A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

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!)


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