Dry season forage preferences of alpaca (Lama pacos) in southern Peru
Two hundred eighty adult female alpacas (Lama pacos) and two hundred tui alpacas (3-7 months of age) were grazed on a Festuchetum-Calamagrosetum association at the South American Camelids Pv.esearch Station, La Raya, Peru, during the dry season and early wet season of 1981 (June-December). Vegetation was sampled monthly during this period for species availability. 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 was different for adult and tui alpaca. Tui alpaca consumed more grass-like plants and forbs than adults during the driest months. However, plant species selected varied with animal class and changes in climatic conditions. Diet indices revealed the following as highly preferred, common forage species: Eleocharis albibracteata, Poa spp., Calamagrostis heterophylla, C. vicunarum, Alchemilla pinnata, Muhlenbergia fastigiata, and Carex spp. Highly preferred, trace species (characterized by their extremely low percentage in the available forage) were P. gymnantha, M, peruviana, Stipa brachiphylla, Ranunculus limoselloides, and Trifolium amabile. Species moderately preferred were Juncus brunneus, Luzula peruviana, Werneria pygmaea, Hipochoeris taraxacoides, Plantago tubulosa, and Miriophyllium spp. Relatively unpreferred species were Festuca dolichophylla, F^. rigida, _F. orthophylla, F^. megalura, S. obtusa, Ranunculus peruviana, Lepiquenia spp., and Plantago oficinalis. Festuca dolichophylla had been considered by range managers as highly preferred species overall. However, because it was the most abundant species (71% of the total forage yield), Festuca dolichophylla had a low preference 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, alpacas compensated for low quality forage by increasing their consumption of nutritious grass seeds.