Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The great alpaca escape

We haven't had too many problems with alpacas escaping. They don't generally challenge fences (there are a few who's personalities are such that they do, but of the ones on our farm, we don't have any who do. And I'd say the typical alpaca does not). Fences are more to keep predators out. Alpaca do tend to run from people, it's their only defense (spitting is a last resort if running doesn't work).

Well, this weekend I was lax while doing my barn chores and accidentally left the gate from the boys barn open. I was getting water out of the girls barn when I noticed Snowstorm strolling out of the barn into the driveway. I yelled to the kids who were playing nearby. Zack instantly saw the issue and screamed "alpaca loose". This is one time children running to the barn from the direction of the alpaca is ideal. They chased him right back to the barn. However, as I was trying to get him into the barn, Apollo and Tucker jetted out of the barn, past the children and into the wooded area between the pasture and the road. Now this is a bigger issue. I had to make sure they did not get into the road. A vehicle driving by at 55+ mph was not going to stop in time.

I got Snowstorm and Lightning Bugs locked into the pasture so that I could leave the gate to the boys barn open. This way, once we got Tucker and Apollo to the barn, they would walk in.

I decided we needed a plan to get them back into the barn, using what I know of herding dynamics. I'm not a great herder, yet. And with only children under 10 as my helpers, I was a bit nervous if we could pull this off. I had told Emma to call J, but somehow in all the activity, that message didn't get to her.

Basic herding is that you need to be on the other side of the alpaca of where you want them to go. For example, if you want them in the barn, it needs to be you, the alpaca then the barn. You walk towards the alpaca, they flee from you and end up in the barn :) In our situation it was alpaca, us, then the gate to the barn. Somehow we had to get on the other side.

I decided to have Emma and Carlie run around the barn and pasture to get on the other side. That way the alpacas would be between E&C and the barn. Perfect set up. Once they are on the other side of the alpacas, if they start walking towards the alapcas, the alpacas will walk towards the barn. Emma and Carlie did a great job running around the entire pasture and meeting the alpacas. Apollo and Tucker started walking. I was standing with herding sticks parallel to the road so that they did not run into the road. Zack was positioned so that the alpacas would not keep going past the barn, but turn into it. All was on track, it as working. Then, just as we got them to the barn, it is discovered the gate to the boys barn is closed! (no one ever fessed up to who did that). When I tried to open it, the alpaca boys got scared and ran right back to where they were in the wooded area! Since the plan had worked, we did it again, this time with the gate open.

I had fears I would never get those two boys back into their barn. It was not easy with only children under 10 to help, who really don't understand how to herd well. But we did it, and I would have never done it without the kids' help.

That was my hard lesson on the need to make sure gates are closed.

(I editted this because my first version was not writen well - sorry! must have been in a hurry that day)


Joan Jones said...

I really enjoy reading about your alpaca adventures. My husband and I are currently searching for land to start our own alpaca ranch in Texas and it's a learning experience every step of the way-but lots of fun!

Thanks for sharing your own adventures.

cara said...

Glad you are enjoying it Joan. This is an extremely great time to be getting into the business. We wish we were just starting given the current pricing. It's an incredible adventure.

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