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Group of alpacas standing in a field with an overlay stating ‘Backyard Biosecurity, it’s up to all of us’ and ‘Agriculture Victoria’

Edition 14: Alpacas

In this edition:

Alpacas are extremely cute and full of personality. They are environmentally friendly with padded feet that do less damage to pastures than most other livestock, particularly cattle. If you own a couple or a herd, or are thinking of starting a small herd, here are the basic things you need to know…

Starting your own herd
twin alpacas looking at each other

Before purchasing any alpacas, consider why you want them. In Australia, alpacas are bred for their fleece, as stud animals, for meat, as flock guards to assist protect sheep from foxes, and as pets. Alpacas are herd animals and need the company of other alpacas.

It is recommended that you speak to experienced alpaca breeders/owners, visit alpaca farms, and are confident handling alpacas prior to purchasing your own herd. You may find an experienced owner who is willing to mentor you as a new owner.

More information about buying your first alpaca is available on the Australian Alpaca Association (AAA) website, buying your first alpaca.

farmers examining ear of alpaca

All properties with one or more alpacas must have a Property Identification Code (PIC).

PICs are used by Agriculture Victoria for tracing and controlling disease and residue problems, for providing information to livestock owners, and during emergency relief and recovery activities. If you already have a PIC for other livestock, you do not need to obtain another one when you purchase alpacas. More information about PICs is available here, Property Identification Code (PIC).

At present, there are no legal requirements for National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tags in alpacas in Australia, although the AAA is working towards implementing NLIS for alpacas. For more information on NLIS for Alpacas and the NLIS database is available on the Australian Alpaca Association (AAA) website

Health and husbandry

Alpacas need access to good quality pasture, unlimited, clean water, and shelter from the elements especially in winter and summer. It is important to routinely monitor each alpaca individually and regularly, including condition scoring.

It is important to have good facilities, including a suitable yard or pen to ensure the safe handling of alpacas during health checks, the administration of treatments, and to catch and handle animals during shearing.

Internal parasites (worms), particularly the barber’s pole worm, are one of the major causes of death of alpacas in Australia. It is essential to monitor for worms regularly, drench according to results of monitoring, and monitor for drench resistance in your herd. The WormBoss website provides the principles of worm control for cattle, sheep and goats. Whilst there are some differences between the management of worms in sheep and alpacas, the principles are similar.  More specific information about worms in alpacas can be found on the CRIA Genesis website.

In contrast to sheep, that are vaccinated with 5-in-1 type vaccines annually, alpacas require boosters every six months. Alpacas may also require vitamin D during the winter months. The requirement for vitamin D will depend on the location of your property and the stage of production of your alpacas.  More information about 5-in1 clostridial vaccination of alpacas can be found on the CRIA Genesis website.

Alpacas should be shorn once a year. Alpacas, particularly aged alpacas, are quite prone to hypothermia after shearing, so it is best to avoid shearing in the colder months or if cold conditions are forecast.

Newly purchased animals should be kept in a designated quarantine paddock until it has been determined they pose no risk of introducing diseases or pests (including weed seeds) to your herd or property.

Watch the animation on introducing new livestock

Unwell animals should be kept in an area that enables close monitoring, veterinary examination (if required), and treatment. An assessment of the risk to other animals will determine if it should be separated from its herd-mates, as this may cause further distress to the unwell animal. Keep in mind that alpacas are very stoic animals and may not show signs of illness until they are very unwell. If unsure, seek advice from your local veterinary practitioner.

More information:

Biosecurity assurance programs

As an alpaca owner, the best way to protect your alpaccas from biosecurity risks is to keep diseases, pests and weeds off your property. Q Alpaca and Alpaca CheQA are quality assurance programs that can help you monitor and manage known diseases and help you reduce the risk of an emergency animal disease.

Farm biosecurity plan
alpacas in paddock with female farmer

By now, you will have noticed we are passionate about maintaining good biosecurity on your property. A farm biosecurity plan contains measures to mitigate the risk of disease entry and spread. Farm biosecurity planning is not a one-size-fits-all process. Every farm is different, each facing a unique set of challenges and risks.

The AAA has a page about alpaca biosecurity and recommends the National Biosecurity Reference Manual: Grazing Livestock Production manual for alpaca owners. They also provide an alpaca industry biosecurity plan template. You should review your biosecurity plan annually to ensure it remains current.

Other biosecurity plan templates can be found on the Agriculture Victoria website. Workshops and webinars on developing a farm biosecurity plan are also currently being delivered. Visit for details. If there is no workshop in your area, please continue to monitor the workshop website, as future workshops in other areas are planned.

There are no right or wrong answers when developing a farm biosecurity plan – the only bad farm biosecurity plan is the one you don’t have.

Protecting alpacas

This short video shows how Lynda puts biosecurity into practice while caring for her  50-80 alpacas and small herd of miniature donkeys in Belgrave South.

Watch the video to learn how Lynda is keeping her alpacas safe


Rules about feeding alpacas

Alpacas differ from true ruminants due to the structure of their three-compartment stomachs, nevertheless alpaca owners must still comply with the Ruminant Feed Ban. Like goats, sheep and cattle, you must not feed any Restricted Animal Material (RAM) to your alpacas.

What is Restricted Animal Material (RAM)?

RAM is any material that consists of, or contains, matter from an animal (including fish and birds). It also includes eggs, untreated cooking oils, poultry litter and other manures.

Why is the feeding of Restricted Animal Material to ruminants banned?
RAMs pose significant health risks to ruminant animals including the risk of exotic diseases that are not present in our Australian herds. Australia is free from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE/’mad cow disease’) and other transmittable spongiform encephalopathies. The Ruminant Feed Ban was developed and implemented to ensure that if the BSE disease agent were ever introduced to Australia it would not be able to infect Australian livestock

What common foods should I watch out for?
Chicken, dog and cat foods, as examples, can contain RAM and must not be fed to your alpacas.

Household leftovers or ‘kind offers’ of surplus food from local businesses should not be fed to alpacas if there is any risk that the food contains matter from an animal (including fish and birds), eggs, or untreated cooking oils.


Stock feed labelling

Stockfeed products are required to include a statement on their packaging or invoicing whether they do or do not contain RAM. It is important to check labelling before feeding supplements to alpacas.

"This product contains restricted animal material - DO NOT FEED TO CATTLE, SHEEP, GOATS, DEER OR OTHER RUMINANTS".

For bulk product the labelling may be applied to an invoice. For feed or meal in bags a tag must be attached to the product.

Manufactured stockfoods that do not contain Restricted Animal Material must be labelled: "This product does not contain Restricted Animal Material".

What are your responsibilities?


  • Alpacas, must not have access to feeds containing RAM, including for example chicken, cat or dog foods. RAM and non-RAM feeds should not be mixed.
  • Pastures which have had poultry or pig manures and poultry litter applied must not be accessed or grazed by ruminants, including alpacas, for at least 3 weeks after application.
  • Do feed your alpacas non-RAM foods that are suitable for alpacas.

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We have added the Backyard Biosecurity newsletter series to the Agriculture Victoria website, to enable you to easily find a previous edition.


Agriculture Victoria

Further information

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