A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 13, 2008

Now That’s What We Wanted To See!

 The two orphaned crias Mags and Song have been making good progress.  Song is now quite happy to latch onto her bottle without going underneath Mags first, and drinks her milk with gusto.  Song also is a healthy eater when it comes to hay and alpaca pellets.


Mags has never had a problem taking a bottle (far from it) but behaviorally he has some issues.  Not having ever really bonded with his dam (she died shortly after he was born), he has confusion as to his relationship with humans.  Mags has a tendency to stay away from the other alpacas, and also craves attention from humans – not a good thing for a young male alpaca.   So we are working on correcting his behavior and trying to get him to integrate more with the other alpacas.  Song has actually helped with this as she has buddied up to Mags and she tends to lead the way in showing him how alpacas should behave.


We were hopeful that our group of crias would provide Mags with some good alpaca interaction, the crias now range between two and four months old and so are still very playful.  In the first few days of Mags and Song’s arrival our crias checked them out and tried playing with them, but Mags and Song were still getting used to their surroundings and were not willing to play.


Every morning and evening we pen all the crias up together to provide some time for them to eat without the adult alpacas shoving them out of the way.  The crias all enjoy their time eating and walk into the pen on their own when we call them.  By including Mags and Song in this routine we have hoped that they will pick up on the behavior of the other crias and start to eat more hay and even a little of the alpaca pellets.


Yesterday afternoon I noticed a blur of alpacas galloping across the pasture.  I went over to the window to see what was going on, anytime I see alpacas running around warrants my attention as usually they calmly walk around the pasture.   As I looked out I could see that the galloping alpacas were the crias, it was playtime!  Annochia was in the lead, doing one of the highest prong gaits that I have ever seen; she looked so pretty as she moved.  Right behind Annochia was Pride and next to Pride was Mags!  Yes finally Mags was taking part in the cria games.  Song was there too in the main body of the crias running behind Annochia, Pride and Mags and it was a great sight to see the group tearing around the pasture having fun, but the best part of all was to see two little orphan crias joining in and acting like alpaca crias should.  Now that’s what we wanted to see!



September 1, 2008

Sometimes You Just Have to Be a Little Crafty

Song learns to take a bottle from under Mags

Song learns to take a bottle from under Mags


Song and Mags the two orphaned crias have been with us for four days now, we have been getting to know them and they have been getting to know us.


Mags, the handsome boy,  is going to take some work to get him into an alpaca frame of mind, but we are seeing some subtle signs that give us hope that he can grow into a well adjusted male alpaca.  He is spending less time standing by the gate looking for us and more time eating hay and sitting a little closer to the main alpaca group.  He still will not eat any pellets, but he is eating hay and gets a bottle three times a day.   Mags does have moments of inappropriate behavior but we are consistent in correcting him and he appears to be slowly learning.


But along with Mags own problems he has brought a solution to a different problem.  Despite not being interested in a bottle, little Song has been searching for milk.  She has tried to nurse off our dams, but our dams are not willing to accommodate that.  Inca the llama is still eyeing up Song and I still feel in time those two will hook up, but in the meantime Song persistently tries to get milk from any source she feels is appropriate.


On Saturday Ric fed some weeds he had pulled to the girls pen and while the girls were busily eating Song managed to have a good nurse from Anya and Ivanna, until they took a break from weed eating and realized that the cria nursing from them was not theirs.


We had noticed that when we fed Mags his bottle, Song would try and nurse from Mags.  Now as Mags is a male alpaca, there is only one appendage on him where an alpacas udder would be and there is no way Song is going to get milk from there! 


Having watched Song try and nurse from Mags I had an idea.  If Song thought that Mags could give her milk, why don’t we go along with it and put a milk source there.


So it was that we went out into the pasture on Saturday evening armed with two bottles of milk.  We brought Mags into one of the shelters and Ric started to give him his bottle.  Once Mags was busy we waited for Song to put her head under Mags and start “nursing” from him.  I had prepared the second bottle of milk for Song and put some watered down Hi-Cal (a sweet high calorie supplement) on the nipple of the bottle to give it a good taste.  Kneeling on the other side of Mags I maneuvered the nipple of the bottle toward Song’s mouth, squeezing it to put a little of the milk on the tip of the nipple.  Carefully I started to put the nipple into the side of Song’s mouth as she nursed from Mags.  I think both Ric and I were holding our breath as we waited to see what Song would do, and thankfully she did exactly as we hoped she would, she took the nipple into her mouth and drank the milk from the bottle.  Eureka!


Song drank heartily and Mags was not at all concerned about the activity going on around him.  His only concern was his milk bottle.  As Song continued to nurse I tried to bring the bottle round so that she was no longer under Mags, but as soon as the bottle was moved away from Mags she rejected it and went back to trying to nurse from Mags.   In Song’s mind, milk only comes from under an alpaca!


So now we have a plan.  For the next few days we will continue to hold the bottle under Mags to get Song to nurse.  Hopefully she will start to recognize her own scent and Mags scent on that bottle and day-by-day, inch-by-inch we will gradually offer the bottle away from Mags.  It will be a delicate process but hopefully we will get to the point where I no longer have to kneel down and put the bottle under Mags in order for Song to take it.  However if that’s what it takes to get Song to take a bottle then that is what we will have to do, although it will mean two people will be needed to feed Mags and Song at the same time.  If Song is persistent in refusing the bottle away from Mags it may be that we can set up a bottle holder for Mags’ bottle, get him to start taking his bottle and then hold Songs bottle underneath him for her to nurse.


So you see sometimes it does pay to be just a little crafty!


(You can see our milk maneuvers in the picture at the top of this blog entry.   On Sunday Marilyn Knudsen and Roberto Ibarra of Altiplano Alpacas and also Melita Clark and Mark Hogan of Milagro Meadow Alpacas visited us to deliver three alpaca girls for breeding.   Roberto helped me to feed Mags while Marilyn kindly took pictures.   Thank you Roberto and Marilyn for helping to capture the moment!)


August 26, 2008

Taking Baby Steps


We are once again trying Dream with a lesser amount of milk during the day.  The last week or so while she has drunk her bottles without a problem there have been several times when she has either not seemed too hungry or drunk less milk from each bottle.


Yesterday we fed Dream in the morning along with the other crias and did not offer her a morning bottle.   She didn’t come and seek me out looking for it and she didn’t seem ravenously hungry when I gave her a bottle in the evening.  So it seems as if it is time to wean Dream off at least one of her two daily bottles. 


Dream is now just over three months old and is eating hay well plus a little bit of pellet supplement and calf manna.  She is a sturdy cria, full of energy and certainly not thin.  It is amazing to think that in the space of three months we have gone from feeding her every few hours to now only giving her one 10 oz bottle a day.  We were very lucky that Dream took well to the bottle and did not fight over it like many alpaca crias do and of course Dream still has her dam Rosie who she nurses from and the occasional drink of milk from our guard llamas.  Food is not in short supply where Dream is concerned!


It is interesting to watch the progress of the crias, they go so quickly from nursing from their dams every hour or so, to starting to try out the hay and then making sure that they get their fill of the hay before going to nurse and then play.  One of our neighbors dropped by the other night to watch the crias play and was most disappointed to find them with their heads immersed in the hay racks.  I explained to our neighbor that play starts later these days once the crias are feeling full, often that is after dark when all you can do hear is the whisper of their feet as they fly across the pasture.


People often talk about baby steps, meaning small steps, but with crias I am not sure those baby steps are so small.  In a few short months they go from birth, to first steps, to playing, to eating and the visits to their dams for nursing while still there, become less frequent.  Just a few months more and we will be thinking about starting to wean them and wondering how time has yet again passed by so swiftly.



August 4, 2008

More Milk Please!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Cria Care, Crias, General, guard llamas — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 6:31 am
Dream July 2008

Dream July 2008


Young Dream is growing fast; she now weighs well over 40 lbs and is a sturdy little girl.  Dream is still getting two bottles of milk a day from us in addition to nursing her dam Rosie.  When Dream was born her birth was a difficult one and Rosie was too sore to let her nurse for the first couple of days.   Dream was started on the bottle, and eventually we were able to get her to nurse from Rosie but she still needed some supplemental feeding.


As Dream grows up we have to decide how and when to cut back on her extra milk.  She is now eating hay and a little grain and in addition to nursing from Rosie and getting her bottles she also takes milk from our guard llamas now and then.


About a week or so we noticed that Dream was sometimes not drinking all her usual 12 oz of milk at each bottle feeding and so we took this as a sign that she was ready for us to start cutting back the supplemental milk.  We reduced her bottles to 10 oz each feeding with the plan to reduce her bottles by two ounces per feeding each week.


This last week she seemed to be doing okay with the 10 oz of milk, she drained the bottle each feeding and seemed content when she did so.  So our plan seemed to be working well, that is until last night when she not only drained the bottle but also kept trying to get more from it and followed me around humming at me asking for more milk.  I took her over to Rosie to nurse but she wasn’t interested, I know she had nursed Rosie just before I fed her, but as Dream was acting as if she was hungry I thought perhaps she wanted to nurse from Rosie again.


I wondered if I should give her some more milk from the bottle, but decided against it.  We were about to give the girls their evening feed and so Dream would be joining the other crias in a pen for some time with some hay and a little grain.  It was tempting to pander to Dream’s request for more milk, those big brown eyes of hers are quite appealing, but I know that she has access to plenty of milk and food and so felt that it was best not to encourage her to increase her intake from her bottle feedings.


Dream ate well with the other crias and seemed happy afterward, perhaps I had just caught her at a time when she was more hungry than usual, or perhaps I had made up a particularly good tasting batch of milk for her.  We will see what happens over the next few days.  If Dream persists in telling us she is hungry we may have to increase the bottle feedings again.  She is now on a monthly weighing schedule and is due for weighing this week and that will give us a good indication of whether she is getting enough to eat.  From her body score though I don’t think there is a problem as he is certainly not thin!



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