A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 30, 2019

Behind the Scenes at Open Farm Day – Part 3

Filed under: General — alpacalady @ 2:39 pm

The Final Preparations!

Windrush Alpacas Open Farm Day

So far, I’ve told you a bit about why we started Open Farm Day at Windrush Alpacas and how it all comes together each month. (link)

And now – the final preparations! There are many things that cannot be done until the last minute. And, of course, weather, alpaca health, and human assistance are all factors for a successful Open Farm Day!

The week before Open Farm Day can be a bit hectic!

First, decisions must be made as to the type of cookies to serve to our guests! And lunch for our volunteers. I try as best as I can to make the cookie dough in advance, portion and freeze it, so that the night before Open Farm Day I can quickly pull the already prepared cookies from the freezer and bake them.

I enjoy researching recipes and baking, which is a good thing, as we go through a lot of cookies on Open Farm Day! I like to start baking early on Friday morning, mainly because I am not tempted to eat cookies at 6:30 a.m. – can’t say the same about Ric though!

The volunteer lunch must be something easy to prepare and that can withstand a delay, as we often cannot eat until a little while after the farm has closed. Ingredients for the cookies and the lunch must be purchased and prepared. Our stock of drink supplies, cups, napkins and dixie cups for alpaca feeding time must be replenished as necessary.

Being in dry, dusty and windy New Mexico it doesn’t matter how far in advance you clean. You still need to give everything a once over the day before.  The store and the carport outside the store have to have a good cleaning, General cleanup around the farm takes place too.

I check the store to make sure we have enough of each product on display and that the New Mexico gremlins have not been at work turning things upside down or putting items in the wrong place!

Quite often we have inventory items arrive at the last minute. Price labels are prepared in advance so that the products can be quickly entered into inventory and taken out for display.

Our Wonderful Volunteers

I usually touch base with our volunteers the week before Open Farm Day to make sure they are available to help. Our friends Yolanda and Paul Hopkins are a godsend to us, showing up time and time again to help us out at Open Farm Day.

Yolanda also helps with making drying balls and cat toys for the store. She also makes bookmarks, mugs and comes up with fun ideas such as the Alpaca Poop Candy and our calendars. If that is not enough, Yolanda also takes pictures for us on Open Farm Day and throughout the year. Paul is a beekeeper and will bring raw, local honey to sell when he has it available.

During Open Farm Day Yolanda helps me run the store. Paul will help Ric by holding the alpaca for Alpaca Show and Tell, getting and returning alpacas to the pens, and keeping Ric stocked with feed for the alpaca feeding sessions.

Yolanda and Paul also help us out a lot at shearing time – whatever would we do without them! We are so fortunate to have such good friends (even if Yolanda does call me a slave driver!)

Other volunteers have helped us over time too. Our friend and neighbor Darlene Upham helped us in the store for many years, but her life is now taking her in a different direction, and we don’t get to see her as often as we used to.

Ads and updates to our Facebook page and website need to take place, and questions from potential visitors are answered.

The day before Open Farm Day cookie baking is in full swing, drinks carafes are prepared for the next day, and lemonade is made and stored in the fridge to stay cold. Feed bowls are made up for the alpaca feeding sessions and Ric usually rakes up the poop piles later in the day so there is less poop to be raked up the next morning.

It’s Show Time – Open Farm Day!

The morning of Open Farm Day we are up early. The volunteer lunch is prepared and then it is time to feed all our critters, both inside and outside. Poop piles are again raked up, our signs are put out, and our banner attached to the front gate. Tables are set up for the equipment display and for the hand washing area so that people can wash off their hands after feeding the alpacas.

The store lights are turned on, the cash register activated, and the refreshments carried out to the store – and by the time we have done all of that we usually have about five minutes to get changed before Open Farm Day begins.

So that is what it takes to make Open Farm Day happen. It’s a consistent and continual effort but over the years we have got it down to a fine art.

We started Open Farm Day to educate the public about alpacas. From the beginning, we decided that Open Farm Day should be free. As time has progressed the mission of Open Farm Day has become more than education.

Our Mission

It has become a mission of providing people something to do that appeals to all ages. It is something that is light years away from computers, cell phones and all the technology that we so often find ourselves attached to these days.

Open Farm Day brings people smiles and laughter. It encourages people to have conversations about their day. It allows people to have a day of fresh air and fun, peace and relaxation.  It gives people the chance to interact with the alpacas and maybe even get an alpaca kiss.

For the time that people are here we want them to forget about all the weird and wonderful things that are happening in the world these days and just enjoy the moment.  And, of course, Open Farm Day allows people to spend time with our adorable and enchanting alpacas.

Is Open Farm Day a lot of work? Most definitely. Is Open Farm Day worth effort? You bet! For if we can provide people with some moments of happiness, a day together to make happy memories, and share the magic of alpacas, then it is worth every moment of preparation and planning.

We hope to see you at our next Open Farm Day! Bring your smile, your family, your friends, your camera and enjoy!

May 1, 2019

Behind the Scenes at Open Farm Day – Part Two

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How We Make Open Farm Day Happen

Last month I wrote a little about how Open Farm Day started and the purpose behind Open Farm Day. This month I will let you know how we make that happen.

Our preparations for Open Farm Day start immediately after the last Open Farm Day finishes. When the last party has left for the day, we pick up the signs, roll up the banner, close down the store and go in and have a well-earned lunch!

We usually have our faithful volunteers with us (more about them later!). As we eat lunch we talk about the day and discuss ideas such as items for the store or things we need to do to make Open Farm Day even better.

Lunch is usually something that can survive several hours in a slow cooker, as often it is well past 3 pm by the time we get to sit down and eat. Once lunch is over, we then have to feed all the animals on the farm. While the female alpacas have usually had lots of tasty treats from visitors during Open Farm Day the rest of the animals on the farm are awaiting their evening feed.

The next few days after Open Farm Day are spent ordering inventory for the store. Some of the products we carry in the store can be ordered quickly but other products take quite a time to restock. Dryer balls have to be made – a process that involves putting together the fleece to be used, lightly needle felting them to shape, decorating them with color and then putting them through a process to felt them and dry them.

The goats milk soap for our alpaca felt covered soaps takes three weeks to dry once it has been made. I order the soaps from my soap making friend Rena in order to get it here in time. Then I apply the felt cover using a wet felting process and get the soaps to dry once more.

Our beautiful alpaca rugs are made in a small town in Texas. To get the rugs made we first decide how much of each color of fleece we want to send. Then we go through that fleece to remove as much dust and vegetable matter as we can (a process called skirting). Next we ship the fleece to Texas and then wait for the rugs to be made.

The mill works fleece on a first come first served basis and it can take two to three months before our rugs are ready to come back to us. Products made through the various fleece cooperatives we work with are often easier to access, but they too are subject to where our fleece is in the “fleece pipeline”. The boutique yarns that are made solely from our fleece typically take 6 -8 weeks to process.

So, you see it can be quite a juggling act to keep products stocked in the store!

Once products arrive at the farm, they are entered in to inventory, labeled and then put on display. Excess products are stored so we can find them quickly should a product need replenishing during a busy Open Farm Day

While all of this is happening, we also have to come up with the advertising for the next Open Farm Day. For this I have the assistance of my wonderful Virtual Assistant Diane Sweeney. Diane has been working with me for 5 years and is a vital part of the Windrush Alpacas team. Diane comes up with the ad copy for advertising for Open Farm Day, submits the ads to a long and growing list of resources who help us advertise our Open Farm Days, and keeps me on track for getting the newsletter written so that we can stay in touch with our customers and fans.

There is a lot to do to prepare for each Open Farm Day, but thankfully over the years we have streamlined the process. Because in addition to preparing for Open Farm Day, we still have to keep the farm running, schedule and run farm visits and do all of the mundane paperwork that comes with running a business!

But I so enjoy what I do! Especially for our visitors!

 

Next up: Open Farm Day – The final preparations

January 29, 2018

Feel the Love at Windrush Alpacas

Filed under: General, Open Farm Day — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 2:57 pm

Melany and Asteroid

February is the month of love! And we’ve got LOTS of alpacas who want to show you love.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, February 10! Come share your love with our friendly alpacas! Bring your sweetheart, spouse, children, parents, cousins and friends. Our alpacas have plenty of heartwarming smiles to share – and just like you, they LOVE attention!

Tour the farm from 10 am to 3 pm and learn all about these wonderfully unique animals. We will explain their habits, what they eat and how we care for them. You may have a chance to pet an alpaca and feel the incredibly soft fleece!

Don’t let cold keep you away! Our toasty warm Farm Store will be open for you to browse (and buy!) a wide variety of socks, scarves, hats and other products made with alpaca fleece. And if we have to, we’ll even bring an alpaca inside! You’ll get hot chocolate – the alpaca will get your love!

We always offer free admission, free parking and free refreshments. Come join us 1-1/4 miles south of Brady on CRM for a unique and fun day you can enjoy with your whole family.

For more information, call us at 575-683-5177 or visit our website at www.windrushalpacas.com. Also, you can Like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/WindrushAlpacas and shop online at http://www.windrushalpacas.net/store/ and sign up for our newsletter!

October 18, 2017

Unexpected Treasures

Sunflowersblog1

Sometimes we can try so hard to make things happen, yet our plans don’t work out as expected. Then at other times we discover acts of serendipity, when things just happen without any effort on our part.

Our gardening efforts at the farm have been historically hit and miss. A shortage of water on the farm, dry desert heat and drying winds, lack of time to dedicate to care of the plants, and a distinct lack of green fingers on my part have meant that any crop production has been low.

So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered a bumper crop of pumpkins and sunflowers in the area where we compost the alpaca poop! I’ve tried for years to grow sunflowers on the farm but experienced total failure, pumpkins had never really crossed my mind as I knew that they needed quite a bit of water. Yet here they were happily growing side by side, and in the case of the pumpkins very happily growing.

So had did this bounty happen? Well every fall we ask people to bring us their leftover pumpkins to feed to the alpacas. We feed the pumpkins to the alpacas and the alpacas are very happy. Every day we feed black oil sunflower seeds to the alpacas and the alpacas enjoy eating the seeds. As part of the feeding process some of the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are left on the ground and get raked up when we are raking up the poop piles and off they go to the compost area. In addition to this process last year we had a whole bag of sunflower seeds that got moisture in the bag and molded, so off they went to the compost pile as well.

Maya Eating Pumpkin

The seeds have been sitting there for a while, the alpaca poop has been breaking down into what alpaca breeders like to refer to as black gold, then this year we have been blessed with some rain and poof! Low and behold our bountiful crop appeared!

How cool is that! That Mother Nature did her own thing and created a much better result than all my efforts could produce!

Pumpkinsharvested

The pumpkins are about ready to harvest. To start with we will use some to decorate the farm. Once their decoration duties are done we will use some of them to feed to the alpacas, llamas, chickens and guineas. Some of the pumpkins appear to be sugar pumpkins so will be cooked and used for pumpkin pies and cookies, with some cooked pumpkin being reserved in case we need it for a sick animal (pumpkin is an excellent soother of the digestive tract). I was hoping to be able to harvest some sunflower seeds from our sunflowers but our horses Savannah and Saber decided to eat the heads off most of the sunflowers. No wonder their coats are looking so glossy! Hopefully they will leave me at least a few sunflower heads to harvest for next year.

Sunflowersblog2

So where do we go from here. Well my plan for next year, provided we have a chance of rain, is to take a random assortment of vegetable seeds, toss them on the alpaca compost area and let them grow if they wish to. Why toil for vegetables when they apparently do better without me? (Although I probably should consider a horse fence!).

Until next time,

Rosemary

January 28, 2014

Valentine’s Day is coming…snuggle up!

Filed under: Family, General, Open Farm Day — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 3:49 pm

PJVisit Windrush Alpacas on Saturday, February 8, 2014 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during our monthly Open Farm Day Event and Farm Store Shopping Experience.  After touring our Alpaca Farm, learning about alpacas and what they’re really like, you can shop for one of the most memorable gifts you could give someone you love.

Nothing quite says “love” like snuggling does, so give your honey something to snuggle like a cuddly and cute Pacabuddy—they stand out in a crowd of teddy bears—or a luxuriously soft alpaca fiber wrap, scarf or the most comfortable socks ever!

If you want to really surprise your honey…participate in our Adopt-a-Paca Program and sponsor an alpaca in your loved-one’s name for one year! They’ll receive a glossy photo, pen pal letters, and other goodies all year long!

This is an event that can be enjoyed by your whole family… from toddlers to teens to great-grandparents! Be ready to have a super unique and fun experience.

We always offer free admission, free parking and free (hot) refreshments. Come join us 1-1/4 miles south of Brady on CRM for a unique and fun day you can enjoy with your whole family.

For more information, call us at 575-683-5177 or visit our website at www.windrushalpacas.com. Also, you can Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WindrushAlpacas and shop online at http://www.windrushalpacas.net/store/ and sign up for our newsletter!

January 2, 2014

Get to know alpacas!

Filed under: Family, General, Open Farm Day — Tags: , — alpacalady @ 7:48 pm

PrideOn Saturday, January 11, 2014 from 10:00-3:00 Windrush Alpacas will be open for an Open Farm Day Event offering tours of our working alpaca farm (if the weather cooperates) and letting visitors interact with our alpacas during educational demonstrations.  If it’s cold or windy, no worries—we’ll bring one of our friendly alpacas into our Farm Store!

Remember that alpaca is ‘the fiber of the Gods’ and not only do we produce it, we sell toasty, warm alpaca products as well. Warmer than wool and softer than cashmere, we have luxuriously soft alpaca scarves, gloves, mittens, and hats… and everyone’s favorite socks and slippers.

We always offer free admission, free parking and free (hot) refreshments. Come join us 1-1/4 miles south of Brady on CRM for a unique and fun day you can enjoy with your whole family.

For more information, call us at 575-683-5177 or visit our website at www.windrushalpacas.com. Also, you can Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WindrushAlpacas and shop online at http://www.windrushalpacas.net/store/ and sign up for our newsletter!

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

April 8, 2013

Open Farm Day is Saturday!

Filed under: alpaca products, Family, General, Open Farm Day — Tags: — alpacalady @ 10:20 am

4.13.13 Farm Day flyer

February 25, 2013

Even alpacas like to have friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patton with his buddy Sentry

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

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

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

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

Rosemary

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