Saturday, December 4, 2010

Herd Health Day

We aim to set aside a day each month for herd health care. It's a time we can assess the alpacas to make sure nothing is wrong with them. We assess their weight, either by weighing them on the scale or by body scoring them (by feeling a spot along their back spine, we can feel if they are heavy, thin, or just right with their weight). On herd health day we also give any necessary injections, trim toe nails, and make sure they have no issues going on (we look them all over to assess for any injuries or signs of illness). That way we stay on top of the alpaca's care, and it makes for easy work if we do this monthly. Unfortunately, too often we wait longer than a month. Too often 6 weeks, or even 2 months pass before we have a chance to get back to it. This month we were on top of it and did herd health on our goal weekend, the first weekend of the month. This made for an easy day, since we had just done it one month ago. In November we did AD&E injections, so we did not have those to do today. We also weighed all the young ones, and trimmed toe nails. Last month was when Lucy decided she did not want me to hold her and threw me, injuring my ankle. It's still stiff, though I have been able to get back to running, finally.

This month we did not have any injections to give. We did weigh all the 2010 cria, to make sure they are growing well. We body scored every alpaca on our farm to make sure they are a good weight (not too heavy or too thin). While there was some variation, some alpacas always seem a bit thinner and others a bit heavier, none of them were at a concerning weight. We looked at all their nails, and only a few needed trimming. I've heard other alpaca farmers mention that the ones with black toe nails seem to grow slower than the white toe nails. We find that to be true, the white nailed ones need trimming more often.

We assessed our 2010 cria to decide who might need to be weaned. We've read many different theories on weaning, and I still have a terrible time deciding what is best. It seems every time we end up doing a case by case assessment and deciding from there. I know some farms used 6/60 - once an alpaca is 6 months old and 60 pounds, they wean them. I've also heard using either or, meaning either 6 months old or 60 pounds, which ever comes first, or when ever they hit both, they wean them. Some farms just use one criteria as a wearning point, they wean all of them at 6 months, for example. My dilemma is that I think nature is best, and ideally would like mom and baby (dam and cria) to self wean. But then we have huge cria still nursing, with too many calories going into the cria, blowing out their fiber. Or we have dams that nurse to their own detriment and get so thin their own health is in danger. This decision is never as easy as I wish it were.

Today we decided to wean Chaska. He'll be 5 months old this week, which is a bit on the young side, but he's 78.8 pounds! That's way above the goal of 60 pounds. He also is eating grain very well. Here is Chaska and his buddy Challenger eating this morning:

After the morning grain, I set up for herd health day. We use our patio as our vet room. I put the scale out, using patio furniture to create an alley for the alpaca to walk:

While the snow makes it seem like it's cold out there, it wasn't. I've found it's all in the layers of clothing that work to keep me toasty warm. In fact, today I got a little too warm, all bundled up, that I had to take off my winter coat. I was out there in a sweat shirt, along with my winter gear.

We got all the 2010 cria on the scale for an accurate weight, and body scored all the other alpacas, that along with some toe nail trimming was all completed in a short time this morning. It was the fastest and easiest herd health day we've had yet.

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