Dung Removal

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Dung removal serves two purposes:  it cleans up your paddocks, making more grazing area available, and removing unsightly middens, and it also helps to minimise the spreading of the worm burden in your stock.

At this stage of the industry most alpacas are farmed fairly intensively on small blocks of land.  While this is convenient to the alpaca owners it can result in rapid spread of disease because of the close proximity in which the alpacas live with each other.  The spread of internal parasites (worms) is something alpaca owners should work to avoid.

While drenching is still the most popular form of parasite control, there is an ongoing problem of drench resistance ie the drench is ineffective against some parasites, and there is an increasing trend to monitoring the worm burden rather than a regular drenching routine.

Those issues aside, the removal from pasture of dung which may be harbouring larvae will naturally reduce the parasite’s ability to multiply and this is a natural remedy that can have a significant effect on the herd’s worm burden.

Collecting dung can be undertaken in different ways, for a very small herd of alpacas most owners employ a shovel and bucket and make a compost heap which will later be added to the garden or back on the pasture.

For mid size herds there are now a number of different vacuum systems which can attach to a towbar on quad bike, utility or tractor.  These systems save time and effort in dealing with the dung manually (although work is still required to direct the vacuum pipe to the midden) and can be easily emptied into a compost system.

Now that there are some larger alpaca farms emerging there will be a change of practice again.  These farms will either leave land for a number of weeks after grazing before re-introducing stock, or use the larger sweeper style paddock cleaners which can be driven or towed around the paddock without specific attention to the midden.

All these methods rely on the alpaca owner simultaneously maintaining a compost system. Alpaca dung must be broken down into compost before it can be safely respread across pasture as fertiliser, or used (or sold) as a garden fertiliser. Alpaca compost makes a great fertiliser, and if you are an organic farmer, being able to use compost which comes from your own property is a great advantage. Even if you are not organic, why spend large amounts on fertiliser, when your alpacas can provide you with the raw materials for free?

The compost system should ideally have at least three bays – the current collection point, the collection point which is no longer being added to and which is being left to break down, and the old broken down dung which is ready for use as fertiliser.

The common sheep farming practice of harrowing is not to be recommended as this simply spreads the dung and the worm larvae around the paddock before it has been broken down.   However if the middens have been removed first, harrowing is good for the pasture as it breaks the crust on the surface of the soil and lifts the thatching (dead grass that is tangled amongst the pasture and restricts new growth). Alpacas are not happy eating near dung and it is contrary to good health management to force this situation on them.  If collected dung is to be reapplied as fertiliser make sure it is well broken down before application so that it is not recognisable to the alpacas as dung and any parasites are long since dead.