Other Livestock

Guidelines for Raising & Training Camelids

Llamas, alpacas, and guanacos are gentle do well on small acreage farms. You can also harvest and sell their fleece and best of all they make excellent pets.

Acreage Requirements

Alpacas are an ecologically sound choice of livestock, particularly for the small acreage farm. They require less pasture than other types of grazing livestock. On average, six alpacas can be maintained on only one acre of land. Alpacas eat primarily grass and hay, which they very efficiently convert to energy. Although they are ruminants like cattle, it would take about ten alpacas to consume as much grass and hay as one cow does.


Alpacas are clean and very disease resistant. A herd of alpacas create a communal waste area. Because of this, cleanliness is easier to maintain and the potential for the spread of parasites is minimized. Dung can be readily removed or collected for compost from one or two areas. Because of this preference, alpacas will wait for up to two hours to relieve themselves when they are away from home ground. This makes them clean and welcome visitors to schools, nursing homes, and community events. Gentle and friendly, alpacas are ideal for teaching children about ecology and agriculture.

Fleece Care Tips

Fiber is what we ultimately raise alpacas and llamas for – so developing good fiber care habits early is essential. Keep your animals as clean as possible. This means keeping pastures clean. Remove briars, thorns, and any other plants that will stick in their fiber. Don’t let the grass grow to seed heads because these are a messy contamination to have in fiber. The little seeds can hide in the wool and cause knots and matting. They are almost impossible to get out by brushing or blowing. Clean the dung spots in pastures, barns, and sheds daily so the animals don’t lie in or near these spots. Dung sticks to their feet and travels with them, so raking up their living area will reduce this kind of contamination. Alpacas roll in dirt and coat their fiber daily. This dirt is not as bad as it looks. It can be blown out before shearing with a blower made just for that purpose. You might put sand or fine chat on their rolling spots once they’re established and it will act as a cleanser.

Return on Investment

Although they take little from the earth for their nutritional needs, alpacas return beautiful fiber that can be made into luxurious clothing and household furnishings such as pillows, blankets, and rugs. After processing, alpaca fleece yields about 85 to 95 percent clean fiber, as compared with the approximately 45 to 75 percent processed sheep wool yields.

Physical Maturity

Purebred llamas and guanacos do not reach full physical maturity until around four years of age. As in other mammals, females do mature earlier than males, sometimes by as much as an entire year. Llamas have a much greater range of age at maturity than other working animals. Physical maturity can be predicted fairly accurately in various dog and horse breeds. The llama population, however, has a mixed heritage of guanaco (late maturing) and alpaca/vicuna (early maturing) traits. Physical maturity is not linked to observable physical features — you simply can’t predict whether a given llama will follow a pattern of early, late, or intermediate maturity. The only safe advice is to assume that the llama will mature later rather than earlier.

Training Recommendations

Basic training starts at birth by establishing positive response to being touched; other exercises are unnecessary. Halter and unburdened performance classes usually start at two to three years. Packing classes should start after three years if the llama is already comfortable with performance classes; otherwise delay until the llama’s second season under saddle (four years or later.) Driving classes should start at four years if the llama has already performed well in ground driving classes; otherwise not until the llama’s second season in harness (five years or later.) Pack saddle training should start after their body size is very close to adult, which is typically around three years of age.

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