What Can Alpacas Eat?

BYH Project Manager

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Jul 9, 2012
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Alpacas are domesticated mammals native to the Andes of southern Peru, Ecuador, Western Bolivia, and Northern Chile. It is there that you can still find their wild ancestors, the vicunas. Since over 1000 years ago, alpacas have been domesticated and have played a significant role in the daily lives of the local populations. The majority of alpacas are still found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, but they are also found on homesteads throughout the world.

What Can Alpacas Eat?

The alpaca is an herbivore and only consumes vegetation for food. Their main activity during the day is grazing. Grass and hay should constitute the majority of their diet. The alpaca is a very efficient eater. Since their bodies have evolved in the harsh environment of high-altitude Andes, they are capable of extracting all required nutrients from a small amount of pasture. An alpaca's stomach contains three compartments, making it a ruminator that chews the cud and produces rumen.

In general, you should avoid feeding your alpaca rich grass/hay such as alfalfa unless she is nursing, pregnant, or is having difficulty gaining weight. The best choices are orchard grass & Timothy grass. Feeding and storing hay should be done with care. If hay is kept dry, mold will not grow, which is dangerous if consumed.

What Can Alpacas Eat?

There is a row of teeth at the bottom of the alpaca's mouth and a hard layer of dental flesh at the top. This combination is used to shear the grass instead of pulling it out as some livestock do. There is no better animal to keep the grass trimmed than an alpaca! Alpacas are gentle on pastures and keep the grass short! As the grass is swallowed whole, it is regurgitated as cud which will be chewed with their back molars.

Besides hay & grass, alpacas consume bark, wood, leaves & stems of plants as well.

Alpaca Feed Pellets​

What Can Alpacas Eat?

The nutrients found in the native grasses and plants of alpacas cannot be replicated if you don't live in the South American mountains. Alpaca owners must therefore also provide daily pellets to their animals. Alpaca pellets made commercially are formulated with vitamins A and E, minerals, and grains to make sure alpacas stay healthy.

Loose Minerals​

In addition to pellets, loose minerals can also be stored in a bin. Make this available all year long free-choice. In a sheltered spot near their feed, loose minerals work well for alpacas since they won't use salt licks. Minerals designed specifically for alpacas should be used. Alpacas can get sick from copper found in other salt licks and mineral blocks.

Additional Treats​

What Can Alpacas Eat?

A variety of fruit & vegetables are great treats for alpacas even though they should only be given occasionally. New foods can make them nervous, though. Before they even think about eating it, you'll have to introduce it several times.

Here are a few things to try: shredded apples, shredded carrots, bananas, broccoli stalks, berries, romaine lettuce, watermelon & various herbs. Fruits and vegetables should be chopped up or shredded to prevent choking. Keep in mind that they don't have a lot of teeth to slice with!

Treats that are TOXIC​

Pitted fruits, like avocados and cherries, kale, nightshade plants & fruit (eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes), chocolate and junk food, and any type of animal meat or animal product (e.g. eggs & milk). Also, it is a good idea to check with your local extension office about any toxic native plants.

Alpacas enjoy high-fiber treats made from shredded beet pulp. Horse feed stores usually sell this. To avoid choking hazards, pre-soak dried beet pulp shreds. Warm water can be used to soak it in the winter. It will keep them warm, hydrate them, and give them some extra fiber during a time when pastures are sparse.

Are you raising any Alpacas? Share your experiences with us below.
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