Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Herd Dynamics

Maybe I took too many sociology courses in college, but I always find herd dynamics very interesting. How the alpacas relate to each other is still in many ways a mystery to me. I know there are several roles within the herd. There is the herd leader, of course. I've also noticed that one always is sitting on look out, as if that one has been put in charge of monitoring the area for intruders. I notice the same ones always sound the alarm call. I can understand that to have a community, a herd, you need different roles filled.

I notice a lot of non verbal cues that go on within the herd. I've seen a dam (mom) bend her ears in a certain way and her cria (baby) comes running to her. I swear I've seen older girls give the evil eye and the other girl then backs off.

I know most families do not talk about herd dynamics at dinner time, but we've been known to do that. I find it interesting and the kids love to come up with theories on what really happened. The most recent incident that I witnessed was the start of a fight between Miss Kitty and Maddie. Now keep in mind that Miss Kitty is still fairly new to our farm, and still trying to figure out where she belongs in the herd. Maddie has been at our farm since she was 4 months old. She is now 3.5 years old. Maddie tends to be more of a loner, in that she'll be the only alpaca to go graze in the pasture. She doesn't need the comfort of the leader right by her. Maddie is also the only alpaca who does not like Spot. And she really does not like him. I've seen her go after him on more than on occassion. The most recent one I was out there and interveened. Thankfully Spot has never been aggressive towards any of our alpacas, but in this situation, I wasn't sure Maddie would back down. I value Spot's work and did not think he needed her chasing him. What I witnessed was Miss Kitty and Maddie getting into a spit fight. They were starting to neck wrestle. I had my camera on me, but by the time I got into position to take a picture of this, it was over. This fight was taking place right next to Victoria. Victoria is the clear leader of our herd. Victoria turned her head away from the hay bin and spit right in Miss Kitty's face. Right at that moment the fight between Miss Kitty and Maddie was over. The kids and I have theorized what really happened, but since we don't talk alpaca we will never really know. I do wonder if Victoria was putting Miss Kitty in her place, or if she was protecting Maddie, or a combination of both? Whatever the cause of Victoria getting involved, I found it interesting that she did so, and that they both backed down and took her leadership. Like I said, she's the clear leader of the herd.

This is the only picture I did get of the incident, this was after Victoria spit at Miss Kitty and they all stook there:

(Miss Kitty is the big fawn girl, Maddie the black and white girl, and Victoria the brown/maroon colored girl).

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