A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 5, 2008

Primera Makes a Steal

PrimeraFeeding time is always interesting with the alpacas.  Each alpaca has it’s own idea of their place in the food chain, and there are always those who are first in line whether they need food or not.

In the evening we feed some of our alpacas an extra ration of pellets.  These are alpacas that have an extra nutritional need such as crias, weanlings and pregnant females.  Of course there are some of the other alpacas who don’t need any extra pellets, but try convincing them of that!

Primera is one such alpaca; she is an older female and was sent here for research.  Prior to coming to us none of Primera’s crias had survived.  Working with our vet we were able to get one of Primera’s crias to survive and he is still doing well to this day.  It took a lot of work to get him through the first few months of life, but to look at him these days you cannot tell what a struggle he had.  We have not yet been able to get a definite answer as to the problem with Primera’s crias, but we feel it is either some form of fatal gene, or that there is something in Primera’s milk that kills her cria.

So Primera’s main purpose in life is to provide fiber and also to act as a companion to single alpacas that arrive at the farm and have to be placed in quarantine.  Primera’s life is an easy one, she eats all day, sleeps a bit here and there, and mooches around the pasture.  By early afternoon she has taken up her position, sitting just inside the small shelter ready and waiting for dinner to be served.

With such an easy life Primera is not the slimmest of alpacas.  She is not overweight, but she certainly does not need any extra nutrition.

Primera however is convinced that she does need extra food.  She is pretty adept at walking into one of the pens where some of the girls get their “extras”.  She stands there trying to blend in and once or twice has managed to escape my attention.  If standing in the pen doesn’t work then Primera knows that she has to resort to other methods to try and get extra feed.  She has figured out that she can get her head through the bars of Chai and Zoie’s pen, once her head is through she then wedges her shoulders up against the bars and gives an almighty push to force the panel in and get closer to the feed tray.

To combat Primera’s efforts to get feed we have taken to putting a strap on Chai and Zoie’s pen that prevents Primera from pushing the panel in.  Primera is not too impressed with the strap and still tries to force the panel in, but having become unsuccessful in doing that she has now resorted to other methods.  Primera has figured out that if she puts her head through the panel and stretches her neck as far as possible that she can reach the end of the feed trough.  At that point she takes hold of the feed trough with her lips and pulls!  As soon as the trough moves a little closer she then uses her dental pad and teeth to grip the trough more firmly and pulls it towards the side of the pen until she can reach some of the pellets in it!

Of course Zoie and Chai are not too impressed with Primera’s trick.  Chai in particular is getting a little tired of watching her feed trough slide across the pen and then seeing the feed disappear into Primera.  Of late Chai’s response to Primera’s actions has been to bite Primera’s ears, but Primera is a tough old cookie and really doesn’t care and just continues to shovel pellets in her mouth as fast as she can.

It really is quite impressive to see an alpaca get so creative about gaining access to a handful of pellets, Primera has really had to work to figure this out, but figure it out she has.  I am not sure anything we do (and even Chai’s biting of Primera’s ears) will dissuade Primera from stealing food, but it will give her a different challenge to figure out and her efforts will give us some evening entertainment.

Rosemary

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