Start with what you are good at

Welcome to the podcast for alpaca people!

In this episode, if you are thinking of keeping alpacas, we suggest you start with what you good at. Consider:

  • Where are you?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • How will you get there?
  • Why do you want to keep alpacas?



[0:00] 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 a just alpaca mad or love the fleece, welcome to the alpaca tribe.

[0:13] Music.

[0:24] I'm Steve Heatherington. Hi Steve here and welcome to the podcast for alpaca people.

Oh, great to see you.

Isn't it good when you know what you're good at?

Do you never know that you're good at anything?

There's things that we know that actually we can do that we're good at, that we got strengths.

It's just a good thing to know which things are our strengths.

But it doesn't have to stop you. you don't have to be the absolute limiting factor about what you do when you're considering new things. When we started with Alpacas, we had an idea of what we wanted to do and what we might do.

[1:12] There were things we discovered that were not a good fit for us really, and other things that have become a natural part of everyday life. So...

[1:24] Trying to judge those things can be quite difficult. So if you're considering starting out keeping alpacas, it would be good to take stock of existing likes, your strengths and interests.

[1:38] But avoid the traps of not believing in yourself, or the other end of the spectrum, believing in yourself too much. Both of those things could be a problem to you.

You. It's good to get balancing views, really, but you've got to ask the right people for their views, for their take on things. You want to find someone who knows you, that really understands you, someone who's for you. So a critical friend, with the emphasis on friend rather than critical, but you want somebody who's going to tell you the truth, somebody, Somebody who really knows you and will be honest with you, they have to know you.

They should be people of good judgment, so that they're people that you can trust their opinions.

It's not something that's going to be way off. And ideally, it would be good to have somebody that will journey with you.

Who will follow through, not having just given you advice about what they think, but actually they're supportive of you and your journey with alpacas.

[2:56] One of the things we need to look at is where are you trying to get to? What is it you want?

What is he trying to achieve? What is it you're trying to get? What's the further down the line picture, not just the immediate, I want to have alpacas. I want to keep alpacas. What What does that mean?


[3:17] Where are you trying to get to? There's the old story, joke, whatever, of somebody asking that question. Oh, how do you get to so-and-so?

Whoa, well, I wouldn't start from here.

[3:32] But this is where you were starting from. This is where you are.

So just evaluating, just kind of working out, where am I and where am I trying to go?

Why is it important to me? I'd like to keep alpacas. Well, why?

Because I'd like to care for a living thing. Well, maybe you need a hamster or a dog rather than alpacas.

I'd like to keep alpacas. Why?

Because I feel a connection with them, I think they would add something significant to my life, to my enjoyment of life.

Why? Why would you do that? Well, because, and then you can actually work through a number of layers of the why questions, not in a young child's thing of, why daddy, why, why, just, you know, that why question comes back again and again, it doesn't really help.

[4:47] But just trying to get behind the initial thing of why is this important to you?

There's probably a very good reason, but it may not be the thing that you see or think of on the surface straight away.

So that's worth doing a bit of exploration. What is it behind there that is the reasoning, the drive, the desire that you have to keep alpacas?

What is it that you want from them? And is that realistic?

Are they gonna be able to give it to you? because you do know that they don't like being fussed and petted like a dog would be.

These are different kinds of animals. These are field animals.

These are animals that you need to respect because they're big enough to do some damage.

They're strong, but also they're very thoughtful animals. There's a gentleness about them, which is contagious.

There's a thing that would mean you would gain perspective perspective and a dimension of life that.

[6:01] From my experience, there's nothing else I've known that would give that.

I mean, I don't know, I haven't kept horses, I haven't had cows.

There may be other animals that would do similar things. But for me, this is an experience of depth and meaningfulness that has come through keeping alpacas, that in some ways I knew that's what I was looking for, but it has surprised me.

It surprised me about how deep that goes. It surprised me how important it feels to me.

So these are all questions before, we're thinking of questions before you get started.

And they're difficult to answer.

They're difficult to consider and get to the right answer.

But that doesn't mean to say that we shouldn't try having a go at looking at why is this important, What's behind it?

[7:02] How will you get there? So where do I wanna go? How am I gonna get there?

What do I need to know? What's the gap that I have to fill in terms of knowledge, in terms of experience?

Are there things that I can't do without this? Or what is the this?

Is it that you have to spend some time around alpacas with somebody else who's got them?

Is it that that's a good thing to do?

Or is it that I need to read up and gather, do my research? Yeah, you probably need to do that as well.

But what is it that I need?

What's essential before I get started? What will be the thing that will make or break?

Will the thing will make it successful or not?

[7:52] I think that's probably gonna be different for different people.

There is knowledge that you need, there's experience and skills that you haven't yet got because you've never done those things before that you'll learn to do.

But how are you gonna learn those things? Is there somebody who can teach you?

Can you go on a course? Can you go spend some time with an alpaca breeder with their animals? Can you...

Watch YouTube? You can. I'm not sure just how much useful material you could get from there.

There's some good stuff there to be sure, but also there's some, stuff you don't want to follow, I don't think.

[8:37] When we started, we didn't know very much. We didn't know enough. We knew enough to get started and be dangerous, to kind of get out of our depth. But we did have people around that we could go to and could lean on. There were things that we were curious about and we went off and found the answers to. And there are places that you can go and find answers to. But it's not easy. You do have to put your effort in and do have to put the work into thinking clearly and working out the strategy and then delivering.

You have to turn up and do the thing that needs to be done in terms of the learning, in terms of thinking, don't put yourself at risk, don't put your animals at risk, but, There are things that you have to kind of take a bit of a chance with.

The first time you go in to take hold of an animal to, I don't know, check its teeth, there appears to be some stuff around the eye. There's a bit of a buildup of.

[9:49] Messy stuff around the corner of the eye. Is this significant? How do you open an eyelid, to look inside, just lifting it just a bit, just to look inside? Do you know what you're looking forward you know how to do that. How do you hold the animal? All things that you haven't done before. You can understand the theory but to do it for the first time, particularly if you're, stepping forward as, because there's nobody else around, you have to do this. And the alpacas know.

[10:20] That you haven't got a clue. Now they're generally cooperative but they can get a bit nervy if you're a bit nervy. If you're feeling nervous, they will get nervous too. But if you're confident and reassuring, have a nice tone in your voice and talking to them gently, not moving fast, not grabbing and really kind of wrestling them. But yes, you need to be firm enough, but you're not going to be wrestling them. Therefore, you need to try these things and and you need to work out how do I progress?

How do I take that first little step? How do I find the courage to take the next little step?

Because there are times when I'm going, okay, I need to do this.

I need to step in and do it now.

And I feel, what is that? A boundary, a hurdle?

[11:15] There is a thing there that I have to step over, past under whatever it is to get past it.

And there's a little bit of doubt in myself, a little bit of, I'm not sure I can do this.

[11:31] What if? And I'm not talking about being stupid and just doing it anyway, hoping it's going to turn out okay. That's not a recipe for success. But you do need to say, okay, this is my responsibility. I do need to learn how to do this and I need to have a go. I know what I think is the right way to do this. I know what I'm trying to do and they've just run away. They've just, I just left the gate open. Oh, they just run off. Oh, let's start that again. Let's close the gate. Let's get things in place. Let's bring them down into a small enough space. You can't do this in a field. Most of the time you can't do the things that need to be done with an alpaca in the middle of a field. Bring them down into a smaller area and then a smaller area again. This is where I really love the catch pens, the hurdles, not sheep hurdles because they're too low, too small, but hurdles designed for alpacas that are tall enough, that link in together, that give you a small catch pen that you can have an animal safely and securely and feeling relaxed because they know that something's going on but there's enough space they don't feel completely panicked because you're not jamming them in a corner, but there's enough space.

And then you can get in there and you've got enough space to move and get in the best position.

[12:57] You can step in, but you can also step away again and the animal is not going anywhere. It's just within this eight foot or 10 foot square or six foot, depends on the size of your hurdle.

But this square six foot or eight foot normally, and it doesn't want to be too big. Do you want do you want more than one animal in there? You don't want them on their own completely.

And sometimes the others will abandon them if you are doing something.

They'll run off and leave their friend behind. They don't want to be involved with this. Thank you very much.

So you might want two or maybe three, but maybe don't just want an alpaca by itself.

Watch out for kicks. Watch out for the other one that you're not doing the thing with.

How are they behaving? Keep an eye, take it steady, take it slow.

You've got plenty of time.

Watch what's going on. Watch what's going on with you. Have you stopped breathing?

No, no, seriously. You can stop breathing. You hold your breath because you're concentrating in your intent.

[13:59] It's better if you keep breathing for you, but also for the alpacas because they get more relaxed.

If you're breathing normally, if you breathe out.

You see, if you're being hunted, the cat or the big cat, whatever it is that's doing the hunting, normally they will hold their breath because they're sneaking up.

So breathing out is a friendly thing. It's not a hunting thing.

So there are things you can do which just help you relax a bit.

And you take a breath in and you take a breath out.

[14:34] And the alpacas might relax a bit more, and you might relax a bit more.

Work out what your boundary is here. What's the thing that you, you know, when this has gone too far.

I'm trying to do this, it's essential I do this because, or this is something, I'll give this a try, I'll see if I can learn to do this.

And it may be working with them to lift a foot so that you can check the sole of the foot, the pads for any injury, any potential thorns and that kind of thing, or it may be for toenails, trimming them or just checking them over.

So work on doing the movements, getting the sensations for the alpaca, but also for you.

What's the best way to stand? How do you start? Can you do this by yourself, or do you really need to have somebody with you?

There are some jobs that are really two people jobs, especially if you are less familiar, and therefore you need to do that.

So find someone who can show you these things. There's some stuff online, but ideally you need a mentor.

Even if it's somebody you can phone up and say, oh, I'm trying to do this, what's the best way to approach it?

Often go back to the person you buy the alpacas from, that's a good thing, but maybe that hasn't worked out, then do find, do work at finding places you can get.

There are local groups, local groups of alpaca owners.

[16:03] They may be through the breed societies, wherever you are. It could be through some of the shows and that kind of thing that you can make connection people that you can get support and assistance from.

If you're not wasting people's time, they will give it gladly.

My experience anyway, of alpaca owners, is that they're very generous.

So cultivate some of those relationships. Know where to get the information to work out what are your new skills that you have to develop and who's gonna help teach you with those things.

So where are you trying to go to and how will you get there?

[16:43] Some of these questions are a bit, What are they? They're a bit academic. They're a bit divorced from reality. So try and keep this real, try and make it practical, not just theoretical questions and answers. You know, face it, don't be in a rush. I don't keep saying that, but don't be in a rush and take your time to make the decision about keeping alpacas, what's really involved, what's really required, what is essential, what is desirable. You don't have to have all the you don't have to have all the information. You do need to have enough and be able to know where to get more. So, these are some of the things when you're starting out that.

[17:26] It's worth considering and pursuing. So, I don't know. Have you got questions? Have you got a thing that says, oh, I really, this is, this is the thing that's troubling me. What do I do about?

Out, then why not drop me a line, drop me an email to steve at and we can pick it up in a future episode and we can answer that question for you and for anybody else who might find that useful.

So do let me know if you have any specific questions, I'd love to hear from you.

In the meantime, if you can, go spend some time with an alpaca and breathe.

Breathing. Keep watching. Keep learning. Take care. Bye for now. Have a good one.

[18:14] Music.

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