How alpacas could help Welsh farmers tackle climate change

ITV News' Wales Reporter Rhys Williams reports on how alpacas could help farmers tackle climate change

A herd of fluffy white animals grazing on a farm in the Cambrian Mountains near Aberystwyth isn’t unusual. What is different about this farm in Cwmystwyth is that half of the herd are sheep, and half are alpacas. Scientists at Aberystwyth University want to see if the South American natives are suited to life on Welsh hill farms, and whether grazing them alongside other animals could help farmers tackle climate change. The long-necked creatures from the Andes are renowned for the quality of their wool, and scientists already know that they mix well with sheep, but crucially they’re also happy to feed on low quality grasses often snubbed by sheep.

Some experts have said alpacas have been overlooked as potential conservation grazers. Credit: ITV News

Previous research suggests they will eat invasive hill grasses such as Molinia (purple moor grass), which is a growing threat to diversity and carbon storage due to its tendency to cover peatland. Professor Mariecia Fraser from Aberystwyth University believes alpacas have been “overlooked” as potential conservation grazers. With the Welsh government looking to shift its focus away from agricultural production towards conservation management and carbon reduction, Prof. Fraser believes there could be an opportunity to include alternative livestock species into future funding schemes.

Feed trials for the research will begin this month to gather data on the digestive efficiency of the alpacas, as well as monitor their methane emissions, before grazing trials in the spring and summer of 2023 and 2024. Some farmers already keep small amounts of alpacas to protect their lambs from predators like foxes.

But soon the sight of alpacas and sheep running through Welsh hills together could be far less unusual.

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