Getting started with alpacas

So you’ve fallen for the curious alpaca, with their big dewy eyes and friendly nature. Whether they are Huacaya with soft fluffy coats, or Suri with their dread lock ringlet curtains – alpacas are appealing.

Alpacas are great animals, fun to have, and easy to keep. Even if you have not had stock before, you can soon learn how to manage them, and they require less work than many farm animals.

Given the high value of these animals and their relatively high stocking rate, alpacas can be a fine lifestyle investment. They provide a huge amount of enjoyment for even the smallest of lifestyle blocks.

Alpaca herds

Alpacas are herd animals. You will need to have a minimum of two alpacas so that they can provide company for each other. People often start with two wether alpacas – these are young boys who are not going to be used for breeding. Do make sure that they are physically wethered(desexed), as otherwise when they get older their testosterone levels will rise and they will act as males and start fighting.

If you buy a mum and her baby (called a cria). Mum will still need another adult alpaca to keep her company and together they will protect the cria. Most females are sold pregnant, so you do not need to buy a male alpaca. When the female has had her next cria, a stud male can come visiting to get her pregnant again.

Male and female alpacas are kept in separate paddocks. Although wethered alpacas can be kept with females. You can paddock alpacas with horses, cattle, sheep, and kune kunes. Donkeys have been known to attack alpacas. Dogs will also attack alpacas so ensure your fences will keep out dogs – especially wandering ones. Alpaca regard a dog as a predator, but if you have your own dog, with careful introductions they will come to accept it.


You need at least half an acre to keep two alpacas. They are 0.6 of a stock unit – a stock unit is, in feed terms, a ewe with lamb. Although alpacas are bigger in size than sheep, they are more efficient processors of food. They are quasi-ruminants, with three stomachs. So if you have room for a few sheep, then you will have room for a few alpacas.

Alpacas are kept in normal farm paddocks, with usual height seven strand wire fences. Avoid electric fencing as their long fleece can catch on the electric wires. Alpacas are at home on rough hilly ground, as well as flat pasture. They like to have room to roam around and are not happy in small paddocks or pens.

Grass paddocks provide adequate feed for alpacas. You may need some hay in winter, or in summer droughts. A supplementary “alpaca nut” or pellet gives added vitamins and minerals. You can also get an alpaca muesli mix, which is helpful for pregnant females.

If run with sheep, be aware sheep can crop the grass too low for alpacas to be able to graze it. Toxic plants are the same as for sheep and cattle, but alpacas are inquisitive and will try most things, so be careful.

Alpacas are hardy, coming from Peru and Chile, where the temperature goes below zero. However they are not used to constant cold rain, so do provide shelter – trees, a hedge, or a shed. They will decide when they want to use it!