Judith Newman – 26th April 2021

26 April 2021     British Alpaca Society     BAS Board

In my previous blog I complained about the rain and now I’m complaining about the lack of it! The weather has been glorious and we have been able to get a lot of outside work done but now I would like some rain please. Not floods of it, but enough to keep the grass growing and to ensure we get a good cut of hay in June. Well, I wouldn’t be British if I didn’t moan about the weather 😊

It’s the most exciting time of the year when shearing takes place, the cria start to appear and the matings for next year’s cria happen. So much to look forward to and so much to be happy about. Of course, the planning for the pairings can take place years ahead of the births as we strive for continuous improvement and the future plan for each cria starts as soon as it hits the ground. Of course, we all experience setbacks and some of these can be heart breaking but thankfully they are few and far between and the successes make it all worth while and keep us moving forwards.

I have a cria birthing kit that is checked and prepared well in advance of our first due date. Here is a photo of what’s in my bag in addition to which I place a clean towel and a cria coat in case it is needed.

My little ABC book is always close by in birthing season. It’s a great source of information and reassurance. Most of the time births are wonderful and straightforward but occasionally there can be a problem. I have been on 2 birthing courses plus a couple of webinars and the most useful thing I have learned is to only attempt something I am absolutely confident that I can finish otherwise call the vet.  Better to call the vet and then cancel them if the cria comes before they arrive or if they arrive and the cria is safe on the ground they will be as happy as you are. Good luck to us all for a great cria season.

Choosing the stud to cover your females is one of the most important decisions you will make. He contributes 50% of the potential genetic gain from the pairing and is critical to improving your herd. We made mistakes in the early years with our stud choices and it slowed us down considerably in our efforts to breed quality alpacas. On reflection we just didn’t know enough to make the right choices and had to learn from our mistakes and educate ourselves through literature research and talking to other people.

The help of knowledgeable breeders who were happy to let us look at their alpacas and share their knowledge with us has been invaluable and we are very grateful to them. In more recent years we have made better choices and the payback in terms of the quality of our herd has been wonderful. Our primary motivation is the desire to breed healthy happy alpacas that others will love and want to own and also that we love to see in our fields and which give us great pleasure. Using good studs on your females is essential for this and it is a serious decision requiring research and education.

Just a quick note about feed costs. I have always used Camelibra as my primary source of nutrition for my alpacas as do my neighbouring breeders. Last year when reviewing our outgoings, I contacted my local breeder colleagues and asked if they would be interested in bulk purchasing from the manufacturer. The proposal was that I would order and store the feed and they would come and collect as many bags as they needed when they needed it. Everyone joined in and we all now make a saving of 40% on every bag. The feed is freshly made and bagged on order and therefore also has an excellent shelf life so there is no risk of wastage on out-of-date bags. The feed is delivered 35 bags at a time on a pallet and they have a pallet truck to place it where you want it. Definitely worth considering.