Alpacas as Sheepherders.
With the help of Alpacas, I reduced my losses through predators from 300 lambs a year to about 80. This is basically a 70% decrease in losses due to vermin.
Choosing an Alpaca:
The Alpaca must be large and weigh a minimum of 65kg. He must look aggressive and be. It must be of the Hyaca type and not of a smaller Suri type.
If the words “cute” and beautiful pet are linked to the alpaca then the animal is too small.
The Alpaca must be at least 18 months old and if it is male, castrated because they can hurt sheep’s ewes and want to cover ewes.
Do not get Alpacas with blue eyes because they can be deaf or have eye problems.
In his natural habitat he is the prey of “mountain lions”. He works well against the smaller predators like Jackal and Caracal. He will chase birds like ravens and sea gulls and other birds of prey. [Last week, I saw a falcon chased from a pigeon by Alpacas.] With jackal hunting as a family I recommend Alpacas combined with donkeys. [The donkey chases the fox and Alpacas stays with the herd to prevent the sheep from being surrounded]. I could completely stop my losses with two donkeys and two Alpacas in a camp that was only 200m away from the active breeding gates of jackal.
Buying an untrained Alpaca requires a lot of time and energy to make the Alpaca part of a sheep’s herd. Making or breaking the whole exercise is how well the Alpaca fits the herd. He must think it’s his herd and he must protect his herd to the death. You can pay double for a trained Alpaca up to R10,000. At that price, he only has to rescue one lamb per year to pay for himself over his average life of 15 years. My working Alpaca means more than 15 lambs rescued for every Alpaca per year.
He can kick, bite and spit as he wishes.
From my experience of untrained Alpaca, 30% are excellent, 30% are average and the rest is not worthwhile. For a beginner, buy a trained Alpaca until the farmer is use to them.
The Alpacas must be handled just like a sheep. Dosages and inoculations. He must be shaved in the summer with a long comb to prevent sunstroke and his fringe should not be shaved.
Once a month, watch the herd at night to see the Alpacas walking with the sheep. Any time when Alpacas does not run with sheep, they must be kraaled with sheep to see that the bonding is correct.
Whem losses occur at a herd I’ll first look at the “bonding”. After the second night I put “cellmax alarm” on the herd and manage the herd as the alarm goes off and performs night shooting. When you arrive at the kraal, look in the direction the Alpaca is looking and your problem will be 9 out of 10 times in that direction.
Do not make your sheep’s herd bigger than 200, the herd becomes just too big for the Alpaca. If there are many bushes in the camp, and the herd is full and breaks into small groups, the effectiveness of the Alpaca greatly decreases. On a herd of 150, I want to have two Alpaca. Too many Alpacas and they move away from the herd.
I also had a few cases where lambs were separated from the ewes, and then the Alpaca would steer the lamb to the herd or stand over the lamb and call until the ewe fetch the lamb. We will be doing trials with Alpacas on a farm without any predator problem in small lambing camps (from March next year). My personal feeling is that more lambs will being raised where Alpacas are present. Alpacas have incredible protection instincts.
In Australia there are now 500,000 Alpacas and 5,000 are sold annually at auctions. Many of them are sold for predator control especially against “dingoes” and “feral” dogs.