One of the first things to think about is the barn design of sufficient size to house your alpacas and the style to fit their needs. Your geographic location will have an affect on the style of barn to choose. In the northern regions of the U.S. an enclosed type of barn might be used for extreme cold and windy weather, while in the southern region a three sided barn is sufficient with the south side open for the summer breeze. Alpacas are very hardy to the cold but in the heat of the far south they need a source of relief from the sweltering heat. At Walnut Creek Alpacas we use a swamp cooler, inserted in one end of the barn to blow water cooled air through the entire barn. This especially helps the pregnant females to keep cool during the roughest times of our hot Oklahoma summers. We have had some that tend to live in front of the cooler and water bowl through the entire heat of the day, going out in the morning and evening to graze. We call them our barn potatoes.
Dividers and gates in the barn should be thought out to allow transfer from one pen to the other as well as a catch pen centrally located for ease of capturing and or vaccinating your alpacas. This can be done by making the gates swing both ways to accommodate a dual purpose. A suitable size area for housing 10 to 15 alpacas is about 15 X 20 feet. The diagram below shows how we started our business from an existing hay barn with horse stalls on either side. A pie shape design of pens best utilizes the access to all portions of the barn. Always have an adequate amount of pens to separate animals, for one reason or another and to rotate alpacas from one area to another. Even the most fertile pens will get over grazed and need relief to get started again, especially through the winter months.
We use automatic water systems in each stall. These are inexpensive and easy to set up and install. Alpacas can drink an enormous amount of water, at times. When we first started, we were constantly coming out to the barn to find that their buckets were empty or kicked over. It didn't take long to figure out that we needed a different plan for this situation. Be sure to bury your water lines according to your area's frost depth and plan on having an adequate means to keep the water bowls from freezing.
Feeding your alpacas can consist of separate feed buckets for each animal or community feed troughs to feed a group. Some will eat more than others with a community trough so it may be wise to put like appetites together in the same pen, if possible. Be sure to visit pasture and feed page to see what to feed as well as what not to feed.
For more information on alpacas take a look at some of the references we use at alpaca books. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us and we'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Visit Walnut Creek's Alpaca Blog to see what we're up to and for the latest news.
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Visit our alpaca books reference page for more information.
Dave & Karen Galbraith
P.O. Box 820
Talihina, Oklahoma 74571
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