CONGRATULATIONS! You are an alpaca owner!...now what??!!
Whatever your reasons are for bringing alpacas into your life, relax and know that they are some of the easiest and lowest cost animals to care for! I am breaking this page up in categories starting with FEED, and then MAINTENANCE where we will talk about immunizations, worming, and basic shearing.
Alpacas do best eating mostly grass, either from grassy pastures or grass hay. Ideally you want your protein levels of these to be in the 10 - 14% range. The grassier the better as alpacas don't appreciate tough stems or stalks and they actually can cause abscesses in their mouth. Orchard grass is perfect for alpacas! Other grasses that are acceptable for them are Brome, Bermuda, Bluegrass, and Endophyte free tall fescue. Timothy and Alfalfa are fine as long as they make up less than 20% of the total content of the pasture/hay. Alfalfa in high amounts can cause fiber blowout and fat alpacas as well as upset their rumen balance!
Grain supplements should be a llama/alpaca formula. Some that we have used and can recommend are Kent/Blue Seal, and Nutrena. We have our grain mixed and if you are close by you are more than welcome to purchase yours from us as well. I personally prefer the "textured" variety over the pellets. We had some choking with the pellets and also the extra processing to make the pellets sacrifices some of the nutrients. Keeping your feeders down low will help the alpacas not to choke on their food too.
We also leave out free choice Minerals which can be an alpaca mineral blend or a sheep/goat blend mineral is fine too. It is amazing how the alpacas will go to the minerals when their bodies tell them they need them. We really feel it is important to offer minerals as the Andes mountains have mineral rich waters and here in the US our soils are very depleted of minerals.
Fresh water is a must as with any animal. If you live in a very humid area you may want to offer electrolytes to your alpacas in the heat of the summer. Even though this has nothing to do with feed...they also love having their legs and underbellies hosed down or having sprinklers available for them to cool off!
***It is always best to follow your vets advice as they know your area and what special needs there are.
Immunization where we live is very easy for maintenance of 1 year old+ pets. We give 2cc CD&T yearly. You can purchase this from any Tractor Supply Store or Rural King as well as online.
Worming is on a "Need To Know" basis...you need to know IF you HAVE them before worming! Over worming causes resistance to the wormers and different types of worms require different treatments. First step is to collect a sample by turning a ziploc baggy inside out and sliding over your hand and then picking up a few of the beans. Turn it back around and seal up and drop off at your vets office so they can do a fecal test. We usually do fecals in the spring and in the fall to make sure everything is good. If you don't have animals coming in or aren't taking your animals to other farms, or have your alpacas housed with goats and or sheep you are probably not going to have much troubles. Keeping the poo cleaned out daily helps too. If you are having weight troubles or ploppy looking stools you should check then too.
At our farm the most common worming we need to do is monthly injections of ivomec because we have white tail deer that come right up by our pastures and the deer in our area can carry meningeal worm. They get 1cc/70 pounds SQ every month as a preventative.
Shearing is important every year for your alpaca. In warmer climates or with alpacas with extremely dense and fast growing fleeces, they may need done twice! We prefer to do our shearing in Mid to late April or May before the heat usually kicks in with full force and the nights are not to frigid for the alpacas once they have their lovely coats taken from them! Many shearers will come to you but if you have trouble finding one that will come out for just a couple alpacas you should contact the farm you bought them from and they will probably let you come to their shearing day to have yours done.
These are just the basics. A book that I highly recommend is the Alpaca Field Manual by Dr. Norm Evans.
Updated November 30, 2013