John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Transportation

Transporting Alpacas is easily done. These animals hae been transported in everything from the back seat of a Cesna to Ford Escort station wagons, mini-vans, and up to custom designed fully enclosed trailors with closed circuit TV that can be monitored from the cab of the towing vehicle.

The Multi-Use Vehicle

We once transported four adult females and three cria on a three hour trip in the back of a Ford Windstar mini-van without problem. We have used the same vehicle to transport alpacas as much as ten to twelve hours.

We know others that swear by the use of full sized cargo vans, or, more recently, a Dodge Sprinter van.

Using an enclosed vehicle such as a van offers several advantages:

  • Climate Control - One can be assured that it is neither too hot or cold for the animals
  • Quiet and Smooth Ride - Unlike a trailer, there is no excessive noise or movement
  • Economy - It is generally less expensive to operate a single vehicle than a trailer, especially if one takes into account fuel, insurance and registration fees
  • Flexibility - For the small farm, a single multi-use vehicle may be appreciated for its flexibility, quite literally taking the kids to the soccer game on Friday, and the animals to the show on Saturday.

It is extremely important that an adequate barrier be in place between the driver's compartment and the cargo area in order to keep the animals from moving forward and interfering with safe operation of the vehicle!

A multi-use vehicle does not come without its disadvantages, which include:

  • Limited Carrying Capacity - A mini-van, for instance, is really only adequate for 3-4 alpacas at most
  • Inability to Overnight the Animals - In most cases, keeping animals in a smaller vehicle overnight is simply not feasible
  • Inability to Separate Animals - Without significant structural modification it is simply not possible to keep animals separate from each other, a fator to be taken into account if their is a chance of needing to transport males and females at the same time
  • Manure - Alpacas will tend to hold on as long as possible in a moving vehicle, but sooner or later... A removable floor cover helps a lot in this area.
  • Spit Fighting - Occassionally spit happens. Cleaning the remnants from the interior of the family's mini-van is not an enticing chore.

Trailers

Trailers are the traditional choice for transporting livestock. Available in many sizes and configurations (and price ranges) from the two horse up to custom built 30 footers witih tack rooms and living areas, trailers can provide many advantages, including:

  • Large Capacity - Even a small two horse trailer has more cargo space than a mini-van
  • Easy Clean-Up - Designed for hauling livestock, it is easy enough to hose, or pressure wash
  • Flexibility - Depending on the trailer design, it can be used for many things on the farm. We regularly use our 16 foot stock trailer to haul everything from hay to lumber. It has also seen regular use transporting animals that would never go in a van (like cattle).

When considering a trailer for transporting livestock of any kind it is extremely important that a dual axle design be purchased. We have seen some folks opt for a low cost cargo trailer, which with modification (installing windows and/or vents, for instance) can be adequate for alpacas. However, a single axle design puts the animals at risk should there be a problem with the tires on either side (such as a blowout). Not a good thing!

Trailers do not come without disadvantages, which include:

  • Significant Cost - In addition to the cost of purchase, one must consider ongoing costs of registration, insurance, etc.
  • Towing Vehicle - Livestock trailers demand a substantial towing rig, with adequate horsepower. Operating costs can be high
  • Maintenance - Like any vehicle, regular maintenance is required, including attention to wiring, brakes, axle hangers, and flooring
  • Storage - A trailer requires as much storage space as an RV
  • Stress - A trailer tends to amplify both motion and sound. This increases the stress experienced by the animals

When all things are considered, a trailer is almost an essential item for the small farm, especially if they are involved with livestock production. While other options work for the alpaca owner, they really shold be considered temporary or situational specific in most cases. Investing in a livestock trailer will pay many dividends over time.

 
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"Mrs. McGregor, hot but triumphant in a petticoat that crackled like brittle ice beneath her black alpaca skirt and a pair of white cotton gloves at the fingers of which she was continually tugging..."

- Sara Bassett
Carl and the Cotton Gin
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