Raising alpacas for profit or for fun can be challenging. The key is to learn all you can about alpacas and their proper care.
If you are considering raising alpacas, you will have to learn how to do so. It could be quite a challenge if you have no experience in livestock yet and the most efficient way to learn is to visit other farms. It would also be a good idea if you could purchase your alpacas from someone who would be willing to let you visit their farm so you could practice hands-on with their alpacas before you bring yours home. You can help herd and catch alpacas; at the same time you can ask questions and participate in training and haltering them.
Caring for Alpacas
In raising alpacas, expect that one of the most challenging aspects is assessing their health. They have very high tolerance so you might not see any hints of sickness until such time that they are already in danger. Given that you are new to the industry, you might also have difficulty differentiating what is normal and abnormal behavior. You might even think that they are dead the first time you will see them sunning because they really look like it when they do. Just look for signs of life even from afar like twitching ears or the rising of their bellies when they inhale and that should be enough to make sure that they are still alive.
Alpacas that are in good health are alert, moving or cushing sometimes, with eyes that are clear, ears that are up and are standing in good posture. They should be hanging around with their herd, getting food, visiting the dung pile and should show signs of alertness such as when a sudden gust of wind blows a piece of paper towards them. Generally, they should be doing alpaca business just like the other members of the herd.
Some of the unusual behavior or signs which might mean that your alpaca is sick aside from the obvious bleeding or broken bones are walking strangely, trembling, holding head low, standing hunched, limping, excessive rolling, laying on their side kicking, being by themselves most of the time, ignoring the herd, unable to cush, not eating or grazing the grass, shallow breathing and frequently shaking their head. These are only some of the subtle indications that your alpaca is sick and if you do see such signs, it would be best to call the veterinarian right away so they will be given the correct medical attention.
Some of the general information that you should know are things such as the breeding of female alpacas that begin at 18 months of age and raising them is generally like raising llama. Pay attention to the birth of a cria and make sure that both the mother and the child are healthy by watching them closely during the first day. Make sure that nursing is successful and observe if the baby is making attempts to stand up and walk. In case that the mother is refusing to nurse the baby, you can substitute by giving milk from a goat, cow or llama.