Healthy Herd

I sure wish I could wrassle alpacas and take photos at the same time. We would have had some good candidates for America's Funniest Pets. Saturday's Herd Health Day was a rodeo of a good time, trying to convince 175-pound camelids that the platform scale wasn't really a trap door to purgatory. We weighed Moonstruck first, and he lulled us into the notion that this job was going to be a calm, peaceful walk in the park. He haltered well and just stepped up on the scale when we led him to it. We got his weight and went to halter the next alpaca. None of the other 4 alpacas were in the mood to be haltered, and every one of them made up new steps to the "Avoid the Scale" dance. Some variations: get three feet on the scale and then lean with all your might on your handler. Or, straddle the scale with all four feet and don't let them get you on that wicked thing. But we are more persistent than alpacas, and prevailed in the end.

The good news is that the boys are all in very good shape, if perhaps on the pudgy side. This is in contrast to last year when I tried to cut back on their ration to avoid overfeeding, and ended up with very skinny alpacas - hidden by the fact that they were covered with tons of fluffy fiber. Horrified, I spent six weeks leading up to shearing trying to get some meat back on them. The learning curve can be steep with livestock. But we learn, and do better next time. And as I said, the 'pacas are leaning more toward "plump" than "skinny" this year. By next year, we should have it down pat. I've been working on learning Body Scoring, which is a subjective measurement of condition, and we also have the scale now, which is an objective measurement. We are shooting for the best nutrition for the lowest cost.

We decided to put off the shots and the toenail trimming because we couldn't find fresh vaccine in stock at Tractor Supply, and because our trimmers were really acting up. So, after shearing next weekend, we'll try the vaccinations and toenails again. It's great to have Shareholder Chris among us, who has great professional experience working with animals and syringes!

It was then time for our traditional snacks in the Red Barn time. Our newest shareholder, Elizabeth, had baked an unbelievable sweet potato pie with a streusel topping and Chris brought delicious humus and chips. That, and our Dunkin Donuts coffee, gave us new energy and endurance for the jobs yet to be done.

Like feed the babies. I really have to twist arms to get folks to sit in the little pen and bottle-feed a baby sheep. Not. Chris and Elizabeth did the honors and we cleaned up the little lamb motel while we were at it.

I had advertised Herd Health Day on Local Harvest, and a nice group of folks dropped by to see what all the fuss was about. They got the 50 cent tour and left with a dozen really pretty eggs!

So, in the end, our second Herd Health Day went swimmingly and we're looking ahead to our next event.

Tomorrow, I will make a Big Announcement, accompanied by appropriate fanfare, but at the moment, it's time for bed.


  1. Anonymous7:01 AM

    What images I have of you "wrassling" alpacas. I can only imagine how sore one's body must be after this! Glad it went well...and that pie looks so delicious!

  2. Alpaca Wrasslin was so much fun! I have a bunch of pictures and a few short videos on my flickr page

    The pics of Elizabeth with her namesake lamb are my favorite -- absolutely precious.

  3. I need to admit, Alta, that we didn't really wrassle them much. I'm an advocate of gentle techniques, and when the animals get too agitated, it's time to stop and move on to something else. But we did do a bit of gentle nudging and tugging to get them on the scale. Gideon hasn't had much handling, and the whole process is new to him. We just have to be patient and work with all of them over time.

    This "gentle" philosophy makes getting up easier for US in the morning, too. Fewer bruises and strained muscles!


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