Thursday, September 5, 2013

Herding Alpacas Is Like Game of Chess

When I was a little girl, my dad taught me to play chess.  He showed me I had to think multiple moves ahead.  I had to use strategy and I had to look at all the pieces on the board and what all the potential moves they could make.  If I moved one piece, I had to ask myself what would would the consequences be for my opponent and all the possibilities they could move and how would I counter.  Could I lure the opponent into a direction so I could make a bigger move on them?  Who knew learning to play chess would be preparing me so well for catching and herding alpacas.  I see the layout of my alpacas, I know what their temperaments are like, I know which ones I can pretty much guarantee will behave a certain way and I can hopefully lure them to where I want them, and I understand my herd instincts and dynamics.  Catching them is a game of strategy. 

When I need to set up a catch pen, I take a look at where my alpacas currently are, what direction is most natural for them to want to head towards, and I look who in that group is most likely to bring the rest in with them.  I usually have at least one alpaca in the pasture grouping that loves their pellets and will come running when I call their name.  That alerts the others that something must be happening that they don't want to miss out on and follow that one.  Even when I have a more shy alpaca that wouldn't normally come into a catch pen on its own, it will usually follow the rest of the herd.  Knowing herd dynamics is so invaluable.  Like I have said in earlier blogs, I believe in setting the animals and myself up for success as much as possible.  So when I need to catch someone, I study my surroundings and situation I have to work with. 

It is so nice when the alpacas are used to catch pens and they look at it as it is - just no big deal.  It really isn't, so why should there be drama about it all?  Today I had to catch up a few alpacas for a vet visit.  I only needed three out of about a dozen alpacas in that group.  But I like to catch them all when I can.  They can all hang out in the catch pen.  I prepared it before hand and I found it is way easier to catch before the vet and clients arrive if I can.  The alpacas are less wary.  I spread out some pellets in a half dozen bowls to give some enticement.  One of the girls being caught is very good at this chess game and if she thinks she is being caught, she is smart enough not to fall for my lures!  I  opened the gate wide open and went to their hay feeder as if I were going to fluff hay.  I didn't show any eye contact especially with the one that is a good chess player.  I walked away as if I weren't interested in that catch area at all.  I glanced over my shoulder to see if all of them were in the pen.   As soon as I saw I had the alpacas I really needed including my good chess player, I walked over to the gate and closed it as if it were the most normal thing to do.  I didn't race or rush to the gate.  It was just nice, quiet and calm.  None seemed upset with the gate closing.  My chess player alpaca, looked up and almost shrugged knowing she got caught this time and decided as long as she was in there, she might as well enjoy her pellets.  It was so nice.  They were all caught up for the vet saving on his bill since he charges by the clock.  Like my vet has said, he is reasonably priced for a vet but he is an expensive alpaca wrangler! 

Temporary panels for catch pens is kind of like fencing and gates.  You can never have enough of them!  I use 8 feet long by 4 feet high panels.  They are light and easy to move, snap together so I can make them in the center of the pasture if I need to.  I take them to events and use them for temporary quarters to market and show off my alpacas too.  They are the handiest tool you can have on the farm. 

The Herd is actually waiting for me to open the gate to catch pen.  I'm Coming!

No comments:

Post a Comment