A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 9, 2009

Remember When …


It only took us 30 minutes to do toenail trimming for the whole herd. That was several years back when the herd was really small! These days it takes us a lot longer.


It would be nice to be able to do maintenance tasks for the whole herd in one day, but with over 60 alpacas on the farm and just Ric and me to do the work that is not a realistic expectation. So instead we break the tasks down to groups of alpacas. One day we will do the junior males, the next day the senior males, the following day the female herd and then the next day the quarantine pen. It makes the work load a little easier and by doing tasks by groups then it makes the record keeping a little easier too.


The female herd is by far the largest group and Saturday morning found us giving all the girls and crias a pedicure and manicure (toe nail trimming), treating their ears for ear ticks and weighing all of the spring crias. We didn’t do badly, and were completed with chores and our maintenance tasks by noon. Considering the temperature was headed to the 100’s as we worked we don’t think we did too badly.


Thankfully all of the spring crias have now reached the 40 lb. mark and so instead of the weekly weighing that has been happening since they reached 30 lb. they can now go onto the monthly weigh schedule – and at 40 lbs each its time to start some halter training as we don’t want to be carrying them over to the scales any more!


The next couple of days will see us taking care of the maintenance tasks for the rest of the herd. It’s not difficult work, it just takes a little time, but it is work that needs to be done and also it gives us a chance to get our hands on each alpaca to make sure everyone is hale and hearty.


Following our morning working in the heat it was time to retreat to the cool of the house and enjoy a nice cold drink, write up the herd notes and take care of a few things inside the house before starting afternoon chores. Not a bad way to spend a day really!



March 16, 2008

A Productive Day

Yesterday we finally had a chance to catch up on some of the routine herd health tasks.  Between the show in Fort Worth and illness we were a little behind schedule and with many of our pregnant girls coming up to 60 days from birthing we wanted to take care of as many tasks as possible so that we can leave those girls alone until after they have their crias.

Our young friend Alex Stewart joined us for the day; Alex was the subject of a previous post on the blog when he formed an instant bond with Stars, one of the alpacas on the farm, during a farm visit.  Alex has a good touch and manner with animals and is interested in becoming a veterinarian, he had asked if he could come out to the farm on herd health days to assist us and this was the first opportunity we had for him to do so.

Between the three of us we were able to get a lot done and now most of the herd has received a manicure and pedicure (okay we really just trimmed their toenails), preventative ear tick treatment and had their weight and body score checked and recorded.  The few alpacas that we didn’t manage to get too will receive their herd health check during the week.

It is important to keep up with these routine tasks.  Overgrown toenails can cause the alpacas to walk badly and put a strain on their joints, as the weather warms up ticks will be more active and can cause major problems if they take up residence in the warmth and safety of an alpacas ear, and overweight or underweight alpacas need to have their diet adjusted to keep them in good condition.

While dealing with the pregnant girls we were careful to try and avoid excess stress on them, the last thing we want to do is lose a pregnancy because of stress caused by something as simply as a toe nail trimming.  Each girl is different in her personality and hormone levels, some took our work in their stride while others were not so at ease.  To help keep the girls from undue stress we gave them some Bach’s Rescue Remedy about 30 minutes before working with them.  Rescue Remedy is a wonderful preparation and helps just take the edge off things for the girls without us having to sedate them.

Having accomplished much during the day we were joined in the late afternoon by Donna Given of Kiss Me Alpacas who was delivering three of her females to us for spring breedings.  Donna traveled to us from her home in Bandera, Texas and was traveling with her friend Deborah and Deborah’s two daughters Laura and Rachel.  Donna’s daughter Tamara had intended coming on the trip but unfortunately had to stay home to write a paper for a course she is taking.

Donna’s three female alpacas – Celeste, Marty and Cariad – plus Celeste’s cria Skylar Moon and Cariad’s cria Copper Chai were all pleased to come out of their trailer after the long drive and took no time at all to start exploring the quarantine pen.  Celeste was enthralled with some tumbleweeds that had blown into the pen and proceeded to rub herself all over them and then roll on them.  While the tumbleweeds obviously felt good to Celeste we did remove them from the pasture, as the last thing Donna needs is to have to spend time picking tumbleweed out of her alpacas fleeces.

During the afternoon our friends Justus and MJ stopped over too, and so the group of us went out for an evening meal together.  We ate lots, discussed much and enjoyed a great end to a productive day.


November 10, 2007

Herd Health Day

Today we are having a Herd Health Day and have invited some new alpaca owners and potential alpaca owners to join us for the day.  We like to have a Herd Health Day about once a month.  Truth be known though with over 40 alpacas on the farm Herd Health Day usually ends up being spread over two days.

Herd Health Day gives us a chance to have hands on time with each alpaca, we will weigh each one and also body score them.  Weighing gives us a figure for our records to show whether they have increased or decreased their weight and by body scoring as well we get a better indication of whether the weight they are holding is a good weight for that individual alpaca.

Having weighed the alpaca we will then check its teeth and toenails to see if any trimming is needed.  The toenails only take a couple of minutes to trim and most of the alpacas are not too bothered by it.  Some of the breeding males and pregnant females are not too keen on having their back legs handled but with some careful handling and patience most will allow us to trim their toe nails without a problem. 

Trimming teeth is a little more difficult, we do have a special tool to trim teeth with which only takes a few seconds per alpaca but first we have to get the tool into their mouths and that is more of a challenge then trimming their teeth.  The tool we have has a template that sits over the teeth to ensure that we do not over trim and to help keep the alpacas tongue out of the way during trimming.  The tool works well on those with a regular bite but if we have an alpaca with an uneven bite or maybe one tooth that is longer than the rest then we usually have to use a Dremel tool to trim. 

To be able to use the Dremel tool we have to have a hard cutting blade, as the alpacas teeth are quite tough.  We also use a dog rope toy to put into the alpacas mouth to keep it open during trimming.  When trimming starts it is important that one person keeps an eye on the alpacas tongue to make sure it is kept away from the cutting blade.  Additionally it is a good idea to have a spray bottle of plain water available to spray onto the alpacas teeth to keep them cool during trimming.

Herd health day is also a good opportunity to assess each alpacas fleece.  Fleece can change in it’s qualities from year to year based on nutrition and also the genetics of the alpaca, so it is a good idea to monitor your fleeces for changes and also to assess them realistically.

We also use Herd Health Day to treat our alpacas ears for ear ticks.  With this fall being very mild the ticks are still very active and while we have not seen many signs of ear tick problems so far, we would like to keep it that way and so a preventative treatment is a good idea.  We like to use Adams Fly Spray and Repellent For Horses, which we draw up into a syringe and administer in doses of 2 cc per adult ear, 1.5 cc per weanling ear and 1 cc per cria ear.  We syringe the solution into the ears, massage the ear for a couple of seconds and then stand back as the alpacas will want a good shake when released.

As we work through our herd we will make notes in our barn book of all of the alpacas weights, body scores, treatments given and any other observations.  Those notes will then be transferred into our herd software program.

Herd Health Day is an important part of our routine and we hope by inviting new alpaca owners and prospective alpaca owners they will get a chance to learn more about caring for their alpacas.  From our experience there is nothing like that hands on time to prompt questions and tips that will prove useful to an alpaca owner.

By the time we are finished with Herd Health Day it will be time to do chores, but we will have accomplished a lot during our day and will be able to take time off in the evening as reward for a good days hard work.


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