A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 24, 2009

Keeping The Bugs At Bay

Natures Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect Spray

Natures Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect Spray

With our recent rains and warm weather the fly population is rapidly increasing. As we live in an area that is highly populated with dairy cows flies are a part of life. The dairies do their best to keep the fly population under control, many of them use fly predators and some spray for flies but the flies still manage to repopulate. The other insect of concern is the mosquito who is no doubt laying eggs like crazy in any water that has collected as a result of the rain.

We use food grade diatomaceous earth as a top dressing for our feed (it is most important it is food grade and not pool grade) and that helps not only with the flies but also with other internal parasites. For our stock tanks we use something called mosquito dunks which effectively kill mosquito larvae while leaving the water in the stock tank safe for our horses to consume.

With alpacas being fleece animals there is always the risk of lice getting your herd. We have unfortunately experienced lice in the herd in the past when some alpacas brought to us for shearing managed to pass them on to our herd. That was in the pre-quarantine days when alpaca owners would casually allow visiting alpacas to intermingle with their own herd. Now we know better and visiting alpacas are quarantined for three weeks prior to joining our herd and we are careful to clean our shearing mats and equipment after shearing visiting alpacas or llamas.

We are always on the lookout for new products that are helpful in keeping the bugs at bay and recently came across one that really has impressed us. “Natures Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect Spray” is an all natural topical insect spray. Made from Cedar oil and Silane Fluid this spray is USDA approved and safe to use on most animals (it is not suitable for exotic birds). To us one of the best features of this product is that you can safely use it on pregnant alpacas and llamas.

Our past experience with lice in the herd has shown us how difficult it is to eradicate lice when you have pregnant females. Most lice treatments are not safe for pregnant and nursing alpacas which means that your pregnant and nursing alpacas cannot be treated for many months, preventing you from being able to treat the herd 100%.

The Nature’s Defender spray though allows us to spray pregnant and nursing alpacas if needed and as it is safe to use on crias we have been able to provide some fly relief for our crias whose beautiful young eyes often attract flies.

In addition to killing flies and lice the spray also kills ticks, mites, bacteria and fungal infections. You can also use it around the house to repel and kill insects. Actually we are finding more uses for this product every day – we have sprayed the alpacas, sprayed the dogs (including our puppy Blue), we have even sprayed Ric (well we sprayed his t-shirt before he did chores and the flies left him alone). We have also used the Nature’s Defender product on our alpaca products to keep moths away including lightly misting our fleeces that have not yet been shipped for processing. We didn’t experience any staining on our products as a result of using the spray and everything has a nice cedar scent to it.

You can read more about Nature’s Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect spray at http://www.alpacasllama-insectspray.com/ and if you check out the distributors page you will see we are listed as distributors. We like this product so much we decided that we wanted to be able to supply it to our clients and friends.

** (August 28, 2009) You can now purchase the Nature’s Defender Alpacas and Llamas Insect spray through our AlpacaNation Farm Store at


If you are looking to keep the bugs at bay try Nature’s Defender Alpacas and Llamas spray, I’m betting you will like it and will soon be using it for many things as we do!


June 15, 2009

Now What Will The Neighbors Think!

The things we do in the name of the alpaca business.  On Saturday Zianna was being picked up by her new owners Melita Clark and Mark Hogan of Milagro Meadow Alpaca Ranch.  Melita and Mark were also bringing us two of their girls for breeding to our herdsires.

Melita had requested that we run a fecal test on Zianna prior to her going to her new farm.  My intention had been to run that test on Friday, but I ran into a problem – no poop.  There was, of course, plenty of poop in the pasture but I could not say which was Zianna’s.

There is a method to extract some poop from an alpaca that my vet has shown me, but I really prefer to collect fecal samples that have been deposited on the poop piles.  Sometimes though it seems as if you can’t catch sight of the alpaca you want to test when that alpaca is on the poop pile.  That was the case with Zianna, no matter how long I waited or how much of a distance I put between the poop pile and me Zianna was not cooperating.  Eventually I gave up the wait resigning myself to having to keep an eye on Zianna on Saturday morning and running the test before Mark and Melita arrived.

Saturday morning arrived and as is my routine I took my first cup of coffee over to the front door so that I could look over the front pasture and check on the girls.  As I looked across the pasture all of the girls looked calm and relaxed with no one showing signs of being in labor, everything looked good.  Then I noticed her; there was Zianna at the poop pile!  So it was down with the coffee off to the kitchen for a zip lock bag and then out to the pasture to collect a sample.  Was I properly dressed for this mad dash into the pasture – of course not, but hey who cares about pajamas and pink Croc shoes in the pasture when the goal is to collect a poop sample from a particular alpaca.  I got my sample and was able to run the test before Melita and Mark arrived – Mission Accomplished!


March 8, 2009

Warm Weather Wigglers


Our winter has been very mild and dry and our spring looks as if it is going to be warm, dry and windy (as always!).  Already our temperatures have hit the 80 degree mark a couple of times, the fruit trees are starting to blossom and everything living is getting signals that spring is here.  It is still possible for us to have a downward swing in temperature; a late frost is not unheard of here and unfortunately will kill the fruit tree blossoms reducing our chances of any peaches or apricots from our trees.


Along with the warm weather the insect population is starting to become more visible.  We saw a yellow jacket (large wasp type insect) the other day, crickets are starting to appear and the dreaded ticks have also started to make an appearance.


Unfortunately our sandy soil and warm temperatures make an ideal environment for ticks, and even worse alpaca ears are an ideal place for ticks to take up residence.  The warm, sheltered environment of the alpaca ear is just the type of place a tick likes to live in and ticks will happily feed not only on the alpacas blood but also on any debris generated by the alpacas ears.


We had a bad run in with ticks in the past, our girl TeQueely had a terrible fight with tick paralysis (See entry December6, 2007)  and my battle to save her has made me an avid campaigner for tick prevention.


Many alpaca breeders do not realize that their alpacas may have ticks in their ears.  Often there are very few signs of the ticks, sometimes you will see the alpacas shaking their heads, sometimes an alpaca will hold an ear back, occasionally there may be some black debris found in the alpacas ear, but often the signs are few to none.


Having spent time exploring an alpaca ears with an otoscope (don’t try this unless you have had some education from your veterinarian as you can easily damage the alpacas ear drum) I am amazed at how many hiding places in an alpaca ear there are.  With an otoscope and alligator forceps I can usually locate any offending ticks and remove them, but ticks are also capable of hiding deep in the ear canal past where the otoscope can reach.


So what is to be done about these tiny but potent creatures?  Well as often is the case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and there are few things you can do to keep the tick population down.


Some alpaca breeders keep guinea fowl or chickens with their alpacas, as the birds will eat any bugs they find.  This can be a good option; the birds will pick up bugs not only from poop piles but also from roll spots and other areas around the pasture.  If you are keeping birds with your alpacas make sure you get them from a farm that is very conscious of the health of their birds, the last thing you want to do is bring viruses or nasty bacteria onto your farm.  Also try and feed unmedicated feed, as the medicines in chicken feeds are fatal to alpacas.  If unmedicated feed is not available then make sure it is kept securely away from the alpacas.


Putting diatomaceous earth on roll spots and poop piles may also help keep down the tick population.  Make sure that you use food grade diatomaceous earth as it is safe to be used around livestock, the commercial and pool grades of diatomaceous earth are not suitable for use around livestock.


I have heard of some breeders feeding garlic to their alpacas to help reduce ticks and other parasites.  I have not tried that yet and am still researching the pros and cons of using garlic on alpacas.


Finally treating the alpaca’s ears during tick season will kill the ticks and depending on what you use may also kill the tick eggs.  We prefer to use Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for horses, it kills both the ticks and the tick eggs and we have found it to be very effective.  We shake the bottle well (the solution tends to separate when it is sitting for a while), pour some into a container and then draw up 2 cc in a syringe.  We administer 2 cc per ear on the adult alpacas, 1.5 cc per ear for the weanlings and 0.5 cc per ear on the crias.  We put the syringe in the ear, depress the plunge and then massage the ear before letting go.  Make sure you stand well back once you let go as the alpacas will shake their heads and some of the solution will fly out of their ears and you don’t want to get it in your eyes.


Over the last year or so the Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for Horses has become a little difficult to find.  If Adams is not available I have heard of Catron IV being used, but as it comes out in a foam I find it harder to ensure the correct dosage


Once tick season arrives we treat our alpacas ears about every thirty days.  I don’t usually go for routine worming or parasite prevention as I feel that overuse of certain products has resulted in some parasites becoming resistant to the products, but there are some circumstances when you have little choice but to treat on a regular basis. 


Having had one experience of tick paralysis in the herd I don’t want to have another, so for now we will continue treating the alpacas on a regular basis and in time we may find other solutions that are just as effective in preventing ticks – and who knows we may even invest in some chickens for our own herd.  Tick prevention and farm fresh eggs – sounds like a good option to me!


January 31, 2009

When Not To Make Black Bean Soup


Living on a farm you get used to seeing odd things in all sorts of places, pockets tend to be good places to store things such as baling twine, a found alpaca tooth, syringes etc.  Ric once had a moment of relief after driving away from a random security check on the local air force base, as he felt his shirt pocket he realized he had a hypodermic needle and syringe in his pocket.  That may have needed a little explanation had the security guards found it.


Fridges and freezers are other likely storage places for odd things.  My friend Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas and I joke about a game for alpaca owners called “What’s in your freezer” You just have to be prepared to cope with some of the answers!  Currently my freezer contents are not too outrageous unless you consider the alpaca milk and six frozen placentas a little odd (the frozen placentas are being stored for use in a neonatal clinic, and who knows when one might need some alpaca milk for a cria).


After being in the alpaca business for 10 years Ric has learned to expect the unexpected from me.   This was illustrated the other day when I was preparing to run some fecal checks on the alpacas.


I was going to see a friend for afternoon tea that day, so having collected the poop samples from the alpaca pastures during morning chores I needed to store them until I could run the tests later that day.  I double bagged and sealed each sample and then wrapped them all in a larger bag and stored them in a section of our refrigerator that holds alpaca medicines and supplies.  As I was leaving Ric was coming into the house and so I warned him that the bag I had just placed in the fridge did not contain any tasty snacks, but rather contained poop samples.


We run our own alpaca fecal tests on a regular basis.  As part of the process I have to smash up the alpaca poop in a heavy sugar water solution, which results in a soupy mess of alpaca poop.


That evening was a cold one and I decided to make a pot of black bean soup for dinner.  The recipe calls for some of the black beans to be pureed and others to be left whole and stirred into the soup.


Ric went out that evening and when he came home I was working in the office.  When he came into the house he headed for the kitchen and shortly afterward came to the office with a worried expression on his face.  “What have you been cooking in the kitchen?” he asked.  I told him I had made black bean soup and that it was very tasty, he started to look a little relieved and I asked him if there was a problem with the soup.  He then told me that he had taken a look at the pot of black bean soup on the stove and had a horrible suspicion that it had something to do with the fecal tests I was running – well I guess the soup did bear a bit of a resemblance to the prepared alpaca poop samples, but even I don’t use our kitchen utensils for anything to do with fecal samples!  We actually have a separate kitchen where I do all of the alpaca related kitchen chores, and all things used from that kitchen receive a good cleaning with beach once I am finished.  Still the situation gave me a chuckle and even funnier still is that Ric refuses to eat any of that black bean soup!


(On a side note running your own alpaca fecal tests is quite a simple process, it does require a little bit of an investment in equipment such as a microscope and a centrifuge and it is best to work with your vet to learn how to identify the various parasite eggs.  I did come across a very informative web page on alpaca parasites the other day at the website of The Alpaca Hacienda just click on http://www.thealpacahacienda.com/journal/alpaca_parasites.html and you will be taken to that page)



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