How to Feed Alpacas Based on Life Stage Needs
How to Feed Alpacas Based on Life Stage Needs

photo courtesy of Island Alpaca Co of Martha's Vineyard

A balanced diet is important no matter what life stage or goals you have for your alpacas — whether they’re producing fleece for sale, competing at shows, or simply providing companionship for your family.

“Good nutrition is essential for alpaca health and quality fiber production,” says Mazuri Ph.D. and alpaca researcher Dr. Jen Parsons.

Growing and Adult Alpacas

For growing crias and adult alpacas that are not raised for fiber production, choose a multipurpose feed with lower protein levels and the right balance of nutrients to help with key growth and developmental stages, Parsons advises.

“Offer high-quality, free-choice hay or pasture with their feed,” Parsons says. “Always analyze your hay or pasture to determine possible nutrient deficiencies. If it’s low in certain minerals or vitamins, you can choose a feed with added amounts of that nutrient.”

Senior Alpacas

“Many alpaca farms have that one older female alpaca that makes good fiber, helps keep the herd calm, but tends to lose weight and get skinnier each winter,” Parsons says.

If you have senior alpacas or alpacas in need of weight management, look for a great-tasting feed with higher energy levels. Is your farm located in a northern climate? All alpacas, regardless of age, may require extra energy to help them deal with cold temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Another feeding concern for older animals is choking or regurgitation. Choose crumbles or smaller-sized pellets that are easier for older animals to chew.

Breeding and Birthing Season

For growing and reproducing alpacas, choose a feed that provides higher energy, nutrients to support reproduction function, and fiber to aid digestive health, Parsons said. Look for feed labels with added selenium and vitamin E — antioxidants that support reproduction and other essential body systems. Calcium and phosphorous also are needed to support successful breeding.

“Gestating and lactating female alpacas expend a lot of energy feeding their cria, so choose a nutrient-dense feed to keep their energy levels strong,” Parsons says.

Fleece-Producing and Show Animals

If you’re raising alpacas for fiber production or show competitions, choose a premium feed designed for fiber-producing animals. “Even if you start with great genetics, high-quality fleece cannot flourish without excellent nutrition,” Parsons says.

The gestation length of an alpaca is about 11 months. While a cria is developing, fibers appear in follicles between 200 and 210 days of gestation. Feeding a premium feed in the final 120 days of pregnancy will maximize genetic potential and fleece quality, advises Parsons.

Visit Mazuri Animal Nutrition if you have a question about alpaca feed or nutrition needs. You can also talk with an expert!

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