A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 13, 2009

Trying Tiffany

 

We’ve received the analysis back on the Tiffany Teff Hay.  It is higher in protein than we had expected and also has more potassium than we like to see making me wonder if perhaps it was fertilized more heavily than it needed to be.  The Calcium/Phosphorus ratio is good as is the TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients).

 

During my research on Tiffany Teff grass and alpacas I have found varying reports.  Some farms said their alpacas would not touch it, others said their alpacas loved it.  For the most part though the alpacas that would not touch the Tifffany Teff grass were kept on fairly good quality pasture, while the alpacas that loved it were kept on dry lots as our alpacas are.  So it seems that when alpacas are used to lovely fresh pasture the Tiffany Teff grass is not of interest to them, but for alpacas that don’t have the fresh pasture it has seems to have an appeal.

 

We have decided to try a big bale to see how it works with our feeding program.  It will not be the main hay for the alpacas but rather will supply some extra nutrition to the girls who with various stages of pregnancy and nursing crias tend to need more nutritional care than the boys (although on cold nights the boys will be treated to a little of the Tiffany Teff grass too).

 

For ease of feeding we are putting the bale of hay in a feeding pen within the girls pasture.  The pen has a gate that can be shut, meaning that we will be able to restrict the access to the Tiffany Teff grass as we feel necessary.

 

The girls were quite excited to see a big bale being delivered to their pasture.  They have had big bales to feed off in the past and seem to like the idea of having 24/7 unlimited access to hay.  As much as the girls like that idea, the Tiffany Teff grass is too high in protein to allow them 24/7 free access, so they may be a little disappointed to find the gate to the bale shut from time to time.

 

Griffin the llama was particularly excited about the delivery of the big bale.  She spied the tractor outside the bottom gate and started performing a dance of joy, bouncing and twirling around outside the gate.  By the time we opened the gates to move the tractor and bale into the pasture word had spread among the girls that something exciting was going on and they were all galloping and pronging around the pasture as Ric drove the tractor in – making for some hazardous driving conditions (beware the low flying llama!), but Ric made it in and out of the pasture without injury to himself of any of the herd.

 

So we will give the Tiffany Teff grass a try.  The farmer who grew it is local to this area and so perhaps we can speak to him about making some adjustments to his next crop.  We have to remember that this is a relatively new forage crop and it will take time for the hay growers to figure out how to get the crop to the nutritional levels required by their customers.

 

This morning will be our first time of feeding the hay to the girls.  I always prefer to feed a new hay during the day when I can be around to see the alpacas reaction to it, we try to be careful to buy safe weed free hay, but should there be any adverse reaction by any one of the herd it is better to happen during the day when the vets is available and we are around to see what is happening.

 

Judging from the small sample we fed prior to purchasing the hay I think everything will be fine and hopefully the only problem we will have is persuading three greedy llamas to leave the pen when we come to close the gate in front of the bale of hay!

 

Rosemary

September 27, 2007

Using Big Bales with Alpacas – Follow-up

Big Bale in Carport ShelterIt’s been a little while now since we started our experiment with using big bales of hay with the alpacas.  The girls have almost munched their way through two big bales, while the boys are just about finishing their first one. So what do we think of the big bale experiment so far?  There are definite pros and cons, lets start with the pros. 

  1. Cuts down on chore time – using a big bale reduces one step from the daily chores as we do not have to put out as much hay into the individual feeders.
  2. Hay price is cheaper – typically the price of a big bale is less than the price of the equivalent weight of small bales.
  3. In a dry lot situation the alpacas have something to munch on all day.  Having a big bale of hay available 24/7 helps simulate the natural grazing habits of alpacas
  4. They provide instant bedding for the alpacas – as the hay falls onto the floor it makes a nice layer of bedding for the alpacas that they love to lie on.
  5. The crias love to play on the bales as they get smaller.  Our crias have certainly found the big bales fun to climb on as the bale gets smaller.

 So onto the cons. 

  1. There is a lot of wastage.  As the bale is eaten down the hay falls down around the sides of the bale and gets stepped on and blown around in the wind.
  2. Less exercise for the alpacas (and llamas!).  We are finding that instead of wandering from feeder to feeder the alpacas and llamas get stuck into eating the bale and there they stay until they are full.
  3. Harder to monitor the daily consumption of hay by the alpacas.  The big bales we are using are lower protein hay that is suitable for all day feeding, however if the hay were higher in protein it could result in some chubby alpacas over time.
  4. Certain alpacas can dominate feeding at the big bale.  Some of the alpacas are finding a position to eat the bale from and then not allowing the other alpacas into that spot.
  5. Risk of spreading parasites is higher.  The alpacas stand on the hay that falls on the floor, they may have been standing on the poop pile a short while before standing on the hay and whatever is on their feet can easily transfer to the loose hay around the bale.
  6. Harder to obtain hay for shows.  It really doesn’t work as well to fork some hay off the bale and take it with you to the show.  We got lucky this last show and had a small core of a bale left which we were able to place into a large hessian sack for transporting to the show.  If the bale had been bigger though it would have been more difficult to work with.
  7. Crias love to play on the bales as they get smaller – fun for the crias, but also has a potential for one of them to get hurt jumping on and off the bale.

 So at the moment there are more cons than pros on using the big bales, however we haven’t given up on the idea yet.  

We feel that in order to successfully use big bales we are going to have to devise some sort of containment system for the big bale that will allow the alpacas to eat the bale, but also will contain the hay that drops off the side of the bale.  The containment system would need to be adjustable so that as the bale gets smaller the containment system can be adjusted to the size of the bale.  By containing the hay that falls off the bale we will hopefully also stop the alpacas from standing on the fallen hay and reduce the parasite contamination risk.  The other advantage of the containment system is that it will prevent the crias from jumping on top of the bale.  I hate to be a spoilsport, but there is a risk that one of them could get hurt jumping on and off the bale. 

For now we have the girls big bale in the large carport shelter in their pasture.  The shelter keeps the rain or wind off the bale, but still there is a mess of hay on the ground.  The problem I have with the position of that bale is that I cannot see what the girls are up to.  When you have alpacas due to have their cria it causes moments of concern when you can’t see that girl and so walk out to the pasture only to discover she is engrossed in eating a big bale.  Ideally I would like to have an open sided carport in the pasture where I could see the alpacas, yet which would still provide shelter to the alpacas and the big bale. 

So we will keep working with the big bales for now and see if we can reduce the cons and increase the pros. 

Rosemary

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