A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 20, 2009

Choosing a Mentor Is As Important As Choosing Your Alpaca

 

Jenny and Clarissa

Jenny and Clarissa

When it comes to getting started in the alpaca business, whether you are buying breeding stock, fiber alpacas or performance and obstacle alpacas a good mentor is invaluable.

 

I cannot say enough good things about our mentors who have helped us on our journey into the world of alpacas.  They were always willing to share information and provided us with guidance along the way, they were also good judges of when to stand back and let us figure things out for ourselves.  Without them we would have undoubtedly had a much harder route on the way to success in our alpaca business.

 

Compared to when we first purchased alpacas there are many more alpaca farms to choose from these days.  Some have been in the business for many years, others are relatively new to the business and each farm will have its own “personality” so as to say.  It is very easy for someone to set up an impressive website and create a certain impression of them or their business, but when it comes to your needs a website probably will not be able to help you as much as a good alpaca mentor can.

 

While a lot of alpaca sales are made over the Internet I strongly advise new alpaca owners to physically go to the farms that they are considering purchasing from.  By doing so you will get a much better idea of the quality of the alpacas on the farm, the level of care of the alpacas, the knowledge of the farm owners and whether your personalities gel or clash.   There is a lot to learn about raising alpacas and I always maintain that you should purchase from a farm who not only has alpacas that suit your needs but who you feel you can communicate with freely and well.

 

I still remember when we were first looking to purchase alpacas, we received a very impressive video and brochure from one farm, the alpacas in the farm brochure looked beautiful, the description of the farm and its owners sounded great, but when I telephoned the farm to ask a question the response I got from the owner was not a good one.  He sounded irritated by my question and seemed to imply that it was something that everyone should know (I later learned that it was something quite specific to his farm).  The response to my communication with that farm was enough for me to decide that I did not want to do business with them.   How could I learn about alpacas from them when they were not responsive to a simple question?  To this day I still have not done business with that farm, they have some spectacular alpacas but I just cannot bring myself to do business with someone who was condescending and rude to a potential customer.

 

So when you are looking to buy alpacas, take a close look at the owners too.  Are they approachable?  Are they willing to share information freely?  Do they have a good reputation within the alpaca community (you can always ask for references from their customers or other breeders)?   What is their knowledge base?  Have they only been in the business a short while and have little knowledge themselves or have they years of experience that they can share with you?

 

Take the time to get to know the farm you are purchasing from, you will soon get a feel for how they do business and whether they are a good fit for you.  I have often said that you need to feel comfortable enough that should you have an alpaca emergency at 2 a.m. and need to call them then you would do so.  You would hope not to have that situation, but it might happen and you might need to talk to someone who can share their experience and guide you in what to do, or direct you to someone who can help you.

 

Going back to the subject of selecting performance and obstacle alpacas, a good alpaca breeder will know which alpacas in their herd have good potential as performance and obstacle alpacas.  They will guide you through your selection rather than just sell you an alpaca that maybe looks cute but is not really a good choice for showing in performance and obstacle.  A good alpaca breeder will want you to be successful in your endeavor and will work with you to help make that happen.

 

There are many wonderful alpaca breeders who are more than happy to mentor their clients, whether the client is spending several thousand dollars or a thousand dollars.    If you choose your alpaca mentor with care and consideration you will most likely discover that not only do they teach you and help you in whatever aspect of alpaca ownership you choose they will also become firm friends in the process.

 

Rosemary

January 18, 2009

And Here’s a Good Example!

I subscribe to the “Google Alert” service and have my alerts set so that whenever a piece of news includes the word alpaca I receive an email notification from Google. Yesterday I received a Google Alert that fits in with the subject of selecting and training alpacas for performance and obstacle classes.

Here is a great example of an alpaca owner exposing one of his alpacas to a different environment. Now the alpaca farmer in this clip is taking his alpaca out more to get the people in his community familiar with alpacas and maybe to raise awareness about alpacas in the United Kingdom, but just watch how this alpaca reacts to his visit to the local pub – he’s pretty calm and relaxed, perhaps a little uncertain about being stroked by the people in the pub, but all in all the alpaca does really well. It is a good example though of how you can take alpacas out in public and get them used to different environments (and do some great marketing at the same time)

Click through to this link (from the good old BBC) and enjoy!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/7833623.stm

(I have to say though that you can tell this alpaca is not a Yorkshireman, there is no way he would turn down a pint of good bitter if he was!)

Rosemary

January 14, 2009

Stormy’s New Career

Stormy - Off to a new career as a performance and obstacle alpaca

Stormy - Off to a new career as a performance and obstacle alpaca

Our Stormy was born back in June in the middle of a sandstorm, hence his name Windrush Desert Sandstorm.  Despite the challenging weather conditions at the time of his birth he emerged into the world a happy-go-lucky, laid back lad.

As Stormy has grown he has kept his laid back personality.  His dam Willow is a sweetheart and it seems as if Stormy has inherited her even temperament.  Stormy is also small like his dam Willow and that combined with the long staple length of his fleece has made him look more and more like a puffball as he has grown.

One thing I particularly like about Stormy’s temperament is that while he is curious and likes to investigate what is going on around him he is not pushy. Once he has discovered what is going on he will either watch from a respectful distance or go back to doing something that he finds to be more interesting.

Stormy’s halter training was a breeze; Mitch Murry from Sandy Acres Alpaca Farm was visiting our farm and helping us weigh alpacas. Mitch went out into the pasture to catch one of the other crias, Song, to bring her to the barn for weighing. When Mitch arrived at the scales I realized that the alpaca on the end of the lead rope was not Song but was in fact Stormy. Stormy had never worn a halter before and yet he walked willing with Mitch out of the pasture, away from his dam and over to the scales. Now that’s one easy halter training session!

During a recent daily update phone call with our alpaca neighbor Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas I was talking about Stormy and how easy he was to handle. Regina mentioned that she might be interested in Stormy for her daughter Abby who likes to take part in alpaca Performance and Obstacle competitions. At the weekend Abby came out to the farm and met Stormy and took him for a “test drive”. The two did well together and Abby decided that she would like Stormy for her special alpaca and so Stormy will be leaving us soon to go and be with Abby and start training for his new career as a Performance and Obstacle alpaca.

Many children (and also some adults) enjoy taking part in alpaca Performance and Obstacle classes. The classes are fun and can be quite challenging. While there are a certain amount of mandatory obstacles included on the course, the show can pick various other approved obstacles for inclusion in the course. Often the class participants do not learn of the exact nature of the obstacles until an hour or so before the class and of course there is no practicing on the course prior to the class starting.

The purpose of the Obstacle Class is to demonstrate the team effort between the alpaca and its handler, the level of training of the alpaca and the alpaca’s willingness to cooperate with its handler. According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) Show System Handbook the ideal performance in an alpaca Obstacle Class “consists of a poised and calm team that performs the required movements with promptness and willingness on a loose lead” .

Bearing in mind that description of the “ideal performance” you can see why Stormy is a good choice for Abby. Stormy’s easy going personality and willingness to learn will help Abby and Abby, who now has at least two years experience of alpaca Obstacle and Performance classes under her belt, will be able to train and encourage Stormy as he learns to do things he has never done before!

We look forward to watching Abby and Stormy compete in their classes and hope that there will be many ribbons in the future for this up and coming young team. Good Luck Abby and Stormy we will be cheering you on from the sidelines at the shows!

Rosemary

September 22, 2008

Safely Home From The State Fair

 

The New Mexico State Fair is over and Ric and the alpacas arrived back home yesterday evening.

 

This year’s State Fair Alpaca Show was a little smaller than those of previous years with approximately 224 entries.  The economy and high fuel prices are making people think hard about which shows they travel to.  According to the State Fair staff, livestock entries were down across the board and a local news channel reported that attendance at the State Fair was also down.

 

Still the alpaca entries came from several states, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and California to name a few.

 

According to Ric our four alpacas all behaved well and were very relaxed for the whole trip.  Only one of them Windrush White Blast had been to a show before, for the other three this was a new experience.

 

Unfortunately young Zeus did not place in his class, one of the hazards of being in a competitive class of juvenile white male alpacas, usually the largest class at a show.  Zeus is a little small for his age and that probably went against him, but he is still young, has a beautiful bright white fleece and has lots of time to grow.

 

Blast did also not fair as well as we had hoped, but he did come away with a 6th place ribbon, the judge liked his fine, soft handing fleece and crimp style but felt he was not as dense as some of the other alpacas in the class.

 

Windrush Zindel’s Carissima took a third in her class, and she was the youngest in her class as well.  The judge really liked her fleece (it is really nice if I say so myself!) and commented that that she realized Carissima still has some growing to do. Carissima is starting to enter that gangly adolescent stage that young alpacas go through, so hopefully in a few months she will be looking more adult, and I bet her spring show season will be a successful one.

 

Finally our true black juvenile Windrush Zindel’s Kaneka did us proud by taking not only second in her class but also going on to win the Reserve Color Champion – well done Kaneka!  And well done Ric for traveling to the show on your own, setting up and manning the booth and showing the alpacas, even with just four alpacas shows are hard work on your own, but they also are fun too,

 

Now the show alpacas will be placed into quarantine for the next three weeks, just in case they picked up any parasites or other ills during their trip.  The biosecurity and vet checks at the show were very thorough, but there is still always a risk of bringing back something unwanted and if that does happen we don’t want it spreading through the herd, especially as we have young crias due to be born any day.

 

Back at the ranch, we continue with cria watch, no sign of any imminent births yet, just some heavily pregnant dams waddling around the pasture, enjoying the cool breeze of the fan, having a roll in the dust from time to time, dipping their feet in the water bucket (I’ve lost track of how many times I have had to rinse and refill the bucket!) and eating hay to keep those crias growing!

 

Rosemary

August 16, 2008

Visiting Neighbors and Making New Friends

 

On Friday we took a break away from the daily routine of the farm and drove over to Levelland, Texas to meet some new alpaca breeders.  Levelland, Texas is about a one and a half hours drive to the east of Clovis and our journey was a nice easy one on a beautiful sunny day.

Cindy Negan, her husband Charlie, daughters Kim and Tiffany and Cindy’s father Richard are the proud owners of Monaco Pines Alpacas.  The family has been working really hard to set up their alpaca farm and took delivery of their first six alpacas earlier in the week.

 It was great to see the excitement and hear the enthusiasm of the Negan’s about their new venture and it brought back memories of when we made our first alpaca purchase.  When we had signed the paperwork and handed the check over for our first alpaca, Jenny, I could barely believe that we now owned her.  Jenny passed away in 2004 but still holds a very special place in our hearts, she was the foundation to our herd and has left her legacy in her two sons who now stand at stud at our farm Enchantment’s Prince Regent and Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel. 

 We had a lovely day at Monaco Pines, talking about alpacas, looking at alpacas, demonstrating how to trim teeth using a Tooth-a-matic tooth trimmer and then later having a run through of show ring procedure to help prepare Cindy and family for their first alpaca show.   It was a nice break from our daily routine and we came away from Monaco Pines Alpacas having made new friends in the business.

One of the joys of the alpaca business is the people you meet within the alpaca community.  I am sure that the alpaca community has a few old grouches, but for the most part alpaca owners are warm, friendly and willing to share their experiences and ideas. 

We look forward to seeing more of the Negan family in the future, watching their herd grow, following their progress and celebrating their successes in their alpaca venture.

Rosemary

August 9, 2008

The Fleeces Are Back – With Ribbons

Winning Fleeces - Blast and Velvet

Winning Fleeces - Blast and Velvet

 

 

 

Thursday saw the arrival of the FedEx van and the return of the fleeces we sent in to the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show.

 

One of the fun things about mail in fleece shows is the moment when you open your box and discover if your fleeces have won ribbons – it’s a little bit like opening a Christmas or birthday gift, except sometimes you experience a little disappointment if your fleeces have not won anything.  Still with a fleece show you at least get the scorecard in with the fleece showing you how your fleece scored in the various areas (fineness, handle, uniformity of micron/length/color, crimp style, staple type/density, brightness, lack of medullation, lack of impurities/stain/damage and fleece weight) and any comments from the judges.

 

So how did our fleeces do?  No firsts or seconds I am afraid, but we did get ribbons.  A 4th place for Velvet and a 5 th place for White Blast.  Not too shabby for a large show with over 300 entries.

 

Velvet’s fleece had been moved from the dark fawn class to the light brown class.  This is not the first time that has happened to Velvet.  Her color is between the two shades and we have found that it depends on the lighting at the facility as to which color designation she is given.  Having the vicuna shading (graduating from dark on her back to lighter fleece toward her belly) Velvet is always at a little bit of a disadvantage when compared to a solid brown or solid fawn alpaca.  When I skirt her fleece to prepare it for showing I end up removing all of the lightest shade, leaving just the dark and mid shade, which of course reflects in her fleece weight.  In fleece shows we are aiming to show the good qualities and consistency of the fleece and so to leave the lightest fiber on Velvet’s show fleece would result in fewer points for color consistency.  Velvet is also very fine which does not help her fleece weight either.  At the end of the day though there were three other fleeces that scored higher than Velvets.  Her score card will give me pointers as to which areas she is lacking in and will assist me in helping to decide which herdsire to breed her to when she comes to breeding age.

 

White Blast placed 5th in his class.  I know the competition in the white classes would have been stiff and so a 5th place is still an achievement.  Another bullet to add to Blast’s future herdsire resume!  Blast’s fleece scored high in all areas except his fleece weight where his fineness and small stature probably didn’t help him too much.  Blast is still young though and has been doing some good growing this summer.  While he will never be a large alpaca he is not undersized by any means and according to him he is ready to try his hand with the ladies.  As he is only 15 months old it will be a little while before he goes on his first date, but he definitely has the potential to make a good herdsire.  As well as Blast’s fleece scores the Judge had written the comment “Commendable Brightness” in the notes area of Blasts scorecard, which is a nice compliment in itself.

 

The fleeces will now go back out to the studio for storage until the next show.  They might need a little straightening out depending on how they were handled at the show, but it will not take much to get them ready for the next time.

 

We are proud of the achievement of our two young alpacas and have several more fleeces to show during the course of the year, which, fingers crossed, will also bring us more ribbons in due course.

 

Rosemary

July 31, 2008

Dolly Lingers, Flies Arrive

The last few days have been more humid than we usually experience in this part of the country and have coincided with the arrival of August heat.    We have been keeping a close eye on the alpacas, who are used to our high temperatures but who are not used to the humidity.  The fans have been running 24 hours a day and the Gatorade has been present in the water buckets to provide the alpacas with electrolytes.

 

Watching the herd they appear to be handling the heat index well.  While there are moments when several of the alpacas will be stretched out in the sun and asleep for the most part they have still been active, nibbling at hay and exploring the pastures.  Lack of activity can be an indication of heat stress and so to see our alpacas moving round pretty much as usual is a good sign.

 

The crias love to play still and their latest game seems to be one of trying to see who can leap up in the air and give the fanciest kick.  I think Zianna is holding first place in that game with Annochia and Dream coming a close second.

 

Amazingly the reason for our humidity is the lingering effect of Hurricane Dolly that hit the South Texas coastline last week.  Once Dolly had landed she headed North West, as she traveled over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains her timing and placement was just right to cause about 7 inches of rain in 24 hours for the village of Ruidoso, New Mexico.  Ruidoso to me always seems more of a small town than a village but it is commonly referred to as a village.  Whether it is a town or a village it is a charming place and we have happy memories of time spent there over the years.  Ruidoso is also home to Enchantment Farm Alpacas, the farm where we purchased our first alpacas.

 

Unfortunately the rains from Hurricane Dolly caused major problems in Ruidoso as the Rio Ruidoso broke its banks and major flooding caused devastation with between 300 and 500 people having been evacuated.  Having seen the news we called and spoke to the Evans family of Enchantment Farm Alpacas and also Marilyn Smith of Portas Nirvana Alpacas, also in Ruidoso, and both reported that they are okay and not badly effected by the floods.

 

At Windrush Alpacas we did not experience any of the heavy rains, we had one short burst of rain but apart from that the only signs we have seen of Hurricane Dolly is cloudy skies (with some quite spectacular clouds) and increased humidity, and then there are the flies.

 

We had been doing quite well regarding the flies until the moisture and humidity arrived at the end of last week.  A few days after that and the flies started appearing en masse.  It is amazing to see how many flies can suddenly appear without warning.  We are still using Diatomaceous Earth on our alpaca feed and sprinkled on the poop piles, but I think the volume of flies is just too much for any product to handle.   Our flytraps are filling up within just a day or two, which is unusual for us even for August, which is typically our worst month for flies.  Hopefully as time goes on the Diatomaceous Earth will have a greater effect and the fly population will dwindle.

 

Rosemary

July 16, 2008

Well Isn’t That Pretty

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

The last couple of days I have been busy preparing a couple of fleeces for the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) Continental Fleece Show which is to be held in Denver, Colorado on August 2 and 3.

 

I enjoy entering the AFCNA Show, it is a big show with good competition and included in the price of the entry fee is a DVD of all of the seminars given at the show, plus the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces for each class.  It is so nice to “take part” in the seminars at your leisure at home, how many seminars have you attended in the past where you later wish you could repeat or re-hear part or all of the seminar.  Well with the AFCNA show seminars being recorded and sent out on DVD after the show you can repeat all or part of the seminar as you need.   It is also great to see the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces, especially if your fleece is one of those winners; it gives you feedback which is accessible time and again.    My experience at shows is that usually you are so busy with the show itself that you do not get time to attend the seminars, if you are showing alpacas and win you hear the judges comments at the time of your class, but it is so easy to forget the exact words used and sometimes the PA system at the show grounds means that all you hear is a garbled noise.  With the AFCNA show the judges comments are available to you at your convenience – isn’t that a nice luxury.

 

I am sending in the fleeces of our young male Windrush White Blast, who is out of our dam Clarissa and a herdsire from Texas called FRA Lucero.  I have been really pleased with Blast and when we sheared him his fleece was so beautiful I knew it was a definite candidate for a show.  No doubt Blast’s fleece will be in a large highly competitive class, but I feel it is good enough to stand up to the competition.  Just look at it in the picture at the beginning of this blog entry, it is beautiful, bright and shiny with a consistent high frequency crimp – such a pretty fleece and I am sure it will catch the judges attention.

 

Also being sent off to the show is the fleece from our young female Windrush Zindel’s Velvet Princess.  Velvet is the first offspring from our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel and she has a unique velvety handle to her fleece.  Velvet’s fleece has a higher frequency crimp than Blast’s but lower amplitude of crimp.  Two very different fleece styles but each beautiful in its own right.

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

 

So I will finish preparing the fleeces and send them on their way to the show later this week.  Fingers crossed they will win some nice ribbons, and even if they don’t at least I will get some education and fun from watching the show DVD’s.

 

Rosemary

July 8, 2008

Big Bales versus Small Bales The Verdict is in

Last year we fed our alpacas from big round bales of hay, we were unable to find small square bales in our area and we were curious as to how the big round bales would work in an alpaca operation. We ended up feeding two different types of hay in the big bale form, one had a higher protein value than the other. The lower protein hay we put out a whole big bale at a time in the alpacas pasture. The higher protein hay we forked off the bale and only put out a certain amount twice a day.

We fed from big bales for a whole year, now we have purchased our hay for the rest of this year and this time it is in the small square bales. Going back to the small bales has highlighted the pros and cons of using big bales. So what have we discovered on the subject of feeding big bales or small bales? Here are our thoughts and observations.

§ The big bales are typically cheaper to buy, but we feel there is more wastage. During our time of feeding the big bales we did not use a specially designed big bale feeder and discovered that the alpacas and the llamas love to rub against and climb on the big bales causing the hay to fall onto the ground. We did end up putting a panel around the big bale to keep the hay contained, but it still seemed as if there was a lot of wastage.

§ You don’t want to have the waste hay from a big bale around your pastures just before shearing. The alpacas love to roll in it, their owners do not love having to pick all of that hay from their fleeces.

§ The waste hay can be used for bedding in your trailer, and the alpacas love to lie on the waste hay in the pasture.

§ The big bales need more specialized equipment to move. They are very heavy and you cannot possibly move them without using a tractor or specialized big bale hauler.

§ The lower protein big bales were a good source of “noshing hay” for the alpacas during the day. As we are a dry lot operation having a big bale available 24/7 in each pen meant that the alpacas had constant source of grazing.

§ If a big bale starts to mold there is not much you can do to stop the rest of the bale from molding. We had that happen with one of the last big bales we had and we were unable to feed it to the alpacas at all.

§ Small bales are much easier to handle. They usually weigh between 40 – 60 lbs. and can be easily lifted or put into a wagon to move around.

§ Small bales do not require specialized equipment.

§ You can be more accurate as to the quantity of hay you are feeding from a small bale.

§ There is less wastage from each small bale when you separate the flakes of hay to feed to the alpacas.

§ Small bales are getting harder to come by. Many hay farmers feel that the harvesting and baling costs are less for big round bales, and in our area the large livestock operations (feedlots, dairies, etc.) prefer the big bales.

§ Small bales tend to be more expensive per ton than large bales.

§ Small bales are quicker to feed making the time spent doing chores less, anytime I can save time but still provide the same standard of care I am happy!

So all in all I have to say that the small bales are the winner. The real deciding factor was the time saved. Since we have moved back to using small bales I have been amazed at how much faster chores have gone, and even more amazed as to how many hours I must have spent forking hay from big bales during the last year.

Now if we found ourselves in a situation where we were again unable to get small bales we know that we can cope with feeding big bales. It may not be the best option, but it is not a bad option. All in all though the small bales are really the way to go, so for the next year or so until our current hay supply is used up I will enjoy being back to working with small bales, and when it comes to looking for our next supply of hay we will try our best to get small bales, provided the quality of the hay is good.

Rosemary

June 17, 2008

And The Honorable Mention Goes To……. Me!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Shows, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:23 am

AOBA Nationals Photo Contest Ribbon

Just before I left for my trip to England I made a last minute decision to enter some of my photographs in the Photo Competition at the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) National Show, which was held this year in Sandy, Utah.  The National show is one of the largest alpaca shows in the US and while I was not going to be able to enter alpacas in the show I thought I could at least enter the photo competition.

 

I sent in three photos, one was of Blast nursing when he was a cria, the other was of young Megan Stewart (daughter of our friend Jennifer Stewart) in with some of the male alpacas, and the third was of Jennifer Stewart and Zeus at Halloween when Jennifer visited our farm dressed as a clown.

 

I hadn’t heard anything back on my photo entries until the other day when a large padded envelope arrived in the mail.  Inside was a ribbon and a letter from AOBA informing me that I had received an honorable mention in the Humor Category for my photo of Jennifer and Zeus.  I was very pleased, this is the first time I had ever won any sort of award for photography and as my photos usually leave a lot to be desired it is quite an achievement for me!

 

For the competition I titled the photo “I’m cute what’s your excuse” and you can see it on my blog entry for November 1, 2007.   Part way through that blog entry you will see two pictures together, the one I submitted to the competition is the one on the right hand side.

 

The ribbon will now go on display in our studio I think, along with a copy of the picture.  It will also be printed in the Autumn 2008 copy of Alpacas Magazine and will eventually be loaded on the AOBA members website www.alpacaowners.com – not bad for a last minute entry!

 

Rosemary

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