We do things a little differently than most farms here at Blue Moon Ranch.
We do not keep our alpacas confined at all. We have only 2 main areas – boys – girls. The only exception is a quarantine area where new arrivals must stay for a while. Pregnant girls are kept with non-pregnant girls, old grannies with new babies, and I believe the community of alpacas is a happy one. We have only one group of males of all ages and breeding status. Dominance issues work themselves out and fighting teeth are kept trimmed. 98% of the time the males are grazing or chewing cud in harmony. Management from a human stand point might be a little harder, but I believe a healthier herd is better in the long run. They wander frequently as a group throughout the day, getting exercise and a change of scenery. They sleep outdoors if they choose, or in the barns when the weather is bad. Our 3 Great Pyrenees are great protectors at night, so the animals are free to go where they are most comfortable.
We believe the alpacas are our teachers. The word “lama” in the Buddhist faith mean “teacher”. The longer I live with these awesome animals the more I am willing to let them be my teacher. They have taught me that they will wean their own babies and do not need my help. They have taught me that to earn their trust I must be trustworthy. They have taught me that if I respect them, they will respect me. They have taught me that they will have their babies just fine if I keep my hands off them! And they have taught me that if they do need help, they will allow me to help them without restraint. They have taught me that the dams and granddams are the best teachers of little ones who need to learn manners. And I am still learning from them.
Our health régime has evolved to be a very minimalist one. After doing some research and hearing of sad reactions to traditional vaccines, I have eliminated CDT vaccines from our herd. We do have some exceptions, when gelding males, etc. But I am now spending more effort, time and money on enhancing the immune system of every animal here. We use herbs to assist with immune systems and feel that by eliminating stress from the herd as much as possible we can keep a very healthy herd with a minimum of drugs.
Wormings are done when fecals test show the need for it. We test with the centrifuge method and rarely need to use worming drugs. A very healthy animal will have immunity to most parasite overloads, so again we put our effort into prevention. We are fortunate to live in an area where many parasites do not thrive. If you live in an area with warmer winters or humid summers, you might not be able to follow this plan.
Another favorite book in my library is “Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs” by Don Hamilton, DVM. The chapter on why NOT to use vaccines is phenomenal and you’ll need to read the whole book, as I cannot possibly condense it here. If you buy this book and dont like it, I’ll buy it back from you! It’s that good!
A few words on stress: simply, it has caused more illness in our animals than they deserve. This is why you will rarely find a BMR alpaca at a show. Shows are great for marketing, meeting people and getting your ranch known. Shows are however also a great stressor for alpacas. This is not a popular mindset with most alpaca owners and it is not my intent at all to offend those who do show. Dogs, for example love to go to shows and be with their owners. But we believe that alpacas are really happier in their familiar pastures with their herdmates.
Extreme in temperatures can cause stress. Not having enough food available can cause stress. The main stressor for an alpacas however is not feeling safe and that often results from being away from their herd. Great care should be taken when moving animals for any reason to minimize this as much as possible.
If you’ve read this far, I appreciate it! And before you decide that I am out in left field, let me say that I was in the alpaca business for 8 years, with a herd size of 50+ before I ever experienced the loss of an alpaca. Also, at this time, we do not insure our alpacas because I have not had enough losses to justify it. Stress free = healthy animals. 🙂