Just like humans, llamas and alpacas can benefit from health food. Rob Schmidt, who raises llamas and alpacas near Pigeon Lake, demonstrated some of his feed choices during a seminar on alternative feeds at the Llama Canada conference.
Schmidt first got interested in nutrition when he became a parent. He began studying nutrition and applied what he had learned to feeding his livestock as well. He sprouts wheat to feed to his llamas and alpacas.
He says the secret to sprouting wheat is to buy good-quality seed that has a germination rate of 99 per cent. Schmidt uses Red Hard Spring wheat. A sprouting container should be filled to half full and will grow to full in just 2-1/2 to three days.
Schmidt grows his wheatgrass in trays and plants one cup of wheat into one inch of soil in a growing tray. The soil used is a mixture of dirt and peat moss. Prior to planting, the wheat is soaked for 45 minutes, and then is rinsed every 12 hours. After 24 hours, the wheat seeds are planted in a tray. An inverted tray is put on top of the tray with the wheat seed it in for three or four days. After three or four days, the tray is placed in a well-lit room kept at room temperature. The grass should be watered as needed and will be ready for consumption in about seven to 10 days.
The wheat should smell nice and should only be fed if it sprouts. Once the seeds have sprouted, Schmidt breaks the clump apart and uses it for feed. “A sprouted pailful of wheat costs between one to two dollars,” he said. “This is high-quality food and in my opinion, it’s better quality than flakes or pellets.” Sprouted feed can keep for about one week in the fridge.
Schmidt feeds three handfuls each day to his llamas and alpacas as a supplement to their diet of grass hay. He feels that the sprouted wheat offers high nutritional value, and is easy for the llamas to digest. The feed is rich in vitamins, minerals and live enzymes, he said. “It takes awhile for the llamas to get used to it, but once they get used to it, they love it,” he said. He also uses sprouted wheat for training the animals and puts his deworming medication into the sprouted wheat. The feed could also be used as a supplement for dogs, cats and birds.
In addition to feeding the sprouted wheat, Schmidt also does some further processing. He cuts and then grinds the grass into juice using a wheatgrass juicer. He feeds the juice to weak cria that did not receive colostrum. Cria are fed through a tube or by squirting the liquid in their months. He feels that older llamas could also benefit from the juice in the wintertime.
Wheatgrass has long been touted as a health food for humans as it contains numerous essential vitamins and minerals. Fifteen pounds of wheatgrass contain about as many nutrients as 350 pounds of fresh vegetables, said Schmidt.