Daily Maintenance

One thing that adds to the joy of raising and breeding alpacas is the ease of maintaining them, especially when compared to other livestock. One person can easily do the required farm labor for a herd of 20 alpacas in just a couple of hours a day. Daily maintenance involves giving the alpacas fresh water, making sure they have ample hay, about 1 flake per animal of clean Orchard or Timothy grass hay, feeding them minerals, and supplementation if needed and the easy cleanup of dung (alpacas make communal dung piles that are easily maintained in minutes a day). Alpacas are ruminants, so having pasture grass and/or a good supply of grass hay available is necessary. Alpacas prefer to graze in an open pasture than to be closed in a stall. We have large open pens separated by runways into sex/age and cria status groups. Pasture is rotational and seasonal.

Pasture
Feed
Black Gold -- 'paca-poop
Toenails
Teeth
Infrastructure
Alpaca Facilities
Fencing
Vaccinations / Injections
Vitamins and Minerals
Vaccination Calendar for 2010
Daily Tip
Better Than a Pocket for Carrying Filled Syringes

Pastures --  can be cleaned every day to a couple of weeks. This helps in lessening the spread of parasites. The alpacas are very helpful with this task since they have communal dung piles. These piles may be scattered in several places in the pasture. You can even decide where you want a dung pile to be by placing some fresh droppings in a new spot. This works well when opening up a new pasture.
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Feed -- Alpacas eat grass hay, orchard is preferable to Timothy or rye - each has it's own problems. Each animal eats about one flake (one pound)each, daily. This will vary with physical status and age. A feed supplement (Equine Sr., Masuri, Calf Manna, Manna Pro, Animax) is given to stressed, nursing and ill animals daily to be sure they are getting the nutrients they need. The alpacas are given between one half and four (4) cups up to twice per day depending on their needs -- females in the last half of pregnancy and lactating moms are given a full four cups. Granular mineral salts should be available to your alpacas. Goat salt blocks are used successfully by some farms, but many alpacas will not lick a salt block. Stillwater Minerals and Mazuri make loose mineral salts for alpacas and llamas. Caution: Alpacas can choke on pelleted feeds and apple/carrot pieces. Watch yours until you're sure they are used to eating them, and do so slowly.
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'Paca Poop -- Once the pastures are cleaned the 'paca-poop makes great fertilizer. This fertilizer can be placed directly on plants because it is not "hot" and won't burn your plants. This heat is produced as 'green' or new, organic matter in the poop decomposes. Since alpacas are such efficient energy converters this problem is virtually elimated. 'Paca-poop is coveted by gardeners and is often referred to as "Black Gold". Can easily be composted into beautiful 'dirt'.
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Toenails-- Long term, the alpacas require their nails to be trimmed every 4 weeks to annually, depending upon the ground and floor surface that they walk on.
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Teeth -- Some, but not all, alpacas, require their teeth cut periodically. Sort of the same idea like 'floating' horses' teeth. Growing and mature males require their 'fighting' teeth cut, usually only once in their lifetime.
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Infrastructure -- The infrastructure needed to keep alpacas is fairly simple. Alpacas require only a three sided shelter giving protection from the sun in the summer and wind in the winter, with the ability to close it up during nasty weather for moms and crias. It also helps Alpacas to have a layer of bedding (hay or straw) when things get wet and chilly. This is particularly important to new crias who don't have as much fiber and might have more trouble staying warm. You could place rubber mats on the floors of shelters for comfort and cleanliness, but this is not a requirement.
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Alpaca Facilities -- Alpacas are light consumers, eating the equivalent of just 1 to 5 pounds of hay daily. This means that it takes very little acreage with good pasture to support a sizable herd. Depending upon the quality of pasture, 1 acre can support 5 to 8 animals.
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Fencing -- Fencing for alpacas has more to do with protecting the animals from outside intruders than it does keeping the herd confined. Alpacas will rub their bodies on a fence, but don't usually challenge one. Domestic dogs pose the greatest threat. Alpacas will respect fencing as simple as two strands of electric "hot tape".

Unfortunately, predators seem to need greater discouragement. There are many types of fencing, some involving an electric component and others not, though in the case of the latter, it is generally wise to also use some sort of livestock guardian animal (llama, livestock guard dog or donkey) to add further protection for the alpacas. Barbed wire should always be avoided. Alpacas have big beautiful eyes that are easily damaged on the barbs. Barbed wire can also tear their fleece, catch on halters and scratch delicate noses.
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The layout of interior fencing is therefore best set up in a manner that will take advantage of their herd nature and allow for movement and your rotational grazing practices. This is accomplished by creating several different subdivisions, or paddocks, within a given pasture. This provides for the best quality forage at any given time as well as giving the pasture a chance to recover after heavy grazing. The fencing for interior paddocks can be done using temporary electric rope or hot tape that will allow for changes in configuration as dictated by the growing season and the grazing habits of the herd.
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Injections -- Alpacas also require some regular vaccinations. In certain areas you must also follow a strict deworming program throughout the warm months of the year (mainly east of the Mississippi). This is administered either through a subcutaneous injection (Ivermectin), or orally with a paste (Panacur), or pelleted (Safeguard). People either administer their own shots or hire a veterinarian to do it for them, if they don't feel comfortable.
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Vitamins and Minerals -- All alpacas require some kind of mineral. Stillwater 104 is what we use. There are other types available and can be used dependent on your area. Check with your county extension agent and veterinarian.
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Young alpacas, born in the Fall and Winter, may require Vitamin A, D, B and/or E supplement injections/paste to guard against rickets, a deficiency disease that can cause malformed bones and legs. It seems the poor little guys can't get enough sun through the hazy days of Winter. Supplement every three months or as recommended by your vet.
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Sample Vaccination Calendar for 2010

At the start of each new year it helps meto make a single page calendar for the new year listing the vaccination times for each alpaca on the property. Under the heading for each month list the names of all alpacas requiring vaccinations in that month. Since we booster each pregnant female approximately 4-6 weeks prior to giving birth, this entails checking the last breeding date for each mother-to-be and making sure that her name appears on the vaccination schedule approximately 10 months later unless she has a record of birthing at much shorter or longer gestation times than normal. The color of ink in which the alpaca's name is written could indicate the type of vaccine to be used. This is especially useful for agistors, new cria, and visiting breeding animals. Keep this calendar at the very front of your animal health records (barn, or vet to-do) book and make a point to check it at the first of each month for vaccinations that need to be made in the next 30 days. All crias and new animals are added to the schedule as they arrive. Other routine health procedures (i.e., deworming, Vitamin D) can be included on the same calendar page or have their own separate calendar page. We vaccinate everyone at shearing after 2 years of age except for pregnant females as outlined in the previous paragraph. West Nile virus (WNV) is only given if deemed necessary by local health authorities.

Sample 2013 Vaccination & Vitamin D Schedule
blue=Ivermectin black=SandClear red=CD/T green=Vit. A & D purple=WNV pink=Safeguard yellow=Pregtest
January February March April
Last Week of January
All crias of 2012
All pregnant ladies due in summer (June+) 6th
Berenice
Mid March
Everybody
Everybody #1
Shearing:
Everybody not done already
Everybody #2 Everybody
May June July August
8th
Mellonta (1cc)
29th
Mellonta (2cc)
22nd
Ligeia
4th
Ligeia
29th
Ligeia
Last Wk. of Aug:
All pgnt ladies
September October November December
New cria (1cc)
New cria (1cc)
Everybody
29th
Mellonta (2cc)
New cria (2cc)
Mellonta (1cc)
Everybody
New cria (1cc)


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Daily Tips

**Manure management during below freezing days can be quite frustrating. If your Alpacas are using your barn, try placing a thin layer of hay or straw on their manure pile after each cleaning. It will help keep the urine and manure from freezing together in larger clumps and make clean up easier.

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**Need to clean all those water buckets and don't want your fingers to become frost bitten? Try a pair of thin surgical gloves. Even if your skin does get wet, your body temperature actually warms the trapped water inside the glove, keeping your hands warm.

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**Are your Alpaca's toenails caked with mud and debris and in need of a trim? Old toothbrushes or nailbrushes work great at getting it out and giving you a better view of what you are going to trim. This simple step will also help extend the life of your cutters.

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**The small plastic 35mm-film canisters have many wonderful uses around the Alpaca barn. They are perfect size for collecting manure samples for fecal tests, for dipping umbilical cords and for storing small tubes of antibiotics so they won't get accidentally squished. Don't have a 35mm camera? Visit your local photo lab and ask for the ones customers have left for developing.

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**Is your Alpaca cria kit too cumbersome? The aprons with a bib work great. Try sewing on some extra pockets to hold the items you may need. The apron will also keep your clothes cleaner if you have to pick-up a newborn wet cria. Don't forget a place for a pocket camera to record your Alpaca's birth.

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**Want to get your Alpaca's attention for a photograph and don't have someone around to do it? Try using a remote controlled toy. The results are amazing!

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Better Than a Pocket for Carrying Filled Syringes  Better than a pocket...

Another website discovered this better way for carrying filled syringes while single handedly catching and holding an alpaca. Just place the filled syringes under a fleece ear warmer band. This allows both arms free for catching the animal, keeps the contents well above freezing temperature and eliminates the possibility of accidentally expelling part of the contents of a syringe when moving about as can happen with a syringe in a pocket. The syringe is easily retrieved when needed with one hand, and they claim not to have dropped a single syringe carried this way (yet). It works so well that they are thinking of designing a warm weather variety for summer use. Sounds like a great idea.

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