A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 15, 2008

Fixing a Prickly Problem

Mercury Without his Cactus

Mercury Without his Cactus





We are fortunate to have a wonderful teenage helper, Bethany, who comes out and helps us when she is not in school.  Bethany has worked during the week throughout the summer break and when her school starts again she will switch to working with us on weekends.


Yesterday Bethany showed up for work and started feeding the boys in the bottom pasture, as is her routine.  There are four boys in the bottom pasture, Mercury, Magellan, Christobal and Comet.  They are older boys (Christobal is in his late teens) and the four have been together for most of their lives.  The boys were originally donated to our vet, but when he moved into a house in town he could not longer keep them and gave them to us.


Having been initially raised as part of a large herd, Mercury, Magellan and Christobal are pretty much hands off alpacas.  Comet who is the youngest of the group joined the other three when they were at another farm and they have educated him in the ways of an alpaca that is not fond of being handled.  When caught the four boys are not too bad to handle, but they are wily creatures and it takes a bit of teamwork on our part to catch them.


Shortly after Bethany had started chores she returned to the house, a sure sign that something was up.  Bethany asked if we knew that one of the boys in the bottom pasture had a piece of cactus stuck to his face.  We had not been aware of the problem and so we told Bethany not to turn the boys out into their pasture and that we would come down and see what we could do to remove the cactus.


It turned out that Mercury was the cactus wearer.  Mercury is a fawn, suri alpaca and the mellowest of the group of four boys; still he wasn’t about to let us catch him without putting us through our paces.  With Bethany, Ric and myself all being available to herd the four boys we were able to herd Mercury into the shelter to be caught so that we could examine the cactus.   The cactus was about four inches long with one inch long barbs, and it was on Mercury’s face right up next to his right eye.  As Ric held on to Mercury I was able to get hold of the cactus and gently detach it from Mercury.  I was wearing good thick leather gloves but it still took some careful manipulating to prevent me from impaling myself on a cactus barb or two.


Having removed the main piece of cactus we then examined Mercury to make sure he didn’t have more cactus pieces or cactus barbs left on him.  Sure enough, right by the inside corner of his eye was a large cactus barb.  Very carefully, while Ric held onto Mercury I managed to remove the barb.   Thank goodness the cactus did not get stuck into Mercury’s eye.


Once we had removed the barb and rechecked Mercury’s face we let him go and turned the boys out into their pasture for the day.  They wasted no time in running as fast as they could to the bottom of the pasture, getting as far away from us as possible.  Let’s hope that they don’t find any more cactus plants to get into!



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