Why keep alpacas?
Keeping alpacas as livestock animals has become increasingly popular in recent years. Alpacas originate from the Andes in South America, where they were bred from the wild Vicuna. Alpacas, with their woolly coats and oversized eyes, have captivated the hearts of many people looking for an alternative to traditional livestock like sheep and cows.
Alpacas require specialised management and care that is different to other livestock. In particular, alpacas require the companionship of other alpacas of the same gender, as they are herd animals. They require plenty of pasture, annual shearing and regular health care such as 6-monthly vaccinations and vitamin D supplementation during winter.
What do alpacas need?
Alpacas have particular needs, and prospective owners must understand what is required to keep these enduring animals healthy and happy. The following are basic guidelines:
grazing pasture (generally, I recommend a minimum of 3-5 acres in Victoria, divided into two paddocks minimum to ensure rotational grazing)
shade trees, supply of clean water, and additional hay
a field shelter and handling yard
annual shearing (done by a competent alpaca shearer), 6-monthly vaccination, and vitamin D supplementation during autumn/winter
strong boundary fencing to protect from predators (domestic dogs, roaming dogs);
if you have dogs, internal fencing to keep your dogs away from the alpaca paddocks
regular health checks and monitoring by owners;
vet attention in case of accidents or illness;
ongoing care during their lifetime (alpacas live an average of 20-25 years, which means they are a longer commitment than having dogs/cats and even children!)
Can I have just one alpaca?
Alpacas are herd animals and must live within a same-sex group: females with females or males with males.
We suggest prospective alpaca owners purchase a minimum of three alpacas of the same gender. It is common in Australia to see advertisements for two alpacas. However, our experience tells us that a minimum of three ensures that alpacas are content, more cohesive as a group, healthier, and not always stressed by being always on alert. A minimum of three alpacas is the gold standard in the UK.
You might see ads selling baby alpacas (crias), "breeding pairs", and "mum, dad and baby", particularly on Gumtree and certain social media groups. These terrible practices go against appropriate alpaca health and welfare standards. We encourage all prospective alpaca owners to learn as much as possible about alpacas and select a reputable alpaca breeder registered with the Australian Alpaca Association who upholds the highest animal welfare standards.