Radio interview source: Dr. Robert Van Saun, Extension Veterinarian, Penn State University
Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below
Alpaca fleece is highly-coveted for everything from clothing to teddy bears. Most people who have these gentle animals say they're easy to raise, especially if you pay close attention to their nutritional needs.
Robert Van Saun is an extension veterinarian at Penn State University. He says fresh, clean water, the proper protein, and vital supplements are all important. Alpacas are herbivores, so they also need to consume forages. Van Saun says scientists are trying to come up with some basic guidelines.
"What we're using as a proxy for that is a very simple measure that many feed analysis labs can provide and that's neutral detergent fiber, or NDF," Van Saun says. "I've generally been recommending feed enough forage to provide NDF at about 1% of body weight. And then beyond that, we'll need to either provide some additional protein or energy depending on what's going on with the animal."
Van Saun also notes that forages do not provide sufficient vitamins and minerals. You need to add supplements to your alpaca's diet. "This can be done through free choice or as a single package, the pellets or supplements that many people feed," he says. "And just remind people that here in North America, especially in the upper northern states during the winter, we have really severe problems with vitamin D deficiency in these animals. So that's something that they really should be talking to their veterinarian about."
Alpacas should not be fed supplements that are high in starch. The animals need fermentable fiber sources and some extra protein. Look for products containing beet pulp, soy hulls, and alfalfa pellets as the preferred supplements.
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