As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Alpacas sure are eccentric creatures. These mammals of the camelid family are often confused with the Ilama because they do look quite similar due to their long necks. These two animals are also closely related. Alpacas are however much smaller than llamas and these animals are bred for their fiber and wool instead and not for labor purposes. In this article we are going to explore what do alpacas eat?
These creatures are not just interesting because of their strange looks. They are quite fascinating to keep since they communicate through body language. One of their most renowned responses is spitting. An alpaca will spit when they feel threatened or when they want to show dominance.
What do Alpacas Eat?
Alpacas are herbivores which mean their bodies only require plants and they consume no meat. The alpaca consumes food by chewing and mixing the food with cud and saliva which helps process these foods. These animals are also pseudo-ruminants. This means they have a single stomach that is divided into three compartments.
Their teeth are ideal for grazing. They do have bottom front teeth with a hard gum at the top that helps the alpaca snap off grass with ease. In the back of their mouths, they have molars that can crush grain, grass, and hay.
Alpacas mainly consume grass or hay but the nutritional intake of natural plant life changes with the seasons. Many farmers choose to add supplemental protein foods to keep their animals healthy and to maintain high energy levels.
These beautiful animals can be kept on natural ranches in open feeding grounds. They are social creatures that love to graze as a herd. They can be kept as domestic animals although you need to ensure that their domestic alpacas get sufficient nutrition by supplying the right types of foods.
Farmers also need to pay close attention to the alpacas feeding grounds. Alpacas will chew on anything including bottles and plastic which can cause harm to the alpaca’s digestive tract. Feeding grounds should be kept clean and pollution-free to keep these animals safe.
Here is a quick look at the most common food types your alpaca will love to devour;
Pasture grass is one of the alpaca’s main food sources. This natural food source is packed with lots of grain and protein. Pasture grass loses grain and protein over months. The protein intake is highest in spring when plants are still new. The protein levels of pasture grass reduce from 20% in spring to a mere 6% in summer and become much lower in winter time.
Hay is dried food sources such as grass, legumes or other plants. These foods are harvested in summer time, dried and stored away for winter time so livestock will have something to consume in winter months. Hay is also provided to alpacas during dry seasons when pasture grass levels are low and this is one of the main food sources for domestic alpacas.
Silage is a type of animal feed that is made of green foliage crops. The green feed is preserved by acidification and fermentation. These processes ensure that the nutritional value of these green plants stay trapped within the foods even as they dry out. Silage can be made from a great many field crop types.
It is important to add silage foods to your alpaca’s diet during the winter months. These foods contain higher percentages of vitamins and protein that livestock need to maintain good body weight and high energy levels in times where pasture grass has reduced in nutrition.
Alfalfa is a flowering plant that is often given to livestock as an added feed. Farmers usually offer alfalfa during the winter months in addition to hay. It is however important to offer alfalfa in limited quantities as the high levels of protein found in this feed can be too much for your alpaca and can cause problems.
Alpacas are notorious chewers and will nibble at anything they find. This includes variable plant species such as leaves, weeds, wood, and bark that occur naturally on pastures. They will also chew on non-food objects such as plastic bottles, bags, bark and other items out of curiosity.
Alpaca mixes and feeds are often manufactured with various supplements to help keep your animals healthy. Farmers can also purchase mineral mixes that can be added to feed and drink . It is advisable to consult with your local vet before offering mixed supplements.
Like all other mammals, alpacas need lots of fresh water to drink daily. Alpacas are often kept for their wool and these thick coats can feel very hot. Plenty of water is especially important in warm areas.
Some plants found on pastures can be poisonous to the alpaca. These can include bracken fern, fireweed, oleander, azaleas and more. Your alpaca isn’t too likely to consume these poisonous foods when there is fresh grass to graze on. It can be good to remove these poisonous plants if growths get out of hand or during drought season.
How to Feed Alpacas
Alpacas are some of the easiest animals to feed. They don’t require encouragement to consume foods. If they are hungry, they will eat whether it is natural green pasture grass, hay bales or odd objects they can chew. These animals do however require different food types at different stages of their lives or for different seasons.
It is always best to avoid hand-feeding these animals. Male alpacas can be aggressive and females can be protective over babies. As cute as alpaca are, they can still strike out to hurt you when they feel threatened. The safest way to feed alpaca is by adding their food to a crib.
How much do alpacas eat?
These beautiful creatures have quite an appetite. Typically, your alpaca will consume 1.5% of the animal’s body weight in hay or fresh pasture per day. This means a single 60 lb bale of hay will feed about 20 alpacas per day. You can keep 6 – 8 alpacas on 1 acre of pasture.
When feeding your alpaca, it is also important to consider the nutritional value of the food. Hay doesn’t contain as much protein and vitamins as green pastures. Alpacas that are kept on hay should be supplied with protein-rich foods such as silage or alfalfa every day to keep their digestive systems functioning. It is however important not to provide too much since high protein levels can be harmful.
How do wild alpacas feed?
Herds of alpaca are very easy to feed. The animal can simply be kept on the pasture and they will consume as much food as they need daily. These are social creatures that fair best in larger groups. Single alpacas on pastures can feel stressed which could affect their food consumption and health.
These animals have short tongues and they usually love to nip the tips off the grass and other plants. They usually don’t rip an entire plant or stem from the ground. Even though alpacas will graze evenly and prefer the tops of the grass, farmers still prefer to divide pastures. This allows them to move the herd to different areas to allow vegetation to rest and regrow.
In the wintertime, the nutritional and protein value of pasture grass will reduce. If there is too little feed left on the field, you can feed your alpaca on hay. Farmers often also supplement their alpaca during these dry seasons with mineral-rich food sources such as silage.
Alpaca is not shy to consume provided foods at all. You can simply lay out a cut bale of hay in feed cribs. If your herd is hungry, they will come and consume foods without encouragement.
How do sick alpacas feed?
Sickly alpaca may need encouragement to eat. It is best to keep animals that are in recovery in a separate enclosure and to feed these animals on their favorite foods to encourage eating and to boost their bodies.
How do domestic alpacas feed?
Domestic alpacas often don’t have as much pasture grass to consume. These alpaca also need to be fed hay bales and silage. To feed your domestic alpaca you can simply place the food in a crib. If your alpaca is healthy and happy, he or she will consume the food without encouragement.
What do baby alpacas eat?
Baby alpacas are called a cria. Female alpaca is called hembra and males are called macho. New-born cria should feed milk by the time it is 4 hours old or it could be in danger. The best food for a cria is his mother’s milk. If a cria cannot be offered natural milk, they should get a bottle of formula as soon as possible. Plasma is also a good product to feed orphaned newborn crias.
Newborn cria can lose around 100g of weight on the first day of their lives. If they don’t feed soon enough they can lose up to 250g. Weight loss beyond 250g is dangerous for baby cria.
These cute little babies will start to nibble on grass from as young as 2 days old and certainly within the first 2 weeks of life. If you are feeding the mother, the little one may take a taste at supplementary foods such as alpaca nuts and hay.
From three months on, your cria’s food consumption will increase and milk will no longer be a necessity to survive although many alpaca do continue to suckle for many months on.
What is an alpaca’s favorite food?
Grass and fodder is an alpacas main food source. They love these natural grassy greens and are not shy to nibble at other food sources at all. Pasture grass is one of the healthiest food sources to offer your alpaca and they love it.
Domestic alpaca can easily grow fond of human foods such as bread, corn, and cookies and they might favor these foods over natural green grass. It is however not good to feed your animals on human foods. These foods contain lots of ingredients that might be toxic and the added sugars and spices in these foods certainly are not healthy for any animal.
Do people eat alpacas?
Alpacas are not primarily bred for their meat but people can consume these animals. They have red-meat and fall in the livestock category. Alpaca meat is slowly becoming more popular on the market. A mature alpaca can provide 60 pounds of meat which is about the same amount you get from a deer. Farmers mostly avoid keeping alpaca for meat because raising them for meat only isn’t cost-effective.
Why Do Farmers Keep Alpacas?
These cute and wooly creatures are mostly kept for their fiber. They grow soft fleece and each animal will offer 5 – 10 lb of fleece per year. Alpaca fleece can be turned into a great variety of products such as yarn, clothes, blankets and much more.
Alpaca fleece does look a lot like sheep wool but the product is much different. Alpaca fleece is softer, lighter, warmer and much more durable than sheep wool. Baby alpaca fleece is often harvested to manufacture baby products such as blankets and clothing because it is considered a hypo-allergenic product and is much safer for little ones with sensitivities.
What Are The Predators Of The Alpaca?
Now that you know what alpacas eat you may wonder what the natural predators of these creatures are. Humans are some of the biggest predators on earth and we do consume alpaca meat. This probably makes us the biggest predator. These animals are also food to other carnivores like mountain lions, coyotes, bears and more.
The alpaca is quite vulnerable to predators because its long neck makes it easy to spot on grasslands and the animal doesn’t have many defensive characteristics such as hooves, horns or teeth that can be used for self-defense.
Alpacas are wonderful animals to keep. As livestock, they offer lots of products that can be used or consumed. And as pets, these beautiful creatures can be very interesting to live with.
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.