By Linda Blake from Southern Alpacas Stud
We transport alpacas all around New Zealand, and with importing and exporting, all around the world. We usually provide a bed of hay for our alpacas to travel in. It is a comfortable place to sit, something to eat en route, and also a good distraction to get their attention and keep them in the float once loaded.
Alpacas are placid travellers, usually sitting down once the vehicle starts moving, and when the motion stops, they stand up to look around. Unlike horses, which stand to travel and are tied with a lead on their halter, do not tie alpacas for travel.
Our purpose-built alpaca float is longer and lower than standard horse floats, with multiple partitions inside. It has windows, so the alpacas can watch the passing countryside.
Horse floats are adequate to transport alpacas. Most have doors that form ramps for loading. The gap between the ramp and the float is leg-breaking territory for an alpaca, so use a mat or strip of carpet to cover it, or a piece of hose or a broom handle in the gap. For this reason vehicles with slatted floors, like stock trucks, are not the best to transport alpacas.
Commercial horse transporters also carry alpacas. Two alpacas fit in a standard one horse space. Make sure that the dividers between horses and alpacas go right to the floor, else the sitting alpaca is at risk of being kicked by the standing horse.
Alpacas can be transported in trailers, but you do need to have a top to the trailer, to prevent them jumping out. You can transport them in the back of a 4WD or station wagon, chukka'd, which is using a rope to tie them into a sitting position. Alpaca breeders are now also using the backs of vans to transport alpacas as they sit down in the van.
It is a good idea to introduce alpacas gradually to transportation. When we halter-train our youngsters we get them used to going in and out of floats.
Alpacas will walk towards a gap or space, or light, so we have a narrow raceway that leads into the larger float. Our float doors open out on either side to form a raceway as well. If you are using a horse float with a ramp, then you may need to put sides on the ramp, with portable gates or temporary fences to channel the alpacas in. That way you can tempt them with food in the float, and push from behind if necessary!
Alpacas can jump in and out of vans, but a ramp is preferable. It is wise to have sides on the ramp when off-loading alpacas as well, to prevent them jumping off the sides of the ramp. If you don't have any structures on either side, then get a person to stand on either side of the ramp. If you are by yourself, park close to a fence on one side, and lead the alpaca from the other side.
Some will try to jump right over the ramp, so it is better to off-load onto grass or earth than concrete. As they jump, they push off on the vehicle surface, so ensure that it is not slippery. We use old carpet in our van.
Check out your alpaca health before travelling them. All inoculations should be up-to-date, especially 5-in-1. Ensure that your alpacas meet any requirements for Tb status before they travel.
Our cushioning hay is both bedding and food. For long distances we provide a water bowl. A dog water bowl, which attaches with hooks to the side of the vehicle works well, as a bucket can get knocked over.
If you are travelling a mum with a cria, so the cria does not get squashed it needs as much space as an adult, and you need to stop every three hours for them to stand and drink from mum. Before we put alpacas on a float, we give them access to a dung heap. Generally they will then not need to toilet for a few hours. As long as we keep the float moving, they stay sitting. Once we stop they stand up, and that is when they tend to toilet, so we are usually prompt in getting them off the float!
Males are usually separated from females during travel. As alpacas mate sitting down, a male alpaca sharing a float or air crate with a group of females may get the wrong idea!