A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 24, 2009

Keeping The Bugs At Bay

Natures Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect Spray

Natures Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect Spray

With our recent rains and warm weather the fly population is rapidly increasing. As we live in an area that is highly populated with dairy cows flies are a part of life. The dairies do their best to keep the fly population under control, many of them use fly predators and some spray for flies but the flies still manage to repopulate. The other insect of concern is the mosquito who is no doubt laying eggs like crazy in any water that has collected as a result of the rain.

We use food grade diatomaceous earth as a top dressing for our feed (it is most important it is food grade and not pool grade) and that helps not only with the flies but also with other internal parasites. For our stock tanks we use something called mosquito dunks which effectively kill mosquito larvae while leaving the water in the stock tank safe for our horses to consume.

With alpacas being fleece animals there is always the risk of lice getting your herd. We have unfortunately experienced lice in the herd in the past when some alpacas brought to us for shearing managed to pass them on to our herd. That was in the pre-quarantine days when alpaca owners would casually allow visiting alpacas to intermingle with their own herd. Now we know better and visiting alpacas are quarantined for three weeks prior to joining our herd and we are careful to clean our shearing mats and equipment after shearing visiting alpacas or llamas.

We are always on the lookout for new products that are helpful in keeping the bugs at bay and recently came across one that really has impressed us. “Natures Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect Spray” is an all natural topical insect spray. Made from Cedar oil and Silane Fluid this spray is USDA approved and safe to use on most animals (it is not suitable for exotic birds). To us one of the best features of this product is that you can safely use it on pregnant alpacas and llamas.

Our past experience with lice in the herd has shown us how difficult it is to eradicate lice when you have pregnant females. Most lice treatments are not safe for pregnant and nursing alpacas which means that your pregnant and nursing alpacas cannot be treated for many months, preventing you from being able to treat the herd 100%.

The Nature’s Defender spray though allows us to spray pregnant and nursing alpacas if needed and as it is safe to use on crias we have been able to provide some fly relief for our crias whose beautiful young eyes often attract flies.

In addition to killing flies and lice the spray also kills ticks, mites, bacteria and fungal infections. You can also use it around the house to repel and kill insects. Actually we are finding more uses for this product every day – we have sprayed the alpacas, sprayed the dogs (including our puppy Blue), we have even sprayed Ric (well we sprayed his t-shirt before he did chores and the flies left him alone). We have also used the Nature’s Defender product on our alpaca products to keep moths away including lightly misting our fleeces that have not yet been shipped for processing. We didn’t experience any staining on our products as a result of using the spray and everything has a nice cedar scent to it.

You can read more about Nature’s Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect spray at http://www.alpacasllama-insectspray.com/ and if you check out the distributors page you will see we are listed as distributors. We like this product so much we decided that we wanted to be able to supply it to our clients and friends.

** (August 28, 2009) You can now purchase the Nature’s Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect spray through our AlpacaNation Farm Store at


If you are looking to keep the bugs at bay try Nature’s Defender Alpacas and Llamas spray, I’m betting you will like it and will soon be using it for many things as we do!


July 23, 2009

To The Fleece Show We Go


 Well not us, but two of our fleeces headed off to the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show this afternoon.


If truth be known the fleeces probably should have left earlier, they will still arrive at the show with a day or two to spare but I hate taking a chance on something going wrong with the transportation and the fleeces arriving late. Also having been a fleece show superintendent myself I understand how nice it is to receive entries and fleeces well in advance of the show. (My apologies to all involved with the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show this year!).


So which fleeces did we send? After some discussion we settled on Windrush White Blast and Windrush Zindel’s Atlas.


White Blast did really well in fleece shows last year winning the white color champion at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular against some stiff competition. Blast has a beautiful fleece with tiny micro bundles, high frequency crimp, superb brightness and a soft, soft hand.


When I went to prepare Blast’s fleece for the show I discovered that it had somehow become entangled within the bag and it took me a while to sort it out. That doesn’t happen often but when it does it is quite a challenge to unravel the puzzle of which piece of fleece needs to be turned in which direction. I had one heart stopping moment when I wondered if the fleece I had prepared was Blast’s 2008 fleece which had already been shown several times. That would have explained the twisting but would also have meant I had wasted my time and would have to start over on the 2009 fleece. I checked the fleece bag and “phew” the bag was marked Blast 2009! I did my best with Blast’s fleece but with it having become twisted I wonder if the judge will stumble across a piece of fleece that should have been skirted out. I wouldn’t’ be surprised if I get the “needs more skirting” comment on my scorecard.


Atlas did well in his first year of halter shows and this shearing was his first. Atlas also has a beautiful fleece in a bronzed light brown color. Atlas is really consistent with his fleece, with his crimp style extending all the way down to his belly and upper legs. Like Blast Atlas has a super bright fleece with high frequency crimp micro bundles. Atlas’s fleece was thankfully not tangled and so skirting it was a little easier, although I did start to wonder who allowed him to roll in the straw before shearing!


With the fleeces on the way to the show, now I can sit back and wait for the results. The really nice thing about this particular show is that you also get a DVD of the judges oral reasons on each class and of the seminars held at the show. If your fleece places, you get to see and hear the judges comments about it, which is great fun and a good addition to your herd records.


If you are thinking that you missed a great opportunity to show fleeces in the AFCNA Show then think again. The show deadline has been extended and late fees waived. Go to http://www.alpacawebsite.com/ for more information and then get your fleeces on the way to the show!



July 18, 2009

More Visitors of a warmer, fuzzier kind

Filed under: Alpaca Care, Alpaca Fiber, alpaca handling, camelids, Family, General, guard llamas, llama — alpacalady @ 6:49 am
The Visiting Llamas sporting a newly shorn look

The Visiting Llamas sporting a newly shorn look

 Just when we think there can’t be any more shearing to do someone calls and asks about shearing. So it was we found ourselves shearing six llamas on Thursday evening.

One of the llamas we had shorn for his owner last year, a good looking solid black male llama whose coat is a little suri like in appearance. The owner says that the male llama is the best cowboy he has, the llama not only protects the owners cattle, but also brings the cattle in to water and helps round up cattle when the owner is out working cattle on horseback. The llama is quite remarkable in his ability to sense what the owner needs and is a very good guard llama.

The other llamas in the group were three older females, a juvenile female and a juvenile male. Considering these llamas spend all year in the pasture with little to no handling they took the shearing process well. We did have to sedate two of the older females, we could see they were very nervous and the sedation helped them to relax and accept the process without a lot of fuss and stress.

 As each llama was shorn we took them out of the barn and tied them to trees around the barn and to their trailer so that they could nibble on tree leaves or weeds. Two of them even decided to have a roll after shearing no doubt enjoying the feeling of being cooler and able to feel the ground on their skin.

Fortunately we closed the driveway gates as part way through the evening the adult male llama decided that it was time for him to go exploring. He somehow managed to get his halter off and when we went out to check on him all we could see was an empty halter and a hanging lead rope. It didn’t take long to find him though as he had wandered over to visit with our three guard llamas Maya, Inca and Griffin. Our girls were most excited to have a male llama call to visit.


As the evening went on some storms rolled in bringing with them a lot of lightning and we decided it would be best for us to load the llamas back into their trailer before the storms and lightning got too close. Later that evening the llamas owner came to pick them up and take them home, happy to have his llamas shorn and comfortable and anxious to get his”cowboy” back to his cattle herd.



June 1, 2009

All Done!

The Alpacas Enjoying Their Cooler Shorn Look

The Alpacas Enjoying Their Cooler Shorn Look

Time for celebration as the alpacas are now all shorn!  We do still have the three llamas to shear and one cria (whose owner wants us to wait a little longer so he can show her fleece), but all of the alpacas are done.  What a great feeling.

Things went smoothly this year, the first shearing session on April 25 was probably the slowest as we got back into a pattern of preparing the alpacas, stretching them out for shearing, trimming toenails, treating ears for ear ticks, having bags ready for fleece, bagging the fleece and recording weights on both fleece and alpaca.  Still within a short time we were back into the swing of things and each shearing session started to flow smoothly.

Ric’s shearing featured fewer second cuts this year (whoopee!) and our teenage helper Bethany proved to be invaluable as usual doing an excellent job of catching alpacas, helping us get them stretched out and being an excellent head holder, maneuvering the alpacas heads and necks as needed to keep them secure while allowing Ric to follow his shearing pattern.

Some of the fleece has already gone off to the Regional Collection Facility for NAAFP, the rest now needs to be sorted into which fleece goes where, but if we can steel ourselves to continue until that job is done there will only be the show fleeces to store for the upcoming year – now that’s a result!

It’s great to know that shearing is done for another year, now we can get back to our regular daily routine – well at least until the first cria arrives, when things will become a little distracted again!


May 27, 2009

What’s The Difference Between

Dream in Full Fleece

Dream in Full Fleece






and  This?

Dream Shorn

Dream Shorn









It turns out to be about 4 ½ lbs of fleece (not including belly and lower leg fleece).  Young Dream who weighed in at 93.5 lbs with her fleece prior to shearing certainly did well in the fleece production department.  For a little alpaca she has a lot of fleece.

Dream comes from a line of good fleece producers, her dam Rosie now 5 years old and about ready to deliver a cria still produced just over 4 lbs of fleece in her blanket, leg and neck combined and she too is not a large alpaca.

We have been pleased with our fleeces overall this year and I now have 15 show fleeces ready to be skirted in preparation for show.

Atlas who has done so well in the show ring produced a really dense, fine fleece with a wonderful long staple length that proved to be quite a challenge to Ric’s shearing skills.  Looking at Atlas prior to shearing we knew he was carrying a lot of fleece but had not quite grasped just how much superfine, dense, high frequency crimp fleece he has. 

White Blast who did well in the fleece shows last year has produced another spectacular fleece which is fine, dense and bright with beautiful crimp style.

Even our smallest alpaca Little Man (aka Tonka) did us proud with his fleece.  Weighing all of 58.2 lbs with his fleece on Little Man produced 2.3 lbs of silky, shiny cria fleece that almost hangs in dreadlocks from his head to his toes.

There are still a few alpacas left to shear but this week will hopefully see the end of our shearing for the year.  Next the show fleeces will be paying a trip to the skirting table in preparation for showing and then we will need to decide which fleece will be going to which show.  Lots of fleeces to show and lots of shows to show them in – what fun!


May 20, 2009

Spinning Wheel or Kid Magnet?

The Spinning Wheel has a magical attraction for children

The Spinning Wheel has a magical attraction for children


The last couple of days have found us with school groups, first a group of nine kindergartners (along with a few parents and siblings) who visited the farm for a field trip, then a visit to a local elementary school to talk about alpaca fiber and the process of taking raw fiber to cloth as part of their medieval arts project.

It is always interesting to see the reactions both of the children to the alpacas and the alpacas to the children.  The kindergartners proved to be very interesting to a couple of the alpacas, Sleeper and Cinnamon took time to check them out reaching their necks forward to sniff the children and also being very interested in the artificial flower on one the little girls hats.   We used Pride as the alpaca for the children to touch and also to show off his teeth and feet pads, he behaved very well and was very tolerant of the small hands that all wanted to touch him.  Having learned a little about alpacas and met the alpacas and llamas the children declared that they were now hungry and were happy to eat their lunches on our front lawn in front of the girls’ pen.  I reckon two of the llamas Maya and Griffin must have encountered kindergartner lunches before as they hung by the fence line and were eventually rewarded with pieces of apple from the children’s lunch packs – smart llamas!

The elementary school visit also went over well, although Blast and Atlas, the two alpacas we took with us, were a little overwhelmed when they walked onto the school patio to be greeted by the first group of children who were kindergarten through Grade 2.   There were a lot of children and a lot of noise as their excited voices reverberated against the patio walls.  Blast and Atlas bravely entered the patio although I am sure they were wondering what on earth all that noise was.  The children soon settled down when asked and enjoyed learning about the alpacas and spinning alpaca fiber.   Blast was particularly taken with one of the teachers who offered to hold his lead rope, giving her kisses and checking out her sandals on her feet.

The second group of children was Grades 3 through 6 and so was a little older.  They soon settled down and had plenty of questions about the alpacas and alpaca fiber.

One thing both groups had in common was their fascination with my spinning wheel.  Since owning my spinning wheel I have learned that spinning wheels are “kid magnets”.  Children are absolutely fascinated with them and almost cannot stop themselves from coming up and touching the wheel.  I have seen many usually well behaved children defy their parents “do not touch” request when it comes to a spinning wheel; as with the yarn it spins the wheel just seems to draw the children in.

This group of children was no exception and shortly after I started spinning in front of the first group I discovered that I was surrounded by small children who had completely forgotten that they were supposed to be sitting on the floor listening to Ric’s presentation.  The children had lots of questions too “where does the yarn go”, “what’s this”, “is that hard to do” “how does that happen”

The older group of children did manage to stay in their seats a little longer, but as soon as they were told by their teachers that they could get up came over to the spinning wheel reaching out to touch the main wheel, the drive belt, the yarn and anything else they could get too.  They were just so curious and fascinated by the spinning wheel that they too could not stop themselves from making a connection with the magical machine.

It struck me as I spun in front of the children that it would be pretty cool to have spinning as a regular school activity.  Certainly spinning is very relaxing and helps your mind to focus.   In these days of high technology and instant communication I wonder what effect it would have on school children if they had start and end each day with 30 minutes of hand spinning.  I suspect it would have a very positive result.


May 14, 2009

An Exciting Product Development


Alpaca Dream Wear Resistol Hat

Alpaca Dream Wear Resistol Hat

Alpaca Dream Weare Resistol Hat - Alternative View

Alpaca Dream Weare Resistol Hat - Alternative View








While at the Great Western Alpaca Show in Denver recently I noticed some flyers on the walls advertising Resistol brand alpaca western hats for sale.  As I read the flyer I discovered that our friends and fellow alpaca breeders Tom and Judy Kania who own Our Field of Dreams Ranch in Earlsboro, Oklahoma were selling the hats.

I made a point to go to Tom and Judy’s booth at the show to say hello and also to see what their hats looked like and I was impressed.

 In our area cowboy and western hats are a big deal, we still have working cowboys in our area and with our hot sun and dusty conditions a good hat is an essential item.  Cowboy and Western hats can range from $50 for a low quality hat to many thousands for a top of the line hat.  So during my time in New Mexico I have seen my fair share of cowboy and western hats.

 Tom and Judy are marketing their hats under the name of Alpaca Dream Wear.  At the show they were joined by their farm manager Renee Mays, who was busy selling hats to customers. 

For me while it was exciting to see such a beautifully turned out product, what was more exciting was that Tom and Judy had come up with the idea of using alpaca fiber in a Resistol hat and had followed through on research and development of their product.

According to Resistol’s web site  they are “the largest manufacturer of headwear in the world”. Just think on that for a moment, the largest manufacturer of headwear in the world has just produced an alpaca hat (it is actually blended with some rabbit fur) made from alpaca fiber raised in the United States. That is definitely a step in the right direction for the future of the alpaca fiber industry.

 If Resistol were willing to develop and manufacture this hat is that not another indication that finally the North American Alpaca fiber industry is breaking into the world of mass production of alpaca products?

 Of course this is only the first run of the hats, but if sales at the Great Western Alpaca Show are anything to go by there will be many more runs to follow.  How wonderful it would be if eventually the Resistol Alpaca Dream Wear hat achieved world wide distribution.

 The Alpaca Dream Wear hat is a nice light weight with a smooth, soft texture, being made of alpaca it should be durable and stain resistant.  The light weight of the hat will allow those who prefer to wear a felt type hat to do so in the summer in comfort instead of having to wear a heavier felt type hat made from another fiber.

 I am sure Tom and Judy have put in a lot of time and effort into the development of the Alpaca Dream Wear Resistol hat, things like that don’t just happen on their own.  That time and effort will not only reward them but also will contribute to the future success of the alpaca industry.

 According to Judy, Renee Mays and her husband Phil (Tom and Judy’s ranch managers) have played their part in the development of the Alpaca Dream Wear Resistol hats.  Renee and Phil have provided enthusiasm and encouragement to keep going on the idea and have been a lot of help in bringing the hats to fruition.  Any time you are developing a product support from those around you is important.

 Naturally I had to buy one of the Resistol hats, not only to support Tom and Judy in their venture, but also because a certain husband has a birthday in May and is particularly partial to wearing a hat and I know he will be proud to wear an alpaca Resistol hat.


May 12, 2009

What You Don’t Want To Happen On Shearing Day!

Braveheart sporting his half shorn look

Braveheart sporting his half shorn look


This past weekend our plan had been to shear a large number of alpacas.  We knew we would probably not get them all done, but felt we could make a pretty good dent in our shearing load.

We had everything ready to go, plenty of plastic bags for samples and the various grades of fleece, a shearing order printed out, the shearing area clean, supplies on hand to deal with trimming toenails, teeth and in case of any shearing cuts (we try to avoid cuts but once in a while they happen).  Our fiber sorter Troy Ogilvie and his wife Mary arrived on Friday afternoon and we had helpers lined up for Saturday – things were looking good!  Even the weather was cooperating by being a cool 70 degrees instead of the 90+ temperatures of the previous days.

 After a good breakfast (got to keep your strength up on shearing day) we all went to the shearing area and got started. Chief was first to get shorn and left the barn with his new summer do, complete with a toenail trimming and some ear tick treatment for good measure. We continued on but soon realized something was not quite right with the shears.

On Friday night Bob and Regina Dart had come out to shear some of their female alpacas who are boarded here. Bob had mentioned that the blades on the shears did not seem to be cutting right. When we started shearing on Saturday we started with a fresh set of blades and cutters thinking that perhaps the blades Bob had used on Friday were either not sharpened correctly or had been used and put back in the wrong pile. Initially the shears didn’t seem too bad although we were not getting the same smooth shear that we usually do. As time went on though we could tell something was wrong.  Ric took the shears up to his worktable and was in the process of trying to adjust them to make them run better when two pieces of the shear head flew across the room!  That was the end of the shears.

Fortunately Ric was away from all alpacas and people when those two pieces of metal came loose, they were red hot and traveling fast as the left the shears.  Imagine if that had happened when the shears were being used on one of the alpacas.

With the demise of the shears we had a dilemma, how to shear the remaining alpacas including poor Braveheart who was now only half shorn.  Several phone calls were made to various livestock supply stores both in the area and further afield but we had no joy in finding a replacement set of shears.  Fortunately though a friend of ours had his sheep shears available and we were able to collect them to use for the rest of the day.

We released Braveheart back in with the other male alpacas while we were waiting for Ric to return with the borrowed shears.  Poor Braveheart was quite the picture with his half shorn look and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him  (see photo at the beginning of this post).

We sheared for the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday and now have 18 alpacas sheared – only 25 left to go and we will be finished. 

So this next weekend we will be shearing again, our broken shear head has been sent for repairs and in an effort to prevent our “no shears” dilemma again we have ordered another set of shears to have on hand.  Braveheart is now fully shorn and with two sets of shears in the future we hope we never have any half shorn alpacas again!


April 27, 2009

It’s a Start

Geraint - nicely shorn for the summer

Geraint - nicely shorn for the summer


Saturday found us making a start on shearing.  We didn’t plan on doing the majority of the herd, we just wanted to do a few to help Ric get back into shearing mode and make sure that our set up was good for when we do a larger shearing day.


Things went well, the pace was not a fast one and neither had we intended it to be.  One of the advantages of shearing your own alpacas is that you can set your own pace.  In past years when we have contracted a shearer to shear the herd, the pace of shearing was dictated by the need to get all the alpacas shorn before the shearer stopped at the end of the day.  Granted professional shearers are much faster at shearing than Ric is (they’ve had a lot more practice over the years), but we still had to keep things moving at a pretty good pace to get all the shearing done by the end of the day.  On Saturday we took our time and at the end of the day we still had calm alpacas and calm humans.


The pace of our next shearing will be a little faster, but we would rather take our time and do a good job than rush things and make a mess.  Believe me you can really make a mess with a novice shearer and a pair of electric shears.


Rascal, Echo, Zeus, Geraint and Orchid now sport their new sleek summer look.   We could feel how warm they were when we sheared them and I am sure that they are enjoying being cooler.


Surprisingly our fleeces were not as sand laden as we thought they might be.  The wind has been blowing frequently and hard for several months now and we were sure that out fine red dirt would have found its way into the fleeces but that was not the case.  There was some dirt, but nothing like a couple of years ago when little piles of sand accumulated on the shearing mats from each alpaca we sheared.  We did vacuum out our alpacas before shearing this year, so maybe that helped some.  Whatever the reason the lack of dirt helped our blades on our shears to keep going longer and made for cleaner fleeces to be sent to processing.


The majority of our fleeces I will have sorted by Troy Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas, who is a client of ours and also an apprentice fiber sorter.  The fleeces from Saturday’s shearing will have to be sorted from the bag when Troy arrives for our next shearing day, but those fleeces that are shorn on our next shearing day will be sorted and graded as they come off the alpacas and then the various grades will be ready to go to the Regional Collection Facility for the North American Alpaca Fiber (NAAFP) Co-op.  Sheared, sorted and shipped – that’s the way to deal with your fleeces!


While the majority of our fleeces will go to the NAAFP Co-op, we will also be sending some fleece to the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA), the Alpaca Blanket Project, the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool (NEAFP) and then of course there will be some fleeces kept for showing and for my own fiber projects.


We still have close to fifty alpacas left to shear, but at least we have made a start and have put ourselves in a shearing frame of mind.



April 11, 2009

Where Did You Get That Hat?

Side view of my felted alpaca hat

Side view of my felted alpaca hat



Top view of felted alpaca hat

Top view of my felted alpaca hat









Where did you get that hat,
Where did you get that tile,
And isn’t it a nobby one,
And what a proper style.
I should like to have one
Just the same as that;
Where’re I go they shout, Hulloa,
Where did you get that hat.



Those words are the lyrics to a Ballard written by Joseph J. Sullivan in 1888 and then re-written by James Rolmaz in 1901.  I’m not sure anyone will burst into that song when I wear my hat, but you never know!


In the picture you can see the hat I made during my felting weekend with Judy Sims-Barlow of Spanish Peaks Alpacas.  What you can’t tell in the picture is how soft and how light it is.  Compared to Ric’s regular cowboy hats the alpaca felted hat is very light indeed.


The process of making the hat was not difficult, but there are a series of steps that have to be taken to get from raw fleece to a smooth felted hat and a few more tools were needed than were used for the scarf.


Again I was fascinated by the process of watching the raw fleece turn to felt beneath my hands.  This time we used hot soapy water for the felting process.  The one thing I will need to watch out for when making a felt hat on my own is getting the felt to the correct texture where the felt will hold together well.   I am sure with time and experience it will come.


With this hat there are a couple of weak spots where I didn’t get the felt as thick as over the rest of the hat.  One area Judy was able to fix for me by needle felting a patch of fiber over it, the other spot is on the crown of the hat and will not be directly against my head and so for now it has been left as is.  If over time I find that area does wear through Judy has offered to help me repair it.


The hat took a good day to make from start to finish.  The finishing touches of the hat (adding the sweatband, putting wire on the brim and edging the brim with grosgrain) seemed to take almost as long as the felting.  It is worth taking the time on those finishing touches though as if not done well they will detract from your hat.


Felting turned out to be a lot of fun, I liked that if necessary I could put my felting project to one side for a day or so and return to it without a problem.   I also liked the fact that when felting alpaca fleece you can see the results of your labors almost immediately as you work on the felt. 

Felting certainly provides a workout for your hands, arms and shoulders, but also brings with it time to think and reflect while you are working on the felt.


Working with alpaca fiber is an enjoyable part of the alpaca business and can give you products that you can sell to bring additional income to your alpaca business.  I am sure in time I will be producing more felted alpaca hats, thanks to the excellent tutorage of Judy who so freely shared her tips and techniques helping me to be so successful in my first felting adventure.


Now all I have to figure out is when and where to wear my hat.  Not doing chores I think, but I am sure there will be other occasions when I can wear my hat with pride!



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