A Day in the life at
South house alpacas
Alpacas are extremely loveable animals, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love them or have their face light up at the mere mention of an Alpaca. Their loving nature and fluffy exterior make them extremely popular and we’re lucky at South House to house several of them in our fields.
Looking after Alpacas can be quite time consuming, but also extremely rewarding so we thought we’d give you a little insight in to how we spend our days here at South House.
First off we start the morning with breakfast, our Alpacas love feeding on hay, so we get that ready for them and let them enjoy it before the day starts off.
After breakfast we check that they’re all doing ok, are they all healthy? Are there any mites etc? Have any Cria (baby Alpacas) been born??
We currently have a Cria who has had her foot amputated. Zsa Zsa, named after American-Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, was born with a poorly foot so we made the difficult decision to have it amputated. Because of this we have to change her dressing on a regular basis to prevent infection and make it as comfortable as possible for her whilst she heals.
After we’ve tended to Zsa Zsa, we’re on to mites! If we find one of the Alpacas has mites we will treat them there and then. You can spot mites quite easily as an Alpaca will often lose their fleece in those areas, they tend to be around the ears and under the arms and legs. We inject the Alpaca with a de-wormer and afterwards spray the affected areas with frontline before rubbing in the Sudocrem – which they love!
Once all the daily tasks are out the way, it’s time to play! We have several acres of land for the Alpacas to roam free and stretch their legs. They are naturally sociable animals so will always come up and say hello if we’re out in the fields. Each of the Alpacas have their own individual personalities with some being more playful than others.
Those are the typical daily tasks, ensuring the Alpacas are happy and well fed is a top priority for us. However, we do have some other big activities that are always very exciting.
As mentioned in our previous blog, Huacaya Alpacas must be sheared once a year and so shearing day is a big one for us here at South House Alpacas. The timing of when we shear is important, we want it to take place once we are sure all the frost and cold winter weather has well and truly gone, we don’t want the alpacas to catch a cold, which is why the end of May is typically the perfect time. However, due to the all the wet weather we had at the end of spring, this year we sheared the Alpaca’s in late June. In preparation for the day, we rope in all our friends and family. A bit like the annual harvest – we need all hands-on deck!
Once we have the rubber mats laid out, the ropes, bags for the fleece and of course the well-oiled shears, we begin with the light-coloured alpacas first. One by one, each Alpaca is brought out of the pen and laid on the mat, secured with ropes around their ankles and gently stretched out so the shearing can begin. It’s important for us that we make this process as stress free as possible for the animals. Just like shearing sheep there is a method to it, starting at the hind leg and shearing the ‘blanket’ off first then the legs, neck, and chest on each side.
This is also a great opportunity to cut their toes nails. Usually (and quite oddly), there is someone who loves having this as their job for the day!
It’s also another great opportunity to give each of the Alpacas a health check and check their body score to make sure that they are a good, heathy weight. During this check, we particularly focus on their skin and teeth. After shearing and once their health check is complete, they are then treated for worms and Liver Fluke, to ensure they stay healthy.
The fleece is then bagged into ‘Firsts’, this is the precious blanket used for spinning and weaving, and ‘Seconds’ used for pillows and duvets. We then put the fleece aside ready to turn into our luxury Alpaca bedding.
Once the four inches of fleece has been removed, it’s funny to see how these amazingly fluffy looking Alpaca’s transform into skinny pink panther’s – they look so different and as a result we’re not even sure the alpacas recognise each other!!
Now that the shearing is over, the next big task is to mate all the females. Alpacas are pregnant for 50 weeks and generally enjoy being pregnant. To us it’s important that we carry out the mating during the warmer weather to make sure the Cria arrive during the warmer months too.
We carefully select which male should be mated with each female according to colour; At South House we specialise in multi-colored alpacas, so we try and mix up the colors as much as possible, although there are no guarantees.
Then we wait and see to find out which of the females are pregnant. Here’s a fun fact, two weeks after the initial mating we put the male and female back together for a ‘spit-off’. Basically, and very helpfully, if the female is pregnant, she will spit at him and run away! And then we patiently wait 50 weeks until the Cria arrives.
Due to the long pregnancy, there is often an overlap between mating’s and births. We will often be walking a stud over to the girl’s field for mating and find Cria has arrived.
This is truly the most amazing sight. Within minutes of touching the ground the baby Alpaca will be wriggling on the grass to dry itself off before getting ready to stand for the first time. This is a crucial time for babies, they need to be standing, walking, and feeding from its mother within a few hours. We have a Cria we are currently having to bottle feed. He was born a healthy Cria, but unfortunately his mother didn’t produce any milk. As a result, we’ve had to step in and take over the feeds every 4 hours initially to keep the Cria healthy and growing.
It’s certainly never a dull day at South House and two days are never the same. We are extremely lucky to work with such beautiful creatures and witness some wonderful moments. The Alpacas here are happy, healthy, and well-looked after all year round and we look forward to waking up each day with the Alpacas and seeing what’s in store for us.
If you’re interested in keeping Alpacas – you can find out more about the wonderful animals here: https://southhouse.co.uk/alpacas/why-keep-alpacas