How to Trim Alpacas and Llama Toenails
To trim toenails, you need alpaca supplies to restain the animal and to cut the nails. You need, animal toenail clippers, alpaca halters, and alpaca leads. It's very
similar to using dog toenail clippers. Llamas and alpacas walk on the pads of their
feet, like dogs, with two toes extending forward on each foot.
Camelids walk on their middle
and distal foot bones, called phalanges. Camelids evolved in the Andes Mountains, where
vegetation is very sparse. So their footsteps does not damage the sparse vegetation that grows there. The rockiness
and hard terrain of the mountains naturally wore down their toenails. So they did not need human intervention to trim the toenails. livestock chute, llama chute, alpacas, llamas
Llama and alpaca toenails grow continuously. If your animals reside on hard rocky ground,
or you do a lot of trekking and backpacking with them, their toenails will wear down
naturally, or just need trimming about once a year. However, if your farm is in sandy soil,
you will need to trim their nails about once every quarter year. Additionally, animals with
lighter-colored toenails will need clipping more frequently.
Too Long Toenails
If llama or alpaca toenails are left untrimmed, they start to curl to the side. This
occurs not only in sandy soil situations, but also in overcrowded pastures, where the
animals have little room to move around. Older animals that are more sedantary, and late-term
pregnant females, who are motivated to exercise also may need more frequent toenail clipping.
Toenails that twist to the side may cause the toe bones to twist as well, and this can cause
actual foot deformity in crias and yearlings, who are still growing. Overly long toebails can
also get caught and sprain the toe or cause more serious foot injury.
You never want to show an alpaca or llama, whose toenails have not been properly clipped.
The judges hate seeing that and will mark your animal down accordingly.
If you have soft, sandy soil, you can also put down some cement slabs with a slight
roughened surface in high traffic areas, such as water and feeding stations, catch pens,
and loafing sheds. This will help naturally wear down their toenails
A good pair of toenail clippers is essential. They are very sharp, so you may want to grind the points
into a bit of a rounded shape. There is also a holster that you can wear on your ankle in which to
place the clippers. Clippers and holster can be purchased from a llama supply store.
You may also need a spit mask for some animals that really hate toenail clipping. An old sock
over the muzzle works ok too.
When you first start trimming toenails, you may want to have one person hold the animal, while another
trims the toenails. Also trimming at shearing time, while the animal tied down is traditional. I also
like to trim a male's feet, while he is breeding, as he is very oblivious to everything else!
Begin by picking up the animal's foot, turning the pastern (ankle) so you can see the bottom
foot pad. Then cradle the foot in your hand. This may cause the animal to panic and as you cut
with the clippers, you will not be able to avoid squeezing the foot. They do not like you doing this
and will often pull their foot away from you.
Begin clipping one side of the toenail, and then the other side until it is about flush even with
the bottom of the foot. Then clip the point of the nail. If you clip the point too deeply, you will
cut into the quick and cause bleeding. Some bloodstop applied to the area will staunch the bleeding.
Using a Chute
If the alpaca or llama is highly resistant, you may need to use a restraining chute.
If you don't have a chute, tie the animal on a short lead to a fence post, and put a rope around
one back foot. Then stretch out the back foot and tie the loose rope end to another fence post. The
animal will be standing on three feet and cannot resist you.
This page was last updated on June 9, 2009.