Cross Grazing

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Cross grazing other species with alpacas is accepted practice on many farms.  This can be a good solution for reducing the long grass which grows around alpaca middens.  While alpacas do not eat this grass until the midden is well broken down, sheep and other stock do not have the same reservations.

Co-grazing Safety Issues

While alpacas can be cross grazed with many animals it is not wise to have them in the same paddock as big animals such as beef cattle or horses but it is perfectly in order to have the cattle go in as the alpacas leave.  This is purely a safety issue – steers can often be quite boisterous and alpacas have no defence against their size.  It is just not worth the risk of injury to your valuable alpacas to combine the stock in the field.

Minimizing worm burden

Minimizing worm burden is a continual issue for farmers and when cross grazing consideration should be given to the types of internal parasites which various animals have in common.

Since sheep, goats and cattle share many of the same worm types that affect alpacas and because they leave dung indiscriminately all around the paddock, putting alpacas in together with any of these animals or immediately after they have moved out  increases the risk of parasite infection for your alpaca who are then forced to eat near the faeces of the preceding stock.  A better practice is to graze your alpacas in the field ahead of the sheep/goats/beef – this reduces the risk of infection to both your alpacas who prefer eating in a clean field, and your other animals, since alpacas create middens but leave most of the field clean of faeces.  The other stock will eat the grass down close to the alpaca midden.

Cross grazing with horses is a good option as horses and alpacas do not share the same parasite species. However a kick from a horse can easily break an alpacas leg or kill a cria – and even quiet horses will kick when startled. So keep your horses and alpacas in separate paddocks.

The Best Option

While it is not always practical, in terms of minimizing the risk of parasite infection, the best option is not to graze your alpacas in with other stock, but to use rotational grazing, or to give the paddock a break from other stock (for 3 – 6 weeks or so)  before introducing alpacas. If you have a problem with excessive grass growth,  with the potential to contaminate your fleeces with seeds, you can top (mow) your pastures, however caution should be exercised if you live in an area prone to facial eczema.