A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

December 3, 2007

Just look at those nails!

Yesterday was a day for behavior testing the recently bred females, for two of them it was the third test and for one the second test.  We kept the girls we needed penned up after their morning feed and brought across our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent to carry out the task of behavior testing.

Behavior testing for a male alpaca is a bittersweet task; the girls if not receptive will spit at the poor guy.  Sometimes if one is receptive she may not be scheduled to breed to that particular male and so he has to be removed from the pen and the correct male brought in.  It is a task though that Regent performs well, he is well experienced with female alpacas and a good judge of which ones are ready to breed, he is also easy to handle making our job a lot easier. 

As we took one of the girls, Keeva, over to see Regent we noticed that her toenails are getting really long.  Alpaca toenails do of course grow, and the white toenails seem to grow faster than the dark toenails, but the interesting thing with Keeva is that we only trimmed her toenails a few weeks ago.  For her she had experienced extraordinary toenail growth. 

With female alpacas we like to make sure that all “maintenance” tasks are done before we start to breed them.  The first 60-90 days of pregnancy are a time when the pregnancy is fairly vulnerable and so we like to keep stress down to a minimum.  Therefore we trim toenails and teeth and give any necessary vaccinations prior to starting the breeding process.  We can then allow the girls to get established in their pregnancy before we have to bother them again with things such as toenail trimming.

So what had made Keeva’s toenails grow so well?  Well the only thing we can think is that some of the hay we have been feeding has been a little higher in protein content than we would normally feed.  This year has not been the best for hay and so we have fed the most suitable hay that we could find, but it was a little higher in protein content than usual.  Toenails are made up of protein called keratin so it would make sense that if Keeva’s diet were higher in protein than normal that her body might use that protein to create more toenail material.

Just out of curiosity we checked some of the other girls and yes their toenails seem to be growing faster too.  I guess all we can do for now is hope that next year’s hay is closer in analysis to where we need it to be and be prepared to trim toenails more often!


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