Helpful Hints

Muddy Water

Do your alpacas try to swim in their water buckets? Is their drinking water always muddy? This means they feel too warm and are trying to cool off.
You should:
  • Wet their bellies and legs with cool water from a hose or sprinker. (NEVER wet their backs, because this will actually PREVENT heat loss, and make the problem WORSE.)
  • Get them sheared at the beginning of summer.
  • Put their water buckets on pedestals. High enough that they can't step in the water, but low enough that they can drink. (This is a trick we learned from goat owners.) For pedestals, we use tree stumps or leaky old washtubs turned upside down, about 16" high, with 5-gallon buckets on top. Just make sure your new setup isn't easily tipped over.

Toenail Trimming

This trick makes toenail trimming easier on me, as well as on our goats and camelids. I got the idea from shearer Sharon Allen, who said, "If you make them stand on 3 legs, they can't kick you." It helps a lot if your animals trust you not to hurt them, so they won't thrash excessively when tied like this.

The idea is to hold one foot in the air with a rope around the ankle. Then you can use both hands and assume any position necessary to carefully trim the nails without drawing blood (yours or the animal's). With the back feet especially, you want the leg stretched out far enough so it stays off the ground, so you can't be kicked.

Make a slip knot loop on the end of a 1/2" or 3/4" thick cotton lead rope. (A thick rope won't bind or cut like a thin rope might.) Choose a location where you can stretch the animal out and tie it at both ends, about 12 to 16 feet apart. You'll need some room on both sides to work. You can use the corner of a corral or catch pen, with the animal's body diagonal to the corner. Or just two small trees the right distance apart.

Halter and tie the animal on a very short lead, with the head fairly low, so it won't strangle if it lies down. Put the loop around the animal's (back foot) ankle and tighten. Then pull the rope to stretch the leg out, and clip or tie the other end. The foot should now be suspended in the air, and shouldn't move much even if the animal tries to kick with it. Use one hand to steady the foot and separate the toes as you trim with the other hand.

To do the front feet with the slip knot loop, it helps to have a second person stand on the opposite side of the animal and pull the foot up, with the rope over the back. With two people, the foot can be released quickly if needed. The animal is kept fairly still, and using the rope to take most of the weight off the foot saves your aching back! Getting the slip knot on and off can be a bit tricky, but not as dangerous for me or the animal as when we're wrestling while I have sharp clippers in one hand!

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