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Q: I have a smallholding with horses and sheep and am interested in getting some alpacas to graze with them as I have seen several mixed herds of horses and alpacas in my area. Does this combination of animals work and what would be the benefits?
Alpacas (a camelid species closely related to llama) will happily graze alongside sheep or horses providing they are not bullied by a boisterous horse.
They have a similar diet to horses; forage-based, with supplementary cereal concentrate rations required in the winter.
Alpacas are popular with smallholding owners, as they are notoriously good at seeing off foxes by stamping and spitting. They are useful animals to have around at lambing time, for this reason.
Do they require different management to horses?
Alpacas are hardy animals, but do need protection from heavy weather, in the form of a field shelter or overhanging trees.
They also need annual toenail trimming, shearing and vaccinating, although your vet can advise on specific timescales relating to their age and breed.
Neutered males are usually the cheapest alpacas to buy and experts recommend that two or three alpacas are grazed together as they have a herd mentality.
Where can I find out more?
Appledene Alpacas in Marden, Kent, holds husbandry courses for potential owners.
The British Alpaca Society (BAS), an organisation dedicated to the welfare of alpacas and the education of owners, can answer any questions you may have and provide training.
Appledene Alpacas, tel: 01622 831119 www.appledenealpacas.co.uk
British Alpaca Society, tel: 08453 312468 www.bas-uk.com
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (10 December, ’09)
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