A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 27, 2009

What’s The Difference Between

Dream in Full Fleece

Dream in Full Fleece

 

This

 

 

 

and  This?

Dream Shorn

Dream Shorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turns out to be about 4 ½ lbs of fleece (not including belly and lower leg fleece).  Young Dream who weighed in at 93.5 lbs with her fleece prior to shearing certainly did well in the fleece production department.  For a little alpaca she has a lot of fleece.

Dream comes from a line of good fleece producers, her dam Rosie now 5 years old and about ready to deliver a cria still produced just over 4 lbs of fleece in her blanket, leg and neck combined and she too is not a large alpaca.

We have been pleased with our fleeces overall this year and I now have 15 show fleeces ready to be skirted in preparation for show.

Atlas who has done so well in the show ring produced a really dense, fine fleece with a wonderful long staple length that proved to be quite a challenge to Ric’s shearing skills.  Looking at Atlas prior to shearing we knew he was carrying a lot of fleece but had not quite grasped just how much superfine, dense, high frequency crimp fleece he has. 

White Blast who did well in the fleece shows last year has produced another spectacular fleece which is fine, dense and bright with beautiful crimp style.

Even our smallest alpaca Little Man (aka Tonka) did us proud with his fleece.  Weighing all of 58.2 lbs with his fleece on Little Man produced 2.3 lbs of silky, shiny cria fleece that almost hangs in dreadlocks from his head to his toes.

There are still a few alpacas left to shear but this week will hopefully see the end of our shearing for the year.  Next the show fleeces will be paying a trip to the skirting table in preparation for showing and then we will need to decide which fleece will be going to which show.  Lots of fleeces to show and lots of shows to show them in – what fun!

Rosemary

May 20, 2009

Spinning Wheel or Kid Magnet?

The Spinning Wheel has a magical attraction for children

The Spinning Wheel has a magical attraction for children

 

The last couple of days have found us with school groups, first a group of nine kindergartners (along with a few parents and siblings) who visited the farm for a field trip, then a visit to a local elementary school to talk about alpaca fiber and the process of taking raw fiber to cloth as part of their medieval arts project.

It is always interesting to see the reactions both of the children to the alpacas and the alpacas to the children.  The kindergartners proved to be very interesting to a couple of the alpacas, Sleeper and Cinnamon took time to check them out reaching their necks forward to sniff the children and also being very interested in the artificial flower on one the little girls hats.   We used Pride as the alpaca for the children to touch and also to show off his teeth and feet pads, he behaved very well and was very tolerant of the small hands that all wanted to touch him.  Having learned a little about alpacas and met the alpacas and llamas the children declared that they were now hungry and were happy to eat their lunches on our front lawn in front of the girls’ pen.  I reckon two of the llamas Maya and Griffin must have encountered kindergartner lunches before as they hung by the fence line and were eventually rewarded with pieces of apple from the children’s lunch packs – smart llamas!

The elementary school visit also went over well, although Blast and Atlas, the two alpacas we took with us, were a little overwhelmed when they walked onto the school patio to be greeted by the first group of children who were kindergarten through Grade 2.   There were a lot of children and a lot of noise as their excited voices reverberated against the patio walls.  Blast and Atlas bravely entered the patio although I am sure they were wondering what on earth all that noise was.  The children soon settled down when asked and enjoyed learning about the alpacas and spinning alpaca fiber.   Blast was particularly taken with one of the teachers who offered to hold his lead rope, giving her kisses and checking out her sandals on her feet.

The second group of children was Grades 3 through 6 and so was a little older.  They soon settled down and had plenty of questions about the alpacas and alpaca fiber.

One thing both groups had in common was their fascination with my spinning wheel.  Since owning my spinning wheel I have learned that spinning wheels are “kid magnets”.  Children are absolutely fascinated with them and almost cannot stop themselves from coming up and touching the wheel.  I have seen many usually well behaved children defy their parents “do not touch” request when it comes to a spinning wheel; as with the yarn it spins the wheel just seems to draw the children in.

This group of children was no exception and shortly after I started spinning in front of the first group I discovered that I was surrounded by small children who had completely forgotten that they were supposed to be sitting on the floor listening to Ric’s presentation.  The children had lots of questions too “where does the yarn go”, “what’s this”, “is that hard to do” “how does that happen”

The older group of children did manage to stay in their seats a little longer, but as soon as they were told by their teachers that they could get up came over to the spinning wheel reaching out to touch the main wheel, the drive belt, the yarn and anything else they could get too.  They were just so curious and fascinated by the spinning wheel that they too could not stop themselves from making a connection with the magical machine.

It struck me as I spun in front of the children that it would be pretty cool to have spinning as a regular school activity.  Certainly spinning is very relaxing and helps your mind to focus.   In these days of high technology and instant communication I wonder what effect it would have on school children if they had start and end each day with 30 minutes of hand spinning.  I suspect it would have a very positive result.

Rosemary

March 17, 2009

Hang on Queen!

 

Our alpaca Queen is one of the grand dams of the pasture.  Now eleven years old, she is able to rule over the younger alpacas by just looking at them.  She can throw a look that says “you wouldn’t dare” and the younger alpacas agree, they would not dare to cross our Queen.

 

Queen is an alpaca who breeds easily, births easily and has beautiful, robust, vigourous cria.  Her last cria Atlas recently took 1st in his class at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and is a striking herdsire in the making.  The only time Queen has lost a pregnancy was after she moved here from her previous owners farm.  She was seven years old at the time and had never been off her home farm, the stress of the move was just too much for her I guess and while she never outwardly showed any signs of stress she did absorb her pregnancy.  Once rebred though she carried her next pregnancy to term and has never looked back since.

 

When Queen lost her pregnancy it drove home to me just how bonded these alpacas become with their herd mates.  I had already decided that Queen would live out her days here and purchased her knowing that she would become one of our foundation herd, but the reaction from her being moved here helped me decide that once our alpaca girls reach a certain age we need to plan on them staying with us for the rest of their lives.  To move them to a different herd just becomes too hard on them.

 

This past weekend I noticed Queen was a little uncomfortable, she laid around more than usual, rolling on one hip and pushing her legs out to the side.  She did eat but not as heartily as usual and it was obvious that she was not feeling 100%.  I could see her cria moving every now and then, which was a good sign, and when I offered her some soaked beet pulp shreds she readily ate them from the spoon, something she would not normally do, as she prefers to keep her distance from humans.  I felt the beet pulp shreds being soft, moist and fibrous might help her digestive tract stay active and as an added precaution I gave her some MSE drench that contains probiotics and digestive enzymes.  By the afternoon Queen was acting normal, eating hay and cushing in a more relaxed way.

 

Having owned Queen for a few years now I have my herd records to refer back to and I know that she has had this type of uncomfortable stage in each of the pregnancies she has had here.  Queen is a compact alpaca and by now her unborn cria will be going through some major growth spurts.  It almost seems as if in the last week her pregnancy “bump” has doubled in size.  I am sure at times her cria is pressing on her digestive tract and causing some of the discomfort she is feeling.

 

Last year Queen decided to have her cria early, when he was born Atlas was healthy and strong and looked like a full term cria, but he was born 2 –3 weeks prior to his due date.  In fact Queen caught us unawares with Atlas’s birth as we had gone out to another farm for the day to shear alpacas, but fortunately had our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart check on the herd only to find that Queen had delivered her cria.

 

I am hoping that Queen holds on at least another month before delivering her cria, two months would be even better.   The cria is only in its ninth month of gestation and its survival chances should it be born now would be slim to none.  So Hang on Queen, we know you are uncomfortable but we really need you to carry that cria for a while longer!   (And you can guarantee that from now on Queen will be under very watchful eye!)

 

Rosemary

March 7, 2009

Back With The Herd

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

 

It’s hard to believe that three weeks have already gone by since the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show string have been in quarantine since their return home and thankfully have not shown any signs of illness.  Having spent their three weeks in quarantine it is now time for the show string to return to their respective pastures.

 

Atlas, Pride and Mags will rejoin Zin and the junior males, while Dream, Zianna and Kaneka will rejoin the female herd.

 

We didn’t put the fleece covers back on the show string on their immediate return from the show.  Call us soft if you wish, but we felt after doing so well for us at the show it would be a nice treat to allow the show alpacas to have a little time without their covers on, of course the first thing they did when they got home was to have a good roll, but that’s okay the dirt will drop out before their next show.

 

This last Thursday we were forecast for dangerously high winds.  It makes me take notice when the local meteorologists forecast “dangerously high winds”, bearing in mind that their idea of “breezy” is 25 –35 mph winds, it makes you wonder what wind speed would deserve the title “dangerous”.   We decided, in view of the forecast, we should put the fleece covers back on the show alpacas before the entire tumbleweed crop of western New Mexico landed in our pastures and in our alpaca’s fleeces!

 

The winds on Thursday didn’t quite live up to the forecast with wind gusts in the 50 mph range; strong enough we were glad we had put the fleece covers back on the alpacas.  The wind was also strong enough that poor Little Man had a real struggle to get across the pasture, but he’s a tough little guy and he made it.

 

Prior to putting the fleece covers on we cleaned the alpacas fleeces of the worst of the vegetable matter and took photos of the show string without their covers on.   The alpacas were not too cooperative about having their pictures taken, but we got one or two shots that we can use.  We also checked toenails and teeth and treated ears as a preventative measure against ear ticks.  Then it was back to the herd for the show string who wasted no time at all in getting reacquainted with the rest of the herd.

 

Rosemary

February 14, 2009

Today’s The Day

Dream's beautiful head

Dream's beautiful head

 

The show classes begin today at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  Alpaca show classes run the darkest fleeced animals first gradually working toward the lightest fleeced animals.  With this in mind I fully expect Kaneka (black), Mags (dark brown), Athena (medium brown), Atlas (who color checked as light brown rather than dark fawn), Pride (who color checked dark fawn rather than medium fawn) and Dream (medium fawn) to show today.  Zianna who is light fawn may also show today but may show first thing on Sunday morning depending on the speed at which the classes progress.

 

Young Dream has been receiving lots of attention and admiring looks from other alpaca breeders at the show.  Dream has a stunning head and great coverage making her very striking.  Dream is still not too enthused by all of the attention but I suspect by the end of the show she will be getting used to it.  Mags too seems to be settling down to all the attention.  At home he actively seeks out attention, but as of yesterday evening he was starting to remain cushed when visitors came to our pens indicating that even he had more than enough human attention to satisfy his needs.

 

The fleece show started judging yesterday and hopefully will be completed by this afternoon.  Once the fleece show has been opened for viewing we will be able to fins out if the any of the fleeces we entered won a ribbon.

 

Back home things have been reasonably quiet.  The four girls in the weaning pen who did not go to the show were a little unsettled the first day after their pen mates left for the show, today they are settled and more interested in hay than anything else.   Once the show alpacas return home the four girls in the weaning pen will be rejoining the main female herd group and the show alpacas will be put into the weaning pen for a three week quarantine period.  By the time the show alpacas return home they will be more than ready to stretch their legs and take a good roll in the dirt and then happily relax in familiar surroundings – even for alpacas there is no place like home.

 

Rosemary

February 13, 2009

Off To The Show They Go

In the early hours of Thursday morning Ric and I loaded up the alpacas going to the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular into our trailer and then Ric drove the seven or so hours to Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Ric’s journey was long but uneventful and the alpacas are now in their pens at the showground.  Atlas, Pride, Mags, Kaneka, Athena, Song, Zianna and Dream are the alpacas at the show this time and with the exception of Kaneka and Athena this is the first show for this group.

 

Ric reports that for the most part the alpacas are doing well, Zianna though is doing quite a bit of humming and seeking attention and Dream is also humming too and was not pleased to have her fleece color checked at the showgrounds – she growled at the volunteers checking her fleece!  Dream is so much like her dam Rosie who is very vocal and has that same growl when she wants to express displeasure.

 

The alpacas will not start showing until Saturday, so they will have time to settle into their surroundings before the classes start.  Ric will walk them as and when he can to get them used to their new surroundings.  Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas, our alpaca neighbors (they also have alpacas in Clovis, NM) will be arriving on Friday and will take over caring and showing our alpacas for us.

 

Ric will be pretty busy during the show as he is the show superintendent along with his business partner Danette McCleary.  Danette and Ric worked together as Show Superintendents in a volunteer capacity at some earlier alpaca shows and worked so well together that they decided to form a company M & M Supers and contract to work as show superintendents at various alpaca shows around the country.  The position of the Show Superintendent at the show is a big one, among the show superintendent’s duties is the receipt and verification of all of the entries, compilation of the class list, contracting the judges and ensuring the health and color compliance checks are carried out on all alpacas at the show.  The show superintendent basically coordinates the show making sure it runs smoothly – with over 500 alpacas at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular that adds up to a lot of hard work.

 

As for me, I have remained home to care for the herd and will anxiously wait to hear how our young alpacas do at the show.   We have spent many hours preparing our young alpacas for the show and can only hope that they show well.  Here’s hoping for lots of ribbons, preferably in blue (1st place) and purple (Color Champion and Reserve Color Champion)

Rosemary

December 24, 2008

Mom!!!!

 

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

 

 

I think that was the general cry as we let the fall crias back into the main pen following their first day of day weaning.  You can see from the blur of running weanlings in the photo above that they did not hang about in returning to their mothers!

 

The weanlings all handled their first day well, although some were definitely more at ease than others.  Zianna, Stormy and Pride walked over with us to the weaning pen without hesitation, while Dream and Annochia had already figured out that this was not going to be what they wanted and balked at the process of crossing the pasture.  Serenity and Atlas walked over with plenty of head turning and wondering where they were going.  Song being an orphan did not have a dam to worry about leaving, but was more concerned about staying with her buddies.  Song is no longer taking a bottle as Ric finished weaning Song and Mags off the bottle while I was in England.  Mags is already in with the juvenile male group and is settling in well.  Once they are weaned Pride, Stormy and Atlas will be joining him there.

 

During the day we kept an eye on the weanling group and for the most part they stayed in their shelter eating hay.  It was one of those windy New Mexico afternoons (sustained winds around 25 mph), helping encourage the weanlings to remain in the shelter and distracting them from watching the fence line for their dams.  There were a couple of times when one or two of them did come to the fence to look for their dams, but they soon returned to the weanling group when they realized that they could not get to their dams through the fence.

 

To help add some stability to the group we put a few of the maiden alpacas in the pen with them.  Kanika, Carissima and Velvet did a good job of calmly going about their daily business, reassuring the weanlings that all was well with the world.  We have found that the addition of two or three older alpacas in a weanling group helps provide an element of calm in what can be a stressful time for the weanlings.

 

Out of the whole group I think Annochia took the weaning the hardest.  A member of the Bjorn family, a very close family group of alpacas, she was not at all pleased about being away from her dam Anya, making me wonder if she will be as hard to wean as her dam was.  Both Anya and her sister Keeva took a lot of persuading when it came to the subject of weaning and I suspect Annochia may be the same.

 

As often is the case, the dams were not at all concerned about the crias being away for the day.  Serenity’s dam Snow did initially wander over and look through the fence at the weanling group, but soon returned to join the other alpacas at the hay feeder.

 

By evening chores though the weanlings were telling me they were more than ready to go back to their dams.   As you can see once the gate was opened they rushed to be reunited with their dams and then nursed hungrily as if they hadn’t eaten all day!

 

Today we will repeat the process again, and will continue to do so for about two weeks before the weanlings take the next step of staying away from their dams overnight.  Usually by that time they have adjusted to being away from their dams and will take the next step in their stride.  (Lets hope Annochia agrees with me on that point when the time comes!)

 

Rosemary

 

August 29, 2008

There’s Nothing Like A Piece Of Hay In Your Mouth (if you’re a cria that is!)

Atlas with his never ending piece of hay

Atlas with his never ending piece of hay

 

As the crias grow and start to experiment with eating hay, they go through a stage when it seems as if they always have to have a piece of hay in their mouth.  If you watch them they chew on it, turn it around in their mouth and carry it proudly, but they never seem to swallow it.  On numerous occasions I have had to take a piece of hay out of Dream’s mouth before she has her bottle, and I can guarantee she is looking for that piece of hay to put back in her mouth as soon as she is finished.

 

The picture at the top of this post is not as I hoped it would be.  Just seconds earlier Atlas, Pride and Dream had been standing in a line, each one with that “never ending” piece of hay in their mouth.  They looked so sweet as they stood together, but as usual when I went to take their picture they all moved and the only one I captured was Atlas – and even then you can barely see the piece of hay in his mouth.

 

I don’t know whether at this stage the crias are just enjoying the sensation and taste of the hay in their mouth, or whether they want something to constantly chew on as their teeth develop.  All of the crias can and do eat hay now and have no problem chewing and swallowing it, but a lot of the time they will be wandering around the pasture with that one lone piece of hay in their mouth.

 

Today our cria group is going to be joined by a couple of new additions.  Not newborn crias (I can’t predict when that will happen and the girls wouldn’t let me anyway), but rather two orphaned crias.  One of them is a male cria “Mags” (not his registered name but that is what we call him) whose dam Maggie unfortunately died following delivering Mags.  We are actually in the process of becoming co-owners of Mags with our friends Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas.  Mags is a striking cria and brings with him some beautiful fleece qualities from his sire Andean Night and his grandsire General Schwarzkopf.  Bob and Regina have put in many hours bottle feeding Mags and feel it is now time that he come and join our cria group and start to integrate more with alpacas closer to his own age.  The other cria coming to our farm is “Song”, a female cria whose dam died following an accident.  Song has been doing well since her dam died and eats some hay and pellets but we are hoping that she will take advantage of our nursemaid llamas to give her some milk in her diet. 

 

I am sure that the two new crias will enjoy the company of our sociable little cria group, and hope that they will soon be joining in the nightly cria games.  Our crias are just about ready to start on a little more structured handling and halter training, so after a few days to allow Songs and Mags to get used to their new surroundings they too will be joining in cria school – probably each with a piece of hay in their mouth!

 

Rosemary

June 4, 2008

Introducing Windrush Atlas

Filed under: Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:22 am

Atlas in a more relaxed pose

 Our first cria of the Spring was born to our black female ABA Queen of Spades and our Color Champion Herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel. 

 

We had bred Queen and Zin the previous breeding season and that breeding resulted in a beautiful dark fawn female cria with golden vicuna markings who we named Windrush Zindel’s Velvet Princess.  Velvet has the most beautiful consistent fleece with a velvet like handle, hence her name.  We were so pleased with the pairing of Queen and Zin that we repeated the breeding hoping we would get another cria with the same qualities as Velvet – and we did.

 

On May 13 while we were in Muleshoe, Texas helping to shear some alpacas, dear Queen decided it was the ideal opportunity to have her cria in peace!  Queen is a very independent girl and so it did not surprise me that she would wait until we left the farm to have her cria.  Fortunately we had arranged for Bob Dart from Llano Soleado Alpacas to check on the girls and when he did there was Queen with her brand new cria, a solid medium brown boy who we have now named Atlas.

 

Atlas is a robust cria and has the most striking presence.  The meaning of the name Atlas comes from Greek mythology where Atlas was a Titan and brother to Prometheus who held heaven and earth on his shoulders as a punishment from Zeus for leading the Titans in a revolt against the gods.  We wanted a strong name for Atlas and we already have a Zeus from last year’s cria crop so we felt Atlas was an appropriate name.

 

Even at three weeks of age Atlas  stands proud in the pasture just begging for people to admire his beautiful stance.  Atlas is the leader of the cria games at night and just these last few days has decided that being a herdsire is definitely in his future.  He now chases the female alpacas around the pasture and even mounted one of the new female crias and started orgling at her, Atlas is certain that breeding female alpacas is in his future.

 

Atlas does have the same velvet like handle to his fleece as his sister Velvet.  His fleece also has some nice tiny bundles and lots of brightness to it.  So before Atlas starts to breed he will be holding court in the show ring, standing proud and demanding blue ribbons!

 

Rosemary

 

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