Brodgar's Diary 20-01-14
It’s weaning time at Old King Street Farm and the very fine crop of llama cria (2013 vintage) have left their mothers.
I, of course, have the most important role in the weaning of the weanlings. ‘Tis I the Two Legs turn to when the job of overseeing anything important on the farm comes up and, By Jove! They couldn’t make a better choice. Calm, quiet, assured, ‘A Llama to look up to’ – these are the words that people use when they talk about me.
The people and I got together and had a chat about how we should go about this year’s weaning. We’ve never had four cria in one year before and it all takes a bit of planning. As we have no young males on the farm – the last six cria have all been female – everything is a little easier as we don’t need to further divide the herd to keep the sexes apart.
I suggested Belas Knap and Tintagel should join me in acting as companions for the young girls and I put Rollright’s name forward as a further (and subordinate) male to look after the youngsters.
The day was sunny and with all the llamas in the yard we were fed tasty hay and mix. Our people haltered us all and then the four mothers were led off to Bottom Field. Marden, Maes Howe, Long Meg and Hetty Pegler put the brakes on half way across Home Field on the way to their new home. They’d seen Pharaoh and he always sends their hearts a-flutter. And then the mothers heard a squeak or two from their babies – Flowerdown, Hazelton, Ann Howe and Sarum – and they all turned to look. Maesie and Meg are old hands at weaning and at least they’ve been through the process four times before, but little Marden and Hetty are first-timers and it must be confusing and distressing for them to leave their babies. But our people planned for this a long time ago, and the new mums babies are the oldest – they were born in April last year and they are the oldest weanlings we’ve had. I mean, I was younger than Sarum and Flowerdown when I brought my little brother Stenness to Golden Valley Llamas, so I’m very confident the little ones will do well.
Ringsbury has charge of Stenness, Stanton Drew and Moai in Far Field. Too many mentors can be confusing.
The weaning herd of eight of us is confined to the yard and barn. We have a routine with our people. I get the gang into the barn where we are haltered. The cria are shown that Rollright and I are groomed and they take comfort from this and they stand to be groomed. Handling is very important – our people run their hands over the young llamas’ backs and legs and finish by touching heads and jaws. The youngsters are shown that I allow my people to take my ankle and foot in their funny pink hands so they allow this to be done too,
A major job I like to sort at this time is to give crias confidence in loading into the chariot. Each cria is paired with an older llama and my little charge is lovely little Sarum. She’s great and a very mature little thing. I stand with her in the yard with our female person holding our ropes, then we ‘Walk on’ and take a couple of circuits of the yard. Easy. Stepping into the chariot is not so easy for a little one. It’s scary but I boldly step onto the ramp and show her what to do. Sarum really isn’t sure. She’s seen the trailer in the yard all her life, and it’s been open for a spell so she’s wandered in and inspected it. But on a lead rope it’s a little different and she’s not sure. Our female person is lovely and gently coaxes Sarum. No-go at first, so we take another circuit of the yard. Then I step up the ramp again and with more coaxing Sarum puts her front legs on the ramp and steps up. Bravo!
It’s great watching the little llamas learn. They see what I do and with encouragement from my people and me they try to copy Uncle Brod. Quite funny really as they either trip up the step or take a flying leap and clear it by three feet. We’ll get there. Training every day in this good weather.
The mothers will spend 6 weeks away from their babies and then the herd will be put back together again.
More news from Golden Valley Llamas soon