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Paddock Maintenance

Alpacas are considered very clean animals. They have a habit very similar to horse stallions where they do their poo (droppings, manure) in piles. While this may make the paddocks look clean, it has a fertilizing effect on the surrounding grass, making the grass grow very quick and turn a very rich green color.

The picture (left) shows the long dark green patches where the alpacas have been pooing.

While this may sound good, the bottom line is alpacas do not like the taste of grass fertilized by their own poo. They will keep eating the areas where they cannot taste or smell their droppings and will only eat the fertilized areas when there is nothing else to eat.

A typical alpaca poo pile. For alpaca farmers on small acreage, the only way to keep the paddocks clean and healthy for the alpacas is to pick up the poo and remove it from the paddock.

Although it is an individual choice whether to pick up poo or not, an important point to consider is that you can fertilize the paddocks in other ways that will make the grass taste good and allow the alpacas to eat all the paddock.

We clean our 15 small paddocks twice a week. The size of these small paddocks vary from 1/4 to 1.5 acres and are used for late pregnant females, stud males, females with very young crias, crias being weaned and any alpaca requiring veterinary treatment. Numbers for these small paddocks may range from 2 to 16 alpacas. The five larger paddocks, sizes ranging from 5 to 15 acres, keep the main herd of around 120 alpacas. We regularly rotate the main herd between the these paddocks and usually clean them every one to two weeks.

In the past we have cleaned the paddocks manually with a rake and shovel. This method was very time consuming and labour intensive, hence the reason we sought an easier way of alpaca poo collecting.

Suction Cleaner

Using the hover-plate.We use a suction cleaner to pick up the alpaca poo. Terra-Vac has several models available, the smallest being the 'Colt' which has a hopper capacity of 1 meter cubed. It is powered by a 9 horse power petrol motor and is light enough to be towed by a 4 wheel motor bike or ride-on mower.

The Briggs & Stratton 9 hp motor is coupled to a vacuum system that sucks the poo off the ground, through a mulcher, and deposits it in the adjoining hopper. The suction hover-plate pick-up hangs next to the machine allowing you to ride the bike or mower over the poo pile and let the Terra-Vac do the rest. They also come with a wander-hose pick-up which allows you to be more mobile in cases of stables and hard to get to places.

Using the wander-hose.

Once the poo is in the hopper it's ready for the garden or bagged to be sold. Disposal of the poo is made easy by the hydraulic tipping system which empties the hopper with little effort.

Hydraulic tipping system.The Terra-Vac works well in all conditions, wet or dry, although there does tend to be less dust when the poo is fresh or wet. Much of the poo we collect is spread in our cow paddocks. We run a small herd of Red Angus cattle and they certainly don't mind the taste of grass fertilized by alpaca poo. We also bag the collected poo and sell it to passers by on our road frontage. It sells like hot-cakes.

We did a lot of research on what sort of equipment would be suitable for alpaca poo pick-up. Having used the Terra-Vac suction cleaner, we are very impressed by it's ease of use and the quality of the job it does. The Colt has cut our cleaning time dramatically, our paddocks look superb and our alpacas are enjoying their Spring grass.

Alpaca Maintenance - More information on alpacas

Putting weight on thin alpacas
Fencing for alpacas
How to determine signs of a sick alpaca
Basic first aid kit for alpacas
Alpaca body temperatures
Can cold and wet weather affect alpacas?
Making sense of the alpaca fibre analysis
Rye grass staggers
Taking the perfect alpaca photograph
Facial abscess
Berserk male syndrome
Vitamin D
Constipated crias
Preparation for Winter
Keeping alpaca records
Alpacas need head-space
Testing for parasites
Birthing help
Cutting Toenails
A Working Dog's Guide to Alpacas
Paddock Maintenance
Alpacas for Pets
Alpacas as Sheep Guardians