A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 23, 2007

Time for School

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Shows, Alpacas, camelids, Crias — alpacalady @ 7:22 am

Shiimsa and EchoNext Monday marks the start of Spring break for the students of Curry County, New Mexico but for three “students” at our farm school is just beginning.

Our three fall crias Shiimsa, Echo and Rascal have all reached the age where I need to increase the amount of time I work with them.  Since birth I have worked on gaining their trust so that they do not immediately run away when approached.  I have also worked on making sure they know appropriate behaviour around humans by not tolerating behaviour such as butting or nibbling on my clothes.

Now it is time to take things a step further and work on getting them used to picking up their feet for toe nail trimming, being examined as they will be by a judge in a show, showing their bite and of course halter training.

With young cria training sessions do not need to be long.  I usually start off with five minutes every other day.  The training does need to be consistent though, it would be unfair to a cria to work with it one day and then expect it to remember the training session two weeks later.

I like to work with two or three cria at at time.  I work with them in a small catch pen and it helps them to feel at ease if they have the company of another alpaca in the pen.  If we only have one cria that needs to be worked with I will often bring their dam or another calm alpaca into the pen to provide a calming influence to the training session. 

Each cria has it’s own distinctive personality.  In the case of my three cria Echo is laid back about being handled by humans but is very “studly” in his behaviour to the other two cria.  Typically I work with him first and then let him out of the pen or else he will interfere with the other two as I am working with them.  Shiimsa is more wary of humans than Echo.  I have had to take things slowly with her and be sure to keep a space between us that she feels comfortable with.  Each training session the space between us gets a little shorter as her trust in being handled grows.  Rascal lives up to his name, he has taken to walking on a catch rope well, but would really rather be eating and so throws his head around when the rope is first put on and needs some time to realize that I need his attention on what we are doing rather than on the hay feeder.

I do not put halters on the crias until they are big enough for a halter to fit correctly.  It is important that the nose band of the halter sit up high on the alpaca’s nose close to the eye in order that the alpaca can breath properly.  With crias their noses are shorter so unless the nose band of the halter will rest on the right area of the cria’s nose I will not put a halter on them, preferring instead to work with a soft cotton catch rope.  The last thing I want to do is scare a cria with it’s first haltering experience, so it is worth being patient and waiting until the cria is big enough for the halter. 

Our three crias are making steady progress, each training session I see a little improvement and in a few weeks I am sure that all three will be walking well wearing their halters.  There will still be more training to do to get them ready to show and to ensure that they are easy to manage, but a good start and a build up of trust will make the rest of the training easy and fun.


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