Alpacas are hardy animals, originating from high in the arid South American mountains. You see them more and more in our parts, and that’s not surprising: they are good-natured, curious animals that are easy to handle and, unlike other llamas, rarely spit.
An alpaca needs about as much space as a sheep. About 500 to 650 m² per animal is a good rule of thumb. These animals are very social; they are at their best in a small herd of about six animals. You can also graze them with other animals, such as sheep.
Moreover, as immigrants from the Andes, they can rough it. You can keep alpacas outside year round, but make sure you provide shelter from rain, extreme wind and bright sun. They are sure-footed and are not deterred by difficult terrain. Swampy soil is less suitable because it softens their feet and their toenails grow over quickly.
A safe fence of one and a half meters high is certainly sufficient for a herd of alpacas. These animals are usually peaceful and will not try to escape.
Skimpy diet, with some extras
An alpaca is not cheap to buy, but once you have one, there are few maintenance and veterinary costs to pay. Deworming, shearing, cutting nails and filing teeth regularly, that's about it.
Grass and fresh water are essential. Alpacas are used to poor quality grass, but in winter, if there is very little green for them to munch on, you can add hay to their diets. Supplement with pellets for an optimal diet with all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Did you know ...?
- An alpaca can live to be twenty years old and even older, if properly cared for.
- The sound you’ll usually hear them make when they’re satisfied is a soft "humming". They also have an alarm call, which is somewhat like the neighing of a horse.
- Alpacas are mainly kept to make wool from their fleece. However, they’re not related to sheep, but to ... camels!
- Did you know that you can take a walk with Alpacas? Hiking with alpacas is very relaxing. You can already do this in different places.