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
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.
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.