John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
Alpaca Farming
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The Basics

Our alpaca farm experiences allow us to help those who are investigating the alpaca ownership and breeding. Able to laugh at our early mistakes, we share our missteps so that others may avoid them. John has proven experience in such areas as balancing a collapsed barn roof on a pole, or pulling corner posts by over-tensioning a fence, "What now?" farm experiences to try to avoid.

Operating an alpaca farm requires a broad range of skills, just as running any other farm does. However, the alpaca possesses qualities that make it an ideal animal for a small to medium acreage farm. Of course, effective land and water management will go a long ways to realizing the potential of raising alpacas, or any other livestock.

The alpaca will seldom challenge a fence. Many alpaca breeders use a no-climb fence 4 or 5 feet tall. Fences serve more to keep predators out than to keep the alpacas in. We have regularly seen "escaped" alpacas run right back to their home pasture. (Also, see our fence building section.)

Basic herd management is easy and relatively inexpensive. Being efficient browsers, an alpaca farm may keep as many as ten alpacas per acre, assuming there is good forage available. Brome, Orchard Grass and Bermuda are all good choices for forage. Rye grasses and Fescues have been known to cause problems due to the "endophytes" (symbiotic fungus) that they may contain. (Proper pasture design can facilitate herd management and forage production.)

Feed supplements may be necessary in some areas, or during particular times of the year. Free choice mineral supplements are usually a good idea. Use of any grain or prepared feeds should be monitored closely due to the alpaca's tendency to develop ulcers (which are often fatal in this species). Prepared feeds and grains tend to increase the acidity in the gut. Lactating mothers, or alpacas living in severe cold, may need feed and grain supplements. If in doubt, check with your vet.

In their native lands, alpacas are not exposed to intestinal parasites. Therefore, they are susceptible to strong reactions to North American parasites. A good worming program is important. In areas inhabited by white tail deer, it is essential to maintain a program that will eliminate the risk of Meningial Worms. Wet areas must maintain a program to control liver flukes.

In moderate climates alpacas only require a three sided shelter. Severe cold, especially coupled with wind, will require a barn. Heat, especially with high humidity, may require a cooling system such as misters.

Feeders should be low to the ground to minimize fleece contamination. Simple box feeders are great, though we have found that heavy duty garden carts make ideal alpaca feeders. They also facilitate the moving of otherwise heavy bales of hay.

Every alpaca farm should have at least a set of scales to monitor weight on newborn crias. Excellent electronic scales can be purchased for less than $200, but some farms have found satisfactory results using large fish scales and a sling. Larger scales for adult animals are nice to have. 500 pound live animal scales can be purchased for $600-1000 new.

Every alpaca farmer should have (or will develop) some basic carpentry and mechanical skills. This will include the ability to repair or install fencing, set gates, basic structural repairs, and such. Additional skills will be needed in the area of record keeping and accounting. In most cases it is just not feasible to contract all of these tasks out.

See this site for more information about forages.

This site is a wonderful resource for alpaca farmers, offering plans for feeders, buildings, and more.

Gateway Alpaca Farm has developed a clear set of goals and objectives, a vision of where we want to go and who we want to be. We see alpacas as a viable option for farm owners that desire to maintain a rural life while generating a sustainable income. We are excited to share our vision. Please contact us with any questions you might have.

Alpaca Sales

"...a look of fatigue in Rose's face, the brilliancy of her eyes, the emaciation of the body beneath her grey alpaca dress, and that air of false serenity masking hysteric excitement which she seemed to have noticed..."

Arnold Bennett
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