How Many Alpacas Per Acre?
One of the more popular questions I am asked is, "How many can you put per acre?" and I predictably answer, "That depends." It depends on your climate, your weather, if you can water / irrigate, if you deworm every 30 days because of a parasite potential in more humid climate. My answers are different from everyone else. For us, we can put about 5-7 per acre...but we rent out a neighbors 15 acres to make sure our fields are not overgrazed with 120+/- alpacas.
We have about 20 acres at this time which is sub-irrigated (high water table). We rotate our herds among the 6 pastures, letting one rest for a least a week when it begins to be eaten down.
Over the years, we have had one acre pastures with a stocking density ranging from 5 to 20 alpacas per acre and from 6 to 18 llamas per acre. At a stocking density greater than 10 alpacas or llamas per acre, we start to see "social starvation" - getting thin despite adequate nutrition and 24 hour access to food free of choice. Either the animal is not willing to "fight for it" and/ or the continuous stress of so many animals in one pen seems to be the cause of this weight reduction. Plus, with a concentration of alpacas is also a concentration of manure and always being near the poo pile, this close proximity increases the chances of them picking up a bug or worm of some sort, further decreasing health conditions.We have found that dung piles (when rare or no cleaning is done) accumulate until there are 2 to 3 primary piles and 6 to 8 secondary piles. These end up covering 25-35% of the acre thus reducing the available grazing space and availability of grass to grow.I recommend body scoring at least every 1 to 2 months if the animals remain in this environment for an extended period of time. If this herd is getting diverse (i.e. 1/3 are a 2 or less, 1/3 are a 3 and 1/3 are a 4 or 5) then something needs to be addresses - more feed bunks, spacing, housing.
Barn and shelters are a bit different story. Contact us for further discussions on how many alpacas per acre is ideal for you.