The call came from the Niagara Falls Humane Society asking if we had room at Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary for three alpacas. A family that lives in Niagara Falls were moving to a place where they can’t take their pet alpacas with them. After some research and intense consultations with our advisors, we agreed to take them into our foster care program. Here are some facts about this interesting farm animal.
Alpaca Facts We Learned
The alpaca is a domesticated member of the camelid family – the others being llamas, guanacos, vicunas and of course the camel. Alpacas are native to South America – from the high altitudes of the Andes of Chile, Peru and Bolivia – where they have been kept for their luxurious fleece for thousands of years.
Interesting fact about why there are three in this little herd. Alpacas are in fact herd animals. They cannot be kept on their own, as a single animal. A minimum of two is required, but a group of three is best for them. A female cannot be kept without the company of at least one other female. This little herd is comprised of three bachelors, Ringo, Woody and Pencil. Ringo is a registered purebred Alpaca, he’s got the papers to prove it!
The young are called cria. Castrated males are commonly known as geldings. Alpaca generally live for 15 to 20 years and adults weigh an average of 125 to 175 pounds. There are two breeds of alpaca: huacaya and suri. Officially they are one species. The Suri alpaca, of which there are very few in Canada, has a fleece with long ‘dreadlocks’ which hang loose and long. Huacaya (pronounced wakaya) alpacas have fibre which is shorter and denser. Ninety five percent of alpacas are huacaya world wide.
Alpaca get along with goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, cats and family dogs.
One can keep approximately 4 to 6 animals on one acre of pasture. This means that many people who only have small acreages are able to farm alpacas. They tend to use shelter more in summer. In winter conditions of heavy snow, indoor housing of alpacas in a barn is a sensible option.
Alpacas rarely challenge or jump fencing. 4ft high sheep fencing is the most suitable. Barbed wire and electric fencing should be avoided as this gets caught in their fleece.
Alpacas eat most grass and occasionally browse a hedge. They should have a little hay when grass is short and there are Alpaca Mixes readily available from feed merchants to ensure they get the necessary vitamins and minerals – they need a very small amount of this each day – it also helps to keep them tame! They must always have access to fresh water.
Their feet are padded and they do not poach the ground. They tend to use dung piles – these are easy to pick up and can go straight on the garden – it makes very good fertilizer.
Alpaca are sheared in the spring to harvest their fleece and make them feel comfortable. There are alpaca shearers who travel the country and will shear, vaccinate, worm and manicure your animals in one visit. We’ll be calling on one to come by and visit our new herd too!
Alpaca are apparently trainable. Much as they can look a little goofy with the top-knot and sometimes buck teeth, they are an intelligent (formerly prey) animal and with patience and gentle handling they will walk with you on a halter after just a few short lesions. They communicate by making a variety of noises and body language. The sound most commonly heard by humans is a soft humming which they usually make when they are unsure of things.
Adoptable Alpaca, Three Please
If would like to find out more, please feel free to contact Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary. And of course if you are considering alpaca adoption, please check your local by-laws to ensure their furever place is safe for them.