A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 7, 2007

The Wonders of a Wagon

Green WagonA couple of our favorite pieces of equipment on the farm are our green wagon and our yellow wagon.  We started off with a green wagon a few years ago and then liked it so much we bought another one, but could only find a yellow one.  The yellow one is slightly lighter in weight but still works just as well.

So what do we do with these wagons, well for most of the year we use them as portable hay feeders.  They are great during morning chores, I can load up all of the girls hay and feed bowls, wheel the wagon over to the pasture and when I have finished feeding leave the wagon filled with hay in the pasture.  If it should rain we can quickly move the wagon inside one of the shelters, if we have young cria just starting to eat hay we can drop down one of the sides on the wagon to give them easier access to the hay.

We have also used our wagon for hauling feed bags (it can take quite a bit of weight), hauling a whole small bale of hay, moving bags of fleece from the shearing area to the studio and even giving small children rides (a great workout, and yes on once occasion the small children were not so small but rather adults who were feeling young at heart!).

The wagons are reasonably priced ($70 – $80) and really are a great asset to the farm.  You can get them at most large hardware stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware etc.)  and if you look at this time of the year you may find a good sale deal as the stores try and reduce their garden center inventory for the fall and winter. 

While on the subject of wagons if ever you get a chance to see the movie “All We Need Is A Little Red Wagon” then take it.  The movie only lasts for 5 minutes and will make you want to go out and find your wagon – then you will understand how two alpaca owners were once sighted at dusk taking rides in a wagon.  It wasn’t a red one, but it was just as much fun!


September 27, 2007

Using Big Bales with Alpacas – Follow-up

Big Bale in Carport ShelterIt’s been a little while now since we started our experiment with using big bales of hay with the alpacas.  The girls have almost munched their way through two big bales, while the boys are just about finishing their first one. So what do we think of the big bale experiment so far?  There are definite pros and cons, lets start with the pros. 

  1. Cuts down on chore time – using a big bale reduces one step from the daily chores as we do not have to put out as much hay into the individual feeders.
  2. Hay price is cheaper – typically the price of a big bale is less than the price of the equivalent weight of small bales.
  3. In a dry lot situation the alpacas have something to munch on all day.  Having a big bale of hay available 24/7 helps simulate the natural grazing habits of alpacas
  4. They provide instant bedding for the alpacas – as the hay falls onto the floor it makes a nice layer of bedding for the alpacas that they love to lie on.
  5. The crias love to play on the bales as they get smaller.  Our crias have certainly found the big bales fun to climb on as the bale gets smaller.

 So onto the cons. 

  1. There is a lot of wastage.  As the bale is eaten down the hay falls down around the sides of the bale and gets stepped on and blown around in the wind.
  2. Less exercise for the alpacas (and llamas!).  We are finding that instead of wandering from feeder to feeder the alpacas and llamas get stuck into eating the bale and there they stay until they are full.
  3. Harder to monitor the daily consumption of hay by the alpacas.  The big bales we are using are lower protein hay that is suitable for all day feeding, however if the hay were higher in protein it could result in some chubby alpacas over time.
  4. Certain alpacas can dominate feeding at the big bale.  Some of the alpacas are finding a position to eat the bale from and then not allowing the other alpacas into that spot.
  5. Risk of spreading parasites is higher.  The alpacas stand on the hay that falls on the floor, they may have been standing on the poop pile a short while before standing on the hay and whatever is on their feet can easily transfer to the loose hay around the bale.
  6. Harder to obtain hay for shows.  It really doesn’t work as well to fork some hay off the bale and take it with you to the show.  We got lucky this last show and had a small core of a bale left which we were able to place into a large hessian sack for transporting to the show.  If the bale had been bigger though it would have been more difficult to work with.
  7. Crias love to play on the bales as they get smaller – fun for the crias, but also has a potential for one of them to get hurt jumping on and off the bale.

 So at the moment there are more cons than pros on using the big bales, however we haven’t given up on the idea yet.  

We feel that in order to successfully use big bales we are going to have to devise some sort of containment system for the big bale that will allow the alpacas to eat the bale, but also will contain the hay that drops off the side of the bale.  The containment system would need to be adjustable so that as the bale gets smaller the containment system can be adjusted to the size of the bale.  By containing the hay that falls off the bale we will hopefully also stop the alpacas from standing on the fallen hay and reduce the parasite contamination risk.  The other advantage of the containment system is that it will prevent the crias from jumping on top of the bale.  I hate to be a spoilsport, but there is a risk that one of them could get hurt jumping on and off the bale. 

For now we have the girls big bale in the large carport shelter in their pasture.  The shelter keeps the rain or wind off the bale, but still there is a mess of hay on the ground.  The problem I have with the position of that bale is that I cannot see what the girls are up to.  When you have alpacas due to have their cria it causes moments of concern when you can’t see that girl and so walk out to the pasture only to discover she is engrossed in eating a big bale.  Ideally I would like to have an open sided carport in the pasture where I could see the alpacas, yet which would still provide shelter to the alpacas and the big bale. 

So we will keep working with the big bales for now and see if we can reduce the cons and increase the pros. 


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