Monday, 1 January 2018

Yin and Yang, and potty training!

Wishing a happy and successful year to readers, I won't waste time looking back at the old year, that is history, and you can read the posts if you want to review our year.

We started weaning the second batch of cria two days ago, to rest their mums, and to ease the wear on the paddocks, which are now all thread-bare and squelchy, by reducing the size of groups.

Jupiter, who was weaned in the autumn, has been selected as 'Head Prefect' to look after the weanlings, Jazz and Jester.

People regularly ask how they can stop their alpacas from using their shelter as a latrine - well I can't stop them, but you can encourage them to go where you want them, and here is the method which has worked for me: years ago, after a period of sticking their bums out of the shelter when nature called in the night, ours went through a 'lazy' spell, and used the shelter - this was when we put down a good bed of straw, which we no longer do - while you can get the 'beans' and 'dumplings' out of the straw, you can't remove the smell of urine, and having a full-time job, I didn't change the straw every day, so they were always attracted by the smell of the urine, to use the same place. Without the straw, the earth floor started to get soggy and it became more difficult to clean, so I concreted a small area, where they tended to go regularly.

When I moved the weanlings in on the first night of their seperation, I went and collected some of the day's droppings, and put them in the middle of the concrete 'pan'. since then, each night's production has been on the pan, and easy to scrape up:

At the beginning of December, I built the first part of a new shelter, and after Christmas I took the opportunity of recruiting one of our sons who hadn't returned to his home, to help me start phase two of a new shelter -

 this will be referred to, as the Yin Yang shelter, because it has two over-lapping parts, for a very good reason: this paddock is near the top of a south-facing slope, and the prevailing south-westerly wind hurtles across the Levels before accelerating up the hill - this means, that the open face had to be facing up hill away from the other paddocks - we've noticed over the years, that the differing groups of alpacas like to be able to see the other groups, and so would be less likely to use a shelter facing the 'wrong' way - so phase two of this shelter is to build the other half facing downhill, but set on the leeward side of the first one, and so less vulnerable to the wind - this way, some of the alpacas will be able to see their compatriots in the paddocks beyond and hopefully the others will be happy to sit in the more protected one...a great theory, yet to be proven - but it keeps me off the streets and out of pubs! This shelter uses reclaimed floor panels from our village hall for the walls.

Looking to the year ahead, we hope our pregnant females are growing some fabulous cria, from the carefully selected stud males, and the National Show is peeping over the horizon. Regardless of what the weather does, we know that the days will start to lengthen now, and the grass will long as it isn't submerged in water or mud!