Alpaca Husbandry

Alpaca diseases

Compared with other livestock, Alpacas are relatively disease free. Because of their dry fleece and naturally clean breech, fly strike is not an issue with Alpacas. They do not require mulesing or crutching.

They are vaccinated twice yearly with the same "5 in 1" vaccine used for sheep and goats to protect against tetanus, pulpy kidney, black leg, black disease and malignant oedema.

Likewise, Alpaca owners need to be aware if their animals are in a 'sporidesmin' area. Sporidesmin is a toxin in a fungus that causes facial eczema, which could be fatal. However, it is confined to specific geographic locations and is easily managed by not allowing animals to graze on affected pastures during warm and humid weather.

In the past 10 years, there have been a handful of cases of Bovine Johne's Disease (JD). Many breeders are taking part in the National JD M.A.P. (Market Assurance Program) which will provide assurance of their animals' health status.

Facial Eczema

Facial eczema is a disease process caused by a fungus, Pithomyces chartarum, that produces spores as part of its reproductive process. These spores contain a chemical called sporidesmin, which is the toxic compound that causes disease.

The spores are found in the leaf litter of pasture and are consumed by the alpaca when it eats the pasture. On entering the stomach the spores are broken down and the toxin is absorbed across the stomach lining, into the venous bloodstream. The venous blood from the stomach flows directly back to the liver, where the sporidesmin toxin undergoes an enzyme oxidation and reduction pathway within the liver cells, the by-products of which are oxygen free radicals. The free radicals released by this process cause damage (necrosis) of the liver cells and the cells of the biliary system within the liver.

This liver damage causes the disease process of Facial Eczema by reducing the ability of the liver to process normal metabolic and digestive toxins, leading to a build-up of these toxins within the bloodstream. Many of these toxins are photodynamic (react with UV light) causing damage to the blood vessels that they are flowing through. The more serious diseases seen with Facial Eczema are related to complete liver failure.

Restrictions of animal movements may apply, particularly between some states.

When buying Alpacas for breeding purposes it is advisable to arrange a veterinary check to ensure you are buying a healthy animal.


We have an immunisation schedule which we believe is what our herd requires, information had been gathered from hundreds of articles, our veterinarian and colleagues.

As no medications yet are approved for the use in alpacas, it is our recommendation you 'surf' the web and talk to breeders in your area.

Some useful links to start you on the journey or learning....

Nutrition (feeding)

Water is the first nutrient of importance. Good quality water is becoming more difficult to acquire with the increase in human population. Regardless of the challenges of finding a good water source, we must keep in mind that an animal can only survive a brief time without water

Alpaca nutrition requires occasional supplements, but most thrive on forage and hay. Being modified ruminants, these animals do well on forage and hay and can thrive on any vegetation, because their digestive system is highly efficient. Occasional supplements, vitamins, and minerals should be available. In general, they cost less to feed than other domestic animals of that size.

Parasite Control


At present any medication used to treat and alpaca is called "off-label" this means that the medication has not yet been approved for the use on alpaca's

Parasites are common to all forms of livestock and alpacas are no exception. The parasites that they pick up are the same ones that are seen in sheep, goats and cows (ruminants) There are many forms of treatment from granules sprinkled on food, injections, drenches, pastes and oral medicines. Unfortunately no one medicine will cover all parasites that can affect an alpaca so a combination should be used.

Parasite control is based on maintaining parasite populations below which clinical signs are observed. It does not involve the complete elimination of all parasites from a herd for several reasons. A low level of parasites develops immunity in the animals, decreases drug resistance, saves money for the owner, and finally because complete elimination is impossible.

An animal exposed to parasites, bacteria, viruses, etc. develops specialized cells that are used to fight infections from these foreign organisms. Some produce life long immunity after a single exposure while others produce immunity for as little as several months. Low level repeated exposure to a foreign organism can stimulate the immune system to continue producing the specialized cells and thereby reduces the severity of infections in the future.

Drug resistance to anthelmintics (anti-parasite drugs) is becoming more common. Unfortunately these drugs are unable to completely eliminate an entire population of parasites. The few that remain are resistant to the drug and with time reproduce creating a new population that is also resistant. Anthelmintic resistance is very common in sheep and goats and increasing in alpacas and llamas. Resistance is encouraged with indiscriminate use of anthelmintics, shipping animals, open herds, and inadequate biosecurity. Anthelmintics should complement but not replace good management and sanitation practices.

Toe Nails

Toe Nails

Alpaca’s toenails grow continuously throughout their lives. Alpacas that reside in hard rocky ground in the mountains of Peru, Chili and Bolivia will naturally wear their toenails short. Alpacas in North America generally are more sedentary and have less area to exercise, or live on soft ground. As a result their toenails tend to grow longer. Long toenails may curve causing the toe to twist. This will pinch the pad and eventually it will break off painfully. This will cause lameness, and in order to avoid such problems, toenail trimming should be a part of routine care.

Start at the back edges of each nail and work forward towards the point. Be careful not to cut in the edge of the pad since cuts will bleed and expose the Alpaca to the risk of infection. If you are a beginner, be conservative and leave more toenail as a margin for error. As you become more experienced you will find it very easy to trim your Alpaca’s nails short without hurting them. When trimming the inside of the toenail, it helps to spread the toes apart with you fingers to allow more space for your nail clippers. Once you have trimmed both sides of the nail, remove the point with one final cut perpendicular to the line of the nail.

Long curved nails may cause the Alpaca’s entire toe to twist uncomfortably. One trimming may not be enough to allow the toe and nail to grow straight. It will be important to trim this animal's nails regularly, at least once a month until the toes and the nails remain straight. When the edge of a toenail has folded under to press on the pad, do not try to simply unfold it and cut it off. Trim the surrounding nail; gently unfold the folded part of the nail as far as possible without causing the nail to break off. Trim the nail back with several cuts in order to avoid cutting into the quick. Trim this toenail every 2 – 3 weeks until it returns to normal.

If you accidentally cut into the quick and cause some bleeding, finish trimming the nail, then if it has not stopped bleeding, apply direct pressure to the area until it does. Pouring some 7% Iodine over the area will also help to stop the bleeding and will act as a disinfectant. Watch the Alpaca over the next few days in case an infection or lameness develops.

Tooth Care

Alpacas have deciduous (baby teeth which fall out) and permanent teeth.

Alpacas have three pairs of deciduous incisors (front teeth) on the bottom and one pair on the top. The incisors on the top are further back in the mouth than the bottom incisors and look more like canine teeth than incisors. This makes up one of the pairs of upper fighting teeth. Full term crias should have all three pairs of lower incisors at the time of birth. The deciduous incisors fall out and are replaced by permanent incisors at certain ages which helps to age the llama by its teeth. The first pair of incisors (the two close together in the middle) will fall out between 2 and 2.5 years old. The second pair (the next two over from the center) will fall out between 2.5 and 3.5 years old. The third pair will fall out anywhere between 3 and 6 years old.

Teeth may need regular care. Trimming of incisors is necessary in many alpacas. 


Common Questions

Alpaca Colours

Alpaca Colours

One wonderful aspect of alpacas is the wide range of colors they naturally come in.

Alpaca Fibre Colour Chart

Australian Alpaca Fleece Limited (AAFL) fleece colour grades are set by the requirements of our customers for the products they make.

These may differ from the AAA animal registration colours. These colour grades are subject to change as manufacturers modify their products or as new markets are found.

Points to note in assessing fleece colour for processing: Some white fleeces contain individual brown or black fibres – these fleeces must be graded as light fawn or grey

Black fleeces with brown or lighter tips have to be graded as dark brown – only true black fleeces can be graded as black

Grey fleece with any brown will be graded as Rose Grey Because of the natural range of alpaca colours, some fleeces can vary between colour grades depending on the shade of the fleece

White fleeces grown in red soil areas may have to be graded as light fawn – this is due to the scouring process being unable to remove the red tipping.

Alpaca Terminology

The larger of the two types of alpacas, has crimped fleece similar to sheep

Smaller of the two alpaca types, has non crimped fleece looking similar to dreadlocks

Baby alpaca from birth to weaning

From weaning (approximately 4-5 months) to 12 months

From 12 - 24 months

Adult females

Adult males

Male alpacas that has been castrated

Alpacas and other livestock

A common question is can I run my alpacas with other livestock - the answer is YES!

Alpacas can bond well with other types of animals. Naturally, alpacas and large aggressive dogs are not a good combination, but there are many cases of quiet dogs mixing well with alpacas.

Individual alpacas have been very successfully run with sheep and goats to act as fox guards. The alpacas tend to bond with the foster herd and they are naturally aggressive towards foxes.

If running with different livestock, alpacas will pick up the internal parasites associated with the other animals and should be put on the same drenching regime.

Because of the risk of the alpacas being kicked, caution should be used if running them with cattle or horses.

Alpacas personality

Alpacas are very gentle and curious. They are social animals and can be pleasantly dependent on humans. With a little training they become great pets. Alpacas will ocasionally spit at each other when they are competing for food or trying to establish their pecking order. Alpacas will not spit at people unless they have been abused by people or feel threatened.

Are alpacas intelligent?

Alpacas are intelligent and easy to train. In only 4 - 5 repetitions they will learn and retain many skills such as accepting a halter, being led and loading in and out of a float.

Do alpacas spit?

Spitting is a characteristic alpaca behaviour. Animals spit at each other if they are competing for space or food. The most notable instance of spitting is when a pregnant female spits at a macho.

Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. Occasionally the projectile contains only air and a little saliva but alpacas commonly bring up acidic stomach contents (generally a green grassy mix) and project it onto their chosen target. Spitting is mostly reserved for other alpacas, but an alpaca will occasionally spit at humans that, for example, take away food.

How much does an alpaca cost?

$500 to $170,000 each and every where in between!

The initial cost for an alpaca can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Your reason for owning alpacas will determine the cost of the animal. Non-breeding fibre stock will be at the lower end while high quality breeding stock will be at the higher end.

How to transport alpacas

Alpacas are stress resistant, load and travel calmly and can be transported in the family mini van, station wagon, utility vehicle, or horse trailer. Some breeders have been known to transport their alpacas in small planes. Once enroute, the alpaca kushes (sits) and enjoys the ride.

  • Be calm and stress free when transporting your alpacas.
  • Do not transport sick or injured alpacas unless it is for veterinary treatment
  • Transport ramps should not have any sharp or protruding edges that could cause injuryAdequate ventilation and protection from the weather should be providedFloor should have a non-slip surface
  • Hembras with a new born cria should not be transported except for veterinary treatment or under the direction of a veterinary surgeon

Physical Characteristics

Life Span: 15 to 20 plus years

Height: 88cm to 1 metre at the shoulder

Birth weight: 4.5 - 8 kilos

Adult weight: 46 - 86 kilos

What are alpacas used for?

They are used for breeding stock, fibre producers, pets, light pack animals, therapy, investment and they are great to sit and watch mow that small paddock down.


Origin of alpacas in Australia

Alpaca Breeds

There are two types of alpaca, the Huacaya and the Suri.

This is the most common alpaca in South America and Australia. The huacaya has a bonnet of wool on its head. The dense body wool grows straight out from the body. Ideally, fleece coverage is even and extends down the legs. The degree of crimp varies, generally increasing with fleece density.

As a type suri's are very much less common than huacaya's and in Australia only a small percentage of alpacas are suri's. The suri has fleece with a strongly defined staple. The suri is covered in long, pencil find locks, which hang straight down from the body. The fleece has lustre and it feels more slippery and silky that that of the huacaya. The predominant suri colours are white and fawn.

Fibres of both types are considered luxury fibres in the textile trade because of their unique qualities.

Origin in Australia

Alpacas were first imported into Australia in 1858, but the project failed and none of the alpaca are known to have survived. The first of the current alpaca arrived in Australia in 1988. The Australian alpaca herd has since been built from breeding stock imported from Chile and, more recently from Peru. The alpaca has adapted well to Australian climatic conditions.

Today in Australia there are approximately 25,000 alpacas. These are owned by some 1,600 breeders and have a combined livestock value of over $100 million.

While the future direction of the Australian alpaca industry is the promotion and sale of alpaca fibre, the emphasis in this young industry will be on breeding for the foreseeable future.



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