Alpacas and Goats Justify Seeding Down Rough Fields Too

Not everyone who converts to pasture land raises cattle.

Published on: Dec 10, 2012

The goal in most watershed projects is to identify land in the watershed that is eroding badly because of the way that it is being managed, and find a way to get the farmer and/or landowner to change what they're doing to drastically reduce soil erosion. Since it's a voluntary program, it helps if there is cost-share money to help them make the switch to a different system. Often it's a long-term project with a big cash outlay needed to get the process started.

In southeast Indiana, Duane Drockelman has become a master at showing landowners options for handling their land and eventually making a profit besides farming it. Some fields are even too steep for no-till, and some of the worst fields are steep and still conventionally farmed. Retiring next month as the watershed project comes to a close, Drockelman is coordinator of the South Laughery Creek Watershed project. It included acres in Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties.

Alpacas one, soil erosion zero: The real winner is the environment when land is converted to permanent cover, no matter what species grazes on it, Duane Drockelman says.
Alpacas one, soil erosion zero: The real winner is the environment when land is converted to permanent cover, no matter what species grazes on it, Duane Drockelman says.

Drockelman didn't bat an eye when one landowner said he was willing to seed new hay and pasture land, and even set up paddocks for rotational grazing, but he wanted to raise goats, not cattle. He currently has about 20 goats and wants to expand to 40 as he finishes his system.

His paddocks are small, mostly less than an acre. Robert Zupancic, grazing specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, helped him decide which forage species would be best for his intended use and the land. So he seeded different mixtures in different paddocks. The goats are largely marketed to ethnic consumers.

Meanwhile, Drockelman also didn't bat an eye when Jenny Wilk said she would seed down 19 to 35% slopes for hay and pasture, but only if she could use it for her alpaca herd. The watershed project committee cost-shared on the seeding, and later on some fence and waterline to help establish grazing paddocks for the alpacas. Wilk constructed metal-sided shelters, each one serving two paddocks, so the alpacas could get out of the elements.