As we’ve been researching animals for our backyard homestead, we’ve come across two particular species that intrigue and interest us: alpacas and goats. But can alpacas live with goats?
Alpacas and goats can live together with proper preparation and attention to vital details like indoor and pasture space needs, nutritional requirements, feeding and excrement habits, and overall health management to manage cross-sharing of parasites and diseases.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know to keep goats and alpacas together in your backyard homestead!
Can Alpacas Live with Goats?
After having done extensive research on this topic, I’ve found that goats and alpacas can live together – if you’re willing to prepare and keep up with several important factors. Here is what you need to know about those requirements.
|Requirement||Alpacas||Goats||Alpacas and Goats Together|
|Indoor space needs (good weather)||Alpacas have big personal bubbles. Each alpaca will want its own 6’x8′ space.||Goats need 10-20 square feet per animal, depending on breed and the available outdoor pasture space.||Ideally, try to have separated barn space for each species.|
|Indoor space needs (inclement weather)||Minimally, alpacas need a 3’x6′ space when crowding together to keep warm.||Goats will also huddle up to keep warm. Several more than usual may crowd into one stall during bad weather.||If each animal species has its own indoor area, individuals may huddle during bad weather.|
|Pasture (Basic Requirements)||Minimum 1 acre per 5 animals (for purely pasture-fed alpacas).||Minimum 200-300 square feet for a pasture and play area. More space is better.||Less pasture is an option with appropriate supplemental feeding.|
|Shared Pasture||If alpacas have the same space, they should graze fairly evenly.||Goats usually handle weed control fairly evenly across a shared pasture.||May share pasture space if animals are regularly evaluated for cross-species parasites and diseases.|
|Rotating Pasture||Rotating pastures help the land recover in case of too-close grazing.||Goats are less likely to develop worms and parasites with rotating pastures.||Rotating pasture space (with alpacas first and goats second) should prevent many health issues and give pastures time to renew.|
|Minimum herd size||2 alpacas||2 goats||2 alpacas and 2 goats.|
|Regular Care||Tooth and hoof trimming. Annual shearing.||Hoof trimming, milking (optional).||Per the animal.|
|Feeding Habits||Prefer to eat pasture grass, hay, or silage.||Prefer to eat tips of shrubs, trees, vines, and broad-leafed plants.||Usually eat different foods, so they can share the same pasture spaces.|
|Fencing requirements||Regular or “no-climb” pasture fencing appropriate for your area is fine.||Regular or “no-climb” pasture fencing appropriate for your area is fine.||Have the same fencing requirements.|
|Supplements Required||A daily dose of grain if there’s not enough pasture grass or hay.||May need hay, alfalfa, or grain if there’s not enough pasture or the goat is pregnant/being milked.||Animals may do better with separate stations for supplemental feeds to prevent complications.|
|Macronutrient Sensitivities||None known.||Goats are sensitive to molds and listeria bacteria commonly found in fermented feeds (silage).||Separate feeding stations may be preferred.|
|Poisonous plants to avoid||Bracken fern, buckwheat, ragweed, fireweed, oleander, azaleas, agave, amaryllis, crocus, bear grass, snakeweed, buttercups, orange tree foliate, carnations, castor beans, acorns||Nightshade||Keep known poisonous plants away from alpacas and goats. Let goats handle any other weeds that they will.|
|Micronutrient Copper Sensitivities||Alpacas are sensitive to too much copper.||Goats often need a copper supplement.||Keep copper supplements away from alpacas via separate feeding stations.|
|Excrement Habits||Alpacas share a communal dung heap. Alpacas will not eat near the dung heap.||Goats poop anywhere and everywhere. If they can climb it, they’ll poop there – including feeding troughs.||Keep dung away from food sources (pasture and feeders) to minimize the spread of dung-related diseases and parasites.|
|Common Parasites||May catch worms if other animals are defecating in their pasture area.||Worms and other internal parasites.||Controlling feed areas (rotating pastures or feeders) will help prevent the spread of common parasites.|
|Common Diseases||Alpacas are susceptible to dental issues, Johne’s disease, sore mouth, and other diseases – including those common to goats.||pneumonia, foot rot, parasites, toxicity (both pregnancy and feed related), pinkeye, mastitis, pseudorabies, foot-and-mouth disease.||Controlling feed areas (rotating pastures or feeders) will help prevent the spread of common parasites.|
|Biggest Concern with cross-species health||Sharing diseases and parasites.||Sharing diseases and parasites.||Dung being too close to food is the main concern for contamination.|
|Caseous Lymphadenitis (CLA) – an incurable disease that causes abscesses in lymph nodes and internal organs.||Alpacas are especially susceptible to CLA.||Goats commonly carry and transmit CLA. When you get goats, have them tested for CLA before adding them to your herd.||Immediate quarantine sick-looking animals and have them evaluated by a veterinarian.|
In other words, it’s totally possible to keep goats and alpacas together. However, you will need to design your barn, pasture, and homesteading habits around each species’ specific needs.
Then, to keep them together, you’ll need to make sure you’ve accounted for both of their needs separately – and together.
Oh, and one last thing. Even if you do all the planning, things still may or may not work. That’s because being able to keep goats and alpacas will also depend on their temperaments! Some animals can coexist peacefully, while others are cantankerous and need to be alone – or at least alone with their herd.
Pros and Cons of Keeping Goats and Alpacas Together
Depending on who you ask, it seems like keeping goats and alpacas together is either an amazingly awesome thing – or the worst thing ever. Even so, let’s cover some of the pros and cons to keeping alpacas and goats together.
|Indoor Space||Separated areas within the same barn should keep both species warmer in inclement weather.||A lack of separated spaces may put smaller goats (and kids) at risk of being kicked by alpacas.|
|Pastures||Goats and alpacas eat different parts of plants, so they can be pastured together.||Dung can become problematic in shared pasture spaces.|
|Feeding Habits||Alpacas and goats graze, eat, and prefer different plants. Sharing pasture space can be a more efficient use of resources.||Dung too close to feeding areas can be problematic in spreading diseases or parasites between species. Goats often require copper supplements, while alpacas are sensitive to copper toxicity.|
|Fencing||Goats and alpacas can (usually) be pastured and contained with the same type of fencing. Most sources recommend using “no-climb” fencing.||Using other styles of fencing that work well for larger animals may not work well to protect these smaller species from predators or escape.|
|Protection||Alpacas may protect smaller goats (and kids) from small predators like single foxes.||In the face of larger predators or groups of predators, both goats and alpacas will go into prey/flight mode.|
|Dung||Dung is great for fertilizing pasture space. Alpacas create a communal dung pile whereas goats poop anywhere and everywhere they can get.||Dung, especially dung near feeding areas, is a source of disease or parasites. If the goats climb into shared hay feeders and poop, that’s a big concern for the alpacas.|
|Injuries||If integrated well, goats and alpacas may treat each other as part of a shared herd.||Bullying may occur from either species. Goats may butt alpacas. Or alpacas may kick goats. Injuries may be more severe to kids or cria.|
|Breeding||Ideally, no attempts at breeding should occur between the two species.||Male alpacas (even gelded ones) may try to breed with female goats.|
|Diseases||Some diseases don’t and can’t transfer between the two species.||Some diseases, like CLA, can be shared between goats and alpacas. CLA, an incurable disease, can be deadly to both species.|
So keeping the two species together can work – as long as you’re prepared to do what you can to minimize or eliminate the potential problems. Keep in mind that alpacas and goats can’t always have the same treats. You can read more about alpaca treats (including things that aren’t safe to give them) here.
Can Alpacas and Goats Share a Pasture?
Yes, alpacas and goats can share a pasture. They graze on different plants (and parts of plants), so pasture-sharing can be a much more efficient use of space and resources.
There is, however, one large concern about having goats and alpacas share a pasture. That concern is dung. Dung is a common vector of transmission for disease and parasites.
Goats poop anywhere and everywhere. Alpacas, on the other hand, create a communal dung pile.
In other words, if you keep goats and alpacas together, the risk of shared disease and parasites goes up dramatically – simply due to the dung habits of both animals (but mainly from the goats).
If you’d still like to pasture the animals together, you’ll want to watch both for signs of illness – and have both tested regularly for parasites and/or worms. You may also want to scoop up that dung on a regular basis.
Or you could create a pasture rotation to help lower (or maybe even prevent) the risk of disease and parasites. Because alpacas and goats graze on different areas, using a rotation could be a fantastic (and viable) option even if your backyard homestead is smaller (like ours).
Doing a pasture rotation should also limit the amount of poop scooping you have to do, depending on how large your pastures are. Not to mention, it would give the pasture grasses time to regrow and recover – meaning a whole lot less exposed dirt and mud.
Rotating pastures is, based on my research, simple.
- Divide the available pasture land into separate areas.
- Have the alpacas go into an area first. When it’s time to rotate, move the alpacas to a new area that’s had time to recover from previous grazing.
- Move the goats into the area that the alpacas just left.
- Leave at least one pasture area fallow to recover. This way, dung will break down and dry out – making parasites and dung-related diseases less of an issue.
Based on my research, adding in some chickens with the goats should speed up dung drying (and breakdown) even faster. That’s just because of how the chickens scratch the ground while looking for food. Even so, it may be a great way to better manage pasture and dung issues.
Will Alpacas Guard Goats?
While alpacas may help guard smaller goats against smaller, singular predators, they aren’t dedicated guard animals. They won’t be able to guard your goats against packs of predators or large carnivores.
Your best bet for guarding both of your alpacas and goats from predators is a predator-proof fence. Another great option is keeping an actual guard animal with your herd.
My research shows that the most popular guard animal options include large dogs, llamas, or maybe even a donkey.
Will Keeping Goats and Alpacas Together Affect Production of Fiber and Milk?
Based on my findings from a 2-year study (done in 2002) on keeping sheep and alpacas together in the same pasture, there may be some impact on fiber and milk production.
The research found that, during the first year, each the sheep and the alpacas gained weight well. But in the second year, they experienced some weight loss – followed by more weight gain.
- During weight loss, the production of fiber decreased noticeably.
- However, overall production increased during periods of weight gain.
So as long as you’re keeping an eye on your animal’s weight and making sure that they’re growing well, it’s plausible that production levels should be fine. Please note that this research only studied the findings based on wool and fiber, though. So the extrapolation to milk production is my best estimate. Actual results may vary.
If our current, tentative plan to get both goats and alpacas actually happens, I’ll try to remember to do our own experiment. And then I’ll update it here. It just may take a bit – so give me some time. Even so, feel free to ask me how it’s all going. Just use the contact us page to find my contact info.
- “Alpaca.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpaca.
- “Goat.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goat.
- McElderry-Maxwell, Jill. “Keeping Alpacas with Other Livestock.” PurelySuri, 2015, www.surinetwork.org/resources/Livestock%with%Alpacas%202015.pdf.
- McGregor, B.A. “Comparative Productivity and Grazing Behaviour of Huacaya Alpacas and Peppin Merino Sheep Grazed on Annual Pastures.” Small Ruminant Research, Elsevier, 29 Mar. 2002, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921448802000500.
- R., Danielle, et al. “Inoculation of Goats, Sheep, and Horses with MERS-CoV Does Not Result in Productive Viral Shedding.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 19 Aug. 2016, www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/8/8/230.
- Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants: Sheep, Goats, Cervids, and New World Camelids. National Academies Press, 2007.