A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

December 8, 2009

Can It Get Any Colder!

The alpaca boys watch the snow

The alpaca boys stay on their warm spots and watch the snow

The last week has seen our weather change from the balmy temperatures of an early New Mexico fall to the bone chilling cold that can occur during late fall and winter.

Part of farming is accepting that you are at the mercy of the elements – you can’t control the weather and have to be prepared to work in whatever weather comes your way.  As the cold arrives the insulated coveralls are brought out of the closet, the alpacas socks become a permanent fixture on our feet, the fleece lined jeans are the dress choice of the day and our snow boots start to prove their worth.  Water bucket heaters are installed and the alpacas and horses are treated to extra hay on those super cold days.

Last Thursday we were initially forecast for a fairly cold dry day, but during the night the cold front that was coming into the area headed just a little further south than the weather man had predicted and by Thursday morning our ground was covered with snow.  Initial predictions of accumulation of an inch soon went out the window as by 9 a.m. two inches were already on the ground.

With the snow starting during the night the alpacas were already bedded down for the evening and having been cushed for a while each one had developed a warm spot where they were sitting.  When the snow started to fall it settled on the top of their fleeces but they were nice and warm – and were not moving!

We're not moving

Cosmo and friends stay out in the weather

Some of the alpacas were in their shelters, Theresa had moved her cria into the shelter and the little one was dry, warm and more than ready to show off her repertoire of bucks and kicks.  Ana Lynnette too had headed inside the shelter with her cria Roadrunner and the pair were contentedly watching the snow fall.

Box Car Alpaca Boys

Homer and Tobiano decided the shelter of the box car was a better place to be

It seems as if that snow fall opened the doors for an arctic blast because since then it has been cold – very cold.  Someone told us that Thursday night was reported as being record cold and since then it has only got colder.    By Monday our night time low was 18 (- 7.7 Celsius) and our daytime high was 26 (-3.3 Celsius)– and that’s without figuring in any wind chill.  But despite the cold the chores still need to be done – the animals fed, the poop piles raked, the dogs walked.  We still opened the store on Saturday and met some lovely (and hardy!) customers who came out to stock up on warm alpaca socks and Christmas gifts for the family.

The good news is that we can take our time getting the chores done and then head into the warmth of the house for some hot tea and warm food.  Then we can get on with some inside tasks and take a few minutes here and there to enjoy watching the alpacas whether they are rooting around in the hay, sitting out chewing their cud or wrestling, pronging and playing in the late afternoon as they start to build up their body heat for the night.

Our temperatures are supposed to warm up starting today, I say supposed to because already the forecast has changed a little and the word snow has now reappeared in the forecast as well as the mention of 60 mph wind – sounds like it’s going to be an interesting day, I don’t think I will be packing away the insulated coveralls, snow boots and alpaca socks anytime soon!

Rosemary

November 29, 2009

More Arrivals – Ladies First!

Tuesday saw more arrivals at the farm as the new alpacas we had purchased were delivered to our farm.  We had purchased Ana Lynette from Theresa Reyes Tassel of Hagen Heights Alpaca Farm back in the summer.  We left Ana Lynette at the farm where she was boarded until she had her cria – a pretty fawn male who we are calling Roadrunner for now.  Not long after we purchased Ana Lynette we purchased our new black junior herdsire Alpaca Knights Challenger’s Champ from Carol Knights of Alpaca Knights.

Having purchased our new alpacas we then had to figure out how to get Ana Lynette and Roadrunner from New York to Clovis and Champ from Kentucky to Clovis.  While we could have driven to pick them all up that would have been quite the road trip and so we started contacting a few trusted alpaca transporters to see who was available to transport them for us.

It is important to us to use a transporter who is careful in their care of the alpacas onboard their trailer, has a trailer that is well constructed and equipped for transporting alpacas and who practices good biosecurity.   Alpacas being transported are under a little stress, they have been removed from the farm which they know as home and don’t know why they are in the trailer or where they are going.  The additional stress could make them more susceptible to illness and so you want their journey to be as comfortable and safe as possible.

Not too long after we put out the word that we were looking for transport for our new alpacas we heard from Dick Hegeman of Alpacas in the Forest.   Dick was making a transport run that could accommodate our alpacas. Having used “Captain Dick’s” transportation services in the past and knowing what an excellent transporter he is we made arrangements for him to bring our alpacas to us.

Originally we thought the alpacas would be with us the day after Thanksgiving, but Captain Dick’s trip went well and on Monday we learned that our new alpacas would be arriving on Tuesday evening.   One thing always to bear in mind when working with an alpaca transporter is to be flexible about the arrival date of your alpacas.  Typically the transporter is making many stops to collect and deliver alpacas and things can and do happen that can cause a change in the timing of the trip.

At 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday evening Captain Dick and the alpacas arrived.  Dick made sure we got everyone settled in their pastures, including carrying Roadrunner to our female quarantine pen which gave Dick his workout for the day as Roadrunner is already over 30 lbs!, before heading off to his next stop.

So here they are our new arrivals – the beautiful, soft and dense Ana Lynette

Ana Lynette and RoadrunnerAna Lynette on her first day with her cria Roadrunner and Primera in the background

 

Her charming cria Roadrunner (who has that lovely soft buttery feel to his fleece and who greeted me with a kiss on the nose)

 

Roadrunner

Roadrunner Standing Proud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And our handsome black junior herdsire Champ (who has a fleece you just want to sink your hands into – and he’s very sweet too!).

 

Champ

Champ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s great to have our new acquisitions on our farm at last and we look forward to getting to know them better over the next few weeks.

 

Rosemary

November 22, 2009

Guess the Weight of the Cria

 

McKinley

McKinley - He's heavier than he looks

 

 

If we had been playing that game at the weekend we would have lost!  As part of our routine we had scheduled to weigh Whisper and McKinley.  Whisper was born August 31 with a birth weight of 14.7 lbs, while McKinley was born September 5 with a birth weight of 19.1 lbs.

McKinley is quite a tall cria and Whisper is just the opposite small and compact.  They were the last of the summer crias to be born and are very close in age.  With the exception of Theresa’s cria, the latest cria to be born on our farm, McKinley and Whisper are the two smallest crias of our summer cria crop.

When Ric picked up McKinley it was obvious from Ric’s face that McKinley was a little heavier than expected.  Ric valiantly carried him to the scales and back, but by the time he got to the pasture gate he was calling out “help me” for McKinley indeed was no light weight having weighed in at 54.5 lbs.

Next to go to the scales was Whisper – surely she weighed a lot less.  Were we in for a surprise!  Again as Ric picked up Whisper his face showed the strain (is Ric really getting out of shape I began to wonder, no more Open Farm Day cookies for him!), but Ric had good cause to be taken aback by Whisper’s weight for she weighed in at 58.7 lbs!  She weighed even more than McKinley!

 

Whisper

Little Whisper - only she is not that little anymore!

 

 

 

We have been raising alpacas now for over 10 years and so usually are pretty in tune with how much a cria weighs based on its size, but these two really have surprised us for they do not look that big.  Both McKinley and Whisper have dense fleeces though and I suspect that some of that weight is fleece weight.    Whatever the reason for McKinley and Whisper’s weights, I think it is safe to say that they are both healthy, hearty crias and that their dams Bjorn and Willow are doing a great job in the milk department!  Keep up the good work girls (and stay away from those cookies Ric!)

 

Rosemary

November 16, 2009

Where Does The Time Go To?

Windrush Chandra

Windrush Chandra, February 2009 - she's grown a lot since then!

The past week just seemed to evaporate!  It’s hard to imagine where the time goes or is it?  Of course there was the distraction of Theresa’s new cria to keep us occupied.  Theresa’s cria is a sweet and lively little thing, exploring the pasture, coming up to see what we are doing, giving cria kisses and taking off on cria races around the pasture.  She is now up to 20.8 lbs and she and Theresa are back in with the main herd.  Theresa is a very protective dam and will not take any nonsense from the older crias who might think they are going to play rough with her baby!

Sunday (November 15) saw the end of the early bird discount for stalls at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular which will be held February 12- 14, 2010 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.  We always try and enter alpacas in the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and it’s great to be able to get discounted stalls and so we needed to make our decision this week as to which alpacas will attend the show.  We are lucky to have many alpacas to choose from but show expenses soon mount up and we can’t take them all.  We ended up registering our two new junior herdsires Biscotti and Champ and our Prince Regent daughter Chandra.   Show results from different shows and different judges can do a lot to enhance your Junior Herdsires breeding career, shows also provide an opportunity to showcase your junior herdsire in front of other alpaca breeders who might be interested in booking breedings to him.    With Chandra our motivation in showing her is a little different.  As our one and only Prince Regent daughter on the farm (the others have all sold or belong to our clients) we are curious to see how she places in the competitive white classes.  Our intention is for her to become part of our foundation herd so it will be good to get feedback from a judge as to Chandra’s strengths and weaknesses.  With her dense, fine fleece, correct conformation, graceful presence and her Prince Regent head (her sire has a beautiful head style which Chandra has inherited) we are hopeful that Chandra will walk away with a ribbon.

Of course the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular also has a fleece show and we will be sending in entries to that too, but I have a little more time to get those entries in the system.  Once entered though I then need to get busy skirting the fleeces in preparation for the show – February will soon come around.

We also had several enquiries during the week from people interested in learning more about alpacas, the alpaca lifestyle and what it takes to start up and run a successful alpaca business.  It’s always great to spend time talking to people interested in alpacas and to share with them some of the knowledge we have gained over the years.  I still remember the excitement Ric and I felt in the days when we were researching the alpaca business and the kindness of the alpaca breeders we spoke to at that time.  It is nice to now be able to “pay it forward” and share our knowledge with those looking into bringing alpacas into their life.

Add to those activities the daily chores, some behavior tests of bred females, some toe nail trimming, work on our websites, preparation for next weekend’s Open Farm Day, and work on a knitting project that someone has asked me to make and I guess it’s hardly surprising that our week disappeared before our eyes.  No complaint here though as it is fun work, a great lifestyle to be living and beats shuffling papers in an office any day!

Rosemary

November 11, 2009

A Long Awaited Cria Arrives

 

Theresa Checks Out Her New Female Cria

Finally its a girl for Theresa!

Finally it happened, at 11:10 on November 10th (now how’s that for coincidence being born at 11:10 on 11/10) Theresa’s cria was born – and after five boys in a row Theresa had a girl!

Theresa was bred on November 15, 2008 so by my calculation she had a gestation of 360 days – phew!

We suspected that Theresa was finally thinking of having her cria when she started acting differently late in the day on Monday.  We noticed Theresa was standing a lot, not eating as much as usual and when she did cush it was very slowly.  By 8 p.m. Theresa had started to hum which was a bit concerning as it was an indication that labor was getting closer and we didn’t want a cria born during the night.  Apart from the humming though Theresa seemed otherwise comfortable.  I monitored her until 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday and as she still seemed comfortable at that time I made tracks for bed.

Of course you never really sleep that well when you are wondering if one of your alpaca girls is outside in the throes of labor, by 5:15 a.m. I was up to check on Theresa and could see that she was still cushed comfortably.  Theresa ate well at feeding time, although the humming was still continuing, but after feeding she isolated herself from the herd and then I was certain her cria was on its way.

By 8:50 a.m. Theresa was starting to push.  I have known Theresa for many years and have seen her give birth several times.  I know that with Theresa labor does not progress quickly and just when you start to think you should call the vet she gives a huge push and out pops her cria.   Theresa’s labor progressed as I expected and by 11:05 a.m. I could just see the tip of the crias nose.  Next came Theresa’s usual huge contraction and at 11:10 a.m. her cria was born.

By the time the cria arrived the other alpaca girls had gathered round to check out the new arrival, much to Theresa’s annoyance, so as soon as Theresa was rested and up I took her and her cria and put them in a catch pen to bond.

 

Theresa's Cria Standing Strong

Theresa's cria tries out her long legs

 

 

For Theresa there had been a long gap between crias, following the birth of her last cria she had developed a uterine infection which took a long while to clear up.  Once the uterine infection was gone Theresa was bred again but sadly lost her cria at 90 days gestation when the crias umbilical cord became wrapped around the crias neck.  We have not had that happen before, it was an unfortunate accident but there was nothing we could have done to prevent it and nothing we could do about it.  Theresa was bred again (after we had allowed her body to recover from the loss of her cria) and this time all went well.   Theresa had a good pregnancy, even though it was another long one.

So now Theresa finally has a daughter and what a good looking girl she is.  Her fleece is very curly and soft and like her mother she loves to eat (or in her case nurse).  Theresa’s cria wasted no time in getting to her feet and having a nurse as soon as she was able and Theresa was more than happy for her to do so.

Our congratulations go to Theresa’s owners Troy and Mary Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas.  Troy and Mary were very patient during the process of getting Theresa bred again, through all that happened their only concern was that Theresa be healthy and given all that was needed to help her have a good pregnancy.  Troy and Mary’s patience paid off and now they have been rewarded with a beautiful female cria.  I am sure Troy and Mary will love her when they get to see her, and knowing them I am betting that will be soon!
Rosemary

October 31, 2009

Fall’s First Snow Fall

 

First Snow of Fall

First Snow of Fall

 

 

This was the sight we were greeted with when we did chores on Thursday morning – snow!  You may be able to tell from the picture that this was a wet snow with big, heavy snowflakes.  As fast and as furious as the snow was falling you would think that we would have had a large accumulation, but our ground was still warm and we ended up with just about an inch of the fluffy white stuff.

When I had set out for Blue’s early morning walk at 5:45 a.m. the temperature had been quite mild, but as is often the case in New Mexico within an hour everything had changed.  The wind started to roar, the temperature dropped and then the flakes started falling.

Many of the alpacas remained cushed as the snow started.  They had made a nice warm spot on the ground and didn’t want to give it up.  Theresa in particular did not want to move, heavily pregnant she felt more comfortable staying put, blinking away the snowflakes as they landed on her eyes.

 

Theresa Sits in The Snow

A very pregnant Theresa refuses to budge from her spot despite the snow

 

 

After feeding, the boys soon made a dash for cover and stayed under their shelters until things started to warm up.  The girls ate quickly and then headed for the hay feeders, but some of them were quite happy to stand out in the snow.  Theresa was a little shivery at feeding time, a result of her refusing to give up her spot in the pasture, but a bowl of alpaca feed and alfalfa followed by some hay and warm soaked beet shreds soon had her warmed up.

We usually have a snowfall around Halloween; this one was a little early but not too far off track.  Parts of the state got a foot or more of snow – rather them than me.  Once our Halloween snowfall has arrived we often don’t see snow again until January.

For this weekend the forecast is for temperatures in the 60’s – much better weather for Theresa to deliver her cria in.  As of Friday night it looked like she had a little udder development so maybe we will get more of a treat than a trick this Halloween!

 

Rosemary

October 27, 2009

Getting Back in The Swing of Things

The vacation in England is over and I am now back in New Mexico.  My flights home went smoothly and even the trip to Heathrow  Airport via the notorious M25 (complete with road works of course) went without a hitch.  You know you have good friends when they get up way before the crack of dawn to get you to the airport in time – thanks Val and Linda!

My time in England was not only relaxing but also productive.  I completed a little knitted alpaca bag and also started and finished a balaclava made from alpaca lopi yarn that someone had asked me to make.  Time was spent with friends and family and I even got a quick alpaca fix at Mayfield Alpacas in Ringalow Village, Sheffield.  I was fortunate to get to spend a short time with Elaine Sharp the owner of Mayfield Alpacas and we had a great time “comparing notes” on our alpaca operations.   As I looked at Elaine’s alpacas grazing on lush pastures I could not help think of how our alpacas would love to be set loose on such abundant grazing.   If ever you are in the Sheffield area and are looking for something to do make sure you take a trip out to Mayfield Alpacas, not only are there beautiful alpacas to see but also a lovely café with tasty goodies, a gift shop featuring alpaca products and a great display that educates people about alpacas and the history of the alpaca industry (and the map of North and South America actually has Clovis, NM on it – how about that!).

So now I am back at the farm and having gone through the three stacks of junk mail that awaited me, caught up on the laundry and all of the other things that go on the back burner while you are away its time to get back in the swing of things.

At the weekend two of our visiting alpacas Sonora and Dona Cleia were collected by their owners Melita Clark and Mark Hogan of Milagro Meadow Alpaca Ranch.  Sonora and Dona Cleia had been at our farm for breeding and both are now confirmed pregnant.  Sonora was bred to our Enchantment’s Prince Regent and Dona Cleia had the honor of being the first breeding for our Junior Herdsire Windrush White Blast.  We will look forward to seeing pictures of the crias once the girls deliver next year.

Next on our delivery list is Ameripaca’s Theresa who is owned by Troy and Mary Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas in Kaufman, Texas and bred to our Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel.  Theresa was due to deliver on October 25 but no cria yet so we are watching and waiting.  Hopefully Theresa will not decide to do as in her last pregnancy and go 368 days gestation – I have warned her that if she waits that long she may well be delivering in the snow as our weather is definitely on the turn.

It was good to have a break away from the farm, but it is also good to be back home.  The crias have grown since I left, Blue the puppy is looking more like a little dog than a puppy (although she is still chewing anything paper or plastic including the Windrush Alpacas check book!) and Ric didn’t look too exhausted.  All in all everything looks good – so I guess that means I can leave again sometime!

Rosemary

 

October 8, 2009

Welcome to Our Newest Arrival

Our newest cria - son of Ana Lynette

Our newest cria - son of Ana Lynette

 

Now this is the sort of cria delivery that is fun.  Here I am on vacation in England while in New York one of our newest additions to our alpaca herd “Ana Lynette” delivered her cria – a beautiful light fawn boy.  Talk about a stress free delivery – well it was for me anyway!  A big thank you to Lindsay Butkiewicus of Wild Thyme Farm for keeping us updated on the cria’s delivery and for looking after Ana Lynette and her cria until we are able to move them to our farm.

Ana Lynette is being a wonderful mother, very attentive to her cria and producing lots of milk, while her cria is enjoying life as crias tend to do.  Lindsay says that there is a chance that the cria may be more rose grey than fawn, which is a distinct possibility given his genetics (black sire and beige dam with black in her background).  Some greys become more apparent as they age so time will tell for our little boy.  Now we just have to come up with a name for him (and if you have been following our blog you will know how boy crias always prove a challenge to us when it comes to names)

 

We will not get to see Ana Lynette and her cria until after I return from England.  We want the cria to be at least three weeks old before he travels as it will be a long trip for him and Ana Lynette.  Hopefully by late November Ana Lynette and her boy will be with us and maybe we can even get our new junior herdsire Champ on the transport too.

 

Ana Lynnette and her cria

Ana Lynnette and her cria

Here in England it is still sunny but the temperature has dipped to the mid fifties, still not too bad for October.  Ric reports that things are cooler in New Mexico too and so I think we can say fall has arrived.

This evening I will be attending the Baldock Knit Together Group.  I tried to attend the group last year when I was over but was unable to do so.  Since then I have kept in contact with the group organizer Rhona and we are looking forward to meeting in person at the meeting tonight.  Of course I will be taking my latest alpaca knitting project with me, and I am sure I will pick up many new tips and free patterns during the course of the evening.  It is wonderful that knitters and crocheters the world over always welcome each other and enjoy admiring each others knitting projects while being willing to pass on tips and tricks.  Being part of a knitting or crochet group is a great way to meet some lovely people who share a common love of fiber arts.

Tomorrow my mother and I will set off by train to go to Totley in South Yorkshire where we will visit my Dad’s cousin Stella.  I have many happy childhood memories of times spent with Stella.  There were at least two summers when my brothers and I went to stay with Stella for a few weeks and had a wonderful time exploring the Yorkshire countryside and learning more of our family history.  It has been at least 20 years since I was in that part of the country and so it will be nice to visit again and enjoy the many beautiful sights of South Yorkshire.

So on that note I had better turn my attention to packing my bag for my trip.

 Rosemary

October 2, 2009

Now Where Are We?

Well…  Ric is still at home with the alpacas.  I am in England visiting my mother on my annual trip to my home country.  Usually I travel earlier in the year, but this year shearing, crias and new a new puppy meant I postponed my trip to the fall.

Today England is warmer than I remember it being in the fall (or autumn as we tend to refer to it in England).  The English summers have been getting warmer and drier, the storms more severe and the fall and winter milder.  You cannot help but wonder about global warming when such climate change takes place.  I think you would have a hard time convincing many British people that global warming is not a fact.

 During my trip I will be helping my mother with tasks such as filing her tax return and anything else she has on the to-do list for me.  My mother has coped remarkably well since the loss of my father last year, but there are a few things she needs assistance with (and let’s face it who really enjoys filing tax returns anyway!).

 I also will be spending time with my good friends Linda and Val (with a very special party on the agenda but more on that later), my nephews and former sister in law Roisin (who is still very much a member of our family) and of course Laura (step daughter), Ren (Laura’s husband), grand-daughter Aida and Paul (step son).  Also on the agenda is a trip to Totley in South Yorkshire to visit my Dad’s cousin Stella and hopefully see a nearby alpaca farm and while I am there I am hoping to be reunited with my friend Anne-Marie who I have known since pre-school.  Anne-Marie and I have kept in touch on and off through our parents and now via Facebook which has brought us together again.

 At home Ric is very busy with caring for the farm.  It’s a lot for one person to take care of, and now has he added task of looking after puppy Blue who will let  you know in her own way (by chewing something you treasure!), if she feels she is not getting enough attention.  I fully expect Ric to be somewhat worn out and possibly a little thinner by the time I get home – although our dear neighbor Darlene is providing him with some meals and so I know he will not starve to death (A big Thank you Darlene as always!).

 As well as routine chores Ric will be hauling loads of hay while I am gone.  We finally found some wheat hay that satisfies our requirements, with only one drawback; it has some wheat heads in it.  We really do prefer beardless wheat hay, but this year have not been able to find any that is nutritionally correct for the alpacas.  The hay we purchased is almost perfect in its analysis and was cut just as it started to head out, so we felt that it was the best option available to us.

 As if all of that is not enough Ric also will be keeping a close eye on Theresa who is due October 25.  For her first four crias Theresa gave birth on day 345 of her pregnancy, but then threw us for a loop by not delivering her fifth cria until day 368 in temperatures above 100 degrees.  So who knows when Theresa will give birth this year.  Before I left I checked Theresa, her udder was not yet developed and she was not puffy under her tail so there should be at least a little time before she gives birth.  I had a word with Theresa too and asked her to hang on to her cria until I was home, but not to wait until day 368 again – I guess we will soon find out if she was listening.

 My blog entries will be sporadic during my trip I am sure.  Ric may decide to post an entry or two – in his spare time that is, but whether his entries will be coherent or just consist of a string of exhausted zzzzzz’s will remain to be seen!

 Rosemary

September 20, 2009

So Where Have We Been?

Well that is a good question!  We have not actually been anywhere but have been dealing with various things at home and time has been short.

This last week we had contractors show up unannounced to install bay windows in our living room and master bedroom.  We had purchased the windows back in July and it has taken until now to get to the top of the contractors list.  While it is good to be having our windows installed a little notice would have been nice!

The new windows will make our view of the girls pasture even better and it is amazing how much bigger and brighter the rooms seem since they were installed.  We can cria watch in style now.

Along with the contractors we have also had puppy Blue back to the vet again.  It seems she has quite a sensitive stomach which is not helped by her wanting to eat everything she comes across.  We thought we were making some progress with her but tried a tiny amount of a different dog food on Friday and she is back to having an upset stomach – looks like I will be cooking meals for a little dog as well as humans as she seems to do fine on cooked chicken.

We have also been busy buying alpacas – a couple for us and a couple for a client of ours.  More on that in later posts, but my search for a black male alpaca is over!

Ric has been busy preparing for the New Mexico State Fair and the show program is now coming together.  He will leave for Albuquerque on Wednesday to get things set up at the show grounds before the exhibitors start arriving on Friday.  I will be staying at the farm, looking after alpacas and cooking for dogs.  If you are attending the State Fair make sure you go and say hello to Ric and I am sure he will be happy to see you.

So life has been a little time consuming (are we getting older or are the days really getting shorter and going by quicker?), but that’s how life goes sometimes and before long everything is back on track.

Contractors and sick puppies permitting I hope to resume the posts to the blog in the coming week.

Rosemary

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