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

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November 17, 2008

So What Do You Get If ………..

 Some trips to the vet are for good reasons and such was the case when I took two of the visiting girls in for ultrasounds last week.   The ultrasounds showed that both girls were pregnant and the girls handled the procedure well.

 

What was unusual for my trip was that I was the only client at the vets that afternoon.  The vet did have some house calls to make later in the day, but for some reason that day was a little quiet – a welcome break for our usually busy vet.

 

The relaxed atmosphere at the vet clinic meant that we could get caught up on news and talk about various things we had been seeing or doing.  Our vet mentioned that recently he had been out in deepest rural New Mexico (the type of area where you don’t see anything anywhere close to you and are aware it has been a long time since you even drove past a house or a driveway) when he had come across two llamas standing proudly in a pasture.   The llamas made an unusual sight, standing there in the pasture with nothing else nearby not even a ranch cow (although I am betting those llamas were being used for guards for sheep or possible cows with calves).

 

Our conversation turned to the subject of llamas that pull carts, and we jokingly spoke as to how that might be a better option than cars in our current economy.

 

Then our vet asked me if I had ever heard of a llama being crossed with a camel.  I knew that at some time I had heard of such a creature but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what it was called.  I was pretty certain it did not inherit the camel’s hump though.

 

Our vet mentioned that one of his clients had recently brought a camel in to the clinic  and had allowed our vet to ride the camel.  Our vet had been surprised to see that the camel led off with it’s hind leg rather than the front leg, and that camels have a lateral gait (moving both hind and front leg from the same side at the same time) rather than a diagonal gait (moving opposite hind and front legs).  The camel our vet had ridden was a Bactrian camel (the two humped variety) and that led us to wonder if only Bactrian camels had the lateral gait or if Dromedary camels also have a lateral gait (they do).

 

The vet’s questions stuck in my mind when I returned home and I was still certain that I had at some stage heard of a camel crossed with a llama and so I did a little research to see what I could find.

 

It turns out that on January 14, 1998  Rama the Cama was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Cama is the term being used for the offspring resulting from the crossing of a camel and a llama.  Some of the information I discovered mentioned Rama’s dam being a llama, but it seems as if Rama’s dam was actually a guanaco.  The confusion about Rama’s dam may come from the word lama (not only one “L”), which is the genus name  South American Camelids; a guanaco is a lama but not a llama.  You can see why people might get confused.

 

There is an interesting piece about Rama and how he came to be at

 

http://taylorllamas.com/Camel-LamaCross.html

 

Pictures of Rama can be seen at

http://taylorllamas.com/Camel-LamaCrossPhotos.html

 

Unfortunately Rama has not grown up with the nicest of dispositions, part of that might be that his dam had little milk and was not interested in Rama when he was born and so he was bottle fed.  The other contributing factor to Rana’s personality might just be the combination of the guanaco and camel personalities.   Rama also was not accepted by the camels and guanaco’s at the Camel Reproduction Center where he lives.

 

Since Rama’s birth other Camel-Lama crosses have been produced including Kamilah who does have a llama dam rather than a guanaco dam.

 

Rama is still alive and lives at the Camel Reproduction Center in Dubai; he likes to kick a soccer ball around for entertainment.  It still has not been determined if Rama is fertile or not.

 

If you have time to read a longer article check out

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/99oct/9910camels.htm

 

The article is in three sections but is an interesting insight into camels and the work of Dr. Julian “Lulu” Skidmore at the Camel Reproduction Center.

 

Happy Reading!

 

Rosemary

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