Herd Health Toes
Herd Health "Toes"
Fall is the time to make sure all your herd health projects are done and the animals are ready for the weather ahead. This includes vaccinations, worming, health checks, micro chipping, and those all important toes. Because llamas and alpacas are flight animals they tend to be very protective of their feet. After all, if you pick up their foot you have taken away their means of defense! You can wrestle them to the ground and force the issue or you can make this a pleasant experience for both you and the animal for the next 20 years. We prefer the latter option!
Once you have followed all the steps in the article on beginning training your animal will trust you to be in their space. The next step is trust you to pick up a foot. Start with a toilet brush. Use the toilet brush to rub up and down their legs so that you can keep contact even if the animal kicks or moves. If he moves, let him move just move with him. Soon he will realize that the brush doesn't hurt. If fact it may feel good. Next move in closer and run your hand up and down the leg until you can pick up the foot. If the animal becomes frightened, give him back his foot. You want him to trust that you will let him run if he is in danger. (However, don't just give the foot back if he moves a little or wants it back...only if he is truly frightened. ) When you pick up the foot, say "Foot" firmly. He will learn to pick up his foot on command. (I know this because my oldest daughter was training llamas with this command when she was about eight years old. She would walk up to her llama in the field say "foot" and he picked it up until told to put it down)
If you follow these steps and don't rush, within a week or two you should be able to quietly and calmly trim toes without a struggle. Try to do your toe trimming early in the morning when there is dew on the grass as this will make them much softer and easier to trim. Also be sure to check between the toes for any lice or fungus issues and check the pads for cuts or sores. To reduce the number of times trimming is needed you may want to pour a concrete apron around the feed and watering areas so that they will naturally keep the toes worn down when the animals eat and drink. If you cut too close to the quick and cause bleeding spray the area with a little antibiotic and powder it with blood stop if necessary.