A real herd, at least in its natural environment, would include a stud or alpha male, it would include your breeding females, your cria (young), your adolescents & a few oldies!
Do we have them, why yes we do, but….we control who spends time with who!
Of course, I’m talking about llamas, but we could be talking about any domestic herd.
Today, we put our “herd” back into two groups, boys & girls! Up until today our herd has been split into four groups. The four groups were “mums & babies”, “girls (both adolescents & oldies)”, “studs” and finally the “boys (adolescents and mature gelded males)”. Not strictly true, as we have one gelded male who can hold his own with the studs – Cusco, the first youngster that we bred, but, be that as it may we had four groups.
Now, as a rule we split the girls into two groups around birthing time and we put them all back together when the youngsters (boys and/or girls) are old enough to cope with the attention of the others, particularly the adolescents who can be a bit exuberant when saying hello for the first time. We did that today. They are all in a small paddock where they will stay for a week or so, and then weather allowing they will all go into the big field for the autumn before coming back to the small paddock for the winter (better shelters, hard standing & access to hay). The re-integration went very well and it makes the daily rounds so much easier to have them all in one place!
The boys are a bit more problematic! Once weaned at around six months we have to introduce them to the rest of the boys gradually. We tend to put them with at least one adolescent from the previous year and one older mature gelded male. They will hopefully learn their herd manners before being introduced to the bigger boys.
This year we had a problem. Pepsi our stud was hurt, initially we thought he had arthritis, but we now suspect that he had been injured by our rising stud Nazca, a battle for who is to be alpha male! This will be an ongoing battle, so we have built them separate enclosures, in fact we have built four altogether so we have room to split up any bolshy male from the main group if we need to.
We tried a month or so ago to re-integrate but it didn’t work without these enclosures, so today with our stud boys being settled for the best part of three weeks we brought up our two youngsters Max & Beau, Buster the adolescent and Wilbur our mature gelded male to meet the studs. It went amazingly well. Peace in all camps.
The boys will stay like this through the winter, although once the girls are in their winter paddock, they may all be joined together, an experiment that may just last a few days, but we shall see!
So, a busy day today, and a settled herd, albeit that they are in their separate groups!