|Alpacas - An Environmental Alternative.
Alpacas are uniquely positioned as a livestock species to further the goals of the sustainable agriculture movement. Like all camelids they do not have hooves but large soft-padded feet, each with two fairly soft toenails. Their ground foot
pressure of 39kPA is much less than sheep (82kPA), cattle (185kPA) and humans (95kPA). Even the kangaroo at 46 kPA exerts more pressure on our thin top soils than the alpacas.
Alpacas farming relies on relatively few chemicals
- Less susceptible to parasites and therefore less drenching is
- Digestion is more efficient than other farmed animals
- Can be grazed successfully on native pastures (on improved
pastures sheep eat up to 2.5 times the amount of legumes as
alpacas, so alpacas obviously still prefer grasses.)
- Alpacas place their dung and urine in specific spots and do
not graze close to these, thus avoiding ingesting internal
parasites - to which they also have high resistance. (If
grazed with sheep, cattle or goats, alpacas will pick up the same
parasites and a similar drenching regime will be needed).
- Many breeders only drench if testing by the DPI Wormbuster
laboratory indicates a problem. Dung Beatles actively clean
up the poo piles, which can also be removed and used in
- The alpaca does not grow fibre underneath its short tail, and
avoids any contact with its urine or dung pellets. Together
with almost no grease in its fibre, this means that no mulesing or
crutching is required and fly strike does not occur.
- Alpaca fleece comes in a range of 22 beautiful nature colours,
from pure white through the fawns, brown, red browns, rose greys
to dark brown, then through various shades of grey, including
lavender, to a true blue black. The need for (toxic) dyes is
- Alpaca fleece has a low grease content. Sheep fleece
yields 60 - 70% clean wool from greasy wool (after the lanolin,
sweat etc is removed using harsh chemicals.) In contrast,
the yield of clean fleece from alpacas is in the range of 85 - 95%
and milder cleaning agents are suitable.
Alpacas perform better than sheep on poor quality forage
- Slower particulate passage time [microbes have longer to
attack structural carbohydrates (63 hours in Alpacas, compared
with 41 hours in sheep)]
- Faster liquid passage time (constant removal of microbial
protein, vitamins and soluble minerals maintains a rapidly
dividing population of microbes, which is more efficient.
Liquid flow is 10.4% per hour in alpacas, compared with 7.7% per
hour in sheep.
- Greater volume of saliva production (in relation to foregut
- Efficient output of energy and protein on limited quality feed
- Efficient nitrogen balance (by reduction of urea through their
- Alpacas do not overeat, selecting a variety of grasses and
other plants without disturbing the roots, thus allowing faster
regrowth and minimising soil erosion.
- The alpaca's metabolism is a third more efficient than sheep,
so stocking rate can be equivalent to sheep.