Alpaca maintenance

When we were researching a type of livestock we could handle with relative ease, the alpaca was at the top of the list.  I am sure there are other livestock types as easy to manage, but in addition the alpaca is such a cute animal.  They are a modified ruminant, they have 3 stomachs instead of 4.  They do rest  on occasion through the day and chew their cud.  They only need to be sheared once a year (we found a great llama owner who shears her own animals and ventures out among other farms during spring shearing time and earns a little extra pocket change).  They have two nails on each foot; during the year some nails need to be trimmed so the alpaca will walk on their foot properly.  We hope to tackle that this weekend.  I have the books and on-line instructions various farms have put out there, as well as having had some hands on training when our alpacas first came down to Texas from Nebraska and Ohio and agisted (boarded) at another farm for awhile.  Since we only have 6 alpacas and 2 llamas we can trim at our leisure and stop when any great stress is created, either to ourselves or the animals.  As we get more comfortable and relaxed in the process we should be able to do it more quickly with greater confidence. 

The only other thing we have to check is their teeth; they only have lower teeth and the boys have fighting teeth that erupt around two years of age.  We will call out the vet who will need to remove those fighting teeth for us, a simple process for him to do.  If not removed, those boys can injure each other when they are playing roughly.  There are various ways farms handle trimming the remaining teeth in order for the mouth to close properly.  Some animals have nice teeth that don’t grow fast at all and rarely need trimming.  There is a handy machine that fits over the teeth that grinds them all at once to the same level and looks like a winner.  It’s just a little pricey but the alternatives are not very attractive.  Basically I have seen other farms use a Dremel tool and file down each tooth individually. 

Keeping them on a worming schedule is just a simple process to manage and the vet can administer the vaccines or we can on a regular basis, usually quarterly, and rotating the types of products used to keep the medicines from becoming ineffective .

The fleece that is sheared is being sent to the fiber co-operative.  It costs a little to join and be a member, but they send the fleece to mills for processing into yarns or garments and a percentage of profits from sales, after expenses, is shared among the members.  There are a few different co-operatives so I will research to see which one will serve us best.

We got the animals sheared in time before some hotter days arrived and they have enjoyed stretching themselves out on the green pasture grasses and sunning.  It is such a warm fuzzy feeling knowing they have a quiet, relaxed life here.


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