Well, it’s certainly been a very hot and sunny few weeks. Hotter than its been for many years and some have struggled with the extremes, including the animals.
I have been painting. Painting’s one thing I can do when it’s so hot. I’ve been getting ready for the brilliant summer art and craft exhibition at Upton Cross, so I’ll post pictures soon.
We’ve finished baby watch now. The last cria to be born was a beautiful girl, who is progressing at an alarming rate, running around like a toddler and playing with all the other cria. Such a joy to watch.
Last week we had to take a cria to the vet for a little checkup. Rather than put him in the back of the van on his own, and have him rolling around, I carried him on my lap. Lovely cuddles all the way there and back. And he was such a good boy.
When we came out of the vets there was a huge dog waiting in the car park – he’d had to leave the reception area as he was so aggressive to the other dogs waiting – when he saw the cria, he turned tail and ran in the other direction. Not so butch after all!
Now’s the time for mating the alpacas. This is the first time I’ve seen a live mating between alpacas, and I have to say it’s quite entertaining! When the male first sees the girls he can hardly contain himself. You have to hold on tight to stop him jumping over the hurdles! And as for the girls, once they spotted the boy and knew what was in the offing, they all sat down, ready to go. Not something I thought I’d witness this time last year.
After the mating comes the ‘spit off’. This is when we find out who is pregnant, and who is not. Can’t wait to see that!
Good days, and bad. Life is full of them and the last few weeks for us have been filled with lovely high points and then some incredibly low points. After a short, but vigorous illness, we had to say goodbye to our beautiful cat Pippa.
Pippa was such a sociable girl. Always there to greet me with a warm welcome when I came home, she was very chatty and extremely entertaining. She loved to sit on anything new we put down; hat, scarf, bag etc. She would always come when called by name or whistled for. She was more dog than a cat really!
After such a sad time, we’ve been on ‘Baby Watch’ at work. So far we have welcomed four beautiful baby alpacas (cria) to the herd. I was even fortunate enough to witness one of the arrivals taking place.
The new mum did an amazing job and had her boy sitting up within 10 minutes or so, and walking around not too long after that. They really are quite clever creatures!
The rest of the herd soon came over to greet the new arrival too.
’Baby Watch’ continues whilst we wait for the next mum to deliver her cria. She’s looking full and getting a little fidgety at the moment. You could almost say she’s grumpy. Mind you, after being pregnant for 11 months, I’d say she’s entitled to be a little grumpy now!
Alpacas are extremely intelligent, curious and family focused creatures. Living in herds, one usually takes the lead, dominant role, which the others follow. They communicate with a range of low noises and hums, unless they are threatened, then they make a much louder noise which you won’t fail to recognise. Sometimes it can sound like a donkey, or its more of a scream.
I have only been working with alpacas for a few short months, but I learn something new about them every day. Being ‘hands on’ seems to be the key in keeping a calm and relaxed herd. None of them really enjoy being handled, but because they are well handled and used to having us around them in the pens at feeding time, husbandry and general tasks are much easier and relatively stress free.
Show season is approaching so we’ve been working hard with the cria to get them halter trained and ready, and today BIG steps were made.
Two of the boys happily wear their halter now, and they even had a little walk about on their lead outside of their feeding pen. They weren’t too sure about this at first, but did incredibly well after a little gentle persuasion, and the offer of a food bowl.
Progress has also been made with the other two boys who are getting more and more used to the training every day. I think one of them secretly enjoys the gentle face touching and massage as he almost nodded off! He even accepted the halter being attached with no problems at all. Seeing an expert make progress like this, with a gentle, calm approach has been a joy to watch.
Oh, and another thing I’ve learnt is that alpacas rarely ‘spit’ at people. Sometimes you just get caught in the crossfire at feed time!