It is great to hear you will be coming to a
clinic. There is no substitute for hands on
learning! In the meantime I think a bit of barn
re-arranging will help you with your cria.
I will address the taking the temperature first.
Unless your cria is sick, it would seem to me to be
over doing it to take the temp more than once or
perhaps twice. Always work in a confined area with
the mother right there; attach a cord and a clothes
pin to the thermometer so that you don't have to
worry about it getting broken or slipping all the
way into the rectum. You can let the baby move
around while managing the thermometer. Don't try to
hold the baby still. If you are having trouble
working in a 9 x 9 foot pen, make the pen smaller by
stacking some bales of hay inside.
As far as weighing goes... you didn't say what kind
of scale you have— if you don't own a platform
digital scale you must get one! The only really
appropriate scale for adults is a digital platform
scale and since you need one for the adults, you
will have one for the babies.
Weighing babies in slings or picking them up and
standing on a bathroom scale scares them and creates
behavioral problems just like the one you describe.
I know your question is specifically about weighing
your baby, but I think a discussion of scales and
weighing in general is helpful. So bear with
me as I discuss the whole issue of weighing and
Scales are an important part of good management;
knowing the weight and more importantly any change
in weight will help you keep track of the health of
your herd. In my travels I have seen scales that
were so inaccessible that the animals had to be
haltered and led to a different building entirely.
For a scale to be really useful it should be easy to
use— that means handy to the animals.
Regardless of where your scale lives it will be much
more user friendly if it has a lane way leading to
it and a box around it. Scales that sit out in the
open look scary. It doesn’t matter to your camelid
that the scale is only 2 inches off the ground it is
still scary. It is difficult to herd or lead an
animal up on to a scale that is not in an
enclosure. It is even more difficult to get the
animal to remain on the scale and to stand in
balance to get an accurate weight. Even if your
scale is located in a handy place, but without
enclosure around it, you will probably have to
halter and lead the animal up on the scale.
Haltering each animal to get a weight takes time and
training and needlessly complicates your herd
management. Ideally haltering happens ONLY for
things that are fun and interesting for the animal,
perhaps an interesting walk with time for a bit of
grazing. I can’t list the number of times owners
have described breeding males that practically put
their own halters on.
We can’t promise this level of incentive every time
an animal gets haltered. However, haltering
animals, particularly females, ONLY for unpleasant
chores will certainly have a negative effect on
their attitude about humans.
You will also want weights on young animals that
have not been introduced to a halter and have not
been trained to lead. I have seen handlers
unintentionally terrorize a baby simply to get its
weight. After a few very bad experiences, a
confident, friendly baby can become a spooky
nightmare to handle.
Good barn design can make weighing adults and
youngsters as easy as moving them through the barn.
The area enclosing the scale should be the exact
size of the scale and enclosed with panels. Create
a space in which there are no edges from which to
slip off. The best scale is one for which there is
really no choice for the alpaca but to stand
properly. Weighing babies can be a piece of cake.
Bring mom and baby into the scale enclosure together
and make a note of the weight. Open the front gate
and allow the baby to leave, make a note of the
mothers weight. Let the mother rejoin her baby. Do
the math and you have a weight on the baby without
having to separate him from his mom for more than a
second or two and more importantly you won’t have to
pick the baby up. I think there are very few
experiences that are more frightening to a baby
llama or alpaca than being picked up totally off the
ground by a human. If your scale platform is not
large enough to accommodate both mom and baby, the
baby can be worked through the scale enclosure just
after mom with a minimum of fuss and effort.
There are several companies that sell scales and
advertise in various alpaca publications they aren't
hard to find and they are worth their weight in
gold. I would talk to several breeders that have
one and see what they like or don't like about their
model. I recently heard from an alpaca breeder that
he recommended the llama version even for alpacas
because it was easier to use and comparably priced.