Friday, 25 January 2008

Alpaca Husbandry

My son, David, usually comes on a Friday to help with any husbandry that is due. His vehicle has been off the road for the last few weeks and so we have had to manage without him.

Mike and I decided to take advantage of the weather today to check all the alpacas' feet and cut their toe nails.

We also needed to give this year's cria a vitamin injection. Alpacas are native to South America and live at a very high altitude where they get plenty of vitamin D from the sunshine. In this country we have a more temperate climate but lack the sun, so especially in winter, most breeders give their alpacas a vitamin boost.

As we imported most of our alpacas, we give them vitamins all year and extra for the cria during the winter.

We brought the seven males, two wethers and five entire males in to the barn first. Pedro - our prize winning dark brown male has a very dense fleece that even grows over his head. It is so thick that eventually it covers his eyes and he can hardly see. We took to opportunity to give him a hair cut. He still looks cute but he can see us too.

We checked the young black male, Miguel and decided that he was good enough to show this year. We will be entering him in the Spring Show at Bristol at the end of March.

The young males both had a vitamin injection as well as having their toe nails cut. The other mails just had the pedicure!!

The next to come in were the six females who have been separated from the rest of the herd to wean off their offspring. They just had their toe nails cut. We also routinely carry out a condition check when we have them in. We check to make sure that they have no health problems and that they are not too thin or too fat.

Finally, after lunch, we brought the remaining 32 females and cria in. The cria had injections, toe nails clipped, condition checked and we decided which ones to show this year. Also some of them need their fleece trimmed to make them perfect for showing. If it grows too long it "blows" which means that it flops and has less crimp. Alpaca fleece (and other fleece bearing animals) has waves in each fibre. Usually the more wavy the fibre the denser and finer it is. The waviness is called crimp.

The adult females were condition checked and had their toe nails trimmed.

The whole operation took 3 hours, which is very good going for a total of 45 alpacas. We are now ready for a cup of tea and intend to put our feet up.

The shearer is coming on Sunday to scan the females to make sure they are pregnant. He will also clip some of the youngsters we intend to show.

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