Do your alpaca research before bringing them home: Middle Stewiacke herd owner

Truro News
By: Lynn Curwin

Original content from Truro News.  

MIDDLE STEWIACKE, N.S. - Diane Redden bought her first alpaca to prevent him from becoming a seat cover. She now cares for a herd of four at her Middle Stewiacke home.

She advises that anyone interested in getting alpacas do their research, as the animals have specific health needs and they’re not as cuddly as they look.

“Ricky has very noticeable problems from rickets,” she said. “That’s why the person who had him before chose that name.

“His back legs are wonky and his spine started to curve a couple of years ago. He has an uneven gait, but he’s still enjoying the sun and eating. The vet just recommended we watch him closely.”

The animals’ natural habitat is high in the Andes, where long periods of sunlight ensure they get enough Vitamin D. Those living in Nova Scotia need Vitamin D supplements to prevent rickets.

Because alpacas are herd animals, Ricky didn’t like being alone, so Redden bought a female called Fiona. She arrived with a condition often called elephant-skin. This results from mites leaving the skin dry and rough.

“Alpacas can be pretty standoffish,” said Redden. “They don’t trust easily. It took almost a year before Fiona trusted me enough to feed from a bowl I was holding. I spent time with the young ones, thinking they would be much more friendly, but I think they saw their mum being standoffish and picked some of that up.

Their thick coat needs to be sheared by someone trained in working with alpacas, as they cannot be placed in the same shearing positions as sheep.

They also need their hooves and teeth trimmed regularly.

Although Redden’s alpacas don’t have high quality coats, she recently found a way to use the fibre. She sorted, washed, carded and dyed fibre and then created felted balls to make necklaces.

Read the rest of this story at Truro News.