A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 30, 2008

Mags Takes A Step In The Right Direction


For some time now we have been trying to persuade Mags, the orphaned cria, that trying some alpaca pellets would be a good thing to do.  For those new to the blog, Mags was orphaned the day after he was born and has been having a trying time learning that he is in an alpaca not a human, or that humans are not alpacas.


Behaviorally Mags has made slow but steady progress.  He is much calmer around humans and has learnt to keep a respectful distance.  Once in a while he will transgress in his behavior, usually when we have had a farm visit, but he is still young and there is time to get him on the right path before hormones kick in and complicate things.


One of the things that is a delight to see is Mags joining in with the evening cria play.  When he first arrived he was very much the loner, with the exception of Song (another orphaned cria) he rarely interacted with the other alpacas voluntarily.  Now he will sometimes join in as the other crias race and prong around the pasture.  Slowly but surely he is becoming part of the herd.


At 56 lbs and five months old Mags really does not need the three bottles of milk a day we have been giving him.  With Mags though, the bottle has become more of a security blanket than a nutritional need and the sight of his bottle also seems to instigate some of his bad behavior.


Last Saturday I decided that it was time to cut Mags and Song back to two bottles.  It had been a busy day with the birth of Melody’s cria and I went past the time of the mid day bottle.  Both Mags and Song did not seem bothered, going about their business eating hay and lying in the sunshine.  I watched the two throughout the afternoon and neither one came and paced by the fence, so the mid day bottle was dropped and has not returned.


Having dropped the mid day bottle the next challenge was to get Mags to try some alpaca pellets.  Song has been eating pellets for a little while now and needed no encouragement in eating, but Mags had, to date, refused to have anything to do with the pellets.


Every day we had been putting him in with the other crias in his age group, hoping that their behavior would encourage him to eat pellets too.   Mags though would not join in, preferring to sulk in the corner.  Occasionally he might take one pellet in his mouth, roll it around and then spit it out again, but that was the best that he would do.  Hay was not a problem to Mags and he ate that willingly, but pellets just didn’t capture his attention.


On Sunday I happened to have a bowl of feed with me when Mags came into one of the shelters.   No other alpacas were around and so I offered him the feed bowl to see what he would do.   At first he did his usual trick of taking one pellet and spitting it out, but then very gently he tried another one and this time he chewed it and swallowed it – progress!  For several minutes Mags slowly took small mouthfuls of the pellets and ate them.


At evening chores Mags went into the cria pen as usual, the cria group eat out of communal troughs and are quite comfortable establishing their place at the troughs, but for Mags I felt that perhaps the troughs were too competitive, so I took him a small bowl of pellets and set it down in front of him.  Slowly he lowered his head and started eating.


The next day at feeding time I was prepared to do the same for Mags, but before I could put his bowl down he already had his head in one of the trays and was eating – finally!


So Mags has taken another step in the direction of acting like an alpaca, for the moment he is quite timid in his approach to eating pellets which surprises me given his usual boisterous personality.  Maybe in time that will change, maybe he is still adjusting to the fact that he is an alpaca and feels he is low in the pecking order in the cria group.  Still there continues to be hope for Mags.  I feel he will always need mindful handling, especially as he approaches and reaches breeding age, but we have time and experience on our hands and I hope with those two commodities Mags will one day be able to be a well mannered breeding male who produces champion offspring.



October 5, 2008

Update on Mags and Song – and Happy Birthday Linda!

Mags and Song Share A Piece Of Hay

Mags and Song Share A Piece Of Hay

The two orphan crias Mags and Song are growing well.  They still get a bottle three times a day.  Song has been taking less milk each feeding and is down to between 4 – 8 oz per feeding.  Once Song has finished with her bottle she is quite adamant that she does not want any more milk, but will often try and nurse from Mags, which I suspect, is more for comfort than for food.


Mags on the other hand is not keen on reducing his milk intake.  As big as he is, it is time for him to start a gentle process of weaning from the bottle.  While Song happily eats hay and alpaca pellets, Mags will occasionally take one pellet in his mouth and play with it but that is it.  He does eat hay, which is a good thing, but I feel he is too reliant on the milk bottle.  So we have started to reduce the amount of milk in his bottle.  That hasn’t gone over well with Mags and set him back a little on his bad behavior, but we continue to be consistent in managing his behavior and taking him through the weaning process.

 Mags Runs To Greet Me 

It is quite sweet to see Mags and Song together, they tend to eat hay together during the day and they often cush next to each other at night.  Song has started to buddy up a little with one of the other crias Stormy, while Pride has tried hard to engage Mags in play but Mags shows little interest in cria games.  I feel that Mags might always be a bit of a loner but maybe when we transition him to the junior males pen he will interact more with the older boys as he develops.


On a separate note, today is a special day as it is the birthday of my dear friend Linda.  Linda has recently moved into a new house and is busy remodeling it to make it her dream home, and I know that the results of her labor will be beautiful.  I don’t know if Linda will have time to read this blog in between her remodeling projects, but I know she is a frequent reader of the blog and I would be most remiss to not wish her a very Happy Birthday and thank her for being the wonderful friend that she is.  (Oh and by the way Linda when you have finished remodeling your house we have one over here you can come and work on!).  Have a wonderful birthday and don’t work too hard!





June 7, 2008

And Our Next Introduction is ……

Windrush Ashling\'s Dream

Windrush Ashling’s Dream who was born at 1:30 a.m. on May 17th.   This little girl decided to present herself in an unusual birthing position resulting in us seeing just one leg and two ears when she first started to make her appearance. 


Dream’s dam Rosie is a maiden and had been giving us signs during the afternoon that she might be in labor, so we had decided to check her through the night just in case and we were glad we decided to do so.  Often late afternoon or evening births are dystocias and Rosie’s behavior had set off our alarm bells.


I managed to free Dream’s stuck leg, but could not get her head to move back into the birth canal so it could be repositioned.  Ric offered to have a try and he managed to get Dreams nose turned around so that she could be delivered.


It was a traumatic birth for poor Rosie and she was tired and sore afterwards.  Little Dream only weighed in at 13.5 lbs, but in view of the circumstances of her birth we were glad she wasn’t any bigger.


Rosie was too sore to allow Dream to nurse initially so we milked her out as best we could and fed the colostrum that we got from Rosie to Dream.  We also started Dream on a colostrum substitute for the next 24 hours, as we knew she would not be getting enough colostrum from Rosie.


Thankfully Dream has turned out to be an easy cria to bottle feed, she accepts the bottle readily, which is not always the case with alpaca crias.  We started her off with a bottle every couple of hours around the clock and gradually increased the hours between each feeding.  Now Dream nurses from her dam and gets 2 –3 bottles from us during the course of the day and thankfully the nighttime feeds have stopped.


Dream is a sweet cria, a little mischievous and definitely aware of the fact that we provide some of her daily milk.  When she sees us outside her little head shoots up, her ears stand erect and then she runs over to see if we have her beloved bottle of milk.


Over the last few tumultuous weeks it has been quite soothing to feed Dream her bottle.  I am so familiar with the details of her little face now, the crease of her nose, the two swirls of fiber on either side of that crease, her dense top knot that seems to get thicker each day.   I enjoy watching her as she focuses her eyes on the bottle and eagerly sucks on the bottle until it is drained dry.  As hard as it is to get up in the middle of the night after only a couple of hours sleep, when you walk out into the pasture and are rewarded by a fuzzy face anxiously awaiting your arrival, it makes you forget how tired you are.


Dream is a special cria in more ways than one, she is the great grand daughter of our first alpaca Jenny, and her dam Ashling was the first female cria to be born on our farm.  We sold Ashling but sadly she passed away after giving birth to Dreams dams Rosie.  Ashling’s owners at the time named Rosie (her real name is Rose Marie) after me and asked if we would raise her, as she had to be bottle fed.  So Rosie came to stay with us until she could be weaned from the bottle and returned to her owners.


In time Rosie’s owners decided to leave the alpaca business and Rosie is now ours.  So now little Dream has joined us too.  She is a pretty medium fawn color and the daughter of our herd sire Tobiano.  When we came to name Dream we wanted her name to be special. 


Following Ashling’s death I had made her owners a photo presentation of Ashling set to the music “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker.  The day after Dream was born I had to make a run to the grocery store to get milk and yogurt in preparation for feeding her.  As I drove home what should come on the radio but Joe Cocker’s song “You Are So Beautiful” and I knew at that moment what Dream’s name should be.


If you are unfamiliar with Joe Cocker’s song you can listen to it at http://www.last.fm/music/Joe+Cocker/_/You+Are+So+Beautiful


The song is a short one, only lasting a couple of minutes.  When you listen pay particular attention to the lyrics of the second verse and you will understand why Windrush Ashling’s Dream received her name.




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