A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 16, 2008

Visiting Neighbors and Making New Friends


On Friday we took a break away from the daily routine of the farm and drove over to Levelland, Texas to meet some new alpaca breeders.  Levelland, Texas is about a one and a half hours drive to the east of Clovis and our journey was a nice easy one on a beautiful sunny day.

Cindy Negan, her husband Charlie, daughters Kim and Tiffany and Cindy’s father Richard are the proud owners of Monaco Pines Alpacas.  The family has been working really hard to set up their alpaca farm and took delivery of their first six alpacas earlier in the week.

 It was great to see the excitement and hear the enthusiasm of the Negan’s about their new venture and it brought back memories of when we made our first alpaca purchase.  When we had signed the paperwork and handed the check over for our first alpaca, Jenny, I could barely believe that we now owned her.  Jenny passed away in 2004 but still holds a very special place in our hearts, she was the foundation to our herd and has left her legacy in her two sons who now stand at stud at our farm Enchantment’s Prince Regent and Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel. 

 We had a lovely day at Monaco Pines, talking about alpacas, looking at alpacas, demonstrating how to trim teeth using a Tooth-a-matic tooth trimmer and then later having a run through of show ring procedure to help prepare Cindy and family for their first alpaca show.   It was a nice break from our daily routine and we came away from Monaco Pines Alpacas having made new friends in the business.

One of the joys of the alpaca business is the people you meet within the alpaca community.  I am sure that the alpaca community has a few old grouches, but for the most part alpaca owners are warm, friendly and willing to share their experiences and ideas. 

We look forward to seeing more of the Negan family in the future, watching their herd grow, following their progress and celebrating their successes in their alpaca venture.


January 29, 2008

It’s Back! The High Wind Returns

I had to chuckle at the weather forecast I heard on the radio yesterday.  The young lady (a meteorologist based in Amarillo) described the day as “another gorgeous day”.  To give the lady her due the temperature was at least warm, but it is difficult to apply the word gorgeous to the day when the winds are blowing around 30 mph with 50+ mph gusts.

To add to our “gorgeous” weather the dirt and tumbleweeds were blowing freely as well.  As I drove back to the house from an errand there were times on our road that visibility was only a few feet due to the blowing dirt and the only way to know about the tumbleweeds was to see them appear out of nowhere and then slam into the side of the truck.

The current dry conditions are almost as bad as they were in 2004 when serious dust storms were a problem.  I can still remember driving to the show in Fort Worth and driving through areas where the visibility was almost down to nothing.  Not what you want at the best of times but definitely not what you want when you are pulling a trailer load of alpacas.  It is tempting in those conditions to pull over and stop, but the problem is that even with the vehicle’s lights on people are still unable to see you and may run into the back of your vehicle.  We were so lucky that year to miss being involved in a major pile up in one of the dust storms we drove through.  We missed it by minutes, someone was watching over us that day.

Despite the dry conditions our winter wheat is making a valiant attempt at coming through, but unless we receive moisture within the next week or so the winter wheat is unlikely to survive.

The weanlings were not too impressed with yesterday’s weather.  Velvet in particular seemed to miss her dam and did a little fence pacing and ran up to me whenever I went into the pasture.  I suspect on days like these Velvet would feel safer cushed beside her mother in the pasture.

Today is supposed to be the same as yesterday, reasonably warm with high winds.  It will be another day when I will end up wearing a “Clovis tan” by the time chores are finished, due to our fine red dirt sticking to my skin.  There’s just nothing like another “gorgeous” day on the high plains of eastern New Mexico!



January 25, 2008

Those Pesky Forms!

The extended entry deadline for the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular is today.   This means that online registration through the TxOLAN website will be closed at midnight tonight and any paperwork relating to an entry to the show has to be postmarked with today’s date.

The show deadline was extended from January 15 to January 25 due to the website being down for a couple of days, but what is amazing to me is the number of entries that have been submitted since the original entry deadline.  There were a lot of people either waiting until the last minute to register for the show or who decided to come to the show at the last minute.  Now, alpaca breeders are notorious at being late at submitting their entries, but I think this is the biggest last minute rush I have seen so far!

Submitting entry forms to an alpaca show should be an easy thing, and once you have entered a couple of shows you get the hang of it quite easily.  To someone new to alpaca shows though it can be daunting.  I can still remember looking at the forms for the first show we entered and wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with them.

As the alpaca show system has become more refined, so it seems that there is more required on each form and more to be done to ensure entry to the show.

At the first show we entered we basically needed to know our animals name, date of birth, color and their ARI (Alpaca Registry Inc.) number.   You then had to figure out which class to enter and put that information on your form too.  At that time it was not unusual to be showing your alpaca in a class of one, which meant that you got a blue ribbon, but there wasn’t much worth behind it, as you didn’t have any competition.

These days all of that information is required, but also needed is the alpacas parentage information, the alpacas shearing date, copies (note the use of the plural) of the alpacas ARI certificate and a disclaimer statement regarding any business you may have done with a show judge.  Then there is the health paperwork too – proof of BVDV testing, a record of the alpaca’s microchip number, a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, any health test results required by the state you are traveling too – the list just keeps growing!

Along the way there have been the forms that have been discarded, such as the one that had a veterinarian declare that the male alpacas had two testicles, the female alpaca only four teats and that none of the alpacas had umbilical hernias.

The paperwork is so much for shows that I now have a special folder in which I keep all of the paperwork for the show that we are next traveling too.  From the day that I register for the show, this is the folder where everything goes, from copies of the show forms and health papers to hotel reservations.  The folder is invaluable, but heaven help me the day I accidentally leave it at home!

I can truly sympathize with the alpaca breeder who is attending their first show.  There is a lot to remember to do in preparation for the show, and a lot to do at the show.  Fortunately alpaca breeders are a friendly bunch and are usually more than ready to help each other out, especially when they discover it is someone’s first show.

As show superintendents for the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, Ric and I are responsible (amongst other things) for checking the correct paperwork is received, creating a database of the show entries, sorting the entries into their appropriate groups and also creating a class schedule.  I will give you three guesses what Ric and I are going to be doing this weekend (and most likely into the beginning of next week) – processing all of those entry forms!


October 25, 2007

There’s A Head In My Bucket, Dear Liza Dear Liza

Alpaca with head in bucket

Yes I know the words to the song are really “There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza dear Liza”, but I felt it necessary to use a bit of poetic license.

The picture at the top of this post was taken at an alpaca show.  The alpaca in the photo had been reaching for a tasty treat at the bottom of the bucket but the owner of the alpaca had not laid the handle of the bucket down flat and “bingo” one bucket stuck on an alpacas head.  The bucket was over the alpacas muzzle and the bucket handle was wedged on the alpaca’s neck. We reached the alpaca soon after the bucket had become stuck, and were able to remove it without a problem.  Fortunately the alpaca had not yet realized that the bucket was stuck on its head, but over time it would have done and could have panicked once it realized it was trapped.

I was reminded of this picture when I was doing chores a couple of days ago and Carina had reached into our beet pulp bucket while I was spooning out the beet pulp.  Before I knew it she had dodged her head under the bucket handle and had the bucket firmly wedged on her head.  It wasn’t too easy getting Carina’s head free from the bucket especially as she was quite content to guzzle the beet pulp shreds inside, but with a bit of wiggling and gentle persuasion I got the bucket free. 

Now to Carina having her head wedged in strange places is not unusual, she often tries to reach the feed bowls in the adjoining pen at feeding time and will push her head and neck under the panels of the pen to do so.  The panels fortunately have enough of a gap that she can do this without becoming trapped but there was one day that she managed to get a little stuck when she gave an extra push and got her shoulders under the pen.

Whenever we do chores we always check that all bucket handles are lying flat against the rim of the bucket to avoid having an alpaca get its head stuck.  I tend to think that we are less likely to get “bucket problems” when we are talking about water buckets as while alpacas enjoy fresh water they don’t go after it with such gusto as when there is a tasty food treat in the bucket.  Still making sure that bucket handles lie flat is not a bad habit to get into, and I really think alpacas do a lot better without a bucket stuck on their head!


September 24, 2007

On The Matter of Boys

The State Fair is now over and Ric and the alpacas have returned home.  All of the show alpacas will now be placed in quarantine for about three weeks just in case they picked something up at the show that could be transmitted to the rest of the herd.  We will also give them a preventative treatment for coccidia for the next five days, as that is a parasite that can sometimes make an appearance after shows.   

Having the Darts of Llano Soleado Alpacas so close to our farm works out great for both herds.  We each take one group of alpacas for quarantine – this time we will quarantine all of the show males from both farms and the Darts will quarantine all of the show females from both farms.  By doing this each farm only needs to provide one quarantine pasture, plus it means that there are no lone alpacas quarantine, as between us we always have more than one show alpaca of each sex.

Our boys did not do quite as well at the show as Shiimsa, but we still came home with some ribbons.  A fifth place for Rascal and a sixth place for Treasure with little Echo and Rian not placing.  All of the boys we took to the show were white and the white male classes are typically the most competitive classes in the show, so to even get a ribbon in a white class these days is something to be grateful for.

On the home front, Zoies cria now has a name; his owners are calling him Zeus.  It is a name that really suits him and follows the “Z” theme of his sire (Zindel) and dam (Zoie).  It also ties in with his grandsire Poseidon so all in all it is a good name for the little guy. 

Young Zeus had actually lost 1/10 of a lb. in weight when we weighed him yesterday morning, it is not unusual to have crias lose some weight on their first day but I am still a little concerned about Zoie’s ability to produce milk.  I feel she has some, but wonder if it is enough for her cria.

Signs that a cria may not be getting enough milk are lethargy, frequent nursing and a lack of a milk moustache when the cria comes away from nursing his dam.  Zeus trotted around a little yesterday, but I would like to see him a little more active, he is not nursing frequently but I did see Zoie walk away while he was nursing yesterday.  I went out and watched Zeus trying to nurse and noticed that Zoie’s teats each have a raw spot or two on them.  Either little Zeus has some sharp teeth, or he is sucking so hard on Zoie that he is irritating her udder.  When watching Zeus nurse I do not see a milk moustache on him when he comes away from nursing, milk moustaches are harder to see on white crias but I just don’t see any signs of milk on his lips.  He could well be fooling us as he did have a small frolic around the pasture with Carissima yesterday evening that shows that he at least has some energy.

So this morning we will see how much weight Zeus has gained, if it is very little or a weight loss I will introduce a supplemental bottle or two of goats’ milk and yoghurt.   Perhaps if Zeus felt fuller then he would not suck so hard on Zoie and her udder will get a chance to heal.   Actually Zeus has taken matters into his own hands (or feet!), I caught him earlier today stealing milk from Carina as Carissima was nursing.  If Carina had not been producing much milk I would have taken steps to stop Zeus from nursing her, but as she produces a lot of good milk I let him continue to nurse.  Hopefully as the days go by Zoie’s milk will really come into it’s own and we will not need to be so concerned about little Zeus.   Whether or not he stops stealing milk from Carina will be a different matter though, to quote my mother “it’s unusual for a man not to find his way to the pantry” and in Zeus’s case I think he has found a new pantry to visit in Carina!


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