Pasture Rotation for Alpacas

Early in our experience, we learned the importance of pasture rotation for our alpacas. Here is what we learned, and some steps we took to change things.

Learning the hard way

Our first year we only had 3 alpacas. We thought “the existing pasture is big enough…let’s just let them eat in there all summer.” We quickly learned the importance of letting a pasture rest, and about rotational grazing.

Issues we Encountered

  • The animals would eat the grass faster than it could grow.
  • The alpacas dedicated a spot for dirt baths and dung piles. This used up even more grazing area.
  • We needed to buy hay all summer long. This was an expensive lesson to learn.

Designing the Pasture Rotation System

After a winter of designing pasture plan, it was time to dig in. We created 6 separate pastures with a series of gates that make a “chute” the animals use to pass from one to the next. Like a lock and dam system, the alpacas could only have access to one pasture at a time.

Clearing Additional Land

We were able to divide our existing pasture area into 3 sections. However, our plan also required clearing buckthorn and sumac out of an old sheep pasture. Read all about my buckthorn clearing technique here. 

Setting the Posts

Installing fence posts by hand at for pasture rotation.

We are certainly glad to have this system in place, but I never want to do fencing again. The whole time I kept telling myself “I’ll only have to do this once. I’ll only have to do this once.”

I won’t bore you with the details of the land clearing, burning, seeding, and occasional utterance of colorful metaphors that were also a part of this endeavor.

Fence posts ready for fencing to be stretched for pasture rotation.

End Result

Because of the 100+ cedar posts and 1,000′ of 5′ woven-wire horse fencing (pulled tight with the help of the winch on the ATV) the critters now enjoy nibbling on the green grasses all summer long.

We are now in our second year of rotating the alpacas and horses through this pasture system. Our feed expenses have reduced dramatically, because we are not buying nearly as much hay. Plus, it’s much easier on the lower back to simply swing a gate open.

2 thoughts on “Pasture Rotation for Alpacas”

  1. Hello,
    I’m curious about the 6 different paddox. We have 3 alpaca on an acre of pasture. Do you think separating it into 2 and simply rotating between them would be sufficient? How long, in your opinion, does a pasture need to rest?

  2. Resting times can depend on how far down they grazed the existing grass. I know cattle farmers who will allow their herd to half the height of the grass. The grass uses the energy in the roots to regrow. If you allow the animals to graze on growth from “root energy” you have traditional overgrazing by definition.
    We will be splitting our 2 acres into 8-10 lots. Some sections will be much smaller but they are slower growing. If we evenly rotate, we can rest the area 90% of the time. If needed, we will mow after grazing a section if there are areas that were not grazed. This has also allowed us to seed areas and leave them untouched.

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