Recently I was asked a question about whether or not alpacas would consume their owners’ bushes. I responded that alpacas will sample almost all the flora and fauna to which they are exposed. However, they are pickier than goats and will only eat lots of what they like. (Provided they have a good hay and/or forage source.)
With this in mind it is important to be aware of what plants you have in the areas where you do want to keep your alpacas. Some plants are toxic to alpacas and you won’t want them around these.
When we first began raising alpacas our neighbor pointed out to us that we had the toxic weed, crotalaria, growing in our field. Newbies at the time, this was a surprise. When we had broken up the soil for planting our pasture grass, we scraped the crotalaria seeds (which HAD BEEN dormant!) and the crotalaria began to grow like crazy.
To rid the fields of the crotalaria we have to pull each plant up individually, by the root, and remove it from the field. Of course it grows in the heat of summer, making for some strenuous weeding work during the hottest part of year.
Other toxic plants that we have on the farm are azaleas, acorns and pine needles. The azaleas are in the front yard, far removed from the alpacas. But our fields have oak and pine trees in them so we do get their little droppings of acorns and pine needles.
I have read that acorns and pine needles are poisonous. However, in thirteen years of raising alpacas, we have not had a problem with that. I have seen alpacas eat both acorns and pine needles. But since they have access to free choice hay and usually some pasture grass, the alpacas do not eat much of those things. I try to keep the pine needles raked up so that they don’t make a cover over the good forage.
Here is a reference for a comprehensive listing of plants that are toxic to alpacas. Once you read it you may feel like everything is toxic it has so many plants on it. Interestingly, when I read it I was surprised to learn that poinsettias are NOT toxic. I’ve always believed they were.
Always check with your veterinarian and/or your local agricultural agent to find out what plants in your area may be harmful to your animals. Some other resources on the subject:
Have you had any experience with toxic plants? If so, leave a comment and tell us about it.