Alpaca Common Sense

It is so easy to get excited about the thought of keeping alpacas, but what does it really take and are you right to be thinking about it?

Maybe, but let me see if I can put you off first. There is more to it than you might think!

We can get sentimental about the idea of keeping alpacas, understandably, given that they are such amazing creatures. However, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions first.

Have you got space?

  • space for grazing and housing etc.
  • space in your already busy life
  • space in your bank account

Issues to consider:

  1. Cost – can you afford to start and keep going?
  2. Commitment – they can live 20 or even 25 years
  3. Consistency – can you be there every day?

Be sure

Plan and answer the big questions.

If I haven’t put you off, I hope you will love keeping them.

Go spend some time with an alpaca.


Hi, Steve here and welcome to the alpaca tribe. The podcast for alpaca people. And that's you. So I wanted to talk this week about why you shouldn't have alpacas. I know it's a bit upside down, but I just think it's helpful to think through some of the issues. And try and apply some common sense about whether we decide to keep alpacas or not. It's a challenge. There are some issues we need to think about. And work through need to face the reality of the situation, which all sounds very grown-up. One of the things with the pandemic coming to an end, is that people are starting to think about keeping alpacas it seems. Cause I've been having people approach me. Which is great. I really want people to experience the joy of keeping alpacas and living with them. But there are some practicalities you need to be aware of and to take account of. So I thought maybe we should look at some of the downsides of alpacas and whether they really are for you. This is me trying to put you off. If you really are convinced you want to have alpacas, this won't put you off. But it's helpful to go into these things with your eyes open. One of the things they say about common sense is that it's not very common. When you think about keeping alpacas, there's a number of things: there's the cost there's the commitment, the need for consistency. So my first question would really be, have you got space? Have you got the space for keeping alpacas. Now I do mean, have you physically got the space? Have you got the fields? The land. The grazing that they will require. And we work on a basis of ballpark figure of five to the acre. Ratio of five alpacas to one acre of land. But if you've only got one acre of land, five is probably too many in my view. But, there's a limit to how many you can have on a piece of land for various reasons. One is the amount of grass that grows. But also the potential problems with parasites and difficulties that will arise from too intensive grazing. So have you got the space, physical space? Have you got somewhere for them in terms of field shelters, or stables barns, that kind of thing. This is important to be aware of, and then there's water supply. Somewhere to store food. Those kind of space considerations come into play. The other question about space is have you got space in your life? Have you got the time? Have you got the capacity to include what can get quite intensive at times, looking after animals. Have you got the time- space? To take care of a herd of alpacas, even if it's a small group of three being your herd. The third area is have you got the space in your bank account for alpacas? There's the original purchase price There's facilities, such as field shelters, food storage, water supplies. Have you got enough space in your bank account for the unexpected vet bills that might arise? You turn a corner and there's a new situation. Could be illness, could be injury, could be breeding complications, birthing complications. You need to build in an expectation, of those things. And if you are going to be breeding, then it would also be registration with the relevant alpaca society, and associated costs. So have you got space? Have you got space physically? Have you got space in your life in terms of time? Have you got space in your bank account? There's the cost, there's the commitment have you thought about holidays? What's a holiday. Oh yes. They do require you to be around. And somebody has got to look after them. So if you're not here, somebody else has to do with that. If you have only got a few, then it's relatively easy to find someone who will look after them for you. But once the numbers go up, if you're breeding, once the numbers go up and particularly if it's during the birthing season, it's much more difficult to pass on that kind of responsibility to somebody else. This has been our experience. And while it's a delight. It's also a challenge. You also have to think about how long they are likely to live. They can easily live 20 to 25 years. And that's a long time in terms of commitment. Are you able to see that going forward? And consistency. Are you able to do the daily. The daily rounds, the daily feeding the daily keeping an eye on them. Talked about land and space. Ideally that's where you're living. So you're able to enjoy being around them, but also it's much easier for you to be aware of what's going on and to keep them safe, and protected as necessary. I am so, so privileged to have a view out of my window, which includes the alpacas. Unless they are down the far end of the Valley. And then I've roughly got an idea, that must be the only place they can be. So I look out the window and there they are. And it's a delight. But it isn't necessarily, going to be easy for everyone to have that. Think it's important to do this reflecting and facing reality. Being really clear that it is something that you can do. To plan, to prepare, and have the things in place that you need in order to successfully keep alpacas. It can be an expensive mistake to undo and unravel and very complicated. So I was wanting to raise these things. As questions. To help you think. Do you really want to have alpacas? Can you really have alpacas? So, now that I've tried to put you off. I hope you understand where I'm coming from in doing that. I feel guilty talking about- do you really want to have alpacas? Should you really be keeping alpacas? When here I am with a herd of alpacas myself. And I recognize that it's easy for me to say. Cause I've already got alpacas. But. If it is something that is there and won't go away. You need to face the right issues. You need to ask the right questions. And work through the preparation. Get some information, go see some, do the research, do the planning. Do the assessment in terms of how much it's going to cost and the resources you're going to need for the first year. Which is always more expensive, setting things up. And then also going through into the other things. As it goes forward. So as we consider these things, question of being sure, asking yourself, the big questions, the real questions. And if you can have alpacas, I really hope, that all those things come together for you and you have. Something amazing ahead of you. This morning as I was feeding, Nona was stood by the door. Nona's the one that's got the bad foot, the twisted foot- joint and she's struggling a bit And, she was stood by the door of the stable, cause I put some food out and, every time I went in and out, she had to move out of the way. She had a little grumble each time, but, but actually she was quite happy to be near me. She just wanted to make sure I was not doing anything with her, and was just getting the food for everybody else. So she's doing okay. But, uh, uh, watching brief, it's not going to go away. It's just going to have to be something we manage and do the best we can with her. The youngsters. Well, it's interesting. I was gonna say that growing, but actually they're quite small. I was surprised looking at them again this morning. Just how small they are. I don't know why. But it appears to be, that they're smaller this year than they were in previous years. So, maybe it was a combination of the weather and the feeding and the mum is producing the necessary milk, et cetera. Difficult to tell. And sometimes it's an obvious thing. But it seems to be a general, not just one individual, but it's a number of them are really still quite small. Cause we've got shearing coming up. We're now into March, so another month two I suppose, still got two months worth of growth. Then, there is progress still to be made, but they do seem on the smaller side. And I think that's to do with the time of year and the grazing and... so there's, there's multiple reasons. But, that's just an observation really. They seem happy enough- certainly collecting all the debris that the cria usually do, because their fleece is so fine. Lots of leaves, little bits of Bramble. The big bits are okay. Cause I can see those, pull them out. It's the little bits that, that catch you unaware and sometimes a bit of Bramble or a bit of Gorse and you get all prickled. There's a number that need a little bit more trim around the eyes. So we will be doing that in the next day or two, just so that they can keep seeing what's going on and don't get too panicky because they suddenly, they kind of stare at you trying to work out what is, what is this shape in front of them, and eventually work out it's you and have a little panic and bounce away from you. They're all doing well and they're becoming more independent. Still like being sort of cushed up, and cwtched as they say in Wales, next to the mum. So that's working well. But, we could do with some sunnier weather. It's been dry the last few days, which is good. And there was something I noticed this morning and I'm trying to work out whether it was where I was stood, something to do with the, in the stable, around the stable, outside in the mucking out area, whether it's one of the animals. I suddenly noticed a smell and thought: that's interesting. Who was that? If you walk around trying to sniff alpacas, they get really twitchy. They're not too sure about what on earth you were doing. So, be warned, you need to do it as carefully and surreptitiously as possible. And for some of them I'm not going near Millie to do that. She would havespat at me. She takes exception to too much attention being given. But there was a little bit of a smell. Sometimes, you're not quite sure, where is that coming from? So you do need to have all your senses in play when you're around the alpacas. So what can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? What are you feeling, if you touch? You know, check the body scrore, but also check the fleece. What are you feeling? Bits that need to be maneuvered out of the fleece now at the moment. And that will be dealt with when we do the shearing. But, equally, it's trying to bring all those different senses to play. So there was a smell this morning. And it's a bit too early for fly strike. Though it's never quite too early. So. Just be aware of what it is that you're noticing. And see if you can find an explanation. I'm still hunting. I did smell something and I haven't been able to work it out. Sometimes you get a problem between the toes, they can get really smelly. If they've got a, a bit of infection. It could be, some fungal growth or it could be some slight infection on the skin. Because it gets very damp. particularly the winters get wet and muddy and it can get exposed. So that's something to be aware of and keep a check on. I will pursue the smell and try and work out what's going on there. And the others, they were quite hungry this morning. So I got a bit of extra attention when I was trying to put the food out. Owena, who's the big Brown one, she kind of stands her ground, you have to kind of try and work around her, cause she's gets right in the middle of things, but she's not very good with her feet, knowing where they are. Do you remember, I've told you about that? She's not very good about it. Really know exactly what if you don't she stands on the bucket sometimes and tips them over and, huh. So. Enough space enough buckets. It always helps. Who else did I notice today? Oh, yes. Rhona needs a trim around her eyes. She's got a lot of. It's a nice fringe, but it's now getting a bit too long. She's got to lift her head to look at you. Which is quite sweet but not quite what we want. So she'll get a bit of attention as well, as well as the cria. Rhosslyn she caught my eye really because her fleece is quite short. Compared with some of the other Stephanie system grown so much this year. Which is interesting. And she's had a youngster and. Just going to keep an eye on. Condition is. Okay. But is a little bit less than normal. For her. So we'll keep an eye on that. And see how things go. But. The other youngsters, the dark ones are great. Millie's girls. So we've got a little, Ifanwy oh, she's such a sweetie. She's getting a little bit taller. But she's doing very well and stands her ground and enjoys her food. And the others. They tend to go in a group. This morning, there's whole crowd of them over on the far side of the Lake, but there was others that were on this side. Looking at the hay feeder and taking advantage of that. Going back to my original comments at the start I hope I haven't put you off too much. Just enough to be realistic and sensible. And have some common sense. I just not very friendly though. Is it telling you not to have alpacas? But you know where I'm coming from. So, if you can go spend some time with an alpaca. And particularly once we get released out of all this, pandemic lockdown. Take care. See you again soon.

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