Alpacas As Pets
You need to be realistic about what kind of pets alpacas actually are. If you think having a big fluffy alpaca as a pet will be like having a big fluffy dog, I suspect you'll be disappointed.
- Alpacas tend to like their space. They will approach you when they feel like company but if you approach an alpaca when it feels like being alone, it will take off and run in the opposite direction. Some owners find this disconcerting and feel shaken by their pet's unwillingness to come and cuddle.
- This flight tendency can often be overcome with sufficient food enticements, but you'll have to work hard for quite some time to convince an alpaca to run towards you when you call. And if you don't offer food every time they come to you, you may well find yourself back at square one again. A neck rub and a kind word doesn't seem to be enough to keep an alpaca coming back for more.
- Buy crias if you decide you'd like alpacas as pets. Start with them young and get them used to your company but don't encourage them to be in your face too much. As they age, you need them to respect you. By the time they're a year or two old, you don't want your pets to become dominant and aggressive.
- Train your alpacas to allow you to put them on a lead. This will make it easier for you to move them from one area to another or to load them on a trailer or into a float. It will also be helpful when the time comes to shear them each year.
- Halter training should begin at about eight weeks. When alpacas are young they are far more approachable and friendly so don't leave it too long to teach them what you need them to know.
A Good Pet For Environmentalists
I will never grow tired of alpacas. They appear positively majestic, holding their heads high and stepping with confidence. But if you are thinking of buying an alpaca, there are a few things you must consider.
Alpacas as pets require owners who are environmentally conscious. They respond badly to chemicals and can die if exposed to pastures or grass that's been sprayed.
They will, however, make a positive contribution to your sustainable lifestyle if you live on a small farm and like to choose pets that provide more than just company. Their soft padded feet require safe, clear ground - but they make a soft imprint on the land and therefore can be trusted to cause very little damage on a sensitive landscape.
For the right owners, alpacas make excellent pets.
- Alpacas are about half the size of llamas. Both are South American Camelids.
- A baby alpaca is called a cria. Once weaned it is known as a weanling or tuis.
- Llamas are pack animals, but alpacas are bred for their fleece.
- In Spanish, adult males are called Machos and adult females are called Hembras.
- Castrated males are called Geldings.
- Alpacas are considered a good investment because their fleece is so highly valued.
- Alpacas can live for 20 years.
Remember to Book a Shearer in Advance
Alpacas require annual shearing - in springtime.
Don't wait until summer because they can suffer heat stress.
Ask the breeder for contact details so you can book a shearer well in advance. A busy alpaca shearer may need up to four months notice to ensure they can fit you in.
Alpacas Need Shearing
Holes Are Dangerous For Alpacas
Alpacas need space to run and roam. Fences must be sound and the pasture must be well-drained and free from contaminants and physical danger.
Natural shade is ideal but in most climates alpacas also benefit from an undercover area.
They don't need a stable like a horse because they have an inherent need to be able to keep watch on all sides. A simple barn or even a covered area with open sides is fine as long as they can seek refuge from the rain or strong winds if required, and take shelter from extremely hot sunshine.
Eradicate any poisonous plants - but dig them out, don't spray them. Chemical based sprays could kill your alpacas as effectively as the poisonous plants you removed.
Check the ground regularly for holes that might result in an alpaca's broken leg.
In Australia, we need to fill wombat and rabbit holes. Where you live, perhaps groundhogs or moles are your major hole-diggers. Fill holes or fence them off.
Alpacas are not very demanding in the amount of protein they require in their feed because their bodies are very efficient at food conversion. Alpacas are ruminants and chew their cud similar to cows, goats and sheep. Therefore they need an abundance of fresh water.
On hot days they like to dip their feet so if you don't have an accessible dam, consider giving them a large bucket of water to step into as well as plenty of fresh drinking water in a raised container.
Most alpacas require shearing every year at springtime, although some can comfortably remain unshorn for two years. When you buy your alpacas, ask the breeder how often they'll need shearing and take the opportunity to get contact details for a local shearer.
If you'd like to shear your own alpacas, ask if the breeder will let you watch and learn from them.
An alpaca mineral mix will ensure they receive all their essential vitamins and minerals.
Helpful Hints About Alpaca Diet
Buy An Alpaca Book Before You Buy Your Pets
Medical Issues With Alpacas
All pets require an occasional vet check. There are a few key medical elements to bear in mind with alpacas.
- Talk to your local vet about regular worming treatments - by mouth or injection. Ask your vet to recommend an appropriate method and show you how to administer it.
- Vitamin D supplements may be necessary. This will be largely determined by your climate and how dark each alpaca is.
- Tetanus injections are considered by some to be appropriate as a preventative measure in case of cuts, but circumstances vary so discuss this and other preventative medications with your vet.
- Internal parasites must be controlled. Growing appropriate herbs and feeding them fresh to your alpacas can help keep them fit and healthy.
- Males need to be castrated before they reach their second birthday.
- Toe nails will need trimming, but this is a task you should learn to take care of yourself.
Fresh From Your Own Alpaca
If you keep sheep, you'll be familiar with the greasy feel of lanolin in the natural fleece. If you're a spinner, you'll be aware of how much effort is involved in preparing the fleece before you can get started.
Alpaca fleece is very different. There's no lanolin and the fiber can be spun immediately, fresh from the alpaca's back.
If you're like me, you look for ways to achieve as much as possible in as little time as necessary. That's why I prefer to spin alpaca than sheep's wool.
A little dust in unwashed alpaca wool just makes spinning faster and eaier as the fibres are easier to keep under control. Washed alpaca is more slippery. Washing the dust out when the job is done is much quicker and easier than washing an entire fleece at once.
If you want a particularly smooth yarn, spin from the tip end of each lock. Experiment with mixing locks from different coloured alpacas for interesting effects, and don't be afraid to add a little wool from your favourite sheep if you want to make the yarn slightly more elastic.
Alpacas Need Shearing in Spring
How To Table Your Alpaca For Shearing
If Not An Alpaca ...
Are Alpacas Good Pets For You?
Alpacas are herd animals and to be fair to them it is better to buy three, not one alpaca. So you have to decide if you're prepared to feed three extra mouths and shear three alpacas a year when you can easily buy a fresh fleece from an alpaca-owner if you're simply interested in spinning.
However if you would be one of the first in your area to own alpacas and offer alpaca fleece for sale to crafty people in your region, I encourage you to undertake further research because selling alpaca fleece might make you quite a few extra dollars.
- Breeding alpacas is a business opportunity, but you have to breed from the best possible stock and that means making a significant investment.
- If you would like to keep alpacas as pets and intend to sell their fleece, it would cost you less money per alpaca compared to breeding stock - and you could limit yourself to owning three.
Alpacas are the kind of pets you can love and make money from at the same time. But you need to fully consider all the issues alpaca owners face, and decide if you have room in your life and routine before becoming an alpaca owner.
How To Shear Alpacas Alone
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