Have you ever wondered what we do on an alpaca farm? This depends very much on the size of your farm and how active you can or want to be. Our farm is designed to be our retirement business, meaning – once we retire and live of our pensions – we want to do the farming full time.
The farm generates enough income to pay for itself at the current level, but not enough to make a living. Could you make a living with an alpaca farm – yes you can and I would be more than happy to discuss that with you.
However, this is about our present situation. We operate the business part-time, on the weekend, but of course the alpacas need our care every day.
We feed our alpacas every morning a grain mixture, prepared by a local feed mill, of Corn/Oats/Barley and Molasses. The alpaca love it and come running when they see me showing up with my little red bucket. While they eat, I count them (to be sure none was left behind), look them over and observe to be sure there is no unusual behavior.
In the winter I fill the mangers with hay, in the summer they eat grass in the pasture. I might supplement with hay in the summer, depending on the pasture quality and if it is very cold in the winter I will feed them an extra ration of grain at night.
Once a year we shear the alpacas. On our farm we focus on the fibre, so this is really our harvest time. We do this in the spring just to make sure they don’t get cold at night anymore, but also before the hot days of summer occur.
We tie them down just to keep them and our shearing crew safe. It does not hurt the alpaca and most of them just wait for it to be done and over with. While they are immobilized we also trim their toe nails and vaccinate. Some need their teethe trimmed as well.
Alpacas can breed anytime and for this reason we keep the males and females in separate pastures and pens. The gestation period is 11 1/2 month and they give birth usually between 10 am and 3 pm – business hours! Of course in the wild the crias would have to be up and running by night fall to keep up with the herd and away from any predators.
Alpacas need very little help when they give birth and we observe from a distance just in case. Quite often we are not around to witness the birth. So the rule in our house is, who ever “finds” the new cria has the right to name it. Now I have a very powerful male called Spot – my son was 8 years old at that time and this is the name he chose.