A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 6, 2010

Fetching the Feed

Monday I had to make a flying visit to Albuquerque to pick up a load of feed.  It’s about a four hour drive from our house to the feed mill, a drive that might seem excessive to some, but when it comes to getting good quality, fresh feed the drive is worth making.

Our feed is milled by Onate Mills using a pre-mix supplied to them by Dr. Norm Evans.  Dr. Evans is one of the top authorities on alpaca nutrition in the United States and has formulated feed to suit the different nutritional needs of alpacas in different states.  While some might think that one generic feed would be sufficient for all the alpacas in the US that is not the case.  Differing mineral soil content, varying amounts of sunlight, weather conditions and differing water qualities are just a few of the factors that can cause different nutritional requirements in alpacas across the US.

We could purchase the feed under a different brand name from a closer store, but that brand sells the feed in 40 lb bags instead of the 50 lb. bags we get from Onate and the price on the other brand is quite a bit higher.  When you are feeding 60 plus alpacas every day a difference of 10 lb. per bag and a couple of dollars per bag soon adds up.  So when all the factors are taken into consideration it is worth our time to drive to the mill in Albuquerque to pick up feed.  We also know that the feed is fresh as the mill manager can tell us when the feed was milled.  This last load was actually milled on Saturday – pretty fresh feed!

Fortunately my drive was uneventful, with some good CD’s to listen to and some snacks for the trip I was able to sit back and enjoy the New Mexico scenery.  Ric was able to take care of chores for the day and so I was able to get a reasonably early start and was back home before dark – perfect.

With alpacas being a fiber producing animal to us it is of the utmost importance that their nutrition is the best that we can give them.  Over the years we have seen how much difference good nutrition makes not only to the alpacas fleeces but also to their overall health – we are what we eat and that phrase most definitely applies to alpacas too.

Rosemary

October 29, 2007

Zeus – Eat Your Vitamins!

At Windrush Alpacas we are committed to ensuring that our alpacas get the maximum nutrition possible.  We feed good quality hay that is analyzed to ensure it has the right balance of nutrients and feed a special alpaca pellet that has been formulated for alpacas raised in our environment.  We put out free choice minerals and also top dress our feed with MSE granules which are an organic enzyme feed additive that assist in keeping the alpacas rumens healthy and functioning well and also increase the digestibility of the alpacas feed to ensure that they are able to extract the maximum nutrition from their feed. In addition to the MSE granules we also top-dress our feed with Dr. Norm Evans Fiber Nutrients, which are a special preparation of vitamins and minerals formulated to maximize alpaca fiber without increasing it in micron size and making it coarser. 

You would think with all of this effort on nutrition we would never have any nutritional issues, and for the most part we don’t, but as with any species each individual alpaca has slightly different nutritional requirements and once in a while one comes along that needs more attention on nutrition than others.

Right now our challenge alpaca is still little Zeus.  While he has been gaining weight erratically he still has not established a good weight gain pattern.  He is nursing from his dam, who has milk but not an abundance of milk, he is nursing from one of our other dams Carina twice a day (while she is distracted with some alfalfa hay), he is nursing now and again from our llama Inca and he is now eating hay well and picking at a little grain at feeding time.  You would think with all of these various feed sources he would be gaining weight well, but to the contrary his weight gain over the last few days has slowed down with him only gaining one or two tenths of a pound a day.

So what are we to do with this little fellow?  Well, we could do nothing and just see how he fares, but I feel that would end up in a poor or even possibly fatal result and that is not what we want.  So we have to re-think what we are doing with Zeus and look further into possible causes for his lack of weight gain.

One thing we have not tried yet with Zeus is a regular course of Vitamins A, D and E.  In many northern states alpaca breeders routinely supplement their fall crias with Vitamins A, D and E.  In the northern states the days are cloudier and less sunny in the fall meaning a decrease in the natural absorption of Vitamins A, D and E for fall crias.  In the southwest though our days are still long and sunny and typically we do not experience problems with lack of vitamins A, D and E in our fall crias.  But maybe Zeus is the exception to the rule and so we have now started him on a course of Vitamin A, D and E paste a couple of times a week.  Some breeders prefer to use an injectable A, D and E vitamin supplement but some alpacas have reacted to the carrier solution that the injectable A, D and E mix comes in and we prefer to avoid risking a reaction to an injection.

We are still monitoring Zeus’s weight on a daily basis and will continue to do so for quite a while.  Usually once a cria reaches 25 lbs. we go to an every other day weighing schedule and then once they reach 30 lbs. we weigh them once a month, but with Zeus not showing a strong weight gain pattern it will be beneficial to continue to monitor his weight gain closely.

If we find the Vitamin A, D and E paste is not having much effect on Zeus then we will also feed him 5 cc of MSE drench a couple of times a week which will help him digest his feed more efficiently.

Of course we will be consulting with our vet for his opinion as to other options for Zeus.  It may be that he feels a blood work up will be a good idea, or possibly some thyroid testing could be in order.

On the good side of things Zeus has plenty of energy, he chases around the pasture at full speed with Carissima and Kanika and has no trouble keeping up with them.  He does not appear to tire easily and if not for our diligence in weighing him on a daily basis we would have a hard time telling that he was not making the progress with his weight that he should be.

So let’s hope that the additional vitamins help stimulate Zeus to where he starts to gain weight steadily and well and in the meantime I will continue to plan and research other avenues we can take to help him and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t have to use them!

Rosemary

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