A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 19, 2009

Time for a Manicure

This week we have been working our way through the groups of alpacas checking toenails and trimming them as needed.  We check toenails once a month and typically find we end up trimming them about every other month.  Each alpaca has a different rate of growth of his or her toenails.  Often we find that the white toenails grow a lot faster than the dark toenails.


This picture is of Echo’s toenails, as you can see he is one of those alpacas who grows toenails really well.  Interestingly his dam and his sisters have the same trait.  Echo’s toenails definitely need a trim!

Echo's Toenails In Need Of A Trim

Echo's Toenails In Need Of A Trim


When trimming toenails we aim to finish with the toenail level with the pad of the alpaca’s foot.  We use toenail trimmers that are very similar to the bypass pruning shears used on roses.  Ric’s hands are strong enough that he can often trim each toenail in one cut, my hands are not as strong and so I tend to trim one side then the other on each toenail.


It’s important to keep alpaca toenails trimmed, over time they will get so long that they start to curl under and can cause the alpaca discomfort when walking.  The only time we hold off regular toenail trimming is on a female who is at the last stage of her pregnancy.  Some pregnant female alpacas tolerate toenail trimming whatever stage of pregnancy they are at but others get worked up about being handled toward the end of their pregnancy.  In that case we hold off any toenail trimming for that pregnant female until after her cria is born.


As we are on soft sandy soil there is little chance for our alpaca’s toenails to be worn down just by walking, as they would do if we had rocky ground.  To help the situation though we have put cement paving blocks around our automatic waterers so that the alpacas have to walk on the cement to get to the water.  Just having that small area of cement does help keep the toenails down and the alpacas like to lie on it during the summer heat too as it is nice and cool.


Trimming an alpacas toenails is an easy job and only takes a few minutes.  With as many alpacas as we have on the farm we do tend to work on them in groups rather than try and do the herd all in one day, but they are soon all done – manicured, pedicured but I do draw the line at painting their toenails!



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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