Alpacas are easy to care for. Alpacas are grazers and like sheep, horses and cattle, and they chew their cud (modified ruminants). They require good quality hay (primarily grasses) and are supplemented with grain and mineral mixes to meet their proper nutritional requirements. Alpacas have a 3 compartment stomach whereas cattle have 4 stomach compartments. Alpacas have a more efficient digestion.
Alpacas use a convenient communal dung pile; that is they defecate and urinate in well localized area. The grazing these areas thus keep parasite infestation low. They are shorn annually generally lying down and the front and back legs tethered. We choose early November as this allows some growth for protection during the hottest summer months against sunburn.
Fencing which is suitable for sheep is also suitable for Alpacas - except that barbed wire should be avoided or removed. It is rare for them to jump over 1.2m high fencing. 6 to 7 strand steel fencing is usually adequate for internal camps.
They are hardy animals but do requireshade in the heat of summer, either trees or simple shade cloth shelters. A rainproof area is recommended for feed during the wet months, and a shed to isolate a young cria and mum in inclement weather. Paddocks should have a gate to a catch or 'working area', so they can be handled with greater ease.
The alpaca gestation period is eleven and a half months plus or minus about 3weeks. The mothers are ready (and keen) for re-mating 3 weeks after giving birth and thus are virtually continually pregnant. Theoretically one can get one offspring a year, however it is more common to have 3 offspring per 4 year period. Male alpacas reach sexual maturity at about 2 1/2 years of age. Females are first bred from 12 months of age, or having reached a weight of 40kg. Like other South American camelids, alpacas do not have a heat (estrus) cycle and can be bred any time of year. Twinning is extremely rare. Birthing is usually in the morning, and birth weight 5-8kg. Weaning is at 5-6 months.
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