Care & Feeding
While alpacas like to investigate new areas, they are not likely to run away so keeping them home is seldom a problem. However, ADEQUATE FENCING IS CRITICAL TO THEIR SURVIVAL. Exterior fencing must be high enough and tight enough to keep out all potential predators including the neighbor's dog. Woven wire or any solid material that rises from ground level to a height of five feet usually suffices. For added protection, some owners add an electric wire along the top. Internally, any combination of boards, woven wire, cables and barbless wire that stand about four feet and does not allow the smallest animals to escape under or through will do.
Alpacas are hardy creatures that adapt to all climates and have minimal requirements in the way of shelter. Access to an open barn or simple overhang that offers protection from storms and ample shade in the warmer seasons is all that is needed and is preferred to strict confinement.
Alpacas are extremely efficient utilizers of feed, alpacas do well on pasture or clean, grass-type hays. Overfeeding and dependence on the use of protein-rich hays, such as alfalfa, are unhealthy and should be avoided. Females in their last trimester of pregnancy, nursing mothers and growing youngsters require higher levels of protein and may benefit from supplemental feeding. Fresh water should always be available along with mineral salt. Alpacas are sensitive to the deprivation of essential minerals including, but not limited to, selenium and phosphorus. When green forage or hay from areas of specific deficiencies is fed, animals must be directly compensated for the mineral(s) that are lacking in their feed.
Although generally hardy and disease resistant animals, alpacas greatly benefit by preventative medicine and ready access to veterinary services. A priority for new alpaca owners should be to enlist the services of a veterinarian with alpaca and/or llama experience or, if none is available, find a local veterinarian who is interested in the species and very willing to learn. Regular selenium supplements are required in many areas to prevent white muscle disease, while Vitamin D may be required to prevent rickets. An alpaca's nails should be trimmed regularly and not allowed to grow long and curl. This can be done with or without a restraining chute. The teeth should be inspected and incisors trimmed if they exhibit excessive growth. Shearing alpacas once a year will further add to their happiness and well-being.