LLAMA and ALPACA MANURE – Black Gold for the Garden
Written by Dean Andres
One of the most important additions to our soil every spring and fall comes from four legged critters grazing in our pasture. An unusual sight to see in an urban setting; our Llamas & Alpacas provide a unique experience for folks driving and walking by. On a daily basis someone stops and asks about them. Usually Suzi talks to them, but on rare occasions I’ve been spotted answering the most common question…”what do you do with the llamas?” The standard short answer is “lawn ornaments.” The longer answer is reserved for those who understand the benefits manure offers in regards to amending gardening soil and has much more to do with sustainability than most would realize.
The llamas & alpacas eat untreated pasture grass and after digestion, deposit black pellets about the size of marbles loaded with nitrogen & all sorts of other good stuff plants & veggies thrive on. They deposit these nuggets in piles on or very near the same spot each time. Every couple weeks or so, Suzi and myself spend an hour or two shoveling up those piles and cleaning out the barn. It’s all done by hand, shoveled into a wheelbarrow and then dumped into a contained area to dry out.
Those pellets don’t give it up easily, so for the first few years I tilled them into the soil where they took forever to break down. Then one afternoon while sipping on a sparkling beverage with Suzi, I mentioned how I’d like to find a better way to break up the pellets. She looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes & said…”how about using the wood chipper”? Problem solved. It took a while to figure out the proper proportion needed to amend existing soil, and build first year gardening soil from scratch (covered in another article), but once mastered it produces amazing results.
In recap; the llamas & alpacas eat untreated pasture grass that grows in our pasture. They poop out nuggets full of everything needed for soil amendment in piles we collect, dry, shred, & blend. Each year we use this “black gold” to add nutrients and microorganisms back into the soil after previous plantings have depleted a large amount of each. The benefits of not having to buy manure in bags & the joy of watching animals gracefully graze on the hillside easily offsets the cost and care associated with owning these sustainable animals. It’s a convenient & effective way to provide what is needed on site for a healthy, fun and sustainable gardening experience.
Llamas also make excellent guard animals and are used to guard herds of sheep from coyotes. Our alpha llama always lets us know when and where there are predators in the area with a distinct warning sound signal uttered from deep within his throat. Raccoons, while plentiful in the neighborhood, seldom present a problem when “Magic J” is on guard.
Related Video: Llama Manure