Hands-On Tips for Raising
Alpacas require a number of
regular shots to maintain their health from
Clostridium, D?, and Tetanus (CD&T), rabies,
to worming medications. Of these, only rabies
is given IM (intra-muscular). The rest are given
just below the skin or sub cue (sub-cutaneous).
For alpacas we give IM shots in the rump area.
Sub-cue shots are given by lifting a flap of
loose skin near the front leg and inserting
the needle just below the skin to inject the
medicine, avoiding any muscle penetration. It
is a good idea on sub-cue shots to pull back
on the plunger a bit to make sure there is no
blood. This would indicate that a vein has been
pierced, and the vaccine must not be delivered
without trying again.
Most alpacas require two adults
to trim their hoofs. We use wire snips (with
the pointed edge ground down) available from
alpaca supply companies. For animals born on
our farm, training the animals to cooperate
during hoof trimming begins at an early age.
We touch the crias legs and hoofs as we
handle them for daily weighing to make this
contact less traumatic later. Initial hoof trims
on crias are most easily done by lifting them
off the ground and holding the cria with arms
wrapped around the front and back legs so that
the nails can be easily trimmed. For older alpacas
one person (the handler) will immobilize the
alpaca while the person trimming the hoofs (trimmer)
slides their hands down the alpacas leg,
and after the weight is shifted off that leg
folds it back under (front legs) or behind (back
legs) the body. Allow the alpaca to lean on
the handler and the trimmer to maintain balance.
Many alpacas require a knee placed under their
chest or abdomen to prevent them from cushing.
More skittish alpacas may need to lean against
a wall opposite the handler to prevent them
from spinning away. Learning how much to trim
and how to do it should be done in person, so
make sure you learn from the farm you are buying
from before bringing your animals home.
The techniques we use for
shearing are geared toward the safety and comfort
of the animal, and towards maximizing the useable
fleece harvested. We adapted a system of soft
nylon ropes used by other farms to restrain
the animal by looping a rope around each leg
and slowly stretching them as they lie down
to restrict their movement. This method, used
by Australian sheep farmers, keeps the animals
from moving at an inopportune time, so that
they can have their fleece removed evenly with
less chance of getting cut by the electric shears.
Our method involves laying out a large bed of
hay stacked two bales high with a tarp over
it for easy cleanup. The handlers lead the animal
next to the bales of hay, reach around them
to immobilize their legs, and then gently tip
them over on their sides.
This method has a couple of
advantages: the alpaca is neither lifted up
onto the hay nor dropped down to the ground
avoiding injuries to handler and alpaca alike.
Next, the shearer and handlers are able to work
at near waist height, bending much less, or
can kneel on the softer bales of hay rather
than the barn floor. One person holds the head
and neck and often another person holds the
back legs. The shearer generally starts at the
center of the alpacas belly and shears
around the blanket towards the backbone before
the handlers rotate the animal to the other
side. The legs and neck can be worked in at
any time. The shearer shears as close to the
skin as is reasonable during the first cut,
and after the usable blanket is gathered up,
trims the remaining fiber from the legs and
makes any second cuts to even out the fleece.