A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 13, 2008

Stepping Out on Their Own

Yesterday was the day for three of our crias to start the weaning process.  Athena, Blast and Velvet are all ready to be weaned, although if you asked them they would tell you that they would be quite happy to continue nursing from their dams for the rest of their lives.

Weaning normally occurs after the crias reach 6 months of age.  Some breeders wean their crias at exactly six months but we prefer to watch the crias and dams and judge weaning time on their behavior. 

Knowing that we have a show approaching I have been watching Athena, Blast and Velvet to make sure that they are mature enough to handle the stress of their first show.  With all the best preparation in the world a show is still a stressful event for a young alpaca.  Alpacas can be entered in shows once they reach six months of age, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will all be ready for the show experience once they reach the six month point.  Some alpacas mature later than others and need a little longer to develop both mentally and physically before experiencing a show.

We usually don’t like to show our young alpacas until they are about eight months old.  This gives them the time that they need to mature, so that they can handle the show experience better.  I hear of some breeders who use showing as a way to wean their alpacas, taking a young alpaca from its dam on the day that they leave for the show.  This is not a good practice and will at best result in an alpaca that does not show well because it is distressed at being removed from it’s home herd and in particular it’s dam.  At worst the young alpaca will get sick from the stress of being taken from it’s dam and then being placed in a show situation.

For the next few days Athena, Blast and Velvet will be placed in a separate pasture from their dams during the day for day weaning.  We will also put Shiimsa with them as she is fully weaned and will be attending the show with the three weanlings.   Shiimsa will provide a calm and stable presence to the group.  In the evening the crias will be allowed back with their dams.  Within about a week the crias will be ready to spend their first night away from their dams.

We kept a close eye on the weaning group yesterday, to make sure that they were handling things well.  All three of the crias seemed to be happy eating hay and exploring their new pasture and not too concerned about the lack of their dams presence.  This is a good sign as it tells me that they are at a good age for weaning.  By 3 p.m. though Velvet was starting to hang around the fence line looking for Queen.  This surprised me a little as I rarely see Velvet nurse from Queen anymore.  I would have thought that Blast being the youngest of the group would have been the first to show signs of missing his dam, but instead Velvet was the one who walked the fence a little.

When it came time for evening chores I fed the weanling group before allowing them back in the main herd.  As soon as I opened the gate they all went galloping into the main pasture with the exception of Athena who was in no hurry to go back- she was definitely ready for weaning!  Interestingly though not one of the crias dams came looking for them during the day, I guess the dams were more than ready for a break from their crias!

This morning we will take the crias back over to their new pasture, and again keep a close eye on them.  Sometimes the second or third day is when they will show more signs of missing their dams.  We will give the crias some probiotics too in order to help their digestive system cope with the extra stress that they are under.

Within a short time the crias will be taking weaning in their stride, and their dams (who are all now pregnant again) will probably be breathing a sigh of relief at the reduced drain on their bodies!

Rosemary

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