I can count on one finger the number of times that I have got out of bed on a Sunday morning to be greeted by a shiny new baby alpaca (cria) complete with the wrapping paper still attached.
Meet the latest new addition to the Lindforst Alpaca Team. Expected since April, this baby has been a long time coming. The baby was to be called Mañana if it had been a girl but as it was a boy he has been named Mañano.
So with Mañano now the last cria to be expected this year I think he takes the team up to a total of forty two Alpacas.
They are kept in four different groups. We have Sancho and his seventeen girls. Herbert and his five girls. A group of six girls. And my personal favourites ‘the boys’, eight young boys and four castrated boys.
It’s a full time job looking after them all but a thoroughly enjoyable full time job. We’ve learnt so much about them in the week we have been here observing how they interact with one another.
They are endearing, curious, gentle herding animals with a wonderful communication system and such a super soft fleece. Being herding animals they are in constant communication with each other. They really are very vocal in a quiet sort of way. They hum, cluck, spit and snort at each other for varying different reasons. It’s hard to explain what the hum sounds like so if you are interested you can hear it here on this YouTube clip.
For me, I find it very calming listening to the quiet background humming of the Alpacas. The humming, though, is generally associated with the alpaca feeling curious, distressed, anxious, bored, too hot, too cold, nervous or stressed. Whilst we are working amongst them feeding, watering and clearing their poop up they are constantly humming to each other. I guess they are alert and wary to our presence.
Herbert and Sancho need to be tethered as we go about our daily chores as they can become aggressive protecting their herd. Even though I’ve been told that Alpacas are easy animals to care for they are a little bit needy and fragile. For example, they don’t really show any signs of illness until they have all four legs in the air so owners need to be constantly vigilant about any subtle changes in behaviour of their animals. And that poop picking. Oh yes, it needs to be done. Every. Single. Day. Cleaning up after them helps control parasites and worm related health problems.
The alpacas will generally ‘go’ en masse in the same two or three areas of their pasture which does make it a little easier to pick up but you’ll always find several ‘rogue’ piles around and about too. Not to go into too much detail here about the size and consistency of Alpaca poop but it’s a bit like rabbit droppings or chocolate coated raisins and it needs to be raked out of the grass. Yup, every last drop. Or as near to it as you can get.
But enough about the poop. A question often asked is ‘do they spit?’ Well, yes they do spit. And at point blank range. But not often. I wised up pretty quickly on their body language and why and when they are about to spit after being pebble dashed from a spitting Alpaca with a mouthful of food.
They have several different types of spitting technique too. We have the ‘dry spit’ which is just fresh air. As already mentioned, we have the ‘food spit’ and finally we have the ‘get away from me I am very angry spit’ or otherwise known as ‘the green spit’. Now this one is really not one you want to be on the receiving end of. This one is serious and contains regurgitated stomach contents. And boy does it smell. I’ve seen two alpacas having a spat, or should I say spit, and the smell is horrendous. They’ll spit at each other as a warning to stay away or at displeasure to another’s behaviour.
It is lovely to just watch and observe them seing how they interact and care for each other. When the new cria was born the whole herd gathered around the Mum and baby to have a good sniff and to help protect them. So sweet 🙂
More from Alpaca HQ next week.