Care of your alpaca

Clipping nails

Nails are constantly growing and on the hard rocky ground in the mountains of Peru, Chile and Bolivia, they naturally wear down. With us, alpacas are generally kept on soft and sometimes wet ground, so their nails tend to grow longer and faster.

Actually, with alpacas you don't talk so much about hooves but more about toes. If you look at an alpaca's leg from below, it is mostly a soft pad with a small nail. You can cut the nail back so far that it just makes contact with the ground or that it is flush with the bottom of the foot. If the toenail is very long, it is better to carefully cut small pieces off than to proceed rigorously. There is a lot of difference between alpacas where the blood vessels come to the surface under the nails. If you cut carefully, an injury will also be less serious if it does happen.

Nails that are seriously deformed should be trimmed regularly. The blood vessels grow along with the toenail, so that cutting back strongly cannot take place in one go. Regular trimming prevents this problem.

 A hoof trimmer is available in our webshop.

Sharpen alpaca teeth

Alpaca teeth continue to grow. In the wild they wear these down by, for example, scraping lichen off stones, here with us the teeth are more difficult to wear down due to the diet of soft grass and concentrates. You have to grind it yourself with a dremel. This is not standard for every alpaca. Only when the teeth come out of their mouths is it time to sharpen, for many this never happens.

It is also strongly recommended to grind down the fighting teeth of stallions. This is only possible when the stallion is about 3 years old. Once the teeth have been ground down, they do not grow back or grow back much more slowly. These 6 fighting teeth are on the side of the front teeth at the bottom but also at the top and are real knives.

They do not occur in mares.

Shaving and wool

Alpacas are sheared once a year, preferably in April or May so that the coat has enough time to grow before the winter.

We shave our alpacas ourselves with the Heiniger Shearing Machine. The animals are placed sideways and the front and hind legs are held together with a specially designed shaving harness. In this way, the animal lies calmly and the shearer can easily do his job. This is the safest method for both the animal and the shearer. While one shaves, another person holds the animal's head and neck. Ideally, there is another helper who collects the wool and splits the good parts (shoulders, back) and the wool parts that cannot be used further (legs, chest, belly) on site.

Alpaca wool is ten times warmer than sheep's wool, has the quality, appearance and softness of cashmere and silk and is hypoallergenic. These factors make it possible to wear clothing made of alpaca wool very comfortably on bare skin. The density of alpaca wool varies between 15 and 30 fibers per mm2 (micron). It depends on predisposition and age. The thinnest fibers cause the least irritation to the skin. Most people get itchy if the wool is thicker than 28 micrometers. This is the so-called “itch point”.

Older alpacas have a lower quality of wool than young animals. The wool yield of our alpacas varies between 1.5 (older mares) and 3.5 kilos (stallions and young mares).

Power supply

The alpaca's digestive system is set up for high amounts of fiber-rich plant material. These animals do this in a very efficient way, which comes in very handy on the meager pastures of the South American high plains. In these natural conditions, the diet of the animals consists of many different types of grasses, herbs and mosses. Here in Europe, alpacas mainly need short grass, unlimited hay and plenty of fresh water. They eat about 2% of their body weight per day; that is an average of 1.5 to 2 kilos of hay.

The alpacas are also supplemented with a specially designed pellet. This grain contains the vitamins, minerals and proteins that meet the specific needs of camelids. This is in addition to the daily roughage. You can count on about 100 grams per animal of 50 kg (per day).

Pregnant mares also receive a daily portion of beet pulp. This pulp increases tenfold in size after soaking in water (about 4 hours). Therefore, never give this pulp directly to the animals because this would have deadly consequences!

Alpacas also love carrots. You can buy a 25 kg bag very cheaply from a wholesaler.

Condition of the alpaca

It is important that you regularly feel the spine of your alpacas to check the condition of the alpacas. Lean animals can be fed separately so that the stronger, and usually thicker alpacas do not eat all the kibble. Some animals, like humans, are genetically leaner, so a lean animal is not necessarily an animal that eats too little kibble.

Below you can see how you can determine the condition. For a pregnant mare 3-4 is optimal, for the other animals 2.5-3 is sufficient.