A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 18, 2011

The Year of Unexpected Events

Phew!  Life certainly has been busy on the farm.  Time for writing has been scarce even though the desire is there.

I am beginning to think that 2011 should be renamed “The Year of Unexpected Events” – February brought record setting cold temperatures in the midst of a dry winter, March brought a houseful of unexpected guests when Ric surprised me for my birthday by flying in friends and family from across the world (which also solved the mystery of why Ric had taken a sudden interest in tidying and decluttering!), April brought us an unexpected large vet bill when our miniature Australian shepherd dog Blue decided to try and herd our horses and had to have a toe amputated as a result of her escapades (the vet said the horse did a good job of a surgical amputation and he just had to tidy everything up).

Blue tries to play with her cone on

Blue with her bandaged foot and her cone collar

The unexpected events continued in April when a nearby large grass fire propelled by the high winds that have plagued us this spring caused us to evacuate all of the alpacas from the farm.  We were fortunate in that the wind changed direction before the fire reached our property, but with 70 alpacas at the farm we knew an evacuation would take time and so decided to act sooner than later.  How fortunate we are to have many friends and acquaintances who showed up to help with the evacuation without being asked.  Having heard of the fire they made their way to our farm, some with trucks and trailers to help as they could.

Smoke from the Grass Fire April 17 2011

Smoke from the nearby grass fire rolls over our house - photo courtesy of our friend Barb McKenzie

May sees us in one of the worst drought periods in history, one of our hay suppliers has had his total crop of wheat fail and will not have hay for sale this year – a blow to us but an even bigger blow to him as his hay sales are a big part of his livelihood.   Thankfully another of our suppliers was more fortunate and has now delivered us 1450 bales of good looking wheat hay – good fortune has smiled on us again even in tough times.  What a year and we are not even half way through it!

Shearing is now well underway; we still have 25 alpacas left to shear but should be completely finished following another couple of shearing sessions.  Ric shears our alpacas and not being a professional shearer he cannot compete with the 7 minutes per alpaca that some of the professional shearers achieve.  There is something to be said though for our slower pace, our alpacas are calm and relaxed during the process and we can take the time to try and ensure that our fleeces are evenly sheared with few second cuts and gathered without contamination from short fibers from other areas of the alpaca.  We have a team of loyal friends who have shown up time after time to help us with shearing – to Joe, Becca, Kayleen, Keenan, Bethany, Terri L., Terri F., Darlene, Jeff, Don and Barb however can we thank you enough.

Our monthly Open Farm Days have been a great success, people love to come to visit the alpacas and learn about them during Ric’s circular tour of the farm.  We too have enjoyed sharing the farm with the community, it’s so much fun to watch the delight on people’s faces as they get to see or feel an alpaca for the first time.  For all who have come out to the farm on Open Farm Days we heartily thank you and hope you will continue to come out and visit us.  There is always something new going on at the farm and each month we hope to add a little something to make your Open Farm Day experience even better.

Ric Shows Off Roadrunner to our Open Farm Day Visitors

Ric Shows Off Roadrunner to Open Farm Day Visitors

And talking of new – crias will be here soon!  Yes we are watching and waiting for the first new cria to make his or her arrival.  Queen and Rosie are now both overdue, perhaps in part to the fire evacuation and the drought conditions – alpacas can and will put their pregnancies on hold if they feel conditions are not right for their survival or the survival of their cria.  Keeva too is getting close to her delivery date and TeQueely, Willow, Snow, Cinnamon and Gen are not far behind.  That will be quite the group of crias once they arrive – and with the way things have been going this year I would not be surprised if there isn’t something unexpected within the bunch too.  Let’s hope whatever that unexpected is it is something pleasant and delightful!

Hope to be back soon with more of our news – and there is more news to share so keep checking back for more posts and updates!

Rosemary

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January 6, 2010

Fetching the Feed

Monday I had to make a flying visit to Albuquerque to pick up a load of feed.  It’s about a four hour drive from our house to the feed mill, a drive that might seem excessive to some, but when it comes to getting good quality, fresh feed the drive is worth making.

Our feed is milled by Onate Mills using a pre-mix supplied to them by Dr. Norm Evans.  Dr. Evans is one of the top authorities on alpaca nutrition in the United States and has formulated feed to suit the different nutritional needs of alpacas in different states.  While some might think that one generic feed would be sufficient for all the alpacas in the US that is not the case.  Differing mineral soil content, varying amounts of sunlight, weather conditions and differing water qualities are just a few of the factors that can cause different nutritional requirements in alpacas across the US.

We could purchase the feed under a different brand name from a closer store, but that brand sells the feed in 40 lb bags instead of the 50 lb. bags we get from Onate and the price on the other brand is quite a bit higher.  When you are feeding 60 plus alpacas every day a difference of 10 lb. per bag and a couple of dollars per bag soon adds up.  So when all the factors are taken into consideration it is worth our time to drive to the mill in Albuquerque to pick up feed.  We also know that the feed is fresh as the mill manager can tell us when the feed was milled.  This last load was actually milled on Saturday – pretty fresh feed!

Fortunately my drive was uneventful, with some good CD’s to listen to and some snacks for the trip I was able to sit back and enjoy the New Mexico scenery.  Ric was able to take care of chores for the day and so I was able to get a reasonably early start and was back home before dark – perfect.

With alpacas being a fiber producing animal to us it is of the utmost importance that their nutrition is the best that we can give them.  Over the years we have seen how much difference good nutrition makes not only to the alpacas fleeces but also to their overall health – we are what we eat and that phrase most definitely applies to alpacas too.

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

July 30, 2009

Another Hay Bites The Dust

Last Sunday Ric and I (accompanied by puppy Blue) drove down to Roswell to meet with a hay grower and bring some sample bales of hay back. The hay we were interested in was a Bermuda grass hay and an oat hay.

 

The hay grower was a lovely man, very amenable to working with us and very proud of his hay. The grower already had an analysis on his oat hay and it was only running around 10% protein which is too low for our needs. Having ruled out the oat hay we brought some of the Bermuda grass hay home with us.

 

We tried the alpacas out with the hay and they ate it but were not as zealous about it as they are with the wheat hay we are currently feeding them. We would never just switch from one hay to another as that can really have a bad affect on the alpacas digestive system and it means that if they really don’t like the new hay then they have nothing to eat. We blended some of the Bermuda in with the wheat hay and over a couple of days the alpacas were starting to eat more of the Bermuda. Griffen the llama was particularly taken with the Bermuda grass hay, but her tastes in hay do tend to be different from the rest of the herd and our other two llamas Maya and Inca.

 

On Tuesday we ran the hay in for testing to our local lab ADM Labs. We received the results back on Wednesday and sadly they were not the best. While the Calcium/Phosphorus balance was good and the Potassium was not a disaster (higher than we like but better than some we have seen this year), the crude protein was only 9% which is nowhere near high enough for our herd, especially the pregnant and nursing females.

 

We were sad that the results did not pan out as we had hoped, we liked the hay grower and had looked forward to working with him. There is not point though in buying hay that is not suitable for our needs, at 9% protein it is not even sufficient for our fiber boys.

 

The results of the hay analysis will be shared with the grower, it is only fair to do so and it will help him decide what adjustments he needs to make to his hay management. For this year we will not be buying hay from him, but by next year perhaps things will have changed and we will be able to business.

 

In the meantime we will be keeping our eyes open for more potentially good hay on sale. Eventually we will find some I am sure and for now we have a reasonable stock of wheat hay on hand, but of course every day the alpacas keep eating it and the stack gets smaller!

 

Rosemary

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