Saturday, March 17, 2012

Herd Shake Up

Along with Kateri leaving today, Snickers is also leaving our farm.

Alpaca herds have a very social and integrate herd dynamics. There is a herd leader, a herd watchman, a herd mother hen, and a hierarchy in between it all.

Victoria has always been our herd matriarch. She's the leader. While sometimes a new alpaca to our farm has challenged her, she's always won and come out on top. In the very very beginning, Victoria and Kateri fought it out for herd leader.

Kateri has been our herd mother hen. If one of the females is in labor, Kateri will be hovering around. If one of them is not feeling great, Kateri is nearby. I've even witnessed Kateri tasting another alpaca's pee - I know, gross!! But that is a way for her to know what is going on with them (I don't know if it changes prior to birthing but I think Kateri would say it does).

Every feeding time Kateri walks right by me and watches me put down every grain bowl. She is such a doting mother hen. She used to take the last bowl of grain, until Tehya started eating grain. Ever since that time Kateri takes the 2nd to last grain bowl set down and Tehya takes the last one. I believe that means in alpaca hierarchy that Tehya is behind Kateri in the hierarchy, but I know for a fact Kateri is ranked much higher than 2nd to last, just somehow with food that's what she does. I've taken it as her making sure everyone is fed before she digs in, again, the doting mother hen.

I also notice when I am cleaning the pastures and doing other farm chores, while the other ladies dive into the new hay I put out, Kateri keeps a close eye on everything I'm doing. Maybe she's nosey, but I've always taken it as her being a doting mother hen. She wants to make sure I'm not going to do anything bad out there, she making sure her herd is safe.

It will be interesting to see who takes after her role now that she's left our farm.

While Snickers is also leaving our farm, I have to say I have never grown that attached to her. She's been on our farm just under 2 years, so while that's some time, I never had that much to bond with her over. There was a time Snickers was the herd alarm sounder, but once Miss Kitty arrived her she took over that job. I haven't figure out what exactly is Snicker's role.

I do know though that anytime there is a moving of animals, there is a shake up in the hierarchy. I've even seen it where a lower level female suddenly tries to overtake the leader, just because there are alpacas that came or left the farm. Only time will tell what effect this will have on our herd dynamics. What I have learned is that the herd has a way of working it all out, but there might be some vicious spit fights in the mean time.

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