Thursday, August 8, 2013

Building Unity Farm - Followup on Our Breeding Program

As I mentioned in last week's post, the next step after breeding alpacas (and llamas) is a pregnancy evaluation known as the spit test.

A male and a female are placed together and if the female, kicks, spits, and generally shows disdain for the male, she is pregnant.    

On Saturday, we placed Midas (our gold colored male) with Ella (mother of 2 alpacas) together in our pasture.  Immediately, Ella spit, kicked and placed her body against a fence line so that Midas could not approach her.   We quickly returned her to the barn.   It appears that she is pregnant but we'll know definitively in 11 months.

We placed Midas and Persia (a maiden) together in the pasture.   Persia nuzzled Midas and then placed herself in a breeding position.  She's likely not pregnant.  We left them alone for several hours and we'll try another spit test this weekend.

We found another Guinea nest in forest and now have 63 fertile eggs to tend.  We have two incubators  - one from Farm Innovations and another from GQF giving us a total capacity of 83 eggs.   We have a brooder from GQF and use heat lamps and large Rubbermaid bins for older chicks.

Guineas are wonderful birds and have kept our 15 acres of forest free of ticks.   Every night they come home to roost in the chicken coop - except when the females get broody and decide to sit on nests in the forests next to fox dens, fisher cat holes, and coyote hunting trails.   Needless to say, there is a high mortality rate for broody hens that stay out overnight and we've lost 4 birds this season.  Unless we keep the guineas penned 24 hours a day (which would be cruel), there will be attrition.   By collecting the eggs from forest nests, we'll be able to keep our guinea population stable.    Since the eggs we gather from the forest are of an unknown age and fertility, we'll likely see a 50% hatch rate and an 80% 4 week survival rate for the chicks.   Although adult guineas are much more robust than chickens, the chicks are very fragile.    So 63*.5*.8 means that a few weeks from now we'll have 25 more guineas running around the farm yard.  Transforming eggs from the forest to birds in the barnyard is definitely a learning experience for us and I'll report back on our success rate.

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