Llama and alpaca production practices are similar to those for sheep. Water needs to be accessible at all times. Llamas and alpacas are adaptive feeders, eating grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees.
They can be kept on a variety of pastures and hay. Approximately three to five llamas or five to 10 alpacas can be grazed per acre, depending on the quality of the pasture. A bale of hay will generally feed an adult llama for a week. Because of the animals’ high feed conversion, hays with high protein, like alfalfa, are not recommended because the animals can easily become overweight. Rotational grazing of llamas and alpacas can help utilize the pasture to a greater extent.
Using pastures to meet most of the nutritional needs of the animals will enhance profitability, because pasture is usually less costly than purchasing supplemental grains and hay.
Llama and alpaca owners need to be concerned about poisonous plants in their pasture or hay. Some plants can make the animals sick, and others can kill them. Many state Extension offices have regionally specific publications that can help animal owners identify and manage poisonous plants.
During periods of stress, animals should receive supplemental feeds, such as small alfalfa pellets, oats, or blended feed pellets specially formulated for llamas and alpacas. Be careful if feeding straight pelleted feed because llamas frequently choke on the pellets. If pellets are fed, they should be mixed with a coarse feed or spread out in a large pan. The producer may also put smooth rocks in the pan to keep the llamas from gobbling the pellets too fast (McGrath, 1996). If a rich diet is continuously fed, llamas and alpacas will become fat, causing reproduction problems varying from poor conception to poor milk production. Free access to salt, minerals (with selenium in a selenium-deficient area), and clean water is essential.
• Cereal grains may be supplemented as a high-energy feed in certain circumstances (e.g., late gestation, early lactation, weaning, work, etc.), though camelids generally thrive with minimal or no grain
• Grass hays are better than alfalfa hays; alfalfa can result in hypercalcium
• Relatively low requirement: diet of 8 to10 percent crude protein for maintenance, 12 to 14 percent for growing stages, late gestation, or early lactation (RMLA)
• Crias have a higher requirement of roughly 16 percent
• Note that, in general, alfalfa hay contains 20 percent crude protein and grass hay contains 12 percent
• Properly cured hay normally has suffi cient A and K vitamins
• Camelids generally get enough sunlight for Vitamin D; however, in northern latitudes or during winter months they may not acquire suffi cient sunlight, subsequently developing rickets
• Vitamin-mineral mixes will cover defi ciencies
• Vitamin E is quickly lost in cured forages and should be supplemented
• Care is required when supplementing Vitamin A, as it is cumulative
• Selenium, zinc, magnesium, cobalt, and copper are signifi cant dietary factors
• Trace minerals may be added to a salt container
• The copper (Cu) to molybdenum (Mo) ration should be 6:10.1
• Sulfur levels in excess of 2000 mg/kg can result in a copper defi ciency
• High levels of zinc can suppress copper absorption
• Knowing your land and water supply and which minerals are defi cient or excessive is critical
• It is imperative to consult a local veterinarian or county agent