Since we had to start our farm from scratch, and wanted to bring our small herd home as soon as possible, we started out with several temporary setups. This allowed us time to decide which layouts worked best for our farm. This also gave us a good idea how we could most efficiently and effectively run the farm. We would like to share our experience and tips with you.
We found the most effective way to maintain our pasture was by creating many small sections called “cells” which allow us to rotate the animals on a 1-to-2 week basis. We started by permanently fencing in a large area of pasture, and then used snow fencing to create smaller pastures. By doing this, we determined the best place and size for the sections and where we would like gates. Temporary shelters are very helpful if you plan to use pastures further from the barn.
Our property is long and skinny. Nearest to the barn, our pastures fan out from the barn creating 3 separate areas. Each area opens up into the next area in at least 2 locations. All 3 areas open into another larger pasture further back on our property. By “creative gating” Lee has provided several ways to reduce or enlarge each pasture, as needed. It also allows a no-stress way to move animals from one pasture to another.
We started by building a small, 2-story barn which was large enough to adequately hold two 9x9 pens and a winter supply of hay. Our “hip-style” barn is metal with a white roof. We chose white so that it would stay cooler during hot summers. We transformed another small area on the property into pasture for our boys. There we added onto an existing shed creating a 3-sided enclosure large enough to house 4 adult animals in inclement weather.
During our second year, we decided that insulating the barn would make it a much nicer place for “the humans” to work in during colder temps. The insulation not only helps to keep the barn warmer in the winter but, along with the white roof, it keeps the barn much cooler during our hot summers.
In 2007 we purchased 2 acres directly across from our farm which we’ve dubbed “Beer Run” after the previous owner. We constructed a “pavilion-style” building on a small hill toward the back of the property with 4 pastures fanning out from the structure.
The building is no more than a roofed piece of land making it a wonderful, airy “summer camp” during hot weather. The open-air design works quite well for most of the year in Indiana. With the addition of lightweight corrugated panels, we are able to keep out inclement weather and the clear material allows light in. We also utilize agricultural curtains to close off the upper half of each doorway. The Beer Run building is completely “off-the-grid” and runs on solar and wind power, with a bank of batteries as back-up when needed. Thermal buckets keep water cool in the summer and keep them from freezing solid for several hours in weather below 25 degrees.
A shelter can be something as simple as a 3-sided structure. However, we don’t recommend this type of structure if you intend to have crias during chilly weather!
No matter what type of shelter you decide on, know your wind patterns and make sure the opening is facing away from the wind. When considering location, you may also want to determine if electricity can be run to this location. You will be thankful for lighting and electrical sockets during shorter days and cooler temps. Alpacas cannot see very well in the dark (similar to humans) and appreciate a night light in the barn near their pens.
Being a small farm sometimes makes it hard to quarantine an animal. The use of a temporary shed or tarp, and some lightweight pen panels makes confinement an option. There will come a time when you need to confine an animal, so keep this in mind as you plan your farm. Tarps can also be used in open pastures to create shade during hot times. Quarantine should be at least 15’ from your regular farm setup.
We hope this has helped you get a start planning your own farm! Email us with any questions, comments or ideas you may have!