The Watertown Alpaca Chute
Many new alpaca owners have no previous experience with livestock , but even for those who do , a well designed alpaca handling chute makes just about every husbandry and veterinary task easier and safer for both the alpaca and the handler. Annie Austen keeps a herd of some 70 llamas and she designed and manufactured the Watertown Alpaca and Llama Chutes in response to the challenges she encountered managing her own camelids , usually single-handed.
For some simple procedures the chute can be used just to provide a modest level of containment , but for more challenging tasks a degree of restraint may be needed . When the movement of the alpaca's head and neck has to be restricted the padded neck bars or yoke towards the front of the chute are used to deter the alpaca from lunging forward , whilst four straps at the front snap on to the halter to prevent him from trying to reverse . The neck bars form a V shape and are easily pushed in closer on a ratchet , but with a quick release in an emergency . The distance between the bars at the base is also adjustable to suit the age or size of the alpaca , and in an emergency can be unclipped at the base. Two padded belly straps beneath the alpaca prevent the animal from cushing or putting a strain on the neck , and a padded withers strap can also be deployed to stop the animal rearing up. All the straps tighten easily on cam buckles and are quick to release in the case of an emergency.
This degree of restraint is ideal for pregnancy scanning when valuable equipment is involved and for taking bloods, or any other task where the alpaca`s head needs to be kept still such as eye, ear or teeth treatments . It is especially useful for drenching as the nose can be elevated by tightening the top halter straps which naturally aids swallowing , and there is no need to actually hold the alpaca's muzzle which so many seem to object to. Even for those who don't feel very confident about giving injections, this is a great way to learn as you can really take your time , calmly picking the site, parting the fleece and administering the dose, on an animal who really isn't going anywhere . It is also much easier to microchip an alpaca who is keeping perfectly still, and of course to treat skin conditions in all those sensitive places. So what about toe nails? The protective side panels on either side just lift off to give access to the alpaca's feet, and with the belly straps in play there is no chance that the alpaca will cush at the first sign of the toe nail nippers, so it couldn't be simpler.
There are so many uses that the chute can be put to, including a solution to the problem of the new Mum who won't let the newborn cria nurse . Once the dam is secured in the chute the cria can easily be put to her mother , whilst the dam is being calmly reassured by her owner . Equally , if the dam needs to be hand-milked this can be much more easily achieved by using the chute to secure her.
With pre-export , pre-sale and contiguous tb testing becoming increasingly commonplace , the chute provides much needed handling equipment for performing both the skin test and the blood draw , and of course in the case of contiguous testing the onus is on the alpaca owner to provide suitable facilities to safely carry out these two tests. After use the chute can be thoroughly disinfected as the frame is galvanised , the floor is aluminium treadplate and the straps are all washable.
The deluxe version of the Watertown Alpaca Chute has optional gates front and rear which lift on and off and are reversible so can hang on the left or right . For quick simple procedures such as whole herd vaccinations the front gate can be used in place of the neck bars , and the alpacas can be herded through the chute one at a time , by opening and shutting the gates . When inside the alpaca receives his injection before being released out of the front gate , and the next one then comes in behind him. The chute is the perfect width to house platform scales so he can also be routinely weighed at the same time.
If you are lucky enough to have a helper then that person can of course be offering calm reassurance and even foodie treats to the alpaca whilst in in the chute , and as the chute is galvanised it can be left out in all weathers. The recommendation is to position it somewhere in the yard or barn where the alpacas will routinely be around it and or have to walk through it on a daily basis to come in and out. This way they very soon become accustomed to it.
More information , prices and video demonstrations of the chute in use can be found on www.watertownllamas.co.uk and on the Facebook page Watertown Llama and Alpaca Chute