A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 12, 2009

What You Don’t Want To Happen On Shearing Day!

Braveheart sporting his half shorn look

Braveheart sporting his half shorn look


This past weekend our plan had been to shear a large number of alpacas.  We knew we would probably not get them all done, but felt we could make a pretty good dent in our shearing load.

We had everything ready to go, plenty of plastic bags for samples and the various grades of fleece, a shearing order printed out, the shearing area clean, supplies on hand to deal with trimming toenails, teeth and in case of any shearing cuts (we try to avoid cuts but once in a while they happen).  Our fiber sorter Troy Ogilvie and his wife Mary arrived on Friday afternoon and we had helpers lined up for Saturday – things were looking good!  Even the weather was cooperating by being a cool 70 degrees instead of the 90+ temperatures of the previous days.

 After a good breakfast (got to keep your strength up on shearing day) we all went to the shearing area and got started. Chief was first to get shorn and left the barn with his new summer do, complete with a toenail trimming and some ear tick treatment for good measure. We continued on but soon realized something was not quite right with the shears.

On Friday night Bob and Regina Dart had come out to shear some of their female alpacas who are boarded here. Bob had mentioned that the blades on the shears did not seem to be cutting right. When we started shearing on Saturday we started with a fresh set of blades and cutters thinking that perhaps the blades Bob had used on Friday were either not sharpened correctly or had been used and put back in the wrong pile. Initially the shears didn’t seem too bad although we were not getting the same smooth shear that we usually do. As time went on though we could tell something was wrong.  Ric took the shears up to his worktable and was in the process of trying to adjust them to make them run better when two pieces of the shear head flew across the room!  That was the end of the shears.

Fortunately Ric was away from all alpacas and people when those two pieces of metal came loose, they were red hot and traveling fast as the left the shears.  Imagine if that had happened when the shears were being used on one of the alpacas.

With the demise of the shears we had a dilemma, how to shear the remaining alpacas including poor Braveheart who was now only half shorn.  Several phone calls were made to various livestock supply stores both in the area and further afield but we had no joy in finding a replacement set of shears.  Fortunately though a friend of ours had his sheep shears available and we were able to collect them to use for the rest of the day.

We released Braveheart back in with the other male alpacas while we were waiting for Ric to return with the borrowed shears.  Poor Braveheart was quite the picture with his half shorn look and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him  (see photo at the beginning of this post).

We sheared for the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday and now have 18 alpacas sheared – only 25 left to go and we will be finished. 

So this next weekend we will be shearing again, our broken shear head has been sent for repairs and in an effort to prevent our “no shears” dilemma again we have ordered another set of shears to have on hand.  Braveheart is now fully shorn and with two sets of shears in the future we hope we never have any half shorn alpacas again!


May 7, 2008

Back Home and Back to Business

My visit to England is over and I arrived back in the US late Sunday evening.  Unfortunately my flight from London was delayed by two hours and so my two hour forty minute layover before my connecting flight was reduced to just forty minutes.  It was a challenge to retrieve my luggage, clear immigration, clear customs (including an extra baggage inspection as I had brought food back with me) recheck my bags and make it to my next flight, but miraculously I made it!


Of course now there is much to catch up on, from email and bills to preparing for shearing and birthing of the crias that are due, but it’s not insurmountable and I am sure by the end of the week I will be almost back to normal (whatever normal is!).  Having been without internet access for most of my trip this blog has been lacking in entries while I have been gone, but now I am home the entries will be posted regularly.  If you posted a comment on the blog while I was gone and haven’t heard back from me yet then please know I will be in touch shortly.


The animals are all pleased to have me back home, the dogs gave me a rapturous welcome, the cats tried to tell me that they needed more food and the horses greeted me with a lot of whinnying.  The alpacas all came up to see me and I received lots of “wuffles” from them as the gathered around me in the pastures.  The pregnant girls are all looking much bigger than when I left and some of them have developed udders showing that they are not far off from giving birth.  The boys sense that changes are about to occur in the girls pasture and are giving longing looks to the girls.  As the girls reach the last stages of their pregnancy their hormone levels change and the boys are more than aware of this.


Monday afternoon brought with it an urgent situation for our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas.  One of the dams at their farm had been in labor for most of the morning and wasn’t making progress.   By lunchtime the vet had decided to do a C-section on the dam and I joined Bob and Regina at the vet’s office to give them a helping hand.  Fortunately the cria was still alive when the vet delivered him – a beautiful male cria with soft shiny crimpy fleece.  Not that we could see that when he was delivered as he was very wet and covered in birthing fluids.  My part of the process was to get him dry and take care of him while the vet completed the surgery on the dam.  The cria was remarkable strong despite his traumatic birth and once dried off he was very hungry.  As soon as was possible we got some colostrum from the crias dam and give it to the new cria who greedily sucked it down.  The cria appears to be fine and healthy but unfortunately the dam had to be euthanized yesterday following complications from the surgery.  It is always hard to lose an alpaca; to see a dam struggle for the survival of her cria and lose her life in the process is especially heartbreaking.   That little cria is one special boy and I hope that he goes on to win many ribbons for the Darts and brings them much pleasure as he grows and thrives. 


By Tuesday it was time to get into shearing mode as the Darts had a shearer booked to shear some of their herd.  The shearing went well, and it was a good chance to wake up those muscles that I don’t use for the rest of the year but do use once a year during shearing holding alpacas and picking up fleece.  Thank you Bob and Regina for giving me a warm up session prior to our starting to shear our herd this weekend!


It hasn’t taken me long to get back in the thick of things, life has a way of doing that especially when you work with livestock, but it keeps me out of trouble – well most of the time anyway!


March 12, 2008

It’s Going To Be Busy In May!

As spring approaches our thoughts turn to spring crias.  Already a couple of the unborn crias can be seen kicking their mothers during the day.  Bjorn’s cria is especially active and does a merry dance most evenings.

In preparation for the birthing season I have run my due date report and May is going to be a really busy month as we have the majority of our females due to give birth that month.  They start off from the 5th May and continue on right through to the beginning of June.  Of course crias like babies come when they are ready, not when we want them to, so we will have to be prepared for flexibility on both ends of the birthing schedule.

I had better make sure I have my supply cupboard is replenished and that I have plenty of cria coats on hand in case the evenings are still a little chilly.  I have already spoken to our vet’s office to make sure he is not planning on taking a vacation that month, hopefully everything will be smooth sailing with the births but I want to know that he is available should we need him.

While it will be a busy month at least we will have the majority of births within a short time and just imagine all the fun those crias are going to have playing together.

I really like to have several crias in the same age group at the same time, they just seem to thrive better than a single cria among a bunch of adult alpacas, I think the companionship of the other crias stimulates them more.  That’s not to say it is wrong to have just one cria among a bunch of adults, sometimes that is inevitable and we have had that situation from time to time.  The other advantage of having several crias born at the same time is that should there be milk production problems with one of the dams we may be able to encourage a cria to nurse off a different dam as we did with little Zeus earlier this year.

At the same time that all the crias are being born we will also be entering shearing season.  It is going to take some juggling, but with us shearing our own alpacas it gives us the advantage of being able to allow a dam to give birth and bond with her cria prior to shearing her.  If we had a hired shearer coming in we would have to shear on the date he was here and that may not be the best for a dam in the very late stages of pregnancy.

So it’s going to be a busy May, but I hope it will also be an enjoyable one with lots of beautiful crias to watch and some happy sheared alpacas by the end of the month.


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.