Alpacas – environment
Housing requirements for alpacas.
Fences, gateways, gates and all facilities used to secure alpacas must be constructed and maintained to reduce the risk of injury and attack by predators.
Alpacas are browsing animals that require room to move around. They will eat a mixture of pasture and other vegetation. Alpacas are not hard hoofed animals like cattle or sheep, they have soft footpads and hard toenails, which makes them very low impact on the land. Alpacas thrive on a high fibre low protein diet and require roughly the same as the dry sheep equivalent (DSE). They should be kept at similar stocking rates as sheep. Access to shade throughout the day is essential and sprinklers or a water source like a dam during hot periods helps the alpacas to stay cool.
Sheep fencing, 1.2 metre high, is adequate for alpacas as they can jump 1 metre fencing if stressed or seeking a mate. For this reason, when confining alpacas to a pen when handling, sorting or at a show, they should be kept at least in pairs. Barbed wire should not be used and fencing should be checked regularly and kept in good condition.
Alpacas originated in the cold environments of the mountain regions of South America and are therefore susceptible to heat stress. They need to be provided with plenty of shade. They will usually not seek shelter from rain and cold but rather lie down with their legs underneath them in the “kush” position. Newborn cria need to be protected from the cold and wet.
Shelter is essential to protect alpacas from heat and sun. They prefer shelters where they can look out and protect their herd. Shelter can be provided with purpose built shelters, trees and bushes. Where bedding is required in small pens or shelters, rubber matting or similar should be used to prevent wool contamination. Where straw is used, care needs to be taken to ensure the straw does not contain seeds as this it very difficult to remove from the alpacas’ wool.
Alpacas are very clean animals and when penned will avoid defecating in the pen waiting until they can use their dung pile. Pens need to be kept clean, dry and well ventilated. Water troughs and feeds bins should be regularly cleaned and checked.
Tethering is not acceptable as a routine husbandry practice and alpacas are generally penned at shows rather than tied as this poses a danger to the animal and the handler. Where animals are penned at shows, they must be accustomed to the practice and be given adequate exercise each day.