A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 5, 2009

Alpaca Shows Without Alpacas

There are very few alpaca shows that do not have alpacas at them, usually those shows are fleece shows only and are combined with conferences or other events.

This past weekend I went to an alpaca show, but this time I did not take alpacas.  We had initially planned on taking just a few alpacas but for various reasons decided that it would be best if I attended the show just as an observer.

On Thursday I headed north to Denver, Colorado and attended the Great Western Alpaca Show (GWAS).

GWAS is a large alpaca show usually attracting over 1,000 alpacas.  From what I hear this year’s alpaca attendance estimate was 1,100.  The show is put on by the Alpaca Breeders of the Rockies and is always well organized and a fun event to attend.

 So what do you do at an alpaca show if you have not taken alpacas to show?  Well the choices are many.  You can meet other alpaca breeders and network with them, you can look at alpacas from many different farms, you can attend seminars and classes put on at the show and of course you can watch the alpaca show.

I enjoyed my time at the show, for me it was very different from when we take alpacas, then we are preoccupied with caring for the alpacas and making sure we get to our classes on time.  Without any alpacas to care for on this trip I was able to set my own pace and take the time to visit with alpaca breeder friends both old and new.  I was also able to check out any alpacas that placed highly in their class, their owners were happy to show them to me and I got to see some exquisite alpacas up close and personal giving me food for thought as to where our breeding program should head next.

The show itself was interesting to watch, not only from the perspective of which alpacas won each class and the judge’s comments but also from the perspective of watching the exhibitor’s showmanship.  Many alpaca breeders have not shown any form of livestock before owning alpacas and some do not take the time to learn at least the basics of showmanship before entering in the show ring, others though do their homework and you can tell from the way they present themselves and their alpacas that they are trying hard to make a positive impression on the judges.

The show also featured a fleece show and a fiber arts show, both of which I spent time admiring.

On the last day of the show I almost decided not to go out to the show grounds, but there were a couple of alpacas who had caught my eye and who I wanted to take a second look at and also the “Get of Sire” class was taking place in the morning and had 18 entries – one of the biggest Get of Sire Classes I have seen. (The Get of Sire Class gives the owner of a herdsire the opportunity to show three of that sire’s offspring who they feel represent the best attributes of the herdsire and show the herdsires consistency in putting those attributes on his offspring).   A Get of Sire Class of that size must be a challenge to judge but the judges seemed to really enjoy that challenge and the winning entry certainly featured three alpacas who were as the judge said “cookie cutter” in their similarity of appearance and a credit to their sire.

The final classes I got to see before leaving the show grounds were the youth costume classes.  The costume classes started in an adjoining ring while the Get of Sire Class was still ongoing and the spectators could not help but have their attention drawn to the sight of both handler and alpaca in their various costumes.  From Batman (handler) and The Joker (alpaca) to Milk Carton (handler) and Cereal Box (alpaca) and Princess (handler) and her Prince (alpaca) the entries showed not only creativity but also how much you can train an alpaca to tolerate (particularly the alpaca who entered the ring sporting a pair of tight fitting pajama bottoms!).

I can recommend attending an alpaca show without alpacas, and it is something that perhaps all alpaca breeders should do once in a while, it gives you a much different perspective on how the show is viewed by those walking through the barn.  Certainly I have some ideas about how we will change our booth set up at future shows.  Most of all though alpaca shows are an enjoyable experience, I enjoyed myself this weekend and managed to make new connections both human and alpaca while doing so.

Rosemary

January 14, 2009

Stormy’s New Career

Stormy - Off to a new career as a performance and obstacle alpaca

Stormy - Off to a new career as a performance and obstacle alpaca

Our Stormy was born back in June in the middle of a sandstorm, hence his name Windrush Desert Sandstorm.  Despite the challenging weather conditions at the time of his birth he emerged into the world a happy-go-lucky, laid back lad.

As Stormy has grown he has kept his laid back personality.  His dam Willow is a sweetheart and it seems as if Stormy has inherited her even temperament.  Stormy is also small like his dam Willow and that combined with the long staple length of his fleece has made him look more and more like a puffball as he has grown.

One thing I particularly like about Stormy’s temperament is that while he is curious and likes to investigate what is going on around him he is not pushy. Once he has discovered what is going on he will either watch from a respectful distance or go back to doing something that he finds to be more interesting.

Stormy’s halter training was a breeze; Mitch Murry from Sandy Acres Alpaca Farm was visiting our farm and helping us weigh alpacas. Mitch went out into the pasture to catch one of the other crias, Song, to bring her to the barn for weighing. When Mitch arrived at the scales I realized that the alpaca on the end of the lead rope was not Song but was in fact Stormy. Stormy had never worn a halter before and yet he walked willing with Mitch out of the pasture, away from his dam and over to the scales. Now that’s one easy halter training session!

During a recent daily update phone call with our alpaca neighbor Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas I was talking about Stormy and how easy he was to handle. Regina mentioned that she might be interested in Stormy for her daughter Abby who likes to take part in alpaca Performance and Obstacle competitions. At the weekend Abby came out to the farm and met Stormy and took him for a “test drive”. The two did well together and Abby decided that she would like Stormy for her special alpaca and so Stormy will be leaving us soon to go and be with Abby and start training for his new career as a Performance and Obstacle alpaca.

Many children (and also some adults) enjoy taking part in alpaca Performance and Obstacle classes. The classes are fun and can be quite challenging. While there are a certain amount of mandatory obstacles included on the course, the show can pick various other approved obstacles for inclusion in the course. Often the class participants do not learn of the exact nature of the obstacles until an hour or so before the class and of course there is no practicing on the course prior to the class starting.

The purpose of the Obstacle Class is to demonstrate the team effort between the alpaca and its handler, the level of training of the alpaca and the alpaca’s willingness to cooperate with its handler. According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) Show System Handbook the ideal performance in an alpaca Obstacle Class “consists of a poised and calm team that performs the required movements with promptness and willingness on a loose lead” .

Bearing in mind that description of the “ideal performance” you can see why Stormy is a good choice for Abby. Stormy’s easy going personality and willingness to learn will help Abby and Abby, who now has at least two years experience of alpaca Obstacle and Performance classes under her belt, will be able to train and encourage Stormy as he learns to do things he has never done before!

We look forward to watching Abby and Stormy compete in their classes and hope that there will be many ribbons in the future for this up and coming young team. Good Luck Abby and Stormy we will be cheering you on from the sidelines at the shows!

Rosemary

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.

Rosemary

February 20, 2008

Back Home and Getting Back to Routine (Well Trying Anyway)

The days we were away at the show were long and busy and unfortunately I was unable to get to the computer to make any blog entries.  Most days we worked from early in the morning until the early hours of the next morning, and I don’t know that I would have made much sense if I had attempted to update the blog.  We finally made it home by 8 a.m. Monday morning – just in time to do chores!

All in all the show seemed to go well.  The fleece show went really well and I had a wonderful group of volunteers who worked hard, were fun to be around and made the fleece show go smoothly – a big thank you to all of those volunteers but in particular to Mary Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas, Chip Stanley of Rafter DS Alpacas and my sister in law Dena Buffington who stayed with the fleece show for the duration of the show.  A thank you also to the fleece show judges Ruth Elvestad and Sara Jane Maclennan who were a pleasure to work with.

Weather played a part in upsetting the organization of the show.  A large storm system brought snow and ice to many parts of the US and both judges and exhibitors experienced travel delays causing them to be late arriving at the show. 

In addition Ric was unwell for most of the show, but being Ric refused to stop working.  We finally got him to a doctor yesterday to be told he has a bad case of the flu and is likely to be laid up for several days as he recovers.

A thank you also has to go to our “farm sitting team” which consisted of our vet’s wife Charlotte Orton (ably assisted by her two little girls Ruby and Shelby who walked the dogs and sat with Toby while he ate his food), our friend Justus Anderson (who know considers himself an “alpaca wrangler”)  our teenage helper Bethany Heaton and her father Bill Heaton.  As Monday was a holiday and the schools were out Bethany showed up at our farm on Monday morning to do chores and she was a very welcome site when we pulled into the driveway after driving all night.  Justus also ended up with an extra stint of chores on Tuesday, but more on that later.

So now we have the task of getting back to normal, which in Ric’s case also means trying to get back to good health.  There are the end of show reports to be done, but they will not be too time consuming and then of course there is all of the equipment in the trailer to be unloaded, cleaned and put away ready for the next show.

It was good to see many of our alpaca friends at the show, and we were able to spend a little time catching up on news with some of them.  There were some beautiful alpacas at the show too, and while I was unable to see much of the halter show I did take the opportunity to have a walk around the alpaca barn late one night and get an “alpaca fix”

The alpacas we took to the show did well, for most of them it was their first show and they handled the experience well.  We also had some good show results, in particular the offspring of our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent did really well – but more on that tomorrow …………….

Rosemary

February 4, 2008

And The Forms Keep Coming

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Shows, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:25 am

As the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular draws nearer the volume of paperwork is increasing.  More large packages of forms arrived last week and we are busy checking the entry forms and the alpaca’s registration certificates against the data entry in the online registration database.  We also need to check that people have submitted a liability waiver for the show grounds, a disclaimer regarding any business relationship they have with the judge, microchip numbers for their alpacas and shearing dates for their alpacas.

It seems as if every show another piece of paper or information is required and many exhibitors send in their entries with information missing.  Some of them are in a hurry to send in their forms, others don’t realize that certain forms need to be completed, and others seem to think that they can get away without sending the necessary information – they soon find otherwise!

This afternoon we received 113 emails all relating to the show and missing information or incomplete entries.  My poor email inbox is starting to groan!

Many alpaca breeders are not aware of the mechanics of running a show.  There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is not understood by many of the exhibitors.  Unless those exhibitors volunteer to help with the show then it is difficult for them to appreciate exactly what it takes to put on a successful alpaca show.

For several months now we have had conference calls of the show committee, originally on a monthly basis and now as the show gets nearer the calls are on a weekly basis.  I am sure as the show date gets nearer our phone and fax machine will both be very active!

Apart from chores, today will be spent verifying more entries in the show system and that will be our routine for most of the time leading up to the show.  I think we have probably received the last of the packages of entries, although there are always one or two that are really last minute in getting here. 

It’s going to be a busy week keeping up with everything and then trying to prepare for our trip to the show in about 10 days time.  I am sure we will make it, but I am also sure we will be glad when it is all behind us!

Rosemary

January 13, 2008

Stepping Out on Their Own

Yesterday was the day for three of our crias to start the weaning process.  Athena, Blast and Velvet are all ready to be weaned, although if you asked them they would tell you that they would be quite happy to continue nursing from their dams for the rest of their lives.

Weaning normally occurs after the crias reach 6 months of age.  Some breeders wean their crias at exactly six months but we prefer to watch the crias and dams and judge weaning time on their behavior. 

Knowing that we have a show approaching I have been watching Athena, Blast and Velvet to make sure that they are mature enough to handle the stress of their first show.  With all the best preparation in the world a show is still a stressful event for a young alpaca.  Alpacas can be entered in shows once they reach six months of age, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will all be ready for the show experience once they reach the six month point.  Some alpacas mature later than others and need a little longer to develop both mentally and physically before experiencing a show.

We usually don’t like to show our young alpacas until they are about eight months old.  This gives them the time that they need to mature, so that they can handle the show experience better.  I hear of some breeders who use showing as a way to wean their alpacas, taking a young alpaca from its dam on the day that they leave for the show.  This is not a good practice and will at best result in an alpaca that does not show well because it is distressed at being removed from it’s home herd and in particular it’s dam.  At worst the young alpaca will get sick from the stress of being taken from it’s dam and then being placed in a show situation.

For the next few days Athena, Blast and Velvet will be placed in a separate pasture from their dams during the day for day weaning.  We will also put Shiimsa with them as she is fully weaned and will be attending the show with the three weanlings.   Shiimsa will provide a calm and stable presence to the group.  In the evening the crias will be allowed back with their dams.  Within about a week the crias will be ready to spend their first night away from their dams.

We kept a close eye on the weaning group yesterday, to make sure that they were handling things well.  All three of the crias seemed to be happy eating hay and exploring their new pasture and not too concerned about the lack of their dams presence.  This is a good sign as it tells me that they are at a good age for weaning.  By 3 p.m. though Velvet was starting to hang around the fence line looking for Queen.  This surprised me a little as I rarely see Velvet nurse from Queen anymore.  I would have thought that Blast being the youngest of the group would have been the first to show signs of missing his dam, but instead Velvet was the one who walked the fence a little.

When it came time for evening chores I fed the weanling group before allowing them back in the main herd.  As soon as I opened the gate they all went galloping into the main pasture with the exception of Athena who was in no hurry to go back- she was definitely ready for weaning!  Interestingly though not one of the crias dams came looking for them during the day, I guess the dams were more than ready for a break from their crias!

This morning we will take the crias back over to their new pasture, and again keep a close eye on them.  Sometimes the second or third day is when they will show more signs of missing their dams.  We will give the crias some probiotics too in order to help their digestive system cope with the extra stress that they are under.

Within a short time the crias will be taking weaning in their stride, and their dams (who are all now pregnant again) will probably be breathing a sigh of relief at the reduced drain on their bodies!

Rosemary

January 12, 2008

Seeing The Light

AthenaAs my work with the crias continues it is interesting to see the various break through points that they reach. 

First you can sense when they stop being so bothered by being handled.  They go from the “lets see if we can move away” mode to “oh it’s that woman again, we’ll just stand here”.  As I work on handling their feet there is a point when they suddenly click and realize that when they stand in balance it really isn’t too difficult to allow me to pick up their feet one at a time.

This last couple of days we have had good breakthroughs with Blast, Velvet and Athena with walking on the lead rope.  Surprisingly Blast was the first one to see the light.  He is the youngest of the three and a little immature in his thinking, but after a couple of walks around the pasture wearing his halter and lead rope he relaxed into it and started to walk well.  He still hesitates a little when we walk past his dam Clarissa as he wants to go and nurse from her, but he soon moves on, perhaps knowing that he will go back to her once our training session is over.

Velvet on the other hand, moved really well on the lead rope when she was in the pen, but when I took her outside the pen her walk became stiff and reluctant.  Yesterday we were about three quarters of the way around the pasture when she started striding out well with the smooth gait that she has.  Of course the fact that we were heading toward a hay feeder may have helped, but I walked her a little past it and she still did well.

Athena has always been the thinker of the group, and her mind is usually more focused on trying to figure out how to get out of doing what I want her to do, rather than just doing what I am asking of her.  But even Athena has now seen the light and walks really well when on the lead rope.  I can tell though that he mind is still whirring a bit as she walks, but that may always be the case with her.

The crias have done well with their training, all they need now is some “mileage” – time spent exposing them to different situations, keeping them walked and keeping them used to the idea of being on a halter.  In a few more weeks Blast, Athena and Velvet will be headed for their first show the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular in Fort Worth, Texas and hopefully their first blue ribbon too!

Rosemary

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year From Clovis, New Mexico!

Here we are at the start of a New Year, to some New Year’s Day is just another day but to me it is an exciting time to start anew, setting new goals and heading forward to enjoy another year of life.

The year 2007 was a year that brought both sadness and joy.  The loss of our dear friend Dick Pottinger was particularly hard, as was watching Dick’s wife, my best friend Linda, suffer the tragedy of the loss of her husband.  Linda has been amazing during this past year, it is a difficult process adjusting to life without ones soul mate but Linda has gone forward with her usual tenacity and determination and while she misses Dick terribly she has also made sure that her life remains full and meaningful.

I am fortunate enough to have two best friends and my friend Val also unfortunately had a challenging year.   The timing of things in our lives can be an interesting concept, and while both Val and Linda were experiencing the sadness life can bring, they also discovered the warmth, support and happiness of a deepening friendship.

My father’s deteriorating health and admission to a nursing home and my mother’s ongoing battle with Social Services about funding my father’s healthcare was another low point in 2007.  It is sad to realize that it doesn’t matter how hard you work during life or how diligent you are in supporting your country and doing things the right way, at the end of the day modern governments have little or no consideration for your efforts with the exception of appreciating the assets that they now claim to be theirs.  On the bright side of that situation though is the way my mother has turned into a whirlwind of activity and action as she coped with what must be one of the hardest times of her life.  She may be in her 80’s but I think she can still run circles around many who are a fraction of her age.

But along with sadness often comes joy and what could be more joyful than going to a beautiful wedding of two special people.  Laura and Ren had a wonderful wedding in England, and while Ric and I had somewhat separate travel plans in order to get us both there and the alpaca herd safely cared for, we did both make it to the wedding and even had a whole seven days vacation together!

Now we excitedly look forward to the birth of Laura and Ren’s first child and our first grandchild, in just under 90 days we will be grandparents!  Joyous news that we learned in 2007 and that will carry us forward into 2008.

Then of course there were our animal happenings.  The arrival of the first cria from our herdsires Zindel, Tobiano and Moonie, the continuing outstanding show record of the cria from our herdsire Prince Regent, the arrival of dog number four Tripster, the survival of our dear elderly cat Six Toes whose heart is showing signs of wear but who still has a great life and one of the loudest purrs, and the survival of our Pomeranian Toby despite a serious vaccine reaction.  Along the way we met wonderful people and gained new friends, at alpaca shows, through animal rescue organizations, through our day to day business and also through this blog.  For all of you who have posted comments through the past year I sincerely thank you and look forward to your input as 2008 continues.

In a time when economies world wide are somewhat shaky and when wars are being fought and lives lost, those of us who live in safety, with little threat to our lives, a roof over our heads and food on our table have a lot to be thankful for.  I am sure there will be some “wobbly” spots in 2008, but I am also sure that there will be a lot of happy times along the way, that’s just the way life is.

Happy New Year to you all, may 2008 bring you good health, happiness and prosperity.

Rosemary

December 24, 2007

Alpaca Farming on a Budget – Part 4

Regent and Ma Cushla at the Cabin  There are many ways you can reduce some of your costs for your alpaca farm, it may mean you don’t have the prettiest hay feeder or the fanciest barn, but by shopping around and being creative you can come up with some good alternatives.

Some equipment you can make yourself and save costs in the process.  It’s not that difficult, for instance, to make your own hay feeder or you can use large multipurpose plastic tubs that make nice hay containers both at home and at shows.  We like to use garden wagons for hay feeders (the ones that have the rigid mesh sides), they can be moved around from pasture to pasture or put inside a shelter when the weather is bad.  So you can see that while a custom designed alpaca hay feeder may be nice, there are alternatives available that serve the same purpose but are less expensive.

Sharing equipment with other farms is another way to help reduce your costs.  We co-own our shearing equipment, tooth trimmer and microchip reader, all items that we need but that can easily be shared with other farms.

Alpaca shows are great marketing and networking opportunities, but the costs can soon mount up.  By joining together with other nearby farms to share transportation, stalls and display space you can reduce your expenses.  Host hotels are usually offered at alpaca shows but it has been my experience that you can get a better price on your hotel by searching the Internet for deals or by using services such as Priceline and Hotwire.  When traveling to shows that require more than one days travel we usually try and stay at a KOA that has camping cabins, there we can park our trailer next to the cabin and keep a close eye on our alpacas.  We have always found the KOA campgrounds to be clean, well run and reasonable, and when you walk your alpacas around the campground it is a great marketing opportunity.   Just make sure you check in with the campground manager first to ensure that he or she is comfortable with having alpacas on the campground  (The picture at the top of this blog was taken when we were staying at a KOA on the way to an alpaca show in Estes Park, Colorado –the two alpacas in the picture are our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent and our grey female Enchantment’s Ma Cushla Liath, both of whom were just juveniles at the time)

There are some areas where you really cannot cut corners, a good set of scales, your veterinary care and your hay and feed are some of those areas where you need to provide your alpacas with only the best.    Herd sires are another area where it does not pay to cut corners, the alpaca market is so competitive these days that you need to make sure that any male you select to breed your females to has a strong chance of producing a cria that is an improvement on it’s parents. 

If you are an alpaca breeder on a budget you may be tempted not to insure your alpacas, but that is also one area where I would not recommend cutting corners.  The cost of alpaca insurance is reasonable as insurance goes and if you have a significant amount of money invested in your alpacas then it is worth protecting your investment by purchasing insurance on your alpacas, at least until they have paid for themselves either in stud fees or by the sales of offspring they have produced.

Alpaca breeders are some of the friendliest people in the world and the majority are more than willing to share tips and experiences, talk to other alpaca breeders about how they keep their costs down and most likely during the course of the conversation an idea will come up that you can try on your farm at home.

To have an alpaca farm on a budget is not impossible and of course as you become successful with your alpaca business hopefully your budget will have a little more leeway in it.    Like anything else done on a budget, establishing a successful alpaca farm on a budget takes hard work and ingenuity, but along with that hard work comes a lot of joy and the chance to spend part of your life with some unique, beautiful creatures who in time will more than pay you back for your hard work and efforts.

Rosemary 

November 12, 2007

Time for School Kids!

Carissima and Zeus Kiss   The fall show season is over for us, but rapidly approaching is the spring show season and so it is time to set a regular halter training program in motion for our “kids”.  Blast, Athena and Velvet will all be making their debut on the show circuit this spring and Shiimsa will be entering a few more shows before we start to consider breeding her.

Our halter training program starts early in life for our crias.  One of the biggest keys to success with halter training an alpaca is trust, if your crias trust you then it is far easier to work with them and the results will usually be better.  So how do you gain a crias trust?  Well one of the first things to bear in mind is that as cute and cuddly as crias appear it is a pretty scary prospect to have a human wrap themselves around the cria in a hug.  That is not a behavior that alpacas do to each other and really is quite intimidating to them.  We always aim to be calm and quiet around our crias, they are naturally curious and so we will often crouch down and allow them to come up and sniff us.  Sometimes even eye contact is enough to put off a cria, remember that in alpacas a direct hard stare can be interpreted as a challenge or defensive behavior.  If I have a cria that seems interested in approaching but is a little reluctant I will often look down at the ground rather than at the cria and that in itself is enough to reassure the cria that it is okay to approach.

Each cria has its own distinct personality, some will be timid, and some will be bold.  Be aware that the cria who comes up to you all the time sniffing, following, nibbling and even jumping at you in play may be viewing you as his or her alpaca equal and in time that may lead to behavioral problems.  Crias need to understand appropriate boundaries and behavior around humans so that they grow up to be well mannered and manageable alpacas.

As our crias grow I do from time to time run a firm but gentle hand over their neck and back to get them used to a human touch.  I am careful never to surprise them with this, the last thing you want them to do is be on edge around you, but it is good to get them used to the human touch.

Handling the crias legs is another step that I start from an early age.  At lot of issues with handling alpacas legs arise from the alpaca feeling unbalanced, insecure or trapped when a leg is felt or lifted and it is important to work with the alpaca to ensure that it feels comfortable with having its legs handled and its feet picked up.

Like children a crias attention span is usually pretty short, so little and often is the way to go.  A few minutes of good handling work every other day or so will give your cria a sound basis to work from as the training progresses and will make the trainers job much easier.  I enjoy my time working with the crias and the weanlings, learning to adapt to each ones personality and figuring out which methods work best for that individual alpaca.  Training alpacas is not a “one size fits all” system and it is important to remember this.

If you are new to working with alpacas (even though you may have experience with working with horses, cattle or other species) I heartily recommend a visit to the Camelidynamics web site. There you can learn more about the Camelidynamics system of handling alpacas and obtain useful tools to help you with your work with alpacas.  I will write more about handling alpacas as the week goes on and I make progress with my class of 2007.  I am sure I am looking forward to working with Blast, Athena, Velvet and Shiimsa more than they are looking forward to working with me, but I will make their school lessons as relaxed and pleasant as can be.

Rosemary

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