Alpaca Basic Care, Bio-Security and Nutrition


The alpaca is not an animal that needs much care. But you have to feed it twice a day (see section on Nutrition), you have to provide good hay and fresh water at all times and clean the pens and pastures daily. These tasks, to be done morning and evening, take only about half an hour to accomplish.

You will need a deworming program that is well adapted to your environment and to your alpacas. You will also need a larger health program to plan for annual shearing, trimming of toenails, vaccination, supply of vitamins for the crias, care for the female alpaca that just gave birth and for the newborn crias. In other words, a basic health care program that you will abide by.

The techniques used to insert microchips, to collect blood for DNA analysis (for registration) and to inject medication are taught by most of the breeders from whom you purchase your alpacas.

At Hemmingford Alpacas, we offer all new customers hands-on sessions on what you should know about raising and breeding alpacas so you can start off on the right track. You will learn shearing techniques and all those mentioned above directly on our farm and under our “kind” supervision!

You do not need to have extensive knowledge of agriculture or to know much about the health of animals to breed alpacas. No experience is even required. All you need is to care enough about alpacas to spend time on learning about their needs and then to abide by them.


As a new alpaca breeder, you should establish a bio security program with the help of your veterinarian. You should discuss vaccination programs (Tasvax), prevention of parasites by deworming procedures (Ivomec, Panacur, Dectomax etc), quarantine procedures for newcomers, protection against BVD (Bovine Diarrhea Virus) . But before you do any of these things, we strongly recommend that you do research on these subjects. Most likely, your veterinarian is not familiar with alpacas.

Here are some important works that you can refer to and that you can buy on the Net :
The Complete Alpaca Book, Eric Hoffman et al.;
·      The Alpaca Field Manual, Dr Norman Evans;
·      The Lama and Alpaca Neonatal Care, Drs. Smith, Timm &     Long.

The many studies on camelids reported in these books will help your veterinarian choose the best products for your alpacas. These books also include lists of the main diseases that could affect alpacas and their appropriate treatment.

If you send your female to another farm to have her breed, do not be surprised if the breeder, like us at Hemmingford Alpacas, insists on having a BVD test done on buffy coat cells (PCR). This test proves that your alpaca is not a PI (“Permanently Infected”) alpaca capable of infecting your healthy alpacas with a deadly disease.

A breeder that follows a good bio security program will also insist on having a coprology test done (stools analysis) in order to make sure that your alpaca does not have parasites. The breeder should also inspect the alpaca’s fiber to make sure it is not infected with mites that are contagious.

These measures are very important and you should apply them on your own farm at all times. They aim at protecting all alpacas, your own and hose of your fellow breeders.

Your animals are well protected, your fencing is adequate so now that your alpacas are coming, how to keep them in good health?

Nutrition is the first part of the equation, the part that you can control to have top shape alpacas. The other part is the immunity system that may vary from one alpaca to the other.

This section will give you some basic informations about nutrition and will be useful if you are a new breeder and not a veterinarian or an agronomist.

For a more exhaustive information we refer you to “The Complete Alpaca Book” from Eric Hoffman and al. so that you can learn how to balance nutritive elements contained in your hay and your pastures to the specific need of the alpaca.

Alpacas like Canada grass (or orchard grass or Kentucky grass). They also like alfalfa but this last plant should be given no more than 20% in hay or pasture because of his high protein contain.

Clover should also be restricted for alpacas. Mine love white clover but we manage to cut them before the flower fully opens so that the alpacas do not eat an eventual microscopic fungus that the clover flower may contain.

The hay may be purchased in a producer near your place or you can go through a hay broker. To estimate your needs you have to know that an alpaca eats about 2 hay bales (40 pounds bale) per month. It is of the most importance to give your alpaca only a well dried hay that does not contains any mould nor mycotoxins.

A 10% protein hay is enough (if you give supplementation and minerals) but if your hay is at 14-15% protein you should adjust the rations consequently.

A hay analysis by a competent laboratory is a good idea: the results will show you the minerals, vitamins, proteins contain and you will be able to measure exactly your supplementation according to the various need of your different status alpacas (gestating females, lactating females, crias, males etc.).

A water analysis is also a good idea to know if the mineral contain is correct for alpacas.

There is different products on the market to supplement your alpacas. Dr Norman Evans in his book “Alpaca Field Manual” makes an evaluation of the different kinds of pellets that you can use.The food intakes writed on the bag are guide lines and are generally based on a 8-12% protein hay.

Besides the variation in function of your hay, you have to vary your alpacas’ food intake for each alpaca based on your periodical evaluation of his/her needs.

To measure the body score of an alpaca, you touch the vertebral spine: if there is a hollow the animal is thin, if there is a bump the animal is fat. Where an alpaca is of ideal body score, you will feel a 45 degrees angle with the spine.

The periodical weighing is also a good mean to keep the food intake of your alpacas in accordance to their nutritional needs.Nutrition is very important in the breeding of alpacas so we advise to read the more you can on that matter.

A last little tip: when you change food do it progressively so that you avoid health problems. When we travel with our females to another farm for breeding, we always take a hay ball to give to the other breeder so that the food change can be done progressively.