John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Essential Items

Essential Items for the alpaca owner do not form a particularly long list, but if you don't have what you need when you need it, it can be very frustrating.  This is a list of those items that we have found to be necessary on a regular basis.

Feed Storage - Feed must be kept out of the weather and safe from rodents and birds. Any time feed is altered the nutritive value of it is changed. Protecting the quality of the feed also protects the health of your alpacas. Wet feed becomes moldy very quickly and could make your alpacas sick. Rodents and birds can defecate in feed and expose alpacas to parasites and infectious agents as well as eat necessary components of the feed. Wooden, plastic or metal feed bins or a waterproof and animal proof room are good places to store feed. Several garbage cans work very well and are excellent for a small herd. Remember that rodents may chew through anything but metal, which will be required if that is a major concern. (Our shelters include a 10X10 enclosed area where we can store feed and hay.)

Feed Pans/Dishes - Alpacas can be fed with individual dishes or in groups out of larger feed bunks. This is usually determined by herd size and available space. Many types of feed pans and bunks are available. Choose something that you and your alpacas both like and is easy for you to feed with. Pans/bunks can be rubber, plastic, wood, or metal. They can be purchased or built just for yourself. Individual dishes minimize spitting between alpacas during feeding and allow more individual control of feed intake. Feeding up off the ground is recommended to help to minimize the transmission of parasites.

Water Buckets - alpacas need water and it must be in some type of container. Any container for water should be easily cleaned and be a size which allows the water to be completely changed each day (or more often). alpacas are fairly finicky about their water and if it is not clean, they may not drink. Rubber or plastic buckets are mobile, durable and easily cleaned and changed. There are automatic waterers and waterers with heaters to prevent ice formation available. They are less mobile and daily maintenance can be made easier, especially for larger herds, but do not forget to check them every single day to be sure they are functioning properly. An automatic waterer that is not working for days can be a disaster. There are also electric buckets which keep water from freezing and can be changed daily. For a larger herd this requires multiple electical outlets and a hose or lugging buckets. The warmer water does increase water consumption during the winter.

Hay Buckets/Racks/Feeders - It is best not to feed directly off the ground to minimize transmission of parasites. Something which keeps hay well contained can help reduce waste by the alpacas and clean up by the owners. There is a wide variety of hay feeders. There are bags with a single opening, nets that hang, large buckets on the ground, racks mounted on the walls, feeders which allow approach from both sides and anything else that a alpaca owner has come up with. Feeding hay from a lower position minimizes the hay dropped into the wool and keeps their fleeces cleaner. We have found the metal mesh garden wagons to be an ideal feeder solution. Not only are they easily moved, but they are sized almost perfectly for a full bale of hay.

Mineral Feeders - Like any ruminant, alpacas have a requirement for minerals and crave them regularly. Some type of rust proof container for loose minerals is necessary to keep available at all times. A feed dish can be used or specific containers can be made or bought. A container which won't tip or spill is the best choice for holding minerals.

Scale - It is important to keep track the weight of your alpacas so they do not get too fat or too thin. It is critical to observe weight gain or loss in crias during the neonatal period. A livestock scale or modified freight scale can be used for weighing older alpacas. These scales are generally too large to accurately weigh crias. A smaller hanging scale works as long as it is able to distinguish between differences of 1/4 to 1/2 pound. Another alternative is an electronic parts scaleoutfitted with a box to place the cria in. (These can be found for $50-150 and are accurate to 1/10th pound.) Good monitoring can be the difference between life and death for crias, so a good scale is essential.

Recording Area - Health records of the herd are important to a well managed breeding program. Information which is not recorded at the time a procedure is done or problem noticed will often be forgotten. A small area or table which remains clean, dry and undisturbed by the alpacas is good for a notebook or notepad and pens. This can be as simple as hanging a notebook and calendar on the wall in the barn or feed storage area. Simple details and good habits can make management an easy task.

Heat Lamps - Crias born during the winter are often need some extra warmth to get started comfortably. Heat lamps should be placed in a protective box or shade that will prevent the cria or other alpacas from touching the light bulb directly. The bulb gets very hot and can easily cause burns or scorched wool. The lamp should be placed high enough to not let the cria get too hot and low enough to provide enough warmth.

First Aid Kit - A small kit with some basic emergency items should be kept on every farm. Keep things like non-stick pads, gauze, vetrap, roll cotton, hydrogen peroxide, eye ointments, syringes and needles. Leave a pair of scissors and a flashlight that you only use in emergencies so that it doesn't get misplaced.

Cart/Wheel Barrow - The removal of manure from dung piles in the barn is much easier with the help of a wheel barrel or some type of mobile cart. It can be useful for moving many other items around the farm including tools, hay, grain, fans, packs or anything else you can imagine. The two wheeled carts are a easier to park and tote things around than a standard wheel barrow.

Rake - alpaca pellets are difficult to collect and scoop up without the help of a rake. Otherwise you will just chase pellets around the barn. It is also useful for leaves and leftover hay that the alpacas did not eat. It should be stored in an area outside the alpaca areas.

Shovel - A flat shovel can be very useful for manure removal, especially when used with the rake. It should be stored in an area outside the alpaca areas. They are curious animals and will get into anything you leave lying around.

Barn implements, including shovels and rakes, are capable of spreading disease and parasites. Given this, it is best to have separate tools for each barn or shelter.

Along the same lines, and even more important, it is not advised to use barn implements in the garden. e. coli has been in the news a lot in recent years. This is a common bacteria in livestock, and is easily spread to edibles in the vegetable garden via poor management practices. It is far less expensive to have tools dedicated to the task at hand than to have to sanitize them between use, or worse, risk the transmission of disease.

Alpaca Sales

"It was a heavily built old gentleman in a suit of black alpaca, somewhat frayed and baggy at the knees, but still respectable..."

- Thomas Aldrich
The Queen of Sheba & My Cousin the Colonel
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