What You’ll Need To Know
Information you should know before you begin alpaca ranching
Attention New Buyers! – Before you buy ask for free report:
The importance of good husbandry practices are imperative as you begin your alpaca operation. Things to consider before you begin are fences, shelters, waters, feeders, pasture layouts, hay availability and storage, and record keeping.
Fencing is the most important passive protection you can give your alpacas. Although Alpacas seldom challenge fences it is important to protect your animals from predators and disease carrying animals. A good investment of predator resistant perimeter fencing, such as game fencing or chain link, will ensure the safety of your animals and let you sleep nights. Gates must be tight fitting and predator proof. Other considerations are segregating animals for breeding, birthing pens, weaning, pasture rotation, herd compatibility and catch pens for easy capture. Internal or cross fencing need not be as elaborate but must take into consideration the safety of the animals. Things to consider are cria slipping under and getting separated from mothers, and males which will rear onto fences if open females are next door. Catch pens need to be escape and injury proof to protect the animal.
Alpacas have flourished for thousands of years in the South American Andes and are very adept with these climatic conditions. In Canada where temperatures may be excessively cold, or hot they need shelters to help them cope. Three sided shelters to provide shade in summer and protection from wind, rain and snow are often all that is required. In winter we close the front of the shed with a sheet of plywood leaving a small doorway and find they stay quite cozy. Ideally a barn would include areas for segregating animals, food storage, tack, and protection from extreme weather.
Alpacas need a constant source of clean water. Water sources need to be inspected every day. There are several types of insulated waterers or submersible heaters that may be used for winter watering.
You will require sufficient feeders to allow alpacas to feed with minimal squabbles. Long and narrow is preferable, to allow lower ranking or younger animals a place away from dominant alpacas. The feeder should be designed so that the animals do not eat facing each other and should be covered to protect feed from rain and snow. We have several feeders to assure each alpaca has space.
Impeccable records must be kept on each animal. The records should include inoculations, deworming, toetrimming, dates of breedings, births etc. Many do bimonthly evaluation of animals, checking general health and condition of each. Cria birth records to evaluate the health of the newborn are important. Check general strength of cria, breathing, teeth erupted, general appearance, time until nursing and walking etc. Record birth weight, daily and weekly gains for the first few weeks. All cria inoculations and medicines given must be recorded. I found it helpful to keep birthing reports describing activities of each dam before birthing to look back on as her due date approached when we first started. Yearly records of each alpacas fiber analysis are important to see yearly change. It is important to track males fiber micron, weight and length each year to evaluate him as a breeding male. If he blows out (gets course) fast you may want to reconsider using him. All breeding male’s offspring should be evaluated as well as a rating of the dam.
Accounting records must be up to date with advice from a good accountant to take advantage of all tax breaks available to you.
Alpacas are raised for their fiber. Sheared once a year, the fleece is cleaned, carded and spun like sheep wool. All of the fiber from an alpaca can be used. The blanket: consisting of back, side, shoulder and rump is the finest quality and is used by the high fashion industry or for knitting sweaters, hats, and mitts. It is often mixed with other fiber such as wool or silk. Expensive suit jackets and coats have Alpaca fiber in them which gives them the soft feel. The neck and leg fiber can be made into blankets, rugs, mitts, slippers etc. The fiber is easily felted and made into hats or crafts.
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