How to Chose Your First Alpaca
I’ve had many folks contact me recently looking for information on purchasing their 1st alpaca. So I thought I’d provide a few tips to help get you started…
First, it is best to determine why you are getting alpacas. Some uses for alpacas include: pasture management, breeding, fiber, tourist attractions, shows, or fiber mills. These are just a few options why people decide to get an alpaca. Once you have your “why,” determining which animals to choose and the cost involved will be easier.
If you are interested in female alpacas, you must get three or more. They are herd animals and are very socially orientated. If you start with males, you should get two or more for the same reason. Also, keep in mind that male and female alpacas cannot share the same fenceline because fighting between them will occur.
Alpacas are social, curious creatures who normally do wonderfully around children of all ages. However, you do need to be aware of your surroundings and make sure you do not stand behind them as they can be startled and move suddenly.
One great thing about alpacas is you only need a small area of land, just make sure it’s enough for them to move about. For me, five alpacas per acre feels about right.
So what do alpacas eat? You will be feeding them orchard grass and alpaca grain. Some farms add minerals and supplements.
Your alpacas will also need a barn to escape the sun, wind, and rain. In Hawaii, it is not uncommon to see our alpacas standing in the rain, but if it gets to be too much for them, they all huddle in the barn.
It is best to avoid keeping alpacas with other farm animals in the same pasture. Alpacas are susceptible to parasites, which can occur more frequently in a shared pasture. Although, I do want to add that some farmers can do this successfully.
In Hawaii, it is easy to spend at least $5,000 per animal due to the cost of alpaca care here, and the cost of shipping the alpaca to Hawaii. On the mainland, you can find older alpacas used for pets and fiber quality at prices ranging from $500-$1,000. Due to the show circuit, if you find a top award-winning alpaca, you can expect to pay as high as $50,000 and up.
I prefer to purchase 1-3 year-olds because transportation is easier and they will have more time to make new bonds in the herd. However, other farmers purchase alpacas of all ages and do just fine.
A fun treat for me as I travel on the mainland is to visit other alpaca farms. This is something that I would suggest you do as well.
The one consistent thing with purchasing and owning alpacas is that everyone does things a little differently, and so can you!