Alpaca farming should be fun and is a great adventure. It can be a little scary if you have never raised livestock before, but keeping alpacas is not difficult.
Our list of our top 10 Do’s and top 10 Don’ts that we discovered working with and while alpaca breeding.
Top 10 Do’s
- Do talk to as many experienced alpaca breeders as you can before taking the life changing plunge. Most breeders should be willing to share their hard learnt experience to help potential new owners. Don’t be shy to ask questions!
- Do consider your future aspirations as ALL livestock farming is a long term commitment, alpacas can live into their twenties.
- Do join The British Alpaca Society. Great resource to help you get started.
- Do research as much as you can about breed standards and conformation before purchasing an alpaca.
- Do attend alpaca shows, a great place see the industry and talk to a large number of other breeders on neutral ground before your purchase.
- Do learn about bio security from day one, it will protect you and your herd in the future. If you are unsure ask other livestock farmers (sheep, cattle, goats) what they do, as the same things affect their animals. You may consider insurance to cover any losses as a total loss can be expensive.
- Do look for appropriate suppliers of feed and equipment to run your farm.
- Do try to find a local Vet with camelid experience. Your Vet should be encouraged to join BVCS a fountain of knowledge for them.
- Do consider and plan what you will do the day one of your alpacas dies as you will not think straight when it happens. Even if your Vet has been treating the animal for a problem/illness post-mortem is the best tool to tell you what it died of and with that information you could prevent further problems with your other alpacas. We use a Pet Crematorium for our fallen stock it is more dignified than the agricultural route.
- Do find a shearer who is experienced in shearing alpacas, the best ones will also do routine maintenance like teeth adjustment, toenail trimming, worming and vaccination.
Top 10 Don’ts
- Don’t stop talking to other breeders and educating yourself about alpacas and what is going on outside your farm gate. Try and be in front of possible health issues that may harm your alpacas.
- Don’t expect alpaca breeding to be a get rich quick business. It will take a few years for you to grow and establish your herd and business.
- Don’t expect to have customers queuing to buy your fibre it will just pile up in your barn or garage. Market and promote alpaca fibre, get it out to the general public.
- Don’t forget to check for and remove any poisonous plants from your paddocks, remember alpaca’s have long legs and necks so they can reach beyond the fence line. Doing this before your alpacas arrival is best practice.
- Don’t forget gates. Make sure you and others close gates behind you and the latches work freely and are secure. Padlock and chain gates that you can’t see, someone unknown might leave the gate open.
- Don’t hesitate if one of your alpacas doesn’t seem right to you, call the Vet even if you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong. Alpacas that don’t look right or are not acting normal are usually not. They are considered “stoic”, they are flight animals and hide things until they can’t hide them any longer, it’s not a good idea to wait until the alpaca doesn’t get up then call the Vet.
- Don’t use horse hay nets, your alpaca burrows when it eats hay, and can get its head through holes in the netting, they may get stuck or strangle themselves. Use a hay bag it only has a single big feeding hole.
- Don’t rush around or shout when working with your alpacas. Stay calm; if the experience is not stressful to you it will be the same for your alpaca.
- Don’t only catch and handle your alpacas when you want to do something to them like injections, trim their toe nails or have the Vet examine them. Sometimes by just catching and calmly holding them, they will learn not to associate you catching them with unpleasant experiences, which could make them more difficult or even impossible to handle.
- Don’t forget alpacas can and do kick, be aware of their kick zone to avoid getting kicked. If kicked in a vulnerable area it hurts!