Our Barn, Pastures, and Fencing
There are many options to setting up your farm, and with varying price tags. The set up of one farm will not necessarily work well at another farm. Here is what has worked for us.
Pasture ~ We purchased a homestead with a thickly wooded lot. We had close to 3 acres cleared. Alpacas can be pastured up to 8, sometimes 10, per acre. It is very important to keep your pastures as clean as possible, and usually the less alpacas per acre, the better. We are doing all the finish work to the pastures ourselves – removing roots, rocks, and some stumps, creating proper drainage, tilling what loam we have (!), and seeding. Luckily, our alpacas are enjoying the native grasses that are growing on the side we haven’t worked on yet.
Barn ~ Alpacas need a 3 sided shelter to get out of the bad weather and winds, and shade from hot sun. Fancy barns are more for people and are not cost-effective. Have a good idea of how large your farm will be and try to plan the barn size accordingly. We had a 10 x 30 run-in style shed barn built, with a dirt floor, and an 8 x 10 tack room with a real wood floor and door for storing grain, halters, supplies, etc. We also had an awning added to the entire length, 10 x 38, and the awning has large heavy doors on the sides which can be folded back to allow sunshine and air flow. This essentially has doubled our space. We will either purchase or build panels to create moveable stalls for feeding, herd-health days, vet visits, breedings, etc. Run-in sheds can usually just be built and/or placed directly onto your field as long as the area is level and consistently dry. Thankfully, the builders quickly assessed our drainage situation and built up a ‘pad’ for our barn, and installed cement footings. This was necessary also due to the awning. It was an expense we hadn’t planned on, but a very worthwhile one. Most people will say to position the opening towards the south and away from prevailing winds; we most certainly agree. Ours is facing sort of west/southwest, but we have a perfect view straight into the barn from the house. Sitting here working at the computer or doing dishes at the kitchen sink, this view is truly priceless. Another very important aspect is the location of your barn. Insurance companies will love it that your barn is at least 105 feet + from your home. We have a long and narrow lot and decided to put the barn on the wooded side so as not to disturb our neighbors. Most importantly, the barn is all but a straight shot from the road so in case of emergency, the fire trucks can easily access it. And if your budget allows, water and electricity in the barn will make your life much easier. If you already have a barn, small run-in sheds are a great option when you have a need for additional shelters.
Fencing ~ When you spend money, this is the place to spend it! Keeping predators out is a priority. We chose pounded-in pressure treated posts with 5-foot high woven wire, no-climb fencing. Simply put, this was an expensive set-up. We wanted it to look good as well as be functional, so we had another alpaca farmer install it. We’re still undecided as to hot wiring the bottom or using a new Nite Guard light for added security. We fenced in close to 2 acres, and then divided this pasture in half. We are ‘working the pasture’ one half at a time. As our little farm grows, we will fence in more of the cleared areas. We are quite happy with the fencing choice we made, however in the future we may go with a 7 strand electric fencing, which I hear would be at least 50% less in cost, and is something we could install ourselves.
Drainage ~ I cannot emphasize enough the need for proper drainage. Do whatever is necessary i.e., swales, berms, French drains, stacks of mulch hay, adding more loam or stones or stonedust, re-seeding, etc. Sometimes we think our pasture and surrounding yard look like a wierd science experiment, but we're more concerned with our alpacas' health. This will most likely be a continuous process for us, and possibly your farm too.