Paul Hetherington – 25 January 2021

25 January 2021     British Alpaca Society     BAS Board

So how do you go about halter training 51 cria – that was the big question at Beck Brow this week. Turns out the answer is 3 at a time.

Training starts in the barn where we put a head collar on the cria and let them wear it for a little while. This lets them get used to the feel of the collar and the process of putting it on.

When we first started halter training many years ago we used to take one cria per handler, but after some good advice from more experienced breeders, we now take them in groups. The cria definitely walk better with friends.

We see all sorts of personalities during training. There are cria that take to walking straight away, there are the ones that sit down and refuse to get up, and there are the ones that throw themselves down and play dead. The cria that are most friendly in the barn, and get the most attention, are often the most challenging to train – I guess they have a high opinion of themselves. It’s also interesting that the cria from a particular sire will often have the same personality and hence be leaders or followers.

Once we’ve worked out which cria like walking they become the trainers and get to team up with the reluctant walkers. The trainers are often the first in the queue when the head collar box comes out. Despite their progress on the first attempt, or otherwise, invariably all of the cria will walk to the lane end by their third outing.

In previous years we have always had plenty of willing volunteers to help with the training but Covid has put a spanner in the works – thankfully we don’t have too many reluctant walkers this year and hopefully the Cumbrian winter won’t be too inhibiting.

We’ve got 4 more cria to wean then it’s time to start thinking about this year’s birthing. The pregnant females will be split into two or three groups depending on their due date. Females in the last trimester get an increased food ration to help with the unborn cria’s development.

As well as training the cria we’re also training the next generation of alpaca lovers and farm workers! We are fortunate that our grandchildren are in our Covid bubble.