Confidence for everyone

Our aim is confident and fulfilled owners of happy and healthy alpacas. We want happy and healthy owners too but that’s for another day.

Let’s think about confidence again and in particular, where you get yours from.

Knowledge and practice are key – know enough and do it often enough and you will feel confident. This could be moving alpacas, removing brambles from their fleece, trimming toenails, or body scoring your herd. The principle is the same – know enough to get started, learn as you go (in small steps), and keep doing it t keep your confidence.

Farm update – a wet few days here but not too cold. Keep your eyes and nose on alert for flystrike.

Go spend some time with an alpaca, Steve


This is the alpaca podcast for all things alpaca. If you're an owner a soon to be owner, a want to be owner or are just alpaca mad, or love the fleece: welcome to the alpaca tribe. I'm Steve Heatherington.

Hi and welcome to the podcast for alpaca people everywhere. Whatever's happening with you today, I hope you're doing well. We are well, it's kind of currently sunny, but we've had wet, wet, wet yesterday, and we've got more to come today. Heavy showers and stuff. And the lake is overflowing. You remember, we complained about the lake being low.

Well, it's not any more. I think we have enough. We've lost a corner of the carpark. It's very brown because there's an awful lot. I thought it was wet last time we talked, but no, it's even more, more so. And there's some alpacas running around. What's that about then?

Never quite sure And now they're running up Not sure what they're doing. Do I need to go investigate? The advantage and the disadvantage of having a window that faces where the alpacas are. So. Yeah, I'll tell you what's been happening is, each time I finished one of the podcast episodes, so far last numbers of weeks, something dramatic has happened the day after. And I've just posted it and then something... do I, do I redo?

No. Okay. So last week we had fly strike again with Seren again. Now, I know she's susceptible. She's got all kinds of skin stuff going on and we've kind of improved, but not managed to resolve. And she'd been pretty good through the summer. Pretty good when we sheared all the wrinkles and stuff were still there, but pretty good.

And then, I guess it just must have been the right combination again, of temperature and moisture. I wasn't aware of a lot of flies around, I wasn't aware of flies around her, certainly. And I hadn't noticed I really kick yourself afterwards. And then we noticed there was a black patch, that black greasy patch on her back where obviously it was becoming a problem.

Once it's there, the black greasy patch, then you've already got your maggots. So it was still fairly early, thankfully. We had a few larger ones, but most of them were pretty small. So it was trimming back the fleece, it was dealing with -there's a spray we've got, which helps protect, but it also will kill off the ones that are there and that makes them wriggle and brings them out, which is just gross.

But it's one of those necessary things. And we had a visitor with us, which is always, I don't know, slightly awkward when you've got a, sort of a, one of these kind of jobs to do, but Caroline, thank you so much- shout out to Caroline - for being interested, but also helping. So I had a willing helper, Sue had to be on a call and we went down to the stable Caroline and I, and we managed to deal with.

Pretty gross situation and it's first time for somebody coming and being that close in and around alpacas. And you did brilliantly. Thank you, Caroline. And it's a question of just kind of getting in there and having a go, okay, this is gross. I'm just going to go. Yeah, so Seren is fine. And she was pretty stoic really most of the time.

I've had a kick, a couple of kicks since they, when I've approached slightly too quickly, but we did the necessary, cleaned up and also give her some protection with antibiotics, etc. So that was a tricky one because it came out of nowhere. Oh, I know. That's what happens, regularly. You think you're in one place, you turn a corner and you've got a new situation to deal with.

So our aim with alpaca tribe is to encourage confident and fulfilled owners of happy and healthy alpacas. Of course, we want the owners to be happy and healthy too, and that's a different issue. And maybe something we should come back to. So we'll think about that for another time. But this thing of

confidence. And I've talked about it before, but I just wanted to pick it up again this week. Where does confidence come from? Or more particularly, where does your confidence come from? I think there's some general principles, but I think we're all slightly different as well. It's variable, but, but for example, if we think we can do something we'll step forward and do it. If we don't think we can we'll hold back.

So, there's this sense of responsibility that can build up and then tips over and you'll step forward, just because you take responsibility. The, the pressure of not acting that feeling of hesitation to not act is overcome by your growing sense of responsibility. Something needs to be done. I need to do it.

So you'll step forward to do that. And also if we think we're going to enjoy something, if it's going to be fun, if it's going to be good. Something we're going to enjoy, then we'll step forward and have a go. So how do we kind of build that into our lives with our alpacas? I think there are two things, knowledge and repetition.

We need to have enough knowledge we need to know enough, and we also need to do it often enough, that repetition. And that will build your confidence. So knowing enough and doing it often enough will build your confidence. So the more you do, the more you learn, the more you master and the more you gain confidence.

Simple, except it's not. Oh, we are complicated, aren't we? Dear, oh dear. There are things that we need to know. There are things that we need to do and practice doing to be good at them. And if it's a situation where you think I can't do that, and you just won't have a go, then you never going to learn. And that's just a really difficult one.

So having somebody show you, having somebody to tell you what needs to be done, get the information, get the knowledge enough, and then have a go and accept that you're not going to be perfect, straight away. You need to learn to do these things. The first time you do something isn't necessarily going to be the best. You might get away with it, but it may not be a resounding success shall we say.

So the more you do, the more you learn, the more you learn, the more you master and the more you master, the more confidence you will gain. Let me give an example -moving alpacas. I've talked about this before, when we had this problem of the mums standing there and not moving cause the babies didn't understand the rules. I'd been able to,

when we first had the five pregnant females, when we first started we were able to move them. They, they knew the school. I moved towards them. They moved away and we didn't make a big song and dance about it. We didn't make lots of noise. We just did it gently, easily. And you put a bit of pressure on the group and the group will move.

And you keep the group together. You don't isolate individuals until you're in a situation where you can bring them down into a small enough area can't do it in the field to do it in a corral, down into the stable, down into a catch pen, six foot, eight foot square is ideal. So those, those are the kinds of things that I knew and learned.

This is now not working because there's a new situation. Cause there's, there are cria on the ground and the mom's not going to move because the cria isn't going to move. So there's a new strategy required. I knew enough I had to go and it didn't work. So I tried a different and then worked out a new way of movingthe animals. The biggest thing

here, actually it's just being patient, not rushing them. And quickly enough, the youngsters get the hang of it. And then they start to see you as a, as a, as a person to be avoided until they get to know you a bit more. So that's moving alpacas. And you might want to move them into a smaller space, get them into whatever,

cause they got brambles tangling up. And as we go through the autumn and then into the winter, then the vegetation dies back. They go looking for things and they'll get into the brambles. The fleece is getting longer. Particularly the youngsters will have those magnets. The very fine fleece will become a magnet for vegetation and for bits of Bramble in our case.

So they will tend to get tangled up. So you've got to be able to disentangle. The first time you go in for doing that, always wear gloves. I learned that the hard way. Always kind of work them into a small area first, before you try and deal with it, unless you absolutely have to. Occasionally you got the one that was dragging a whole big, long piece around. Occasionally you can step on it and, but it's not ideal.

Okay. So there are things that you can try. There are things that you will learn and you just know, okay, this a later isuue. I will deal with this when we have the feeding, because they're going to be at the stable. I can close them in and I can bring them in. I can get them into a smaller space and I can, I can then de-bramble them.

Another example would be trimming toenails. Now, trimming toenails we've mentioned before. It's not the end of the world. They don't have to have their toenails trimmed. It's important, but it's not that important. It's not life threatening. It is something we need to be taking note of and dealing with, but usually there's not that sense of urgency.

So let's plan towards that. Let's grow our experience and therefore our confidence. Pick your time, pick your place, pick your animal as well, when you're doing the learning. Don't start with the difficult ones. They'll have to be done as well, but start with ones that, you know, you can more easily work with.

Let them become accustomed to the sensation, the, the, the taking up of the foot and putting it down. The picking up the foot and then the trimming. And you need to learn how to stand, how to do all of that. So that's helpful to have demonstration from somebody the first time to show you what to do to do.

And you can just work through those things. Don't go for the big cut. Go for a little cut. Nibble. Nibble is fine. You don't have to do it perfectly. When they are secured for shearing is a great time to do it because you're not having to manage the animal and get them standing in the wrong, in the right place and getting them to stay standing in the right place and do the cutting.

And your temptation is to kind of do because you have. Got them stationary. Let's do a quick cut and that's where we can get into problems. So be careful with doing that. But when they're secured for shearing is a good time. Get somebody to show you. Work through the practice, and then you know what you're doing because you're only working with one bit of the process.

You also need to learn how to hold them, to stand them, to get them used to the sensation, etc. So that's a whole series of steps. It's not just one thing. We're not just talking about the physical cutting of the nail. There's a whole thing that goes together here. And if you've got any hesitation about cutting, take notice of that. There's a good reason probably.

If you're not absolutely sure, don't cut. I'm not saying don't have a go doing the toenails and they do need to be cut, but if you go to make a cut and you just think, am I in, am I coming at the right angle? Am I holding what's going on? What about the, the color of the nail for this particular animal?

It might have darker coloring, on the foot and in the nail, and therefore you can't see, so clearly. It may be that there's mud caught under the nail and you can't see clearly where's the, where's the skin that, that extends up into the nail a bit. Where is that? How do you know that when it cleared that out, make sure you know exactly where you cutting,

isn't going to be cutting into that cause you don't want to be having a a bleeding foot. So if there's hesitation, there may be a good reason. Do take notice of that. But also you need to have a go need to do that. You need to do make the cut. It's a hard, it's hard. I remember I still find it difficult sometimes.

So building those things over time. And a final example would be body condition scoring. That's that's less dramatic. It's less of a, an issue. The physical managing and all the rest of it. And you haven't got anything sharp in your hand. So that's something that would be good to become familiar with to build your confidence in.

And there's no test here. Nobody's going to say, you're wrong. Nobody's going to say, oh, you think that's, you're gonna use a scale of one to five or a one to 10. No, one's going to say you will. You definitely should be doing this. There are reasons for doing one or the other. And I found I was doing three and a half and 3.75, so many times I thought, okay, I need to adjust my thinking here.

I'm going to go for a scale of one to 10. For me that works. It might not for you. And that's fine. Use a scale of one to five. You're looking for somewhere in the middle, which is, good. They're not too fat, they're not too skinny and you're doing a comparison. So there's no, no absolute. It's your judgment.

It's your hand in the same place on the same animal. So you know what you're doing. You comparing. Last week, last month, you know, therefore there's been a change that they're suddenly losing weight, there's a problem. That's what it's all about. Checking their body condition with your hand on them. So you need to work out what you're doing and then you need to repeat. Know enough, do it often enough.

And learn how to do it so that you build your confidence. So there's a few examples, hopefully that's helpful. I'm not sure you've got those particular. Issues, but hopefully it gives you an idea of a, of a way to approach that. And I was just wanting to share that because I was feeling a bit hesitant. I was feeling a bit of a lack of confidence.

And I've had alpacas for 13 years now. And it happens that things change things. You don't feel so good, you don't feel so in control of things and you don't have quite as much confidence. And sometimes you've got to deal with things in the midst of all of that, and you'll learn to do that, but other times you need to wait for a different day, different time.

So I just wanted to raise it because it's not something that will go away. You don't suddenly reach this thing of being super confident. You gain confidence, you build it and you need to maintain it as well. So just to, to mention that it's a work in progress and we are a work in progress, all of us are a work in progress.

So that thing of knowing enough, doing enough and gaining the confidence. Enough knowledge. Enough repetition gives us learning, gives us confidence. So what could you do this week? What could you do this month? That would be something that needs doing something that would be a step forward for this, which would give you some more confidence around your alpacas?

And maybe it's moving them. Maybe it's handling them, maybe it's toenails, or maybe it's just body score. It's a great time of year to be doing body condition scoring whichever part of the world you're in. So if we're going into the autumn into the winter, what condition are they in? Any that need a bit of extra attention, a bit of extra food, maybe. And going from going from the winter into the spring,

then it's a good idea to know what condition your animals are in. So hopefully my meandering thoughts practical on this occasion are some help to enable you to become confident and fulfilled owners of happy and healthy alpacas. If you can go spend some time with an alpaca. Today, I'll watch them through the window,

cause it's raining and is very wet and I'll catch them at teatime. But take care. Bye for now..

This is the alpaca tribe and I'm Steve Hetherington.

Have a great day.