Raising alpacas or any other farm animal sure takes a lot of stuff. Keeping your herd healthy and happy takes work. Having the proper tools and equipment makes the work easier and makes for a happy alpaca owner.
Here I’m going to review what materials and supplies the we at AMC have settled on after years of trial and error.
Let’s start with water buckets for alpacas
Having a steady and reliable supply of water is critical. Here is what we do; for any pasture with five or more alpacas, get a 100 gallon stock waterer with a drain plug. At only 25 inches high, all but baby alpacas can reach to the bottom. On one hot summer day, a herd of 40 or so can drain one of these dry. Water buckets get pretty nasty if they are not cleaned out regularly, the drain plug makes that job easier.
These water tanks come in 50gal, 70gal, 100gal, and 150gal sizes. For a field with 2 or 3 alpacas, a 50 gallon tank is fine. There are a lot of larger sizes but moving, emptying, or cleaning them is too difficult. Some large waterers do make for good hay feeders though.
Here is the best garden hose we have ever used
Many alpaca ranches have a hose bibb in every pasture. That is ideal! However, we have to use hoses to water our 11 different pens. Over the years we have purchased many different brands of garden hose. One brand stands out, Gilmour.Most of our Gilmour hoses were purchased 15 years ago or so and are starting to show their age. But 15+ years of daily use; amazing!The large 3/4 inch hose has great flow even when two 100 footers are hooked together.
We also have an emergency water supply
Sands calls it a swimming pool, so I play along. To make my emergency water supply useful I use a submersible pump that has a fitting for a garden hose. This came in handy one time when the well pump failed and it took a few days to get a new one See, paranoia pays off…
Ah, but what happens when the power goes out? For that we have a generator. Actually a generator is also good when an outlet is not nearby or easily accessible. This is the what we have, except ours has bigger wheels: This generator is big enough to run almost anything household related, including the well pump with some wiring modifications. The generator is always standing by on shearing days. That would be a very bad time to lose power!
How about alpaca farm security?
Ranch layout is an important consideration. For instance here we have no gates from any pen or pasture that opens to an unfenced area. Every gate opens to another fenced area and exterior gates from theses areas are locked. We can see all of the exterior gates and most of the interior spaces with this… This camera does it all; up, down, left, right. zoom in or out and with night vision. Very nice! You can control all of this from your mobile device from anywhere or just use your home computer. If you have blind spots, you can add more of these cameras and choose the camera view with the phone app.
Now the important stuff; poop scooping!
I know a LOT about this…
To keep the alpacas healthy and happy daily manure removal is a must. If you are running them on very large acreage this could be impractical. To break parasite life cycles and to keep flies down, regular poop scooping is necessary. Here are my tools of the trade. The wheelbarrow; the two wheels are a huge help on hilly or uneven ground. A big bucket minimizes trips back and forth. To get the “goods” into the wheelbarrow I use this.This shovel hold a lot more than a regular shovel but not so much you can’t lift it.
To get all of your crap together from over a wider area, this is the ticket:
You now have the basic equipment needed for your alpaca poop removal and exercise program.
As I say “business is picking up”…
To Be Continued…..
What is an Alpaca?
An alpaca is one of the earliest domesticated livestock animals in the world. Alpacas have been bred and raised for their fine fleece for over 6000 years.
Alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, guanacos, and camels are all related through common ancestors. The whole group are known as camelids. Thousands of years ago Indians in South America created alpacas by the careful selective breeding of the wild ancestors of alpacas; the vicuña. There is some speculation that alpacas were developed by breeding vicuñas with some unknown extinct camelid.
The term ‘wool’ in the U.S. pertains to sheep only, so the alpaca industry calls the alpaca production ‘fleece’ or ‘fiber’. What makes the alpaca fleece special is that it is very fine and soft, hypoallergenic, water resistant, and flame resistant. All of this plus they come in colors of white, black, gray, brown, and every shade in between.
All of these qualities have made alpacas not only very special animals, but also a vitally important part of several South American economies for over 6000 years.
What do alpacas eat?
Alpacas are vegetarians. They are ruminants and have three stomachs, or more accurately, a three compartment stomach. The alpaca is also known as a modified ruminant due to having three compartments, not the usual four.
Ruminants like the alpaca can digest the cellulose in plants. Most other animals cannot digest cellulose. The stomachs of ruminants are fermenters containing special microorganisms. These microorganisms do the work of breaking down the plant material. Ruminants chew their food over and over and mechanically break down the food so the microorganisms can do their job better. For most of us it’s grass in– grass out…
Alpacas thrive on grasses like orchard grass, timothy, teff, bermuda grass, and many others. In the high Andes mountains, where alpacas come from, there is a native rangeland grass called ichu. Ichu is not very high in nutritional qualities. Alpacas have adapted to this grass by developing a very efficient digestive system. Alpacas are said to be 30% more efficient than sheep in digesting grass.
Another question might be “what should an alpaca eat?” because they’ll eat pretty darn near anything green. That’s not always a good thing. Don’t let them loose in your garden!
Most alpacas think alfalfa is the best stuff ever. Most people think that alfalfa is too high in protein and will make an alpaca fat. This is true, sort of. Sometimes an alpaca has a problem with digestion because of illness or age. Alfalfa is perfect for this. If the grass they are being fed is of poor quality, adding alfalfa is great.
All animals need salt. Most livestock can use a salt block, but alpacas don’t do well with them. They prefer loose salt. We get ours from Stillwater Minerals. They make a mineral/ salt mix that is supplemented with vitamins. Keep in mind that most soils that grass hay is grown on gradually get depleted of fertility and you must make up for what is missing.
What we do is feed a variety of grass hays from different places and also supplement when and where needed.