Like all livestock, alpacas require care and
husbandry to prosper. But alpaca are easy to care for and place less stress
on a farm and its environment than do most other livestock.
Alpacas were close to annihilation after the Spanish conquest of the Incas. They survived
because of their importance to the Indian people and to the animals' ability to
tolerate harsh climatic conditions. Today, alpaca farming is concentrated in the
Altiplano--the high altitude regions of Southern Peru, Bolivia and Chile where
conditions are often harsh and food is sparse. Alpacas not only battle a harsh
climate--burning sun by day, freezing conditions at night, low oxygen throughout
--but also receive few of the benefits of modern animal husbandry. Yet, they survive, although in relatively small numbers. In their homeland of South America, Peru has approximately 2.5 million, Bolivia around 500,000 and there are only some 50,000 in Chile and Argentina combined.
In the United States, where conditions are typically easier on the animals,
our concerns are for their general health and well being and in enhancing their
yield across a greater number of years. Because of their origins, they are easy
keepers and don't require extraordinary care or facilities. But conscientious
breeders need to provide adequate shelter, food and water and stay abreast of
the latest developments and research in alpaca health, genetics, and husbandry.
You and Your Veterinarian
Your veterinarian is an invaluable partner in providing for the health,
well-being and productivity of your alpacas. Know when veterinarian care is
required, know what is an emergency. Be prepared for your veterinarians visit;
have the alpaca stalled, have necessary tack ready. If you are unsure of any
situation contact your veterinarian. Do NOT self-diagnose. If you are
uncomfortable with any procedures, have your veterinarian show you how.
The information in this section is meant to highlight key issues in
alpaca care, but should not be used in isolation and without consulting your vet
who knows you, your animals, and your local conditions.