3 Tips for Raising Alpacas On Your Homestead

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Looking for an interesting, useful, and easy-to-handle animal to add to your homestead? Try raising alpacas!

If you’re thinking of adding a larger animal to your homestead than just chickens or goats, alpacas are an interesting choice to consider. Although the “alpaca boom” of the 1990’s is over, there remains a sizable market for alpaca wool both inside and outside of the U.S..

However, even if you aren’t in it for the money, there are other reasons for raising alpacas as well. Besides the adorable factor (and face it, they are SO cute!), they also are docile, friendly, and generally well-behaved animals. They have soft foot pads rather than hard hooves, so they have less of an impact on your soil, and they provide a great source of nutritious compost for your garden and orchard – especially since they tend to drop their dung in specific communal spots.

If you are considering raising alpacas on your homestead, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, realize that, like goats, alpacas are herd animals, so you will need to have more than one. You can spend anywhere from $200 to $30,000 on an alpaca, depending on whether you are looking for a fiber-producing animal or not. If you don’t need a breeding female, a stud, or a source of wool, your options will be on the cheaper end.  Once you take the plunge, you can expect a lifespan of about 15-20 years from your alpacas.

Below are a few tips for caring for your new alpacas:

Once you bring your alpacas home, caring for them is pretty straightforward. Extremely hardy, the animals require only basic shelter for protection from bad weather. A barn’s nice, but a three-sided lean-to will do. As for food, it’s all about hay and grass. “Alpacas eat less per month than a Labrador retriever,” says one owner. Alpaca breeder Mike Safley suggests allowing one acre of pasture for every three to five animals and supplementing with orchard–grass hay, especially during the dead of winter. He feeds three alpacas a ton of hay—about $200 to $400 worth—a year.

You’ll want to shear your animals annually. (Wait any longer, and the fiber will become matted and difficult to remove, not to mention too tangled and filthy to sell.) Most owners shear in the spring, so the alpacas are cool through the summer months and have developed some insulation by the time winter rolls around… An average shearer will charge $25 to $35 per animal, and the process shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.

Other health requirements are limited to basic vaccinations, antiparasitic medicines, and quarterly toenail clippings. Females generally give birth without any human help. And should you need to take alpacas to the vet, they’ll “cush” comfortably (folding their legs beneath their bodies) in the back of a minivan or SUV.

Read more about raising alpacas at ModernFarmer.com


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