- On April 7, 2014
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Owning alpacas can bring lots of fun, entertainment, and financial benefits to our lives, if we start off right with our new animals. But three common mistakes can spell disaster for inexperienced alpaca owners, if you don’t see them coming. The key is to settle these vital issues at your farm or ranch before ever bringing your new charges home:
1) Don’t buy the first bargain priced animal you see, from someone who won’t be there for you after the sale.
2) Don’t wait to line up an experienced shearer until shearing time, or put off finding a qualified veterinarian who will treat camelids. Get these guys on speed dial before you need them.
3) Don’t assume animals that graze in a pasture all day need no care.
What is the Right Animal?
As the price of fiber- and pet-quality animals continues to come down, the temptation for new folks is to buy the first cute and cuddly alpacas they lock eyes with, without regard to the animal’s strengths or weaknesses.
We’ve all been there – you’re scrolling through Craig’s List, or wandering through a flea market, and you stop suddenly at the sight of a darling young animal with huge, liquid eyes and fluffy fleece. The price is so good that it’s tempting to set aside the fact that quality animals seldom come from these kinds of sources.
Do you know good fiber when you see it? Do you know a healthy animal when you see it? Do you know how to spot a shady dealer when he or she approaches you with a deal too good to be true? Reputable sellers will offer mentorship after the sale, and will see that you have all the resources you need to start off right.
Make a list of the qualities you expect from animals you buy, as determined by your ranch goals, to help you stay away from risky impulse purchases.
Do you homework. Take advantage of all the mentorship opportunities you can find around you—in person and on-line. Learn about fiber, if that is your goal for your ranch. Learn about confirmation if you plan to show your animals. Fit your herd to your end goals and desires, and avoid winding up with a pasture full of animals you later decide you really need to unload, like so many other folks.
I’ll Find a Shearer Later – Surely My Cat Vet is Good Enough
Two professionals you cannot do without are a specially trained shearer, who knows how to safely restrain and clip alpacas, and a camelid veterinarian, who knows about the special needs and maladies of alpacas and llamas.
Alpacas must be sheared annually in order to survive North American summer temperatures. This also preserves the actual “product” of the alpaca – the fiber.
Not all shearers are created equal – sheep shearing is very different from alpaca shearing. Get lots of recommendations from other alpaca owners in your area. Team up with ranches near you to bring in the best shearer you can. The best shearers out there don’t charge any more than the mediocre ones.
In the same way, not all vets will treat alpacas. Though the population continues to grow across the US, not all vets have jumped on board. A good vet with an open mind might be willing to learn new things – help them by providing them with camelid medical texts (costly up front, but priceless down the road) and help them open up a whole new clientele for themselves. You’ll be the winner.
What? Alpacas Need a Barn?
When folks drive in the country and see llamas and alpacas living with cattle or donkeys out in the open, they may jump to the conclusion that the alpacas don’t need any more care than a herd of cattle on range. Especially in warm climates, this is just not the case. Alpacas originate in the lofty altitudes of the Andes mountains. They can survive cold weather with a good wind break for protection, but hot weather requires scrupulous care and regular attention – reliable water, shade and nutrition. Heat stroke can be deadly, especially to compromised animals like pregnant females, cria (babies) or the aged.
Bottom line: be prepared. Carefully select the right animals, have your professional relationships in place, and prepare your facilities. You’ll be perfectly positioned for a great alpaca experience!
If you’re interested in owning your own fiber alpacas, please take a look at our sales page, and let us show you how reputable owners get enthusiastic newbies off to a fantastic start! We recommend that you call or e-mail us (cindy at jacobsreward dot com) to set up an appointment to see the boys in person.