A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 2, 2007

Creatures of Habit

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, General — alpacalady @ 5:20 am

Yesterday was another glorious day on the high plains of eastern New Mexico, it was also the girls turn to go back out onto the wheat for grazing.

Once the girls were all penned up to eat I made sure their water supply was clean and working and then let them out of their pens without first putting out hay.  Interestingly the girls noted the lack of hay and headed straight to the bottom gate which we open when we let them out to graze.  It amazed me that after only a few weeks of doing this (and the girls are not let out every day) the girls had come to realize that if the hay wagon does not appear in the morning then it is time to go out and graze – smart things they are.

I have to go to the outside of the bottom gate to open it, but the girls were ready and waiting for that gate to be opened humming their disapproval at my lack of speed.  Once the gate was open they were off, running out of the gate and kicking their heels in approval of their freedom.  Even Queen who is hugely pregnant managed a little trot over to the wheat.

Alpacas are very much creatures of habit.  They like a routine and are quick to learn.  Sometimes farm visitors are amazed at how the right alpacas go into the right pen at feeding time, but it is just a matter of them knowing their daily routine.  Occasionally we do have to change the pen arrangements and then go through a few days of chaos while the alpacas figure out which pen they should be going to.

Not only do the alpacas go along with the routines that we set, they have their own routines that they establish.  Homer will always go and take a nap after morning feed.  Rain or shine once he has finished eating he stretches out on his side and takes his nap.  Opie loves to be the first to the fresh water when I fill the buckets every morning. 

The girls have a definite routine that involves an elm tree at the top of their pasture.  In the summer every afternoon the elm tree provides some good shade starting about 4 p.m., you can almost set your watch by the girls heading over to the shade of that tree every afternoon.

Even at night the alpacas stick to their routine.  If I walk out into the pasture at night I can tell you approximately where each one will sit, they each have their night spot in the pasture and don’t venture far from it.

By 4:00 pm I felt that it was time to put the girls back into their pasture.  By this time they were full and were sitting together chewing their cud.  When they saw me appear they knew which routine was coming next – going back to the pasture, and they did so with relative ease.  I call to them that it is time to go home and one by one they will stand up and start to head back.  I usually walk behind them with my herding wands to make sure we don’t get any stragglers.  The girls did well and headed back to their pasture without a problem, the only trouble makers were the llamas who knew exactly where I wanted them to go but decided they needed a few more minutes to graze.  I guess it does take a little longer to fill up a llama!

Acknowledging the alpacas love of routine can really make managing your herd easier and being intelligent creatures it really does not take long to teach them a routine.  Just a little time, a little patience and some time observing the herd and you will soon have them doing what you want them to do.

Rosemary

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