Friday, 15 July 2011
Another girl is born. In the photo she is only about half an hour old and then a little older searching for Mum's milk bar already.
Number 7 is the kid we have been bottle feeding. She is now about three months old and will soon be weaned but she is so friendly (cupboard love?) and comes running when anyone goes into the field. She also jumps up like a puppy which might be a bit scary when she is a full grown goat. She really is lucky because she nearly died of hyperthermia when she was born in March during that awful winter weather.
On Tuesday Nick and I did my least favourite job on the farm which is tagging and chipping the cria. Although not required by DEFRA as alpacas are not governed by them, most responsible alpaca owners comply with the normally accepted rules for other livestock and identify them with an ear tag and most also insert a microchip which is really only used if the animals are to be shown or exported to ensure that the right animal is shown or shipped. It could also be useful in the event of theft as alpacas are generally registered with the British Alpaca Society who also record the microchip number.
Tagging involves a process rather like having your ears pierced but using a really big earing which supports a plastic tag - see number 7!! Goats have to have one in each ear or (and they are covered by DEFRA - or Animal Health) an electronic tag. I think that is a microchipped ear tag, but I am not sure. The tagger is like a giant hand held pincer machine and you attach the tag to the piercing pin, hold the pincer over the ear, being careful to avoid the veins which run either side of the centre of the ear, and squeeze hard. Alpaca ears are much tougher than goat ears but kids make a lot more noise. I think the pain is only momentry and as soon as they are released they trot off as if nothing has happened.
Microchipping is really just like a subcutaneous injection in that you use a large needle and applicator to push the tiny microchip under the skin of the animal. In an alpaca it is normally at the top of the neck where other dangers lie, such as the carotid artery. There is also the problem that alpacas are naturally slim creatures and it is quite difficult to find sufficient loose skin to allow insertion of the chip.
Nick says that I am very proficient in this task, but my hands are always shaking with apprehension when I start, although once I have done a couple I usually relax. Number 92 was born today (see photos with Mum, Luciana) which means that I must have tagged and chipped well over a hundred animals including the goats. I suppose you get used to it more quickly if you have to tag 100 at a time and not spread out over a few years