digestion of alpacas

Proper digestion is very important for alpacas, as it is for any other animal as well. How does the digestion of alpacas work? In this blog, we take you through the journey from start to finish, and discuss each important part that plays a role in nutrient absorption and thus the overall condition of the alpaca.


The alpaca has special lips. The upper lip is split, allowing an alpaca to move the two sides independently of each other. This allows an alpaca to choose what to eat very selectively.
The tongue is not used by the alpaca to grab food, unlike other ruminants such as cows, for example. In fact, the tongue almost never comes out of the mouth. This also means alpacas do not lick themselves or their young.

Alpacas don’t use their tongue to satisfy their nutritional needs either, so a lick stone for alpacas will not have the desired effect. If you have any questions about this, feel free to send an email to advies@garvo.nl.

Alpacas have incisors on the front of the lower jaw. These are fully developed after about 4.5 years. Through chewing, the feed is ground and mixed with saliva. Saliva plays a very important role in digesting food. It moistens dry food and adds digestive substances as a buffer against acidification during fermentation (in the stomach).

The stomach

An alpaca’s stomach consists of three parts. The first part (80% of the stomach) is a large fermentation vessel. Like other ruminants, alpacas have a vital interest in the microscopic organisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract. This is because these bacteria break down the cellulose (cell walls) in the feed. The alpaca supplies the feed and provides a stable environment for the stomach, in which the bacteria have a chance to break down food being eaten.

The second part (6% of the stomach) contains the glands that take care of:

– Absorption of nutrients
– Addition of substances for an optimal environment for bacteria
– Buffer secretion between first and third part of the stomach

The third part of the stomach (11%) is tubular and contains the last gastric glands. This is where digested substances are directly absorbed into the body.

The small intestine

An alpaca’s small intestine is no less than 8 metres long. This is where nutrients are digested and absorbed.

The large intestine and appendix

The large intestine is 6 metres long and absorbs vitamins and minerals in addition to water. The intestine secretes mucus and this is where other microbial digestion is possible.

If digestion is efficient in the stomach, only a few substances are left to ferment in the colon. This has the positive effect of reducing the likelihood of starch fermentation and acidification of the colon.


The preferred faeces of alpacas are nicely shaped droppings. Alpacas often have one or more dung piles where several alpacas defecate. Generally, alpacas do not graze in these places. This is therefore where alpacas’ digestion ends.

Tip: Clean up the alpacas’ dung areas regularly to prevent worm infections!

Now you are more up to date when it comes to the digestion of alpacas. If you have any questions about the digestion of alpacas or feeding them, do not hesitate to get in touch with our nutritionist Mariska. You can reach her through email: advies@garvo.nl.