Wonderful Alpaca Poo
The alpaca herd at Oak Tree Farm provides a valuable source of manure to grow edible flowers and herbs.
The relationship between the garden and the alpacas is a reciprocal one. The garden offers them herb infused bedding to cleanse and deter pests and the occasional nibble in the beds and then they give back to us with their manure. The gift that keeps on giving. The pumpkins, beans and courgettes have been particularly grateful.
Now for the science bit!
Part of the camelid family, alpacas have a unique and efficient digestive system. Like ruminants, they have multiple stomachs but while true ruminants have four chambered stomachs, alpacas have three: a system which enables maximum extraction of nutrients from their foraging.
Alpacas chew their food in a figure of eight motion, lubricating their food with saliva so it can pass down to compartment one where the microbe population begins the fermentation process and water and nutrients begin to be absorbed.
They will regurgitate and chew up to 75 times, moving the cud up and down their necks. Compartment two continues the fermentation and then the far end of the third compartment secretes acid. Urea is recycled to synthesize the proteins and produce energy.
Because of all this internal working, the manure is lower in organic matter than traditional manures, but it still has good levels of nitrogen and potassium and average levels of phosphorus compared to cow and horse manure. In addition, there are no weed seeds, less weeding! It improves both soil quality and water retention, so important on our hillside plot.
Alpacas use a communal place to poo called a midden which makes collection easier. It’s not smelly or messy and the alpacas are always interested in what we are doing so it is a pleasant daily task. They produce both large droppings and small “beans”and we collect both separately.
The large droppings contribute to the manure heap and create a fantastic mulch with straw from the stables. This manure doesn’t need to be aged or composted before use because there is no ammonia and can go straight onto the beds. As alpaca manure is quite alkaline if we mix in some coffee grounds which are quite acidic, this will make a neutral Ph fertiliser.
The small “beans” are collected and dried in the polytunnel, then poured into small, refillable jute bags and sold for mulching small gardens, potted plants or bonsais.
You can make alpaca manure “tea” which is good for giving seedlings a head-start; mix about a third of a cup of alpaca beans to two thirds water and let it sit overnight then water the plants, or we suggest hanging one of our jute bags of beans inside your watering can.
We sell large sacks of alpaca mulch/manure and also the small jute bags of beans.
Drop us a message to find out more.