Stock Rotation

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Stock Rotation:
There are 4 recognised methods of rotating stock around farms, generally speaking alpaca farms use only 2 of them (rotational grazing and set stocking), although in severe winter conditions On/off grazing may also be used. The other common form of stock rotation (break fencing) is not recommended by us as it involves the use of temporary electric fencing, which is not advisable with alpacas. (We personally know several owners who have lost valuable alpacas while using electrified fence tape).  Because of their long neck alpacas reach well under the electric tape and when they stand and turn around their neck is encircled with the tape – and they are shocked to death.  A nasty, and avoidable, death.  If you can think of a safer fencing for temporary use stock will handle rotation well, but don’t risk your alpacas using electric fencing.

Rotational Grazing

The farm is divided into a number of paddocks, numbered for easy recognition. Alpacas are grazed on each paddock in rotation for a brief period (3-4 days) before moving on to the next paddock.

Paddock 1 2 3 4 5
6
7photo1
 

8

 

9etc

10

 

How long it takes your herd of alpacas to rotate around your property will depend on how many you have, the size of your property, and the speed of grass regrowth (fast in spring, almost dormant in winter).
Grass needs time to re-grow after grazing, and the aim is to have leafy pasture when the alpacas are returned to it.
If the rotation period is too long (you are under-stocked, or have fast spring growth) you risk having faster growing species start to dominate over slower growing pasture. In spring, you may need to shut up some paddocks to grow hay, but if the cause is under stocking you may need to consider other forms of grass control until you have sufficient alpacas to keep grass growth at at optimum amount for your property – either cross-graze with another species, or top your pasture regularly.
If the rotation is too short, and your grass does not regrow in time for the alpacas to be returned to it, you may be overstocked (either sell some alpacas, or feed them suppliments such as hay), or slow the rotation down. Another possibility may be that your pasture needs to be fertilised to maximise growth, or if you have poor performing pasture, you may need to consider regrassing as well as lime and fertiliser.

Advantages of Rotational Grazing:

  • Pasture is eaten more evenly
  • Paddocks are given time to freshen
  • Parasite infestation is reduced, as hatching parasites find no hosts available

 

Set Stocking
With set stocking there are only a few animals per paddock. The animals are moved only occasionally.

Paddock 1 2photo2 photo3
4photo4 5 6

 

Set stocking is used on some alpacas farms where there is an abundance of food, or the property is small with only a few paddocks. With such a low stocking rate, this can waste a lots of grass, as animals prefer to eat their “favourite”, or the most palatable pasture it results in uneven pasture quality. Pasture fertility can become uneven because of middens growing overlarge. If the pasture is infected with parasites, set stocked alpacas are continually exposed to them.

Disadvantages of set stocking:

Pasture may become sour, with palatable grasses overeaten and unable to regenerate
Middens may become overlarge
Higher risk of parasite problems

On/Off grazing

Seldom used for alpacas. This is a response to winter conditions, and lack of grass growth. Farmers select a “sacrifice paddock” where alpacas are stocked without rotation. Nutrition is provided by hay and supplementary feed as grass may be grazed down to roots. Alpacas may be allowed limited access to grass in other paddocks (a few hours a day), but most time is spent in sacrifice paddock.

Disadvantages :
Paddock will need to be regrassed in Spring
Alpacas have access to insufficient green grass
High risk of parasite problems
High predisposition to mastitis for pregnant females