A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 15, 2013

Farewell to a Faithful Guardian

A sad part of raising alpacas and llamas is that at some time in their life we have to let them go.   As some of our herd ages this is a situation we will no doubt be encountering more often.  It’s tough, but unavoidable.

This morning our guard llama Griffin passed away.  At 13 years old Griffin was middle aged in llama terms, some llamas live well into their twenties but in Griffin’s case that was not to be.

We acquired Griffin through Southwest Llama Rescue along with our other two llamas Maya and Inca.  Griffin’s registered name was Twilight’s Griffin Girl, her fleece was a beautiful rose grey.  Griffin was always more aloof than Maya and Inca, she was a strong and proud girl and took her job of guarding the herd seriously unless someone started putting out hay and then she was quite easily distracted!  Griffin loved to find a higher piece of ground to stand on so she could survey her “kingdom”.  She also loved a really good roll in the dirt, and a nice “shower” with the hose during the hot days of summer.  When we used to hose her legs Griffin would start a dance, spinning and twisting as she enjoyed the cool water on her skin.  You had to make sure to stay out of her way unless you wanted to be showered from mud flinging up from under Griffins feet!

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Griffin looking proud after shearing

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Griffin gets up close and personal

From her records we knew that Griffin had once had a cria, but sadly he did not live long.  When crias were born on our farm Griffin would often nuzzle them and follow them around, and it was on more than one occasion that Griffin joined in the evening cria pronk.  It was so funny to see the little alpaca crias pronking around accompanied by a pretty hefty llama!

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Griffin checks out one of our crias Kaneka

We had known something was not right with Griffin since July.  While I was away visiting family in England Ric called me to tell me Griffin was not eating.  I was due to return a couple of days later and by that time Ric had managed to get Griffin eating again but something was not right with our girl.  We consulted our vet and he felt that Griffin might have congestive heart failure and warned us that it would only be a matter of time before we had to say goodbye to her.

Amazingly Griffin perked up and seemed to be doing better, she was back to eating again and eagerly staking her claim on the morning and evening hay as she loved to do.  The alpacas all knew not to mess with Griffin at feeding time.  We were optimistic.  Perhaps the vet’s diagnosis was wrong.  Griffin seemed good and we were happy to see her looking like her usual self.  But then we noticed that once again Griffin was not right.  She seemed to be losing muscle in her rear end, she stood awkwardly and getting up and down seemed more difficult for her than normal.  We again consulted our vet.  When he examined her he said that her heart sounded good and that the symptoms she had displayed earlier in the summer were all gone, but he was a little baffled as to what was causing Griffin’s discomfort and muscle wasting.  Tests were done to see if perhaps there was a neurological problem or perhaps an issue with Griffin’s spine, blood tests were run to see if there was anything abnormal, but nothing showed up in any of the tests to give us a clue.

We tried various treatments from probiotics to antibiotics, we treated for parasites and ear ticks, we put Griffin on some arthritis medicine in case that was the problem.  I used my photonic red light on her and gave her gentle massages.  Griffin would respond for a while and start eating again and then stop eating and start to lose muscle again.  Neither our vet nor we could come up with any clues to help us figure out what on earth was plaguing Griffin.

Last week Griffin again went off her feed.  We managed to get her eating again, but within a couple of days she would not eat anything we offered to her.  Ric and I were both very concerned about Griffin and what we should do for her.

Last night when I did chores I walked Griffin over to the pen where she liked to eat.  As I walked behind her I noticed she was tripping over even the smallest of rocks in the pasture, she just didn’t look good.  I offered her food and stroked her neck.  I talked to her and told her that if she felt it was time to leave us then I understood.  I told her how much we loved her and what a great job she had done for us guarding the herd.  I told her we would miss her but that we would be okay.

This morning when I got up I looked for Griffin and found her standing by the fence in front of the house.  The nights have been cold recently and Griffin had been spending them in the big blue shelter at the other side of the pasture, staying in there until the hay was put out.  But this morning she had already made her way across the pasture.  I watched Griffin walk around a little and then cush down.

When our helper Leigh Ann arrived I asked her to keep an eye on Griffin and told her that I was very worried about her.  Not too long after Leigh Ann went out to feed the alpacas she came back in and told me that I needed to come to Griffin.  Leigh Ann had seen Griffin’s legs suddenly thrash and Griffin had gone onto her side.

Leigh Ann and I went out and I when I looked at Griffin I knew her time to leave us had come.  Griffin was still conscious.  I put a blanket and a towel under her head and sat with her, stroking her and talking to her until she took her last breath.  Leigh Ann stayed with Griffin and me too, giving us both comfort during a difficult time.

Maya, Inca and Griffin

Maya, Inca and Griffin, the three girls always worked as a team

Our Griffin will be buried in one of the grass pastures that the alpacas and llamas like to visit when we let them out for a day of grazing.  From that point you can see all three alpaca pastures and the hay barn so Griffin can continue to guard over us night and day.  I would like to think that she now has been reunited with her cria and is pronking around with him free of pain and full of joy.

To our faithful guardian Griffin, farewell dear one, you served us well and gave us many years of joy.  We will miss you.  May you now rest in peace.

Rosemary

October 23, 2013

And Then She Walked ….

It’s been a while since I have been able to find the time to write.  I know many are anxious to hear how our Pearl is doing and I am happy to tell you the news is good.

As Pearl has been getting stronger Ric and I have been going out several times during the day and getting her into a standing position.  Initially she wasn’t able to bear any weight on her legs, but as the days progressed she started to be able to put weight on first her back legs and then her front legs.   Soon Pearl was at a point where she could balance on her own for a few seconds.  At times we would catch her trying to push herself up, she was getting stronger and wanted to be up and about but her body was not quite ready yet for that feat.

Our last Open Farm Day was October 12; it was a lovely fall day with blue skies, sunshine and just a little bite in the air.  I monitored Pearl throughout the day making sure she got her medicines and always had access to hay and water. When all of our visitors had gone Ric and I went out to make sure Pearl had hay and water and to stand her up.  Once we got her standing she seemed pretty stable so Ric suggested we let go of her and see what happened.  So let go we did, and then with shaky, wobbly, ungainly steps Pearl walked.  It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t for very long but we could tell Pearl was very excited to be able to move around on her own – and you can bet that we were excited too!

As Pearl tired she grew very wobbly and soon she cushed (sat down) again.  We gave her a lot of praise and made sure she had plenty of hay and water to celebrate her major progress with.

From that point on Pearl’s progress has been quite amazing.  To begin with we still had to help her get up, but once we did she would always walk for a several steps before she had to cush again.  Unfortunately the other alpacas didn’t realize that Pearl had a limited time to be up on her feet, curious to see Pearl up and about they often crowded around her and got in her way so Ric and I had to make sure we cleared a path for our special girl.  Out of the way girls, Pearl is coming!

As Pearl’s legs have gained strength she has gone from not being able to get up on her own to being able to get up on her own and move about at will.    The act of cushing from a standing positing was quite challenging for her to begin with, but as her muscles have strengthened and her joints have got used to moving again she is managing to cush much easier.  It is still a little challenging to her but every day it gets a little easier.

Pearl finds her feet

Pearl finds her feet

I think one of Pearl’s biggest joys, once she was up and about, was when she was able to make it to the poop pile instead of having to poop and pee where she lay.  The instinct to poop and pee on the poop pile is very strong in alpacas, and if you are in any doubt about that you would soon have that doubt removed if you saw how hard Pearl worked to get to that poop pile and do what she wanted to do!

Pearl is a little hunched up at the rear and we can see that her legs are still not quite back to normal, but it is only 11 days since she started walking again and given the progress that she has made in that short time we are optimistic that in time she will walk normally again.  It has been nothing short of amazing to see Pearl’s progress every day.

Pearl continues to be her sweet self with the exception of when I treat her legs with my photonic red light.  Then she tells me that she is not a fan of my light touching her legs, something that is much more the behavior of a healthy alpaca.  A good sign.

When Pearl is walking and starts to get tired she makes rapid little hums as though to say “I want to keep walking but I just can’t do it anymore”  I let her cush wherever she is and allow her to rest before moving her back into a pen where we can feed her away from the other alpacas.

In the mornings now Pearl is sometimes up and walking around when we get up.  The leaves are starting to fall from the trees and on Monday morning I got up to find Pearl up and about looking for fallen elm leaves which are an alpaca delicacy.   On Monday evening Pearl even tried to run a little as the rest of the herd ran towards the hay at feeding time.  Pearl now walks over to join her regular feeding group in the morning.  She can’t quite remain standing for the full time they are eating but she tries and she tries hard.  Step by step, moment by moment Pearl gets closer to being “normal” again.

Pearl is still on medication; probiotics once a day and a homeopathic liquid twice a day.  I continue to use the photonic red light on her but am now treating her every other day.  Pearl also still receives her daily bowl of vegetables along with her regular hay and grain, she gets so excited when she sees me coming with her feed, uttering grunting noises and sometimes flicking her tail up in the air.  At times I get the impression that she feels her waitress service is not quite as rapid as she would like it to be!

Pearl enjoys some pumpkin

Pearl enjoys some pumpkin

Throughout her recovery Pearl has showed immense strength, determination and will to live, she never once seemed as if she was going to give up, she just fought and fought and fought.  I believe that strength and will to live have been crucial components of her recovery.  We can do all we can to aid an alpaca’s recovery, but if they decide they don’t want to live all the medicine in the world won’t fix the problem.  Pearl wanted to live, and live she has.

We still have a way to go with Pearl, but I feel we are now on the downward slope and that time will be her best medicine from this point on.

I send many thanks to all those who have prayed and sent healing thoughts to Pearl, those who have emailed or called to check on her progress.  All of those kind and good acts have been very much appreciated and just look at the results they have created!

Rosemary

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

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.

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

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

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

August 5, 2009

The Heat Is Back

A Very Pregnant Willow Keeps Cool

A Very Pregnant Willow Keeps Cool

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rosemary

July 25, 2009

Taking Care of the Herd Elders

 

 

Primera - our oldest girl

Primera - our oldest girl

As an alpaca herd grows it is inevitable that you will have older alpacas within the herd. Alpacas can live for a long time with some being reported to live into their twenties and even still being able to breed at that age. Personally I have found that there seems to be a drop off point around the seven year mark, I am not sure why that is but it seems that if alpacas make it past seven years of age they go on to live a long and happy life.

 

As in humans the elderly alpaca can be as vulnerable as the newborn or very young alpaca, so as your alpacas age it is good to pay special attention to them. With alpacas being stoic an elderly alpaca might be quite ill before he or she shows symptoms.

 

At 14 years old Primera is the oldest alpaca in our herd. Primera came to us when she was about 5 years old, she had been donated to our vet for research as she had never had a cria survive. Primera would get pregnant easily and carry the cria to term but once her crias were born they would start to decline and eventually die. When Primera arrived at our farm she had a female cria “Aniera” at her side. Aniera was struggling, she had very little muscle but lots of fiber and long toe nails. Despite our vet having transfused Aniera and giving her supplemental milk she had become hyper thyroid. Aniera was born during the foaling season and our vet was busier than ever, so he asked us to take in Primera and Aniera and care for them. Sadly when she was three months old Aniera died.

 

Our vet decided to breed Primera again, but this time brought her to us to give birth so that we could care for her and her cria. When the cria was born (this time a little boy “Geraint”) we intervened from day one. Geraint was transfused, put on a bottle, transfused again and had blood-work done on a regular basis. Geraint also started to become hyper thyroid, but this time we caught it really early and put him on thyroid medication. Geraint survived and is now four years old.

 

Our vet feels that perhaps Primera has something in her milk that kills her crias, or has some genetic trait that she passes on to her crias that affects the way they process milk, preventing them from building muscle. Like Aniera, Geraint was very thin as a cria and yet produced a very long staple of fleece and toe nails that grow like weeds, so we do wonder if there is something strange about how Primera’s crias utilize protein.

 

Primera has not been bred since Geraint and has established a role here as a great companion alpaca for visiting alpacas that are in quarantine on their arrival here. Of course Primera still produces fleece, it has very little crimp style, but it is quite fine and consistent and she produces a good amount of it so she is still contributing to the income of the farm.

 

Primera is very much a hands off alpaca. She does not enjoy human contact, cushes when we try to trim her toe nails and becomes very vocal when we try to handle her. Primera is definitely an alpha female and the other alpacas all respect her position in the herd.

 

So when I was doing evening chores three nights ago and I noticed Primera cushed in the pasture and not eating I knew something was not right. When Primera let me sit beside her and stroke her I was convinced that all was not well with our girl.

 

Primera seemed to be in some pain, not bad pain but she did appear to be almost wincing. I offered her hay and she nibbled a little bit but really was not too interested. Her temperature was fine, she was breathing normally and there were no real indications of what could be wrong. I tempted Primera with some alfalfa and she ate it readily showing that she still had some appetite. I gave Primera some MSE drench (a great pro-biotic and enzyme drench) and also offered her some warm, soaked beet shreds as she seemed a little shivery. The drench she was not impressed with, the shreds she ignored.

 

We had received a lot of rain that morning and our temperature had cooled off a lot, I started to wonder if perhaps the change in pressure was bothering Primera. I had noticed during the winter months she seemed to sit around more on the days that the weather changed and had wondered then if perhaps she was starting with arthritis.

 

I kept an eye on Primera until very late at night, she was reasonably comfortable when I left her but allowed me to stroke her neck and even give her a kiss on the nose as I wished her goodnight. I do believe that alpacas understand when we show them that we care for them and that can sometimes be a good motivator for them to hang in there and battle whatever is bothering them. Primera rested her chin on my hand and seemed to relax a little as I scratched her under the chin.

 

By the morning, Primera was up and about, nibbling at hay and drinking water, but she had now developed watery diarrhea. We stated Primera on some antibiotics, gave her some more MSE drench and also some Biosponge to help firm up the diarrhea. Over the past few days Primera has definitely improved, she is still not back to normal, but each day she is a little livelier, each day her appetite is a little stronger.

 

As I have treated Primera I have discovered that this hands off alpaca actually enjoys a little massage. Every time I give her medicine I follow it up with a massage down her neck and along her spine. Primera doesn’t move away but stands still and enjoys the massage, particularly in the area above her kidneys. Imagine how achy we feel when we have a stomach bug and how some warm soothing touch can feel good and lift the spirits. I think that is why Primera is so willing to stand for her massage every day.

 

I am sure in time that Primera will really start to feel better and at that point will go back to being her grumpy, growly self, but that’s okay as it will be a sign that she is better. In the meantime we will continue with the medicine and the TLC and enjoy our time with our eldest girl.

 

Rosemary

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