Frequently Asked Questions

The following are frequently asked questions about alpacas. Medical information is not endorsed by the Australian Alpaca Association or the Southern NSW Region and is a guideline only. Veterinary advice MUST be sort for your area and situation.

Where are alpacas from?

They were originally imported from Peru and Chile, South America.

What family are they from? 

They belong to the Camelid family - the same family as camels and llamas.

What do they eat?

They eat pretty much the same as sheep or goats – paddock grass although they like lucerne and clover hay when paddock grass is sparse in winter. They are selective eaters and do not like weeds or poisonous plants although they will nibble on some trees and shrubs. Unlike goats they will not destroy or ring bark paddock trees.

Should I feed them on the ground?

No. All feed should be provided in troughs where possible. Feeding on the ground leads to waste and alpacas may pick up worms from the ground when eating. Ground level troughs are the best and can be purchased at your local produce store.

How much water do they drink?

Alpacas require around 3.5 to 5.6 litres per day. They will drink more when feeding cria.

Should I buy alpacas that are halter trained?

Yes. Halter trained alpacas are easier to handle.

What are the normal vital signs for alpacas?

Heart rate is 60 to 90 rates per minute, temperature is 37.5 to 38.3 and breathing rate is 10 to 30 breaths per minute.

How long do they live?

They generally live for 15-20 years although some can live as long as 25.

How long are they pregnant for?

Crias are carried between 11.5 to 12 months although sometimes they carry for a little longer.

Do alpacas have twins?

98% are single births although sometimes twins are born however they rarely survive.

When can the crias be weaned?

From 6 months old although if crias are well grown then weaning can occur earlier.

What fencing is good for alpacas?

Any fencing that keeps sheep and goats in are OK for alpacas. Ring lock or mesh with 5 strand wire is recommended. Barb wire is not recommended. Electric fencing may be used for isolating areas off but due to alpacas being full fleeced electric fencing may not be affective.

Should entire males be kept in with the females?

No. They can be in with the females when paddock or stall mating but they should be removed once the mating period has finished.

Should I wether my male?

Wethering males (desexing) is recommended if you are not going to use them as a stud male. Males kept whole to use as a future stud animal should only be of the top quality. All others should be wethered at around 12-18 months. Seek vet advice and assistance for this procedure.

When can females be mated?

Females should be at least 12 months old and weigh at least 40kg.

Do they need vaccinations?

Yes. A 5in1 product should be given to cria at 8 and then a booster given at 12 weeks. They should then brought into line with the adults at once per year, normally at shearing time. Depending on the product and size the following is recommended: cria 1ml and adults 2ml or more depending on weight given subcutaneous (under the skin). Seek vet advice for dosage rates and products to use in your area.

What is 5in1?

5in1 is a vaccination type that covers the prevention of 5 different types of diseases that are covered in one injection: Tetanus, Enterotoxaemia (Pulpy Kidney), Black Disease, Malignant Oedema and Blackleg.

Do they need any other type of injections?

Yes. Alpacas need vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin A improves weight gain, vitamin D helps improve appetite and metabolism and vitamin E helps to boost the immune system. ADE also helps to prevent rickets. ADE should be given via intramuscular injection (into the muscle).

Depending on the product the following is recommended: cria (under 12 months) .05ml and 1ml per 50kgs for adults. Crias should be given 1 dose at 8 weeks and then come in line with adults. Darker or unwell animals may require additional dosages. Seek vet advice for dosage rates and products to use in your area.

If giving ADE, an injection of cophos B should also be given.

What is Rickets?

Rickets is a painful and arthritic condition caused by deficiencies in the bone minerals of calcium and phosphate linked to lack of a vitamin D. Alpacas often get rickets during growth periods however older animals can also get rickets. Darker and dense fleece alpacas are more prone to rickets than lighter coloured ones.

Do alpacas need selenium?

Yes. Australia is deficient in selenium and additional selenium may be required. Seek vet advice for dosage rates in your area.

Are there natural methods that can be used with alpacas?

Yes however you should seek vet advice for information on natural husbandry program.

Do alpacas get worms?

Yes. They are susceptible to the same type of worms to cattle, sheep and goats. They can get barbers pole, small brown stomach, black scour worms and liver fluke. Drenching for worms should only occur after testing as drench resistance may occur with over drenching or using the incorrect product. A broad long acting product like cydectin is recommended. Seek vet advice for drenching program in your area.

Can worms kill alpacas?

Yes worms can kill alpacas especially barbers pole. Testing and drenching program should be discussed with a vet.

Do alpacas get lice and ticks?

Yes they can get both. Seek vet advice for information.

Do alpacas need their toes nails trimmed?

Yes. White toenails grow quicker then dark coloured ones so they may need to be trimmed 2-3 times per year.

What do I use to cut their nails?

You should use hoof or nail trimmers especially for alpacas. They can be purchased online or at your local produce store.

Do alpacas need shearing?

Yes each and every year. Shearing should be done by a specialist alpaca shearer. Shearer’s details are under Contacts on this site or you can ask the stud who sold you the alpacas for recommendations. Shearing should occur before it gets too hot in your area.

Do alpaca teeth need to be trimmed?

Alpaca teeth grow throughout their lifetime and sometimes trimming may be required. Seek vet advice if your alpaca needs his/her teeth trimmed.

Do alpaca like water?

Yes alpacas love water especially when it is hot. They will often stand in dams and water troughs to cool down. Sometimes they will even kick water up from the troughs to cool off their bellies. Don’t be alarmed if your alpacas are half submerged in the dam because they love to cool off.

Can dogs kill alpacas?

Yes. All dogs, no matter the size, can kill alpacas. Dogs, due to their hunt and kill instinct, chase alpacas which can lead to broken legs and larger dogs can cause substantial soft tissue injuries, often at the hind quarters and around the head and neck area.

Do alpacas chase foxes?

Yes they will chase foxes and they have been known to kill cornered foxes by stomping on them.

Do I need to have a first aid kit for alpacas?

Yes it is recommended that a first aid kit should be ready in care of an emergency.

What should be in the first aid kit?

A basic kit should have the following: vet wraps, gauze swaps, absorbent pads, adhesive tape, betadine, saline solution, scissors or a pocket knife, 5ml and 10 ml syringes and 18, 19 and 21 needle tops. It is best to store in large bucket with lid to keep dry and clean. A torch and vet contact details should be added. Seek vet advice for additional products.

Do alpacas come when called?

Alpacas can be trained to come when called. Call them with the same name every time and then feed them. It is often best to train them to come into a smaller yard or catch pen. It will make it easier to catch them when you need to handle them.

What can I do with my fleece?

There are many options to consider when deciding what you should do with your fleeces, from getting it spun at a local mini mill, selling to larger alapca fleece buyers or keeping it and making products from home (e.g. hand spinning or felting). A great place to start is the AAA Animals, Products and Services Website or can also contact your local craft groups, many you will find on Facebook or by doing a sijmple goggle search.

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