When we bought our first small herd of Alpacas, the proprietor impressed us by understanding each of the creature’s names. We were told that we would quickly learn which one was which. It took us a couple weeks, but eventually we could name every one of our Alpacas.
They’re herd animals and with the herd instinct will mask from the others (and therefore from you), when they don’t feel well or when they’re in pain. To get a close relationship with your Alpacas you will need to spend some time with them on a daily basis.
With daily observation you will be able to assess stress levels of every creature, gain insight into the herd’s hierarchical structure (who is the leader?) And monitor every animal’s general health. You’ll be able to ascertain who feeds, who under feeds, who’s gentle and who is bullying others. It’s important that you know the behavioural patterns of each animal if you’re to be able to ascertain when they are not feeling on top of the world.
Alpacas communicate through body posturing of ear, tail, head and neck, and in addition, they vocalise. Getting to know some of these communication methods, will assist with your understanding of your Alpacas.
The Alert Stance – The Alpaca will endure using a rigid erect body and rotate its ears forward in the direction it is staring. It signals a curiosity about a change happening in the immediate surroundings. It could be a person walking in another area, sight of a cat or dog, the arrival of a person strange to them, or sometimes even a bird which has landed in their grazing area. Frequently, each Alpaca will turn and face the same way and adopt the same pose. It could cause whole members of the herd moving forward in unison to investigate or chase the intruder off. 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 whole herd will just walk off. If they perceive it to be a threat, it might lead to an Alarm Call, or rapid flight of the entire herd.
The Alarm Phone – This is a high-pitched shrill sound that’s often first given by the leader of the group, and then others will follow suit. There is slight difference in sound between a Suri and an Huacaya. Alpacas which 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 will Alarm Call whenever they see anything they have not experienced before. As a responsible owner, it’s vital that you try to find the source of their concern. Remember they have brilliant vision, but if you look in exactly the same direction they are looking, then you might discover the reason for their call.
But becoming acquainted with these two behavioural patterns can help you understand some of your Alpacas’ behaviour.