Farming Alpaca in New Zealand

Alpacas are superb animals to farm as they are intelligent, easy to handle and very hardy.  They also possess a very appealing and calming presence.  Compared with most other livestock they need little routine maintenance.  They are not dangerous and are often handled by children.

For this reason they make an excellent choice of livestock for lifestyle block owners.  They do not get footrot or flystrike [lack of lanolin] commonly associated with sheep farming.  There is no need for crutching, tail docking, or dipping.  No dehorning either.

Alpaca requirements

In NZ alpacas are farmed from Northland to Southland, they are hardy and adaptable. There is no need for any special shelter, however shade in summer is desirable. Alpacas rarely jump, so no special fencing is required. Barbed wire and electric fences should be avoided.

Because alpacas are a herd animal and are stressed when separated from the herd, you need to have at least two for company. We do not sell one alpaca to anyone, unless they already have some. Stocking rates of 4-5 to the acre seems to be a good guide. In NZ conditions the problem of over feeding on high protein pasture is more likely.

FeedingSuricoGroupSuri.JPG

Alpacas are "opportunist browsers", and incredible converters of low grade forage. They will graze most grasses and the foliage of trees generally without stripping the bark.

Grass, hay and a clean supply of fresh drinking water is all a typical New Zealand alpaca requires. Generally they do not need additional feed supplements. The major exception to this is during high FE (facial eczema) periods, a supplement containing zinc is necessary to protect against liver damage.

Regular hands-on checks as to the "condition" of the animals is encouraged as a full fleece can conceal a thin alpaca.

Supplements

While alpacas don't generally need supplementary feeding, you can feed a small amount of "pellets" or "nuts" to make them more friendly or as bribery to come into the yards etc. Please be wary of overfeeding them on these foods as their digestive system is not geared towards grain based food and you may do them harm—as a rule r of thumb no more than two handfuls of supplement per alpaca per day.

Download feeding factsheet

Husbandryimage301.jpg

Alpacas are easy care animals and require very little annual maintenance. At Surico we follow a simple plan to ensure our alpacas remain healthy and happy. A daily walk around each group is important to check general health, quality and availability of drinking water and feed.

Trimming Toe Nails

Many Alpacas will never need their toe nails trimmed but others will need them checked more frequently. Trimming is a simple job that you can perform yourself. One person holds the alpaca while another lifts the foot and using clippers trims the nail back. The person trimming always faces the tail end of the alpaca. Hint: Easiest to do in small pen 2m x2m is a good size.

Vaccinations

A 5in1 vaccination will protect your alpacas from clostridial diseases, black leg, pulpy kidney, tetanus, blacks disease, and pulmonary oedema. Cria should be vaccinated between 4 and 6 weeks old with a booster shot 4 weeks later. Breeding females should be vaccinated every 6 months it ensure high levels of immunity that can be passed on to suckling cria. It is important to check the label of the product you are using for the dose rate and use the same rate as for sheep. The vaccination can be given subcutaneously.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is very important for bone growth and health in your alpacas. In South America they are exposed to high levels naturally from the sun. In New Zealand we need to make sure they are getting enough Vit D through the winter and supplement 3 to 4 times depending on sunlight levels that season. Most vitamin D products also include vitamins A & E, and you must ensure that you are giving the right amount of Vit D without overdosing on Vit A. Check the label! We use Hideject by subcutaneous injection, every 2 months through the winter.

Worming

Alpacas have a low worm burden due to their very clean toilet habits. A communal dung site means not only is it easy for us to pick up the "paca poo" for the garden, but their natural reluctance to feed around the dung, means worms are not so easily spread from alpaca to alpaca. Increasing talk about drench resistance throughout the farming community has led us to a "drench on demand" regime. Therefore we only drench alpacas identified through faecal egg counts, noticing loose dung, or noticing a drop in body condition. Our drench of choice is 3ml (adult dose) of Dectomax given subcutaneous. Many farms carry out a routine 6 monthly drenching.

*Watch out for more worm problems if cross grazing with other livestock eg sheep and goats.

Injection Sites

Our preferred sites for giving subcutaneous (under the skin) injections is at the top of the front leg or in the base of the neck. Both these sites make it easy to hold a fold of skin and give the injection under the skin.

For Intramuscular (IM) injections we prefer the muscle at the top of the front leg or the rump.

Alpaca Dose Rates

Alpacas are relatively new to farming outside of South America and still only in small numbers so they have not had the dose rate trials that many other livestock have. Therefore alpacas are "off label" for almost every product you will buy. Many alpaca breeders and vets approximate the dose rates for alpaca based on those for sheep and you will hear many different opinions on what the best regime is. All of the rates and regimes expressed in this document are from our farm and your conditions may differ so please check back with us or your local vet if you have any questions or concerns.

Download our alpaca husbandry factsheet

Alpaca reproduction

Gestation is usually between 11 to 12 months and females are commonly mated around 14 days after giving birth. Alpacas are induced ovulators and so do not produce an egg until stimulated by mating, meaning they can be bred at any time of the year. Females are usually mated for the first time according to weight and age. In New Zealand with good management females will start breeding at around one year of age.

Pen mating is the most common and successful method of mating alpacas. Mating may be observed for effectiveness and dates recorded. Paddock mating is sometimes used when mating on larger properties saving time, but birth dates become less reliable.

An open female will accept the male's advances by sitting down in the kush position. When a female thinks she is pregnant she will then reject the male by refusing to sit, spitting or kicking him away. Commonly referred to as 'sit or spit'.

Ultrasound scanning is one of the most effective methods of determining pregnancy as the operator can see the foetus. Regular monitoring of the pregnancy throughout gestation enables the owner to re-mate any female who does not carry the cria to full term, without losing valuable time.

Alpacas usually give birth during daylight hours and seldom need assistance. Within an hour or so the cria (baby alpaca) will be up and walking, looking to mum for it's first feed.

Stud servicesBrilli_van_3.jpg

When buying alpacas for the first time, many breeders choose to forgo the expense of purchasing a breeding male.

Surico Alpaca provides owners with a wide selection of proven suri males to breed with. Alpacas are easily transported by van and outside stud servicing gives new owners opportunity to choose from the best quality males, to improve the standard of offspring and maintain genetic diversity in their herd.

For more info on stud servicing see our Stud Services page.

Shearingalpaca_shearing_on_floor.jpg

Alpacas are generally shorn annually in springtime when the weather is warm and before seed heads develop. We organise a shearing day for our clients when they are able to bring their alpacas to be shorn. They may be shorn with conventional sheep shearing equipment. At Surico Alpaca Estate we use a specialised alpaca lifter to leave a good coverage on the animal. Alpaca fibre is non - greasy so great care must be taken to ensure that the handpiece is kept well oiled to avoid overheating.

Most alpacas are shorn by lying them down on the shearing board or a specialised shearing table and restraining them in a rope harness. This ensures that the animal is kept as still as possible, to be shorn with the minimum of fuss and without undue stress.

Download shearing fact sheet

Fencing

Alpacas have very simple fencing requirements and in most cases the existing fencing on your property will be all you need. Alpacas generally don't challenge a fence or rub up against it.

  • Post with five + wire
  • Post and batten
  • Post and rail
  • Strained netting
  • Deer fence

All are acceptable for alpaca. Make sure they are in good condition and properly strained.

Postrail.jpgPost and rail fence

batten.jpgPost and batten fence

5wire.jpg5 wire fence

SheepFence.jpgNetting fence

Avoid

Electric fencing and in particular electric tape. Alpacas have great insulation from their fleece and don't respond to electric fences. These fences are often not as well strained making it easier to get tangled. Barbed wire is also to be avoided

Males & Females

Alpacas will be more like to go through a fence than over it so you may need slightly better fencing to separate intact males from the females. Five wire with battens will prevent most males getting in with your girls.

Weaning

The other time an alpaca will look to go through a fence is when cria are first weaned from their mothers. It is best to keep them out of sight from each other or at least one paddock in between.

Paddock Size

Resist the temptation to cut up smaller and smaller paddocks. Alpacas prefer to have lots of room to roam. . You will find they develop a pattern of grazing in different places at different times of the day. Alpacas are very socially influenced and crowding in small paddocks may introduce social stress to the herd. If you already have small paddocks you can leave gates open for them to move between.

Download factsheet on fencing


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