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Feed Requirements

Feed Requirements


Alpaca browse on grass, plants, shrubs and trees rather than grazing the way sheep do. They eat close to the ground and will ignore longer grasses when there is short grass available.

Alpaca require green and juicy matter in their diet as well as about 30% dry matter or roughage and long fibers. Without dry matter their stomachs don’t function properly and they can develop a vitamin B deficiency. Roughage may be available naturally in their paddock or it can be supplemented in the form of various types of hay (normal paddock hay is good) or chaff.

An average alpaca requires about 2kg of feed per day, including any supplementary feed.

Supplementary feed would normally be given because:

  • There may be a lack of certain minerals and vitamins
  • An animal may need to gain condition
  • It provides a daily routine which makes observation of the herd an extremely easy task, and quickly identifies any animal off their food
  • It eases the impact of stress (unpacking, traveling, first mating, getting pregnant, very bad weather, an illness etc) on fibre growth. During a time of stress, nutrients are required for body function and fleece comes last. This can show breakage in the staple of the fiber. With a light “maintenance” diet we can increase a bit when one of the above happens, sustaining the energy flow to all parts of the body, including

Types of Supplementary feed include:

  • Pellets or nuts that are suitable for alpaca. Some brands now call their pellets “alpaca” pellets. Ask your farm centre and other breeders for advice. The green colored pellets are Lucerne based and are high in protein. The light brown pellets are based on maize and soya products and not so high in protein. In the beginning of the summer zinc maybe added to these pellets as a preventative for facial eczema. Pellets with zinc should only be given for maximal 3 months in a row, because zinc prevents take-up of copper. A good copper blood level is necessary for producing red blood cells and fertility, amongst other things.
  • Chaffhage is like silage, it has some molasses in it and extra vitamins. It can be mixed with lucerne chaff and pellets. The latter is also good for alpaca with a low body score and alpaca that are recuperating after
  • Oaten or Lucerne Chaff

Any additional supplements should be introduced slowly to enable the stomach to get used to this type of feed.

Extras: Remember you can kill with kindness!! Discuss with other breeders in your area what they are feeding to their alpaca and be aware the sometimes good quality hay is the only extra that is required to meet your alpaca’s dietary requirements.


Change of pasture and feed, preparation for shows and travel


As mentioned before, alpaca have to be introduced slowly to new feed. This is also true for changing from a very short pasture to a very high-grassed pasture, or changing from one farm with rye grass to a farm with kikuya grass. By getting your alpacas used to a regular intake of dry food, you can assist your alpaca to make the transition.

Before changing them to another paddock or farm, feed them well on dry food so that they can’t “stuff” themselves with rich or unknown green grass. Place them in a very small paddock or fence off an area that they can graze. Alternatively, graze the new area for short periods of time and put the animals back in the pen with dry feed. Observe them closely. If they become lethargic, sitting down and not eating and drinking, they have a change-over problem. The change of feed can allow the wrong bacteria to multiply in the gut producing an enzyme that breaks down Thiamine in the gut. Because the stomach is not producing the correct volume of VitB1 for the brain to function properly, the changes in behavior occur. The treatment is to administer a VitB1 injection to restore the balance. If left untreated the animal will continue on a downward spiral and the brain will become less and less responsive to treatment, as areas of the brain begin to die off.

At shows the alpaca don’t have access to green grass, therefore they should be trained on dry food to avoid any of the above problems.

When first starting on lucerne chaff, alpaca can have a bout of non-solid green bowel motion. It means they had too much of it, and you should reduce the amount to a lower intake.