Saturday, January 7, 2012

Avoiding Weaning Woes

Our 2011 cria arrived in May and June, their births grouped together and timed so that they would grow and develop over the summer instead of during Oregon's sun-challenged fall and winter. However, that means that weaning at six or so months of age comes in the midst of winter.

Rather than segregating the young alpacas from the main herd, I chose to take their moms out and group them with newly pregnant dams. This way, I could continue to "feed 'em up" with extra calories. And the weanlings were well supported by remaining with their buddies and aunties.

Garamond and Tondero (photo taken in Sept) were the first two to wean over Thanksgiving weekend, when Mike was on hand to help me with sorting into feeding areas until they learned the new routine. I think Murphy Brown and Gracie missed their boys more than the boys missed them, even though both are experienced dams. But they soon got over it when they realized extra food was involved.

The next set of cria were old enough for transition on Christmas weekend. I checked the weather to make sure the nights were not too cold since they wouldn't have mom to cuddle with. Two of the nursing dams are rebred, so for the mom's health, it was important to separate the cria from them. Again, I moved the dams to the other group.

The moms and weanlings could visit over the fenceline for reassurance. For the first few days it was a challenge to urge Smuggler out into the pasture with the rest of the herd -- his buddy Trinket would call to him to come along. After a week of lagging, I decided to allow his mom, Jedlicka, back into the main herd. She is not pregnant so her health is not compromised. Jedlicka's presence had a calming affect on the other weanlings, and I have not observed Smuggler nursing any more. That's an unusual bonus.

Gradually I have shifted the two female herds from "main" and "young females" to "main" and "pregnant/weaned females" -- the feed 'em up group. Plus Blackberry, our lively 19-yr old who has lost a tooth.

The weanlings continue to eat pellets in their kindergarten group at evening feeding. During their transition, I added probiotics to the bowls to alleviate any digestive stress. One of the most fun parts of my day is to spend some time in with them as they eat, and they are accustomed to my presence among them.

Trinket and Smuggler (unrelated)
are best friends, born a day apart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this update. And I'm looking forward to more.