A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 26, 2009

Scoundrels!

The Girls Help Themselves to Hay

The Girls Help Themselves to Hay

 

What can I say?  Leave a herd of alpacas alone long enough with a bale of their favorite teff hay which has been “secured” in a pen and one of them will figure out how to get the pen gate open allowing the herd an “all you can eat” buffet on the bale!

We had one bale of teff hay left and decided to store it in the pen we use for big bales in the girls pasture so that we could ration it out a little every day.  Word soon spread among the herd that the teff hay was there and the girls happily spent their day pulling pieces through the chain link of the pen.  That teff hay tastes so good and our girls wanted more.

Maya the llama was the first to lead the assault on the big bale pen.  Using the chain link material on the gate to the big bale pen she managed to climb up high enough to where she could reach her neck out and just manage to nibble at the edge of the bale.  This wasn’t the easiest feat in the world but Maya was determined despite being told off by Ric for climbing on the chain link gate.

Having been discouraged from accessing the bale by going over the fence there was only one alternative, go under the fence.

We have two alpacas at the farm that are champions at putting their heads under the last rung of any portable panel or gate in order to reach anything that is tasty on the other side.  Carina started this trend, reaching under her feeding pen each morning to steal one of the bowls from the group of girls in the adjoining pen.  Carina also discovered that there was sufficient space for her to get her head and neck under the gate of the big bale pen.

Carina is one of those girls who puts her energy into milk production and tends to be slim, so when we saw her getting access to the big bale by putting her head under the gate we were not too concerned.  We checked to make sure she had sufficient room to get her head in and out of the gap under the gate and allowed her to continue stealing some extra calories.

Glow’s cria Nochi then noticed Carina’s trick and decided that she too could steal hay from under the gate and was soon joining Carina.

Having accessed the hay from under the gate it didn’t take long for Carina to figure out that she could use her head (in a physical way rather than an intellectual way) to push up on the gate just enough to unlatch the lock. 

So it was that yesterday afternoon I glanced out of the window to be greeted by the sight of the herd piling in that gate to help themselves to teff hay – boy were they happy!

While I would love to give them free access to the teff hay, it is the last bale we have and we are trying to make it last.  We do have other hay to feed the alpacas but it will be August before we have access to another load of teff hay.  So for now the gate to the big bale pen has been secured not only with the latch but also with a strap that prevents the alpacas and llamas from maneuvering the gate in any direction – and I have a herd of alpacas who sit longingly outside that pen quietly thinking about how they can once again get free access to that bale of teff hay.

Rosemary

January 29, 2009

More Teff Please!

Teff Grass (right) Wheat Hay (Left)

Teff Grass (right) Wheat Hay (Left)

 

The alpacas have eaten their way through the large bale of Tiffany Teff grass we purchased a couple of weeks ago.  We didn’t let them have free access to the bale but rather rationed some out at each feeding.  One thing is for certain they love the taste of it.

 

I still have not been able to find anything hugely worrying about the Teff grass, but part of the problem is the lack of information on it.  I just hope that there isn’t something about it such as a mineral tie up that will cause problems several months down the road.

 

Just from observing the alpacas we have not seen any bad reactions to the Teff grass such as diarrhea or bloating and they seem very content with it.  With the little bit of alfalfa we were feeding with the wheat hay prior to getting the Teff grass I did notice that the alpacas seemed a more aggressive when they saw the alfalfa bucket.  There would be much pushing and shoving, grumbling and spitting.  With the Teff hay they are certainly excited to see it but are less aggressive than with the alfalfa.

 

One of the drawbacks of the Teff hay is the seed heads.  The seeds are tiny and many.  This second bale seems to have less seed heads than the first but I wonder if those tiny seeds will work their way into the alpacas fleeces.  From what I have seen so far the seeds seem to stay on top of the fleece rather than work their way into the fleece and brush off quite easily.  Lets hope it stays that way.  The picture at the top of this post shows Teff grass to the right of the picture with a piece of wheat hay to the left to give a comparison of size.  The picture below this paragraph shows a wheat head on the left of the ruler and a Teff head on the right of the ruler.  You can see just how tiny the Teff grass seeds are.

Wheat Hay Seed Head (Left) Teff Grass Seed Head (Right)

Wheat Hay Seed Head (Left) Teff Grass Seed Head (Right)

 

So far we are happy with the Teff hay.  I really feel our herd needs that bit of extra protein.  I was not happy with how they were looking when we fed them the wheat hay alone.  We have had wheat hay in the past and our alpacas and fleeces have always looked good, but this year’s wheat hay was not giving the same results despite its good figures on the hay analysis.  Since we started feeding the Teff hay along with the wheat hay we have already seen an improvement in the herd.  If our alpacas were usually on lush green pastures the Teff hay might not be a good choice for them, but for our situation it seems to be working well.

 

Rosemary

January 13, 2009

Trying Tiffany

 

We’ve received the analysis back on the Tiffany Teff Hay.  It is higher in protein than we had expected and also has more potassium than we like to see making me wonder if perhaps it was fertilized more heavily than it needed to be.  The Calcium/Phosphorus ratio is good as is the TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients).

 

During my research on Tiffany Teff grass and alpacas I have found varying reports.  Some farms said their alpacas would not touch it, others said their alpacas loved it.  For the most part though the alpacas that would not touch the Tifffany Teff grass were kept on fairly good quality pasture, while the alpacas that loved it were kept on dry lots as our alpacas are.  So it seems that when alpacas are used to lovely fresh pasture the Tiffany Teff grass is not of interest to them, but for alpacas that don’t have the fresh pasture it has seems to have an appeal.

 

We have decided to try a big bale to see how it works with our feeding program.  It will not be the main hay for the alpacas but rather will supply some extra nutrition to the girls who with various stages of pregnancy and nursing crias tend to need more nutritional care than the boys (although on cold nights the boys will be treated to a little of the Tiffany Teff grass too).

 

For ease of feeding we are putting the bale of hay in a feeding pen within the girls pasture.  The pen has a gate that can be shut, meaning that we will be able to restrict the access to the Tiffany Teff grass as we feel necessary.

 

The girls were quite excited to see a big bale being delivered to their pasture.  They have had big bales to feed off in the past and seem to like the idea of having 24/7 unlimited access to hay.  As much as the girls like that idea, the Tiffany Teff grass is too high in protein to allow them 24/7 free access, so they may be a little disappointed to find the gate to the bale shut from time to time.

 

Griffin the llama was particularly excited about the delivery of the big bale.  She spied the tractor outside the bottom gate and started performing a dance of joy, bouncing and twirling around outside the gate.  By the time we opened the gates to move the tractor and bale into the pasture word had spread among the girls that something exciting was going on and they were all galloping and pronging around the pasture as Ric drove the tractor in – making for some hazardous driving conditions (beware the low flying llama!), but Ric made it in and out of the pasture without injury to himself of any of the herd.

 

So we will give the Tiffany Teff grass a try.  The farmer who grew it is local to this area and so perhaps we can speak to him about making some adjustments to his next crop.  We have to remember that this is a relatively new forage crop and it will take time for the hay growers to figure out how to get the crop to the nutritional levels required by their customers.

 

This morning will be our first time of feeding the hay to the girls.  I always prefer to feed a new hay during the day when I can be around to see the alpacas reaction to it, we try to be careful to buy safe weed free hay, but should there be any adverse reaction by any one of the herd it is better to happen during the day when the vets is available and we are around to see what is happening.

 

Judging from the small sample we fed prior to purchasing the hay I think everything will be fine and hopefully the only problem we will have is persuading three greedy llamas to leave the pen when we come to close the gate in front of the bale of hay!

 

Rosemary

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