Learning Alpaca

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wednesday, 4th of August

Rule No. 1: Observe, observe, observe!!!!

As an alpaca owner you MUST use your eyes. Watch your animals. Watch their behaviour, their eyes, their gait, their poo. Any of these things may be the clue to alert you to something wrong.

Is one of your alpacas suddenly sitting down a lot? That could be an indication of a gut problem or a leg problem.

Has the quality or quantity of their poo changed radically? I once found parasites in a clients’ alpaca’s poo which enabled us to head off a problem before it caused long-term, large-scale damage to the herd.

These are adorable creatures, wonderful to watch. And that 10 minutes morning and night may not only give you pleasure, but may save your animal’s life!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday, July 28th

At Work:

An interesting piece of alpaca psychology- two young males had been sharing a paddock quite happily when suddenly the dynamic changed. One of the males began bullying the other unmercifully. This was not just the usual pecking order strife which can happen, this was vicious! The pecked-on male was starting to exhibit the start of behavioural problems so it was decided to separate them. The bully was left where he was and the other was put into the next paddock, which shared a fence-line. He immediately went to the far corner and wouldn’t stray far from it, even though it was a large field and he would have been a significant distance from the bully. My boss - a man with over 20 years in the alpaca world decided to swap the males over - so they would still be sharing a fence line but now the picked on alpaca would be in the original field while the bully would be in the new one.

The difference was immediate and stunning… the two males spend much of their time within a few metres of each other. The picked on male now happily comes up to the once-bully, his fear has disappeared and he seems absolutely happy. We have also seen no further signs of aggression from the once bully.

So what happened? Why did the changing of paddocks make so much difference to the behaviour of these two?

Your guess is as good as mine!

At Home:

No eggs gathered last night as it was my Igo (awesome Asian board game - see here for details) night. Today 19 eggs. Not bad for winter-time.

Feed-out: As it was a heavily-frosted morning I gave lucerne to both herds as the extra energy is nice for them.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday 26th July 2010

At work:

ADE injections for all cria. In winter the sunlight can be a little weak for alpacas so sometimes Vitamin D production is inadequate leading to poor bone growth and conformational defects ( legs bow in etc.). So to be on the safe side we give them injections of Vitamin D, A and E.

The boss also did a first look over of the cria (baby alpacas) from this season. There are many factors to consider when evaluating cria:-

Body conformation. Do they have good teeth, no kinks in the tail, no “fused” ears? Do they stand well? Are they in proportion?

Fibre: Is it the right colour for you? Is the crimp (the wave in the fibre) what you are after? How is the thickness of the fibre? It’s lustre? It’s estimated shear weight? Are there a lot of guard hair (primary follicles)? Are the positive characteristics consistent and persistent up the neck and down the tail and legs?

At home:

Feed-out. In winter it’s a sad fact that money will have to be spent on extra feed for your alpacas. The greater the stocking rate, the more feed you will need.

Today: a bale and a half of meadow hay to the main herd in their feed and in the barn. A bale of lucerne (higher protein feed) to the llamas and the feed-up herd ( the skinny girls). Soon I’ll have to think about weaning some of the larger crias off their mothers.


Chickens: 9 - 4 from the older girls and a disappointing 5 from the Orpingtons.

Ducks: 2 plus a yolk sitting there in the middle of nowhere.

A sunny day today - the kind of day when you love being a farmer. Let’s have some more of these :-)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Well, once again I pick up keyboard and publish to an unwatching world :-).
No excuses - my life is busy and a blog is very low on the priority list. But finally I'll start writing about a central part of the alpaca life - shearing.

At Southern Alpacas we're having another shearing day in three days and preparations are well under way - so I thought I'd write down a few things to think about when approaching shearing.

First off - all alpacas have to be shorn - it's as simple as that. I've seen alpacas who have very slow fibre growth that only need to be shorn every two years, but still the shearing will come. It is necessary for the alpaca's comfort and health. So the first thing that has to be thought about is why you are shearing.

For some people it is simply to get the fibre off. Many small alpaca breeders have a pile of fibre bags in their garage that they will eventually throw out. At least one major breeder in New Zealand shears his alpacas to time with major shows and then burns the fibre.

If this is what you're doing then fibre collection and sorting is easy. Get it off the animal, into a bag or fadge and then burn, baby, burn...

But what if you don't want to waste the fibre? Then things start getting complicated :-)

Complicated? Oh no!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm Back!!!!

Of course - there's no one here to hear these words, but after almost a year of silence I have returned to this blog.
A lot has happened between February 07 and now - not the least of which is


Yep... we've bought a gorgeous 13 acre place about 20 minutes out of town. I've spent the last 8 months working on my bosses farm 4 days a week, Blockbuster one or two days a week and any spare time trying to get the farm up to scratch. And there's a long way to go :-(.

My employment status has changed now. I'm actually set up as a contractor. Most of my work is still at Southern Alpacas but now I also do work for other people. This can be anything, from helping shear, to training, inoculations and vitamins and helping beginner alpaca owners to set up their farm a little better..... so if you need help or advice, perhaps you can ask a question in the comments.

No photos at the moment... this is simply a notice of return :-)

More soon!!!!!


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A New Year and new little ones :-)

Well, a lot later and here I am - no more promises about when the next post will be.
Right now we ( my partner Kerrie, my mother and I ) are working hard to buy a farm of our own. My mother will have a retirement cottage and help us around the farm, as we'll be having a large vegetable garden, chickens for eggs and a couple of kune kune pigs. We're nearly there - found a beautiful place, had our offer accepted, put our place on the market, got an acceptable (if low) offer, and now are waiting with baited breath for the people who put the offer on our place to sell their place so they can give us the money to give to the people who have the place we want.
Got that?

On the farm Kerrie and I have 2 new additions to our little herd.


is Hikaru - our first male. He's named after the lead character in my favourite manga/anime, Hikaru No Go. In this picture he is 15 minutes old, and unfortunately, 7-14 days premature (depending what day you use as conception/birth date). He's now been alive for 2 days and so far so good. Premature cria (baby alpacas) can have problems with digestion (the bacteria in the stomach not yet ready for external food) and with temperature regulation.

What to do? Is the cria active? If it is lying there, not trying to stand (which they should be doing almost immediately) - a situation known as being "flat," then get in there relatively quickly. Dry the cria and massage it with a towel to get the blood circulating. Talk to it - make it's brain work.

Next big thing - it should very quickly after standing, be trying to nurse. If it is not, or if, as in this case, the mother is inexperienced and not allowing nursing then the cria needs some nourishment. Consult with your vet, or your mentor about this. On the farm I work at we use Anlamb (a milk replacement designed for lambs), with a little glucose - and for the first day, some colostrum - very important!!!

Now look to the cria's temperature - they can lose heat very quickly and that can be fatal. If you have a sheltered area then Mother and cria might need to go in it at night. A cria coat (NZ or USA) is also a very good idea.

Next and very important: coffee. No, not for the alpacas - for you. The cria is going to need to be fed every 2-3 hours ( again - talk to your mentor/vet - remember I am learning this stuff and am no expert!!!!!) and that means not much sleep for you over the next couple of nights. Don't worry - it will get easier. After a couple of nights, if the cria is looking stronger and especially if it has started to drink for mum then you can skip the 3am feeding. A few nights after that the night feedings may be finished with.

Really important:- keep records. How much did the cria drink? What was it's energy level? It's awareness? Was it going to mum to drink and if so was it getting anything?

Hikaru was born weighing 5kg. Twenty minutes later another cria was born. It's PLACENTA weighed 4kg!!!!!

But, like I said, he seems to be doing well. My bosses think he has begun to drink from his mum and he is showing some great energy.

He's not out of the woods yet - it'll still be a few days till I heave a sigh of relief and say he's truly arrived. Tomorrow is the first big benchmark. If he makes it to 3 days then he's got a good grip on life. A full week of life and he's here for the long run... and then it will be time to start evaluating him as a future stud for our small herd - 10 beautiful alpacas and counting :-)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Some random photos!!

Well, I never said this would be a hugely active blog - but I will be trying for a regular Monday update.
Let's start with a few random alpaca photos.

At the Alpaca Expo in Christchurch. My first show!!!

Our new alpaca - a cute little girl. Now we have to decide on a name.
Alpaca names can be interesting things - will you name at random, name it based on what the alpaca looks like or reminds you of? Some farms will name all the alpacas born in a particular year starting with a particular letter so you can tell what generation/year an alpaca is from and many smaller farms go with a theme (or two). My partner (Kerrie) and I are naming our 'pacas using Japanese names - so our first baby was Taiko, our second was Niko ( literally "two child or second child" :-), and so on.

This is my beautiful partner Kerrie..ummm, the one on the left :-) and Chiquita, the second alpaca we bought and her baby Yukiko ( "snow child" because she is as white as). The colour genetics of alpacas is very complex so you never know what you are going to get - and that's half the fun.

My nephew Joshua came to see the alpacas and they wanted to see him as well. Alpacas are fascinated by small children and will quickly come to meet and greet them. Joshua was great - he made slow, gentle movements which don't startle the alpacas.

Kerrie teaches International Students English, and brought some to see alpacas for the first time in their lives. Taiko was great with them and they had a great time meeting them and taking them for walks.

That's it for the moment. Please forward this blog's address to anyone you think might be interested and I'll try to post more very soon. This Thursday we are doing some shearing so that is going to be a fun hands-on day. I'm going to do a post on sorting the fleece - the questions that you should ask yourself and the sort of things you should be doing.
Have a great week!!