A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 14, 2007

Weaning the Gentle Way

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — alpacalady @ 7:44 am

There comes a time in every cria’s life when it is time for weaning.  I must admit this is one of my least favorite tasks, but it is a necessary one.  By the time crias are 6 months old they are starting to become quite a drain on their dams who are usually also now pregnant again.

We look to start weaning crias when they are 6 months of age or 60 lbs.  This however is not a hard and fast rule.  I have had some crias that have not been weaned until 8 or 9 months of age either due to their size or because they just didn’t seem mentally mature enough to handle weaning.  Then there have been others that have been weaned closer to the 5 month mark.  These crias are always over 60 lbs in weight by that time and typically are causing their dams to become thin due to their heavy nursing while also exhibiting behaviour which tells me that they are ready for the weaning process.

At Windrush Alpacas we like to start off with day weaning.  After the morning feed we walk the crias over to a pasture adjoining the girls pasture.  When under stress alpacas will tend to eat more so we make sure there is a ample supply of hay in the pasture and also lots of fresh water so that the crias can stay well hydrated.  We will also usually put a couple of older alpacas (not the dams of the crias) into the pasture with the crias to provide some leadership and a calming influence.

The crias will stay in that pasture until evening feeding time.  We then feed the crias in the weaning pasture and feed the girls in the main girls pasture before letting the crias back in for the evening.  This usually means the crias have a full stomach when they first return to the main pasture and so are less likely to want to nurse from their dams.

By walking the crias over to the weaning pasture every morning they get to practice walking on the halter and lead rope, and by allowing them back to be with their dams at night we relieve some of the stress on both cria and dams.

As an additional precaution, when we are putting crias through weaning we give them several days of MSE drench to help them deal with the stress of weaning.

Yesterday we started this weaning process with Rascal, Echo and Shiimsa.  TeQueely, Rosie, Anya and Keeva went into the weaning pasture too to provide the calming influence and all went well.  For most of the day Rascal, Echo and Shiimsa did not seem to miss their dams but by 4 pm they were more than ready to return to the main pasture. 

When I put the crias back in with the girls that evening they of course sought out their dams.  Echo’s dam Bjorn decided that she was more than ready for him to be weaned and would not allow him to nurse.  Ivanna felt pretty much the same about Rascal but was not quite as assertive about the matter as Bjorn and Chai had no hesitation in allowing Shiimsa to nurse.

We will carry this day weaning on for a week or so and then Echo and Rascal will be heading over to the young males pen and will be fully weaned from their dams.  Shiimsa however will be allowed to return to the girls pasture, but by that time Chai’s milk will hopefully have dried up and Chai will not allow her to nurse anymore.

Most dams take to the weaning process better than the crias.  Usually the male crias are the hardest to wean, although we have also had a couple of female crias that have been difficult to wean too.

So for Echo, Rascal and Shiimsa another step toward adulthood has been taken.  They will learn to adapt to the change and we will do our best to make the process as easy on them as possible.

Rosemary

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