A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 7, 2009

Sometimes You Just Have to Spit!

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from people who are meeting alpacas for the first time is “Do they spit?”  It is sad that many people automatically associate alpacas and llamas with spitting as it is one small part of their behavior and it is something that occurs far less often than many people think.  On the whole alpacas and llamas are docile animals who are happiest going about their business.

Yes alpacas and llamas can spit, it is part of their vocabulary to other alpacas or llamas (usually saying “get out of my feed” or “stop annoying me”), and it is also a part of their defense mechanism.  Llamas and alpacas have very few ways to defend themselves and spit is one of those few ways.  If someone or something does something to a llama or alpaca which they really don’t like then they can spit as a way to startle that person or thing and stop whatever is annoying them.

We recently had a farm visitor who had been to a county fair where there was a camel on display.  The camel was being used to give rides and apparently had a ring through his nose so that his handler could lead him.  Our farm visitor witnessed a teenage boy go up to the camel and pull hard on the camel’s nose ring – and guess what, the camel spit at him.  Who can blame the camel for doing so.  No doubt that pull on the nose ring hurt the camel and the only way he could communicate his displeasure was by spitting.  Hopefully that teenage boy will never repeat his behavior again.

Our herd of alpacas and our three guard llamas are all laid back animals.  Farm visitors unfamiliar with alpacas and llamas are given a brief rundown of good pasture etiquette resulting in a happy, fun farm visit for both them and the animals.

Sometimes though we find ourselves in a position where we need to communicate to one of the alpacas that their behavior is inappropriate.  Such an occasion happened over the weekend when young Annochia kept mounting and attempting to breed Dream.  Now Annochia and Dream are both females so Annochia’s breeding attempt was never going to be successful.  Rather it is an indication to me that either one or both of those young ladies is reaching maturity and there is some hormonal confusion.  While Annochia’s behavior could be considered innocuous it is something I want to discourage.  If she continually tries to mount and breed Dream it could cause a retained CL in Dream causing her to be non receptive when the time comes to breed her.

Initially I tried removing Annochia from Dream, that worked for a little while but Annochia hung around close to Dream and as soon as I started to walk away Annochia would start to orgle and try and mount Dream again.  After several times of trying to remove Annochia from Dream I knew that I needed to talk to Annochia in “stronger language”.   The next time Annochia went to mount Dream I spit at her just as another alpaca would.  Now when I say spit I am talking of an “air spit” where there is the spitting noise but no accompanying regurgitated slime (I am sure you will be pleased to know that!).  At the first air spit Annochia turned away, I then followed up with a series of air spits and at that point Annochia got the message, walked away and left Dream alone.

I don’t recommend spitting at your llamas or alpacas as a part of your daily routine.  It is much better to use other methods of communicating with them as a rule, but once in a while the other methods just don’t get through and then you just have to spit.  Done right and in the right circumstances it does work and is quite effective.

Rosemary

August 16, 2009

Is it Love?

Is This Love?  Black Prince Tries His Luck With Annochia While Little Man Looks On

Is This Love? Black Prince Tries His Luck With Annochia While Little Man Looks On

 

It’s fun to watch the young crias growing up and see the antics they get up to.  To them the world is a great place to explore and they have to check everything out, whether it be by looking, sniffing or tasting.

Chai’s cria Black Prince (who may well become Dark Prince if we decide he is not black when we come to register him) is a curious cria with a neat personality.  Black Prince is nicely curious without pushing any boundaries of inappropriate behavior.  He loves to see what we are doing, following us around when we are putting out hay and coming up for a brief visit when we are in the pasture.  Black Prince has also discovered that the fan produces a nice breeze and is the first in front of the fan every morning.  By the afternoon he has become bored with sitting in front of the fan and will go out into the pasture to play with the other crias or lounge in the sun.

Recently though Black Prince has had other things on his mind as he appears to have fallen in love with Annochia.  Annochia being close to a year old is a lot bigger than Black Prince but does not seem put off by her suitors size or age.  The first time I noticed Black Prince with Annochia they were lying side by side in the pasture, their necks entwined, fast asleep in the sunshine.  From there things have progressed and now Black Prince has turned his thoughts to breeding.

Fortunately Black Prince is nowhere near breeding age, if he was we would put him in the junior male pen safely away from the females, but Black Prince doesn’t realize that and has been making attempts to breed Annochia.  His inexperience shows though as often we find him on Annochia’s neck facing her rear end.  Other times he is facing the right way, but he is so small compared to Annochia that he ends up sitting on top of her with all four feet tucked underneath him.

Annochia is very tolerant of her young paramour and sits chewing her cud while he clambers all over her.  When Black Prince is in her way one quick shake by Annochia unseats him from his perch on top of her and deposits him in the dirt.  Not that Black Prince is offended by Annochia’s unceremonious dumping of him, he just dusts himself off and either goes off to play with another cria or settles down to cush beside Annochia.

It’s funny that often young male crias will find one female in the pasture who they are particularly attracted to.  When Windrush White Blast was a cria he fell hard for a visiting young female called Annie.  Windrush Zindel’s Pride was besotted by our girl Windrush Ashling’s Dream (although with that pairing we did separate them as Pride was getting close to six months old and Dream was actively cushing for him).  Now Black Prince has his sights set on Annochia, a pairing that I don’t see happening at any time in the future, but until Black Prince gets a little older we will allow him to enjoy his first love!

 

Rosemary

December 24, 2008

Mom!!!!

 

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

 

 

I think that was the general cry as we let the fall crias back into the main pen following their first day of day weaning.  You can see from the blur of running weanlings in the photo above that they did not hang about in returning to their mothers!

 

The weanlings all handled their first day well, although some were definitely more at ease than others.  Zianna, Stormy and Pride walked over with us to the weaning pen without hesitation, while Dream and Annochia had already figured out that this was not going to be what they wanted and balked at the process of crossing the pasture.  Serenity and Atlas walked over with plenty of head turning and wondering where they were going.  Song being an orphan did not have a dam to worry about leaving, but was more concerned about staying with her buddies.  Song is no longer taking a bottle as Ric finished weaning Song and Mags off the bottle while I was in England.  Mags is already in with the juvenile male group and is settling in well.  Once they are weaned Pride, Stormy and Atlas will be joining him there.

 

During the day we kept an eye on the weanling group and for the most part they stayed in their shelter eating hay.  It was one of those windy New Mexico afternoons (sustained winds around 25 mph), helping encourage the weanlings to remain in the shelter and distracting them from watching the fence line for their dams.  There were a couple of times when one or two of them did come to the fence to look for their dams, but they soon returned to the weanling group when they realized that they could not get to their dams through the fence.

 

To help add some stability to the group we put a few of the maiden alpacas in the pen with them.  Kanika, Carissima and Velvet did a good job of calmly going about their daily business, reassuring the weanlings that all was well with the world.  We have found that the addition of two or three older alpacas in a weanling group helps provide an element of calm in what can be a stressful time for the weanlings.

 

Out of the whole group I think Annochia took the weaning the hardest.  A member of the Bjorn family, a very close family group of alpacas, she was not at all pleased about being away from her dam Anya, making me wonder if she will be as hard to wean as her dam was.  Both Anya and her sister Keeva took a lot of persuading when it came to the subject of weaning and I suspect Annochia may be the same.

 

As often is the case, the dams were not at all concerned about the crias being away for the day.  Serenity’s dam Snow did initially wander over and look through the fence at the weanling group, but soon returned to join the other alpacas at the hay feeder.

 

By evening chores though the weanlings were telling me they were more than ready to go back to their dams.   As you can see once the gate was opened they rushed to be reunited with their dams and then nursed hungrily as if they hadn’t eaten all day!

 

Today we will repeat the process again, and will continue to do so for about two weeks before the weanlings take the next step of staying away from their dams overnight.  Usually by that time they have adjusted to being away from their dams and will take the next step in their stride.  (Lets hope Annochia agrees with me on that point when the time comes!)

 

Rosemary

 

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