Early Acorn drop – poisonous to Alpaca and can choke cria – beware
I do not often blog without a photo but I have had quite a few emails in the last few days about folk experiencing early Acorn falls.
Generally speaking Acorns fall late September through to November but as with many other things, its all happening early this year due to the warm weather. Folk are experiencing Acorns on the ground now and it is new acorns that are most toxic to all livestock, as they dry out and often burst, tannins are released and they are less toxic. Still a danger but less so as they are older and often removed by squirrels/mice by this time.
Whilst in a perfect world we do not really want Oak trees in livestock fields, they have many advantages in providing shelter from the elements too. We would always protect a tree rather than fell it and there are many ways of protecting livestock from access to eating acorns.
First of all, you can remove livestock from the field during this period and use it as a time to “rotate” your paddocks which is good pasture management ie rest that field. You can do this in a big field by erecting posts and a temporary fence between which is removed at a later time, when the acorns have been removed.
Alternatively, you can lay debris netting under the branches – obviously only viable in a small oak and not one of substantial size! – which collects the acorns which can be disposed of safely. not forgetting that they provide essential nutrients for other wildlife they could be “released” elsewhere away from your livestock for wildlife eg squirrels to eat.
alternatively you can use a paddock hoover to collect the acorns on a daily basis if the area is accessible.
If the oak belongs to someone else and it is only branches overhanging, then you can talk to the owner about cutting the branches down to remove the threat to your livestock which should not affect the tree if done when the sap is no longer rising. unfortunately this is after the acorn drop so if you haven’t thought about this yet – it is too late now to cut branches down this year.
of course there will be those amongst you who have Oak trees in their fields who have never experienced a problem and/or some Alpaca will eat a few to no effect. However, leaving them where Alpaca can access is not a sensible route as it is the “unknowledgeable cria” who usually fall victim by either eating young acorns when small or physically choking on them.
It is true that often older Alpaca will leave them alone but only if there is plenty of feed/grass/hay/other to eat and it is not a risk we would ever take or recommend.
Of course this is only my opinion and advice offered herein with best intentions.
I know many herds with Acorn trees in their fields who have never had a problem – they usually poover them up or keep the Alpaca out – but as always – prevention and being proactive is best!