When we bought our first little herd of Alpacas, the proprietor impressed us by understanding each of the animal’s names. We were told that we would quickly learn which one was which. But to us, each one seemed the same, although with closer inspection some were taller, some were smaller, and some had identifying marks. It took us a couple weeks, but finally we could name every one of our Alpacas.
Whether you intend to be an Alpaca Breeder, keep them as pets, or guard animals, getting to know each of your Alpacas is extremely important. They’re herd animals and with the herd instinct will mask in others (and therefore from you), when they don’t feel well or when they are in pain. To have a close bond with your Alpacas you need to spend some time together on a daily basis.
With daily observation you will be able to evaluate stress levels of each creature, gain insight into the herd’s hierarchical structure (who’s the leader?) And track each animal’s general health. You will be able to ascertain who feeds, who under feeds, who is gentle and who is bullying others. It’s imperative that you understand the behavioural patterns of each animal if you are to have the ability to ascertain when they’re not feeling on top of the world.
Alpacas communicate through body posturing of tail, ear, neck and head, and they also vocalise. Getting to know some of these communication methods, will help with your understanding of your Alpacas.
The Alert Stance – The Alpaca will endure using a rigid vertical body and rotate its ears forward in the direction it is staring. It signals a fascination about a change happening in the immediate surroundings. It could be a man walking in another area, sight of a cat or dog, the birth of a person strange to them, or sometimes even a bird which has landed in their grazing area. Very often, each Alpaca will turn and face the same way and adopt the same pose. It may result in whole members of the herd moving forward in unison to investigate or chase off the intruder. Alpacas have very keen eyesight and will often see animals that are well hidden long before people are aware of an additional presence near a herd. If the Alpaca interprets there’s no danger then the entire herd will just walk away. If they perceive it to be a threat, it may lead to an Alarm Call, or rapid flight of the entire herd.
The Alarm Phone – This is a high-pitched shrill sound that is often first given by the leader of the group, and then others will follow suit. Alpacas that are new to your farm are more likely to Alarm Call in the sight of the cat, the dog, the hens, and just a paper bag blowing in the wind. The truth is they’ll Alarm Call any time they see anything they have not experienced before. As a responsible owner, it’s vital that you look for the source of their concern. Remember they have brilliant eyesight, but if you look in the exact same direction they are looking, then you may discover the reason for their call.
Alpacas communicate in many ways, far too many to be covered in this guide, so another will follow. But becoming familiar with these two behavioural patterns will allow you to understand some of your Alpacas’ behaviour.