Monday, January 11, 2010

herd health

We aim to do herd health every month, though often it really only needs to be done every other month. This way, if things come up, we can skip a month here or there without compromising the alpaca's needs. We've set up to do herd health on the first weekend of the month. These pictures are from our January 1st herd health day. We coaxed Emma into helping out, as three people are even better than two.

The first thing we do on herd health day is get all the alpacas into the paddock area. This usually alerts them that something is going on. They do not like to be touched or messed with, so herd health is not a fun time for them. Here they are, all waiting to see what we are going to do to them:

The younger alpacas we halter, and lead them over to the scale to weigh them. We also give them any shots they might need. On this day we did AD&E shots. I know many farms use an AD&E paste instead. We have opted for the shot and have found it quite effective. We live in an area that has almost no sunlighth all winter, so it is very important that the young growing alpacas get the vit D from a good source.

Here J has Tehya ready to halter:

And he takes her back to the herd afterward. Spot is on guard, making sure he knows who comes and goes:

J and Emma getting Po haltered:

Here J is leading Po and Emma is behind, as the really young ones are not yet halter trained, they sometimes need a push to get moving. Alpacas are herd animals and never like leaving their herd:

During herd health we get ahold of each alpaca to give them a good once over, to check for any possible concerns. We body score each alpaca. To body score, you feel their back bone about a hands width behind their shoulder blade. The back bone into their body should feel like a V. A V that is hollowed inside is an alpaca that is too thin. A V that is bulging or even more of a U or a flat line across would be an overweight alpaca. As I've mentioned before, at first we were doing body scoring incorrectly, and actually allowed some of our animals to get too thin. We were assessing them in the wrong place. An easy mistake for beginners, but a hard lesson for us. It is very important to know where to check them, and to assess this accurately. We were happy to see that all our alpacas scored in a good range. We use a 10 point scale (you can also use a 5 point scale, all a matter of personal preference). A score of 5 (on a 10 point scale) is ideal. All of ours scored between a 4 and 5. This is a good range, especially given those that were 4 are ones that have typically been thin. A 4 for them is great! It did make us think about weaning Sancha and Kateri (which as you can see from my previous post, we decided to do this). Our pregnant girls we like to see close to a 6 (on a 10 point scale) at birthing time. This way they have extra body conditioning so that they are plenty healthy to feed the cria and tend to all mothering needs.

For the older girls, we do not weigh them, as they are no longer growing. We know their typical weight, so if we need that for medication dosage purpose, even in an emergency, we are ready. For monthly herd health, we body score them.

All alpacas get their toe nails trimmed. We also trim any top knots that may have gotten too out of control. I feel bad if their top knot blocks their sight.

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