A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 28, 2009

One Paca Too Many


Sometimes things within the alpaca herd are a fine balance and the smallest of changes can upset that balance and cause problems.


Our herd pointed this out to us recently. 


When Marti, Orchid and Candytuft completed their quarantine period we allowed them to join the main female herd.  As usual there was much sniffing and checking out of the new additions to the herd.  We then had to figure out where Marti and Orchid were going to eat at feeding time, Candytuft at that time was not eating pellets and so we thought she would most likely go wherever Orchid went.  (Note:  Candytuft has since discovered the pellets and is now not at all shy about pushing her way into a feed bowl!).  Marti has stayed with us before and we felt confident that she would figure out a good place for her to eat.


Our custom at feeding time is to have the girls eat in pens in groups of similar need.  We group fast eaters together, slower eaters together, heavily pregnant girls together etc.


Orchid went in to eat with Chai, which worked out well as Orchid does not hold back when it comes to getting her share of the pellets and neither does Chai.  Marty started off eating with Orchid and Chai, but after a couple of days decided that she didn’t like that arrangement and instead went in with the eight dams of the fall crias.


We didn’t think too much about Marti’s move to a different pen.  The pen the eight girls feed in is a large one, certainly large enough to accommodate nine alpacas at feeding time – or so we thought.


A couple of days after Marti had moved to the bigger pen I noticed that Clarissa, who also eats in that pen, had a slight choke.  I made sure that Clarissa was okay and didn’t think too much more about it.  The next day though Clarissa started to choke again at feeding time, this time a bit harder. 


Choke in alpacas can be a serious problem; left unattended the choke can cause additional problems and can even result in the death of the alpaca.  Interestingly there is an article about an alpaca that died as a result of a choke situation in the latest edition of Alpacas Magazine.   The article is worth reading and explains the possible consequences of an unattended choke.


We were concerned that as Clarissa had choked two days in a row that she might have scratched or irritated her esophagus and so decided that we should feed her soaked feed for a couple of days.  To do this effectively we needed to put Clarissa in a pen on her own to eat, and so utilized a catch pen that we had available.  Clarissa enjoyed her soaked feed and did not choke again, but she also took really quickly to eating on her own in the catch pen.  By the second time of feeding her in that catch pen she ran over to it and was standing waiting for us as we arrived with her food bowl. 


Clarissa had not choked at all before Marti joined the feeding group, but apparently the addition of Marti to the group just tipped the dynamics and balance of that group enough to cause a problem.  As far as Clarissa was concerned Marti was just one paca too many.


Within a couple of days Clarissa was back to eating unsoaked feed without any problems with choking.  Marti and the other seven girls in her feeding group were getting along well and Clarissa was still running to the catch pen at every feeding time and so we decided to let that arrangement continue, with Clarissa now having what we refer to as “her own private dining area”.  Balance has been restored to the herd and everyone is once again happy.



March 3, 2009

A Matter of Dynamics


Like many species alpacas definitely have dynamics within their herd.   Usually there are one or two leaders, a bunch of middle range alpacas and then some who are bottom of the pecking order in the herd.


With the departure of Anya, Serenity, Opie and Rian I have noticed some changes in the behavior of the herd.  The boy’s pen has been pretty much the same indicating to me that Opie and Rian held positions somewhere in the middle of the herd.


In the girls pen the most interesting change has been in the reaction of the herd at feeding time.  Anya was always the first to greet me at the gate, anxiously pushing her head in any feed bowls I was carrying.  The rest of the herd would be not far behind Anya, but it seems as if they took their cue from her behavior.


When I went to feed for the first time since Anya left there were a couple of minutes when the herd just stood and looked at each other as if to say, “well now what shall we do?”  No one rushed to the gate and there wasn’t the usual vying to get closest to the food bowls.  With Anya being gone they didn’t have her cue to tell them that it was time to eat.  It was funny not to be mobbed by alpacas the moment I walked through gate.


Eventually Ivanna, who usually eats with Anya and Rose Marie, stepped up and took the lead, coming over to see what I had and following me over to the feeding pens and that was enough to kick the whole feeding process in motion.  Once the herd saw Ivanna’s actions they were not far behind her.


Feeding time was definitely less noisy and frantic than usual, not that Anya is a noisy alpaca but I think the herd just wasn’t reacting as usual.  Given time I am sure they will adjust to Anya’s absence, with Ivanna now being the one that the herd will watch for to tell them it is feeding time.  It’s just a matter of adjusting the herd dynamics.



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