Spring is just around the corner and with it comes the desire for most kids to want a pet.Alpacas are a popular animal on both big ranches and small hobby farms. They are stunning in a group photo and look loving and sweet but is an alpaca a good pet for a child? You need to know about alpacas before deciding if this is the best pet for your child.
Alpacas are a herd animal. This means that they are happiest when they have at least one other alpaca in the pasture. They are also not fond of being petted and nuzzled unless you work with them everyday and they learn to trust. After that, they are a relatively safe animal with children.
Alpacas don't need much of a shelter, and a three-sided shelter will keep them protected from the elements. However, they will also come in and out of a barn if that set up is available. They also don't challenge fencing. Fences need to be sturdy but also with small openings so that wild dogs, coyotes, fox and bobcats cannot enter. The alpaca has two defenses, they can kick and they spit. So the farm owner must take care to protect them from harm.
Alpacas need hay, grass, and fresh water daily. Who will be caring for the alpacas everyday including winter becomes an important question when deciding if an alpaca is a good pet for a child. The animals must have their fiber cut or sheared once a year too. You can hire someone who does this or you can purchase clippers, scissors, a table, and other equipment that makes the task easier but that is an additional expense. This is not a task that a child can do alone.
Alpacas are raised for fiber and to reproduce with the hopes of having female offspring more often than males born. Female alpacas are more expensive because they have the ability to produce a cria or baby alpaca every year for more than 25 years. That can be a return on your initial investment if the female produces high quality crias and their fiber is of excellent texture. Males can be expensive if they have fathered good offspring but they can be found pretty reasonable if all they are used for is fiber. These gilded males are lovingly called "fiber boys" and they make good pets at less cost than other male alpacas.
Alpacas can be haltered, lead in an arena, and taught a few tricks. Often they are seen dressed for parades and handled very safely by children. To get an alpaca to the level of being led on a lead rope for hours on end takes daily practice and daily human contact. Some counties have 4H categories for the alpaca allowing children to show their pet in an arena before a judge and that can be an added pleasure to having an alpaca as a pet.
When considering if an alpaca makes a good pet, keep in mind where the alpacas will stay, who will be caring for the alpacas, the cost of hay if you don't have pasture grass and the cost of shearing yearly. Incidental costs include worming, vet checks, the costs of breeding, extra nutritional supplements, and how much time you have to invest in training the alpacas. Alpacas can make the perfect pet for a child if you have a small hobby farm and you have the time to learn the best way to train and care for these gentle animals. Alpacas provide warm fiber to be spun into yarn for socks, scarves, and sweaters. Just keep an eye out for the famous nasty spit that may come your way during the learning process.