A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 25, 2013

Even alpacas like to have friends

A question was posted recently on one of the online alpaca groups I belong to:

“Do alpacas make friends and if so do they remember those friends if they are separated and meet up again?”

The answer from alpaca owners was a resounding “Yes”.  There were many mentions of alpacas who bonded with other alpacas, some were related others not.  Stories of alpacas recognizing past friends at shows or when they met up at farms were also recounted.

Over the years we have witnessed the strong bonds that alpacas form with each other.  Certainly alpacas recognize their own family groups and seem to have stronger bonds with those alpacas (except for our alpaca Queen, for as far as Queen is concerned once those crias are weaned they are on their own!).    But it is not only family ties that bind alpacas together, they definitely also make friends.

We recently witnessed an example of this when we moved the two boys in our current weaning group, Patton and Leo, over to the Junior Males pen.  Patton and Leo were part of a group that consisted of five boys and seven girls.  Three of the boys Sentry, MacArthur and Espresso were moved over to the Junior Males pen a few months ago, but we decided to keep Leo and Patton back in the weanling pen for a little longer.  Patton was small for his age and we were concerned he would receive too much rough housing attention from the other males.  Leo was a tough boy to wean, at our first attempt he became distraught at being separated from his dam Velvet and tried to break through fences to get to her so we put Leo back with Velvet for a little longer until we felt he was able to better handle the separation.  Over time we could tell that Leo had matured more and was ready to be weaned so he soon joined the other weanlings.  This time Leo handled the separation from Velvet much better.  When Leo started to show too much interest in the weanling females (when he matured he really matured!) we decided that it was time to move him and Patton into the Junior Males pen.

Our process for introducing males to a new group is to create a smaller pen within the pen the males are being moved to.  We then put the new boys plus a couple of mellow boys from the existing group in that pen too.  The smaller group can have nose to nose contact with the other boys and will remain in that pen for a week to two weeks.  Usually by that time the novelty of the new arrivals wears off and when we let everyone get together we typically have very few problems.   We also make that final introduction at feeding time so that there is an additional distraction.

When the time came for Leo and Patton to meet the other junior males all went well.   Soon they were wandering around, checking out their new surroundings and new pen mates.  It was then we noticed something else, that Sentry was almost glued to Patton’s side!  Sentry was so happy to meet his buddy Patton again!

When the weanling boys had all been together prior to weaning they all got along well, but we hadn’t realized how much Sentry liked Patton until we saw them together again.  Sentry would not let the other boys mess with Patton and Patton was pleased to have his buddy by his side, even though Sentry is now considerably bigger than Patton.

Patton with his buddy Sentry

Patton with his buddy Sentry (Sentry is the brown alpaca taking it easy in the background)

Alpacas are most definitely a herd animal, which is why we tell people that you should never have a lone alpaca.  We have been fortunate to witness alpacas in our herd group over a considerable period of time and know that they do form bonds.  When they are with their families or their buddies they are happy, separate them and it definitely causes them some stress.

Sometimes though it is inevitable that those bonds are going to be broken.  Male and female crias that grow up together are not going to be pastured together, alpacas that are sold to other breeders will often be sold without their friends (unless we can work out a great deal with the new owners and we will try and do that when possible) and of course at times an alpaca will pass away leaving a buddy behind.   Any time there is going to be a separation we do our best to manage it well; probiotics to keep the alpacas rumen functioning well and to supply B vitamins to help them handle the stress of separation, Rescue Remedy to help them deal with the loss, over time the alpacas do adjust.   It is sometimes a fine balancing act to keep the herd happy and run a successful alpaca business, but we do our best to respect the alpacas while also keeping our business functioning.  Then of course there are the happy reunions we sometimes see, such as Patton and Sentry or a female who comes back to the farm for a breeding and is happily reunited with her dam or her sister for the duration of her stay.

So yes, alpacas do make friends and do remember those friends – and sometimes those friends can also be humans, but that’s a subject for another time 🙂

Rosemary

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March 23, 2012

Farewell To A Special Boy

ImageThere is much sadness today on the farm as yesterday we had to say goodbye to one of our alpaca boys –Mags.  Mags started to be unwell on Monday, rallied a little on Tuesday but by Wednesday we knew he was really in trouble.  On Wednesday the vet decided to keep Mags at the clinic administering fluids and pain killers to him while he tried to figure out what was wrong.  By Thursday it was apparent that Mags was suffering greatly and that the treatment the vet was trying was not working,  so with heavy hearts we told the vet to euthanize Mags.  Such hard words to say and for us to accept but so necessary to relieve Mags pain.

Mags life had been a challenge from the day he was born, a large cria he got stuck during the birthing process and the owners of his dam had to get a vet to deliver Mags by C-Section.  Despite his difficult birth Mags came out strong and fighting, sadly though his dam Maggie had sustained damage during the birthing process and died the next day.  Mags owners raised Mags on the bottle and loved him dearly but as time went on it became apparent that Mags was starting to develop behavioral issues, something that can happen with bottle fed alpacas, particularly males.  Mags owners did their best to establish correct boundaries with Mags from day one, but his personality was such that he persisted in bonding more strongly with them than other alpacas.  At that point is when Mags made his first visit to our farm.  He arrived here with another bottle cria Song, who had lost her dam at a slightly later stage than Mags and who would not nurse from a bottle.  We agreed to work with both Mags and Song, trying to instill appropriate behavior in Mags and working with Song to get her to nurse.  Song by this time had decided that Mags was her new mother and milk source and would try to nurse off him, much to Mags surprise!  By holding a bottle underneath Mags we were soon able to get Song to nurse from the bottle,  Mags played an important part in Song’s survival.

In time Mags behavior did improve and he was able to return to his owners, while Song went on to her new home.  But Mags was always an alpaca who had to be handled carefully and with awareness.

Mags owners later decided to leave the alpaca business; as part of our agreement in working with Mags we had become his co-owners and so Mags returned to our farm.  The change of location threw Mags world in a spin for a while and once again we had to work to establish boundaries and encourage good behavior over bad.  By this time Mags was maturing and testosterone was being added into the mix, but our male herd helped us keep Mags in check, educating him in the hierarchy of a male alpaca herd.  Once again he settled down and even started to bond with a couple of the boys, in particular our black herd sire Champ.

Today Champ is wondering where his buddy went.  Champ is a very intelligent alpaca, described by the transporter who delivered him here as one of the smartest alpacas he has met.  I think Mags was on a similar level to Champ and that is why the two boys bonded.

Throughout his life Mags wanted attention and affection, but he sought in from humans instead of other alpacas and not always in the best way.  We certainly did not want to wrestle with him, but in alpaca boys that is often how they play.  We would have loved to give him the attention he sought, but knew that to do so would only encourage his inappropriate behavior and so we were very much hands off with Mags.

In the last few days of his life, as we cared for Mags we were finally able to hug him and give him the attention he had so longingly sought for all of his life.  His eye contact with us was direct, in times of pain he gained some relief and comfort from our touch and our voices, he put his trust in us completely and was so incredibly strong through some difficult days.

It is always hard to decide to let one of the alpacas go, but in Mags case it was even harder, he was fighting so very hard for his life and we wanted to give him every possible chance, but when suffering is great and there is no chance for recovery all we can do is provide merciful relief.   Mags lived up to his registered name until his final moment – Lionheart.

Sometimes  in life we experience meaningful connections, things happen that seem to be guided by a gentle spirit, not seen but often felt.  As I wrote to a dear alpaca breeder friend last night to inform her of Mags passing, Ric had the television on in the other room, through my tears I could hear the words of a song from the The Secret Sisters.  I have never heard of The Secret Sisters before and while I love music I am not familiar with their work.  The song is from the sound track of the movie The Hunger Games, a movie that has not interested me at all and which I would probably not have planned on seeing.  I had not been paying attention to the noise of the TV, but The Secrets Sisters song reached me clearly and perhaps with a purpose.  The song is titled “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”, the words could not have been more fitting for the emotions we are feeling.

“Black clouds are behind me, I now can see ahead

Often I wonder why I try, hoping for an end,

Sorrow weighs my shoulders down and trouble haunts my mind

But I know the present will not last and tomorrow will be kinder

Tomorrow will be kinder, it’s true I’ve seen it before

A brighter day is coming my way, yes tomorrow will be kinder

Today I have cried a many tear and pain is in my heart

Around me lies a somber scene I don’t know where to start

But I feel warmth on my skin, the stars are all aligned

The wind has blown but now I know

That tomorrow will be kinder

Tomorrow will be kinder, it’s true I’ve seen it before

A brighter day is coming my way, yes tomorrow will be kinder”

The alpaca business is often joyous, but any time you are raising lifestock there will come a time when you have to say goodbye to those in your care.  It is never easy and though we have been raising alpacas for 12 years and have said had to say goodbye to our dear alpacas before it doesn’t get any easier.

The picture at the top of this post is of Mags when he was young during his first stay at our farm, and that is how I will choose to remember him, full of life, curiosity and wanting so much to be loved.  Dear Mags you were a special boy, we really miss you.   I still feel your presence, can still feel your warmth, wherever your spirit soars I am hoping that for you too today and tomorrow will be kinder.

April 21, 2011

Don’t You Just Love Alpacas?

April Open Farm Day

Ric conducts a pasture tour during our windy April Open Farm Day

Well of course you do because after all they are adorable, but on top of that they are also adaptable.

Our last Open Farm Day was challenged by incredibly windy conditions, with sustained winds between 25 and 30 mph and gusts up to 60 mph.  All in all the conditions were really not the nicest, but we discovered that the alpacas have some pretty dedicated fans who were determined to visit the farm despite the wind and blowing dust – a big thank you to all those who braved the weather to come out to see us!

Of course windy weather is pretty much the norm in Clovis in the spring, but this spring has been particular windy and very dry.  Our natural grass that we planted in the back field has been a big help in keeping the dust down, but there is still plenty of dust and also tumbleweeds to blow around.

At one point in the day the conditions just became too poor for us to continue with the farm tours, but we didn’t want to disappoint people, especially when they had braved the weather to come and visit.  That is when the adaptability of alpacas came into play, using first Buck and then Champ for our “volunteers” we brought the alpacas into the farm store so that people could see them up close, be out of the wind and actually hear what Ric was saying as part of his presentation.  The visitors could even enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade and a cookie while they listened!

Buck Comes Into The Studio at Open Farm Day

Buck In the Studio on April Open Farm Day - He Saved People From Having to Suffer The High Winds And Dust That Day

Both Buck and Champ did well, Champ wasn’t too sure about lifting his feet to show people his soft pads and decided to cush (sit down) for a while, but apart from that the two boys behaved like stars – the beauty of alpacas!

So now with the April farm day behind us it is time to turn our thoughts to shearing.  We will be shearing this weekend and continue on shearing whenever we get the opportunity until the whole herd is done.  As warm as it is already I am pretty certain that the alpacas are more than ready for their cool summer do’s – mark your calendars for Saturday May 14 our next Open Farm Day and then you can see how different the alpacas look without their fleece – hopefully by then we will be rid of the high winds and Open Farm Day will be a pleasurable time for both humans and alpacas!

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 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

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

August 9, 2009

Remember When …

 

It only took us 30 minutes to do toenail trimming for the whole herd. That was several years back when the herd was really small! These days it takes us a lot longer.

 

It would be nice to be able to do maintenance tasks for the whole herd in one day, but with over 60 alpacas on the farm and just Ric and me to do the work that is not a realistic expectation. So instead we break the tasks down to groups of alpacas. One day we will do the junior males, the next day the senior males, the following day the female herd and then the next day the quarantine pen. It makes the work load a little easier and by doing tasks by groups then it makes the record keeping a little easier too.

 

The female herd is by far the largest group and Saturday morning found us giving all the girls and crias a pedicure and manicure (toe nail trimming), treating their ears for ear ticks and weighing all of the spring crias. We didn’t do badly, and were completed with chores and our maintenance tasks by noon. Considering the temperature was headed to the 100’s as we worked we don’t think we did too badly.

 

Thankfully all of the spring crias have now reached the 40 lb. mark and so instead of the weekly weighing that has been happening since they reached 30 lb. they can now go onto the monthly weigh schedule – and at 40 lbs each its time to start some halter training as we don’t want to be carrying them over to the scales any more!

 

The next couple of days will see us taking care of the maintenance tasks for the rest of the herd. It’s not difficult work, it just takes a little time, but it is work that needs to be done and also it gives us a chance to get our hands on each alpaca to make sure everyone is hale and hearty.

 

Following our morning working in the heat it was time to retreat to the cool of the house and enjoy a nice cold drink, write up the herd notes and take care of a few things inside the house before starting afternoon chores. Not a bad way to spend a day really!

 

Rosemary

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.

 

Rosemary

May 5, 2009

Alpaca Shows Without Alpacas

There are very few alpaca shows that do not have alpacas at them, usually those shows are fleece shows only and are combined with conferences or other events.

This past weekend I went to an alpaca show, but this time I did not take alpacas.  We had initially planned on taking just a few alpacas but for various reasons decided that it would be best if I attended the show just as an observer.

On Thursday I headed north to Denver, Colorado and attended the Great Western Alpaca Show (GWAS).

GWAS is a large alpaca show usually attracting over 1,000 alpacas.  From what I hear this year’s alpaca attendance estimate was 1,100.  The show is put on by the Alpaca Breeders of the Rockies and is always well organized and a fun event to attend.

 So what do you do at an alpaca show if you have not taken alpacas to show?  Well the choices are many.  You can meet other alpaca breeders and network with them, you can look at alpacas from many different farms, you can attend seminars and classes put on at the show and of course you can watch the alpaca show.

I enjoyed my time at the show, for me it was very different from when we take alpacas, then we are preoccupied with caring for the alpacas and making sure we get to our classes on time.  Without any alpacas to care for on this trip I was able to set my own pace and take the time to visit with alpaca breeder friends both old and new.  I was also able to check out any alpacas that placed highly in their class, their owners were happy to show them to me and I got to see some exquisite alpacas up close and personal giving me food for thought as to where our breeding program should head next.

The show itself was interesting to watch, not only from the perspective of which alpacas won each class and the judge’s comments but also from the perspective of watching the exhibitor’s showmanship.  Many alpaca breeders have not shown any form of livestock before owning alpacas and some do not take the time to learn at least the basics of showmanship before entering in the show ring, others though do their homework and you can tell from the way they present themselves and their alpacas that they are trying hard to make a positive impression on the judges.

The show also featured a fleece show and a fiber arts show, both of which I spent time admiring.

On the last day of the show I almost decided not to go out to the show grounds, but there were a couple of alpacas who had caught my eye and who I wanted to take a second look at and also the “Get of Sire” class was taking place in the morning and had 18 entries – one of the biggest Get of Sire Classes I have seen. (The Get of Sire Class gives the owner of a herdsire the opportunity to show three of that sire’s offspring who they feel represent the best attributes of the herdsire and show the herdsires consistency in putting those attributes on his offspring).   A Get of Sire Class of that size must be a challenge to judge but the judges seemed to really enjoy that challenge and the winning entry certainly featured three alpacas who were as the judge said “cookie cutter” in their similarity of appearance and a credit to their sire.

The final classes I got to see before leaving the show grounds were the youth costume classes.  The costume classes started in an adjoining ring while the Get of Sire Class was still ongoing and the spectators could not help but have their attention drawn to the sight of both handler and alpaca in their various costumes.  From Batman (handler) and The Joker (alpaca) to Milk Carton (handler) and Cereal Box (alpaca) and Princess (handler) and her Prince (alpaca) the entries showed not only creativity but also how much you can train an alpaca to tolerate (particularly the alpaca who entered the ring sporting a pair of tight fitting pajama bottoms!).

I can recommend attending an alpaca show without alpacas, and it is something that perhaps all alpaca breeders should do once in a while, it gives you a much different perspective on how the show is viewed by those walking through the barn.  Certainly I have some ideas about how we will change our booth set up at future shows.  Most of all though alpaca shows are an enjoyable experience, I enjoyed myself this weekend and managed to make new connections both human and alpaca while doing so.

Rosemary

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