Alpacas are an increasingly popular farm animal, especially for those who need a “guard dog.” Due to their territorial behavior, alpacas are actually great at keeping predators at bay. Their wool is typically used for fiber, but in some areas, like Peru, the animals are also used for their hide and meat. After their coat quality starts to decline, they are often terminated for their meat. However, this doesn’t always happen in places like the United States, as alpaca meat is not popularly eaten.
These animals are surprisingly long-lived, as are most other large farm animals. In captivity, these animals can live up to 25 years. For everything that you need to know about their lifespan, keep reading.
What’s the Average Lifespan of an Alpaca?
Today, there are no wild alpacas. The modern alpaca has been heavily bred to grow wool fast. It grows wool so fast that a human has to shear them, or they will grow too much wool for their own wellbeing. They are a bit like sheep in this way.
Therefore, these animals can only exist in captivity.
In captivity, these animals can live as long as 25 years. The oldest alpaca was 27, but most do not live this long. That said, where the animals live can have a huge impact on their overall lifespan.
Many different factors can affect an alpaca’s lifespan.
Why Do Some Alpacas Live Longer Than Others?
In the United States, alpacas are often kept to their full lifespan, which is often around 20 to 25 years. They are utilized for their wool and their territorial nature. While their wool declines after 8 to 10 years, that nature always exists, enabling them to protect the land from predators.
However, in Peru, alpaca meat is rather common. The animals are often kept until their wool quality decreases. Then, they are slaughtered for their meat. Few people eat alpaca meat in the U.S., so the animals are often not slaughtered there.
Alpacas need a certain level of care in order to thrive. If they are not provided with this care, they may perish before their natural lifespan is up. Fortunately, alpacas are sturdy creatures, so they don’t need a ton of care.
However, they do need to be sheared regularly. Otherwise, their wool will grow too long and may restrict their movements.
Alpacas don’t require much shelter, but they do need basic shelter from the weather. A barn is fine, but even a three-sided lean-to will work. If they don’t have shelter, bad weather may cause their death.
The worse the weather, the more likely that it will cause harm to the alpacas. Therefore, you should provide the best shelter that you can, though it may not matter if you don’t ever get severe weather in your location.
You’ll also need to provide enough food for your alpaca. Grass and hay are all that is necessary. They require much less food than you might think and often do just fine with good grazing land. You should provide 1 acre of pasture for every three to five alpacas.
In the winter, they will need to be supplemented with grass hay unless you live in an area that has grass all year-round.
Even so, feeding them hay in the winter usually only costs a couple of hundred dollars.
5. Health Care
Most alpacas will need some sort of care eventually. Fortunately, these animals tend to be rather healthy and don’t need much medical care. However, as they get older, they may develop problems. By providing them with high-quality care, you can ensure that they will live to their full lifespan.
Breeding does cause too much of a lifespan difference in alpacas. They generally give birth just fine and don’t need human intervention. Deaths during birth are rare.
However, overbreeding will cause an alpaca to die sooner because it may lead to nutritional problems. For this reason, we highly recommend only breeding an alpaca every year or so.
The 4 Life Stages of an Alpaca
How to Tell Your Alpaca’s Age
One of the few ways to tell an alpaca’s age is by looking at their teeth. Even so, their teeth are only accurate up to the 3-6-year mark. After that, it is nearly impossible to determine their age with any sort of accuracy. Of course, they may lose their teeth at a later age, but this isn’t necessarily tied to a certain age.
Alpacas usually live to be about 20, though there are many factors involved. In Peru, they are often slaughtered by the time that they turn 10 for their meat, which is typically when their wool quality begins to fall. In the U.S., they may be allowed to live much longer because alpaca meat does not have a substantial market there.
Regardless, you’ll need to take good care of your alpaca to ensure that they are healthy and happy. Otherwise, they will not live to their full lifespan.
You will need to provide them with plenty of grass and hay, though they likely need less than you might imagine. The average alpaca eats less than a large dog. They will also need a decent amount of shelter, though they are quite hardy. They should be able to escape from more extreme weather conditions.
Shearing them yearly is also required, as they will overgrow their wool otherwise, which can cause health problems and movement difficulties.
Featured Image Credit: ELG21, Pixabay