A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

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

February 27, 2009

There’s Nothing Quite Like Good Manners

Mile High Merry Me

Mile High Peruvian Merry Me

 

At feeding time alpacas are usually not shy in coming forward, they love their feed and as you walk into the pen you are met with the jostling of the herd as they vie for the position closest to the feed bowls.  In the girls pen our Anya is always first in the queue, with Theresa not far behind.  Rosie, Shiimsa, Velvet and Willow are normally in the next “row” in the hope that they too can get their noses in the feed bowls before anyone else does.  With the junior boys I know that Zeus and Blast will make a mad dash for the boxcar as they know that they get fed in there first, while in the adult boys pen Braveheart will always be first in line, reaching over your shoulder to get the first munch on the pellets.

 

Feeding time is definitely a time of bustling alpaca energy, so when we run into the occasional polite alpaca it almost takes us by surprise.

 

Mile High Peruvian Merry Me belongs to our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart.  Merry Me is staying at our farm along with several other of the Dart’s breeding females who came here to deliver their cria.

 

Merry Me is a well built girl and would have no problem physically shoving another alpaca out of the way should she choose to do so, but that’s the thing with Merry Me, she never would do such a thing.

 

I think Merry Me is the most polite alpaca I have ever met.  Every morning when we feed she waits until her seven pen mates have entered their feeding pen before she even thinks about entering the pen herself.  Once her feeding companions are in place, then and only then will she come forward.  If there is another alpaca standing between Merry Me and the pen entrance she will not push past them, she will either gently walk around them or wait for me to move them out of her way.  This girl really does have good manners!

 

It took us a little while to realize why Merry Me would not rush into the feeding pen as the other alpacas do.  It’s not that she is shy, it’s not that she is timid, she is just well mannered.   I’m not sure if Merry Me’s politeness is just her nature or whether her breeder taught her her manners, but what I am sure of is it is certainly nice to have such a polite alpaca on the farm.  Now if I can just get her to give some lessons in manners and etiquette to some of the others…

 

Rosemary

February 18, 2009

Still Bragging!

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

 

Having unpacked the truck I have had a chance to examine the scorecard for Windrush White Blast’s fleece that won white color champion at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular last weekend.

 

One of the reasons I like fleece shows so much is that no matter where you place you get your scorecard back with your fleece giving you some feedback on where you fleece scored high and where it scored low.  The scorecard is a good record that you can look at and keep with your alpaca files.  In halter classes if you place the judge will give oral reasons for your placing, but then you have to remember what the judge said, which when you are showing several alpacas over the course of the day can prove to be a bit of a challenge.  Oral reasons are not given to the alpacas that place outside of the top six.  We figure to have half a chance of remembering accurately what the judge said in a halter class you would have to have a) a good memory b) a tape or video recorder running during the show or c) use a tape recorder immediately after your class to record what the judges comments were about your alpaca, which could be difficult if you have back to back classes.

 

With AOBA fleece shows the scoring is done using an absolute point system.  You have the potential for scoring 100 points total and that 100 points is divided over several fleece traits.

 

Below is a copy of our scorecard for Blast’s fleece.  As you can see he scored high pretty much across the board, with his lowest score being in the area of fleece weight.  I had suspected that the score for the annualized weight of Blast’s fleece would be a little low because he has fine fleece and also he is not a very big alpaca.

 

 

 

Blast's Fleece Score Card

Blast's Fleece Score Card

 

 

 

 

Blast’s total score was 84.5 – not too shabby!  I like the judge’s comments too “Overall wonderful traits!  Wow!  I might be biased but I have to agree with the judge on the Wow factor of Blast’s fleece.

 

Blast will turn two in June and his breeding career will hopefully begin by fall of 2009, so if you know of any single female alpacas looking for a hot date give us a call or drop us an email as we are sure Blast will be willing to oblige!

 

Rosemary

September 22, 2008

Safely Home From The State Fair

 

The New Mexico State Fair is over and Ric and the alpacas arrived back home yesterday evening.

 

This year’s State Fair Alpaca Show was a little smaller than those of previous years with approximately 224 entries.  The economy and high fuel prices are making people think hard about which shows they travel to.  According to the State Fair staff, livestock entries were down across the board and a local news channel reported that attendance at the State Fair was also down.

 

Still the alpaca entries came from several states, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and California to name a few.

 

According to Ric our four alpacas all behaved well and were very relaxed for the whole trip.  Only one of them Windrush White Blast had been to a show before, for the other three this was a new experience.

 

Unfortunately young Zeus did not place in his class, one of the hazards of being in a competitive class of juvenile white male alpacas, usually the largest class at a show.  Zeus is a little small for his age and that probably went against him, but he is still young, has a beautiful bright white fleece and has lots of time to grow.

 

Blast did also not fair as well as we had hoped, but he did come away with a 6th place ribbon, the judge liked his fine, soft handing fleece and crimp style but felt he was not as dense as some of the other alpacas in the class.

 

Windrush Zindel’s Carissima took a third in her class, and she was the youngest in her class as well.  The judge really liked her fleece (it is really nice if I say so myself!) and commented that that she realized Carissima still has some growing to do. Carissima is starting to enter that gangly adolescent stage that young alpacas go through, so hopefully in a few months she will be looking more adult, and I bet her spring show season will be a successful one.

 

Finally our true black juvenile Windrush Zindel’s Kaneka did us proud by taking not only second in her class but also going on to win the Reserve Color Champion – well done Kaneka!  And well done Ric for traveling to the show on your own, setting up and manning the booth and showing the alpacas, even with just four alpacas shows are hard work on your own, but they also are fun too,

 

Now the show alpacas will be placed into quarantine for the next three weeks, just in case they picked up any parasites or other ills during their trip.  The biosecurity and vet checks at the show were very thorough, but there is still always a risk of bringing back something unwanted and if that does happen we don’t want it spreading through the herd, especially as we have young crias due to be born any day.

 

Back at the ranch, we continue with cria watch, no sign of any imminent births yet, just some heavily pregnant dams waddling around the pasture, enjoying the cool breeze of the fan, having a roll in the dust from time to time, dipping their feet in the water bucket (I’ve lost track of how many times I have had to rinse and refill the bucket!) and eating hay to keep those crias growing!

 

Rosemary

July 16, 2008

Well Isn’t That Pretty

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

The last couple of days I have been busy preparing a couple of fleeces for the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) Continental Fleece Show which is to be held in Denver, Colorado on August 2 and 3.

 

I enjoy entering the AFCNA Show, it is a big show with good competition and included in the price of the entry fee is a DVD of all of the seminars given at the show, plus the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces for each class.  It is so nice to “take part” in the seminars at your leisure at home, how many seminars have you attended in the past where you later wish you could repeat or re-hear part or all of the seminar.  Well with the AFCNA show seminars being recorded and sent out on DVD after the show you can repeat all or part of the seminar as you need.   It is also great to see the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces, especially if your fleece is one of those winners; it gives you feedback which is accessible time and again.    My experience at shows is that usually you are so busy with the show itself that you do not get time to attend the seminars, if you are showing alpacas and win you hear the judges comments at the time of your class, but it is so easy to forget the exact words used and sometimes the PA system at the show grounds means that all you hear is a garbled noise.  With the AFCNA show the judges comments are available to you at your convenience – isn’t that a nice luxury.

 

I am sending in the fleeces of our young male Windrush White Blast, who is out of our dam Clarissa and a herdsire from Texas called FRA Lucero.  I have been really pleased with Blast and when we sheared him his fleece was so beautiful I knew it was a definite candidate for a show.  No doubt Blast’s fleece will be in a large highly competitive class, but I feel it is good enough to stand up to the competition.  Just look at it in the picture at the beginning of this blog entry, it is beautiful, bright and shiny with a consistent high frequency crimp – such a pretty fleece and I am sure it will catch the judges attention.

 

Also being sent off to the show is the fleece from our young female Windrush Zindel’s Velvet Princess.  Velvet is the first offspring from our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel and she has a unique velvety handle to her fleece.  Velvet’s fleece has a higher frequency crimp than Blast’s but lower amplitude of crimp.  Two very different fleece styles but each beautiful in its own right.

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

 

So I will finish preparing the fleeces and send them on their way to the show later this week.  Fingers crossed they will win some nice ribbons, and even if they don’t at least I will get some education and fun from watching the show DVD’s.

 

Rosemary

June 17, 2008

And The Honorable Mention Goes To……. Me!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Shows, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:23 am

AOBA Nationals Photo Contest Ribbon

Just before I left for my trip to England I made a last minute decision to enter some of my photographs in the Photo Competition at the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) National Show, which was held this year in Sandy, Utah.  The National show is one of the largest alpaca shows in the US and while I was not going to be able to enter alpacas in the show I thought I could at least enter the photo competition.

 

I sent in three photos, one was of Blast nursing when he was a cria, the other was of young Megan Stewart (daughter of our friend Jennifer Stewart) in with some of the male alpacas, and the third was of Jennifer Stewart and Zeus at Halloween when Jennifer visited our farm dressed as a clown.

 

I hadn’t heard anything back on my photo entries until the other day when a large padded envelope arrived in the mail.  Inside was a ribbon and a letter from AOBA informing me that I had received an honorable mention in the Humor Category for my photo of Jennifer and Zeus.  I was very pleased, this is the first time I had ever won any sort of award for photography and as my photos usually leave a lot to be desired it is quite an achievement for me!

 

For the competition I titled the photo “I’m cute what’s your excuse” and you can see it on my blog entry for November 1, 2007.   Part way through that blog entry you will see two pictures together, the one I submitted to the competition is the one on the right hand side.

 

The ribbon will now go on display in our studio I think, along with a copy of the picture.  It will also be printed in the Autumn 2008 copy of Alpacas Magazine and will eventually be loaded on the AOBA members website www.alpacaowners.com – not bad for a last minute entry!

 

Rosemary

March 19, 2008

Blast Gives Me A Fright

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:52 am

Blast Head Shot

As the warmer weather arrives it is not unusual to look across the pasture and see the alpacas all stretched out in the sun.  Alpacas love to sunbathe, lounging lazily on the ground with the only movement being a twitch of an ear or the flick of a tail.  What a life! 

As herd animals though, when something happens that causes an alarm call or for one of the alpacas to be on alert the vibrations of what is happening easily travel through the herd and they gather together to check out what is causing the consternation. 

In the middle of yesterday afternoon, I went outside to take some pictures of the alpacas.  It was a beautiful day even though the wind was still blowing, as it seems to have done for months on end now.  The alpacas were in a good mood to be photographed, Cinnamon posed for me, Anya checked out the camera to see if she could eat it and Blast came up to give me ‘paca kisses as he sometimes does. 

I went back into the house to look at the pictures I had taken (ah the joys of digital photography) and in a short while heard an alarm call.  Looking out of the kitchen window I could see the boys looking at something.  I checked the girls pasture and they too were looking in the same direction. Outside I discovered what was causing the alarm, three dogs were wandering through our back pasture checking out the compost pile and looking for rabbits.  I recognized two of the dogs a belonging to a neighbor, the third dog was new to me.  I headed out to the back pasture and chased the dogs away; they soon scurried off toward the house where two of the dogs live. 

As I walked back to the house I could see that all of the girls were gathered at the gate watching my activities – except one.  On the other side of the pasture lying on his side was little Blast.  He was very still and I could see his neck was arched back, not usually a good sign.  I hurried over and watched him from across the fence but could not see him breathing.  Even more concerning was the reaction of the rest of the herd who were standing at a distance, ears forward in curiosity as to what was the problem with Blast.

I couldn’t believe something could have happened to Blast so quickly, it was only moments since I had taken his picture, but several years ago I had an experience when a young cria was up nursing from his dam one moment and dead the next, so deep down I knew it was possible something had happened. 

Rushing through the gate I called Blast’s name, there was no sign of a reaction, not a twitch from him.  By now the rest of the herd were edging closer to Blast and Ma Cushla who is always the auntie to all of the crias was at the head of the group, her neck stretched forward as she tried to get a look at Blast.  Then as I got within inches of Blast he slowly opened one eye but still maintained his position with his neck arched back – maybe he was injured?  But no, he was not injured for within seconds he straightened out his neck, gave himself a shake and stood up – he had been in a very deep sleep!

Alpacas are deep sleepers, Blast’s grand dam Jenny would go into such a deep sleep that you could stand right next to her and shout her name and she wouldn’t move a muscle, eventually she would wake up and give a filthy look as if to say “what’s your problem” – it seems as if Blast has inherited that trait from her. 

I must admit that ever since he was a little cria Blast has liked to sleep on his side laying next to his dam Clarissa.  He always seems very comfortable and relaxed and yesterday’s experience shows just how relaxed he is at our farm.  It does concern me a little though that despite the herd giving alarm calls he didn’t awake from his slumber – even Jenny would have woken up for an alarm call, and for Blast to be able to sleep through that makes him vulnerable.

Perhaps as he grows he will learn to respond more to the alarm calls of the herd. Naturally I am pleased that Blast is safe and well, maybe next time he pulls that trick on me I will be able to be less anxious.  Little Blast definitely gave me a fright and I don’t really want to go through that feeling again.

 Rosemary

January 27, 2008

Their First Night Alone

Last night was the night, the first time the weanlings have been away from their dams overnight.  The weather is forecast to be mild over the next few days and even the night time temperatures will be above freezing and so it was a good time to make the final break.  Often newly weaned cria will sit out by the fence line all night and that is not the best place for them to be if the weather is very cold.

The weanlings were not too concerned at first last night.  I fed them and put out extra hay for them and while they came to the gate a couple of times to see if it was open, they soon settled down to eating hay followed by a chase session around the pasture.  As time went on though the realization set in that they were not going to back to the main herd for the night.

Shiimsa of course is already weaned, and we hope that her lack of concern at being in the weanling pasture overnight will help the three weanlings feel less stressed about the event. 

During the course of the evening I checked on the weanlings, Athena and Shiimsa were in their barn eating hay, Velvet and Blast were setting together by the fence line.  Some of the main herd were sitting by their fence line where the weanlings could seem them, and if truth be known the weanlings are physically no further away from their dams than I have seen them on several other occasions.  The only difference is there are two fences on either side of the 10 foot gap between them.

When I checked on the weanlings Velvet and Blast ran up to see me, and Blast did a fair amount of “talking” telling me he wanted to go back to the main pasture.  Velvet too had some curious hums to pass onto me.

Today we will give the weanlings some more probiotic.  They are sure to be suffering with a little stress, which is not good for them or the health of their rumen.  The probiotics will help keep their rumens healthy and also contain B vitamins that have calming properties.  I might even put some Bach’s Rescue Remedy in the weanling’s water to help calm their nerves.

In a day or so the weanlings will have settled in to their new pasture and will be adapting to spending their nights together.  They will remain there until the show and then will return to that pasture for quarantine following the show.  By the time that process is all through we should be able to return Velvet, Athena and Shiimsa to the girls pasture.  Little Blast though is another matter – I may have to borrow an alpaca buddy of the same age as him to keep him company for a while until he is big enough to join the junior male herd.

And what about the dams during this final weaning process?  Well not one of them has been looking for her cria, a sure sign they were ready for the weaning process to happen.  Sorry to tell you this kids but Mom says it’s time to move out and set up home on your own!

Rosemary

January 24, 2008

Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A Young Male Alpaca

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:12 am

Blast NursingThe day weaning of Velvet, Blast and Athena has been going well, and the little group now is quite happy to head over to the pen where they spend their day.  They barely pay attention to the location of their dams in the next pen and usually spend most of the day at the hay feeder, with the occasional break for a chase around the pasture or a quick nap.

In the evenings when I let the weanlings back they are less concerned to dash immediately to their mothers to try to nurse.  Poor Velvet lost nursing privileges the very first day of day weaning, she tried, but Queen wanted nothing to do with her.  Athena was able to persuade Rebecca that she still needed milk for the first few days, but of late Rebecca is less cooperative about Athena trying to nurse, in fact Athena’s recent attempts have been unsuccessful.  And then there’s Blast, dear sweet little Blast who finds his dam Clarissa and the nurses and nurses and nurses.   I swear if they were in a cartoon Clarissa would be reduced to a withered little pile on the floor by the time Blast has finished with her.  If that weren’t enough Blast is now so big that he has to cush to be able to nurse from Clarissa.  I hate to tell Blast this but it’s time for the nursing to stop.

The weather over the next two days is supposed to be atrocious, with freezing temperatures, freezing rain and snow.  Not a good scenario for weanlings to spend their first night away from their dams.  I have seen crias spend all night sitting by the fence line when they are first weaned, and that is the last thing I want when the weather is so wintry.  The beginning of next week though is supposed to be warmer, with daytime temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s.  With that in mind I am scheduling those days to do the final stage of weaning by keeping the weanlings away from their dams overnight.  They’re not going to be happy, and I will have an anxious couple of nights watching over them to make sure they are not stressing out too much.  That final step is necessary though.

I am confident the weanlings will be fine with their new situation after a couple of days, but I feel of the three of them that Blast will take it the hardest.  But that is often the case with male crias who seem bound and determined to nurse for the rest of their lives!

Once the final step to weaning has been taken I will leave Blast in with his weanling pals, but then of course in time he will need to be moved over to the pen of young male alpacas.  That will most likely be just as tough on him, as he will then be in a pen of completely strange alpacas.

Usually we have more than one male cria being weaned at a time and so they go to the young males pen as a pair or more.  This year though we were blessed with more girls than boys and so Blast is the only male in his peer group.  Zeus is the next male cria to be weaned, but that will not be taking place until at least March, possibly later, and I cannot leave Blast in with the females for all of that time.

What I may end up having to do is put the weanling girls back in with their dams.  I can then bring a couple of the smallest young males over to be with Blast for a few days before taking them all together as a group back to the young male pen.  At least that will give Blast a little while to get acquainted with a couple of his new pasture mates.  Over time Blast will get used to his new environment and will eventually join in the wrestling and rough housing that takes place between the boys.   It will be a little stressful for him at first though, but sometimes it’s just hard to be a young male alpaca.

Rosemary

October 16, 2007

Cooler Nights Bring Crazy Crias!

The last couple of nights have been decidedly cooler as our fall weather begins to develop.  It’s nice to feel the cool air of fall around us and watch the signs of fall – the light is softer, the sunsets a deeper orange, the leaves on the trees are turning color and as they fall from the trees are often pursued by the alpacas and llamas who love to eat leaves.

With cooler weather comes friskier animals!  Our horses are livelier, the male alpacas are enjoying more chasing and wrestling matches and then there are the crazy crias.

Healthy crias will typically get very active at dusk, they start to run around the pasture and play games with each other or even with the adult alpacas if they are willing to join in.  The evening playtime is about more than fun though; it is also about the crias raising their body temperatures to help keep them warm longer through the night.

With little Zeus working so hard to gain weight each day we have been putting a cria coat on him at night to try and prevent him from burning calories by trying to stay warm.  Even on the warmer nights he has worn his coat, and while he doesn’t enjoy me putting it on, once it is on he seems to really like it.  As he as got bigger the coat has started to get snug, and if he was showing better weight gain I would have started to leave the coat off at night, however his weight gain is still erratic so he will be wearing a coat for a while yet.

Fortunately last year I made some new cria coats, and also made little extension pieces for the belly strap.  The extensions attach to the belly strap with Velcro and mean that I can use the coats for a little longer as the crias grow.  So Zeus still gets to wear his coat and keep his calories.

Yesterday evening as I went out to check on Chai and put the coat on Zeus I could tell I was going to have my work cut out for me.  Chai was doing fine, sitting sternal and contentedly chewing her cud, but Zeus, Carissima and Blast were going crazy in the cool evening air.  The three of them were running full pelt around the pasture, screeching to a halt here and there and then tearing off again in a blur of bucking, kicking and legs running at full speed.  It was a lot of fun watching them, but a bit more of a challenge to catch Zeus and hold him still long enough to get his coat on!  I got lucky and managed to catch him as he ran towards a corner of the pasture, he grumbled at me for stopping his fun, but I was able to get the coat on quickly and then whoosh he was on his way, galloping at full speed with his head and neck out until he caught up with Carissima and Blast.    Zeus may be slow to gain weight but he’s certainly not slow at running!

Rosemary

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