Alpacas and their Environment

 
 
Our goal is to be gentle on the land
                ...treading softly on the earth...
                                        and our alpacas lead the way
 

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Pond sits below pastures

We are committed to maintaining and improving the farm and pasture in accordance with the needs of the animals and best environmental management practices (BMP). We believe that these objectives are mutually compatible, resulting in a quality livestock-breeding and fiber production program that improves quality of pasture, enhances the surrounding environment, and protects adjacent waterways.


 

Chamonix and Prima on an evening "PRONK"
Adult alpacas "pronking"
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See pictures of some of the wildlife we see around the farm.

Alpacas are gentle on the land.
Here are just the highlights:
They are efficient digesters and therefore need to eat less than other livestock and produce less manure, which they concentrate, along with urine, in common dung piles thus leaving more pasture clean for grazing; they have soft feet that do not tear up turf or compact soils the way hooves can; they have incisors only on their bottom jaw so they graze by trapping grass between their lower teeth and a hard upper palate, which makes them gentle grazers, rarely pulling the roots from the soil.
 
It's an added bonus that they tend to pronk in the evenings and they actually smell good!

Compost with mushrooms
Mushrooms on the compost pile

For those interested in the scientist's perspective on poo...

Pasture Maintenance and Surface Runoff. Our pasture is situated on the side of a mountain and receives significant surface runoff from rainfall. In order to minimize the mobilization of fecal bacteria (coliforms) and other pathogens from manure in surface runoff waters, we have diverted most of the incoming runoff to one side of the pasture where it is eventually received by a pond.

We compost all of our manure--as opposed to just letting it pile up--so that it decomposes to produce a rich, organic fertilizer that can replace chemical fertilizers that could be potentially harmful to the environment. 

Daily removal of manure from the pasture and the subsequent composting process are part of the strategy to keep fecal coliforms out of surface runoff and ground water.

We compost our manure for as long as two years to ensure that the manure will go through a "hot" phase where thermophyllic bateria will kill parasites and unwanted seeds and a "curing" phase where animal and insect shredders will further decompose and digest the manure into particle size.

When collecting manure from the pasture we make a point of layering it in the compost pile with plenty of waste hay, the hardwood pellets used to absorb liquids, and fallen leaves from surrounding hardwood trees (in the fall).

We keep the piles "houseplant moist" and turn them a couple of times a year.  Fully composted manure can result in just a few months. Gardeners love it and our reward is fresh locally grown produce! One of our compost customers says, "There's compost; then there's ROY'S compost." There are some very nice local restaurants who buy vegetables grown with the help of our compost.


 

New barn with cistern behind
Barn on a Misty Morning
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From barn-building to renovating the fences...

We decided to build our pole barn in a location where it would not require excavation. The absence of excavation minimized erosion during construction and resulted in minimal damage to the existing well-established pasture. With no cement foundation and a slight slope, sills were installed in most of the uphill-side barn openings to keep water from running right through during a downpour.

We needed to upgrade the existing horse fencing around the perimeter of our pasture to make it predator proof and to fence off a section of driveway. We were alerted to the existence of the Virginia Agricultural BMP Cost-Share Program, which provides assistance and tax credits to eligible farmers who upgrade their fencing to keep livestock away from surface water. We contacted the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District and received advice on how to re-construct the fencing that would protect a stream and the wetland that wasn't previously fenced off. After completion, the Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District inspected our fence and the Board of Directors approved our application for cost-sharing funds and a tax credit certificate.

There's a little more to the story. Our application was not initially approved because of the number of alpacas we said might one day graze inside our perimeter. They were thinking cattle but we were able to change their minds by providing information about alpacas to them.


 

Water for Farm Use. We have installed a 300-gallon cistern to provide for the watering needs of the alpacas and regular barn water use. The cistern is fed from rainwater runoff from one side of the barn roof. Thermal inertia in the cistern, insulation of the valves and water lines, and low-powered heaters keep the water in the barn waterers from freezing. The installation of this system allows us peace of mind by ensuring that our alpacas will have access to water even during a power outage. We have well water available to back up our stored supply because we do need more water for cooling purposes during the summer. We will be able to install an additional cistern as the need arises to increase our storage capacity.

Electricity. We have installed solar powered electric wires at top and bottom of our perimeter woven wire fencing. The enhanced reliability that comes with a self-contained fence system gives us a great deal of peace of mind. And we hope to one day have a entirely solar powered barn.

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Call or email for a complete list of females eligible for the future cria program



 

 
 
Cameron Mountain Alpacas sells only registered alpacas.

Retail site for NAAFP products
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