Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Herd Health

This past weekend we set aside Saturday for Herd Health Day. We try to set aside a day each month, though it doesn't have to be done that often, but that way if something else comes up we are still doing everything we need to for them.

On Herd Health Day we weigh all of our alpacas under 2 years old. If they are gaining rate at a fairly steady weight, we know they are doing well. If they slow down in their weight gain, stop gaining, or worse, have lost weight, we know we need to assess what might be going on. Often stress can cause their weight to slow or stall. This means show season can be rough on their weight, as can times like weaning. If we have an alpaca that is slowing down in their weight gain, or stopped, we assess them more frequently to make sure their stress is gone and they are back to gaining. If we have an alpaca who is losing weight, that is an emergency and we order a fecal right away. No healthy young alpaca should be losing weight, even if they have been through some stressful stuff.

On Saturday our young girls, Twilight, Rose and Dutch all were gaining well. We also body score them (by feeling how much meat is around their spine by their back hips) and they all seemed great. The boys, while they have been gaining weight, did not gain as much, and some body scored as thin. Given the boys are in an area with only yearling boys, I always give them a ton of hay. Growing young alpacas need hay to grow and thrive. So I knew hay wasn't our issue. We opted to up their grain intake to 1/2 a cup at each feeding. We will see how this works for them. I know typically hay has more of an impact on weight than grain does, but putting out more hay will just mean more sitting out in their bins. If upping the grain doesn't help, we will look into adding alfalfa to their hay. Alfalfa is a great way to help them put on weight, but it can affect their fiber by making it less fine. So for our young alpacas, we really don't want to compromise their fiber, unless we have tried everything else to address their weight.

Now it's weaning time! We aim to wean alpacas at 6/60 meaning they are 6 months old and 60 pounds. We also like to see that they are eating hay great and eating at least some grain. Thunder has been eating grain for a long time, and eats hay great, so no concerns there. He is 6 months old. He did weigh in at 59 pounds, which we felt was good enough, given he is meeting all the other requirements very well. His mom, Sancha, often has a hard time of losing weight while nursing and we want to bulk her up for her next cria that is due this summer.

I will write more about weaning in the next blog posting.

In addition to weighing them, we give AD&E shots to all our alpacas under 2 years old. Then we trim everyones toe nails. And we body scored all the alpacas older than 2 years old (as a loss in weight can indicate a bigger problem).

Herd Health Day went well. Each time we are amaze how when we first started our farm, even though we had fewer alpacas, it would take us all day. Now, even though we have more alpacas, it takes only a few hours, half a day. We've become so efficient at everything our time is cut in half.

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