A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 29, 2013

I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks…

Filed under: Adopt A Paca, alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, Blogroll, Family, General — alpacalady @ 5:10 pm

So said William Shakespeare and so say us!  For recently we received a special package in the mail for one of the alpacas in our Adopt-A-Paca program.

Our sweet yearling alpaca Pearl was recently sponsored by the Reyes family of California.  Pearl’s “adoption” was actually given to the son of the family, Oliver Reyes, by a family friend, Lan Merrill.  Lan confided in me that while young Oliver was the one receiving the gift, it was Oliver’s mother Veronica who would be the most excited.   The Reyes family had visited an alpaca farm in Ojai, California and Veronica had fallen in love with alpacas (and who can blame her!).

Pearl in the snow

Pearl

It was great fun getting to know Lan as we arranged for the sponsorship of Pearl and the delivery of the adoption packet. It was also fun hearing from Veronica once she and her family had received their gift.    They were so thrilled to learn of their newly “adopted” alpaca.  We soon received an email from Veronica saying that she would like to send Pearl a gift of some sort and I suggested that perhaps some alpaca treats would be something Pearl would enjoy.

Veronica, her husband Tim and son Oliver got busy and soon we received Pearl’s gift – just look at all those yummy treats!

Pearl's Treats

These are the treats and card that Pearl received from her Adopt-A-Paca sponsors, the Reyes Family

Along with the treats also came a card for Pearl.  Now Pearl hasn’t mastered reading yet but she did look meaningfully at me when I read her card to her, particularly when I got to the part about watching her figure.

We are now working on getting Pearl to eat the treats from our hands.  Pearl is a little shy and isn’t in the habit of eating out of our hands, but she is starting to eat the treats if we crumble them up and put them in a feed tray.  That is if she can get to them before the other alpacas!

This is just one example of the fun our alpaca sponsors are having with our Adopt-A-Paca program.  Participation is as little or as much as the sponsors wish to do.  They can just enjoy receiving their pen pal letters and other goodies from their sponsored alpaca or they can send letters or gifts to their sponsored alpaca or come and visit their sponsored alpaca.

We are thoroughly enjoying getting to know our sponsors,  the Adopt-A-Paca program is bringing us new members to our Windrush Alpacas family from near and far.  Coraline’s sponsor Betty comes to see “her girl” on most Open Farm Days, Honey’s sponsor Kiyah comes and helps us with chores some weekends (well Kiyah’s mom Mindy ends up doing most of the helping, thank you Mindy!  But Kiyah has great fun collecting farm treasure such as sticks and rocks and is treated to the occasional wheelbarrow ride by Ric), Etta’s sponsor Darlene comes by often for special kisses from Etta. Aida took the picture of her sponsored alpaca Dream to show and tell at school.  Aida’s sister Cara (who is almost 3) decided that her sponsored alpaca Kyleen really wanted to be called Adele.  We can’t let sponsors officially change our alpacas names as they are all registered with the alpaca registry but Cara doesn’t need to know that.

So a big Thank You to all of our Adopt-A-Paca sponsors, we really appreciate your involvement in our program and look forward to learning more about you and helping your sponsored alpacas keep in touch with you.

To the Reyes family – thank you so much for Pearl’s gift, she and her herd mates are most grateful and hope that even though you are many miles away you will one day be able to visit the farm.

For those who also wish to make alpaca treats either for our alpacas or theirs, here is the link to the recipe which we found on the website of Cathy Spalding of Gentle Spirit Behavior and Training for Alpacas and Llamas  http://gentlespiritllamas.com/html/tips/treats.htm

Rosemary

November 26, 2012

Over the river and through the woods…

Anyone who has visited our farm knows that we are no-where near a river and a long way away from any woods BUT it seems as if someone didn’t let the female alpacas know that on Saturday.

Led by our escapologist alpaca Willow and aided and abetted by a forgetful Ric (who forgot to put the pin back in the latch on the girls gate) the girls executed a swift and playful pasture escape on Saturday afternoon!

Fortunately at the moment that Willow chose to lift the latch on the gate and release the herd I was standing outside with Daisy the dog.  I was also talking on the phone to my mother in England (sorry about the sudden hang up Mum but needs must!).  It took seconds for Willow to flip the latch with her nose and away they went!  You could almost hear them singing the words of the Christmas song Over the River (for those of you who are not familiar with the song you can hear it here:

http://www.links2love.com/christmas_songs_over_river.htm

I think that they were particularly singing the verse –

Over the river and through the woods
And through the barnyard gate
We seem to go extremely slow
It is so hard to wait

but there was nothing slow about them I can assure you.  Bucking, kicking and running they were off like a shot and while they ran in one direction Daisy and I ran in the other to close the front gates so that the girls could not get off our property.   Of course the hay barn and then the boys were their target destination (they were not heading to grandmothers as  several of them had their grandmothers running with them).

It was almost feeding time when the great escape took place so we let the girls stay out and play for a while.  We may not have rivers and woods but we had plenty of open space and the girls enjoyed their frolic on a beautiful, unseasonably warm, New Mexico November afternoon.

Here is a video of the girls enjoying their unplanned afternoon frolic!

Rosemary

PS  Note to fellow alpaca breeders – always position your hay barn at the opposite end of your property from the front gate – it’s a great distraction for loose alpacas

PPS Note to Ric – REMEMBER TO PUT THE LATCH PIN IN THE GATES!!!!

October 25, 2012

Adopt-A-Paca – the motivation behind the program

Aimee

I’m Aimee – Adopt Me!

We recently decided to launch a new “product” at the farm, although perhaps ‘product’ is really not a good word for it.  “Opportunity” may be a word more fitting, as we feel our Adopt-a-Paca program allows people a chance to get a closer glimpse of life with alpacas without having to go to the expense of buying and keeping them.

The Adopt-A-Paca program was Ric’s idea.  Anyone who has been to our Open Farm Days knows that Ric is the main man when it comes to doing the tours of the farm.  Ric is definitely much more of a people person than I am (nothing personal folks, but I just am more comfortable with four leggeds than two leggeds!)  and really enjoys interacting with visitors young and old.  Ric’s 30 years in the Air Force has provided him with confidence in public speaking and his degree in Elementary Education enables him to relate to the many young visitors we get to Open Farm Day.  People love Ric’s farm tours and Ric loves to give them.

So having shown many visitors around the farm, Ric realized that many people would dearly love to own alpacas but are not in a position to do so.  Not everyone lives on acreage suitable for alpacas, and our military visitors know that they are usually stationed here for a few short years and could deploy overseas or get a permanent move in the near future.  Some people know that they don’t have the time to care for alpacas along with their already busy schedules.  There are a variety of reasons why people may not be able to own alpacas, but that doesn’t mean that they may not hope to in future years and it doesn’t stop them longing to own alpacas or wanting to connect with alpacas.  Ric wanted a way to get those people a little closer to living the alpaca dream.

Being “animal mad” at a young age I can relate to those who long to own animals but who don’t get the opportunity to do so.  As a child I loved animals of all shapes and sizes and longed to have a pony or horse of my own.  The only dolls I played with were those that could sit on toy horses.

My parents did their best to cater to my desire to be around animals.  They arranged for riding lessons, drove me to stables to help friends who owned horses and drove me to kennels to volunteer.  They knew that any family vacation would involve either finding a riding stable nearby or organizing trips to visit local horses, cows or any other creature that I decided to bond with on vacation.  My brothers and I grew up with family dogs, cats, goldfish, gerbils and guinea pigs, but my parents did not feel that we could have a horse in our family.

So when Ric suggested the Adopt-a-Paca program it struck a chord with me.  Here was a way we could allow people who fall in love with our alpacas and to get a little bit closer to alpaca life.

To start with we have kept the program very basic.  For $25 people can select one of the alpacas in the Adopt-a-Paca program for a year and in exchange they receive:

  • An Adoption Certificate
  • An 8×10 picture of the selected alpaca
  • A copy of the Alpaca Registry, Inc. (ARI) registration certificate showing the alpaca’s date of birth an lineage
  • Periodic pen pal letters from the alpaca
  • Monthly e-mail newsletters from the farm
  • Maybe even get some neat bonuses during the year… you’ll just have to wait and see!

The sponsorship will last for 12 months at which time you can renew for another year or pick a new alpaca

As the program grows we may make some changes and expand it further, for now we are just “dipping our toes in the water” to gauge the amount of interest.

Of course you don’t get to take the alpaca home and ownership of the alpaca is still ours, but for the year you are in the program you will get a closer look at life with the alpacas and hopefully get to know “your” alpaca better.

What’s in it for us you might ask?  Well your $25 contribution will go toward covering the costs of daily care for your alpaca – it costs more than $25 a year to raise an alpaca, but your contribution will help offset the costs a little.  We also feel we will get to know our farm visitors and fans a bit better.  Perhaps too in these trying economic times your “adopted” alpaca will bring you something to look forward to and put a little joy in your heart as alpacas often do.

We hope you will join in with our “Adopt-A-Paca” program and that together we will have a lot of fun with it – and of course if you would prefer to actually own alpacas we also sell them too!

Rosemary

October 7, 2012

Cold Weather And Pumpkins Arrive At The Farm

Brrr!  In typical New Mexico style we have been treated to a sudden change in weather.  From days last week with temperatures in the high eighties and early nineties, today we have dropped to a day time high of around 45 F.  Fall has finally arrived on the high plains!

The cold weather gives the alpacas (and their owners) a hearty appetite.  It also makes for frisky alpacas – young Tiki was doing vertical take off displays this evening, Snow and Betty were running full gallop with the occasional kick of their legs in the air.  With the alpacas now having at least a couple of inches of fleece growth the cool temperatures feel good to them.

Our next Open Farm Day is rapidly approaching.  Fall is a great time to stock up on alpaca products and I have been busy creating things for the store.  Some wearable and others just fun.

Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving all bring to mind pumpkins and even pumpkins can be made from alpaca!  Easy to care for, no mess involved and they will last you for years.  Needle felted alpaca pumpkins are just the thing for your fall decorations.

Needle Felted Alpaca Pumpkins

Hand made and cute as can be these mini needle felted pumpkins could be yours!

Using dyed alpaca roving (roving is fleece that has been processed to align all of the fibers in the same direction) and a needle felting technique.  I have made a selection of pumpkins to be available in the store.  From plain pumpkins to Jack-O-Lanterns, mini pumpkins to larger versions – you can choose the ones that appeal to you the most.

Image

So come on out and join us next Saturday, October 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. pick the pumpkin that appeals to you the most and meet our wonderful alpacas at the same time.

Rosemary

July 19, 2012

A Little Rain Can Make Alpacas Happy

Filed under: alpaca, alpaca behavior, Alpacas, Blogroll, camelids, General, Uncategorized — alpacalady @ 6:45 pm

For the last couple of years we have been in a major drought, rain has been little and rare.  The drought has made hay scare (and expensive!) but also stopped anything from growing in the areas outside our alpaca pens.  Those areas turned to sand, causing blowing dust and sad alpacas, for usually in the summer months we let our alpacas out in groups to graze the areas around the pens but with the drought that has not been possible.  But there is hope!  In the last few weeks we have had a little rain, not enough to fix the drought by any means, but enough to get some plants to grow and provide a little greenery – and to alpacas greenery means grazing!

So here is a little video clip of our Junior Boys galloping out to graze (notice we didn’t have to ask them twice if they wanted to go!).  The Senior Boys look on with jealousy, but don’t feel too bad, they got to graze the front areas over the weekend, which also meant they got to hang out at the fence line with the girls.  A little rain can definitely make alpacas happy.

(By the way the website URL in the commentary was not an unashamed marketing push, our friend Eddie just happened to ask me for it when I started filming – good timing Eddie!)

Rosemary

 

May 18, 2011

The Year of Unexpected Events

Phew!  Life certainly has been busy on the farm.  Time for writing has been scarce even though the desire is there.

I am beginning to think that 2011 should be renamed “The Year of Unexpected Events” – February brought record setting cold temperatures in the midst of a dry winter, March brought a houseful of unexpected guests when Ric surprised me for my birthday by flying in friends and family from across the world (which also solved the mystery of why Ric had taken a sudden interest in tidying and decluttering!), April brought us an unexpected large vet bill when our miniature Australian shepherd dog Blue decided to try and herd our horses and had to have a toe amputated as a result of her escapades (the vet said the horse did a good job of a surgical amputation and he just had to tidy everything up).

Blue tries to play with her cone on

Blue with her bandaged foot and her cone collar

The unexpected events continued in April when a nearby large grass fire propelled by the high winds that have plagued us this spring caused us to evacuate all of the alpacas from the farm.  We were fortunate in that the wind changed direction before the fire reached our property, but with 70 alpacas at the farm we knew an evacuation would take time and so decided to act sooner than later.  How fortunate we are to have many friends and acquaintances who showed up to help with the evacuation without being asked.  Having heard of the fire they made their way to our farm, some with trucks and trailers to help as they could.

Smoke from the Grass Fire April 17 2011

Smoke from the nearby grass fire rolls over our house - photo courtesy of our friend Barb McKenzie

May sees us in one of the worst drought periods in history, one of our hay suppliers has had his total crop of wheat fail and will not have hay for sale this year – a blow to us but an even bigger blow to him as his hay sales are a big part of his livelihood.   Thankfully another of our suppliers was more fortunate and has now delivered us 1450 bales of good looking wheat hay – good fortune has smiled on us again even in tough times.  What a year and we are not even half way through it!

Shearing is now well underway; we still have 25 alpacas left to shear but should be completely finished following another couple of shearing sessions.  Ric shears our alpacas and not being a professional shearer he cannot compete with the 7 minutes per alpaca that some of the professional shearers achieve.  There is something to be said though for our slower pace, our alpacas are calm and relaxed during the process and we can take the time to try and ensure that our fleeces are evenly sheared with few second cuts and gathered without contamination from short fibers from other areas of the alpaca.  We have a team of loyal friends who have shown up time after time to help us with shearing – to Joe, Becca, Kayleen, Keenan, Bethany, Terri L., Terri F., Darlene, Jeff, Don and Barb however can we thank you enough.

Our monthly Open Farm Days have been a great success, people love to come to visit the alpacas and learn about them during Ric’s circular tour of the farm.  We too have enjoyed sharing the farm with the community, it’s so much fun to watch the delight on people’s faces as they get to see or feel an alpaca for the first time.  For all who have come out to the farm on Open Farm Days we heartily thank you and hope you will continue to come out and visit us.  There is always something new going on at the farm and each month we hope to add a little something to make your Open Farm Day experience even better.

Ric Shows Off Roadrunner to our Open Farm Day Visitors

Ric Shows Off Roadrunner to Open Farm Day Visitors

And talking of new – crias will be here soon!  Yes we are watching and waiting for the first new cria to make his or her arrival.  Queen and Rosie are now both overdue, perhaps in part to the fire evacuation and the drought conditions – alpacas can and will put their pregnancies on hold if they feel conditions are not right for their survival or the survival of their cria.  Keeva too is getting close to her delivery date and TeQueely, Willow, Snow, Cinnamon and Gen are not far behind.  That will be quite the group of crias once they arrive – and with the way things have been going this year I would not be surprised if there isn’t something unexpected within the bunch too.  Let’s hope whatever that unexpected is it is something pleasant and delightful!

Hope to be back soon with more of our news – and there is more news to share so keep checking back for more posts and updates!

Rosemary

April 21, 2011

Don’t You Just Love Alpacas?

April Open Farm Day

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

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

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

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

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

Buck Comes Into The Studio at Open Farm Day

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

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

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

Rosemary

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

May 20, 2008

What a Weekend!

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what plans we have made, life will tell us quite firmly that there are other things that need our attention at that moment and our plans have to fall by the wayside.

 

We had planned on shearing alpacas on Saturday and Sunday, but that was not to be.  First we had ordered some more blades and cutters for our shears and they didn’t arrive, then we were greeted with rain on Saturday morning and it continued to rain on and off throughout the day.  It is never good to shear wet alpacas and so Saturday’s weather really but an end to our plans, but even more than that was the fact that neither Ric or I got any sleep on Friday night/Saturday Morning as by 1 a.m. Saturday we were delivering a cria in the pasture and from then on our time was spent caring for the dam and the cria.  More on that situation in another blog entry, but as of now the dam is doing well and the cria is not the strongest but is hanging in there with some supplemental feeding.

 

We decided it would be foolish to put a pair of shears in Ric’s hands when he had not been to sleep since the day before and so cancelled our plans to shear on Saturday.  By Sunday we still had to care for the cria through the night but felt up to shearing and so Sunday’s shearing went ahead as planned.  We were fortunate to have lots of help show up, especially as on Sunday morning our horse Sabre decided to colic.  Thankfully one of our neighbors was able to help us with him and he seems to be doing much better now, but is still under a watchful eye.  A big thank you goes out to our neighbor Darlene for all of her help with Sabre and also to Bob, Regina, Nathan and Abby Dart, Corky Green and his grand-daughter Christina, Jennifer, Alex and Megan Stewart and Bethany Heaton for helping out with shearing on Sunday, and another thank you to our friend Bergie who loaned us some cutters and blades so that we could keep shearing.  When you are sleep deprived and stretched in many different directions it’s wonderful to have such helpful friends and neighbors.  We still have a lot of alpacas to shear but we made some good progress on Sunday.

 

As I write this blog entry it is Monday afternoon.  The day is extremely hot, our daytime is high expected to reach 95 degrees and two of our girls appear to be in labor.  Funnily enough they are mother and daughter (Bjorn and Anya).  My day is now being spent watching the girls from afar, filling water buckets with water and Gatorade, hosing down alpaca legs and bellies and of course feeding our new cria.   I have all of my birthing supplies ready, plus a jug full of electrolytes and a good power lunch to keep me going through the day.  Now all I need is two healthy crias and maybe even a good nights sleep (although I suspect that is going to be several days in the making!)

 

Rosemary

December 3, 2007

Just look at those nails!

Yesterday was a day for behavior testing the recently bred females, for two of them it was the third test and for one the second test.  We kept the girls we needed penned up after their morning feed and brought across our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent to carry out the task of behavior testing.

Behavior testing for a male alpaca is a bittersweet task; the girls if not receptive will spit at the poor guy.  Sometimes if one is receptive she may not be scheduled to breed to that particular male and so he has to be removed from the pen and the correct male brought in.  It is a task though that Regent performs well, he is well experienced with female alpacas and a good judge of which ones are ready to breed, he is also easy to handle making our job a lot easier. 

As we took one of the girls, Keeva, over to see Regent we noticed that her toenails are getting really long.  Alpaca toenails do of course grow, and the white toenails seem to grow faster than the dark toenails, but the interesting thing with Keeva is that we only trimmed her toenails a few weeks ago.  For her she had experienced extraordinary toenail growth. 

With female alpacas we like to make sure that all “maintenance” tasks are done before we start to breed them.  The first 60-90 days of pregnancy are a time when the pregnancy is fairly vulnerable and so we like to keep stress down to a minimum.  Therefore we trim toenails and teeth and give any necessary vaccinations prior to starting the breeding process.  We can then allow the girls to get established in their pregnancy before we have to bother them again with things such as toenail trimming.

So what had made Keeva’s toenails grow so well?  Well the only thing we can think is that some of the hay we have been feeding has been a little higher in protein content than we would normally feed.  This year has not been the best for hay and so we have fed the most suitable hay that we could find, but it was a little higher in protein content than usual.  Toenails are made up of protein called keratin so it would make sense that if Keeva’s diet were higher in protein than normal that her body might use that protein to create more toenail material.

Just out of curiosity we checked some of the other girls and yes their toenails seem to be growing faster too.  I guess all we can do for now is hope that next year’s hay is closer in analysis to where we need it to be and be prepared to trim toenails more often!

Rosemary 

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