Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trimming Toe Nails

In their native land alpacas are on rocky mountain areas and eat very coarse grasses and weeds.  There nature does a great job of keeping their teeth worn down and their toe nails worn down.  Alpacas were created to be able to withstand that climate and location.  Here in the United States we really baby our alpacas.  They don't climb mountains or deal with rocky areas or coarse grasses.  They walk on soft ground and we give them lush green hay that is soft and moist.  This means that sometimes their toe nails and teeth grow longer than they would in their native climate.  So, as part of our alpaca husbandry we need check and sometimes trim toe nails and/or teeth.

We check toe nails each month, during our herd health day.  Most of them only need trimming every other month (this various greatly by farm and how it is set up, we have a lot of sand and no concrete so their nails tend to grow more than a farm that has a concrete barn floor and harder soil).  While they do sell specific alpaca nail trimmers, we use a pruning shears:

They seem to work best for us and stay sharp longer than the actual nail trimmers that are sold.

Our routine is for me to hold the alpaca's head and neck, while J bends over and says "foot" to grab each foot and trim the nail as needed.  Their nails are quite similar to a dog or cat's nails.  A little clip even with their foot pad (like a dog and cat have) is all that is needed.  Though just like dogs and cats, alpacas do have a vein going through their nail and if you nip that, they will bleed a little.  No harm done, but it can look pretty ugly, so we really try to avoid doing that.

Here is a picture of the bottom of an alpaca's foot, the two toes with pink pad then two nails coming off the front.  These nails are in need of trimming so that they are even with the foot pad.


A Country Chicken said...

What a credit to you, that your Alpaca's will lift their foot/feet (or are at least amenable to having them lifted)when you need to trim toenails! We have our husbandry day this weekend, and I am dreading it...nails, shots eeewwww!! :) Lisa

oak haven alpacas said...

Well, we train them from a very young age that "foot" means we are trimming a nail. The ones born on our farm are used to it from the time they are a month old (we act like we are trimming even if they don't yet need a trimming to get them used to it). We do this every month for the young ones so that they learn to cooperate with us. When they are little it's easy, then when they are older they are used to it.

We do have some older alpacas that were not born on our farm and even after a few months still don't get our routine, but we keep at it. I hold the alpaca, my husband says "foot" and grabs and sometimes they cooperate better than others ;)


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