Alpaca  Information and Facts
All the information and facts you will ever want to know about alpacas


Information and facts about alpacas question #1:

What are alpacas and where did they originate?

Alpacas are in the camelid family. This means they are related to camels and goats.  Alpacas are rare, gentle, and charming animals that are adaptable to varied habitat, successfully being raised from Australia to Alaska and from 15,000 feet to sea level. The fact is that Alpacas originated in South America, especially Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, where they have been domesticated for over 5,000 years. The Inca Indians developed the Alpaca by breeding Llamas, Vicuna and Guanacos together. They used it for their primary source of clothing and food. In the US, there are about 100,000 alpacas, as compared with about 6 million horses. There are two kinds of Alpacas. The Huacayas, with the fluffy teddy bear look, and the Suri with the long dread locks. Alpacas are clean, safe, quiet, intelligent and disease resistant. They have a charismatic manner, do very well on small acreage, and produce a luxury fiber that is in high demand.

 

Information and facts about alpacas question #2:
What size is an alpaca?

Measured from the head, an alpaca reaches approximately five feet tall and weighs between 110-210 lbs. Measured from the withers, it is 30-38 inches. Its relatively small size makes it very appealing and easy to raise.  Clean up is easy since alpacas deposit droppings in only one or two places -- very tidy!

Information and facts about alpacas question #3:
What's so special about alpaca fiber?

Alpaca's rich fiber is recognized worldwide as one of the most luxurious natural fibers. Coveted by the fashion industry, it fetches high prices in the market. Alpaca fleece is softer than cashmere, three times warmer than wool, has excellent breathability, does not pill and mat easily, and is stronger than wool or chasmere! It is also hypoallergenic, has low static, is wrinkle resistant, wicks body moisture, naturally rain resistant, fire resistant, resists odors, and is resilient. Its uses include clothing, household items like blankets, rugs, upholstery, and so forth.                                                       

 Alpaca fleece has 22 recognized natural colors, ranging from pure white to browns and grays and black. Alpacas can have a uniform color or have a pinto fleece in two or more colors. The fiber is sheared once a year, usually in May and can give up to 12 pounds of fiber with an exquisite softness and is very warm. Due to selective breeding, American fiber is getting finer and finer. Alpaca fleece has a sheen that is frequently compared to silk.

Information and facts about alpacas question #4:
Are alpacas dangerous?

Not at all. Alpacas are gentle and docile by nature. Alpacas are herd animals and are happiest when in the company of other alpacas. They live in herds and will die of loneliness if there is only one. Although they don't enjoy being petted, like dogs, they do like to hang out with their human owners just outside of arms reach. They are easily trained to lead and are gentle enough to be handled by children. They do not bite or butt and they do not have teeth, horns, hooves, or claws that do serious injury. They do not challenge fences. 

Information and facts about alpacas question #5:
Do alpacas make noise?

Alpacas have a variety of sounds with which they communicate to each other. They commonly use a soft, low humming sound in a variety of situations, such as when they are separated from the mother or the herd, when the female is about to give birth, and when they are happy and there is no apparent reason to communicate. The mothers have a clucking sound to call their babies. And there is a very high intensity call (a screech) when there is danger, at which the herd runs and huddles together. The males make a clucking sound to attract the attention of a female. And during breeding, the males make a "chortling" sound.

Information and facts about alpacas question #6:
What is the reproduction cycle for alpacas?

Alpaca females have induced pregnancies. That is, they don't come into season like most mammals. Rather mating with a male causes the female to release an egg. The females have one baby a year after a pregnancy that lasts 11.5 months. Twins are extremely rare. Females can start breeding at about 18 months of age. After a female has a baby (cria), you can rebreed her again in about 3 weeks. So, alpaca females have evolved to be always pregnant. Once your female begins breeding, she will produce 1 baby a year for the rest of her life. And alpacas live for about 15 to 29 years.
The birthing process usually occurs in the morning hours, so the baby, called a cria, gets warmer and dries with the sun. This way, the cria can quickly join the herd within about thirty minutes and nursing at the mother. Due to special biological characteristics, the baby has a twenty-four-hour window to nurse and acquire the antibodies that the mother passes on through the colostrum (first milk). After that period, the lining of the gut becomes gradually impermeable to these proteins. Male alpacas start their breeding career at  2-3 years of age.

Information and facts about alpacas question #7:
Are alpacas environmentally friendly?

Yes, alpacas are very easy on the environment. Alpacas are resilient animals. Resistance to cold and poor nutrition has helped them adapt to the highlands of South America, where they live at twelve to fourteen thousand feet. In the Andes Mountains, the pastures are scarce, and alpacas evolved with padded feet to allow them graze without damaging the delicate ecological system of the highlands. They do not pull up grass like some other animals do, but bite it off. We trim our alpaca's toenails, if needed, when we do monthly herd health. The regularity of trimming does vary from animal to animal and according to the surface they walk upon. We have grass pastures, which don't wear the nails down, so most of our animals require a trim every month or so.

Information and facts about alpacas question #8:
What do alpacas eat?

Alpacas graze and do well on pasture grass. Our pastures grow a mixture of orchard, Kentucky blue grass and other native grasses. If you live in a different part of the country, check with your county agricultural extension agent about which pasture grasses are best suited for your farm. It is a fact that Alpacas utilize their food more efficiently than other domesticated stock. They have 3 stomachs and so are able to get all the nutrition from what they eat. Typically, an alpaca eats about 1 square bale of hay per week and we provide them with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per day of a llama/alpaca pellet. A 50 lb bag of pellets costs about $15-$20 dollars. So it's very, very cheap to feed alpacas. We also add a vitamin & mineral supplement. 25 lbs can last a year for a herd of 4 at the cost of $55. 

The grasses in your pasture make up about 80% of the camelid diet. So it's important that you maintain your pasture grasses that have the proper nutrition and that grow well in your climate. The ideal pasture or hay provides 10-13% protein, 55-63% TDN, and has a balanced calcium and phosphorus of 2:1. Potassium should be 1.75% or less. A good pasture can support 8 to 10 male alpacas or mini-llamas, or 6 to 8 producing female alpacas or mini-llamas per acre. Do not feed them yard grass, as it has fescues in it.  It is a fact that it contains endophytes that can cause the female alpaca to abort. Perennial Rye grass is also toxic. Alfalfa, clover and timothy may be given in small quantities. Cherry trees, red Maples and red oaks are toxic as well as Laurel, Boxwoods and Rhododendrons.

Information and facts about alpacas question #9:
What Predators?

In our area the primary predators are dogs, but we also have coyote, bear, and bobcats, which all pose a threat to alpacas. While talking about predators, you can employ some breeds of dogs for protection.  Guard llamas and donkeys also provide an additional level of defense. Young guard dogs may not be completely trustworthy with young crias, as frolicking crias are often too much for a playful puppy to resist! Death to the cria can result.

Information and facts about alpacas question #10:
What Kind of Shelter Do They Need?

Three sided sheds are all your alpacas will need. Barns are wonderful if you have one. The interior of your barn should be as flexible as possible. Moveable partitions (corral panels or gates) work well. Swinging gates can also be strategically placed to change the configuration of the stalls. You're only limited by your imagination!

Information and facts about alpacas question #11:
What are the Down Sides of Owning Alpacas?

 

The only downsides we have found is they are addicting and the cost of buying an Alpaca.

Pet quality and/or geldings usually start about $300 and up. Females usually start at $1,000 and up. They are usually sold pregnant with a free breeding, so in a sense you will get three alpacas for the price.

 

Information and facts about alpacas question #12:
How Do I Start?

 

We will be happy to help you find Alpacas suited to you. If you can only afford one, you can agist (board) your Alpaca for about $4 a day until you can take your alpaca home or choose to use our farm as their home. We can help you with farm layout, finding and purchasing your alpacas, and giving support when you need it. You will need to collect as much information as possible. Try to vist other alpaca farms and read as much information from the internet and books as you can find.  Get your facts before you buy and take home your alpacas. Pick a reliable breeder near you incase you have a problem. It is comforting to know you have help close by.

Information and facts about alpacas question #13:
Tax Consequences of Owning Alpacas

Raising alpacas at your own farm, in the hands-on fashion, can offer the farmer some very attractive tax advantages. If alpacas are actively raised for profit, all the expenses attributable to the endeavor can be written off against your income. Expenses would include feed, fertilizer, farm expenses, veterinarian care, etc., but also the depreciation of such tangible property as breeding stock, barns and fences. These expenses can also help shelter current cash flow from tax. The less active owner using the agisted ownership approach may not enjoy all of the tax benefits discussed here but many of the advantages apply. For instance, the passive alpaca owner can depreciate his breeding stock and expense the direct cost of maintaining the animals. The main difference between a hands-on or active farmer and a passive owner involves the passive owner’s ability to deduct his investment losses against his other income. The passive investor may only be able to deduct losses from his investment against gain from the sale of animals and fleece. The active farmer can take the losses against his other income. 

Information and facts about alpacas question #14:
Let’s talk Dollars and Cents

Up keep on an alpaca is fairly inexpensive. You can sell the fleece for about $100-150. Since they are disease resistant and need few vet visits you will spend about $200 a year to keep one or two. That is cheaper than a dog or cat. 

Your most expensive part of owning alpacas is the shelter and fencing. If you already have a barn, shed and fence, you are ahead of the game.


Let’s pretend you buy 2 pregnant females with one free breeding each for $4000.  You are really getting 6 alpacas for that price or $607each. When the female has a female cria, she has paid you back your investment, since you can sell the cria for $2000.  Males will sell for less unless he is a top quality stud. Most go for $300 to $100,000 depending on who buys and the quality. You can sell breedings for $200-500 each or more, again depending on the quality of the male.  Since your female will live to be about 25 and 10 of those years are breeding years, you can look for about five female cria at $2,000 each .  Not bad for an investment !   

 Information and facts about alpacas question #15:
For more information go to: 

In Your Neighborhood video

Alpaca Nation, MAPACA, Alpaca Street on the internet or Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association.

On Alpaca Nation just click on Farm search, Alpaca forum or Alpacas search. Each farm will have information that will be valuable to you..

If you have questions or would like more information, we are always happy to “talk Alpaca”. Just give us a call.

Stan and Jane Korbar    ph 570-374-1016.

      

YOU WANT ALPACAS -NOW WHAT?

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?                     Why do you want them?

Raise them (buy, sell and breed)

Buy and sell

Just for pets

Open a shop/store

Show them

RAISE THEM

  • How much space do you have
  • Do I have pasture ready
  • Do you have a barn/shelter
  • Will you agist/board
  • How much are you going to invest
  • What are your goals
  • What kind of alpacas do you want
  • Quality
  • Number
  • Type
  • Do you have a vet
  • How will you market them
  • What do you know about them
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 year

BUY AND SELL

  • What will you charge as a brokerage fee
  • Who will transport them
  • Where will you keep them
  • What do you want out of it
  • How will you advertise

JUST FOR PETS

  • How many do you want
  • Where will you keep them
  • What will you do with the fiber

OPEN A SHOP/STORE

  • What will you sell
  • Where will you sell
  • Where will you get the merchandise
  • How will you advertise

SHOW THEM

  • Where will you show them
  • How often will you show them
  •  Do you have transportation for them

 

Selecting Alpacas

  • The farm you are working with in the selection of your animals is just as important as the animals themselves.  How is their customer service, do they go out of their way for you as you prepare to buy your alpaca?  If they don’t go the extra mile as you are purchasing, chances are they won’t once you own the alpaca.  How well are their animals take care of, do they look healthy?  Do you trust them?  Are they knowledgeable about the alpaca business and alpaca care?  Do they have any references you can talk to?  The time it takes up front is worth it to make sure you will have that support when you need it.
  • Consider more than just phenotype (the way an alpaca looks on the outside).  Also consider genealogy and offspring to get a true measure of the breeding value of an alpaca.
  • Since looking at offspring is important, proven females are a less risky purchase.  They have a known track record on birthing and their health.  They are experienced mothers, are often lower priced and have their health issues already sorted out.  If you have a history of their cria, you can also “custom order” a cria by repeating a breeding that has worked out well.  Experienced dams also help mentor the herd’s maidens and first time moms in cria care.
  • Alpacas are very social and need company of their own kind.  Two is the minimum herd size, more is better.
  • Many things affect the cost of an alpaca – age, proven vs. unproven, show quality aspects, pedigree, unusual colors/fineness, guarantees that come with animal, sales venue, need to sell vs. need to buy.  But always remember, you get what you pay for.  If you find an alpaca at an extremely low price, there usually is a reason.
  • If you are just beginning your herd, males are not necessary – you will get enough of them in your breeding program (50%).  Most alpacas come with a breeding, or a rebreeding (if it doesn’t, then ask for one).  That means your first year is covered.  In your 2ndyear, ½ ownership in a herdsire is a great way to get free breedings, trade breedings, and make some extra income.

 Setting up your Farm: 

  • Make sure you have a well stocked vet kit – including thermometer, toenail trimmers, dremmel tool for teeth, various sized needles and syringes, antibiotic spray and ointment, and various other items that are listed in the alpaca care books.  Some of the vitamins and medications that are necessary are:  AD& E, Dectomax/Ivomec, B complex, CD&T, Zinc, Epinephrine, panacur/safeguard.
  • One alpaca goes through on average one bale of hay a month – more in winter, less in summer.
  • When you are ready to birth your first cria, take a class at the nearest vet. College.
  • Put a gate in your fence in the shortest path to the barn – going around gets old.
  • Make sure you have at least 3 pastures – to separate weanlings, males and for rotation.
  • Keep the panels in your barn moveable – during a flood or ice storm, its nice to have options.
  • Make sure you have a catch pen – one that even one person alone can get the herd into.
  • A scale is a must have to assess the health and growth of your animals.

 

ALLOWED GRASSES For Alpacas                                                           

Bermuda 

Brome

Orchard

Blue Grass

Annual Rye grass (but in small amounts)

Cocksfoot

ONLY endophyte free

Tall fescue

NOT GOOD

Timothy

White clover

Red clove

Rye grass

Pre-annual Rye Grass ( highly toxic)

Acceptable Trees

Elm

Maple that are not reds

White oak   but not red oak

Pine trees

Bass wood

Ash

NOT CHERRY – toxic

Apple

  

 

 Heat Stress

Alpacas evolved in the higher altitudes of the Andes Mountains where the temperature rarely gets above 75 to 80 degrees. They are not equipped to handle high heat and humidity. This creates management problems in many parts of the United States during the summer months.

There is individual variation in heat tolerance among alpacas. Some are naturally more predisposed to heat stress than others. Some alpacas are predisposed because of their physical condition. Many factors play a role in which alpacas become heat stressed and which alpacas do not. With the exception of the weather, we can alter many of the factors to decrease the risk to the alpacas.

The combination of temperature and humidity puts alpacas at risk for heat stress. A temperature which is usually not a problem can be hard on alpacas if the humidity is very high or vice versa.

Watch for signs of heat stress in your alpacas. Knowing the normal temperature of your alpacas in the morning and afternoon/evening during hot weather will help you determine what is abnormal. The signs of heat stress to look for are:

  • A temperature greater than 105 to 106 degrees
  • Stiffness due to muscle soreness (an early sign)
  • Ataxia (an uncoordinated gait)
  • Open mouthed breathing
  • Drooling
  • Unwillingness to get up
  • Depression and lethargy

There are ways to combat the many factors involved in the development of heat stress. Prevention is always easier than dealing with a problem which is already present.

Ways to Combat Heat Stress in alpacas:

Shade

Trees around the barn and barnyard or in the fields give alpacas a cooler place to rest during the day. If you lack trees, artificial shading devices are available to help keep livestock out of the direct sunlight. Keep all water in shaded areas so it stays as cool as possible.

Multiple Water Buckets

During hot weather multiple water buckets should be available. Some alpacas may sit by a water bucket and guard it to prevent others from drinking. A simple solution to this problem is to have water available from several different areas so that no alpaca can prevent others from drinking.

Fans

Air flow is critical to maintaining a cooler area for the alpacas to stay. Fans will help cool the alpacas directly as well as increase the air flow of the entire barn. Depending on the size of the fan and their positioning, one fan is needed for every 2 to 6 alpacas. During the hottest parts of the year, fans should be kept running 24 hours a day. It will help with cooling during the night too, especially the barn.

Hosing with Water

Alpacas who are hot will readily accept water sprayed onto them. Wet down the alpaca's legs, belly, tail area and front of the neck all the way to the skin. If you do not wet to the skin, a layer of wet wool may trap heat close to the alpaca's body. This in addition to the fans will make a big difference in their ability to tolerate the heat. This can be done once in the early afternoon or around mid-day and mid to late afternoon. It will not damage the alpaca's fiber. Even if your alpacas do not need to be sprayed regularly, have a hose around to cool off any alpaca which develops heat stress.

Shearing

Shearing is essential for all alpacas, and in climates which have hot and humid days should be done early in the year. It allows the alpaca to remain cooler and be cooled by a fan or water much more easily.

Baby Pools

Some alpacas really like water during warmer weather. A sturdy baby pool with cool clean water in a shaded area will be attractive to some. A few alpacas will actually lay down in the pool to cool their entire underside and legs. Many others will stand with their feet in the pool. The alpacas who lay down in the pool may damage the fiber below the water line.

Wet Sand

A sand pit in the barn or a shady area which is wet down daily will provide a cool place for alpacas to lay. Alpacas who do not like to lay directly in water will like to lay in the sand better. It should not damage the fiber as much as alpacas in the baby pool, but it is possible. The alpacas may also decide that the sand pit makes a very good place to go to the bathroom. A problem to be aware of is that sand in the fleece will dull shearing blades faster than almost anything else.

Air Conditioned Areas

In very hot climates, an area of air conditioning can be very helpful to cool alpacas down. It can be part of the barn that alpacas can freely access or it can be a special room just for emergency situations. Air conditioning can be an expensive option and alpacas may just sit in the air conditioned areas and not acclimate to the heat at all.

Water Misting

Devices which spray a mist over the alpacas or across the barn can be used for cooling. It will cool the barn several degrees. There are a few problems with misters. The constant mist and movement will mat the surface of the fleeces of any alpacas in the barn. Matting can actually decrease the cooling ability of the alpaca by trapping heat. Misting can also spread respiratory disease. And, it will tend to loose its effectiveness as humidy increases.

Decrease Handling and Stress

Handling your alpacas when they are not accustomed to it can get them stressed which will increase their body temperature and decrease their ability to deal with the heat. Excess movement and exercise may cause heat stress in a alpaca who is otherwise handling the heat. Try not to perform procedures which will stress the alpacas like putting them in a chute and giving shots or drawing blood. If you do have to perform any of these procedures, do them very early in the morning or well after dark once it has cooled off.

Body Condition

Just like people, overweight alpacas have difficulty getting rid of excess body heat and are more prone to heat stress. Feed your alpacas properly all year and avoid putting them at an increased risk for heat stress. Check the body condition for all of your alpacas and know which ones are overweight. Keep a closer eye on those who are and make an extra effort to keep them cool.

Feed in the Evening

The heat generated by digesting the food your alpacas eat can raise their body temperature or just make it harder to cool off. The peak heat from digestion occurs several hours after eating. Feeding in the morning would put this period during the middle of the day. Feed in the afternoon or evening so that this period occurs during the night when it is cooler.

Free Choice Minerals

Alpacas should have access to free choice salt all year, but especially during the warmer months. As each animal feels the need for salt due to electrolyte loss, he/she can get some salt..

Electrolytes

To keep replenishing lost electrolytes, powders can be used. Some are designed to be put in the water and others are designed to be placed on feed. Most are designed for horses but will work for alpacas as well. When electrolytes are placed in the water, be sure to provide an electrolyte free water source. There may be alpacas who do not like the taste and will refuse to drink the supplemented water. Alternatively, a small amount placed on the food each day will ensure intake without altering the water. Many owners have had success with Gatorade.

Avoid Late Gestation and Parturition

Late gestation (pregnancy) and parturition (birth) are stressful periods and heat only makes it worse. The fetus is growing at a very fast rate and demands a lot of nutrition and metabolism by the mother which increases her body temperature. As the fetus gets larger it also expands towards the thorax and compromises the mother's ability to breathe. Respiration is the primary means of cooling for alpacas and any compromise during hot weather can lead to heat stress, premature births or abortion. Parturition requires a great deal of exertion for the mother and the baby. Crias are often weak and stressed when born during hot weather and may become dehydrated very quickly after birth.

Avoid Weaning

Both the dam and cria become stressed during weaning. They may pace the fence with no regards to the heat and/or forget to drink enough water. Weaning a few weeks early or even a few months late to avoid the heat will be healthier for all your alpacas. Do not ever wean alpacas and then immediately transport them during the heat. This combines several stressors which can easily lead to heat stress alone and creates a dangerous situation.

Avoid Traveling

Transporting alpacas during the hot weather can be very dangerous. Trailers do not insulate from the heat coming off the road or from the sun beating down. Travel during the cooler hours and maintain air flow and stops for water.

If you find that one of your alpacas is suffering from heat stress, you must act quickly. Take the alpaca's temperature and call your vet. While your vet is on the way, begin to cool the alpaca down. This can be done a number of ways. Hosing the alpaca all over, immersing him/her in a pond, lake, stream, trough or whatever you have available, or place packs of ice under their belly, armpits and thighs. Continue this treatment until the temperature comes down (take it every 15 minutes) or the veterinarian arrives. Always keep a few bags of ice in your freezer during the summer months just in case you have such an emergency. Being prepared is sometimes the best protection against disaster.

 

 Health and Care

Although generally hardy and disease resistant, alpacas benefit from appropriate preventive medicine and ready access to a veterinarian experienced in working with camelids. Health management programs may include regular worming and vaccinations specific to the geographic area. Selenium supplements may be required to prevent white muscle disease. Vitamin D supplements will prevent rickets in winter-born cria. Toenails need to be trimmed regularly and teeth should be inspected and trimmed if they exhibit excessive growth. Alpacas are sheared annually for their comfort and well being.

General Health

Continuously review the alpacas eyes, ears, teeth, feet and general demeanor; look for abrasions, build ups, or lethargy. Review the dung pile daily for signs of abnormal feces, mucous or diarrhea.

Feces

Alpacas generally eliminate in several designated areas. They have small, dark pellets. If feces appears runny, contains mucous or looks otherwise abnormal, this could indicate a parasitic infestation or other health problem. Contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment.

Teeth

Alpacas with excellent bites seldom need their teeth trimmed. Front incisors that protrude beyond the top gum line may need to be sawed. Mature males that have developed fighting teeth in the back of their palates may need these cut off to prevent injury to other alpacas. If you are uncomfortable with these procedures, have your veterinarian perform them. Check for swelling along the gum lines and for tooth abscesses which may be caused by course hay. Also, be aware that alpacas will loose their baby teeth at approximately two years of age.

Feet

Alpacas have a padded foot with two toes. Alpacas toenails grow and may require periodic trimming if they are not worn down naturally. Check nails by picking up the alpaca's foot and looking at it from the bottom. If the nail bends over the side of the pad or protrudes, it needs to be trimmed. Lay clippers flat against the pad and snip each side and then the point of the nail. Alpacas have a quick that supplies blood to the nail. If you clip too close, it will bleed. DO NOT PANIC. Use blood stop powder or spray and wrap the foot in gauze for 30 minutes. If you are uncomfortable with this procedure, ask your veterinarian, shearer, or breeder for assistance.

Grooming

The focus of grooming should be to keep the fleece free of debris which can become embedded within the coat and cause skin irritations and abrasions or hinder later shearing. One of the best ways to do this is to groom the environment instead of the alpaca. Remove waste hay and seed pods from pasture and barn. Occasional grooming may still be necessary. A fiber brush and pick are excellent tools. Avoid excessive brushing as this can cause damage to the fiber and stress to the alpaca. A variety of sprays and concoctions are available to groom alpacas for showing.

Parasites and Worming

Alpacas like all livestock can get parasites, especially during warm weather. Parasites vary by geographic location. Talk to your veterinarian about a worming program specific to your area.

Worming is avoided by many breeders in the first and last 90 days of gestation for females unless treatment is indicated.

Starting in April, we inject adult alpacas with Dectomax every eight weeks. Crias are given Panacur orally. Corid is added to water supply during the wet and warm parts of spring, summer and fall to combat coccidia.

Periodic fecal floats may be required if feces appear abnormal to determine if some other form of eradication is indicated or other problems are present.

Special procedures may be needed in areas with high deer populations to guard against menengial worm.

Vaccines

Just like humans, dogs, cats and other mammals, alpacas need inoculations against diseases that they can contract. Consult with your veterinarian to adapt a program specific to your geographic conditions.

On our farm, we give CD&T subcutaneously (under the skin, but not in the muscle) at the following times:

  • Dams at day of parturition CD&T SubQ
  • Crias at two weeks CD&T SubQ
  • Crias at three weeks CD&T SubQ
  • Crias at two months CD&T SubQ
  • Yearlings on birthday CD&T SubQ
  • Adult Male on birthday CD&T SubQ
  • Adult Female on parturition anniversary CD&T SubQ

Potential Problems

Observing anything listed below could indicate potential problems. Contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment. You know your alpacas, use your good judgement in determining whether to contact your veterinarian.

Emergency Situations

These are situations that require immediate notification of your veterinarian. This is for general guidelines and is not an all-inclusive list.

  • Shaking or twitching
  • Diarrhea in crias
  • Severe Diarrhea
  • Unresponsive or downed alpaca
  • Labored breathing
  • Extreme loss of blood
Non-Emergency Situations

These are situations that may not require the immediate notification of a veterinarian, but notification should be done as soon as reasonable. Realize that any of these can quickly escalate to an emergency. This is for general guidelines and is not an all-inclusive list.

  • Change in behavior, cushing away from herd
  • Abnormal feces
  • Weight loss
  • Fiber loss
  • Lethargic alpaca
  • Limping
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Reddening or thickening of skin
  • Elevated or abnormal temperature
  • Straining

  

 Suggested Materials/Resources

ALPACA FIELD MANUEL                               CARING FOR LLAMAS AND ALPACAS

By Dr C. Norman Evans, D.V.M.                    A  HEALTH AND MANAGEMENT GUIDE

The bible on raising alpacas !                                by Clare Hoffman, DVM and Ingrid Asmus

 

Where to get Alpaca information, related items and supplies 

Alpaca Nation on the internet

Ridge Mist Llama and Alpaca Supplies   www.llama-alpacasupplies.com

Quality Llama Products. Inc.  www.llamaproducts.com

Stevens Llama Tique  www.stevenstique.com

Llama, Alpaca, and Camel Health on the Internet will give you loads of information free.

Good quality low protein hay (little alfalfa, timothy and clover,  mostly 2nd cut orchard grass)

3 sided shed or shelter

4 ft high fence that is woven (not welded) and is 2x4 or 4x4 to keep out predators. You may need electric fence if you have a predator problem.

 

Grass Seed

Ritter Feeds, Paxtonville Pa

570-837-3606

Meiserville Mill, Meiserville Pa 

570-539-8855

Glenn Beidler, Freeburg PA 

570-539-8993

VETS

Dr Jackie Rapp  Mobile Vet

527 Olive Rd

Paxinos, Pa  570-850-1321

SVVET@verizon.net

570-850-1321

Useful Items to keep on hand

Safeguard paste for other worms

Dectomax   1cc/100 lbs     1.5cc=150lbs  give every 6 weeks for minengal worms 

Panacur  for stomach worms

Rabies vaccine              2cc yearly

CD&T vaccine          2cc @ 1 mo, 6 mo and   yearly 

Syringes

Shovel and rake

Wheelbarrow

feeding pans

Water buckets

Halters and leads

First aid kit

Cria kit

Nail clippers 

Rope 

Fans

Barns/sheds

 Hillside Structures, Herndon  570-758-3056 Daniel Smucker

Accoutants

Amanda Aurand 837-1343 

Mike Volinskie 570-274-7218 Pa Farm Bureau

 HAY:

Winfield Farms  RD2 Box 311 Winfield. Pa 17889 

Ivan Yoder 570-524-6257 or 768-0876

Doug Klingler Selinsgrove 570 374-9384 or 898-9929

INSURANCE

Carl Brown Ins. Agency,

1858 Old Schoolhouse Rd, Lewisburg, Pa 17837     

Ph 570-524-9633

Farm and animal Ins.

                                                                       

WHERE TO SELL FIBER

Spinners and Weavers Housecleaning Pages on the internet to sell fiber.

Alpaca Dreamin farm will spin up fiber.  Fiber Co-ops on internet. Elderberry Creek Alpacas Blanket project .  there is a factory interested in buying fiber http://www.americanalpacafiberfederation.com.

Neafp on the internet

SHEARER

Carl Geissinger  717-765-3923  cell ph

570-765-3923 shears alpacas

Laun Dunn, Coal Township 570-644-0902  

SPINNER

LaunDunn

CoalTownshipwill hand spin and knit 570-644-0902 also shears

 

Alapca/llama feed

TSC in Shamokin Dam,

Blue Seal, or Cargill , Ritter Feeds, Lance Weaver

 

A Beginner’s Field Guide

to Birthing Alpacas

 

Cria - the first 24 hours

 

The cria is on the ground!  Here is a checklist of steps to go through.  You will care for the healthy cria in 3 stages:  Visual exam, hands-on exam and initial treatments.  Continue to record all your observations about the baby and what time he/she did what on your Field Observation Log Sheet

1.      Visual Exam

First spend a few minutes and observe the cria with mom.  Remember to start your own breathing again!  Look for:

ç       Check for normal breathing

o        10 – 40 times per minute

o        You should not be able to hear baby breathing unless you are close

o        The cria’s mouth should be closed, breathing effortless

ç       Make sure mother & baby are in a comfortable environment. 

o        Shady area in hot weather

o        Well-bedded stall in cold weather

ç       Baby should attempt to stand within 15 to 60 minutes, normally succeeds by about 30 minutes.

o        Several tries to get it right is normal.

o        Legs should be reasonably straight, able to walk upright on its feet.

§         A little knock-kneed is normal, but front legs should not rub together.

§         No laxity of flexor tendons or joints (legs unnaturally bent)

§         May be down at the pasterns but should be up on it’s feet normally within 12 – 24 hours.

§         No swelling of joints.

ç       Baby should attempt to nurse within 60 minutes, definitely be successful within 4 hours.  If it’s more than 6 hours, you will have to intervene to either get Mom and Baby going or to take measures to supplement the baby.

o        Some babies have trouble finding the mom (wall babies) or figuring out how to nurse.

§         Be patient.  You may need to guide them a little bit, but don’t be too quick to jump in.  Give Mom and Baby time to work things out on their own.  I’ll usually wait at least 2 hours before I intervene and try to guide the baby.

o        Some Mom’s are a bit slow to have their milk come in.

§         You may need to massage the mom’s teats a little or strip out the waxy plug to get her flowing.

§         I squirted some milk on Coco’s teats and got the baby to lick it off.  That seemed to work to get Mom’s milk flowing.

o        Baby will normally suckle 2 – 3 times per hour for about 5 seconds to 3 minutes at a time.

§         You might see a milk mustache – this is a good sign.

ç       Overall appearance

o        Ears should be upright within 30-45 minutes - droopy ears can indicate prematurity or general weakness.

§         Check hearing by seeing if baby reacts to sound of clapping hands.

o        Appears alert & interested in surroundings.

o        Head shape is nice and normal

o        Nose is not twisted to one side (wry face – a birth defect)

o        Eyes are open, bright and clear

§         Should not appear cloudy

§         Eye color should be black, but blue eyes are not that uncommon.  In fact the color can vary from a very light blue to a blue so dark it’s looks black.  In the case of white babies, light blue eyes might indicate a hearing problem but this does not appear to be as likely with colored babies.

o        No obvious spinal or leg problems, unusual gait

o        Nothing else that looks weird or wrong.

ç       Watch baby for normal urination & defecation

o        Normally will happen between 4 – 6 hours.  Make sure you see them go because retention can result in serious problems for the cria.

o        1st Bowel movement (meconium) will be black and tarry looking – this is normal.  Afterwards, feces will be lighter colored during nursing

§         If you see it, it will be about 3 – 4 inches long

 

Respiratory problems

 

Is Cria in Trouble?

What to do

Cria is having respiratory problems – breathing heavy, mouth open panting.

If membrane is covering the cria’s nose, Clear the nostrils and mouth with a clean towel.  If not, call the vet as it could be a serious problem.  Consider cria at risk

It’s rare, but a piece of membrane could have broken off and lodged in the nostrils.  Check for any mechanical blockage that could be interfering with breathing.

Premature cria’s have a fairly high incidence of respiratory problems since the surfactant (lubricant) that helps ease expansion of the lungs is formed late.  If this is the possible cause, you will need the vet to help the baby.

If it was a difficult birth and Mom was straining and you noticed fecal staining on the membrane over the cria, it could indicate the cria inhaled some fecal material and will develop aspiration pneumonia.  Needs to be seen by a vet.

Choanal atresia – birth defect.  Can be partial or complete blockage of nasal passage, can only breathe through it’s mouth..  Vet required to confirm diagnosis.  Baby cannot survive with this condition.

Cria is not breathing.

Call the vet asap.  Try briskly rubbing the head and/or body with a towel.  Sometimes that is sufficient stimulation to initiate respiration.

Other approaches in escalating order:

1.        Tickle the nose with a piece of straw.

2.        Pour a small amount of cold water over the cria’s head, carefully lift the cria by it’s back legs and let the head hang down.  Allows drainage of fluids from the mouth and neck which may help.

3.        Artificial respiration has a low success rate, but you have to try. 

o        Close mouth & place your mouth over nose

o        Blow hard enough to expand the chest. vigorously 10 times in 15-20 seconds

 

2.      Hands-on Exam

If everything that you observed so far seems OK or you were able to correct the problems, it’s time to do a hands-on well-baby exam.  Move dam and cria into a small area and catch the cria.  As long as the baby appears to be doing fine based on my visual exam, I like to wait until after I have seen the first nursing if at all possible, otherwise I do the hands-on at about 2 hours.

 

REMINDER:  Some mom’s are very protective and may spit at you or chest butt you to try to force you away from their baby.  You may need an assistant to handle her while you perform hands-on exam and initial treatment.

 

ç       No obvious bleeding from umbilical. 

o        Some minor bleeding during first 1 – 2 hours is normal.

ç       Determine cria’s sex. 

o        Little boys usually should have 2 testicles right from birth, oval shaped and similar in size.  These may be very soft and difficult to locate, but they should be there.

§         If not, the little boy needs to monitored to make sure both descend during first year.

ç       Check the teeth.  At birth the 2 most central pairs of incisors should be through the gum line.

o        They will look white, like little Chicklets.  Unerupted teeth will still be covered with pink gum tissue.

§         If you don’t have both pairs, it could indicate the cria is premature and needs to be considered at risk.

ç       Check for an umbilical hernia. 

o        If one is present, consult with the vet on treatment

ç       Check the cria’s temperature ONLY if you have cause for concern based on visual observations.

o        But do make sure baby is in a comfortable temperature environment.

§         Use cria blanket if too cold

§         Apply fans if too hot

ç       Check to make sure there is an anal opening.(Atresia ani is a birth defect)

ç       Check out anything else that looked weird or funny during your visual exam.

ç       Keep an eye on Mom for your own safety when you handle the baby.  Most experienced moms will be attentive or concerned but will allow you to work on their babies unimpeded, but

o        She may charge or spit at you.

o        You may need to halter her if she is aggressive.

o        If she’s like Coco, she’ll yank your hair – hard! – when she thinks you’ve handled her baby for long enough.

 

Temperature problems

 

Is Cria in Trouble?

What to do

Cria is shivering or looking cold.

Move to warmer location or possibly cover with a cria coat.  Dry the cria vigorously with a towel.  Use a blow dryer in cold weather   If this doesn’t solve the problem, consider cria at risk & call the vet.

 

Your goal is a 100 – 102 degF temp range.  Move baby to a warmer area – use a heat lamp or heating pad or area heater.  Placing the cria in a warm bath is not recommended – they just get chilly when they come out.

 

If rectal temp is less than 90 degF, wrap in blankets and take in for professional help.  Even after being warmed up these babies will develop secondary problems that will need help.

Baby is listless and uninterested in eating or playing

Could be a sign of overheating.  Try getting them into a cooler location or where you can provide a fan.   If this doesn’t solve the problem, consider cria at risk & call the vet.

     

 

Other problems

 

Is Cria in Trouble?

What to do

Baby is bleeding steadily or substantially from umbilical cord

A few drops is normal.  Otherwise, treatment is required.  Tie it off with iodine soaked string..  If this doesn’t solve the problem, consider cria at risk & call the vet.

Leg joints are swollen or baby is walking funny.

Many babies are born “a little down at the pasterns” and that is normal and will clear up in a few hours.  If it doesn’t or if the problem is more extreme.  Consider cria at risk & call the vet

When I listen through the stethoscope I hear a heart murmur

Normal in many newborns.  Will go away within a few days.  If not, then it could be a sign of a heart defect and you need to call the vet.

Baby is repeatedly straining to defecate without passing fecal material.

An enema may be needed to assist impacted babies.

 

     -  DOSS, 10-24 ml or warm, dilute soapy water in same volume

 

Usually a single enema is enough and cria will defecate within 60 min.  If not, then a 2nd enema  can be given 1-3 hours after first enema if cria continues to strain.  If not after 2nd enema, call the vet.

Birth defects

Babies with Choanal atresia (no nasal opening), Atresia ani (no anal opening), Wry face (a slight to severe twisting of the nose), Patent urachus (leakage of urine from the umbilical cord) or Cleft Palate (separation between nose and mouth is incomplete) require vet assistance.

 

3.      Initial treatments

 

First 0 – 6 hours   If everything seems normal with the cria based on visual and hands on examination, proceed with the initial treatment.

 

ç       Treat the umbilical cord within a couple of hours after birth, followed by 2 additional treatments within the first 24 hours. 

o        Lay baby on its side on a clean towel

§         Peel the clear membrane from around the umbilical cord

§         Fill a small cup with 0.5% chlorhexidine solution (Nolvasan)

§         Press the cup upside-down against the baby’s belly.  Hold in place for 10 – 20 seconds.  Soak the cord completely.  (Repeat 2 more times in first 24 hours)

ç       Remove and examine sac membrane and toe pad covering

o        Should be bluish white immediately following birth, dries transparent.

o        It’ll dry off and you can brush or pick it off later.

o        You can briskly rub cria with a dry towel to remove sac

ç       Get an initial birth weight on the baby.  Weigh baby daily for one week, weekly thereafter.  Take weights at the same time of day each day.

o        Normal birth weight ranges 14 – 18 lbs, 12 lbs is a minimum healthy weight.

 

 

6 – 24 hours   After the first 6 hours, the emphasis shifts from the basics, such as breathing or moving around, to making certain the little one is getting proper nourishment.   Colostrum is the first milk a mother produces.  It contains antibodies that help the baby establish its immune system. 

 

ç       Observe and verify that Cria is nursing appropriately.

o        Pay attention to any baby that is listless or sleeping too much.

§         May not be getting enough milk.

§         Re-check everything.

o        6 hour rule.  If the cria has not gotten sufficient colostrum by 6 hours post partum, you need to intervene.  The baby must receive colostrum within the first 18 - 24 hours of life.  After that, the baby cannot absorb the antibodies into its system. 

§         total volume needed = 750 to 900 ml

§         to feed every 4 hours would be 6 feedings of about 125-150 ml per feeding

ç       Baby should be alternating between periods of activity and sleep.

o        Activity will consist of exploring and bouncing around the pen, interacting with others.

ç       If baby was down in the pasterns, should be up on it’s toes by 24 hours

ç       Treat the umbilical cord 2 more times, same as in initial treatment

ç       If no bowel movement within 12 hours give baby warm water enema (DOSS)

ç       Let Mom and Cria bond.  Adore them from a distance except for necessary handling!

ç       Have the vet in for a well-baby check even if you have seen no problems.

o        Normal values for the cria

§         Temp                      100.0 – 102.0 deg  (only take temp if you feel it’s needed)

§         Respiratory rate    10 – 30 breaths per minute

§         Heart rate               62 - 90 beats per minute

o        Possibly draw blood for IgG test

o        May need vitamin or mineral supplement

 

 

Nursing Problems (1st 24 hours)

 

Problem seems to be on the baby’s side – Mother appears to have milk.

Cria is too weak to feed, won’t stand.   Can’t hold a sternal or kushed position.

Make sure there is nothing wrong with the legs.  Sometimes it’s enough to simply position the baby under Mom.   Baby may be premature.  Call the vet.

See instructions for Supplemental Colostrum 


Cria can’t or won’t suckle.

The ability to suckle is an indication of the cria’s strength and (less directly) it’s mental capabilities.    If the baby is not trying to suckle at all, it may be premature.  Call the vet.

See instructions for Supplemental Colostrum 

Cria is wandering around the shed, seems to want to eat but can’t find Mom.  (Wall Babies). 

It’s fairly normal.   Some babies have trouble finding the teats and look in any place that’s kind of dark.  Move mom and cria into brighter light area where underneath her is the only shadow.  Position baby under Mom.

Cria seems disoriented or unsteady on their feet, can’t find Mom (Dummies)

At the extreme, the cria may be blind, unable to stand, or periodically have convulsions.  Possibly from hypoxia from a difficult delivery resulting in brain damage.  Call the vet.

 

It’s important not to give up on these babies as they are very resilient and may fully recover within 3 to 6 days after birth

Milk is coming out of the babies nose while or after it finishes nursing

Be suspicious of a cleft palate.  Can vary considerably in its severity.  Must be evaluated by vet.

Baby started eating fine but now he’s nursing less frequently and is less aggressive, not as active

Could indicate a digestion problem.  Needs vet assistance. 

Sometimes it happens in cria’s that have been tube fed for an extended  

 

 

Shearing is over… now what?

Now that your animals are shorn and much more comfortable, you have all these bags of fiber. You need to decide what to do and how it can make money for you.

First, decide which will be your show fleeces and put them aside.

The next step is to “skirt” the fiber to be processed. Just lay it out on a big screen table. You can make one easily with hardware cloth and 1” x 3” lumber as a frame. Lay the fiber out on the table, shake out the dust and dirt. Take out the hay and other debris. Take out any short (less than 1”) fibers that were created if the shearer had to make a second pass.

Decision time has arrived. You can send your fiber to a mill and get yarn and

roving made (from your own animal’s fiber) which you can sell for more than

double the cost of processing. This is a great way to showcase your breeding

program through the fiber. Or you can have your yarn made into products and

at least triple the processing costs.  Another option is to send your fiber to a place like the New England Fiber Pool, where it will be combined with other breeder’s fiber and you get back products to sell. If you don’t want to sell products, they save you money by making special gifts.

There are many places to sell your yarn and/or products (your farm store, craft fairs, farmers markets, the product booth at the Empire Show in October, etc.) The off-the- farm events will help raise awareness of your farm and your alpacas. We have had many farm visits resulting from off- the- farm events.

If you can’t decide right away what to do, make sure to store your fiber properly. Leaving the fiber in the plastic bags in the barn can attract moths and other bugs, which can lay eggs and destroy your fiber. Fiber can be stored in cardboard boxes or pillowcases. Cedar blocks or dryer sheets placed in the fiber will deter moths from living in your fiber.

Get additional ideas by asking fellow breeders what they do with their fiber and what they charge. Remember, storing it won’t put money in your pocket and only takes up space. So make decisions to have your fiber make some money for your farm.

Another option is to send your fiber to a place like the New England Fiber Pool, where it will be combined with other breeder’s fiber and you get back products to sell. If you don’t want to sell products, they save you money by making special gifts.

There are many places to sell your yarn and/or products (your farm store, craft fairs, farmers markets, the product booth at the Empire Show in October, etc.) The off-the- farm events will help raise awareness of your farm and your alpacas. We have had many farm visits resulting from off- the- farm events.

If you can’t decide right away what to do, make sure to store your fiber properly. Leaving the fiber in the plastic bags in the barn can attract moths and other bugs, which can lay eggs and destroy your fiber. Fiber can be stored in cardboard boxes or pillowcases. Cedar blocks or dryer sheets placed in the fiber will deter moths from living in your fiber.

Get additional ideas by asking fellow breeders what they do with their fiber and what they charge. Remember, storing it won’t put money in your pocket and only takes up space. So make decisions to have your fiber make some money for your farm.

 

 

 

 

It’s About That Time Again….Here Come The Crias!!!!

Spring and early Summer seems to be the most popular time for alpaca births. The timing of planned breedings is due mainly to milder climate and longer daylight hours. Also in early summer there seems to be less alpaca related activities that demand breeder’s time, presence and attention - shows, open houses, shearing, etc…

While planned breedings can give you an approximate due date, the key word here is “approximate.” In the last three years many breeders and vets have noted that Spring crias seem to birth out later than the due date as compared to those birthed in the Fall. Spring deliveries have occurred as late as four weeks after the determined due date. While there has been a lot of discussion as to why this happens, there really isn’t any medical substantiation for the occurrence. Some say it is due to nutrition, while others say the late births are due to bad Winter weather conditions. But whatever the reason please know that you shouldn’t panic

when your cria doesn’t arrive on the due date. Always keep this is the back of your mind…the cria will come out when it is ready to be birthed, stand, nurse and keep up with its dam in the pasture.

While there is no substitute for experience here are just a few basic tips and reminders to pass along that may make your “criations” less stressful and, hopefully, a great experience.

·  Alpacas are driven by instinct and prefer to birth out alone…observe from the barn or the house. Use binoculars to track

and time the length of hard labor

·  Hard labor, when the dam is straining to push the cria out, typically lasts about 30 minutes or less. The dam will be on her side with her legs stretched out to one side and her tail will be lifted with each contraction. The dam may also stand to push. When the dam is standing and the cria is dangling this position actually

·  allows fluid to drain out of the cria’s nasal passages for breathing.

·  If the dam is down and straining hard for 40 minutes and nothing is happening – call

the vet. While 95% of all alpaca births are trouble free sometimes crias can be

malpositioned and need assistance.

·  Be prepared – have a cria kit. A basic cria kit includes vet/tail wrap, several tubes of K-Y Jelly, sterile saline, several towels, 2% Iodine solution, thermometer, sterile gloves, garbage bags, hair dryer, cotton gauze. Have alternative cria nutrition available (goat’s milk and/or Agway milk replacer mix)

·  When the cria is out approach the dam and cria quietly. Kneel beside cria, but do not position yourself between the cria and the dam. Let the dam see and smell the cria at all times. Wipe excess mucous membrane off cria and towel dry. On a chilly day use a blow dryer and put a cria coat on the cria. Dip or spray the naval with Iodine or Nolvasan solution.

·  The placenta or afterbirth will pass generally 30 minutes to 90 minutes after the crias birth. Check to make sure that there are no small tears/holes in the membrane. A piece of placenta left inside of the dam may cause an infection. If you are not sure, double bag the placenta in two garbage bags, have your vet check the placenta when he/she comes out to check the cria and dam the next day. Do not handle the placenta with your bare hands, use sterile gloves.

·  Check the dam to ensure that she has milk by gently squeezing all four teats. The dam’s first milk for the cria will be colostrum. It is sticky and thicker than regular milk and appears to have a pastel yellow color.

·  The cria typically attempts to stand and walk within 30 minutes of birth and nursing within 2 hours. If the cria hasn’t nursed within 3 to 4 hours alternative cria nutrition will be required. After the cria has nursed and looks a little more settled in with mom – weigh the cria and record the weight. Weigh everyday for at least the first 10 days and every other day until at least a month old to ensure proper weight gain.

·  Name the cria and plan your next breeding!

  

 

 

Alpacas evolved in the higher altitudes of the Andes Mountains where the temperature rarely gets above 75 to 80 degrees. They are not equipped to handle high heat and humidity. This creates management problems in many parts of the United States during the summer months.

There is individual variation in heat tolerance among alpacas. Some are naturally more predisposed to heat stress than others. Some alpacas are predisposed because of their physical condition. Many factors play a role in which alpacas become heat stressed and which alpacas do not. With the exception of the weather, we can alter many of the factors to decrease the risk to the alpacas.

The combination of temperature and humidity puts alpacas at risk for heat stress. A temperature which is usually not a problem can be hard on alpacas if the humidity is very high or vice versa.

Watch for signs of heat stress in your alpacas. Knowing the normal temperature of your alpacas in the morning and afternoon/evening during hot weather will help you determine what is abnormal. The signs of heat stress to look for are:

·                         A temperature greater than 105 to 106 degrees

·                         Stiffness due to muscle soreness (an early sign)

·                         Ataxia (an uncoordinated gait)

·                         Open mouthed breathing

·                         Drooling

·                         Unwillingness to get up

·                         Depression and lethargy

There are ways to combat the many factors involved in the development of heat stress. Prevention is always easier than dealing with a problem which is already present.

Ways to Combat Heat Stress in alpacas:

Shade

Trees around the barn and barnyard or in the fields give alpacas a cooler place to rest during the day. If you lack trees, artificial shading devices are available to help keep livestock out of the direct sunlight. Keep all water in shaded areas so it stays as cool as possible.

Multiple Water Buckets

During hot weather multiple water buckets should be available. Some alpacas may sit by a water bucket and guard it to prevent others from drinking. A simple solution to this problem is to have water available from several different areas so that no alpaca can prevent others from drinking.

Fans

Air flow is critical to maintaining a cooler area for the alpacas to stay. Fans will help cool the alpacas directly as well as increase the air flow of the entire barn. Depending on the size of the fan and their positioning, one fan is needed for every 2 to 6 alpacas. During the hottest parts of the year, fans should be kept running 24 hours a day. It will help with cooling during the night too, especially the barn.

Hosing with Water

Alpacas who are hot will readily accept water sprayed onto them. Wet down the alpaca's legs, belly, tail area and front of the neck all the way to the skin. If you do not wet to the skin, a layer of wet wool may trap heat close to the alpaca's body. This in addition to the fans will make a big difference in their ability to tolerate the heat. This can be done once in the early afternoon or around mid-day and mid to late afternoon. It will not damage the alpaca's fiber. Even if your alpacas do not need to be sprayed regularly, have a hose around to cool off any alpaca which develops heat stress.

Shearing

Shearing is essential for all alpacas, and in climates which have hot and humid days should be done early in the year. It allows the alpaca to remain cooler and be cooled by a fan or water much more easily.

Baby Pools

Some alpacas really like water during warmer weather. A sturdy baby pool with cool clean water in a shaded area will be attractive to some. A few alpacas will actually lay down in the pool to cool their entire underside and legs. Many others will stand with their feet in the pool. The alpacas who lay down in the pool may damage the fiber below the water line.

Wet Sand

A sand pit in the barn or a shady area which is wet down daily will provide a cool place for alpacas to lay. Alpacas who do not like to lay directly in water will like to lay in the sand better. It should not damage the fiber as much as alpacas in the baby pool, but it is possible. The alpacas may also decide that the sand pit makes a very good place to go to the bathroom. A problem to be aware of is that sand in the fleece will dull shearing blades faster than almost anything else.

Air Conditioned Areas

In very hot climates, an area of air conditioning can be very helpful to cool alpacas down. It can be part of the barn that alpacas can freely access or it can be a special room just for emergency situations. Air conditioning can be an expensive option and alpacas may just sit in the air conditioned areas and not acclimate to the heat at all.

Water Misting

Devices which spray a mist over the alpacas or across the barn can be used for cooling. It will cool the barn several degrees. There are a few problems with misters. The constant mist and movement will mat the surface of the fleeces of any alpacas in the barn. Matting can actually decrease the cooling ability of the alpaca by trapping heat. Misting can also spread respiratory disease. And, it will tend to loose its effectiveness as humidy increases.

Decrease Handling and Stress

Handling your alpacas when they are not accustomed to it can get them stressed which will increase their body temperature and decrease their ability to deal with the heat. Excess movement and exercise may cause heat stress in a alpaca who is otherwise handling the heat. Try not to perform procedures which will stress the alpacas like putting them in a chute and giving shots or drawing blood. If you do have to perform any of these procedures, do them very early in the morning or well after dark once it has cooled off.

Body Condition

Just like people, overweight alpacas have difficulty getting rid of excess body heat and are more prone to heat stress. Feed your alpacas properly all year and avoid putting them at an increased risk for heat stress. Check the body condition for all of your alpacas and know which ones are overweight. Keep a closer eye on those who are and make an extra effort to keep them cool.

Feed in the Evening

The heat generated by digesting the food your alpacas eat can raise their body temperature or just make it harder to cool off. The peak heat from digestion occurs several hours after eating. Feeding in the morning would put this period during the middle of the day. Feed in the afternoon or evening so that this period occurs during the night when it is cooler.

Free Choice Minerals

Alpacas should have access to free choice salt all year, but especially during the warmer months. As each animal feels the need for salt due to electrolyte loss, he/she can get some salt..

Electrolytes

To keep replenishing lost electrolytes, powders can be used. Some are designed to be put in the water and others are designed to be placed on feed. Most are designed for horses but will work for alpacas as well. When electrolytes are placed in the water, be sure to provide an electrolyte free water source. There may be alpacas who do not like the taste and will refuse to drink the supplemented water. Alternatively, a small amount placed on the food each day will ensure intake without altering the water. Many owners have had success with Gatorade.

Avoid Late Gestation and Parturition

Late gestation (pregnancy) and parturition (birth) are stressful periods and heat only makes it worse. The fetus is growing at a very fast rate and demands a lot of nutrition and metabolism by the mother which increases her body temperature. As the fetus gets larger it also expands towards the thorax and compromises the mother's ability to breathe. Respiration is the primary means of cooling for alpacas and any compromise during hot weather can lead to heat stress, premature births or abortion. Parturition requires a great deal of exertion for the mother and the baby. Crias are often weak and stressed when born during hot weather and may become dehydrated very quickly after birth.

Avoid Weaning

Both the dam and cria become stressed during weaning. They may pace the fence with no regards to the heat and/or forget to drink enough water. Weaning a few weeks early or even a few months late to avoid the heat will be healthier for all your alpacas. Do not ever wean alpacas and then immediately transport them during the heat. This combines several stressors which can easily lead to heat stress alone and creates a dangerous situation.

Avoid Travelling

Transporting alpacas during the hot weather can be very dangerous. Trailers do not insulate from the heat coming off the road or from the sun beating down. Travel during the cooler hours and maintain air flow and stops for water.

If you find that one of your alpacas is suffering from heat stress, you must act quickly. Take the alpaca's temperature and call your vet. While your vet is on the way, begin to cool the alpaca down. This can be done a number of ways. Hosing the alpaca all over, immersing him/her in a pond, lake, stream, trough or whatever you have available, or place packs of ice under their belly, armpits and thighs. Continue this treatment until the temperature comes down (take it every 15 minutes) or the veterinarian arrives. Always keep a few bags of ice in your freezer during the summer months just in case you have such an emergency. Being prepared is sometimes the best protection against disaster.

 

 

 

 

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