Some Informal Notes for Our New Alpaca Owners
- Check and remove any sharp or pointy parts like barbs, that can snag alpaca fiber
- Check for gaps big enough for alpaca to go through (~18”x18” if there is something they really want on the other side, small alpacas can go through a horizontal 9” gap)
- Watch to see if electric is sufficient – may need to lower bottom wire or add a layer of farm fence
- Outer perimeter should be 5-6 feet tall, though electric might be able to be lower, but not lower than three (I don’t have any electric fences for my alpacas)
- Make sure gates can be securely and positively latched, i.e. so that little noses can’t push up a lever and have the gate swing open
Water – ensure clean water daily, we usually top off the water in the morning and in the evening.
Shelter – alpacas must have shade in summer and should have at least one wall to get out of the wind, they also wouldn’t mind if they can get out of the rain and snow.
Hay – mixed grass, leafy hay. They really like orchard grass. Pure alfalfa is too rich. Your alpacas are used to eating hay not foraging so if you see diarrhea initially it could be a sign of too rich a diet. You may need to enclose them in a smaller area and feed them hay, letting them out into the grass for a couple hours a day at first and gradually increasing that. You can also mow the grass.
Flies – apply war paint on the tips and inside the ears and on the top of nose before the flies get bad. It is a great preventive. Continue to apply as you see its effectiveness waning.
Manure – pick up all poop at least once a day to help control parasites and flies. Can be used as fertilizer straight from the animal.
Halter fit – high up on the nose and just under the eyes and snug enough so that it does not shift. If an otherwise well behaved alpaca is misbehaving while haltered, check the halter fit. If it slides over their nose they will be nervous because their breathing may be affected.
Condition – check body condition over the back bone behind the withers. You should be able to feel the ridge of the backbone and the muscles should make a v down towards the ribs. If the “v” is concave the alpaca is too thin, if the ”v” is convex and/or you can’t feel the ridge of the backbone the alpaca is too fat.
Teeth - Keep your eye on their teeth and if you see strong buck teeth occurring you may need to trim them. There are a number of ways to do this, from purchasing a Tooth-O-Matic to using a file or ob wire or dremel tool or calling your vet.
Nails – the toe nail should not prevent the pad of the foot from being able to be placed flat on the ground. Use a sharp cutting tool to trim the nail back to level with the pad.
Heat Stress – In the summer you want to watch for over-heating. They my exhibit heavy breathing or be lethargic. They will put their feet in their water buckets. You can put out low sprinklers or soaker hoses or manually spray their bellies and legs or put out baby pools with 3-4 inched of water. Don’t soak their whole body, especially if their coat is long because the moisture could get trapped against their skin and mold.
War Paint can be used to prevent fly strike, especially on dark animals. Apply it before fly season starts to the tips and insides of their ears and to the top of their noses. You can also apply it wherever you see flies congregating and on the tops of their feet.
Fly sprays – you can use premise sprays to help minimize flies as well as gentle sprays on their legs and down their back. They won’t like it but if you do it often they’ll get used to it.
Swat – an ointment for putting on minor sores and abrasions that includes a fly repellent. Put a glob on top of any place that is attracting flies.
Shots – we give our alpacas a CDT subcutaneously once a year. Your alpaca was given his shots when he was shorn this year. Ask your vet about other vaccines recommended in your area. We also gave your alpaca a shot of Ivomec subcutaneously which is an ivermectin-based wormer. Again ask your veterinarian about recommended wormers for your area and your fecal results. I would do fecals every couple of months until you see a pattern and treat what you find.
Safechoice is a horse feed by Nutrena. For healthy alpacas, this is a treat in small quantities, a handful a day. For thin alpacas, you can use as a daily supplement.