A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 29, 2017

A Difficult Month at Windrush Alpacas – Test Results

Test Results

On Monday, July 28, we received test results that gave us some answers and direction. It seems as if we experienced a bizarre coincidence with the events on our farm.

The first alpaca we lost, Echo, who was in our male pen, tested positive for West Nile.

Moonie’s test results came back with 100% diagnosis for Polioencephalomalacia (PEM). The next step was to figure out what caused the PEM. The vets were still suspecting the water, grain or hay with the water and grain being top of the list, so those samples were tested first.

The girls who showed symptoms were all in the same pen. They were girls who needed additional supplementation for one reason or another and so received more grain than the rest of the herd. We were suspecting that it could be a combination of a problem in the grain and a problem in our water supply. In the meantime, we had been advised by our vet to feed only long stem grass hay to help clean out our alpacas’ stomach compartments just in case there were toxins.

As of August 15, 2017, we have results back on the hay and water.  The hay did not contain any noxious weeds or seeds and the water tested as being suitable for livestock.  So now we are waiting for results on the feed tests, a liver toxicity screening on Moonie’s liver and a West Nile test on Moonie’s brain. We will update this post when we receive the results.

For those of you in the Clovis/Portales area please take steps to control mosquitoes on your property and also use bug spray to protect yourselves.

West Nile Virus can affect humans as well as animals and is a devastating and sometimes deadly disease. If Echo’s death can at least serve as a reminder to people that West Nile Virus is still a threat in the US then he will not have died in vain. https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/symptoms/index.html

Here is a link explaining what PEM is for those interested in learning more.http://www.merckvetmanual.com/…/overview-of-polioencephalom…

Into August

On July 30, after a couple of days off all appearing to be okay on the farm, we were upset when we found our girl Dream showing neurological symptoms. She was trembling, in a stupor, staring into space and walking backward. Fortunately, we feel we caught her early and she responded well to treatment overnight. By the next day, she was eating and drinking and appeared okay. Our vigilance continues, we are not out of the woods yet.

Thankfully no one else has shown any systems. We adopted a new normal at the farm as we waited for the test results. We give you the details of our experience to offer assistance to other alpaca farmers and breeders who experience dis-ease in their herd. Act quickly. Be diligent in watching your entire herd. Treat accordingly. Had we not done so, our herd may have been hit even harder.

Tributes to Echo, Queen, and Moonie

The beginning of the story

A Difficult Month at Windrush Alpacas

Filed under: Alpaca Health — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 8:30 pm

July 2017 was the most difficult month we had at the farm in 18 years of raising alpacas.

Mid-month our herd was hit with two diseases – West Nile Virus and Polioencephalomalacia (PEM). Sadly, we lost three of our alpacas – Echo, Queen, and Moonie. Each succumbed to one of the diseases.

The course of events was difficult for everyone as several other alpacas had symptoms and we did not know what we were dealing with. We had to wait several days – and longer – for test results to know how to most effectively treat any animal with signs of distress.

The beginning

Early in the week of July 17 Echo, one of our alpaca boys, started with strange and sudden neurological symptoms. He rapidly went downhill. Since Echo did not respond to anything the vet was trying and only got worse, we made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

A few days later, our livestock guardian dog Duke alerted us that something was wrong in our female pasture. On checking the girls, we found eight of them with symptoms similar to Echo’s.

We started treating the girls immediately and contacted our vet. By the time we were loading up to go to the vet, two of our girls, Queen and Moonie, were in bad shape. Sadly, by the time we got to the vets it was apparent that Queen was suffering terribly. The vet said the chances of Queen making a full recovery were very slim. Once again, we had to make the difficult decision to let one of our alpacas go.

Moonie stayed on at the veterinarian’s hospital. She was blind by the time we left her and the vet told us there was a 50/50 chance of Moonie regaining her eyesight. Moonie was on IV fluids, receiving antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medicines.

Like Queen, Moonie was one of our older girls which is probably why she was more susceptible. Out of the six other girls, Snow, Clarissa, and Carina responded well to treatment at the farm. Betty, Theresa, and Ana Lynne had fewer neurological symptoms but their appetite was very depressed. They were definitely not themselves.

Our vet has worked hard with us to try and determine caused the illness in our herd. The prime suspect was some form of toxin in our feed or hay or West Nile Virus. Blood samples were submitted for testing. It was the weekend, so we knew it would be several days before we had results. In the meantime, we became very observant of our herd and prayed that no-one else would show symptoms.

At the end of the first week, we were emotionally and physically exhausted.

On the morning of Sunday, July 23, we had some good news.

The girls who were affected but remained on the farm were all back to eating and drinking on their own. One had been a little slower to respond than the others so we kept close attention to her, but we were hopeful she would follow the path of recovery of the others, which she did.

Moonie, still at the vet, showed signs of improvement that morning, too. On Saturday, we gave the vet some Oxbow Critical Care we had used to encourage the appetite of the alpacas on the farm. The vet tubed Moonie with the Oxbow and on Sunday morning Moonie was eating and drinking on her own. I took that as a hopeful sign.

Moonie still had very limited vision, she appeared only to be able to differentiate light from dark. We were hoping that her vision would improve with time.

Sadly, by the afternoon, Moonie had taken a turn for the worse. She had four seizures within 15 minutes. The vet sedated her and gave her stronger doses of anti-inflammatories. When we left, she was able to hold her head up. We were still hopeful.

On Monday morning, however, we had to put Moonie to sleep. She rallied a little during the night and then started to crash around 2:30 a.m. I was with her when she passed.

We had a necropsy done on her and samples of all of our hay, feed and water had been submitted for analysis. We were still waiting on the West Nile test results from Echo. We needed an answer soon.

Our vet contacted four clinicians at CSU who all felt that this had to be something in our feed, hay or water. She told us there was also some other blood work she could run that could help us figure out what on earth this was.

We remained on alert for anyone else in the herd showing symptoms. With there being about week between the first incident and the second we realized there was a chance this could happen again.

That same morning, we had two boys possibly showing very early symptoms of whatever this was. At this point, we were so paranoid that we didn’t know if we were being oversensitive or if we were getting more cases. We were ready for this nightmare to be over.

Through this difficult couple of days, we had to acknowledge the brighter moments. Most significant was the recovery of the girls on Sunday. Then the discovery that we have a new vet in town who has good knowledge of working with alpacas (the vets and staff at Clovis Veterinary Hospital were amazing)!

Our new livestock guardian dog who, despite having been here little over a week, alerted us to what was happening with our girls (and this guy is a rescue who we have no background history on, who doesn’t appear to have been around livestock before), and the outpouring of love and support from the alpaca community, family and friends.

On Tuesday, the two boys who we had a concern about seemed to be normal.

Our vet, Dr. Hornig, told us our samples ended up going to Texas A & M rather than CSU partly because she felt that Texas A & M would have a better knowledge of noxious weeds in this area. The samples from Moonie went to Texas A & M too so that there would be consistency and continuity in our case. Dr. Hornig had spoken to the lab at Texas A & M and was working with them to systematically run various tests in an effort to keep our costs down.

She spoke with our other vet Dr. Orton. Together they identified certain things they felt should have priority when it came to testing. When those things are eliminated then they would start working down a list of possible causes. It would be a timely process, but a necessary one to get this right.

I spent some time that evening walking through the herd doing my last check before I lost daylight. Everyone seemed peaceful, content and calm. We hoped, that in time, we would join them in that peaceful, content, calm state too.

Click to read about Test Results


Tributes to Echo, Queen, and Moonie

Filed under: alpaca, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 8:28 pm

Fond tributes to our beloved alpacas:



Echo was born on our farm on October 15, 2006 to our alpaca Bjorn.  Echo’s sire was an alpaca out of Colorado called Spanish Peaks Alpha Centauri (known as A.C.).  We had bred Bjorn to A.C. previously which resulted in a beautiful white female alpaca Windrush Anya.  We liked Anya so much we took Bjorn back to Colorado to be bred to A.C. again. This time we got a beautiful white male alpaca who looked so much like his sire we called him Windrush Echo of Alpha Centauri – and so Echo’s life began.

Echo was, for the most part, a quiet alpaca, but as a cria he used to get up to mischief with his buddy Rascal who was born a couple of months later.  When they were younger, they loved to tear around the pasture together at sundown having “cria races”. Echo and Rascal were great buddies from the moment Rascal was born until Echo’s passing.

Echo was not the biggest of alpacas, but if he didn’t want to do something he sure could put up some resistance!  Echo grew beautiful, shiny, long, white fleece and also grew long toenails very quickly too!  Having his toenails trimmed was not on Echo’s list of favorite things to do.

As Echo matured he became a quiet alpaca who mainly kept himself to himself, with the occasional wrestling match with Rascal and some of the other boys for good measure.  We miss Echo’s quiet presence around the farm. He loved to lie by the big bale of grass hay and stake his claim for his spot at the “dinner table”.  I am sure that Rascal misses his friend Echo too.


Queen at Windrush Alpacas

Queen came to our farm at age seven along with her daughter TeQueely. We purchased Queen because she was holding her fleece fineness despite her age. When Queen and TeQueely arrived at our farm we soon learned we had purchased two alpacas who had personality plus.

Queen lived up to her name, she was dignified, independent and strong. Queen loved her crias but they soon learned not to nurse from her when she was eating and when Queen decided to wean her crias there was no going back! We try not to have favorite alpacas but Queen was definitely very special. We are heartbroken at our loss.



Moonie arrived at our farm about seven years ago along with her friend Betty. Moonie and Betty had been together in one herd for several years, their owner then became unable to care for them and gave them to our friends Bob and Regina Dart.

In time Bob and Regina decided to leave the alpaca business. Moonie and Betty came to stay with us. Both Moonie and Betty had beautiful shiny black fleece despite their advancing years. Moonie was always a thin alpaca, no matter how much food you piled into her she never gained an ounce (and she was always ready to eat!). As thin as she was you might expect her to have health problems but she was strong, healthy and lively. After arriving at our farm, we bred Moonie to our herd sire, Enchantment’s Prince Regent.

Moonie had previously had a beautiful cria out of Regent making us want to repeat that breeding. We were not disappointed when out popped Amazin’ Aimee! Aimee literally came out running. On her feet within seconds of being born, looking around with an expression of “look at me”.

Despite Regent being a white alpaca, Aimee is true black like her mother Moonie. Her fleece is soft, fine and shiny. Moonie was an excellent mother who cared well for Aimee and provided lots of milk. Easy to handle and as sweet and gentle as can be, Moonie had a peaceful presence to her. On the day that we found her ill she nearly had us fooled. While the other alpacas were all up, trembling and staggering around Moonie was sitting peacefully in the pasture chewing her cud. At first, we thought that she was okay but then we realized she had gone completely blind. During her days at the vet clinic Moonie fought so hard to stay alive, but sadly eventually her body couldn’t cope with the effects of the PEM. We had to make the decision to let her go.

Enjoy Today

At one point when we thought Moonie was coming home, even though she was still blind, we went out and bought some wind chimes to hang around the girls’ pasture. The wind chimes were to help Moonie find her way to the feed bunks, water, and shelter. We never got to use the wind chimes for Moonie.

After Moonie had passed away we decided to keep the wind chimes. In various cultures, wind chimes are believed to ward away evil spirits. After the last couple of weeks, we could do with something to keep evil spirits away.

We have hung one of the wind chimes in a pasture overlooking the girls’ pen, the other two are on our back screened porch. One of them is inscribed with the words “Enjoy today” – a good reminder that whatever is going on, life is really short and each day should be enjoyed to the fullest. As the wind chimes sound we will forever be reminded of the alpacas we lost – Echo,

As the wind chimes sound we will forever be reminded of the alpacas we lost – Echo, Queen and Moonie – and will cling to the happier memories of their time at the farm. Farewell my sweet alpacas, until we meet again.

We received this gift from the very kind vets and staff at Clovis Veterinary Hospital. The disc contains an imprint of Moonie’s foot. As we were not able to bring Moonie’s body back to the farm for burial due to the need for tissue samples to be sent for testing, it is lovely to have a memento of her. I will probably hang the disc near one of the sets of Moonie’s wind chimes.

Moonie's hoofprint

To learn the story about the illnesses that struck our beautiful alpacas, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.