eat grass around dung piles unless forced by lack of grazing. Please ask for advice regarding your land before purchasing animals as overstocking can lead to stress and ill health. There should be a minimum of 2 separate paddocks (or the ability to halve a field) so the herd can be rotated and the land rested.
For breeding alpacas you will need a paddock separate from the rest of the land where your crias (the young) can be weaned out of sight and sound of their mothers, ideally with some older animals of the same sex. Entire males should be kept separate from females from about 7 months of age. (Cria may be weaned by the farm of origin if this service is available).
Alpacas tend not to challenge fencing so well maintained stock fence is suitable at a height of 4 foot. Barbed wire and electric netting should not be used. Stand stock wire is acceptable and readily used. However, more specialist fencing wire is now available which has smaller holes for safety. We strongly recommend badger proof wire fencing. If you are starting from scratch then we recommend installing a badger proof perimeter fence. X fence by Mcveigh Parker, correctly installed, will prevent badger and foxes from entering your land. A more costly option because of the need to the bury the fence partially underground, it is well worth the peace of mind in the long term. This fence can also be used for ‘internal’ paddock fencing.
Types of shelter
Shelter of some sort must be available. A field shelter or barn is recommended to provide protection from rain and sun, and, if necessary, to house sick or premature alpacas. Alpacas can get cold and chilled and can get heatstroke if shelter is not provided. A three sided field shelter is ideal, and the lighter inside the better, although most alpacas will prefer to live out. Larger trees and hedgerows are preferred and provide natural shelter as well as providing a varied diet. There are some plants and trees which are not suitable for alpacas and other grazing animals. Take advice if you are not sure. You will also need a dry, secure place to store hay and feed.
Fresh drinking water must be available at all times and can be supplied by a self filling trough, fixed buckets or fence mounted drinkers. Cria must be able to reach water when small. Alpacas lose heat through the less fleeced area of the belly. Wet ground or a shallow paddling pool on a hot day can help to keep them cool. During icy conditions, ice needs to be removed from water supplies. Alpacas will not break ice to drink and could become dehydrated. They do really appreciate drinking warm water when its very cold….
A simple ‘catch’ pen or holding area is essential for those times when handling your alpacas is required. Placed in one corner of the field, animals can be examined and routine care completed. We recommend a pen approximately 8 x 8 or 10 x 10 foot, or a pen large enough to hold the entire group from that field, for handling purposes. 4 foot high lightweight alpaca hurdles are ideal. When halter training, a long ‘race’ or fenced path about 8 foot wide is ideal when teaching alpacas to lead.
We can help
We are always very happy to visit your land and provide guidance on the ideal setup for your particular circumstances. This service is included as part of our support and after sales care. A gate in the wrong place or a race which is too wide can make life less straightforward and may be costly to correct later on.