Alpaca Nutrition New                                                                      August 2007

Feeding the obese alpaca

Obese females have as many or more associated reproductive problems as those who are underweight. Alpacas become obese for several reasons including:

  • Slow metabolism

  • Mismanagement

  • Aggressive eating/alpha status

  • Genetic disorders

Most of these causes can be remedied, either by altering the diet or herd reorganization. There is a running debate amongst alpaca producers regarding what part of the diet makes alpacas fat. The digestible energy (DE) in a kilogram of Brome hay is 2.20 Kcals. The DE for a similar amount of corn is 3.30 kcal. Although the feeding of corn is also another hotly debated item, the value is equally high no matter which grain is evaluated. Grains in general are concentrated energy. Pasture and hay are either high in water or fibrous material, respectively. An alpaca must eat a much larger quantity of either to get the same calories found in a pound of corn. In addition, hay and pasture take longer to ferment and release the energy slowly. This maintains better appetite control than the quick burst they get from supplement.

Corn is an acceptable feed ingredient for alpacas, its only danger is that too much can make them fat. This grain is sometimes associated with ulcers. Ulcers are usually caused by stress. They can also be caused by either too much corn fed at once, or if it is too finely ground. Grains in general are readily fermented, with a concommitant burst of volatile fatty acids (VFA). These acids are converted to energy by the liver.

Too much of anything can lead to obesity. The key is to start by reducing or eliminating supplement. Hay or pasture can be limited as well if supplement reduction is not effective. Minerals should be available free choice. A gradual step-down in supplement and hay or pasture is recommended to avoid stress. Some ambitious owners have instituted daily exercise to promote weight loss, in addition to dietary changes.

Sometimes alpaca condition can be controlled by feeding lower quality hay. Lower protein hays/pasture such as Brome and Coastal Bermuda Grass are lower in DE than legume hays such as alfalfa. Lower protein hay is generally recommended for animals on MSE feed-additive. MSE improves feed utilization. This means that the animal gets more out of whatever they eat.

Change is necessary to prevent unfortunate birth and lactation complications. Although it may seem cruel to withdraw supplement, remember that these animals evolved in a harsh environment. If necessary, they can subsist on forages alone. An alpaca in acceptable condition will be healthier and more productive.

Obsity can be prevented by grouping animals according to stage of maturity and reproduction. Maidens are often still growing during their first pregnancy, they have a greater need for all nutrients during this stage. Likewise, females in their teens may be too thin, due to srial weight loss during lactation. The females in between are the most vulnerable to obesity. Group them and feed according to condition and stage of pregnancy. It is difficult for a female to gain weight during the first few months after birth. That is when milk production is at its peak. Energy demands during late gestation are also high because of fetus hypertrophy. These two stages demand higher energy intake, all other times, the animal needs to be fed to maintain condition.


        FARM STORE                          PET PRODUCTS                              PET STORE

All content of this site is copyright © 1999 Natur's Way, Inc. Horton, KS. unless otherwise stated. Natur's Way logo and MSE is TM of Natur's Ways and may not be used in any way with out the express permission of its owners. Site design by Chontai Studios.