Alpacas and llamas are being increasingly kept across the US. Alpacas are known for being fluffy friendly animals, while their larger camelid cousins the llamas have something of a reputation for spitting at people!
Camelids drink between 2-5 gallons per day. Alpacas and llamas may drink more water in extreme weather, when young and growing a lot, when pregnant, nursing a cria, or when older. Camelids drink 10-25% as much water as some types of cows.
Both llamas and alpacas are amazing creatures, capable of surviving in environments with minimal nutrition and fighting off predators. However like all animals, their wonderful survival instincts can only take them so far, and if you keep alpacas and llamas then you’ll need to keep them fed and watered properly!
If you’re thinking about starting a herd of alpacas or llamas on your homestead, then there’s quite a bit of information you’ll need to find out about how to keep them happy and healthy. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at how much water your fluffy friends will need each day to keep them in good shape!
How Much Water Do Alpacas Need?
Alpacas need between 2 to 5 gallons of water a day. This number may be higher in high temperatures, or with pregnant alpacas. When planning how much water to supply, it’s always better to overestimate than underestimate.
While this amount is much lower than other livestock mammals (cows, for example, require up to 20 gallons per day), you’ll still need to make sure that you always have enough water on hand.
Pregnancy in particular requires a lot more water (the mother animal will be drinking for two!) so be sure to account for this during mating seasons.
It’s wise to set up water storage that has at least enough for a few days in case of any interruption to your supply. Alpacas, originally from relatively dry regions of South America, actually developed the ability to last short periods without water, but still, for the sake of their comfort and health, it’s best to have water available at all times.
How Much Water Do Llamas Need?
Each llama needs between 2 and 5 gallons of water per day. When the weather is hot or if the alpaca has health conditions then they might require more. It’s always best to be prepared to provide more water than expected.
Although llamas are bigger than alpacas, their water requirements are pretty similar! Just like their smaller cousins, you need to keep them healthy by providing enough water, even in emergency cases where your supply could run thin. To do this, you’ll need a great water store filled with enough water to supply your herd for a couple of days at least.
Just like with the alpacas, prepare for pregnancies (if you’re mating your herd) by stocking up on water, as your mother llamas will have a greater need for water than normal.
Can Alpacas and Llamas Drink Rain Water?
Collecting rain is a great way to provide your herd with fresh water. However, this method is most suitable in climates that rain regularly. Areas that are drier will require camelid owners to provide another water source as the primary water source.
Many homesteaders choose to do this, as once you’ve set it up it’s a free and easy way to provide water! However, the problem with rain is that the weather can be inconsistent – so although it works when it rains, you may find yourself stuck without water at times.
If you’re relying on rainwater as a primary water source, you need to store enough that you’ll be able to last through any drier spells of weather. You can do this by collecting the rainwater in a large storage tank. Collecting as much rainwater as possible means you will be able to use this for other reasons too, like flushing away animal waste or cleaning up around the homestead!
Should Water for Alpacas and Llamas be Treated?
Alpaca and llama water probably doesn’t need to be treated unless the water source is known to be contaminated. As such, it is a good idea to test the water regularly. These tests are not expensive, but check for harmful bacteria, and chemicals, and ensure that the mineral content of the water is not harmful.
Although your water source is probably fine, testing it regularly will give you confidence and peace of mind knowing that it’s exactly what your herd needs.
It’s also a good idea to consult your veterinarian, as diseases and illnesses that affect animals vary by region, and they will be best placed to advise about this.
No matter what water your alpacas and llamas are drinking, though, make sure you keep an eye on them. Any radical changes in their behavior or water supply should be noted and reported to your veterinarian.
Supplying Alpacas and Llamas with Water in the Summer
During the summer, alpacas and llamas may need more water during hot or extreme temperatures. Always provide more water than needed to keep the animals properly hydrated.
When it’s super hot out, your alpacas and llamas may also like having some water to play in. Spoiler: they both like playing in and with water. If you want to read more about how each animal likes to play in the water (and things to watch out for), make sure you read the appropriate article.
During the summer, your alpacas and llamas may also appreciate cool, clean water. You can keep their water cooler by keeping it in the shade. This will also help slow the growth of algae and bacteria.
And for a special treat on a hot day? You can add a few ice cubes to the water to cool everyone down. You may also want to hook your hose to a mister – and let your animals enjoy the refreshing mist as a way to cool down.
Supplying Alpacas and Llamas with Water in the Winter
In the winter, alpacas and llamas need to be provided with drinkable water that is not frozen over. A popular solution for this is to provide heated buckets or use an immersion stock tank de-icer or heater to keep the water drinkable.
Heated buckets are a great help, but do have some pitfalls too. Both alpacas and llamas love warming their feet in them, which can transmit bacteria if they have previously stood in poop.
Pro tip: When using heated buckets, make sure to elevate the buckets so that there’s no risk of camelids washing their feet in them.
They can be slightly fussy creatures, and will also refuse to drink the water if it’s too hot, too cold, or dirty!
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If that idea doesn’t appeal to you, then you can use an immersion stock de-icer. We like our de-icer because it’s usable with pretty much every bucket possible – and we can use it for whatever bucket (or water tank) needs it. This is the stock tank de-icer we use for our livestock (click here to see prices on Amazon).
I really like that de-icer because it is so versatile – and it works with all of our livestock watering tanks.
Alpacas and llamas need to be fed in quite a specific way in a cold winter environment, as their movement habits change and they need enough energy to keep themselves warm. If you’re curious about how to do this, check out my article on Feeding Alpacas in the Winter; What, When, and How Much.
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Alpacas — Food & Water.” Animals in Schools, 2021, nswschoolanimals.com/alpacas/alpacas-food-water
- “Caring for Alpacas: 7 Things You Need to Know.” Nelson Automatic Waterers, 21 Nov. 2019, www.nelsonmfg.com/caring-for-alpacas-7-things-you-need-to-know.
- “How Much Water Do My Animals Need Each Day.” Www.Ucanr.Edu, 2021, www.ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms/files/90846.pdf.
- “Llamas Diet – Llama.” Jeffcoschools.Us, 2021, sites.google.com/a/jeffcoschools.us/llamas/groups.
- Starr, Kimberly. “Feeding Alpacas in the Winter: What, When, and How Much.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 30 June 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/feeding-alpacas-in-the-winter-what-when-and-how-much/.