Alpaca husbandry: Check your Alpaca Stock!
An alpaca should ideally be checked at least twice a day.
First thing in the morning and late afternoon are the ideal times. The best way to do this is to walk quietly through your herd looking for any signs of unusual behavior (eg one alpaca sitting or separated from the herd for long periods when the rest of the herd has moved on). The more familiar you become with each of your alpacas, the easier and quicker this will become and the more likely that you will pick up any problems at an early stage. Look out for obvious things like brambles caught in the fleece but also for unusual things like fly strike (very rare – but has been heard of). As a general rule, whenever handling your alpacas, you should do so quietly, gently and patiently. Talking to them in a reassuring tone also helps. This will help alpacas that are initially nervous and unapproachable (doesn’t apply to ours!) to become relaxed in your presence.
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General Alpaca Health
Alpacas are generally extremely hardy and adapt well to most conditions. A good indication of health is body temperature and respiratory rate. NB They breathe a lot faster in the Summer when the temperature is hot.
Body temperature should be 37.5 to 38.5 degrees Celsius – Adult
Body temperature should be 37.75 to 39 degrees Celsius – Cria
Body scoring – Can be used to assess the condition of your alpaca. Commonly a 0 – 5 scale is used to describe an alpaca on a scale of thin to obese. 2.5 to 3.0 being optimum to breed, 5 being obese.
Alpacas need access to:-
Hay (especially in winter – but all year round as it helps regulate their
rumen – as they are ruminants)
Some form of camelid mix – we use Carrs Billington and Gro-Well Feeds (Camelibra and Fibregest) as our suppliers. We act as stockists for both manufacturers.
Vitamin and mineral supplements – if required.
We give our weanling crias a vitamin A,D and E paste in late Autumn and early Spring to promote strong bone formation.
These help prevent clostridial diseases and are given either sem-annually or annually. We use Bravoxin 10 (given annually). Check the instructions given with your vaccine as it can often be necessary to give a booster jab 4 – 6 weeks after the primary injection.
In recent years it has become necessary to vaccinate against Bluetongue disease – transmitted by a midge borne vector. After the initial dose, a follow up booster is required (3 weeks later) thereafter annually.
Inject with wormer at dose appropriate to approximate body weight every 6 months. Several drenches do exist for those who do not want to inject their alpacas.
Injectable wormers e.g. Dectomax or Cydectin.
Drenches e.g. Panacur or Valbazen and possibly Fasinex if you farm in a fluke area.
Please speak to your vet about the most appropriate wormers for your herd. We do recommend regular faecal analyses (which can be done by your own vet, a veterinary lab or the owner – we now do our own faecal testing) as this can prevent overuse of wormers or alert you to potential problems.
Toenail trimming should ideally be done about 4 times a year – possibly less if your alpacas have access to hard standing.
Please see our separate page on foot care for details.
Alpacas have teeth in their lower jaw at the front of their mouths – which bite onto a hard palate in the upper jaw. At the back of their mouths they have upper and lower grinding teeth. Trimming/ grinding is done at shearing time (please ask your shearer if this needs doing) in order to ensure your alpaca can eat properly. In addition, both male and female alpacas develop fighting teeth as they mature. In males, these should be blunted to prevent injuries from fighting. Again, please ask your shearer/ vet to check if this needs to be done.
Alpacas need to be sheared – we shear both huacayas and suris every year – to provide us with wonderful fibre, but also for welfare reasons. This is best done in early Summer in a dry barn by one of the alpaca shearers who travel around the country each year.
Contact us for details on alpaca shearing. 01825 790885 or 07776 181811/12
For all aspects of mating, pregnancy, birthing and care for crias through to weaning.
For more info, we have a dedicated page on alpaca birthing and newborn cria care.
Paperwork is something not normally associated with alpaca ownership, but it is essential to keep records of vaccination and wormer schedules, and useful to keep records of all other aspects of ownership. We use our own system, but there are commercial herd management systems available if you need one.
At some point in your alpaca’s life, it may need to see a vet. We would strongly recommend finding a large animal vet near to you – preferably with experience of camelids.
We run our herd on the basis of: if in doubt call the vet.