Nutrition of alpacas grazing high altitude rangeland in southern Peru
Reiner, Richard James
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Fiber and meat production from alpacas are important for the livelihood of both subsistance and market-oriented producers using high elevation Andean grasslands in Peru. The study objectives were: 1) to seasonally measure alpaca diet quality and botanical composition on two rangeland sites; and 2) to estimate forage intake of alpacas grazing Andean rangeland. Diets were collected from free-ranging, esophageal fistulated alpacas during eight months between June 1983 and March 1984. The "bofedal" site (4,500 m) was a perennially green sedge community dominated by Eleocharis albracteata and Carex ecuadorica. Vegetation cover was 22% grass, 42% sedges and reeds, and 33% forbs. The "Altiplano" site (3,190 m) was predominately the grass species Festuca dolichophylla and Muhlenbergia fastigiata. Vegetation cover was 66% grass, 13% sedges and reeds, and 6% forbs. Diets at both sites were highest in grass during the wet and early dry season. As the dry season progressed bofedal alpaca diets became largely sedges and reeds (81%) while Altiplano alpaca diets increased in grass (68%). Forb consumption varied between 9 and 26% of the diet year-round. Crude protein (CP) in bofedal alpaca diets (12.3%) averaged higher than on the Altiplano (10.2%). Values were lowest during June (7.1%) on the Altiplano and July (8.0%) on the bofedal. Dietary CP at the bofedal site was higher during the nutritional critical late dry season. Ln vitro organic matter digestibility of alpaca diets was lowest during August (49%) at the Altiplano site and in October (50%) on the bofedal. Alpacas grazing the Altiplano may be deficient in CP during the entire dry season (Jun.-Nov.) and energy deficient during the late dry season (Aug.-Oct.). Dietary CP may be deficient on the bofedal site only during the early dry season and energy deficient during the late dry season. Supplementation of alpaca diets is recommended during periods of protein and energy deficiency. Alpacas freely grazing a Festuca dolichophylla / Muhlenbergia fastigiata range consumed daily 50.5 and 44.3 g organic matter per kg metabolic body weight during the dry and wet seasons. These values are lower than reported for sheep. Recommended stocking rates for alpaca may require re-assessment.