Use heated water buckets or drop-in heaters
in winter to prevent water from freezing & have nice warm water for the animals to
Use very large water buckets in summer &
they won't warm up so fast.
Use old or cracked buckets upside down under
the water buckets (as a stand) to raise them off the ground to prevent accidents in the
water (if in the barn) & keep feet out in summer. Secure the handle of the top
bucket to a fence or wall.
Stuck with a dirty bucket & no scrub
brush handy? Grab a handful (use gloves) of snow in the winter to scrub the bucket
or use coarse leftover hay or straw in summer.
Use 8' kiddie pools for your animals to cool
off in. Some will stand in them, some will lie down & some won't go near it - so
make sure you also spray their legs & bellies with the hose in hot weather.
Cheap dollar store dishpans make great
individual grain feeders.
Bring your animals sliced carrots, turnip,
corn husks, apples, etc occasionally as a treat. Let your visitors feed them &
you'll have animals that come up to strangers more readily.
Weigh the hay you're feeding by group and
dole it out according to the group weight. Weigh the animals frequently and adjust
the feeding accordingly. A spreadsheet with the groups' weights and formulas
to figure out 1.5% and 2% of the group's body weight will give you a starting point.
Plan for at least twice as many pens as you
think you'll need. You'll want to rotate them through to let grass grow & cut
down on parasites. You'll also need extras for newcomers to be quarantined, sick
pen, birthing pen, breeding pen, and certain males that may need to be separated.
Design pens with narrowing ends or catch
pens. Long narrow pens work well for herding rather than very large, wide pens.
You'll appreciate this when the vet is waiting & the animals are playing tag
with you (only you're always "it").
It's never too soon to start training.
Frequent weighing when young produces a 3 month old that hops right on the scale when told
to "step up."
Even if you don't think your animal knows
what you mean when you say "stand" say it anyways when you want them to &
you'll be pleasantly surprised one day when they do it on command.
Similarly, say "give me your foot"
when doing toenails & they'll often lift it before you grab for it. It also lets
them know what you're doing so they're not surprised.
Squat down to let your crias come face to
face with you.
Practice "look ma, no hands"
(meaning keep them down or behind your back) around your alpacas & llamas & you'll
get more kisses.
When trying to catch an animal, do not run
after them - they will always outrun you! The exception to this is if you are
herding a group into the barn & you are too far behind. Once they get to
the barn they may turn around & run back past you, so better to keep them going
forward into the barn. Use sorting poles to extend your arms & clack them
together to get their attention to be herded (ie. clack, clack "Let's go"
"Everybody in the barn!")
When herding hard-to-catch animals, try
dragging plastic snow fence between 2 people behind them. This works well if your
pens are no wider than the length of snow fence.
When haltering, the halter should fit fairly
close to the eye (but not touching) and NOWHERE near the nostrils (it is very easy to
restrict breathing with a halter that is too small around the muzzle or too far down on
the nose bone). Buckle it fairly snugly & run your finger under the buckle to
make sure no fibre is caught (they will behave much better if their hair is not being
pulled); re-check the halter fit after a few minutes as it will work its way into
the fibre (especially if they haven't been shorn in the last few months) - it often needs
to be tightened a notch or two.
When releasing an animal you have caught, try
to NEVER let go while they are struggling, or you will be teaching them if they struggle
they will get free; instead, wait a few seconds for them to calm down, then release them.
You will find they walk away, instead of running. If possible, walk away from
them before they can from you.
When feeding, do NOT reward them for
spitting. If an over-anxious animal spits in hopes of getting first in line, make
them wait the longest for their grain (either feed another group first or withhold that
animal's grain bowl for a few minutes); otherwise , you are teaching them to spit for
Clean & sort your fibre as it comes off
the animal. It saves many hours of work later & is much easier to do when
freshly shorn. When shearing is done, so is the fibre sorting!
Wheat straw makes great bedding in winter.
The animals will eat some of it so rotate what they've already picked through to
the manure pile once you've cleaned it up & put fresh straw in their bedding areas.
Clean it up well before shearing time though or it will be in the fibre.
Behaviour test the female with a male for
several consecutive days before breeding. Make notes & find her most receptive
days. This will increase your chances of getting her bred the first time &
therefore reduce chances of infection. Once you have notes on each female's
behaviour, you won't have to test her as many days the following years.
Before breeding, clean the female's perineum
with Betadine scrub. Rinse with warm water & blot with paper towels. This
will reduce the dirt brought into the uterus by the male (& reduce chance of
infection). Wrap the female's tail with vet-wrap (not too tight) to keep the fibre
out of the way.
Make notes on how long it took the female to
lie down, how long the breeding took, how accurate the male was (was it a 20 minute
breeding or 10 minutes of fumbling around & a 10 minute breeding?)
Make a spreadsheet with your animals' names
down the left column, then their weights in the next column. Use the following
columns for each medicine you need to give, ie. Dectomax dewormer, Ivomec dewormer,
Panacur liquid (oral). Create formulas for each dose, ie. if you need to give 2
ml/100 lbs weight, then the formula is (weight cell)*0.02. Copy this formula into
the whole column for that medicine. Check to make sure the formula is working &
it is a reasonable amount, ie. a 50 lb alpaca should be getting 1 ml & a 300 lb llama
should be getting 6 ml @ 2 ml/100 lbs. Make sure you update the weight column with
the current weights, print the table and you have each animal's dose figured out for you!
Build a rack to hold filled syringes for your
whole herd (if it's not TOO many). We used a plastic container with plexiglass
screwed to the top & holes drilled big enough to hold the syringes (you could also
build it out of wood). Write the names of your animals in alphabetical order, 1 by
each hole. Pre-fill your syringes (by using the dose amounts from your spreadsheet
above) in the comfort of your house, place them in the pre-marked holes & giving the
injections will go so much faster!
Keep a file of names for babies. When
you think of a good one, write it down & put it in the file. Chances are you'll
forget it if you don't.
Keep an emergency phone list in the barn of
veterinarians, neighbours, family, other breeders in the area, Environment Canada weather
line (this will come in handy in the winter when you want to know the windchill or weather
forecast - should I keep them in the barn tonight or not?)
Do not leave bungee cords hanging around - if
you use them, ALWAYS keep them taut.
Use a non-glass digital thermometer for easy
temperature taking. Wrap a small piece of plastic wrap around the end, lubricate
with K-Y Jelly & you won't have to wash or disinfect it every time.
Don't forget to take pictures when your crias
are born & throughout their development. They're only young once & you'll
have a photo gallery of their whole lives!