A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 16, 2009

Where Does The Time Go To?

Windrush Chandra

Windrush Chandra, February 2009 - she's grown a lot since then!

The past week just seemed to evaporate!  It’s hard to imagine where the time goes or is it?  Of course there was the distraction of Theresa’s new cria to keep us occupied.  Theresa’s cria is a sweet and lively little thing, exploring the pasture, coming up to see what we are doing, giving cria kisses and taking off on cria races around the pasture.  She is now up to 20.8 lbs and she and Theresa are back in with the main herd.  Theresa is a very protective dam and will not take any nonsense from the older crias who might think they are going to play rough with her baby!

Sunday (November 15) saw the end of the early bird discount for stalls at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular which will be held February 12- 14, 2010 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.  We always try and enter alpacas in the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and it’s great to be able to get discounted stalls and so we needed to make our decision this week as to which alpacas will attend the show.  We are lucky to have many alpacas to choose from but show expenses soon mount up and we can’t take them all.  We ended up registering our two new junior herdsires Biscotti and Champ and our Prince Regent daughter Chandra.   Show results from different shows and different judges can do a lot to enhance your Junior Herdsires breeding career, shows also provide an opportunity to showcase your junior herdsire in front of other alpaca breeders who might be interested in booking breedings to him.    With Chandra our motivation in showing her is a little different.  As our one and only Prince Regent daughter on the farm (the others have all sold or belong to our clients) we are curious to see how she places in the competitive white classes.  Our intention is for her to become part of our foundation herd so it will be good to get feedback from a judge as to Chandra’s strengths and weaknesses.  With her dense, fine fleece, correct conformation, graceful presence and her Prince Regent head (her sire has a beautiful head style which Chandra has inherited) we are hopeful that Chandra will walk away with a ribbon.

Of course the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular also has a fleece show and we will be sending in entries to that too, but I have a little more time to get those entries in the system.  Once entered though I then need to get busy skirting the fleeces in preparation for the show – February will soon come around.

We also had several enquiries during the week from people interested in learning more about alpacas, the alpaca lifestyle and what it takes to start up and run a successful alpaca business.  It’s always great to spend time talking to people interested in alpacas and to share with them some of the knowledge we have gained over the years.  I still remember the excitement Ric and I felt in the days when we were researching the alpaca business and the kindness of the alpaca breeders we spoke to at that time.  It is nice to now be able to “pay it forward” and share our knowledge with those looking into bringing alpacas into their life.

Add to those activities the daily chores, some behavior tests of bred females, some toe nail trimming, work on our websites, preparation for next weekend’s Open Farm Day, and work on a knitting project that someone has asked me to make and I guess it’s hardly surprising that our week disappeared before our eyes.  No complaint here though as it is fun work, a great lifestyle to be living and beats shuffling papers in an office any day!

Rosemary

March 7, 2009

Back With The Herd

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rosemary

February 18, 2009

Still Bragging!

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Blast's Fleece Score Card

Blast's Fleece Score Card

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Rosemary

February 17, 2009

They’re Back!

Carissima's Fleece

Carissima's Fleece

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Rosemary

February 15, 2009

Didn’t They Do Well!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In the fleece classes we also did well.

 

Windrush Shiimsa  – 3rd in her class

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rosemary

February 14, 2009

Today’s The Day

Dream's beautiful head

Dream's beautiful head

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rosemary

February 13, 2009

Off To The Show They Go

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Rosemary

February 4, 2009

Getting ready for the show

Windrush Zindel's Kanika

Windrush Zindel's Kanika

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rosemary

 

March 26, 2008

Fiber Makes Your Garden Grow!

Cats Growing in Our Plant Containers

Well, you may not want to grow a container of cats like the one pictured above, but I couldn’t resist including that picture.  The two cats are Snuggler (our barn/house cat depending on his mood) and Kit Kat (a cat who was abandoned here, a sweet cat who would dearly love to come into the house but unfortunately likes to mark his territory so has to stay outside).

Last year for the first time I tried using alpaca fiber on my plants.  Ruth Elvestad who was the fleece judge for the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular both last year and this year had given me the tip.   During our lunch break at the fleece show the volunteers had been discussing various aspects of alpaca fiber and what to do with the fiber from the alpacas lower legs which is often coarser and full of vegetable matter.   Ruth then told us of how she uses alpaca fiber around her plants to help retain moisture in the soil and to provide a slow release protein feed to her plants. 

So last spring I decided to give the alpaca fiber idea a try.  I always plant geraniums in the two wooden barrels at the front of the house so they were the first plants to receive the treatment.  I filled the barrels about 2/3 full of potting soil, then laid out a ½ – 1” layer of alpaca fiber, leaving a clear area in the middle for the plants to root in.  I don’t know that the alpaca would impede the roots of the plants but decided to leave a clear area where the plants would sit just in case.  I watered the fiber and soil and then set the plants and surrounded them with more soil to stabilize them.  Some more water on the surface soil finished off the planting and then it was time to wait and see the results.

The geraniums did really well, so much so that when I came to plant some impatiens and some tomatoes I repeated the fiber experience and all of those plants thrived despite our summer heat.  Of course I was careful to keep the plants adequately watered but they seemed to do better and withstand the heat and dry air better than those without the alpaca fiber.

If you are using alpaca fiber around your plants you will need to replace it every two years or so, try and make sure that the fiber you use isn’t bringing with it seeds from undesirable plants.  The most practical fiber to use is that which cannot be used for processing, that fiber will usually be very short in staple length and maybe very dusty or dirty but as it is being used for planting that is not really a factor.  There is no reason why you couldn’t use the better fiber but it just seems rather a waste to do that, and part of the appeal to me of using the less desirable fiber is that it provides a use for something that otherwise might be thrown away.

For those of you who try using alpaca fiber around your plants this year, drop me an email to let me know of your results.  I would be interested in hearing how your plants do and hopefully your efforts won’t produce a container of cats like the ones in my photo!

Rosemary  

March 6, 2008

Cooperative Quarantine Can Have It’s Benefits

Our friends and mentors Rick and Ann Evans from Enchantment Farm Alpacas stopped by yesterday to pick up their alpaca Enchantment’s Snow Prince. Snow Prince is an offspring of our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent and had been with us to the recent TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, winning a second place ribbon in a very competitive class of yearling white males.

Snow Prince had been put into quarantine with the rest of the alpacas that had been at that show, and having spent close to three weeks in quarantine without any signs of any health problems he was safe to return home and go straight in with Rick and Ann’s other alpacas.

We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas who are also here in Clovis. Working together we are able to share transportation to shows, split loads of feed and hay, share supplies and also work together to provide a good quarantine solution for when our alpacas return from shows. Both of our farms have quarantine pastures and by pooling our resources we can have several groups of alpacas in quarantine at the two farms if needed. On this occasion the show string went to Bob and Regina’s for quarantine, and so when Rick and Ann arrived at our place to pick up Snow Prince I had to take them up to Llano Soleado Alpacas (or Windrush North as we jokingly call their farm, with ours being Llano Soleado South) to collect him.

Being able to work cooperatively on quarantining our alpacas is a benefit to both farms. If we worked independently we would need to have at least two quarantine pastures each, one for male alpacas and one for female alpacas and there would be occasions when there was just one alpaca to be pastured on his or her own. By working together we can avoid the “lone alpaca” scenario and use our quarantine pastures to the best advantage.

I had a conversation just the other day with another alpaca breeder who was saying how difficult it is for small alpaca farms to effectively quarantine their alpacas, especially if they have only a few acres to work with. Unfortunately some small farms decide that they cannot devote any space to a separate quarantine pen and end up putting incoming alpacas in with the rest of their herd, thus exposing their whole herd to whatever viruses or bacteria that incoming alpaca may bring with it.

Perhaps a better solution for these small farms would be to partner up with other small farms in the area and quarantine their incoming alpacas together. Ideally the farms would share the same ideas about herd health and biosecurity and would attend the same shows, thus making it easy to quarantine alpacas returning from those shows together. Usually there would be more than one alpaca to be quarantined at a time, which would be easier on the alpacas too as they are such herd animals.

Admittedly there may be some small farms who are not fortunate enough to have another alpaca farm reasonably close by to partner with on quarantine facilities, but as the alpaca population grows and more alpaca farms spring up hopefully within a short time there will be another alpaca breeder in their area and the farms will be able to work together.

Working cooperatively with another farm really does have its advantages, both for quarantining and in other areas of farm operation. So if you are a small alpaca farm, check out your alpaca “neighbors” and see what you can do to work together, it could make your lives easier.

Rosemary

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