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.


October 29, 2007

Zeus – Eat Your Vitamins!

At Windrush Alpacas we are committed to ensuring that our alpacas get the maximum nutrition possible.  We feed good quality hay that is analyzed to ensure it has the right balance of nutrients and feed a special alpaca pellet that has been formulated for alpacas raised in our environment.  We put out free choice minerals and also top dress our feed with MSE granules which are an organic enzyme feed additive that assist in keeping the alpacas rumens healthy and functioning well and also increase the digestibility of the alpacas feed to ensure that they are able to extract the maximum nutrition from their feed. In addition to the MSE granules we also top-dress our feed with Dr. Norm Evans Fiber Nutrients, which are a special preparation of vitamins and minerals formulated to maximize alpaca fiber without increasing it in micron size and making it coarser. 

You would think with all of this effort on nutrition we would never have any nutritional issues, and for the most part we don’t, but as with any species each individual alpaca has slightly different nutritional requirements and once in a while one comes along that needs more attention on nutrition than others.

Right now our challenge alpaca is still little Zeus.  While he has been gaining weight erratically he still has not established a good weight gain pattern.  He is nursing from his dam, who has milk but not an abundance of milk, he is nursing from one of our other dams Carina twice a day (while she is distracted with some alfalfa hay), he is nursing now and again from our llama Inca and he is now eating hay well and picking at a little grain at feeding time.  You would think with all of these various feed sources he would be gaining weight well, but to the contrary his weight gain over the last few days has slowed down with him only gaining one or two tenths of a pound a day.

So what are we to do with this little fellow?  Well, we could do nothing and just see how he fares, but I feel that would end up in a poor or even possibly fatal result and that is not what we want.  So we have to re-think what we are doing with Zeus and look further into possible causes for his lack of weight gain.

One thing we have not tried yet with Zeus is a regular course of Vitamins A, D and E.  In many northern states alpaca breeders routinely supplement their fall crias with Vitamins A, D and E.  In the northern states the days are cloudier and less sunny in the fall meaning a decrease in the natural absorption of Vitamins A, D and E for fall crias.  In the southwest though our days are still long and sunny and typically we do not experience problems with lack of vitamins A, D and E in our fall crias.  But maybe Zeus is the exception to the rule and so we have now started him on a course of Vitamin A, D and E paste a couple of times a week.  Some breeders prefer to use an injectable A, D and E vitamin supplement but some alpacas have reacted to the carrier solution that the injectable A, D and E mix comes in and we prefer to avoid risking a reaction to an injection.

We are still monitoring Zeus’s weight on a daily basis and will continue to do so for quite a while.  Usually once a cria reaches 25 lbs. we go to an every other day weighing schedule and then once they reach 30 lbs. we weigh them once a month, but with Zeus not showing a strong weight gain pattern it will be beneficial to continue to monitor his weight gain closely.

If we find the Vitamin A, D and E paste is not having much effect on Zeus then we will also feed him 5 cc of MSE drench a couple of times a week which will help him digest his feed more efficiently.

Of course we will be consulting with our vet for his opinion as to other options for Zeus.  It may be that he feels a blood work up will be a good idea, or possibly some thyroid testing could be in order.

On the good side of things Zeus has plenty of energy, he chases around the pasture at full speed with Carissima and Kanika and has no trouble keeping up with them.  He does not appear to tire easily and if not for our diligence in weighing him on a daily basis we would have a hard time telling that he was not making the progress with his weight that he should be.

So let’s hope that the additional vitamins help stimulate Zeus to where he starts to gain weight steadily and well and in the meantime I will continue to plan and research other avenues we can take to help him and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t have to use them!


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.