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 2. Alpaca Healthcare & Nutrition
 How much does an Alpaca eat compared to a sheep?
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69 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2008 :  03:42:00 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've heard that Alpaca eat a lot less than sheep but I'm not sure, relatively, how much less. For example let's say compared to a typical adult Dorset sheep, does an Alpaca eat 70% of the forage, 50%, 10% of the forage compared to sheep? Do the Alpaca have different grazing patterns than sheep (eating more bushes up high instead of trimming grass close to the dirt)?
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685 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2008 :  08:17:55 AM  Show Profile  Visit alpacastarr's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by flyingpolarbear

I've heard that Alpaca eat a lot less than sheep but I'm not sure, relatively, how much less. For example let's say compared to a typical adult Dorset sheep, does an Alpaca eat 70% of the forage, 50%, 10% of the forage compared to sheep? Do the Alpaca have different grazing patterns than sheep (eating more bushes up high instead of trimming grass close to the dirt)?

An adult alpaca will eat about 10 to 12 pounds of green grass or about 2 pounds of dry hay daily (or a combo of both hay and grass). Plus they will want about 1 pound of pelleted alpaca supplements. Plus they drink roughly 1 gallon of water.

That's to maintain. Growing youngsters, preg/lactating females need to eat more.

Alpacas are more browsers than sheep (I believe) but maybe not as much as goats and llamas. They eat a broad array of grasses, broadleafs, trees - leaves, bark etc. Seem to like poison ivy!

Given their druthers, they'll wander and pick. Tending to graze favorite areas pretty hard, close to the ground, while leaving other areas to get a bit tall. Apparently they do prefer the tender new shoots over older longer tougher blades. Which can be managed by grazing time and paddock size. Or you can mow, mow, mow to get them to expand their grazing over a wider area.

Hope that helps. I've never raised sheep so I can't really do a comparison for you.

Venezia Dream Farm
Asheville, NC
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3204 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2008 :  08:26:08 AM  Show Profile  Visit jillmcm's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Wow. My alpacas don't eat that much. I can't tell you how much poundage they graze daily, but I am only allowing 5 flakes from a 40 pound bale of hay per day for a dozen animals (so about a 40 pound bale every three days for twelve animals), and they only get a half cup of pellets daily each - and they are all body scoring between 6-7 (5 is ideal - argh). They also don't drink that much, as right now they get a lot of their moisture from their grazing (I have about 2-1/2 acres for the 12).

In the depths of a Maine winter, I will go through a 40 pound bale of hay a day, plus probably increase pellets to a cup each. Anyone having a hard time keeping weight on will get some alfalfa added to the pellets. They also drink more in the winter.

Jill McElderry-Maxwell
Bag End Suri Alpacas of Maine - ¡BESAME!
Benton, ME
(207) 453-0109
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3317 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2008 :  09:22:12 AM  Show Profile  Visit nyala's Homepage  Reply with Quote

My sheep eat about double the hay and the young sheep eat about 3 times as much grain. My sheep eat (or waste) about 5-7 pounds of second cutting hay a day and they are much more wasteful of hay in general (they pull a lot out of the feeders and just drop it). The alpacas eat about 2.5 pounds of hay a day and tend to eat every bit. The one breed of sheep I have Wensleydales are bigger by a lot then the alpacas (ewes around 250 pounds and the ram is well over 300). I have some smaller sheep (Jacobs around the weight of a smaller alpaca say 120 pounds) and they eat about 5 pounds of hay a day. The young growing sheep get about coffee can of sheep pelleted grain a day which is really a lot more than the alpacas get. I think Dorsets are bigger than Jacobs but a little smaller than Wensleydales.



D. Andrew Merriwether, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Biology, Binghamton University
Ann and Andy Merriwether
Nyala Farm Alpacas,Vestal, NY
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4245 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2008 :  09:55:36 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

Rick & Pati Horn
All American Alpacas
35215 Avenida Mañana
Murrieta, Ca. 92563
Life is Good!
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Ian Watt

909 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2008 :  8:05:07 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We free feed hay (10 - 12% CP with 55 - 60%TDN) to all males with access to a sheep salt lick period. For that we get an even micron along the length of the fiber, fineness, no appreciable tenderness and a consistent bodyscore of 3 on a scale of 1 - 5. The males do not get access to any pasture at all.

For the weanlings, the pick of the pasture (not much but still first dibs!) plus free feed hay and about 6 ounces of 15%CP llama maintenace supplementary pellets/day.

Dams with cria at foot get second dibs on the pasture (about 12 hours a week on average) plus free fed hay and 6 ounces of supplementary feed/day, with the aim of keeping them at a bodyscore of 3.

Dams in the last third of pregnancy do not get any pasture (well, occassionally but we have less than an acre in total) but do get a flake of alfalfa (for 5) on top of free fed hay plus 4 ounces of supplementary feed/day, all this on a feed lot, and a goal of 3.5 bodyscore.

We do not creep feed anything nor do we give any special treatment to the old dams who are thinner than a 3 bodyscore - my experience is that many of these dams do not respond to 'fattening' up yet they continue to look for males and raise good, healthy cria - we do sometimes give them a few months R & R but that is probably more for our benefit than theirs!!

Since adopting this regime over a year ago we have cut pelleted feed by 70%, our animals are healthier (no vet visits for health problems), cria are about 16 pound weight at birth and are fit and healthy, our herd fiber diameter is down and we have had only 1 assisted birth this year (from over 35 total).

We do not give any CDT or other innoculations nor do we do any worm preventative dosing and we do as little as possible with cria unless we see they are in trouble.

Our alpacas have never been healthier!!

We are on the central coast of California with average rainfall of about 14 inches and. to all intents and purposes, in a continuing drought where hay quality is not very good (ours at least) but the weather is pretty balmy for most of the year.

The changes in our feeding regime have come about because of a trial I ran with some gelding and males on a bare paddock with just hay and salt lick for nearly 2 years where we saw the outcomes listed above.

Best thing we have done to date!!


Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
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