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August 11th, 2003 .  Fighting Gelding


Alpaca Training
I have a two-year-old male alpaca who has suddenly started going after one of my geldings. I understand that his hormones might be raging right now but why a gelding?! 

My males are generally a sweet, docile group. There hasn't been any breeding going on and this guy has not bred yet. The only thing that has changed recently is that they've all been shorn. 

The gelding is a suri and had a big, two year fleece so looks quite different now. I gave the fighter a time-out for a couple of days and I've moved them all away from the girls but when I tried to return him to the group this morning he immediately started up again. 

He still has his fighting teeth so I'm hesitant to just let them fight but I REALLY don't want to have to create another group. If I decide to geld him I won't be able to do it until later this summer or fall. Any ideas?

Alpaca Training
I think you are probably on target that the shearing has something to do with it.  I don't know if it is so much the change in the appearance of the suri....I think all the boys feel better, have more energy and feel more like mixing it up with all that fleece off!  In my experience males often pick on geldings so that part doesn't surprise me.  

I think it is a good idea to move the boys away from the girls but the "time out" is probably not going to help.  When you take an animal away from a group and then return that same animal even an hour later he or she almost always has to submit to a thorough inspection and re-establish his or her place in the herd.  When and if you put this male back in with the group you should expect some fighting as he reminds the others of his place in the group.  Taking him in and out repeatedly is only going to" keep the kettle boiling" so to speak.  

In any case, all adult males (over 2-3 years of age) should have their fighting teeth removed.  The ideal time to remove them is when you geld. However, since you haven't decided for sure yet to geld this male, removing the teeth is not a huge procedure.  You could have the veterinarian come out, lightly sedate the whole group of boys check and remove all the teeth that present a danger and then put them all in together again.  If  you haven't checked the teeth yourself, do that first, depending on the ages you may not even have a problem with the teeth quite yet

I do have a few considerations to make the process of reintroducing the group easier: 

  1. Is the space large enough?  Keeping too many animals in too small a space can amp up the tension and the fighting.
  2. How many feed/shade and watering areas do you have?  Perhaps as important as the size of the enclosure is how it is configured.  Alpacas shouldn't have to compete for limited resources or the animals lowest in the peck order will suffer.  Make sure that you have enough shade, watering stations and hay/grain feeders so that the animals can all partake of these things at the same time.  

    I have heard the rule of thumb 12 inches of space at a hay feeder for each animal.  I think this is a huge underestimation.  A single alpaca can protect three feet of feeder space.  All alpacas should be able to eat in peace.  A single door to the only shady place can be guarded by one bully.  A barn overhang or pop up shader from a discount department store might solve this problem. Multiple vitamin/mineral stations and waterers are also a good idea.  

Once you put the boys back together (the cool of the evening is best)  keep an eye on them but expect fireworks.  You must always use your own best judgment of course but if you can stand the noise, there is no bloodletting and none of the males are significantly smaller than the others it might be best to let them work it out.
good luck.  

~ Marty McGee Bennett



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