A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 22, 2009

Guess the Weight of the Cria



McKinley - He's heavier than he looks



If we had been playing that game at the weekend we would have lost!  As part of our routine we had scheduled to weigh Whisper and McKinley.  Whisper was born August 31 with a birth weight of 14.7 lbs, while McKinley was born September 5 with a birth weight of 19.1 lbs.

McKinley is quite a tall cria and Whisper is just the opposite small and compact.  They were the last of the summer crias to be born and are very close in age.  With the exception of Theresa’s cria, the latest cria to be born on our farm, McKinley and Whisper are the two smallest crias of our summer cria crop.

When Ric picked up McKinley it was obvious from Ric’s face that McKinley was a little heavier than expected.  Ric valiantly carried him to the scales and back, but by the time he got to the pasture gate he was calling out “help me” for McKinley indeed was no light weight having weighed in at 54.5 lbs.

Next to go to the scales was Whisper – surely she weighed a lot less.  Were we in for a surprise!  Again as Ric picked up Whisper his face showed the strain (is Ric really getting out of shape I began to wonder, no more Open Farm Day cookies for him!), but Ric had good cause to be taken aback by Whisper’s weight for she weighed in at 58.7 lbs!  She weighed even more than McKinley!



Little Whisper - only she is not that little anymore!




We have been raising alpacas now for over 10 years and so usually are pretty in tune with how much a cria weighs based on its size, but these two really have surprised us for they do not look that big.  Both McKinley and Whisper have dense fleeces though and I suspect that some of that weight is fleece weight.    Whatever the reason for McKinley and Whisper’s weights, I think it is safe to say that they are both healthy, hearty crias and that their dams Bjorn and Willow are doing a great job in the milk department!  Keep up the good work girls (and stay away from those cookies Ric!)



September 6, 2009

It’s hard to have a cria when your back’s against the wall!

Bjorn's cria - glad to have found his way into the world!

Bjorn's cria - glad to have found his way into the world!

That’s what we had to tell Bjorn yesterday as she tried to deliver her cria.

Yesterday wasn’t particularly a hot day, but it was a humid day making it feel hotter than it actually was.  As we fed the girls in the morning I noticed Bjorn cushed shortly after eating which was unusual for her.  Sure enough she was in labor and once we let her out of the pen where she eats she made her way to the shade of the shelter.

As Bjorn’s labor progressed she wandered around the pasture.  I prepared a pen to put her in once her cria had been delivered.  Being on dry lot I prefer to have a pen with blankets or bedding to put new crias and their dams into so that they can bond after birthing.

Bjorn was definitely seeking out the cool breeze of the fan, but she had strong competition for the prime spot immediately in front of the fan.  Ivanna had already staked her claim to a spot in front of the fan and Black Prince and Buccaneer were cushed there also.

Before long I could see the nose of Bjorn’s cria emerge, but by now Bjorn had firmly wedged herself in front of the fan with her rear pressed up against the wall of the shelter blocking the cria from making any progress.  I tried to move Bjorn so that there was space behind her but as fast as I moved her she moved herself back.  The crias nose came out and went back in again at least twice, and once the cria’s head and feet had fully emerged Bjorn was pushing but there was nowhere for the  cria to go.

Eventually I manage to get Bjorn’s rear away from the shelter wall and with a few more pushes she delivered her cria a large white boy.

Bjorn usually has large crias and at 19.8 lbs this was one of her smallest cria.  You would have thought that Bjorn would be anxious to get her cria delivered quickly rather than position herself to where her cria could not come out.

Bjorn’s cria didn’t seem any worse for wear once he was fully delivered, and was cushed and then up on his feet in a short while.  Bjorn though looked tired after the birthing and took her time resting after the cria was born, but some MSE drench, a bowl of alfalfa and a nice cold bucket of water to drink soon had her up on her feet again.

So we have another white boy to add to our herd.  He’s a handsome looking cria with bright white silky fleece and the dense bone of his sire Zin.  I think he will be quite the good looking lad as he grows up and will be competitive enough to take part in the white classes at the alpaca shows once he is of age.   Now he’s finally out I suspect nothing will stop him!


April 25, 2009


Guilty Bjorn - her legs give her away!

Guilty Bjorn - her legs give her away!


Just look at those front legs, caked in mud from the knee down.  Looking at those legs I know that Bjorn has been sticking her feet in the water buckets!


Bjorn is not alone in her activity, Merry Me and Melody like to join in too and TeQueely just loves to splash in the water if enough is spilled.  It was only on Tuesday that Melody came around the side of the barn with a guilty look on her face.  Melody had not had her feet in the water buckets then but a short while later I caught her with her feet in the automatic waterer!


From the alpacas antics you can probably tell that our temperatures have warmed up.  The last few days have been in the mid eighties and for once the wind has not been blowing – perfect!


We have set the fans running in each shelter and they will now run for the rest of the summer.  Soon we will also put electrolytes in some of the water buckets to help keep the alpacas well hydrated.


Of course the biggest thing we can do to help keep the alpacas cool is to shear them, and it’s that time!  Today we will be shearing a few of the herd.  Our main shearing day will be in a couple of weeks time, but Ric asked for one day prior to that date for him to shear a few alpacas without spectators to allow him the chance to get back into the rhythm of shearing.  We will probably do no more than six alpacas but it will be enough for the first day of shearing.


I suspect though that even with fans, electrolytes and shearing we still will find that certain alpacas will be putting their feet in the water buckets and once more their mud caked legs will be labeling them as guilty!



May 26, 2008

Lack of Sleep Delays Light Bulb Coming On

Bjorn\'s BoyOur bottle feeding of our cria continues, although I suspect that before too long nature will take it’s course and our services will no longer be needed by our little female cria.  Yesterday she started refusing bottles at times having already nursed from her dam; we have now extended the period between her bottles with the hope that she will go to nurse from her dam more and the bottle less.


Saturday found us shearing alpacas again and we managed to get most of them done but there are still enough left that we need to plan another whole day of shearing.  The fleece pile is rapidly growing and one of our next tasks will be to decide which fleece goes to which co-op or producer.   Not just yet though, as by Saturday evening it was about all Ric and I could do to stay awake during dinner!


No more of the girls have had their crias yet, although Rebecca had us going for a little while during Saturday’s shearing.  It turned out to be a false alarm and most likely the cria was in uncomfortable position and has now righted itself.


Our cria with the weak knees is showing improvement (that’s his picture at the beginning of this blog entry(.  On our veterinarians advice he has been confined to a small pen with his dam to restrict his movement and prevent him from stretching his tendons in the wrong direction.  He is able to nurse from his dam and has been gaining weight steadily.  Our veterinarian had us start him on regular doses of vitamin’s A, D and E which we administer in a specially made good flavored paste, however the other day it suddenly dawned on me that we really had not been thinking straight.  There was our veterinarian having us administer vitamins A, D and E and there were we keeping our boy and his dam Bjorn in a pen inside the shelter in the shade.  Surely we should be taking advantage of those sunny New Mexico days by allowing our cria to sit out in the sunshine and absorb his vitamins naturally as well as through the paste!  It took a while for that light bulb to come on, but we’ll use the excuse of lack of sleep!  So now we have taken to moving Bjorn and her boy to an outside pen in the sunshine at least for a couple of hours a day and it seems that we are seeing even better improvement since we have been doing that, although that might be completely coincidental.



May 23, 2008

Another Plate to Juggle

My poor blog has been neglected these last few days as my time has been needed elsewhere.  Shearing is still a priority and gradually we are getting there.  We still have 19 alpacas left to shear but some of those are girls who are due to have their crias at any time and who will probably not be shorn until after giving birth.


In addition to shearing we are still bottle feeding our little female cria who was born in the early hours of last Saturday morning.  She is up to 3 hours between bottles now and most likely will soon be able to go four hours between feedings.  She had a bit of a set back as she contracted an infection but thankfully has responded well to antibiotics and is now a lively little thing.  We have finally come up with names for her and Queen’s cria but I will disclose those in another entry. 


On Wednesday we were just about to start chores when we noticed that Bjorn was in labor.  Bjorn’s labor went well and within a short time she delivered a hefty 20.5 lb white male cria, followed shortly by a 9.2 lb. placenta.   That’s nearly 30 lbs that poor Bjorn was carrying around with her!  Bjorn was understandably tired after delivering such a large cria so we gave her some hay, some pellets and a 10cc dose of MSE probiotic enzymes.  We also started her on some arnica Montana to help reduce the bruising and swelling that can follow giving birth.


Bjorn’s cria is a beautiful boy with crimpy, shiny, dense fleece and a beautiful head style.  We are quite happy for the cria to be a male as he will not be related to most our herd.  But there is a problem with him, hopefully one that will rectify itself, for our new cria’s front legs bend backwards. 


We have had our vet examine our new boy and he explained he has seen this condition a lot in horses.  He does not believe the condition to caused by either nutrition or genetics and is optimistic that eventually the crias legs will be normal.  For now our vet has advised us to confine Bjorn and her cria to a small stall to reduce the area that the cria can walk in and also to protect the cria from our rambunctious weanlings.  Splinting the crias legs may be an option, but our vet tells us that in his experience the results of splinting are not much better and splinting brings with it other complications such as pressure sores.


So now when we go out to feed our little girl, we check on our big boy and his dam, making sure he is getting up to nurse, massaging and flexing his joints to the correct position and keeping the stall clean to prevent him from lying in the poop pile that Bjorn has established.  Poor Bjorn is anxious to be cooped up and I think that later today we will let her out for a little walk around the pasture, provided her cria does not get too upset at her being away from him for a short while.


It’s funny how things happen in batches, for years we have had few problems during birthing season and this year we seem to be making up for the years when we were problem free.  At the moment it feels as if we are juggling plates as we move between bottle feeding, giving medicines, working with Bjorn’s cria, watching for signs that another cria is about to be delivered, shearing and just keeping the business running in the meantime.  I have to say that if it were real plates we were juggling we would be in trouble as I have dreadful eye-hand co-ordination, so we will take the “plates” that life is throwing at us for now and hope we continue not to drop them!



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