A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 21, 2009

How Precocious!

Well our new bay windows have certainly paid off already.  While having lunch yesterday I gazed out of our new beautiful windows and could see one of the alpacas by the fence line.  As I looked I realized something was wrong with the picture.  What was wrong was the alpaca was walking out of the pasture gate and was now on the wrong side of the fence!  Our Annochia had just executed a pretty smooth exit from the pasture!

Annochia is now 15 months old and her hormones are talking to her.  She has been cushing for the male spring crias who enjoy trying out their future role as herdsires and she has also been mounting other females.  Because of Annochia’s behavior we have moved her from the main female group and put her in with a smaller group of more mature females who will not tolerate her mounting them.

Annochia has settled in well with her new pasture mates, but apparently still has her mind on other matters.  So it was that yesterday she managed to work open the gate latch and head straight for the male alpacas.   Obviously in Annochia’s mind we have not been paying attention to her needs, she feels she is ready to breed and was heading off to find a suitable date.  While we appreciate Annochia’s ingenuity it is a bit early for us to start our fall breedings and we usually don’t breed our maiden females until they are at least 18 months old.  So Annochia is going to have to wait a little longer before she has her first date.

Of course once Annochia’s pasture mates saw that Annochia was out they soon followed suit.  Willow (our usual escapologist who must have now passed on her knowledge to Annochia) galloped off leaving her cria Whisper behind (bad Willow!), Bjorn and her cria McKinley were next out of the gate and then Carissima brought up the rear.

Our lunch came to an abrupt halt while we rounded the girls up and herded them back to their pasture, where Lady Belle, Keeva and little Whisper were waiting.  A pin has now been inserted in the gate latch to prevent Annochia from opening it again and we had better start thinking who Annochia’s first date will be, before she figures out another way to escape from the pasture in pursuit of romance!

Rosemary

September 8, 2009

Snake Herding

Monday morning as I was happily scooping the poop in the girls pasture I noticed some of the crias paying attention to something outside the fence line.  I couldn’t see what was causing their distraction but thought it was most likely a rabbit.

A short while later though the attention had moved to the middle of the pasture and now along with the crias were Inca (one of the guard llamas) and Cinnamon.  Just looking at Inca and Cinnamon I could tell that something was amiss – they both were dancing, their tails held high and their necks stretched forward toward something on the ground.  At first I thought it was a stick and then I realized it was moving and the stick was in fact a snake.

I went over to see what sort of snake it was; if it was a rattle snake something would have to be done quickly as the attention of the alpacas and llamas would surely annoy it (snakes are not very sociable creatures and prefer not to be the center of attention!).

Fortunately the snake was a bull snake, about four feet long and the brown and tan variety, unlike the black and yellow bull snake I had seen earlier in the summer.  Still I didn’t think the snake would be too pleased about the attention the girls and crias were giving it so I needed to try and get it out of the pasture without the alpacas or llamas annoying it along the way.

Armed with my poop shovel in one hand and the rake in the other I decided that it would be easiest to follow the snake to the fence line using the shovel and the rake to keep any inquisitive noses away.  Of course once word got around the pasture that something different was happening the whole herd gathered to look at the snake.  The snake was very cooperative and made his way across the pasture with me walking behind him and the shovel and rake at either side of him.  Theresa got a little brave at one point and tried hard to get closer to the snake but I was able to guide her away with the rake and keep her from getting too close.  I did have to chuckle though as walked behind the snake guiding him on his way, it was just as if I was using the shovel and rake as we use the herding wands to move the alpacas when we need to, but this time I was herding one well behaved snake.

Soon the snake was through the pasture fence and headed down the driveway, my first attempt at snake herding had been successful and the girls and crias could go back to eating their hay.  I’m not sure my snake herding would be so successful with more than one snake and I am pretty sure that if the snake had been a rattle snake I would be using the shovel for a different purpose than herding snakes!  Let’s hope the rattle snakes stay away from the pasture and I never have to find out!

Rosemary

September 7, 2009

Sometimes You Just Have to Spit!

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from people who are meeting alpacas for the first time is “Do they spit?”  It is sad that many people automatically associate alpacas and llamas with spitting as it is one small part of their behavior and it is something that occurs far less often than many people think.  On the whole alpacas and llamas are docile animals who are happiest going about their business.

Yes alpacas and llamas can spit, it is part of their vocabulary to other alpacas or llamas (usually saying “get out of my feed” or “stop annoying me”), and it is also a part of their defense mechanism.  Llamas and alpacas have very few ways to defend themselves and spit is one of those few ways.  If someone or something does something to a llama or alpaca which they really don’t like then they can spit as a way to startle that person or thing and stop whatever is annoying them.

We recently had a farm visitor who had been to a county fair where there was a camel on display.  The camel was being used to give rides and apparently had a ring through his nose so that his handler could lead him.  Our farm visitor witnessed a teenage boy go up to the camel and pull hard on the camel’s nose ring – and guess what, the camel spit at him.  Who can blame the camel for doing so.  No doubt that pull on the nose ring hurt the camel and the only way he could communicate his displeasure was by spitting.  Hopefully that teenage boy will never repeat his behavior again.

Our herd of alpacas and our three guard llamas are all laid back animals.  Farm visitors unfamiliar with alpacas and llamas are given a brief rundown of good pasture etiquette resulting in a happy, fun farm visit for both them and the animals.

Sometimes though we find ourselves in a position where we need to communicate to one of the alpacas that their behavior is inappropriate.  Such an occasion happened over the weekend when young Annochia kept mounting and attempting to breed Dream.  Now Annochia and Dream are both females so Annochia’s breeding attempt was never going to be successful.  Rather it is an indication to me that either one or both of those young ladies is reaching maturity and there is some hormonal confusion.  While Annochia’s behavior could be considered innocuous it is something I want to discourage.  If she continually tries to mount and breed Dream it could cause a retained CL in Dream causing her to be non receptive when the time comes to breed her.

Initially I tried removing Annochia from Dream, that worked for a little while but Annochia hung around close to Dream and as soon as I started to walk away Annochia would start to orgle and try and mount Dream again.  After several times of trying to remove Annochia from Dream I knew that I needed to talk to Annochia in “stronger language”.   The next time Annochia went to mount Dream I spit at her just as another alpaca would.  Now when I say spit I am talking of an “air spit” where there is the spitting noise but no accompanying regurgitated slime (I am sure you will be pleased to know that!).  At the first air spit Annochia turned away, I then followed up with a series of air spits and at that point Annochia got the message, walked away and left Dream alone.

I don’t recommend spitting at your llamas or alpacas as a part of your daily routine.  It is much better to use other methods of communicating with them as a rule, but once in a while the other methods just don’t get through and then you just have to spit.  Done right and in the right circumstances it does work and is quite effective.

Rosemary

September 6, 2009

It’s hard to have a cria when your back’s against the wall!

Bjorn's cria - glad to have found his way into the world!

Bjorn's cria - glad to have found his way into the world!

That’s what we had to tell Bjorn yesterday as she tried to deliver her cria.

Yesterday wasn’t particularly a hot day, but it was a humid day making it feel hotter than it actually was.  As we fed the girls in the morning I noticed Bjorn cushed shortly after eating which was unusual for her.  Sure enough she was in labor and once we let her out of the pen where she eats she made her way to the shade of the shelter.

As Bjorn’s labor progressed she wandered around the pasture.  I prepared a pen to put her in once her cria had been delivered.  Being on dry lot I prefer to have a pen with blankets or bedding to put new crias and their dams into so that they can bond after birthing.

Bjorn was definitely seeking out the cool breeze of the fan, but she had strong competition for the prime spot immediately in front of the fan.  Ivanna had already staked her claim to a spot in front of the fan and Black Prince and Buccaneer were cushed there also.

Before long I could see the nose of Bjorn’s cria emerge, but by now Bjorn had firmly wedged herself in front of the fan with her rear pressed up against the wall of the shelter blocking the cria from making any progress.  I tried to move Bjorn so that there was space behind her but as fast as I moved her she moved herself back.  The crias nose came out and went back in again at least twice, and once the cria’s head and feet had fully emerged Bjorn was pushing but there was nowhere for the  cria to go.

Eventually I manage to get Bjorn’s rear away from the shelter wall and with a few more pushes she delivered her cria a large white boy.

Bjorn usually has large crias and at 19.8 lbs this was one of her smallest cria.  You would have thought that Bjorn would be anxious to get her cria delivered quickly rather than position herself to where her cria could not come out.

Bjorn’s cria didn’t seem any worse for wear once he was fully delivered, and was cushed and then up on his feet in a short while.  Bjorn though looked tired after the birthing and took her time resting after the cria was born, but some MSE drench, a bowl of alfalfa and a nice cold bucket of water to drink soon had her up on her feet again.

So we have another white boy to add to our herd.  He’s a handsome looking cria with bright white silky fleece and the dense bone of his sire Zin.  I think he will be quite the good looking lad as he grows up and will be competitive enough to take part in the white classes at the alpaca shows once he is of age.   Now he’s finally out I suspect nothing will stop him!

Rosemary

September 1, 2009

Beautiful Day, Beautiful Cria

Willow's New Cria

Willow's New Cria

Monday was a beautiful day, temperatures were in the 80’s, a light breeze was drifting across the pasture and everywhere was damp from rain we had received the night before.  It was New Mexico at its best with bright blue skies, brilliant sunshine and some fluffy white clouds in the sky.

Willow must have thought it a beautiful day too for that morning she went into labor.  I first noticed her looking restless at 9:40 a.m., she was sitting on one hip her legs kicked out to one side.  After a while she would get up and walk around then cush again rolling onto one hip or the other.  From there she started pushing a little harder and making those frequent visits to the poop pile that are often a sign of labor in alpacas.  Then her contractions became very strong and she cushed again, rolling onto one hip and pushing hard.

I could see progress was being made and so left Willow alone (that’s the hardest part of watching an alpaca in labor sometimes!).  Soon I could see a little white foot and nose emerging from Willow, followed shortly by another little white foot.  When I saw Willow was between contractions I moved her to a pen so that she could finish labor in peace without being bothered by the rest of the herd.

At 10:40 the cria was born, a shiny bright, snowy white female cria – beautiful!  The cria looked quite small, but when I picked her up she felt heavier than she looked, perhaps an indication of some good heavy bone.  Willow is not a large alpaca and Treasure the cria’s sire is an average sized alpaca and so I expected that the offspring from that pairing would not be huge.  Later when I weighed Willow’s cria she was 14.7 lbs. a nice weight for a smaller dam to deliver.

A Close Up of Willow's Cria's Fleece - if only you could feel it!

A Close Up of Willow's Cria's Fleece - if only you could feel it!

There is no doubting that Treasure is the sire of this little girl for she has his outstanding brightness to her fleece and that silky, slightly waxy handle.  The pairing of Willow and Treasure was a good one and I think this little girl will be one to watch out for.

The usual routine of the day went out of the window as I spent time watching Willow and her cria, making sure Willow passed her afterbirth without problem and that the cria found Willow’s udder and had a good nurse.   Later I let the pair out in a pen so that the cria could stretch her legs and have a trot around, and as she discovered that her legs would carry her well and fast, so Willow ran beside her not wanting to let her new baby out of her sight.

Days like those are just one of the advantages of being an alpaca rancher.  For those first precious hours of that cria’s life you can put the routine to one side and just enjoy the miracle of a new life.  I think you have to agree it’s not a bad way to earn a living is it!

Rosemary

August 30, 2009

Mags Makes An Appearance

Yes, Mags made an appearance on Friday; he appeared beside me by one of the poop piles, which would have been fine except that the poop pile was not in the pen where Mags stays.

I had been busy scooping poop in the mature male’s pen when Mags made his appearance.  Mags always likes to check out what I am doing and often stands on the fence line when I am working in the mature male’s pen which is adjacent to the junior male’s pen where Mags stays.   On Friday I guess Mags decided that it was time to venture into pastures new and hopped over the dividing fence.  I have to give him credit for his skill in jumping the fence, I didn’t even hear him land and I was close by to where he landed.  Very graceful jumping Mags!

One minute I was scooping poop alone, the next minute there was Mags furry face beside me.  Of course Mags had no idea that he had just invaded the territory of the more senior male alpacas, but Tobiano and Asteroid soon spotted the intruder and started heading his way.  Fortunately Mags can be easily guided and so I quickly led him to the gate between the two pens and put him back where he belonged just as Tobiano also reached the gate ready to take on the young punk who had just invaded his space – phew!  I think Mags would have had a rude awakening had Tobiano reached him before I did.

It didn’t take much to figure out how Mags was so easily able to jump the dividing fence.  Our spring winds had piled dirt against the fence line reducing our five foot fence to a three foot fence, a height that was no challenge to a rapidly growing Mags.

Saturday morning saw Ric out with the tractor removing the built up dirt by the fence line.  We had never had one of the boys think about jumping the fence before but now it had been done once we didn’t want to risk it happening again.   Next time Mags makes an appearance it will probably be at our Open Farm Day a much safer venue than the mature male’s pen!

Rosemary

August 17, 2009

Preparing for Baby

It’s interesting to watch our pregnant dams as they get closer to the end of their pregnancy.  Their pregnant bump grows larger and often changes shape as the cria repositions itself during the day.  Sometimes the cria looks to be all on one side, other times the cria looks as if it has dropped right down in the dams abdomen and at the very end of the pregnancy the cria looks as if it is about to pop out of the dam at any moment as it stretches its legs causing movement at the base of the dam’s tail.

Some dams, such as our Queen, develop a voracious appetite and seem to spend their day constantly eating.  Others slow down their eating, delicately nibbling here and there and taking their time to chew their cud often.

When the weather is warm we often find our heavily pregnant dams parked in front of the fan.  The extra weight of the cria they are carrying generates more body heat and they need the opportunity to spend time in a nice cool spot.

We often notice that our late term dams “pick their spot”.   They will spend more and more time in one particular spot in the pasture, often an area a little way from the rest of the herd.  This spot usually ends up being where they go to when they start labor.  Alpacas don’t “nest” as such, but they do seem to find comfort in being in that spot that they have picked once labor starts.  This isn’t to say that the cria will be born in that spot as once labor starts the dams can move around quite a bit as they push and work on getting their cria delivered.   Unless something drives them away from that spot then often the cria will be delivered not far away from the area where the dam has spent many hours in her final weeks of pregnancy.

Willow is due to have her cria at the end of August and she has already picked out her spot in the pasture.  Last time she delivered her cria she did so in our large blue shelter, but the weather had dictated that choice as she delivered during a sandstorm.  Willow is smart enough to know that the shelter was a much more comfortable place to deliver a cria when the wind and dust are blowing.

This year Willow’s spot is in one of the pens that we use to feed the llamas every morning.  It has now become part of Willow’s routine that once she has been fed and the llamas have been let out of their pens that she make her way over to the one llama pen where she carefully cushes on the ground.  Once she is comfortably cushed she sits there for at least an hour, sometimes more, her ears back a little, sometimes flickering as her cria gives her a swift kick or two.  Willow doesn’t look uncomfortable during this time but you can tell something is going on.

You can bet we will be watching Willow as she gets closer to her delivery date, particularly when we see her over in her “spot”.  Let’s hope the llamas have finished eating by the time Willow decides to go into labor, or else there could be competition for that selected spot!

Rosemary

August 16, 2009

Is it Love?

Is This Love?  Black Prince Tries His Luck With Annochia While Little Man Looks On

Is This Love? Black Prince Tries His Luck With Annochia While Little Man Looks On

 

It’s fun to watch the young crias growing up and see the antics they get up to.  To them the world is a great place to explore and they have to check everything out, whether it be by looking, sniffing or tasting.

Chai’s cria Black Prince (who may well become Dark Prince if we decide he is not black when we come to register him) is a curious cria with a neat personality.  Black Prince is nicely curious without pushing any boundaries of inappropriate behavior.  He loves to see what we are doing, following us around when we are putting out hay and coming up for a brief visit when we are in the pasture.  Black Prince has also discovered that the fan produces a nice breeze and is the first in front of the fan every morning.  By the afternoon he has become bored with sitting in front of the fan and will go out into the pasture to play with the other crias or lounge in the sun.

Recently though Black Prince has had other things on his mind as he appears to have fallen in love with Annochia.  Annochia being close to a year old is a lot bigger than Black Prince but does not seem put off by her suitors size or age.  The first time I noticed Black Prince with Annochia they were lying side by side in the pasture, their necks entwined, fast asleep in the sunshine.  From there things have progressed and now Black Prince has turned his thoughts to breeding.

Fortunately Black Prince is nowhere near breeding age, if he was we would put him in the junior male pen safely away from the females, but Black Prince doesn’t realize that and has been making attempts to breed Annochia.  His inexperience shows though as often we find him on Annochia’s neck facing her rear end.  Other times he is facing the right way, but he is so small compared to Annochia that he ends up sitting on top of her with all four feet tucked underneath him.

Annochia is very tolerant of her young paramour and sits chewing her cud while he clambers all over her.  When Black Prince is in her way one quick shake by Annochia unseats him from his perch on top of her and deposits him in the dirt.  Not that Black Prince is offended by Annochia’s unceremonious dumping of him, he just dusts himself off and either goes off to play with another cria or settles down to cush beside Annochia.

It’s funny that often young male crias will find one female in the pasture who they are particularly attracted to.  When Windrush White Blast was a cria he fell hard for a visiting young female called Annie.  Windrush Zindel’s Pride was besotted by our girl Windrush Ashling’s Dream (although with that pairing we did separate them as Pride was getting close to six months old and Dream was actively cushing for him).  Now Black Prince has his sights set on Annochia, a pairing that I don’t see happening at any time in the future, but until Black Prince gets a little older we will allow him to enjoy his first love!

 

Rosemary

August 14, 2009

Is the Monsoon Season Returning?

Filed under: alpaca, alpaca behavior, alpaca behaviour, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias — Tags: , — alpacalady @ 6:24 am

This week has seen a monsoon weather pattern return to the dry high plains of eastern New Mexico.  It used to be that every August we would see regular afternoon storms with heavy rainfall, high winds, lightning and hail, but for several years now that pattern has been broken.

Monday saw a tremendous storm blow into the area.  Heavy rain, plentiful lighting, hail and 60 mph winds make quite a powerful combination!  At one point we could not see anything through our house windows except for a grey sheet of rain water and bits of tree that were hitting the windows.

As the storm approached it kept changing direction and the alpacas were confused as to which shelter would be the best to head for.  Eventually they decided that they needed to head for any available shelter and the whole herd took cover.

Once the rain had died down the alpacas started to venture out, which would have been fine except that the pastures now contained several inches of standing water and there was still a lot of lightning close by.  The thought of lightning hitting the pastures while the alpacas were standing in the water was not a good one.

Fortunately the lightning stayed away from the pastures and once the weather died down the alpacas were able to enjoy the new adventure of wading in the water.  The crias had a great time galloping through the new “lake” and in the junior males pen Mags and Pride amused themselves by pursuing one of the hay buckets that was bobbing around the pasture.

Chores that evening were later than usual as the storm lasted a good couple of hours.  With so much standing water it was impractical to try and put out feed bowls (although it would be interesting to see what the alpacas would think of floating feed bowls) and so all we could do was move the hay feeders to dry areas of the pasture, put out fresh hay and check that the water buckets had fresh water.  The alpacas also received a treat of the downed tree branches which they soon stripped of their leaves.

The monsoon pattern has continued through the week and Ric and I realized it has been several years since we have seen such a consistent monsoon pattern at this time of the year.  We have also realized that we need to adjust evening chore time to make sure chores are done before the storms arrive in the evening.

It would be nice if the moonsoon pattern would once again become a regular event at this time of the year, but we will have to wait until next year to see if there is a chance of that.

Rosemary

August 5, 2009

The Heat Is Back

A Very Pregnant Willow Keeps Cool

A Very Pregnant Willow Keeps Cool

 

After being thoroughly spoilt with some cooler temperatures and rain we are now back to experiencing triple digit heat.

 

Having been shorn in the late spring our alpacas are at least experiencing the heat minus their fleeces, but they still seek out the shade and enjoy the cool breezes created by the fans in the shelters. The crias seem to feel the heat the least and still find the energy to have a chase around the pasture now and again. Black Prince though has been well taught by his dam Chai and was found in the prime position in front of the fan yesterday afternoon. I can guarantee that if there is rain, snow or extreme heat Chai will be one of the first alpacas to take up residence in the shelter and she teaches her crias to always secure their place in the shelter at the earliest chance.

 

Our newly arrived visiting alpacas Mira Bella, Lady Belle and Jillie Belle are probably relishing the fact that our heat does not come along with the humidity that is present at their home farm in Louisiana. Still though they have taken to sitting in front of the fan in the shelter. With only the three of them in the quarantine pasture it is easy for them to spend the whole day in their shelter nibbling on the hay, sipping cool water and enjoying the shade and breeze. At times it would be easy to think that the quarantine pen has been abandoned, but by the evening the three girls come out at the first rattle of the feed bowls. Little Jillie Belle also tries to join in with the cria games that she sees taking part in the main pasture, a few more weeks and we can let her in with the main herd and give her the chance to run and play with the other crias.

 

It seems like the spring breedings have only just finished, yet already we are starting to keep a close watch on the two girls who are due to have late summer/early fall crias. Willow is due to have her cria by Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure at the end of August, her cria “bump” is quite large (and perhaps a little exaggerated by her compact body style) and she waddles around the pasture these days. Bjorn is due to have her cria by Enchantment’s Prince Regent at the beginning of September, her cria “bump” has been large and very active for several months now and Bjorn’s appetite is telling us that she once again is carrying a large cria. Bjorn’s crias are usually over 20 lbs. when they are born and toward the end of her pregnancy Bjorn always seems to be hungry as she feeds her unborn cria and herself.

 

Let’s hope that by the time Willow and Bjorn give birth the temperatures will be on their way down again without having plummeted to the range of “cold”. You would think that would be unlikely but remember we are in New Mexico where as far as the weather is concerned anything could happen!

 

Rosemary

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