A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 8, 2008

Feeding – When Pen Assignments Change

With the merging of the visiting girls with the main herd of girls we had to decide how to incorporate the five extra alpacas into our feeding routine for the main herd.  As it was the visiting girls and crias figured out for themselves where they should eat.


We feed supplement to our girls and crias in various groups within catch pens based on their nutritional needs and their personality.  What’s personality got to do with feeding you may ask, well if we put a timid alpaca in with a group of dominant alpacas we can pretty much guarantee that the timid alpaca isn’t going to get much to eat.


The way we feed our alpacas works well for us, some people having watched our morning routine think that it must have taken a lot of time to train our girls to go into the various pens, but alpacas are intelligent creatures who love routine and usually once you have fed a particular girl in a particular catch pen she will head back to that catch pen at feeding time.  Some of the girls even beat me to the catch pens as I am feeding and are patiently standing in the pen by the time I get there.


The male groups are fed differently with us placing the required number of bowls on the ground and allowing them to figure out who gets which bowl.  Male alpacas usually have less nutritional changes during the course of the year making their feed requirements simpler, but we do still monitor their weights and observe their behavior.  Should we have a male alpaca in a group that is not being allowed to get to the feed or hay then we would either make an arrangement where we could give him access to feed and hay on his own for a while, or possibly move him to a different group of alpacas.


With the visiting girls in the main herd, the first couple of feedings after joining the two groups was a little confusing, but only really for the visiting girls.  The main herd all know which pen they are assigned to, but the visiting girls Celeste, Marti and Cariad plus their crias Skylar and Copper were trying to find their place and so tended to go from pen to pen. 


Interestingly Marti, who is a maiden alpaca, immediately headed to the pen where the expectant maiden girls eat, she seemed to identify that group of girls as being similar to her and decided that is where she should eat.  Celeste headed into the second pen of girls that we feed; these girls eat at a moderate speed and are heavily pregnant.  Celeste has only just been bred, but is still nursing her cria Skylar and so is receiving a little extra supplement and it was a good fit for her to eat in that pen.


Cariad decided initially that eating with the llamas might be a good idea (Cariad loves her food, perhaps she thought that as the llamas are bigger they would get more to eat).  By yesterday she had changed her mind about having llamas as feeding companions and went into the same pen as Zoie, Chai and Rosie, all three of which are dominant fast eaters like Cariad and that arrangement seemed to work well.


The crias Skylar and Copper also did well as they headed over with the other crias to their pen.  They were a little hesitant about going into the pen though and we had to gently guide them in.   Being with a group of crias of a similar age will be good for Copper and Skylar, they were born within a short time of each other and being the only crias at their home farm they are closely bonded.  I hope am hoping that interaction with other crias will help them become a little more independent of each other.


We only merged the two groups on Saturday afternoon and by Monday afternoon they had everything figured out – and we think we’re the ones making the decisions.  I sometimes have to wonder!



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