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What are the best alpaca questions to ask?
Episode 2521st November 2023 • Alpaca Tribe • Steve Heatherington
00:00:00 00:18:31

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Welcome to the podcast for alpaca people! In this episode, I will be discussing some of my favourite questions to consider when spending time with these amazing creatures.

The first question to ask yourself is "What is it that I am seeing?" This is an important step in observation that can help you better understand the behaviour and actions of your alpacas.

The next question to ask is "What does it mean?" This question is crucial in interpreting your observations, and it can change depending on the context of the situation and over time.

So, the next time you are with your alpacas, take some time to pay attention to what you notice. Start by asking yourself "What is it?" and then extend your questions to "What does it mean?"

By utilizing these questions, you can deepen your understanding of alpacas and develop a stronger bond with these fascinating animals.

Thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed it.

If you would like to be in touch, please contact me by email - steve@alpacatribe.com - or leave me a voicemail from your browser.

Alpaca Tribe is hosted and produced by Steve Heatherington of Good Podcasting Works, which is part of The Waterside (Swansea) Ltd

Transcripts

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[00:00:25] Hi, Steve here, and welcome to the podcast for alpaca people. It's so good to see you again. Lovely. As you know, I like questions, and I think it's really important that we ask the right questions. We have to work hard at framing them, at being clear about the question that we should be asking. And the first question is, what...

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[00:01:21] So it could be because of you. It's not always because of you You're not always at the center of everything. Trust me, but it could be because of you and what you're doing and It could be because of other animals around or the circumstances It could be the wind or the presence of a cat or all kinds of things So the first thing is what is it?

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[00:02:09] So the same thing is it, the it. What is it? Is the ears coming up? What does it mean? Can have a variety of answers. So how do we address that? How do we understand what's going on? Partly it comes with time and experience. You've seen this before. You've seen this behavior in this circumstance and you can draw a reasonable conclusion that This is what I'm seeing.

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[00:02:55] What else? Can you notice what else is going on? You think it's to do with you, you approach, the ears go up. There's, there's a threat of a spit. Uh, we had some friends and we were helping them feed the alpacas. We had the, the buckets and, uh, it was out in the troughs as well for the ones who don't like to come to the buckets, but they were feeding alpacas and there were lots of heads in there.

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[00:03:41] Why did they spit at the visitor? Okay, so what you saw, the it, was an alpaca feeding from a bucket. who then lifted their head and spat at the person in front of them. They were spitting at the person. So that's the observation. What's the meaning of that? Were they actually spitting at the person? And the answer was no, they weren't.

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[00:04:37] They're not spitting at you. They're spitting to warn another alpaca off. So you've got to put it into a context. So what is it that? The it is, what is it I'm seeing? What's the behavior? And then what does it mean? And, uh, I've talked before about Millie, dear old Millie. She'll come and she'll stand in the doorway of the stable when I'm putting the food out.

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[00:05:15] It's spitting to warn others off. And then I think, what can I do, which will change that behavior and make it less of a problem to me. So I don't get spat at. So I found that if I put a bit of food in a bucket, just inside the door, that Millie can reach and can fend off others. She's, she's prepared to stand in the door where the other's not so much.

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[00:05:57] Hopefully you can see how this could apply to your situation. So what are you observing? What are you seeing? What's the it that you're seeing? Maybe the behavior. And it could be the ears go up. That's usually going on alert, slightly. I'm, I'm giving attention to what's in front of me. Uh, I had a really strange experience walking down the green path.

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[00:06:41] And their ears, one was up, one was down. I thought it was very clever to be able to do that. So they can move their ears independently. So that was I'm giving attention. You'll regularly see that if there's a thumb, a something. It could be a cat, it could be a dog, it could be a fox. Something that catches that could be a squirrel, for that matter.

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[00:07:27] They don't miss much. And for some of those things, like a bird flits in and flits out, they pretty much ignore that. Because they've learnt it's not a threat, it's not a problem, it's okay. And therefore the behaviour will adjust over time. The first see the, the first time they see, particularly the youngsters, first time they see a plastic bag blowing in the wind, it kind of freaks them out.

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[00:08:21] And hopefully your behavior towards them changes as well, but their behavior towards you becomes adjusted. They get to trust you. They get to know you. They get to know your little ways, the sound of your voice, the fact that you whistle when you're working. Sometimes that's not a panic. reason. That's just the sound that you make when you're around.

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[00:09:00] They were busy having their food and I was just there. It wasn't a problem to them. They weren't panicking. And that was, that was interesting. Uh, I think that's a good thing. You sometimes get an alpaca that will stand in the way. Now that's a different, but there can be a different thing. What am I seeing?

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[00:09:45] Tiptoe around the alpacas. Yeah, no. So it's, the thing will change over time. What am I seeing? What does it mean? And then what do I do differently? So these questions that we live with as we live with our alpacas are part of our learning, part of our growing, part of our becoming better alpacas, becoming more satisfied and confident.

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[00:10:32] What was I going to do with it? And I brush around them. Sometimes I have to kind of Just give a little hip check or a, you know, just kind of move them slightly because their foot's too close to where I'm trying to sweep. I'm trying to clean up and they're not bothered. And that's because I haven't chased them with the brush.

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[00:11:09] And that pressure just encourages them to turn and move away. And sometimes some of them will stand, sometimes another one will come in, like dear old Amelia. She comes in, in front of me, standing broadside. Look how big I am. And She blocks the way, she's trying to protect some of the other younger alpacas, often her own, but definitely other young alpacas as well.

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[00:11:55] She'll hang around and her daughter's following in her footsteps. I think some of that is learned behavior and some of it is probably genetics. Uh, proportion? No idea. But it's just an interesting observation. I've seen this thing that she tends to be the one who's the protector. She will rear up if I've got a...

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[00:12:35] Have a listen. When, when they, when they make sounds, check out what's going on. Are they breathing in? Getting ready to huff or puff or spit, or, or are they kind of already doing that, expelling the air? Oh, they kind of groan at you and it's got a little warning. And then there's the sound of them loading up, ready to spit.

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[00:13:24] So these things are, what is it? And then what does it mean? And then what do I do as a result of that? It could be you do the same thing because you have to, or it could be you change your behaviour. You slow down, you step back, you turn sideways. That's an interesting one, actually, turning sideways because you're making yourself narrow, rather than, you know, I mentioned Amelia makes herself look big.

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[00:14:08] And they usually like to be just a little bit higher than the The one they're, they're warning off. So she'll dance in front of me sometimes and stand there big and thick. So how do I do, what do I do with that? I recognize that's what's going on. I sometimes have a gentle voice that says, Oh, don't be so silly.

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[00:14:50] I might be advancing towards, and sometimes I, I have a clash with, with, uh, dear old Megan, and she, she's, she stands her ground in the path a bit more. Sometimes I have to give her a chance to think about what's going on, and then she'll turn her head away. Instead of facing at me, she'll turn her head away slightly.

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[00:15:27] How do I do that? I turn sideways. I talk gently. I don't wave my arms around, I don't get all excited, I don't do things quickly, I just take the heat out of the situation, diffuse the situation by being gentle in my speech, in my behavior. And the animals pick up on that. They, okay, okay, it wasn't quite such a threat as I thought it was.

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[00:16:16] Or he's got that little thing he carries around with all those... Needles in, or the syringes, because he's going to do vaccinations or whatever. Then, ah, this is a different thing. Or these are the bits of equipment he uses for shearing. They do know, they do recognize those things, seriously. So they're picking up on those same questions of what is it that I'm seeing?

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[00:17:08] What is it that I noticed today? What were the things I picked up on? Just being attentive is helpful. And then... What does it mean? See if you can put some understanding to the things you've seen. You won't be able to fit all of them into a box, but some of it you'll go, that's what was going on there. And sometimes you get more data because the next thing that they do or other, they do it again and it's nothing to do with you, it's all to do with the animal stood next to them, who's standing deliberately too close, because they do, just to provoke.

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[00:18:15] This is The Alpaca Tribe. And I'm Steve Heatherington.

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