Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
What I'm Reading!

Books I Love

Monday, August 11, 2008

postheadericon Wide Open Spaces: Pasture Planning 1

As you can see from our farm visitor map (below and to the left), we have been overwhelmingly lucky to have lots of company here on the farm. Now with a slight summer lull I am back on-track with some blogging.

Since our arrival, it has been a priority to improve our pasture situation. Having adequate and properly laid out pasture space improves and maintains not only herd health, but also eases farm management and maintenance (i.e. saves my labor!). A first consideration is how many alpacas you expect to have on your farm.

Animal Density

Many of the resources and breeders I have researched and spoken with suggest that one can house 5-10 animals per acre. In my opinion, ten animals is not a reasonable expectation unless you live in an area where your forage is very fast growing, have enough pastures to rotate frequently, and have an adequate means to irrigate to ensure forage regrowth.

Rotational grazing poses additional work and upfront expense to the farm owner. Not only is it time consuming to constantly move your animals, but it is also expensive to put in. Rotational grazing requires the use of interior fence lines and multiple gates to allow you to move the herd from one pasture to another so the previous pasture can be allowed to grow without grazing. A more reasonable estimate may be on the low end at five alpaca per acre, and even this may be too many if you live in an area that the forage doesn’t grow year round due to either winter weather, or summer heat and dryness.


How many separate pastures does one need? Most say least two -- one pasture for males - and - one for females. However, we have been doing breedings on our farm for next season, and I can attest to the need for at least three. I have found that having at least one pasture (or at a bare minimum a runway) between the sexes alleviates squabbles between the breeding males vying for attention from the females. It also provides space for said breedings and any needed animal care work. An additional two pastures would be ideal to separate out the male and female weanlings so they do not have to compete with the adults for food and rotational fields are available for pasture maintenance and forage regrowth

Having just put in additional fences for my farm, I still have upfront costs strongly on my mind! One solution we have found to temporarily remedy this challenge is to use portable fencing to break up larger pastures into smaller units which can be used for rotation or weanling separation.

Keep in mind that catch pens are also necessary for breeding, herd health, and training. I will include and entry in the near future about what layout we have found to work for us and share layouts that I have observed at other farms.

Stay tuned for more articles on this subject coming up!

Overgrazed & Trodden Original Pastures Below

Sturdy Cross Fencing Built to Last

The Ladies Get their First Look Around

Isn't the Grass
Always Greener Boys?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

postheadericon Under the Orcas Moon

Pendragon & Valentino Grazing on a Summer's Eve.