A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 7, 2008

Our Visitors Go Home

Over the weekend we were joined by Tamara Garel of Kiss Me Alpacas who traveled to our farm to pick up her three alpaca girls who had been visiting us for breeding.  The three girls Celeste, Marti and Cariad are confirmed pregnant and were over 60 days bred, putting them at a good stage in their pregnancy to travel home.    Also going home with them were Celeste’s cria Skylar and Cariad’s cria Copper.


Tamara was of course excited to see her alpacas again.  They had been delivered to the farm in March and by the time they had gone through the three week quarantine, breeding, shearing and confirmation of pregnancy it was July.  How time flies!


We prefer pregnant females not to travel before the 60 day point of their pregnancy if possible.  We have made a few exceptions in the past when the journey was a short one and the alpaca was one who was calm about traveling, but we feel it is better to wait a little longer to travel than to put a pregnancy at risk.


Before loading the alpacas in the trailer we gave each of the pregnant girls some banamine.  The banamine will help prevent soreness from traveling and can also prevent early contractions.  Needless to say Tamara had a nice thick layer of bedding in the trailer to cushion the alpacas on their journey home.


It’s always good to spend time with our alpaca friends and clients and the weekend with Tamara was enjoyable.  We worked a little with Tamara and her crias on halter training, looked at fleeces together, showed off our alpacas and of course took in the more social side of life to include a trip to the 4th of July fireworks display put on by our Chamber of Commerce.


Sunday morning saw Tamara and her alpacas headed on their way home.  There is always a tinge of sadness to say goodbye, but a promise of joy ahead with the anticipation of the birth of the crias next year.    Three more alpacas for Tamara and her mother Donna to add to their herd, and three more crias for our boys to add to their list of progeny.



June 27, 2008

And It’s Back to the Cria Introductions with …….

Anacia as a new born

Windrush Anacia, daughter of our Windrush Anya.  Anacia was born on June 2nd, the sixth cria of our cria season.  When Anacia was born we were already bottling feeding Dream and taking care of little Legs as well as shearing.  Life was busy to say the least and the picture at the start of this post is the only one I have of Anacia when she was new born.  That’s a sure sign I was really busy when I only have one photo of a newborn cria!


Anacia was a big cria, weighing in at 21.7 lbs.  Her dam Anya is a big girl, but this was her first pregnancy and the delivery was a little tricky.  First Anacia’s head only presented, then after we had eased Anacia’s legs out Anya became tired and stopped while Anacia’s rib cage was half delivered.  As I watched Anacia start to turn blue I knew that the contractions were squeezing hard on her rib cage and it was time to help with some gentle pulling to ease Anacia’s body out of Anya.  Having delivered Anacia past her rib cage and seeing her color return, I waited for her hind legs to be delivered, which is usually very quick.  Anya though was tired and took another break from delivery; Anacia now being very alert tried to cush while she only had the front end of her body out in the open!  I have not seen a cria do that before (and I should have had my camera there for that picture), so Anacia sat quite patiently until Anya gave one final contraction.


Poor Anya looked quite drawn down after delivering Anacia and the placenta.  We gave Anya some extra feed and hay, a cool bucket of water and some MSE drench to perk her up.  I also started her on a course of arnica in applesauce three times a day to help reduce soreness and swelling following delivery.


Anacia unfortunately picked up the same infection as Legs the day after she was born and so the first few days of her life were spent with her receiving antibiotic shots to fight the infection and banamine shots to keep her temperature down.  Fortunately Anacia made a full recovery and is now a healthy, hearty 35 lbs plus cria.  She loves to prong in the evening and is so pretty as she glides around the pasture leading the other crias in their nightly dance.


Anacia was beige when she was born, almost a very light champagne color, but we believe as she ages she will most likely be all white.  I am curious to see how her personality emerges, as her dam Anya is very outgoing and is always the first in line for food.  At feeding time it almost seems as if we have several Anya’s as where ever we go with the feed there is Anya.


I will try and capture a better picture of Anacia in the next day or so as she is a pretty girl and you really can’t see her well in my one and only picture!



March 27, 2008

Concern for Queen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:17 am

Late term pregnancy dams are always on my watch list, I want to keep close tabs on them to make sure that they are acting normally and not showing any changes in behavior that might indicate there is a problem with the pregnancy or the health of the dam.  I also like to watch for movement of the cria, which reassures me that the little one is alive (and usually kicking).

Our alpaca Queen is nine years old and an experienced dam.  She has not had any problems with her previous crias and is one of those great female alpacas who breeds one time, knows she is pregnant and makes it clear to you that she doesn’t need the services of a male again until after her cria is born.  With Queen once she is bred you will not even get her anywhere close to a male, as soon as she sees him she plants her feet in the ground and refuses to move closer to him. 

Queen is a short bodied alpaca and so her pregnancies show very easily.  Currently she has a huge bump and an active cria inside her.  I remember last year when she was expecting Velvet she was also huge and a few days before giving birth amazed me by jumping over one of the trough feeders.

At the weekend I noticed that Queen was sitting around a lot, sometimes with the herd and sometimes on her own.  Of course heavily pregnant dams do tend to sit around more than those that are not pregnant, but there was something about Queen’s behavior that caught my attention.

During our Open Farm Day I had to break away from our visitors when I noticed Queen stand up and hold her tail in an odd position.  I checked to make sure that she didn’t have a cria making it’s appearance under her tail but all looked good.

I call Queen’s tail the semaphore tail as toward the end of her pregnancy she carries it in some very strange positions.  I am sure there must be a meaning to each tail position but have not figured it out yet, and Queen does look quite odd at times with her tail in such positions.  Apparently the semaphore tail is a hereditary trait as Queen’s daughter TeQueely, who is expecting her first cria, has started the same sort of behavior with her tail.  Now there are two of them to drive me crazy with their odd tail positions!

While Queen seemed to be okay after Open Farm Day we have kept a close eye on her.  Her due date is not until May 19th so she still has a little way to go before her cria is due. 

On Monday Queen did not come in for her evening “extras”.  She usually gets a few extra pellets in the evening due to her age and her stage of pregnancy.  Queen did come over to the pens but did not go in to eat her pellets, which for her is unusual.  Later that evening Ric noticed Queen sitting on her own, we went out and checked her and she seemed okay and by the next morning she was back to eating as normal.

Yesterday Queen again gave us cause for concern.  She was sitting a lot and just looked a little uncomfortable.  I watched her from the house and noticed that she went over to the poop pile but did not pass any poop.  This concerned me and so I went out to check on Queen and discovered that she was grunting every time she took a breath.  She was cushed by the time I got to her and was obviously a little uncomfortable.  It was time for us to take some action.

We enticed Queen into a pen with some hay (not an easy job as she is one shrewd alpaca and knows when we are trying to catch her.)  Once in the pen I took Queen’s temperature, which thankfully was normal.  I tried to listen to her lungs with my stethoscope but the wind was back to blowing hard making it difficult to hear anything.  I did a digital exam of Queen and discovered beans in her rectal tract not far from the rectal opening so all seemed well there, but as a precaution we gave Queen some MSE drench (a great probiotic drench with added enzymes).  To ease Queen’s discomfort I gave her 1.5 cc of banamine, pain management is important in alpacas and the banamine would help Queen relax, it would also help stop any contractions that might have started.  I also treated Queen with my photonic red light on both her standard points and those that affect the lungs and respiration (photonic red light treatment is based on acupressure points).

Apart from her slight discomfort and grunting Queen looked good.  Her eyes were bright and alert and she was certainly ready to get away from us.  As I examined Queen I could feel her cria moving, just from feeling the crias legs under my hand it felt big and that may be why Queen was so uncomfortable.

We kept a close eye on Queen for the rest of the day.  Her grunting stopped after about an hour, by the evening feeding time she was in her pen waiting for food and then had a good feed on the hay too.

Fingers crossed what we saw with Queen yesterday was just a case of late pregnancy discomfort.  When Queen cushes it looks as if her cria is about to pop out at any minute so I am sure a cria that big could be pushing on Queen’s organs and making it’s presence felt.

We will be keeping an even closer eye on Queen for the next few days and if she shows other signs of discomfort I think a visit from the vet will be in order.  As the old adage goes it’s better to be safe than sorry and I would rather have the vet out to tell me all is well than wait and have a major problem in a few days time.


November 13, 2007

Choking is a scary thing.

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:29 am

I was going to write more on halter training today, but a phone call I received last night prompted me to think about choking in alpacas and so thought I would write a little about that subject before my mind got diverted.

With alpacas having such beautiful long necks there is a lot of area for a ball of food to become stuck.  Usually alpacas do not have a problem swallowing their food.  In a natural grazing situation, they take small bites and do not feel pressured to grab that tasty blade of grass before the next alpaca comes along and therefore the opportunity to choke is little.

As the alpaca industry has developed most alpaca breeders in Northern America feed their alpacas some form of grain or pellet supplement and good quality grass hay.  The alpaca breeders are doing their best to provide optimum nutrition to their herd, but with those efforts comes a higher chance of getting a choke situation.  

Grain or pellets are not the alpacas “natural” diet and so the alpaca has not evolved to deal with large clumps of food traveling down its throat.  One alpaca might try to take another’s food, which encourages them to take larger mouthfuls than they normally would, swallow faster and sometimes cause a choke.

Usually it is quite obvious when an alpaca is choking, they will cough, make louder swallowing or gulping noises than usual, put their head down towards the ground, flare their nostrils and in some instances regurgitate food.  It is an unpleasant experience for the alpaca and also a scary one for the owner to observe.  If the choke continues the alpaca may cush and lay it’s neck out along the ground, it can also start to bloat or even colic a little during a bad choke episode or if the choke is not attended to fast enough.

One of the problems with choking is that typically the alpaca becomes stressed and tense about the situation, and the more tense the muscles of the alpaca are the less able they are to release the stuck food.

If we see an alpaca choking during feeding time we monitor that alpaca but keep enough of a distance to where the alpaca does not feel stressed about our presence.  If we can see that the choke is resolving itself we will do no more than observe the alpaca.  Once we are convinced the choke is over then we will leave the pasture but not before.  Often that is all that is needed, but on the few occasions when the choke continues then more action may be called for.

If you are inexperienced at dealing with an unresolved choke your best course of action is to call the vet, he or she will be able to guide you through steps you can take to help the alpaca to relax and to dislodge the stuck food.  Often the vet will recommend a dose of banamine to help the alpaca relax, the banamine takes a little while to kick in but it is usually very effective in relaxing the alpaca and resolving the choke.  We also like to give a choking alpaca some Bach’s Rescue Remedy as that can help them to relax too.

We have some steps in place at our farm to help prevent choke in the first place.  Our feed is specially made for alpacas and has been developed to dissolve should it become lodged in the alpaca’s throat.  At feeding time we group our alpacas so that the slow eaters feed together and the faster eaters feed together.  By feeding our alpacas by their eating habits the risk of choke is lowered.  Another important thing is to have enough feeders or feed bowls to allow each alpaca to have sufficient room to eat.  We feed most of our alpacas using individual rubber bowls, and are careful to leave adequate space between each bowl.  We also have some feeding trays dotted round the pens.  The feeding trays are set a little off the ground and made of PVC pipe cut in two and mounted on a wooden frame.  An additional step we take is to always be present when the alpacas are eating grain, it doesn’t take them long to eat it and you can catch a choke situation much earlier and decide which action, if any, to take.

With good feeding practices chokes are rare things, if you have an alpaca that frequently chokes during feeding time it would be a wise move to have it checked out by your vet to make sure there isn’t something physically wrong with the alpaca that is causing it to choke so frequently.

Choke situations can be a scary thing for both the alpaca and the owner, but with the correct handling they can usually be resolved easily, and with good feeding practices they can be reduced or avoided, which is the best way to be.


November 5, 2007

Isn’t it always the way ……

Yesterday’s trip to the 2007 Small Farm Conference and Trade Show in Moriaty was a success, we met people who were keen to learn about alpacas and who enjoyed our presentation.  We got a little time to look around the event but as our presentation was one of the last of the day by the time we had finished many of the vendors and informational booths had either packed up or were in the process of doing so.  We have asked the organizers of the event to keep us on their list for next year.  We are pretty certain that by next year word will have spread about the event and there will be more interest in it.  There were several presentations we would have liked to be able to attend, and so next year we may plan on spending a day or so in the area rather than driving up and back in a day.

 We did well with our efforts to get up early and be on the road in plenty of time.  The fact that we switched back to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time did help us a little and we were able to be on the road by 9:15 with chores done and dogs walked and happily worn out for the day.

In addition to doing our regular chores we also had to take time to examine and treat one of the alpaca girls.  We had noticed Becky acting a little strangely the night before.  As the temperature dropped and we started our evening chores I saw that Becky was lying stretched out on the concrete close to the water feeder.  Now if it had been a hot summer’s day I would think nothing of it as the girls like to lie on the cool concrete when the weather is hot, but yesterday evening was not hot and it struck me as strange that Becky was lying on the concrete.  When the feed bowls came out though Becky got up and ate as normal.  Later on when we went to do our last check of the evening we found Becky sitting on her own inside the small blue shelter.  This behavior is unusual for Becky as she usually sits outside and close to the rest of the herd.

By this morning we could tell something was amiss with Becky, she ate when the feed was put out but within a short while she moved away from the herd and cushed with her legs stretched out to the side.  She appeared to be uncomfortable and then lay completely stretched out on her side.

Not liking what we saw, we caught Becky and put her in a pen so that we could take a closer look at her.  One of the first things we noticed was a lot of gut sounds coming from Becky.  We took her temperature and were surprised to find it only read 94.3 (the usual alpaca temperature is 101.1), Becky was not shivering and her ears felt warm to the touch, but her core temperature was definitely low.  We suspected that Becky had some digestive discomfort and so gave her some MSE drench to help improve her rumen function and also a shot of Banamine to help relax her and relieve the pain she was in.  I also gave Becky a photonic red light treatment of her nine standard points and also the digestive points (more information on photonic red light treatment to follow in another post).  As anadded precaution we also treated Becky’s ears for ear ticks using 2cc of Dr. Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for Horses in each ear.

While we waited for the banamine to take effect we were able to continue with chores and observe Becky’s actions.  Fortunately within a short time Becky was looking much better and up eating hay.  We watched Becky long enough to satisfy ourselves that she was going to okay while we were gone for the day.

When we returned later in the evening the first thing we did was to check Becky, who at the sight of us stood at the pasture gate anxiously awaiting feed.  Our helper Bethany was already doing the chores when we got home and we were able to keep an eye on Becky and watch her as Bethany completed the chores.  Becky ate well and later on was seen to be cushed and chewing her cud.

I suspect that Becky had eaten something that gave her a stomachache and caused her unusual behavior in the morning.  Thankfully all seems well now and we were able to still get off on time to complete our journey.  It always seems to be the way of life that whenever you are in a rush to get somewhere something will happen to slow you down.  We like to think that circumstances like that happen for a reason and just try and go with the flow of whatever life throws at us.


October 9, 2007

What to do about Chai

ChaiOur near term pregnant alpaca Chai was definitely not herself yesterday morning.  She did not get up at feeding time and when I went over to her she did get up but not easily and had difficulty running.  Chai is not a “hands on” alpaca and while she will usually come into her pen to eat, she will not let you just walk up to her and catch her in the pasture and typically runs away.  Today though while she did her best to run something obviously was bothering her.

We examined her left front leg that seems to be the leg causing her the most problems.  We couldn’t find any heat or swelling in the leg but she is tender around the knee joint.  We also checked Chai’s foot pad to make sure she didn’t have a cut or abscess of the foot but her foot pad looked good.  Of course Monday was a holiday and our vet was out of town for the day, so we gave Chai some Banamine to ease her pain and will be talking to our vet today to see what he feels we should do.

The Banamine made a definite improvement in Chai and she was a lot more mobile during the day.  Still not as mobile as the other girls but she is very close to having her cria so I would expect her to be taking things a little easy.  The Banamine most likely eased any inflammation and took away some of the pain she is experiencing.

Whatever she has done I am sure the extra weight of pregnancy is not helping Chai any, but she still has 13 days to go before her due date, and it is never a good idea to induce pregnancy in alpacas as typically the cria will not survive.  The Banamine while obviously helping her also has it’s drawbacks, it can affect milk production in alpacas which is not what we need in a near term alpaca.  I am really not sure of the effect the Banamine will be having on Chai’s unborn cria either.  I am comfortable with giving Chai the odd dose of Banamine at her stage of pregnancy, but I wonder if the Banamine would affect her cria if we were to give Chai some every day for several days.  That is one question I will have for our vet when I speak to him.

It is difficult to know how best to proceed with Chai, ideally I would like to take her in for the vet to examine her, but as she is a nervous alpaca I would hate to stress her out and cause her to abort her cria.  I am thinking it would be best to draw some blood from Chai and see if anything untoward shows up in the results.  We can do the blood draw here on the farm, which will be a lot less stressful to Chai than taking her in to the vets office.   Once Chai has had her cria we could then run them both into the vet so that he could examine and possibly x-ray Chai’s leg.

Apart from her leg Chai is doing well and yesterday we saw more signs that she is getting ready to have her cria.  Chai is now slightly puffy under her tail and her udder has wax caps on the teats, she is also ravenously hungry which is quite often the case in late term pregnancy alpacas and she spent a lot of the day eating hay from the new big bale we have put in the pasture.

Once I have spoken to out vet we will hopefully have a plan of action for Chai, it is hard to watch her being so uncomfortable, especially when she is so close to having her cria.  Still the new big bale brought her some comfort as when she wasn’t eating on it she was lounging around on the hay that had fallen on the ground, and even better than that she discovered that she could lie in front of the big bale and just stretch her neck out and reach the hay – smart girl!


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