A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 13, 2007

Boys will be boys

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, General — alpacalady @ 6:32 am

Regent and TobianoI am often asked if we ever encounter problems keeping groups of male alpacas together.  I am aware that some alpaca breeders have had problems with male alpacas continually fighting, but we have had very few problems with our male groups.  I feel that our success in managing groups of male alpacas is due to good herd management and also allowing the alpacas to establish their own hierarchy within the herd with as little interference from us as possible.  

Male alpacas are somewhat territorial and do establish a heirarchy within thier group.  In Vicuna herds in South America it is know that there will usually be one dominant male in each herd of Vicunas.  The dominant male will not only be the most active in breeding the females, he also watches out for any threats to the herd.  Typically in South America the dominant male alpaca will have a reduced life-span due to the stress of constantly watching over the herd and also due to being the prime target for attack from any predators such as cougars.

In domesticated alpaca herds there is still usually a dominant male within each group of males.  In our male groups we know which is the dominant male, and while typically he is not challenged, from time to time one of the younger or less dominant males will think it worth his time to have a go at taking on the dominant male.   Rather than rushing in and splitting up two fighting males we prefer to let the two sort out their own battle, unless we feel the fight is escalating too far or we see blood starting to flow.

Of major importance in the management of male alpacas is the trimming of their fighting teeth.  Male alpacas develop a set of fighting teeth around the age of two.  These teeth are situated in the gap behind the front teeth and in front of the molars.  Alpaca fighting teeth are VERY sharp, these teeth are sharp enough to rip an ear in two or even to castrate another male alpaca.  It is imperative therefore that male alpacas teeth are monitored closely and the fighting teeth trimmed down when they first emerge and whenever they have grown enough to do damage. 

At our farm we keep our male alpacas in groups based on thier age and maturity.  Once weaned we bring our young boys over to a pen of junior males.  Typically the junior males are not yet breeding, or have only just started breeding but still have a mellow, laid back personality.   They usually take to each other reasonably well, but we do expect some squabbling to happen, especially during the first couple of weeks.

One good way we have found to introduce males to each other is to put them in a “neutral” pasture i.e. a pasture that neither group of males has had time to come to know as “theirs”.  We then put out some tasty hay or feed and usually the alpacas are more interested in what there is to eat than who else is in the pasture.

Having placed new groups of males together I try to remain as close to home as possible during the first two weeks.  Small fights will break out periodically and while for the most part I prefer to allow the alpacas to sort out for themselves who is boss, I do like to be close by just in case a fight starts to get too rough and needs to be broken up.

Another factor we feel is helpful in getting adult male alpacas to live peacefully with each other is to not pasture them immediately next door to any of the female pastures.  The scent of an open female is a sure way to get the boys riled up and I do not feel it is fair on them to put them in that situation.  

So don’t be afraid to try pasturing your males together, with proper management it is much less work than having to care for male alpacas singly or in small groups.  Will there be scuffles and fights, of course there will for after all boys will be boys!

Rosemary

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