Botanical Composition of Alpaca (Lama pacos Linn.) Diet in a Central Mediterranean Range of Chile

G. Castellaro G.1 , F. Squella N.2 , F. León C.3 , and A. Raggi S.4

The re-introduction of domestic South American camelids (alpacas and llamas) in the central zone of Chile makes it necessary to study their behaviour and adaptability. Since it is fundamental to characterize the camelid’s diet, the present work had as an objective the determination of the plant species selected by the alpacas (Lama pacos Linn.) in different phenological stages (vegetative, reproductive and dry season). The study was carried out over three years in a paddock of 2.5 ha of sparse shrubland dominated by Acacia caven (Mol.) Mol. and annual species in the herbaceous stratum, which were continually grazed by five male alpacas. The botanical composition and the forage dry matter available for grazing in the pasture was evaluated. Botanical composition of diets was estimated with the microhistological technique, using dung samples collected directly from the rectum. During the vegetative season, the most consumed plant species were annual and perennial grasses. In the reproductive season, the most important components of the diet were woody plant species, annual grasses and forbs. In the dry season, the diet was composed of a high percentage of woody plant species.

Keywords: alpaca, annual Mediterranean range, botanical composition, microhistology.
1 Universidad de Chile, Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas, Casilla 1004, Santiago, Chile. E-mail: gicastel@uchile.cl *Corresponding author.
2 Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias, Centro Regional de Investigación Rayentué, Centro Experimental Hidango, Casilla 3, Litueche, Chile. E-mail: fsquella@inia.cl
3 Bayer S.A., Longitudinal Sur km 92, Los Lirios, Rancagua, Chile.
4 Universidad de Chile, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias y Pecuarias, International Centre for Andean Studies (INCAS), Casilla 2, Correo 15, Santiago, Chile