A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 7, 2009

The Other Farm’s Hay Always Tastes Better!

It's Not Just The Grass That Is Always Greener On The Other Side!

It's Not Just The Grass That Is Always Greener On The Other Side!

I snapped this photo at the Great Western Alpaca Show.  As some friends and I were getting ready to go out to dinner for the evening we noticed this crafty alpaca sneaking hay from our friend’s stall.

I don’t know what it is about alpacas at shows, but given the chance you will often find them with their heads buried in the hay sack in the neighboring stall.  We are always told to change an alpacas diet gradually but left to their own devices they don’t seem to pay much attention to that rule.

In years gone by when the alpaca industry was not as aware of the need to try and reduce nose to nose contact by alpacas at shows (in order to reduce the spread of any illness or disease) the sight of alpacas stealing hay from each other was quite a common one.

These days’ alpaca owners make more of an effort to try and ensure that their alpacas have minimal contact with alpacas from other farms that are at the same show.  Look at the curtains the alpaca’s owner has put up to try and ensure that her alpacas avoid contact with others.  Unfortunately the alpaca has figured out how to get through those curtains to the tasty hay on the other side.

Realistically I don’t know why we are surprised that alpacas figure out a way to bypass stall curtains, after all they are a herd animal and will seek the company of other alpacas, also they have little to do when at a show apart from eat, watch the world go by and get up to mischief!


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.


March 7, 2009

Back With The Herd

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on


It’s hard to believe that three weeks have already gone by since the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show string have been in quarantine since their return home and thankfully have not shown any signs of illness.  Having spent their three weeks in quarantine it is now time for the show string to return to their respective pastures.


Atlas, Pride and Mags will rejoin Zin and the junior males, while Dream, Zianna and Kaneka will rejoin the female herd.


We didn’t put the fleece covers back on the show string on their immediate return from the show.  Call us soft if you wish, but we felt after doing so well for us at the show it would be a nice treat to allow the show alpacas to have a little time without their covers on, of course the first thing they did when they got home was to have a good roll, but that’s okay the dirt will drop out before their next show.


This last Thursday we were forecast for dangerously high winds.  It makes me take notice when the local meteorologists forecast “dangerously high winds”, bearing in mind that their idea of “breezy” is 25 –35 mph winds, it makes you wonder what wind speed would deserve the title “dangerous”.   We decided, in view of the forecast, we should put the fleece covers back on the show alpacas before the entire tumbleweed crop of western New Mexico landed in our pastures and in our alpaca’s fleeces!


The winds on Thursday didn’t quite live up to the forecast with wind gusts in the 50 mph range; strong enough we were glad we had put the fleece covers back on the alpacas.  The wind was also strong enough that poor Little Man had a real struggle to get across the pasture, but he’s a tough little guy and he made it.


Prior to putting the fleece covers on we cleaned the alpacas fleeces of the worst of the vegetable matter and took photos of the show string without their covers on.   The alpacas were not too cooperative about having their pictures taken, but we got one or two shots that we can use.  We also checked toenails and teeth and treated ears as a preventative measure against ear ticks.  Then it was back to the herd for the show string who wasted no time at all in getting reacquainted with the rest of the herd.



February 18, 2009

Still Bragging!

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece


Having unpacked the truck I have had a chance to examine the scorecard for Windrush White Blast’s fleece that won white color champion at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular last weekend.


One of the reasons I like fleece shows so much is that no matter where you place you get your scorecard back with your fleece giving you some feedback on where you fleece scored high and where it scored low.  The scorecard is a good record that you can look at and keep with your alpaca files.  In halter classes if you place the judge will give oral reasons for your placing, but then you have to remember what the judge said, which when you are showing several alpacas over the course of the day can prove to be a bit of a challenge.  Oral reasons are not given to the alpacas that place outside of the top six.  We figure to have half a chance of remembering accurately what the judge said in a halter class you would have to have a) a good memory b) a tape or video recorder running during the show or c) use a tape recorder immediately after your class to record what the judges comments were about your alpaca, which could be difficult if you have back to back classes.


With AOBA fleece shows the scoring is done using an absolute point system.  You have the potential for scoring 100 points total and that 100 points is divided over several fleece traits.


Below is a copy of our scorecard for Blast’s fleece.  As you can see he scored high pretty much across the board, with his lowest score being in the area of fleece weight.  I had suspected that the score for the annualized weight of Blast’s fleece would be a little low because he has fine fleece and also he is not a very big alpaca.




Blast's Fleece Score Card

Blast's Fleece Score Card





Blast’s total score was 84.5 – not too shabby!  I like the judge’s comments too “Overall wonderful traits!  Wow!  I might be biased but I have to agree with the judge on the Wow factor of Blast’s fleece.


Blast will turn two in June and his breeding career will hopefully begin by fall of 2009, so if you know of any single female alpacas looking for a hot date give us a call or drop us an email as we are sure Blast will be willing to oblige!



February 17, 2009

They’re Back!

Carissima's Fleece

Carissima's Fleece


Ric and the show alpacas finally made it home at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning.  With packing up the show equipment and helping one exhibitor who got his RV stuck in one of the doors to the showground Ric’s trip home was delayed.  Driving a long distance at night is not fun, even more so when you are on your own and hauling a trailer load of alpacas and Ric ended up having to stop a couple of times for rest breaks. 


The alpacas had become quite comfortable in the trailer and were not really inclined to get out once they had come home.  A little bit of coaxing and the sight of their alpaca buddies soon got them jumping out of the trailer and they are now happily settled in the quarantine pen for the next three weeks.  So far we have not had any reports of illness in the alpacas visiting the show, so fingers crossed all that came home with the alpacas was their show ribbons and not some nasty bacteria or virus.


The show alpacas were ready to eat once settled in their pen, I am sure they are happy to be home away from the hustle and bustle of the showground.


From all reports young Mags behaved very well at the show, we had been unsure of how Mags would react to being around a lot of people, but he settled down well and seemed to enjoy watching all of the activity around him.  When it came time to show he behaved very well.   Perhaps being in shows is Mags forte and that extra activity and attention is what he needs to keep him occupied.


Now we have the task of unloading all of the show equipment, cleaning it up, restocking supplies and repacking everything ready for the next show.  Over the years we have learned that it really is best to take care of everything immediately after the show, that way there is one less thing to worry about during the hectic days that occur just prior to a show, when we often wonder if we will ever be ready to leave!


I finally found out that Carissima took second in her class in the fleece show, not a bad result at all as it was a large, competitive white class and the first place winner was our “Windrush White Blast” who went on to take White Color Champion.  We can’t complain at that result can we!


Our next show will most likely be the Great Western Alpaca Show that takes place in early May in Denver, until then our show string will be taking a well deserved break and we will return our attention to the daily care of the herd while making our plans for shearing, spring breedings and the arrival of the spring crias – which will be happening before we can blink I’m sure!


February 15, 2009

Didn’t They Do Well!


Courtesy of Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas I have the initial unconfirmed results of how our alpacas did at the show and they did well.


Windrush Zindel’s Kanika took 6th in her class – the judge loved Kaneka but felt her staple length (length of her fleece from skin to tip) was shorter than the alpacas that placed above her.


Windrush Zindel’s Atlas – 1st Place – poor Regina had to literally run to the class with Atlas due to her having alpacas in the class before.  Regina was the last person to enter the class.  When the judge looked at Atlas’s fleece he told Regina “your going to be happy you made it to the class” so we take it he liked what he saw, especially as he awarded Atlas first place.


Maggie’s Lionheart of LSA (known to us as Mags) – placed 6th in his class.  The judge loved the structure and architecture of Mags fleece but discovered that Mags fleece is tender (breaks easily).  Still the judge liked Mags well enough to place him in the class.  Tender fleece can be caused by a nutritional deficiency or stress.  With Mags being an orphan cria he has had a fair amount of stress in his little life, but we will be tweaking up his nutrition too to make sure that his fleece becomes stronger.


Windrush Zindel’s Pride – it seems as if Pride did not place in his class.  We are not really sure why as he is a beautiful alpaca.  The alpacas in the ring with him on the day must have pleased the judge more than Pride did.  We’re not giving up on showing Pride based only on this one result, he is young and will no doubt change as he matures.  We are sure he will get his ribbons in time.


Windrush Ashling’s Dream – placed 3rd in her class.  The two alpacas that placed above her showed more fleece density than Dream.  Dream’s fleece is pretty dense so the two alpacas placing above her must have really dense fleeces.


Windrush Zindel’s Zianna – placed 1st in her class.  I don’t have any feedback on the judge’s comments but with Zianna’s bright, soft handling fleece I am not surprised that she did so well.


In the fleece classes we also did well.


Windrush Shiimsa  – 3rd in her class


Windrush White Blast – 1st in his class and also white Color Champion.  Well done Blast!  To get a color champion ribbon in a white class is a great achievement and for an up and coming junior herdsire it is a great acknowledgement of the quality of Blast’s fleece and his breeding potential.


Windrush Zindel’s Carissima – we’re still waiting to find out how Carissima did, hopefully she also placed in her class.


Regina and Bob Dart also did well with their alpacas – Nightingale took 4th in her class, Swiss Miss took 1st in her class, Dulcie took 1st in her class (Dulcie is a particular favorite of mine as we bonded when I gave her an impromptu halter lesson when I visited Bob and Regina one day – well done Dulcie!), Athena took 6th in her class and Charlie took 6th in his class.


Song who was also an orphan cria and who was bottle fed at our farm at the same time as Mags took 5th in her class and has now met her new owner Debbie Conkle of DJ’s Classic Alpacas.  Song will be staying in Texas after the show.


Our Stormy who we sold to Bob and Regina for their daughter Abby to work with also performed well at the show.  Both Abby and her brother Nathan used Stormy in their Performance and Obstacle classes, Public Relations Classes and Showmanship Classes.  Nathan and Stormy took 2nd in their Performance and Obstacle class and 1st in their Public Relations Class, while Abby and Stormy took 5th in their Performance and Obstacle class and 2nd in their Showmanship Class – congratulations Nathan, Abby and Stormy!


So all in all it was a good show for us.  Bob and Regina still have three alpacas to show in the white alpaca classes on Sunday and we will be keeping our fingers crossed that they win some good ribbons.    The white classes are the most competitive at any show.


A big Thank You has to go to Bob and Regina who took part in their own form of competition – the alpaca 300 yard dash as they worked hard to make sure that all of the alpacas from our two farms made it to their classes on time.  There is quite a distance from the alpaca pens to the show rings, with crowds and alpacas to negotiate along the way.  To keep up with all the classes and persuade some first time show alpacas to make the dash to the show ring with them was no mean feat – I think we need to award Bob and Regina the alpaca handler gold medal!



February 14, 2009

Today’s The Day

Dream's beautiful head

Dream's beautiful head


The show classes begin today at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  Alpaca show classes run the darkest fleeced animals first gradually working toward the lightest fleeced animals.  With this in mind I fully expect Kaneka (black), Mags (dark brown), Athena (medium brown), Atlas (who color checked as light brown rather than dark fawn), Pride (who color checked dark fawn rather than medium fawn) and Dream (medium fawn) to show today.  Zianna who is light fawn may also show today but may show first thing on Sunday morning depending on the speed at which the classes progress.


Young Dream has been receiving lots of attention and admiring looks from other alpaca breeders at the show.  Dream has a stunning head and great coverage making her very striking.  Dream is still not too enthused by all of the attention but I suspect by the end of the show she will be getting used to it.  Mags too seems to be settling down to all the attention.  At home he actively seeks out attention, but as of yesterday evening he was starting to remain cushed when visitors came to our pens indicating that even he had more than enough human attention to satisfy his needs.


The fleece show started judging yesterday and hopefully will be completed by this afternoon.  Once the fleece show has been opened for viewing we will be able to fins out if the any of the fleeces we entered won a ribbon.


Back home things have been reasonably quiet.  The four girls in the weaning pen who did not go to the show were a little unsettled the first day after their pen mates left for the show, today they are settled and more interested in hay than anything else.   Once the show alpacas return home the four girls in the weaning pen will be rejoining the main female herd group and the show alpacas will be put into the weaning pen for a three week quarantine period.  By the time the show alpacas return home they will be more than ready to stretch their legs and take a good roll in the dirt and then happily relax in familiar surroundings – even for alpacas there is no place like home.



February 13, 2009

Off To The Show They Go

In the early hours of Thursday morning Ric and I loaded up the alpacas going to the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular into our trailer and then Ric drove the seven or so hours to Fort Worth, Texas.


Ric’s journey was long but uneventful and the alpacas are now in their pens at the showground.  Atlas, Pride, Mags, Kaneka, Athena, Song, Zianna and Dream are the alpacas at the show this time and with the exception of Kaneka and Athena this is the first show for this group.


Ric reports that for the most part the alpacas are doing well, Zianna though is doing quite a bit of humming and seeking attention and Dream is also humming too and was not pleased to have her fleece color checked at the showgrounds – she growled at the volunteers checking her fleece!  Dream is so much like her dam Rosie who is very vocal and has that same growl when she wants to express displeasure.


The alpacas will not start showing until Saturday, so they will have time to settle into their surroundings before the classes start.  Ric will walk them as and when he can to get them used to their new surroundings.  Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas, our alpaca neighbors (they also have alpacas in Clovis, NM) will be arriving on Friday and will take over caring and showing our alpacas for us.


Ric will be pretty busy during the show as he is the show superintendent along with his business partner Danette McCleary.  Danette and Ric worked together as Show Superintendents in a volunteer capacity at some earlier alpaca shows and worked so well together that they decided to form a company M & M Supers and contract to work as show superintendents at various alpaca shows around the country.  The position of the Show Superintendent at the show is a big one, among the show superintendent’s duties is the receipt and verification of all of the entries, compilation of the class list, contracting the judges and ensuring the health and color compliance checks are carried out on all alpacas at the show.  The show superintendent basically coordinates the show making sure it runs smoothly – with over 500 alpacas at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular that adds up to a lot of hard work.


As for me, I have remained home to care for the herd and will anxiously wait to hear how our young alpacas do at the show.   We have spent many hours preparing our young alpacas for the show and can only hope that they show well.  Here’s hoping for lots of ribbons, preferably in blue (1st place) and purple (Color Champion and Reserve Color Champion)


February 10, 2009

Then Came The Rain – And The Wind, And More Wind




Finally it rained!  Sunday morning was overcast and smelt like rain but nothing happened until the afternoon, when I was doing chores of course!  The skies grew darker and darker and I could see lightning around us.


As I finished up the girls the crias were enjoying the cool, damp air, running and pronging and having a good time.  Just as I reached the large blue shelter on the far side of the pasture the storm hit us.


Heavy rain, frequent, bright cloud to ground lightning and the roar that a 60 mph wind creates were the conditions we were treated to.  I say 60 mph wind, not because I had a wind gauge with me but because the air force base which is just a few miles to the west of us reported 60 mph winds at that time, with the wind coming directly from the west.


In the shelter with me were the three llamas (always weather smart), Cinnamon (also weather smart) and little Sleeper who is about 5 months old.  I knew that the rest of the girls would be squashed into the other shelter.  Despite us having built the large shelter old habits die hard for the girls and they always head for the smaller shelter in bad weather.  I could only hope that the other crias had headed to the small shelter with the majority of the girls.


Sleeper was naturally a little unsettled by the weather, the roar of the wind and the noise of the rain hitting the shelter were not something she was used to and her dam Keeva was nowhere to be seen.  Fortunately Sleeper likes being around people and she seemed reassured by my presence, but to be on the safe side I put my arms loosely around her to keep her from venturing outside.  Cinnamon had cushed shortly after the weather hit and sat watching the world blow past, while the llamas Maya, Inca and Griffin stood watching the weather taking the odd mouthful of hay as they watched.


We waited out the storm until the lightning and wind had died down a little, by that time Ric had come home and came out to the shelter to see where I was.  The rain was still torrential as we ventured back toward the house with Sleeper running ahead of us.  As we passed some of the pens I could see huddled together in the rain were the rest of the crias, poor little things were soaked through and so one by one we carried them back to the shelter where they could be reunited with their dams and stay out of the rain.


For the rest of the evening we had some good rain, although surprisingly the rain gauge only showed ¼ inch the next morning, we think the wind was blowing the rain so hard it never had a chance to get into the rain gauge, but whether it be sideways or vertical we will take whatever rain we can get!



February 4, 2009

Getting ready for the show

Windrush Zindel's Kanika

Windrush Zindel's Kanika


Yesterday we made a trip to the vet’s with some of the alpacas who will be attending the 10th Annual TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular in Fort Worth, Texas later this month.    When you are transporting livestock from state to state you often encounter different rules and regulations regarding health checks and health requirements for your animals.  The rules and regulations vary from species to species and can change from time to time.


For our alpacas to enter Texas we need a Health Certificate issued by our vet and also a permit number from the State of Texas.  Additionally all intact (not neutered) alpacas over 18 months of age need to have a negative brucellosis and TB test within six months of entry into the State of Texas.  So it was that Kanika and Athena had an appointment with the vet to have blood drawn for Brucellosis testing and the TB test administered.  We picked up Regina Dart and her alpaca Mayflower on the way to the vets (Athena also belongs to Regina but boards at our farm).


It was only on the way back from the vets that I realized that Kanika is only 16 months old and so did not really need testing.  I guess that will teach me to calculate alpaca ages in my head!  As the blood had already been shipped to the lab by the time I realized my error we decided to let the test run.  Who knows, maybe Kanika will need to take another trip to Texas within the next six months in which case her brucellosis and TB tests will still be current.


It is always a good idea to research what tests or paperwork you need for a show well in advance of the show date.  Some tests just take longer than others and it would be awful to discover that you could not get the necessary testing done in time for a show.


The 10th Annual TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular starts on February 12 (exhibitor check in day) and will run until February 15 so we should have plenty of time to get the results of the brucellosis and TB tests prior to the show.  We also have to take the alpacas back to the vets on Friday for the TB tests to be read (the TB test is administered in the area around the base of the alpaca’s tail where it can be easily read if there is a reaction to the test).  At that time we will take the younger show alpacas along as well so that our vet can examine them and make out the health certificate.


There are still plenty of things to do before the show, prepare fleeces for the fleece show, check the alpacas microchips (AOBA shows require all alpacas entering the show grounds to have a microchip), print out copies of BVD test results, print out copies of the alpacas registration certificates, check toenails and teeth and of course pack up all of the supplies that travel with us to a show.   There is a lot to do it’s is going to be a busy week or two!




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