A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 2, 2009

Now Where Are We?

Well…  Ric is still at home with the alpacas.  I am in England visiting my mother on my annual trip to my home country.  Usually I travel earlier in the year, but this year shearing, crias and new a new puppy meant I postponed my trip to the fall.

Today England is warmer than I remember it being in the fall (or autumn as we tend to refer to it in England).  The English summers have been getting warmer and drier, the storms more severe and the fall and winter milder.  You cannot help but wonder about global warming when such climate change takes place.  I think you would have a hard time convincing many British people that global warming is not a fact.

 During my trip I will be helping my mother with tasks such as filing her tax return and anything else she has on the to-do list for me.  My mother has coped remarkably well since the loss of my father last year, but there are a few things she needs assistance with (and let’s face it who really enjoys filing tax returns anyway!).

 I also will be spending time with my good friends Linda and Val (with a very special party on the agenda but more on that later), my nephews and former sister in law Roisin (who is still very much a member of our family) and of course Laura (step daughter), Ren (Laura’s husband), grand-daughter Aida and Paul (step son).  Also on the agenda is a trip to Totley in South Yorkshire to visit my Dad’s cousin Stella and hopefully see a nearby alpaca farm and while I am there I am hoping to be reunited with my friend Anne-Marie who I have known since pre-school.  Anne-Marie and I have kept in touch on and off through our parents and now via Facebook which has brought us together again.

 At home Ric is very busy with caring for the farm.  It’s a lot for one person to take care of, and now has he added task of looking after puppy Blue who will let  you know in her own way (by chewing something you treasure!), if she feels she is not getting enough attention.  I fully expect Ric to be somewhat worn out and possibly a little thinner by the time I get home – although our dear neighbor Darlene is providing him with some meals and so I know he will not starve to death (A big Thank you Darlene as always!).

 As well as routine chores Ric will be hauling loads of hay while I am gone.  We finally found some wheat hay that satisfies our requirements, with only one drawback; it has some wheat heads in it.  We really do prefer beardless wheat hay, but this year have not been able to find any that is nutritionally correct for the alpacas.  The hay we purchased is almost perfect in its analysis and was cut just as it started to head out, so we felt that it was the best option available to us.

 As if all of that is not enough Ric also will be keeping a close eye on Theresa who is due October 25.  For her first four crias Theresa gave birth on day 345 of her pregnancy, but then threw us for a loop by not delivering her fifth cria until day 368 in temperatures above 100 degrees.  So who knows when Theresa will give birth this year.  Before I left I checked Theresa, her udder was not yet developed and she was not puffy under her tail so there should be at least a little time before she gives birth.  I had a word with Theresa too and asked her to hang on to her cria until I was home, but not to wait until day 368 again – I guess we will soon find out if she was listening.

 My blog entries will be sporadic during my trip I am sure.  Ric may decide to post an entry or two – in his spare time that is, but whether his entries will be coherent or just consist of a string of exhausted zzzzzz’s will remain to be seen!


November 28, 2007

Spring or Fall?

Sandia and MerrilyYesterday we behavior tested several of our girls who are on our fall breeding schedule. For most of them that was the second behavior test since breeding, but for one of them it was the first behavior test since breeding.  The girl in question is a proven female but the male we are using is so far unproven.  If our girl does indicate that she is pregnant on the next behavior test we will probably not use the male that we have been breeding her to until the spring.  He is a young male and it might just be a case of needing a little more time to mature.  The female however is proven and usually gets pregnant quickly so we may just try one more breeding to a different male.

By this time of the year though it is a bit of a dilemma whether to breed our female alpacas or whether to wait until spring.  With alpacas having an 11 month gestation any breedings that we do now will result in early to mid November crias, which is something we would rather avoid.

Our fall breeding season is very short ranging from late September to mid November depending on the weather.  We don’t want crias being born in the heat of August and we really would rather not have any crias born past October 15, but once in a while a girl will go longer than the estimated 345 days and we get a late fall cria.

The problem with late fall crias is that not only do they not receive as much sunlight, which is a factor in the healthy development of their bones and muscles, but also they are at risk of being exposed to the cold.  Typically our weather gets colder and wetter from late October onwards.  With a spring cria however as it grows the days will be getting longer and the weather will be getting gradually warmer.

We are fortunate in New Mexico that at least our fall weather still includes some sunshine unlike the North West states which tend to have overcast skies for most of their days during fall and winter.  So for New Mexico, fall crias are not as much of a problem as for other parts of the United States but still consideration must be given as to whether it is wise to have crias born during cold weather.  A newborn cria in particular can become seriously chilled in a very short time after birthing.

Many alpaca breeders worry about the loss of production time when they leave a dam open (unbred) for a period of time.  As with any business time is money and for every month an alpaca dam is left open she is, to a certain extent, losing money, however if you factor in the health of the cria and the higher risk factors with fall or winter crias the financial loss may be significantly reduced.

Some alpaca breeders also worry that it will be harder to get the dam pregnant if they leave her open for several months.  We have not yet found this to be the case, we have had several occasions when we have chosen to leave a dam open and so far have not had any problem getting those dams pregnant again.

We will be testing our girl again at the beginning of next week.  If she cushes when introduced to the male (indicating she is not pregnant) we will most likely breed her to a different male, but that will be her last chance at breeding for the fall season.  If that breeding does not take, we will leave her open until the spring and she can enjoy winter without the demands of a growing embryo.  Fingers crossed though she will reject the male again when introduced to him next week and we can look forward to a cria from that breeding next fall.


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