All alpacas deserve to be happy. Loving your ducks and learning to understand their needs will help you identify the things you must do to give them positive experiences and prevent them from feeling worried, upset, frightened and stressed.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Mental Wellbeing. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your alpacas have positive experiences and is receiving the love, understanding and companionship they need for their mental wellbeing.
Alpacas have a natural life span of 15–20 years. Responsible alpaca guardians need to ensure that they’re ready to provide their alpacas with love, care, and understanding throughout their whole lives. Not only do you need to provide for the physical needs, but you need to ensure you’re prepared to meet their mental needs in order to provide them with the very best lives!
Alpaca are social animals and need to live with other compatible alpaca friends.
Alpaca can live with sheep, llamas, goats, and horses, however, they must also have companionship of their own species. Alpacas are happier, calmer, and feel safer in groups. It is recommended that alpacas live in groups of at least five. Bigger groups are often better so that you alpacas have their choice of friends and can avoid others they don’t get along with as well.
Cria, or baby alpacas must be raised around other alpacas. Who better to teach cria how to be alpacas than other alpacas?!
Living with other alpaca companions allows them to express natural behaviours they would not be able to do without other alpacas. Enriching your alpacas’ lives with other herd mates is a great way to ensure your alpaca is happy and healthy!
When new alpacas join the herd – you will want them to be compatible. Think about their age, whether they’re male or female, temperament, size, etc. An adult should always supervise them closely and carefully to ensure this is a smooth process for the new alpaca, as well as your existing herd.
As mentioned before, alpacas are hierarchical animals, which means introductions should be slow and steady. After quarantine, it’s a good idea to switch bedding so they are able to investigate each other’s smell first, then allow your alpacas to meet in adjacent paddocks before moving them into the same environment.
It’s often easier to introduce new alpaca to larger herds and environments so that they have lots of resources to go around and space to get acquainted. Finally, always have a plan in place!
Just like people, sometimes alpacas will have disagreements.
If your alpacas are not getting along, you may see them fighting and humming. Bullying can lead to alpacas pacing along the fence, standing away from the group, and in serious cases, they could have injuries.
It’s important to address this issue right away – especially before it leads to injury. Aggression may be due to there not being enough resources.
If your alpaca is being bullied, they should be removed from the herd, making sure they can still see the other alpacas, until a safer social situation can be established. Be sure they are checked for illness and/or injury. If possible, move them to another herd and environment where they will not be bullied. Always ask your alpaca veterinarian for more advice if your herd is fighting.
Calm, quiet, and gentle handling is key. You should always use a low, gentle voice around your alpacas and never raise your voice to yell at them. You do not want to scare your alpacas!
It will also help if you have some of your alpacas’ favourite food with you when you are trying to get them used to you and to areas where you want them to go – for example, yards where you might need to bring them to receive veterinary attention.
Did you know that alpacas can even be trained to be led on a halter? With positive reward based training and gentle handling, your alpaca will learn to trust you. The earlier and younger an alpaca is when you start to handle them, the easier it will be.
Keep in mind that some alpaca can be stressed, afraid, or get separation anxiety when being handled – this is especially true for cria and their mums. If possible, it’s best for your alpacas’ welfare to ensure they’re always handled positively, in a safe area, and kept with their companions or can see them during shearing, nail trimming, health-checks, etc.