Check out the information below for advice on how to manage grassland for alpacas here in the UK.
What type of fencing do you need for alpacas?
Alpacas do not normally attempt to jump over or escape from barriers, so standard 4ft sheep fencing, either the wooden railed kind or stock fencing with plain wire varieties, will work well at keeping them enclosed. Barbed wire should be avoided to prevent injury.
If starting from scratch with your fencing, consider stocking densities, rotation of paddocks, ease of handling, positioning of shelters, feed & water, and machinery access (having access that is wide enough for driving trailers into the paddock with new stock, or hedge croppers entering the field, for example). Placing your shelters against fences or hedgerows makes herding alpacas into the shelter much easier!
How much land is needed for alpacas?
As a guide, you will need 1 acre of ground for every 4 to 5 alpacas you own, but the exact number will vary depending upon your grass quality. According to the British Alpaca Society, "The stocking rate for alpacas varies depending upon whether the grass being grazed by the alpacas is of a native low density variety, also referred to as rough grazing, grassland under five years of age and grassland over five years of age. The stocking rate of alpacas not only depends upon the amount of grass but also the quality (energy and protein) available which is dependent on the frequency and intensity of the grazing schedule and the mixture of species found in the lay. In general the stocking rates for alpacas are as follows:
– Rough grazing land: 4 to 5 alpacas per acre – Permanent pasture which is over five years old: 5 to 6 per acre. – Temporary pasture which is less than five years old: 6 to 8 per acre."
I’ve just rented or bought a new paddock for my alpacas - do I need to do anything with it?
The short answer is yes! Check out the tips below to make sure your new paddock is ready for your alpacas:
Check that the boundary fences are secure
Check that the water supply is in place
Check that you have reasonable access to the paddock and can get vehicle access in during an emergency
Check which animals have been on the ground previously (there may be a worm burden or disease - in this case, it would be wise to rest the ground for at least 8 weeks)
Check the ground for poisonous plants
Top the ground if required
Assess the grass quality - relaying grass may be required if the quality is very poor (and this can take a couple of years for the ground to be worked, reseeded and the new grass to grow)
Do I need to rest the ground for grazing alpacas?
Ideally, the grazing area should be split into two so that one half can always be rested. Rotation should then occur every 6-8 weeks to help reduce parasite burden, and ensure that the grass has time to rest and recuperate so it can provide ample nutrition.
Do I need to cut the grass?
Alpacas can starve in long grass as they find it difficult to eat and provides low nutritional value, so the grass will need to be cut as required (also known as topping). Aim to maintain the grass at 4cm to 6cm in height. It is also good practice to remove brambles, conkers and thistles to avoid this getting stuck in their fleeces and causing irritation and/or inability to use the fleece after shearing.
Do alpacas need other food besides grass?
Even with adequate grazing, you should supply your alpacas with ad-lib hay to ensure they have the roughage they need. Find out more about supplementary feeding in our What do alpacas eat? blog here.
Can alpacas graze with other animals?
Alpacas can be grazed with other animals such as sheep and chickens. However, sheep can tolerate much higher worm burdens than alpacas, so this needs to be taken into consideration when creating you herd health plan. It is not recommended to graze horses or donkeys with alpacas, as the kicks from equines can be fatal to an alpaca. That being said, using horses or donkeys to graze ground after alpacas can be helpful to reduce parasite numbers on the pasture as they are not affected by the same parasites as alpacas.
Which plants are poisonous to alpacas?
Here are some of the most common plants that are poisonous to alpacas that you should regularly check your pasture for:
Black & White Bryony
Disclaimer: Fostings Alpacas are not a veterinarian body. Always consult your vet when creating a health plan for your herd and before administering medication.
Learn how to look after alpacas
This 95 page E-Guide is packed full of information for new and prospective alpaca keepers, covering Alpaca 101, Requirements, Diet & Pasture Management, Husbandry Tasks, Disease & Parasites and an Introduction to Breeding & Cria Care. Download upon purchase so you can dive straight in! For the full contents list and to get your copy, click the image below.