- There are some things that are attractive at first look, but fall apart upon analysis. Maybe like that fancy car you bought which needed major work 3 weeks after you drove it off the lot. Hydroponic fodder systems may fall into that category. There are a number of systems available on the web promoting this concept (try Googling ‘hydroponic fodder’ or ‘hydroponic grass’ on the web – there are plenty of sites). Looks good? Who could think of a better forage for your animal than luscious sprouted leafy grain—just like the alfalfa sprouts on your sandwich! You can see videos on the web which show cattle and horses gobbling up sprouted grain like a vegetarian at a salad bar. But things are not always as they seem! Let’s see if this concept makes sense.
- Our objectives were to measure alpaca (Lama pacos) diet quality and botanical composition seasonally on 2 high elevation range-sites (bofedal and Altiplano) in the Andes Mountains of Peru. The bofedal site was a perennially green sedge and forb community located at 5,000 m elevation. The Altiplano site, located at 3,190 m, was predominately bunchgrass. We collected diets from free-ranging, esophageally fistulated alpacas at each site. Alpaca diets at both sites were highest in grasses during the wet and early dry season. As the dry season progressed, bofedal alpaca diets were comprised largely of sedges and reeds (78%) while Altiplano diets remained predominantly grasses (68%). Forb consumption varied annually between 8 and 29% of the diet on both sites. Crude protein (CP) in bofedal diets (12.3%) averaged higher than on the Altiplano (10.2%). Values were lowest during August (6.1%) on the Altiplano and in July (8.0%) on the bofedal. In vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) of alpaca diets on the bofedal (63%) was similar to the Altiplano site (64%) when averaged for all seasons. IVOMD was lowest during August (49%) at the Altiplano site and in October (50%) on the bofedal. Low dietary CP and IVOMD during the late dry season (Aug.-Oct.) denote this period as nutritionally critical for both sites.
- Two hundred eighty adult female alpacas (Lama pacos) and 200 tui alpacas (young alpacas 3-7 months of age) were grazed on a Festuca-Calamagrostis association at the South American Camelids Research Station, La Raya, Peru, during the dry season and early wet season of 1981 (June-December). Vegetation was sampled monthly during this period for herbage yield by species. Fecal material from both adult female alpaca and tui alpaca was collected monthly for microhistological analyses of food habits. Alpacas were primarily grazers rather than forb eaters during the dry season and early wet period of 1981. Forage classes consumed were different for adult and tui alpaca. Tui alpaca consumed more grass-like plants and forbs than adults during the driest months. Diet indices revealed the following as highly selected, common forage species: Eleocharis albibracteata, Poa. sp., Calamagrostis heterophylla, C. vicunarum, Alchemilla pinnata, Muhlenbergia fastigiata, and Carex spp. Highly selected, trace species were P. gymnantha, M. peruviana, Stipa brachiphylla, Ranunculus limoselloides, and Trifolium amabile. Festuca dolichophylla had been considered by range managers as highly preferred species overall. However, because it was the most abundant species (73% of the total forage yield), F. dolichophylla had a low selection index during the dry season. Alpacas consumed remarkable quantities of grass seeds (up to 20% of the diet) during the driest months of the year, apparently compensating for low quality forage.
- Centuries ago, the Inca began raising alpacas for their soft and luxurious fleece. They pastured their animals in the lowland meadows and marshlands called bofedales, at an elevation of about 4,000 feet above sea level. The alpaca’s native region has a very short growing season with 75% of the rainfall between December and March. During the dry season (May to October), native forage has relatively low nutritional value. Fortunately, alpacas are well adapted to this cycle of feast and famine. In fact, the primary feeding-related problem among North American alpacas is obesity.