A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

December 23, 2007

Alpaca Farming on a Budget – Part 3

While alpacas are hardy animals they do need shelter from the elements.  The type of shelter required varies from region to region depending on the weather trends of the area.  If you are living in Alaska for instance you would need a much more substantial barn than if you are raising alpacas in New Mexico.

It’s always a good idea to check with your local authority about local ordinances and building code requirements prior to putting up a shelter for your alpacas.  Some areas have much stricter requirements than others and you want to make sure that any shelters you put up fall within local regulations.  Another thing to look at is how your area assesses buildings for property tax purposes; in some states a portable building has a much lower tax rating than a permanent building meaning that if you only built portable buildings on your land you would pay less property tax.

In our area we have very short winters and the spring weather starts early.  This means that as far as shelters are concerned our needs our simple.  A good three-sided shelter with electricity available in it is all we need.  The electricity allows us to have good lighting installed in our shelters, plus it allows us to run appliances such as heated water buckets, fans for the hot summer months or a hairdryer to dry off a damp chilled cria.  If we lived in an area that experienced heavy snow or perhaps hot, humid summers we require much more functionality from our barn.  It would most likely need to be large enough to contain the whole herd during times of weather extremes and for dealing with heat and humidity some form of cooling system would be necessary.

If you are on a budget you will need to be creative on your shelters.  When we first owned alpacas Ric built our first shelters.  They were simple three sided wood frame shelters with wood siding and a wooden roof covered in composite shingles.  Some of the wood used for those shelters was recycled wood from a house someone was tearing down which were able to pick up just by volunteering to help remove it from the original house.  Other shelters we have used have been some old boxcars that were left here by the previous owners, the boxcars are solid and provide great shelter from the elements; we just had to build a ramp in and out of the boxcars for the alpacas to use.  You can also consider using carports as shelters.  They are usually quite reasonable and most of the companies that manufacture them are willing to adjust them to your specifications.  We have a large three-sided carport in the girl’s pasture that works wonderfully as a shelter and was a fraction of the price of building a barn.  We love our carport shelter and Ric has vowed to never again build a shelter preferring instead to order a carport.  The carport shelter was not much more expensive than building our own shelter and it went up in a couple of hours rather than having to be built over several days.  I have also heard of people creating a hoop shelter using wire panel fencing and tarps or heavy-duty plastic.  Depending on the area you live in these might be only suitable for a temporary shelter, but it would be a start at least.  If you are interested in directions on how to make one of these shelters drop me an email and I will forward you a document that contains the instructions for a hoop shelter.

So while a pretty custom barn is nice and easy on the eye, if you are on a budget a more creative style structure is easier on the pocket book.  You may need to use your imagination to give your structure eye appeal but it’s amazing what a little paint or some carefully planted alpaca friendly shrubs can disguise.  In some instances you may even want to emphasize the structure, prior to purchasing our current property we looked at a property that had a very old small dairy barn on it.  To me that dairy barn was one of the selling points of the property and I could envision having all sorts of fun making a feature of it as an alpaca shelter.


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