They originated from South America – specifically, Peru, Chile and Bolivia – you knew that didn’t you? Unless this is the first alpaca web-site you’ve looked at, in which case, welcome to the alpaca world and don’t go away, you will already have read the same stuff about the altiplano, camelids, cria etc. as there are so many sites giving the information, and I would suggest starting with our interview on BBC Radio Bristol & Somerset below, followed by visiting our local BAS breeders site, South West Alpaca Group.
Interview with Steve Yabsley, BBC Radio Bristol & Somerset
Do’s and Don’t's of the Alpaca Breeder
As I’ve said before, there are plenty of sites telling you what to do with your alpacas, but I’ve not seen many that mention common mistakes.
Herding, or rounding them up – do!
You may have attended a course, and with half a dozen colleagues and some lengths of water pipe found that you could herd twenty animals across a big field into the barn. But what about the reality back home when there’s just the two of you, or you’re even on your own?
That is when you need a 30m surveyors tape – linked between two of you it makes a great ‘scoop’, and if on your own, you can tie one end, and create a corridor to encourage them along to your target catch pen or gate – it’s much lighter than rope and winds up neatly without tangling ready for next time, and without creating a hazard.
Horse tape – don’t!
We once rented a paddock, which had a re-seeded, infilled pond with electric-wired horse tape around it, as a horse had been grazing the paddock before our herd (it wasn’t electrified). Within 15 minutes, our six had investigated this tape, one had lifted her head under it, spooked, the others spooked and the front one charged off with it around her neck, ripping out the pig-tail posts as she went – fortunately the others didn’t get tangled and we managed to catch her, but the wire was already tightly wound and buried deep in her fleece (it was May), and you can’t cut the wire easily.
Paddock renting – beware
You probably won’t know the history of the site – a farmer may have filled-in a pond, or a builder may have tipped ‘rubble’ into a hollow – you may be told it was rubble but there will be wire mesh: plasterers beading, concrete reinforcing mesh, and barbed wire, probably chopped into bits by a harrow or plough! At least when it’s rusty, barbed wire is quite weak, but when you move to pull a ‘twig’ from a tail and it turns out to be barbed wire, you just worry what else they are going to find. So, walk the paddock entirely, and in reverse, and then every day when they have moved in, because ‘stuff’ just keeps turning up.
Check the boundaries for plants or hedges that are within reach, and if there is woodland, however small, check for poisonous plants – a list can be found on the BAS web-site.
Herd inspection – do
You should do this twice a day – it doesn’t have to be hands on, but if you observe the herds behaviour and interaction with each other, you will begin to understand who gets on and who falls out, and you will notice any small change that might indicate an unwell animal, which will then be your notice to investigate further.
Manure collecting – do
The collecting of poo won’t necessarily reduce the area of their latrines, and while they do create specific latrine areas, they seem to allow them to grow, but if you collect it, then they will be less likely to spread it further on their feet. More importantly, you begin to recognize the typical shape and size of pellets produced, and certain animals faeces do have their own distinctive form! You will particularly recognize the crias faeces, but you may also get a warning of a sick animal if you found particularly soft motions or diarrhoea. Alpaca manure is excellent for the garden, and can be put directly around plants, as it won’t cause scorching, having passed through three stomach compartments.