Alpacas are great animals to have on most homesteads. They share a communal spot for when they poop, and their soft 2-toed feet means they won’t flatten the grass as hooves can. Overall, alpacas have little impact on the land, making them a safer investment. That is unless they eat all of your fruit trees.
So, is this really an issue? If left alone, will alpacas eat your fruit trees?
Even though they’re mostly grazers, alpacas can eat your fruit trees. To prevent them from stripping your trees of its leaves, install proper fencing or prune larger fruit trees up to six feet from the ground. Black cherry trees can be poisonous, especially if wilted, so keep the alpacas away from feeding on them.
If you have fruit trees in range of your alpacas, you may want to consider installing sheep fencing or finding other ways to keep them apart. Let’s take a look at which fruit trees alpacas will eat and more ways we can limit the damage they can cause.
What Damage Can Alpacas Cause Fruit Trees?
Alpacas are moderate grazers, and mostly feed on grass, but if left alone can cause damage to your fruit trees. They won’t hesitate to graze on the leaves of apple, plum, peach, pear, and many other fruit trees. Alpacas normally don’t do much damage other than grazing as they’re fairly gentle animals.
While some larger fruit trees can benefit from light grazing (think of it as a light pruning), alpacas can continue to feed until the tree is bare or almost bare.
Like deer, alpacas prefer grazing on new tender growth, and saplings are particularly vulnerable. Because of their fewer branches and leaves, if sapling loses a branch or two, it can be difficult for them to survive. If you’re growing fruit tree saplings, consider growing them indoors or in a secluded area until they are large enough to plant in the ground outside.
Other than some grazing, alpacas won’t cause much damage. They generally stop eating when they’re full, and despite having three stomachs, they don’t eat as much as other animals on the homestead. They’re also light on their feet and their smaller footprints leave fewer marks compared to other livestock.
How Can You Keep Alpacas Out?
Compared to cows and goats, alpacas are low-maintenance and a 4-foot sheep fence or wooden posts and rails will work just fine to keep them out. If alpacas have enough room to graze, they won’t get antsy and will be content with their space.
Generally, a good amount of space for alpacas is to keep six per acre. Any more alpacas and they can become stressed. If you decide to keep less, make sure it’s no fewer than three as being part of a herd is highly important to an alpaca’s development.
They like to wander, so if you leave the gate open, or if the fencing gets damaged, they will get out. In that case, your fruit trees might not be safe. If this happens often, you may want to get cages or other barriers for your fruit trees, especially if they’re young.
Observing alpacas behavior is often a good idea from time-to-time as you can get a sense of if they like to push boundaries or get into feed or plants that they’re not supposed to. Most of the time, this won’t be an issue, especially compared to goats and the like, but knowing the personalities of your alpacas can help correct behavior early on.
Can You Keep Alpacas in an Orchard?
While you can take alpacas through an orchard, it’s not a great idea to leave them in there. Some of the smaller trees and ones with new growth can be eaten and stunted. Additionally, there might be some fruits or vegetation that can make them sick.
However, if you have larger fruit trees in your orchard, this shouldn’t be an issue as alpacas are about 3 feet tall. Generally, a good height to prune large fruit trees is six feet tall. If most of the foliage and fruit are that high up, your orchard should be safe from them.
Although it’s not the best idea, if your orchard has tall, mature trees, and you’re aware of the type of plants growing in there, then it’s likely fine to leave the alpacas in there. Before doing so, make sure to check that the orchard is properly fenced in so the alpacas don’t wander off.
Do Alpacas Eat Fruits Growing on Trees?
Alpacas will eat many kinds of fruits growing on trees and vines. Some of their favorites include watermelons, pumpkins, bananas, apples, raisins, and strawberries. Alpacas will stop eating when they’re full, so if they do get into your fruit trees, the damage likely wouldn’t be too bad if you catch them soon enough.
Originally from the South American Andes, alpacas are used to the fruits and plants that grew in the vitamin and mineral-rich soil. They also got plenty of vitamin-D from the high-altitude sun. Unfortunately, most other places and plants aren’t that fertile or nutrient-rich. So, if eating fruit tree leaves and fruit is a large part of their current diet, you may want to consider supplementing it with other recommended alpaca feed to cover the rest of their high nutrient needs.
For more information about what to feed alpacas, check out my other post: the complete guide to feeding llamas and alpacas.
Which Fruit Trees Are Poisonous to Alpacas?
Some fruits can be dangerous to alpacas. They include almost all nightshade plants (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes). These fruits (along with potatoes) contain alkaloids and can poison alpacas with several symptoms.
Oak, black walnut, black locust, and black cherry trees are also harmful and alpacas should be kept away from eating these trees’ leaves at all times. If you think your alpaca is experiencing a poisoning from one of these plants, notify your veterinarian.
Alpacas are gentle and fairly low-maintenance and won’t cause much damage to your fruit trees. If left alone, they might graze on the leaves, but if you use the proper fencing and keep larger fruit trees, you’ll find minimal damage. Although, you may get the problematic alpaca every now and then, so keep an eye out and learn what kind of personalities your alpacas have so you can better predict their behavior.