Eighty percent (80%) of the alpaca and llama diet must be quality grass and / or hay. Alpaca and llama diets vary in different regions of North America, based on grasses, available supplements, and breeder preferences. The remaining twenty percent (20%) of the diet should be supplemental granules, minerals, and probiotics.
The camelid stomach
Alpacas and llamas have three stomachs. The first stomach is a large “fermentation vat” for all the hay and grass they eat. The second and third stomach extract the nutritional components of your food intake. So to keep your alpacas and llamas healthy, you need to keep the first stomach, the fermentation vat, in constant good working order.
Pasture Grass and Hay
Your grass or hay should contain about twelve percent (12%) protein. You can contact your county agricultural extension office for information on how and where to test your grass. Typically, a grass or hay test will cost between $ 15 and $ 20. If you are buying hay, get “horse quality” hay. You will need about a 70 pound square bale per animal per week, plus another ten percent (10%) of hay for contingencies. For example, if some females come to your ranch to breed. If you need to hay feed 6 adult alpacas for 16 weeks, you would buy (6 * 16) = 96 plus 0.10 * 96 = 9.6, or 106 bales.
The hay you buy should be mold-free. Do no Let the hayrunner unload the hay from his truck until he has performed a “smell test” on several bales. It should have a sweet grassy smell. If it smells like mold, it’s moldy. So don’t buy weeds.
Regular meal hours
It doesn’t matter what time of day you feed your alpacas supplemental pellets, as long as you feed them at the same time each day. This helps keep your stomach first in good working order.
The alpaca stomach generates a lot of heat. Therefore, you can change the feeding schedule to better suit the season of the year. For example, if you live in a very hot summer climate, you can feed them at night, rather than during the day, to avoid generating unnecessary body heat during the hot part of the afternoon.
Supplementary pellet feeding
Many alpaca owners are feeding too many supplemental granules. There is a relationship between the amount an alpaca eats and the production of fine or coarse fiber. Superfeeds alpacas and produces coarse fiber! While we don’t want to starve our animals to produce fine fiber, the goal is to feed them efficiently.
There are different brands of quality alpaca pellets, which generally come in 40 to 50 lbs. pants. A pellet with approximately fifteen percent (15%) protein is recommended. Each bag has a label at the end that indicates the nutritional values, the amount of granules for males, non-pregnant females, pregnant and lactating females and calves (babies). Generally, pregnant and lactating females should receive 1 pound of granules per day. Males and non-pregnant females should consume 1/2 pound per day, and pups should receive 1/4 to 1/3 pound of pellets per day.
In winter, when there is no grass available and the alpacas eat hay, I increase the amount of pellets per day by about fifteen percent. In the summer, in my area (East Texas), I greatly reduced my daily pellet intake because the animals have access to a large amount of grass. In addition, it is so hot that the animals do not expose themselves to the sun to eat. Rather, they sit before the fans all day. So they don’t move around a lot and therefore don’t burn as many calories. They need less food in the summer.
I also mix alfalfa with my pellets for certain animals, at certain times. However, you should be careful about overfeeding alfalfa. Too much alfalfa interferes with the balance of available calcium and potassium in an animal’s body. I usually feed 5 parts granules to 1 part alfalfa for my pregnant females. Males only get alfalfa in winter.
Other food supplements include minerals and probiotics. Alpacas and llamas need selenium and other minerals that are not available in some North American soils. Minerals come in the form of loose granules and compressed blocks. I have found that mineral blocks are significantly less expensive than loose granules. When you buy mineral block, please do no buy blocks of salt. You probably won’t find mineral blocks made specifically for alpacas and llamas. So buy the equine or goat mineral blocks.
Probiotics are another important food supplement. Probiotics have microorganisms that help the alpaca’s first stomach break down the tough cellulose in hay and grass. There are two categories of probiotics: those based on lactobacillus and those based on brewing years. Both are excellent. If you see that an alpaca has diarrhea, probiotics help bring its digestive system back to normal. You can spray about a teaspoon of probiotics on the granules daily for several days. I always offer probiotics to my alpacas and llamas after administering oral deworming medications.