Alpacas 101 Continuing Education
More Alpaca Facts On
I have been breeding alpacas for four years. I bought my first
three females alpacas in the early summer of 2000 and now have
just over thirty. I am self taught and have my personal experiences,
reading and clinics which I am glad to share with you on the birthing
process. I am not a vet so please do not take me as an expert. If
at any time you are unsure of what is happening in the birthing
process please call your vet. The vet would preferred
you called instead of having him or her having a much tougher job later
because you didn't call.
Although 90% of birthing is straight forward and the mom takes care of
everything with no need of your intervention you should be prepared to
help if necessary. We have had fifteen births on our farm and out of
those we have had to help in only four births if we hadn't I am sure
we would have lost the crias and perhaps the moms as well. I strongly
suggest you take any birthing clinic you can. If there are not any near
by why not host one your selves or take an on-line course. Let other breeders
know you are having one, it's a good way to meet people and start net
working with others in the industry.
to have on hand and ready to grab, in it you should have
- vets phone number.
- towels for drying cria.
- blow dryer.
- cria coat.
- clean shoe lace.
- 7%Iodine in 35 mm film canister.
- sterol latex gloves .
- vet wrap.
- cria nipples & bottle to fit nipple.
- red tube with catheter tip (60cc syringe) in case you need to
tube the cria.
- Ky jelly for lubricating.
- digital thermometer.
- kept in fridge Oxytocin use only if told to by vet.
- kept in freezer colostrum alpaca or llama is the best
but goat is alright.
- pen and paper for taking notes.
- information, diagrams on improper cria presentation and what to do.
Sighs of pre-labor can be
- the Mammary glands enlarge (called bagging up) up to three to
four weeks before delivery but with first time moms may not happen
- wax on the ends of the teats.
- the belly takes on a different shape seems to drop.
- Vagina may look larger, pink,elongated and open.
- their hip bones seem to stick out more.
- they seem irritable with lots of humming.
- they are lying down and appearing uncomfortable.
- the length of last pregnancy can be good indicator but not all ways.
- they lose their cervical plug 2-3 weeks prior or hours before delivery.
A wise experienced farmer once told me that unless you see something
coming out the back end of the mother there isn't much you can do.
One thing alpacas teach us is patience that is for sure. With
gestation period of eleven and half months give or take a month it
can be a long wait. The one thing you can do is make sure there is
all ways some one around to keep an eye on them once they come into
that time frame. I have heard the story to many times of surprise
births and the cria might have made it if someone had been there to
call for help or just help get a leg straighten out.
One of the great things about alpacas is that they birth around
lunch time give or take four hours. I think they developed this
because they originate from the high Andes mountains, if a cria
is born to early it will freeze and to late it will not be dry
in time for night and would freeze. It is very uncommon for alpacas
to birth in the evening or during the night but it does happen
sometimes. We had a seasoned mom give birth at eleven at night
last year. I was late in doing my evening check so I happened
along just as her waters were braking which I heard as I could not
see in the dark. So we don't take any thing for granted, from
then on we put the near delivery moms in the barn at night.
Stage one of labor are
- Amniotic fluid leaking from vulva.
- noticeable bulging and softening of the perineum (genital area).
- interest of the rest of the herd in her hindquarters.
- lack of appetite.
- lack of cud chewing.
- frequent trips to the dung pile, sometimes without peeing or pooping.
- frequent trips to water trough.
- getting up and lying down frequently.
- increased humming.
- lying down with hind legs kicked out to one side.
- kicking at her belly with hind feet.
The period of Stage one labor can last between 1 to 6 hours, but
2 is more average.
Call the vet when
- you are sure labor has started and nothing is happening.
- you see a nose and nothing else.
- the female is pushing nothing is coming.
- feet pointed up.
- legs no head.
- she is rolling for a long period of time.
- stage one of labor lasting more than two hours.
Stage two labor
Stage 2 labor is the actual birthing process which is pretty fast
about 30 to 60 minutes.
You should see a bulge from the vagina which is the membranes or
sack you may see feet pointed down and or a noise with lots of fluid
around it. You can see the contractions and sometimes the mother may
groan and be humming with them. If everything is progressing normally
there is not much for you to do but wait. Once the hips are pasted the
umbilical cord brakes and out should slid your bran new cria.
The mother may have the cria standing or cushed and perhaps she might
get up and down while in the middle of delivering. She may stop and eat
grass not to worry all is normal. If you see she is stressed by the
interest of the rests of the herd you may want to separate her with
few of her friends to keep company in a smaller clean pen. Remember
that alpacas are herd animals and get their sense of security from
being part of the herd.
Call the vet if you feel anything is not normal or if it is
taking to long.
Educate your self on how to birth a cria so you can help if need be.
Don't wait for the vet if your alpaca is in trouble you have to go in
and help her out. I am not going to go into how as I am not a vet but
you can get some books, take a clinic, do an on-line course and
perhaps set up a support network with other breeders in your area.
Most alpaca folks are friendly and helpful if you need help call on
Stage three labor
After the baby is delivered, the placenta will be expelled. Normally
this should happen within the first to six hours after delivery. The
mom may appear uncomfortable and may not allow the baby to nurse until
it is expelled. While the mom is having a well deserved rest we dry off
the cria, dip the cord and make sure the cria is in the sun to dry off,
if there is no sun and it is cold we will blow dry. We leave them for a
bit to rest and get to know each other. Her friends are put out with
the rest of the herd and mom and cria have the pen to them selves.
It is very important that the cria be up and nursing as soon as possible.
The nursing will stimulate the passing of the placenta and the cria will
get the antibodies from moms colostrum. Once the cria is trying to get up
and nurse we come back and wash moms teats and make sure the wax is off the
nipples, called clearing the dame. We get the cria sucking and give her a
baby suppository to help it pass the black tarry substance which can be very
hard to pass and then leave them alone for some bonding time. By this time
the placenta is usually passed we examine it to make sure there are no
missing sections which could still be inside the mom and cause problems later.
That is about it until the next day when we weight and give shots for both
mom and cria. We weight the cria daily for about a month and then once a
week for the first three months and then monthly after that.
Purchasing Your First Alpaca
Ok now you have decided to join the alpaca world...congratulations!
The biggest thing alpacas have to teach us is patience nothing happens quickly with them and when you go to purchase them you should also take your time. Do research and when you think you have done enough do twice as much as you though was enough and your half way there.
You should also educate your self to fibre, bloodlines, conformation, health, birthing, feeding and maintenance of the alpacas. Visit as many farms as you can go to a show and maybe help out on shearing day at a local farm. Try and find a mentor to help you and teach you preferably some that doesn't have an alpaca to sell you.
Fiber sorting & Grading
This topic is probably the most important topic if we are at all interested
in having a viable fiber industry in North America.
Why are we raising alpacas?
For the fiber?
What makes alpaca so much better than the other fibers that are on the
When we put alpaca forward to the public it must be superior to the other
products on the market. I believe we are putting alpaca forward as a cashmere
soft, durable, odorless, lightweight, garment, which is comfortable warm but
never too hot product. That said every time a consumer feels alpaca products
which doesn't fit this description we are damaging our industry. It is up
to each of us interested in a sustainable industry to work towards producing
the best natural fiber on the market today. Now for the farmers only interested
in breeding and selling stock they need to take heed of this as well because if we do not have sustainability everyone looses in the end.
The best time to do your sorting is on shearing day.
You need to put quite a lot of thought into your system and how the
flow of fiber from the alpaca to the finished sorted fiber bag will
work best. Draw out a map to make sure you are being efficient and
the risk of contamination is minimal.
||20 to 22.9 microns
||23 to 25.9 microns
||26 to 28.9 microns
||29 to 31.9 microns
||32 to 35 microns
||21 to 23
||24 to 27 microns
||28 to 32 microns
||33 and greater
To sort fiber properly it should be within two microns each other. The
criteria is color, micron, length of fiber, longs and shorts need to be
in it's own bag.
Each fleece will most likely have longs and shorts, so for each color
you will need two bags for each of the fiber grades, grading one to six,
so you now have 12 bags for each color.
Please note you may combined colors just decide which colors your are going to have.
ere are twenty two natural colors but most likely you will decide to
mix some of your colors. You will of course want to keep your whites
and black separate unless you want gray. I sort my colors as; white,
light fawn, brown, black, gray and rose gray.
6 colors X 12 = 72 separate bags. Each bag should be
numbered one through to six marked for color, shorts or longs and grade, one being Royal Baby up to Strong. See
micron chart for grading standards.
Canadian Standard Lengths
|3- 6 in.
Worsted or Woolen
||40- 80 mm
||< two in.
||< 60 mm
||> 6 in.
||6 to 8 in.
Is important that your lengths are not mixed as the longer fibers will
have ends sticking out of the yarn as it wears. Your beautiful socks in
no time will look like fuzzy dust bunnies. Also they
can make the yarn feel more prickly than it really is. You don't want
your yarn to shed either.
Mark your sorting table with the lengths for
easy reference. Don't throw away the under two inch lengths you can
have it made into battings for making quilts or stuffing pillows.
You should also check for soundness of fiber. You can tell if the fiber weak or tender by holding
a small staple between your thumb and index finger grasp the other end
with your other hand hold tightly and flick the center with your middle
finger, if it brakes it is tender.
Dated Oct. 1, 2004.
Attached, FYI, is the new Canadian Alpaca Fibre Harvesting Code of Practice. The Code of Practice is meant to be used as a guide for the Shearing process and for submitting fibre to CANCAM.
Please note the changes in Huacaya short and long fibre lengths for 2005. Huacaya short: 2-4 inches; Huacaya long: 4-6 inches. These changes came about as a result of discussions with Cameron Holt at the Sorter/Classier Workshops. The changes in the length parameters will hopefully help to alleviate the current shedding problems we are having with some of our products e.g. socks, felt, etc.
Area's of Fleece
In the sorting process it is much easier to separate the different areas of the fleece as it comes off the alpaca. You can use cardboard pop flats marked with the different area's in which to collect the fleece as it comes off the alpaca.
- Middle or upper leg
- Lower leg
You might have quite a few of these flats and they can be stack on top
of each other if the shearer gets ahead of your sorting. Have record
sheets ready which you can fill out and put on top of the fleece in each
flat. Many people (guilty of this my self before I knew better) just snatch up the fleece and put
it in a clear plastic bag perhaps keeping the blanket separate marked
with the animals name and grading it as first's and seconds, this is not
To have a good finished produce you can not by-pass the sorting and
grading process which in it's self is almost an art form, none the less,
I suggest you either take a good course or hire a qualified expert to do
the grading for you. To sort properly you must be able to asses the fiber
micron and put it in the proper sorting bag. The only fiber you should be
throwing away is perhaps the very dirty and extremely contaminated fleece
like the but and the birds nest at the base of the neck , if you don't have
a use for it perhaps someone else does.
Understanding Fiber Histograms
Breeding for Fiber
Mostly it is genetics. It is important to understand fiber growth
to help you make good breeding choices for each fiber type. In
Australia they are making leaps and bounds in recovering from
their disastrous sheep breeding programs, quantity over quality.
The alpaca world should keep a close eye on their industry and
learn from their mistakes and successes. Just recently the news of
an ultra fine merino fleece braking the twelve micron barrier with
a micron count of 11.9 was huge news for the natural fiber industry!
Blue Eyes Alpacas
Alpacas come in all kinds of eye colors from black to light blue just
like in humans. To say that all blued alpacas carry the deafness gene
is purely silly. Some blue eyed whites have been found in a very few
cases to be deaf. At one time people were fighting over blued white
alpacas and paying top dollar for them. Why because they had the
finest fiber. And that is true today but there is an unreasonable
paranoia over any alpaca with the smallest bit of blue in it's eye
which I believe is harming the alpaca industry. To be an animal which
carries the deafness gene there must be an absence of pigment which
can be found anywhere on the body in the ear cannel or the toe nails or
white patches on a dark alpaca but it is not the eye color that relates
to the deafness gene. There just hasn't been enough research into this
topic to draw any educated deductions, certainly no one can quote facts
with out a scientific foundation.
Below are some exerts on the deafness gene and eye color which I believe
to be intelligent and thoughtful from highly respected experts in the alpaca
Eric Hoffman writes in his book The Complete Book of Alpacas about blue eyes;
On page 518 he writes:
The impact of blue eyes in breeding decisions is somewhat different. Different
philosophies are possible on this one. An extreme philosophy would be to cull
all of them from breeding. The opposite extreme is to ignore them and mate alpacas
while ignoring their eye color. A middle route would be to avoid the mating of
blue-eyed animals to one another. This middle-of- the-road approach is likely to
mitigate any sub optimal baggage that the trait might have, simply because the
breeder is avoiding the mating together of extreme animals.
On page 515
'Lack of complete pigmentation of eye. Many different genetic causes, some
with other associated defects (deafness) but many without such association.
Not always a defect.'
Quotes from Dr. Anderson.
We have found that the fact that they have blue eyes actually has
little to do with deafness other than the fact that it increases
the likelihood that they are deaf if they have a white hair coat.
We have dispelled many myths:
1. blued eyed alpacas are always deaf - NOT true. We have tested many
blue eyed but not white or only partially white animals that can hear.
2. Colored eyed alpacas can always hear. NOT true - we have tested
some animals that are deaf but have colored eyes. Many have some
flecks of blue or gray. Certainly most deaf animals have blue eyes,
but some colored eyed animals are deaf.
3. If the skin is black they can hear no matter what the color of the
eyes or hair. NOT true. Many of the deaf alpacas we have tested have
black or darkly pigmented skin.
What we do know is that recessive color genes do seem linked to
deafness - probably because the gene loci are close together on
the DNA. Thus, if the color gene does not get turned on the
hearing gene does not either. This is most closely tied to hair
coat color, but is amplified when eye color is recessive too.
Recessive colors are primarily grays with blue discoloration in
eye. We have seen two gray studs where upwards of 20% of offspring
have been deaf. This year we have 8 BEW females waiting to give birth.
The first one born is white, has blue streaks in eye but dark
pigmentation in over 50% of the eye, and is STONE COLD DEAF!.
At some point, someone needs to decide if deafness as a birth defect
is actually worth researching and fund it! I do not care who researches
it, but I do think that it needs to be done.
David E Anderson, DVM, MS, DACVS
Head and Associate Professor of Farm Animal Surgery
Director, International Camelid Initiative
Ohio State University
From a group e-mail at the Alpaca Chat Line.
The connection between blue eyes, white hair and deafness can be
traced to the development of the neural crest in the embryo. The
neural crest supplies cells, which develop into melanoblasts, which
migrate ultimately to the base of the hair follicles as melanocytes,
producing melanin, which lends color to the hair. If this migration
is not complete, lack of pigment in all or some areas of the skin
white or piebald) can occur. A similar lack of pigment in the eye can
lead to blue-eyedness; a similar lack of nerve tissue supplied to the
inner ear tissue or the degeneration of these tissues (in the cochlea
and saccule) can lead to deafness, bilateral or unilateral, partial or
total. All of these tissues are supplied by the neural crest, but some
of these tissues are supplied by complex mechanisms in the embryo, so
deafness, skin and eye color may be completely or partially lacking.
This is the simplest explanation I can reconstruct, for those who are
ARI & CLAA Registries
The Alpaca Registry, Inc. (ARI), which is closely aligned with the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA), is the organization that oversees registration of alpacas in the United States.
The Canadian Livestock Records Corp. (CLRC), in conjunction with the Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association (CLAA), handles all the registrations for alpacas in Canada.
At the end of 1998, both ARI and CLAA closed their registries to any new alpacas. No Alpaca can be registered with either the ARI or the CLAA unless both parents are already in the registry. Anyone can import alpacas into North American but they cannot be included in either registry.
Every alpaca in both registries is DNA blood typed for proof of parentage before the application for registration is approved. Registrations are not transferable between the two registries.
All the alpacas that were imported from Chile, Bolivia or Peru before the registries were closed had to be screened in order to be accepted by either registry. Any alpaca that did not pass screening was not allowed to be registered.
All alpacas had to be screened in their county of origin and then transported to Canada or the U.S. This rule was adopted as one of the earlier imports was not screened until the alpacas landed in Canada. Subsequently, some of the alpacas did not pass screening (mainly because their fiber was a bit coarse) and therefore we have a few unregistered alpacas in North America.
Each alpaca had to be screened separately by people working for U.S. importers and people working for Canadian importers. The same standards were used by both sets of screeners, however a fee was payable to each registry for every alpaca screened. The fee to be screened for entry into the ARI was $500 US per alpaca.
Some Canadian importers had their alpacas screened for entry into the Canadian registry but elected not to pay the fee to have their alpacas screened for entry into the ARI. At this time there was a reciprocal agreement on the table between Canada and U.S. and these importers were confident that their alpacas would be able to be registered with the ARI at a later date.
Consequently, the reciprocal agreement was not completed and these imported alpacas have never received entry into the ARI. You often hear these alpacas referred to as single-registered, whereas alpacas that were screened by both countries and received entry in to both registries are often referred to as double- or dual-registered.
It is also of interesting to note some Canadian importers intended to have their alpacas screened for entry into both registries but were not able to accomplish this before the closing of the registries on Dec. 31, 1998.
Only alpacas that are registered with the ARI can be shown at AOBA-sponsored shows in the U.S. and only alpacas that are registered with the CLRC can be shown in CLAA-sponsored shows in Canada. Alpacas from either registry can be shown in International shows as well as all other local shows.
There is really no difference in the quality of the alpacas that are single- or double-registered. The majority of single- registered alpacas are offspring of alpacas that passed the same screening process as the double-registered alpacas.
The real difference is the price. Double-registered alpacas sell for three or four times more than their single-registered counterparts.
For anyone wishing to raise alpacas mainly for the fiber, single-registered alpacas are a more cost effective way to go.
Alpaca are a ruminant, not a true ruminant because they have one stomach
with three compartments but they chew their cud just like a cow. They need
to have a low protein hay and pasture grass. Protein levels should be 8 to 10%
for adult males, non pregnant and non lactating females. For pregnant females
they need 12 to 14% protein for the first two trimesters and 12 to 14% for the
last trimester and older weanlings (tues). Lactating females need 13 to 15%
protein to produce adequate milk and not lose too much weight (see
body scoring to access weight). They need to eat two% of
their body weight each day to be healthy and be able to meet their reproductive
needs. An average alpaca of 140 pounds would need to eat two pounds of hay per day.
Because it is to hard to see what they are eating we feed free choice hay all the
time. We use a dairy hay but test the hay for protein levels, nitrate and
potassium levels to make sure it is suitable for our needs.
Besides hay and pasture alpacas need minerals which we give to them in a
pellet made by our local feed mill which is designed by our vet and the feed
company. It is designed for our soil conditions in our area and also contains
grounded up grains mixed and compressed into pellets. We feed a cup a day per
alpaca which seems not very much but if you over feed you might find your
stock gets the runs from to much protein. More is not necessarily better in
this case. In North American we tend to over feed if your alpacas have lose
stools and you have checked for parasites have a look at your feeding program
you might be over feeding. To ensure that every one gets a fair chance at
getting their share of grain we have many little feeders all over the barn,
it's like an easter egg hunt at feeding time everyone looking for the best
place for grain but they settle down quickly and the grain is gone if five
Pasture is just as important and you should make sure there are no
toxic plants in
the fields. If you are planting a new pasture you should get the soil
tested to see what you need to add to it. Also you should have a good
variety of different grasses so there is grass growing through out the
growing season. Alpacas are ideal small acreage's and You can keep
between five to ten per acre.
Water is the last thing on my list and probably the most important. It
must be clean and the containers should be clean out once a week and the
water changed every a day to keep it fresh. In the summer we have many
large containers spread out in the fields to make sure no one is going
with out water. In the winter we take hot water out to the barn to heat
up their water because if the water is to cold they may not drink enough.
You should see them crowd around when we bring it out in the morning you'd
think it was hot coffee.
To summarize alpacas need
- clean water from a clean source.
- free choice hay, protein levels checked.
- grain or pellets.
- good pastures free of toxic Plants.
*Remember to introduce any changes to the diet gradually over a period of a
couple of weeks. This way the microbes in the gut have time to adjust to
any feed changes.
The alpaca has one stomach with three compartments see diagram:
As you can see alpacas are not really a true ruminant. In reality they
have one stomach with three areas dealing with digestion in a similar
manner as other ruminates but a true ruminate has separate stomachs.
It is very important to the digestion process that there is constant
movement in the stomach particularly in the C3 or the fore stomach were
it is critical for fermentation with out it you are in trouble and can
develop a colic. Put your ear to the rib cage you should hear lots of
Something interesting to note about the alpaca stomach is that the
fore stomach has much more movement than other true ruminants.
You will have layering of food and the movement mixes the food with
stomach juices braking down the food and being absorbed and utilized.
There are many things important to this process , stomach bacteria are
essential and ph levels which change in the different compartments as the
food moves to the lower stomach.
What is Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus BVDV?
Cattle Health: Spotlight On Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus
Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) is a costly disease that affects cattle and other ruminants. The virus has many nasty effects, including fever, diarrhea, respiratory and reproductive disease, abortion, birth defects and death.
BVDV infections may be acute (intense, but short) or persistent--a characteristic that makes the virus particularly difficult to control. Cattle can develop persistent infections (PI) when exposed in utero within the first 125 days of gestation. Once born, they shed the virus, infecting other animals in the herd.
Alpacas can contract BVDV and in most cases can get over the virus as with most illnesses it is the immune weak alpacas that might become very ill and even die from the disease, the young, old or already weak animal.
We are most concerned with the Persistently Infected (PI) alpaca. Most alpacas born with BVDV will die with in a very short time if they make it to full term and are not aborted in utero. In a few cases the cria is born and seems normal and even grows up to become an adult but is a carrier of the virus and spreads it to others they come in contact with.
What can be done about BVDV?
This is were Bio-security comes in and why it is so important.
All alpacas new to the farm or that have been away from the farm must go into quarantine for three to four weeks.
All alpacas on the farm are tested for BVDV.
All newly purchased alpacas are blood tested as part of the conditions of sale. Even if the alpaca may pass the blood test it still needs to go into quarantine.
All alpacas coming to the farm must be tested for BVDV especially females with cria at foot come for breeding.
All cria born on our farm are tested for BVDV as a precaution.
A negative BVD test for a cria certifies that both the cria and the dam are not PI.
A healthy alpaca will eliminate the BVDV within a 2 to 3 weeks period of time.
A female needs to get only 1 negative test from any one of her crias to certify she is not PI (a test performed on her first cria can be presented as proof for herself for all her life).
f a PI cria is left in contact with other alpacas, it will cause abortions, diarrhea and births of other PI crias. If a female PI cria was well enough to grow and reproduce herself, she would automatically give birth to PI crias
An alpaca will be declared PI only after 2 positive BVDV tests performed 3 weeks apart.
Tests for BVDV are relatively inexpensive as the blood is combined to a maximum of 15 alpacas so you are testing 15 at the cost of one test. So a herd of sixty alpacas will cost only three tests. Not a huge hardship for a bit of peace of mind.
I think that one of the most important things we as breeders need to
understand is body weight, that loss of weight can be early warning signs
of possible health issues. In North America we have a tendency to over feed
our animals because we care so much for them so I see more of a problem with
over weight alpacas than underweight.
We need to have our alpacas at optimum weight for reproduction, breeding,
fiber production and able to ward off illnesses. The easiest way to keep
track of your alpacas condition is to record it's body score and don't be
fooled by fleece coverage get your hands on the back bone at the withers
put your thumb and index figure on either side of the bone and depending
on how close or far apart your figures are is the score. Some people do a
one to five score and others do a 1 to ten. One is thinnest and five is
obese or using the one to ten scoring five being optimum. It is fast, easy
and costs nothing.
Body Score Chart
One of the most important thing about pastures is done in the planning
If the planning and research are done well you will enjoy years of pleasure
instead of constantly fixing this, changing that and adding to these.
We say this from experience and a limited pocket book (all the money went into
our stock). So many times we say to our selves if only we had done this before.
Please think about how many different communities of alpacas you might
- a main herd
- a weanling pen
- a tues or young males paddock
- an adult breeding males
- a birthing pen & pasture
- an Isolation or quarantine pen .
You will also like to be able to rotate the alpacas every three weeks, mow
what they haven't eaten and irrigate if you have the water to spare. In a
perfect world you wouldn't be back to that first pen for six weeks. You
would do this for the the main herd for sure and if possible perhaps have
two pastures for the tues, adult males and the mommy pen as the populations
usually are as high. I hope you noted the isolation pen, this is a pen
(doesn't need to be huge) that needs to be on it's own were you can put new
alpacas or alpacas that have been away for breeding or shows from the rest
of the herd. The alpacas should not be able to touch each other and usually
a double fence is in place just in case they might pass something on to the
rest of your herd. Our vet likes new alpacas to spend two weeks in that pen
before going in which the rest of our herd.
What about your actual pastures? You need to know what kind of soil you have
and what you need to do to it before planting which means you need to take a
number of soil samples and have them tested We are lucky to have an excellent
feed company who also deal in pasture designs which we have found very helpful.
You can also contact your local Agricultural Service they are an invaluable
source of information. Your agent will probably recommend doing soil testing
twice a year to determine what soil amendments your particular pastures will
require. Tests are inexpensive and it is wise to test each pasture individually
as topography affects soil nutrition. Hilly areas experience rain runoff and thus
nutrient leaching while low lying areas receive that runoff which means they
require fewer amendments. Nearby alpaca or llama breeders can tell you the forage
types their animals prefer.
Types of forage
You should consider the types of grasses that grow well in your area
and different grasses grow at different times of the growing season.
Never plant all one kind of grass as alpacas are use to a great variety
of forage try and get the variety in the pastures. I don't not recommend
clover it is much to invasive and chokes out the grasses. You will get
clover anyway so why pay for it. Do not plant Rye grass it can cause a
toxic reaction as it can carry an endophyte (bacteria) which can cause
staggers which is a condition that looks like it sounds. It effects the
central nervous system temporarily and if the rye is not removed it can become permanent or fatal. I know of a breed that had a very
sick alpaca which got the staggers from eating hay that had endophyte's in it.
The alpaca didn't die but sadly is handicapped. Endophyte's are a natural
protect for plants and many grasses carry it so make sure any seed you
buy is endophyte free. Seeing we are on the topic of endophyte's please don't
let your alpacas eat your lawn unless you are very sure it is from endophyte
free seed most lawn seed has is not.
You should plant grasses that grow from eight to ten inches tall anything over the alpacas will not eat, plant:
- a mix of several grasses
- a legume of slower growing varieties not clover
- Timothy grasses
- orchard grasses
- endophyte free short fescue's
A couple of serious notes. If possible, invite your local agricultural agent
to visit your farm and walk the pastures with you. This is a free service. Ask
them to take note of the weeds and any trees growing in your pasture. They can
point out those that are toxic to livestock and make recommendations for their
eradication. That beautiful cherry tree in the middle of your pasture is
aesthetically pleasing and provides shade for the alpacas (always desirable),
but the dried old leaves on the ground may be toxic. Likewise, rhododendron,
milkweed, most yews etc. are deadly. In general, a well fed lama will not browse
on toxic plants, trees or shrubs - but cria are always chewing on everything
they find. Eradicate such dangers or if a favorite plant, fence it off.
Toxic Plants List
|Cherry (Black Cherry or Wild Cherry)
|Golden Chain Tree (Laburnum)
||Sour Dock (Sorrel)