Llamas and alpacas, both members of the camel family, have been used for transportation and fleece for several thousand years. Though some people get these two animals confused, several notable differences exist between the species including their size, type of fleece, facial shape, and disposition. Of the two, llamas are larger, standing at around 47 inches at the shoulder and weighing about 250 pounds. Alpacas, on the other hand, stand at approximately 35 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 130 pounds.
While llamas sometimes get a bad reputation for spitting, kicking, or being sullen, well-treated llamas are typically friendly, social, and calm. Compared to llamas, alpacas are a much more timid animal.
Pasture, Fencing, and Shelter
Like other livestock, llamas and alpacas do best when kept on ample pasture. If sufficient grass isn’t available, they will need grass hay. As with horses, make all feeding transitions slowly (including with different types of hay). Abrupt changes can create problems or even kill a llama or alpaca.
Good fencing is a must with both species, but for different reasons. Llamas may test fencing limits by jumping, so they do best with at least a five foot fence. Alpacas aren’t typically jumpers but need to be kept safe from predators, so a woven wire or no-climb fence is best to use with them.
Both llamas and alpacas should be kept with at least one other animal of the same species for their mental and emotional well-being. However, it’s safest to keep the sexes separate.
Though llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, they still need shelter—especially during hot weather. Inside the shelter, pea gravel, packed dirt, or clay make the best type of flooring since wood shavings or sand can get caught in their fleece.
As far as vitamin/mineral supplementation, llamas’ and alpacas’ needs are similar to other types of livestock. Our Icelandic Organic Kelp is always a good option for a multi-vitamin/mineral. Supplemental concentrates are usually only needed for growing, pregnant, or lactating animals, for those performing hard physical work, or for some elderly animals.
Since llamas and alpacas are both prone to internal parasites (especially the meningeal worm, carried by white-tail deer), deworming is necessary. Our Omni-Wormguard Plus is a great natural alternative to chemical dewormers. We also carry WormGuard Plus Super Concentrate which includes probiotics to promote healthy digestion and grape seed extract to support a strong immune system.
Salt should be made available free choice at all times.
Additional Llama and Alpaca Care
Both llamas and alpacas will need routine toenail trimming and occasional dental check-ups as well. A horse dentist can often work on your llama or alpaca’s teeth.
Finally, while classic llamas do not produce much fleece, wooly llamas need shearing every year or two. Alpacas, on the other hand, produce thick fleece and need annual spring shearing.