Farm Horizons, Aug. 2015

Alpacas as pets

By Starrla Cray

For people who like furry, long-necked creatures and have space to spare, a few alpacas might make perfect pets.

“They’re not expensive to feed, and they’re easy to clean up after,” commented Margaret Long of Little Gidding Farm near Lester Prairie.

Although Long’s primary purpose for raising alpacas is to make yarn, plenty of people enjoy having them around as outdoor companions.

One website,, notes that alpacas are more like cats than dogs, preferring attention on their own terms.

“Some are really friendly; some are not,” Long said.

Alpacas live to be about 20 years old, and begin breeding at age 2.

According to Long, the females are happiest when they are pregnant. On her farm, they give birth once a year for 10 to 12 years.

“Their gestation is ridiculously long,” Long commented, noting that pregnancies have lasted 350 to 369 days.

Birthing takes place in the morning, and is usually done in 30 minutes. Baby alpacas, known as cria, are born weighing 12 to 20 pounds.

When full-grown, alpacas weigh 100 to 175 pounds.

In the summer, Long’s alpacas graze outside in her pasture; in the winter, she feeds them hay. recommends having one acre of land per five animals, so that they’ll each have enough grass.

Fencing is also important, to keep the alpacas safe from predators.

Do alpacas make good pets?

Many people raise alpacas as pets, but they are not for everyone.

Since they are herd animals, alpacas should be kept in groups of three or more. According to, they can be kept with other members of the camelid family, such as llamas or camels.

Alpacas cost about as much to feed as a large dog. They also need shots, toenail trimmings, and shearing.

As for temperament, they are naturally curious and intelligent, and can be trained to be led with a halter.

Alpacas don’t usually like to be touched on the head, but they will allow some handling if a trusting relationship is established.

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