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Weaning Process (Ollie Series #6)

May 3, 2013

If you remember at the three-month mark, Ollie required a couple of bottle feedings daily to give him a little extra nutrition.

Well, only a few short weeks after I fed him a bottle, he was completely off bottles altogether! (I am so glad I got to feed him when I did!) Although he still got a little milk from Duchess, Ollie was mostly eating with the other alpacas, having hay and some grain. (This was all perfectly normal, and meant that he was growing up like any other little alpaca!) Part of the early stages of weaning is when the crias can eat in the “cria creep,” which is a little fenced-off area that only the crias are small enough to fit into.

Cria Creep

A cria creep is an enclosed area that is big enough for crias to get into but small enough to keep adults out. It helps to begin the weaning process and teaches crias to eat with other alpacas.

That way, the crias can eat like the adults and be near them, but they also start being more of a “mini herd” with each other and learn independence.

Ollie and Tiva

Ollie and Tiva eat inside the cria creep together.

On February 5, I got an email from Sara saying that Ollie began weaning! *proud* This is because Foggy Bottom begins weaning either at 6 months or 60 pounds, and Ollie hit 62.6 pounds.

This is the general guideline for weaning, but it is still best to look at the cria as an individual and make a judgment based on its own merits, while using the guidelines as… well… guidelines. 🙂 This means that Sara and her parents did not decide to wean Ollie based solely on his weight, but also on other factors that they observed about him, such as his independence, how well he eats on his own already, his interaction with Duchess, his interaction with other alpacas, and more. In particular, here is what Sara had to say about Ollie:

Some crias hit the 60 pound mark really early, but they aren’t “mature” enough to be weaned from mom. Since [Ollie] is so independent naturally, we knew he would be okay because he is 4.5 months old already.

This was an exciting time for me as his adoptive mom since it meant that he was that much closer to living at Linda’s (and thusly right near me!). But, I also had to be patient, as the first and most important thing to know about weaning is that it is a process, not an event, which means that it takes time and should not be rushed. Typically, weaning takes about a month, but it depends on the cria. (I suspected Ollie’s would be pretty speedy, and I was right! It took about three weeks.) As a bonus, the weaning process was pretty comical thanks to the individual personalities of the alpacas. Let’s take a closer look at how it all worked and the antics behind it!

In the beginning, Ollie was first separated from Duchess only for a few hours during the day in a fenced-in area that is right next to where Duchess spends her time. This way, he could still see her, but did not have direct access to her. Gradually, Ollie’s time with the other weanlings was increased until, after a couple weeks, Sara and her parents kept him overnight with them to see how he did. With Ollie still thriving, he spent more and more nights with them. Eventually, it was clear the weaning was successful, so they gave Duchess a couple more weeks near the weanlings before she was moved to the barn that houses the females. At this point, Ollie’s weaning was complete, and he now spends all of his time in the weanling area, having adventures during the day and sleeping with his friends at night. According to Sara, he fits right in, and they are one big happy group!

First, let’s see how Duchess took the separation…

Duchess Stares

Sara: “I told Duchess that Ollie was not here anymore and she just stared at me.” Photo © Foggy Bottom Alpacas

True to her casualness as a mom, she didn’t even notice Ollie was gone. This is just another way that Duchess is a good mom—she practically weaned Ollie herself!

As for Ollie, he was not weaned alone and shared a pen with about a dozen other crias who were undergoing various stages of the weaning process themselves. Alpacas are herd animals and don’t like to be alone, anyway, but going through a process like weaning all by yourself, well… that’s no fun! The weanlings got all the food and water they wanted, and extra attention from Sara and her parents to help ease the transition. Ollie did so well that when it was time for him to go back to Duchess after his first four-hour stint with the other weanlings, he did not want to leave the weanling area… Sara had to physically carry him back to Duchess (no small feat with a sixty-pound alpaca!)! Ollie began to wait at the entrance to the weanling area in the mornings, ready to go back and be with his friends (though Sara suspected it may also be because he gets breakfast over there!).

About a week in, I went to visit Ollie to see how he was getting on. First, the weanlings ate…

Weanling Trough

Ollie eats with the other weanlings at the trough. RainMan is eating with Ollie, then the little white one on the left is Tiva, Rupert is behind her, and Magnus is in the back. Duchess was kept on the other side of the fence that Magnus is next to, and that is where Ollie was returned at night time before he was completely weaned. (Evie is the very curious one in the lower right!)

(Apparently, eating is really hard work because later Ollie was sitting next to the trough, cozying up to it like he was ready to take a nap.)


Ollie seems to really like the trough… (Incidentally, when alpacas sit like that, it is called “kushing”!)

After mealtime, the weanlings went exploring…

Ollie and Magnus

Ollie and Magnus are half-brothers, and Magnus is actually a full brother to Linda’s Mr. Jones! All three boys have Kingscliff as their dad. Photo © Foggy Bottom Alpacas

At one point, Ollie wandered over to a gate that was open…

Come This Way!

“I am so glad you’re here! Come on, I want to show you where I play! This gate wasn’t open yesterday, so it is new and exciting!”

He then went about exploring the snow, as you can see…

Snowy Face

Ollie got snow on his face while he was exploring the ground for edibles.

I told him he had snow on his face and so he came closer so I could get a better picture.

Snowy Face Close-up

“What? Did you say I have snow on my face? That’s okay, it’s what all the fashionable crias are wearing this season!”

See how his ears are flattened? He is uncertain about me, so he is being a little cautious. 🙂

Then he went to go contemplate deep cria thoughts by the fenceline…

Free Spirit

“I am a free spirit that cannot be caged! Mr. Independent! *sigh*”

Throughout the weaning process, Sara and her parents observed Ollie closely, checking that he was gaining weight steadily and was overall still healthy and adjusting well.

Visiting Barb

Ollie comes to visit Barb as she checks on how the weanlings are doing.

So, as we can see, little Ollie did just fine during the weaning process! Sara and her parents took great care of him, and now he spends his days with his friends in the weanling pen, plotting adventures and seeking fun! Duchess is back with the other females, awaiting the next time she will become a mom. Let’s check back in with her once more as we sign off for today…

Ollie Who?

“Ollie who?”

If you can believe it, the next installment in the Ollie series will be when he comes home and begins life with me and Linda’s alpacas! (I think someone else will have to take pictures that day because I will be too busy flailing in excitement.)

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