March 1st, 2004 . Undoing
the Damage of Poor Treatment
I had one of my females come home after being away
for three months being bred. She "was" a feisty, attitudinal
Accoyo. She came back 30 lbs. less than when she left, and also
had some kind of a wound on her back which we have finally
gotten cleared up after more than a month of treatment. Not to
mention, she had mites and tapeworms! This poor girl has been
through heck and to top it off, I think the breeder tried to
"break" her of her attitude. (I've seen the breeder in the ring
with her animals and they are trained to a "T"!)
This girl would kick if you touched her rear, and spitting
wasn't something she was shy to attempt. She was born and
raised on the farm where I purchased her. While she wasn't the
friendliest alpaca, she was never mistreated there, they
accepted her personality as it was.
Now, when you try to get a hold of her, she sticks her head
through the corral panel as if to get away. She also has a look
in her eyes she's never had before, she is terrified! I've had
her back home now for a few days.
She'd been at the farm where I'd bought her for treatment of all
her problems. When the previous owner came over to see her, she
couldn't believe it was the same animal!
My question (after my long winded venting!!) is....what can I do
to help her become less afraid and more trusting? She is in
with two other females (also purchased from the same farm) that
she grew up
with and all of their crias.
The breeding farm also had a female in their care die the day
before my girls (they actually had two of my animals and the
second one came home with an abscess on her jaw), just before
The explanation was that the female that died was injured
fighting with another female. I feel that my girls were in the
same enclosure and had to fight for their very existence.
You would never know this from talking to the breeder or seeing
the farm. I am furious and while I know there is nothing I can
do except nor recommend their services, I am hopeful you can
help me help my girl get back to being her old feisty self!
I am so sorry you had such a terrible experience.
Before I answer your specific question I want to
take this opportunity to advise others how they can
avoid this scenario:
Sending your alpaca into the care of another farm or
ranch is an important decision and one that should
be driven not just by how much you want the services
of the male but how your animals will be cared for.
Sending a maiden female or one without a cria at
foot is less risky than sending off a new mother. I
think new mothers should be rebred at home or sent
to a stud close-by. Long trailer rides, settling in
at a new place only to be relocated in a few months
are all very hard on a new baby as well as the mom.
I understand that there are studs in distant places
that are appealing... go for it... but know that
there are real risks involved. If something goes
wrong you must take responsibility for taking the
risk and not just blame the breeder.
In any case, before I sent my female off to be bred
ideally I would visit the ranch myself so I know how
the animals are housed and cared for. If this is not
practical then at the very least ,I would track down
people that have bred animals to this stud and call
and chat with them. Asking for references is a good
idea but any breeder is going to provide you with
references from happy customers - you might do
better investigating on your own.
As far as getting her back to normal... it sounds
like she was not easy to begin with and difficult
animals often bring grief into their lives because
they are not very adaptable. Her basic personality
is probably why her experience being sent out for
breeding was extra difficult for her. Don't get me
wrong, it sounds as if the breeding farm has some
responsibility for her bad experience but when
selecting which animals are candidates for outside
breeding, basic personality might be a good factor
to consider along with conformation, finances, etc.
I hate to use platitudes, but time will help. Once
you have her back on her home ground she will settle
in and return to her more normal self although this
could take quite awhile. Difficult animals, like the
one you describe, are slower to trust and slower to
forgive than more easy going animals. I would
suggest reading the article on my website "Retraining
the Problem Import" for specific ideas about
things to do with her to help her regain her trust
more completely and more quickly. Even though this
was an outside breeding and not an importation, the
experience as you describe it is would be very
similar... new locations, lots of different handlers
and routines, lots of animals, crowding and
competition. This article has suggestions and
techniques with photos and more detail than is
I am sure she will return to her old self maybe
~ Marty McGee Bennett