A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

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. 


September 24, 2007

On The Matter of Boys

The State Fair is now over and Ric and the alpacas have returned home.  All of the show alpacas will now be placed in quarantine for about three weeks just in case they picked something up at the show that could be transmitted to the rest of the herd.  We will also give them a preventative treatment for coccidia for the next five days, as that is a parasite that can sometimes make an appearance after shows.   

Having the Darts of Llano Soleado Alpacas so close to our farm works out great for both herds.  We each take one group of alpacas for quarantine – this time we will quarantine all of the show males from both farms and the Darts will quarantine all of the show females from both farms.  By doing this each farm only needs to provide one quarantine pasture, plus it means that there are no lone alpacas quarantine, as between us we always have more than one show alpaca of each sex.

Our boys did not do quite as well at the show as Shiimsa, but we still came home with some ribbons.  A fifth place for Rascal and a sixth place for Treasure with little Echo and Rian not placing.  All of the boys we took to the show were white and the white male classes are typically the most competitive classes in the show, so to even get a ribbon in a white class these days is something to be grateful for.

On the home front, Zoies cria now has a name; his owners are calling him Zeus.  It is a name that really suits him and follows the “Z” theme of his sire (Zindel) and dam (Zoie).  It also ties in with his grandsire Poseidon so all in all it is a good name for the little guy. 

Young Zeus had actually lost 1/10 of a lb. in weight when we weighed him yesterday morning, it is not unusual to have crias lose some weight on their first day but I am still a little concerned about Zoie’s ability to produce milk.  I feel she has some, but wonder if it is enough for her cria.

Signs that a cria may not be getting enough milk are lethargy, frequent nursing and a lack of a milk moustache when the cria comes away from nursing his dam.  Zeus trotted around a little yesterday, but I would like to see him a little more active, he is not nursing frequently but I did see Zoie walk away while he was nursing yesterday.  I went out and watched Zeus trying to nurse and noticed that Zoie’s teats each have a raw spot or two on them.  Either little Zeus has some sharp teeth, or he is sucking so hard on Zoie that he is irritating her udder.  When watching Zeus nurse I do not see a milk moustache on him when he comes away from nursing, milk moustaches are harder to see on white crias but I just don’t see any signs of milk on his lips.  He could well be fooling us as he did have a small frolic around the pasture with Carissima yesterday evening that shows that he at least has some energy.

So this morning we will see how much weight Zeus has gained, if it is very little or a weight loss I will introduce a supplemental bottle or two of goats’ milk and yoghurt.   Perhaps if Zeus felt fuller then he would not suck so hard on Zoie and her udder will get a chance to heal.   Actually Zeus has taken matters into his own hands (or feet!), I caught him earlier today stealing milk from Carina as Carissima was nursing.  If Carina had not been producing much milk I would have taken steps to stop Zeus from nursing her, but as she produces a lot of good milk I let him continue to nurse.  Hopefully as the days go by Zoie’s milk will really come into it’s own and we will not need to be so concerned about little Zeus.   Whether or not he stops stealing milk from Carina will be a different matter though, to quote my mother “it’s unusual for a man not to find his way to the pantry” and in Zeus’s case I think he has found a new pantry to visit in Carina!


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