Alpaca Basics

DAILY FEED:

     Grain:
          - Each animal- ¼ to ½ lb. per day
          - 1 Bag should last 4-6 weeks for 4-6 animals.                                                         

     Hay:
          - 1 bale should last 5-7 days for 4-6 animals.
          - SUPPLEMEMTED for…..
                    - poor grazing condition
                    - poor weather conditions such as excessive rain, snow & wind

     Grazing:
          - Free will

     Water:
          - Free will.

     Loose Vitamin/Mineral Mix:
          - Top dressing on grain given.   Usually sold in 50 lb. bucket.
          - Ideally, feed ½ lb. grain per day especially in pregnant/lactating females.
          - It’s NOT necessary, but helpful to use also as a training/reward tool.
          - When weather is bad and animals wish to stay in shelter, provide hay.
          - Water and salt lick with selenium should be constantly available

 
CLEAN UP:
          - Alpacas are communal dung heapers.
          - This means they defecate in common piles.
          - Rake up piles at least every 3-4 days or as needed.
          - Spread to fertilize elsewhere.
 

GROOMING:
          - None! Sometimes for “Showing” you can flick debris from fleece.
          - *Do not brush or bathe!*
          - Toe nails may need trimming.
          - Make routine “herd health” days monthly to check weights, nails, or other needs.


BREEDING:
          - Females cycle roughly every 2 weeks.
          - They ovulate when stimulated to do so by the male.

Introduce male to female…..He will try to mount. If “receptive”, female will “kush” (lay down) and breeding will take place. 10 to 40 minutes is average. Female should breed with the following pattern…..Breed, skip 3 days, breed again. Some farmers believe in every other day for 3

times. Wait 10 days to 2 weeks. Introduce male again. If pregnant, female will spit, kick and run to discourage male. If simply “not receptive”, she will run and refuse to kush! It is helpful to wrap female’s tail with Vet Wrap whenever breeding to avoid “Penile Strangulation” from hair around the vagina and tail.


DELIVERY OF CRIAS:
Generally females will deliver unassisted between 6 AM & 3PM.  (If ever a baby is born at night, it IS an issue… get help!)

RUB BABY DRY with towel if present at birth.
DISINFECT umbilical cord 2 times within 3 hours of birth. One time as soon as possible, second time—a couple of hours later.  Use a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and iodine.  (Small amount in a cup—hold to belly button & shake)           
LOOK for delivery of placenta---15 minutes to 1 ½ hours after birth.  (At 1 hour you could administer contraction inducing drug if needed – Oxytocin.)

 
CARE OF NEWBORN:
          - Weigh as soon as dry.
          - Weigh every day for first week.
          - Look for positive weight gain, ½ to 1 lb per day is ideal.
          - 24 – 48 hours after birth...
                    - Have vet pull blood.
                    - Run CBC (complete blood count)
                    - Run BVDV test (inherited disease)
                    - Run IgG (Colostrum absorption from first milk).

If IgG is low (800 or less), vet will do “plasma transfusion”. This is normally affective immediately and poses no future threat. Transfusions being needed are most common in first time mom’s and low milk production issues. After mom & baby are healthy, happy, and growing (1 or 2 weeks) weighing can slow to 2 or 3 times a week up to 40 lbs. Every couple of months from there is always good for the whole herd.

          - Cria will eat hay at 3-4 weeks, grain by 3 months.
          - Weaning should be around 6 months or 60 lbs.
          - At 1 month give cria CDT vaccine
          - At 2 months give cria CDT vaccine then annually.
          - Lepto vaccine can be given at the same time as CDT if needed.
          - Vet knows if needed in your area.
          - Rabies can be given annually after 7 months of age.


FENCING & SHELTER:
Fencing can be any type of barrier not electrically charged (if having babies). In general, alpacas are not fence challengers (like sheep & goats). Males must be separate from females after 6-7 months old. Breeding males will challenge fencing if trying to get to an available female that is in sight. Weaned babies will try to squeeze back to mom early on. This will cease after approximately 3-4 weeks.

Shelter can be as complex as an interchangeable barn to as simple as a 3 sided, roofed “lean-to”.  It is only needed to avoid extreme elements such as hot sun, cold wind/rain & snow. Alpacas will electively stay out to graze in summer rains, light snow, etc.


ROUTINE MEDICAL:

          Worming:
                    - Required every 4-6 weeks depending on conditions & methods.
                    - Examples:
                        Ivermectin & Dectomax are in shot form and given subQ.
                        Panacur & Safeguard are given in paste form orally.
                        Each has its own area of protection.


VACCINATIONS:
CDT, Lepto & Rabies vaccinations have been discussed previously  in the “Care of Newborn” section. In adults these are given once annually. CDT & Lepto can be given  by regular caregiver. A vet has to give Rabies and sign documentation. The whole herd should be tested for TB every 5 years. Additions to herd & crias at least 7 months old should also be tested.


TRAINING & HANDLING:
Alpacas are afraid of you. They will attempt to flee from you. They must not be alone. Always keep & train more than one. Start at birth—“desensitizing”:
               - Pick up baby
               - Kiss on face & ears
               - Talk to baby
               - Touch feet then release in a controlled fashion back to mom.
               - Do this just for fun whenever you want—through weaning.


NAILS:
From 3 months on you will be worming. Take advantage of this time when you catch each animal. Have one person hold animal at neck/head.  The other person administers shot/medicine dose & will then trim nails.—There are 2 toe nails on each foot.  Trim all nails in a V formation flat to pad of foot. (Avoid “Quick”)

 
HALTER BREAKING:
Hold animal firmly.  Place halter on face in safe area (not in open pasture). Feed animal as normal, then remove halter. Do this 2-3 times. Next time attach lead and attempt to walk.  Allow animal to resist, but keep it safe. Continue to hold lead during his display. When calm, attempt to walk. Repeat as necessary. Usually 2-3 times.


SPECIALTY TRAINING:
Alpacas are great with 4Hr’s, obstacle courses, pets on wheels, etc even loading in & out of cars, trucks, vans or trailers. There are lots of tricks that they can learn.


COMMON TENDENCIES:

Flee!  Whenever possible

Spit! Males at males over females. Females at females over food. (Feed in separate bowls facing away from each other)

Kick! If startled from rear, they can kick. This is nothing like a horse kick and can be trained out if animal is specifically “kicky”

Choke! If grain is heavily “dusty” from crushing (bottom of bag) they can choke. Sift food first when nearing bottom of bag. (Scoop with a sifter all the time—it’s easier). If choking, massage throat. If animal aspirates—check temperature for next 2 days to help catch an issue early enough to help. Aspiration causes infection in the lung—temp will rise. 100-101 degrees is normal. Over 102—call vet.

Head Shy! By nature, alpacas are head shy. Begin touching them somewhere else (neck, back). Work your way to the head.

 
OBESITY:
Learn to Body Score.
          - On a scale of 5, ---3 is perfect.
          - On a scale of 10, ---5 is perfect. 

Obesity will interrupt ability to breed and produce. Drastic weight loss can result in “fatty liver disease” which is fatal. Don’t let them get too fat. If getting fat start with omission of grain, next omit hay (if also on pasture), then restrict pasture.

 

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