wikiHow to Run an Alpaca Farm

Running an alpaca farm can be very rewarding, both financially and emotionally. However, there are certain procedures you need to follow to ensure your alpacas have a healthy environment to live in, and to make sure you are happy while stewarding the farm and alpacas.

Steps

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    Obtain a "DBA" (doing business as) certificate from your county clerk's office and a business license from your state if you plan on selling the alpacas and their fleece or end products made from the luxurious fiber. You also may need an agricultural farming permit if you want to have a large number of alpacas.
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    Check your funding to make sure you have adequate money to launch and then support the farm. In the economically challenged environment of 2013, it costs between $100 and $750 each for non-breeder/fiber animals, and $1250 to $15,000 each or so to purchase production alpacas from a breeder. You may choose to apply for a farming loan from a bank. Some alpaca farmers can and will privately finance your purchase of their animals, so do inquire.
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    Contact a real estate agent if you don't already have the land for your farm. You can manage 7 to 10 alpacas on an acre if you can employ rotational grazing with your acreage, but make sure you leave room for future alpacas from breeding. Alpacas do well on orchard grass or mixed grass fields of flat, rolling or even hilly terrain (they love to play "King of the Hill" and if there are outcroppings of rock or rocky ground, their two toes will receive natural nail trimming); alpacas require free choice minerals to make up for nutrients not readily found in the U.S. forage but which are more natural to South America, where they came from; and there also should be available, fresh water for them to drink. Parasites are the number one killer of alpacas in the United States, so it will be important to have fecal testing done periodically and to treat against worms and parasites on an as-needed basis.
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    You also have to make sure that there are no plants toxic to the alpacas, such as acorns, buckwheat, and poppies. For more poisonous plants, you can go to the first link cited at the bottom of the page under "Sources and Citations".
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    Design a barn for the alpacas to protect them from the elements. Their thick coat can protect them in the winter during decent temperatures, but they need shade opportunities in the summer and in extreme heat, and breaks from the wind, snow, ice and extreme cold temperatures in the winter months. Alpacas must also receive full-body shearing once a year after the last frost and before it gets too hot in your area.
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    Enclose the land for the alpacas with a secure fence. It should be at least four and a half to five feet tall. The fencing woven wire or boards should be no more than 4 inches (10.2 cm) apart so their heads don't get caught in the fence. No-Climb 2"x4" or sheep and goat 4" x 4" woven wire fencing combined with some degree of electric wire on the outside top and bottom of the fencing works best to keep out predators and keep your alpacas safe.
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    Find a veterinarian knowledgeable about alpacas near you for emergencies, checkups or routine shots and other tests and treatments you may not be able to take care of doing yourself. Most people can, though, learn how to administer most preventative care themselves if instructed by a qualified, experienced mentor, veterinarian or veteran alpaca farmer. Practice helps, too, and provides more bonding with your alpacas and opportunities for you to become familiar with the subtle nuances of each alpaca.
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    Set up your farm by stocking up on protective supplies such as steel-toed boots, appropriate clothing, protective gloves, and disinfectants against their possible pathogens. Further, it's always a good idea to employ a healthy degree of bio-security on any farm with livestock, and an alpaca farm is no exception.
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    Purchase or grow hay for the alpacas so they can graze as well as eat hay. The hay should not smell musty or moldy and it should not look bleached or be dusty. Hay should look green and healthy.
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    Be sure to obtain adequate insurance for your alpaca business, especially mortality coverage for your most valuable breeding animals, and farm insurance for equipment and building coverages.
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    You are now ready to purchase your alpacas and start your farm!

Warnings

  • Alpacas are very stoic animals and usually do not let on there is anything bothering them or wrong with them until it is probably too late to save them, so daily, conscientious observation of them is key. It is difficult to assess some health aspects of alpacas yourself, so be sure to make sure you are working with a knowledgeable veterinarian or veterinary hospital specializing in large/farm animals (alpacas, in particular). For a complete list of how to care for your alpaca health-wise, follow the second source at the bottom of the page under "Sources and Citations".

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Alpacas and Llamas