How much work is it?

In the past, some people have asked how much work keeping and breeding alpaca takes. The general answer is “not much,” especially compared to sheep and other more labor-intensive stock. This weekend was probably the most intenisve work we have done to date. Saturday we vaccinated and gave vitamin-D shots to all of them, which took about 2 hours. In the process we figured out what sort of yard-design would allow us to do that procedure more quickly. Sunday we spat-off all 16 girls, which took about an hour. Trying to feed the girls by Highland Heir in assembly-line fashion was quite frustrating at first, until Tam figured out a way to improvise a new pen design by having me hold a spare gate in position.

From these two experiences we have many good ideas for the design of the handling yards I hope to build up in the Towers paddock this winter. Then the animal handling will be even easier, so even as the herd grows, it will not take much time to do all the basic maintenance.

Oh, and if you are wondering, the sum total of “preventive maintenance” the alpaca get is: vaccination 1/year, vitamin shots 2/year, and periodic fecal egg counts to see if they have worms and need drenching. Pretty easy. Of course this summer it was balanced out by bottle-babies and premature babies that required lots of work and attention, but them’s the breaks.

Auction Fever

Saturday we attended our first alpaca auction. This was held at Willowbank, the large local alpaca farm (they have about 120 alpaca) where we bought our first 3 wethers (Oak, Chris and Pointer).

Willowbank is owned by Charles and Gina. Charles is a rich retired former American heart surgeon. They split their time 50-50 between NZ and the US, living the perpetual summer. The alpaca are Gina’s. They also breed Tenesse trotters, plus the sheep and beef that actually make money for the 1,700 acre farm. It seems Gina now wants to get into breeding miniature horses, Charles said “if you want mini’s, some alpaca will have to go”, and thus the auction.

Of the 39 adult females (many had cria at foot) being auctioned, about 10 did not meet reserve and were passed over. The ones that sold mainly went for ~3K each. We did bid on one girl, but we had a low limit, and stopped when a 3-way bidding war started. In retrospect we have some regret for not making more of an effort for her, as from the data available it seems she had many of the traits we are seeking to breed for. Ah, well, others will come along. And after fountaining money buying all those new girls in Picton, it is probably best that we didn’t get her!