A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday to a Special Herdsire

 

Enchantment's Prince Regent

Our herdsire - Enchantment's Prince Regent

 

 

We had a special birthday over the weekend.  Our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent turned 10 on Halloween (October 31).

We don’t make it a habit to celebrate all of the alpacas birthdays, with as many alpacas as we have we would be doing a lot of celebrating if we did that, but it is nice to remember significant events such as Regent’s 10th birthday.

Enchantment’s Prince Regent was our very first cria, his dam Enchantment’s Peruvian Jennifer was our first alpaca purchase. We purchased Jenny in June of 1999, she was already pregnant by PPPeruvian Yupanqui and we were excited to see what our first cria would be like.

Of course Jenny went past her due date and we anxiously awaited the phone call from the farm where she was boarded telling us that Jenny was in labor.  We lived about three hours away from the boarding farm, Enchantment Farm Alpacas in Ruidoso, New Mexico and so we knew that we had little chance of seeing our first cria being born, but we wanted to get to see our cria as soon as we could.

Fortunately it was a Saturday morning when Jenny went into labor, Ann Evans from Enchantment Farm Alpacas called me to give me the news.  At the time of Ann’s call I was on my way to volunteer at a local animal shelter but that plan soon changed and after returning home to collect Ric we were on our way to Ruidoso.  To this day Ann Evans teases us about the speed in which we made that journey, she could not believe how fast we made it to the farm.

Arriving at Enchantment Farms we could see Jenny and her cria penned in the pasture.  Ann and her husband Rick met us at the pasture and took us in to see our new arrival, a little white male cria who we called Enchantment’s Prince Regent.  Initially we were a little disappointed that Regent was a boy, but when Rick and Ann suggested that perhaps we would like to sell him to them we realized this was not just any little boy cria, he was something special.  While we were grateful for Rick and Ann’s offer we decided to keep Regent and have been so happy we did so.

 

Rosemary and Regent

Rosemary and Regent the day Regent was born

 

 

Regent was undeniable cute as a cria, Ann nick named him Little Monkey Face because of his round face, but as time passed by Little Monkey Face soon became an alpaca with a beautiful sought after head.  We have had people book breedings to Regent just because they liked his head style.

Regent has shown us many aspects of alpaca management during his life.  It was with Regent that we first learned how to bottle feed a cria, Jenny did not have enough milk for him and so Regent received supplemental feedings.  I can still remember being in the pasture with Ann’s daughter Thea during one of our visits to see Regent.  Thea (who I think was then about 9 or 10) instructed me in how to hold onto Regent and get the bottle in his mouth at the same time.  It was quite the challenge to me, but Thea had it down to a fine art!

We experienced our first alpaca show with Regent along with our female gray alpaca Ma Cushla in Estes Park Colorado.  That was to be the first of many alpaca shows for Regent and for us, and during Regent’s show career he won many ribbons and gave us our first Reserve Color Champion.

 

Regent at TxOLAN

Enchantment's Prince Regent wins his first Reserve Color Championship

 

 

Regent has been responsible for bringing income to the farm in the form of breeding fees and the sale of his offspring.  His offspring have done well in the show ring and he has several color champion offspring to his name.

At 10 years old Regent is still looking good and still getting bookings for breeding.  His correct confirmation, dense fleece that has held its fineness, heavy bone and of course that beautiful head make him a herdsire that is still sought after – and he is more than happy to continue to have dates with beautiful alpaca girls.  As a herdsire he is easy to manage, all you need to say is “girls” and he will stand still and allow himself to be caught and haltered.  He is well mannered with the ladies and if a girl says no, while he is undoubtedly disappointed, he will allow himself to be led out of the pen with just a little grumbling.

There is a saying that just because an alpaca is male does not mean he deserves to be a herdsire – a saying that is very true.  With Regent though he truly does deserve to be a herdsire and how fortunate we are to have been blessed with such a wonderful herdsire as our first cria.

So on Regent’s birthday I sang him Happy Birthday, told him how much he means to us – and then had to apologize to him as I didn’t have a breeding arranged for him for that day.  Oh well that’s all part of life as a successful herdsire and Regent was quite happy to receive hay and feed as a birthday treat instead.  Happy Birthday Regent!

Rosemary

 

July 14, 2008

Indifference – The Alpaca Way

Alpaca girls are quite matter of fact about their dates.  I have had one or two who have shown an attachment to a particular male, but for the most part they resign themselves to the breeding process, and during the breeding spend their time looking around at any activity nearby.  I have had one girl fall asleep during a breeding, much to the dismay of her mate who then started to sniff her and produce an orgle with almost a question mark in it’s tone.  (Orgling is the noise made by the male alpaca during breeding)

 

On Saturday we behavior tested Bjorn and Queen, both of whom have been bred and who are experienced dams.  Bjorn refused to go anywhere near the pen where the male alpaca was, planting her feet in the ground and putting her ears back.  Normally Bjorn leads easily so we took her actions to be a firm rejection of the male.  Queen ventured into the pen with the male but soon ran away and then as a parting gesture spit at him.  So it is looking promising that Bjorn and Queen may be pregnant.

 

Next we decided to breed Willow to Treasure.  We had tried this breeding combination last year but Treasure was not quite ready to breed at that time and Willow never did conceive from that breeding.  We later bred Willow to Tobiano, which resulted in her current cria Desert Sand Storm or Stormy as we call him.

 

Willow is quite the character; she was born hungry and always tells us she is hungry when it is feeding time.  She tends to be on the chubby side and so we don’t always listen to her grumblings as to how she hasn’t been fed enough.   Willow is also our alpaca escapologist.  She will try and get through the smallest of gaps, wiggle her way past you when you are opening the gates and generally seize any opportunity she gets to make an escape from the pasture.

 

In preparation for breeding we placed Willow in a secure pen and then brought Treasure over to her.  This year Treasure is definitely ready to breed (and now has a confirmed pregnancy to his credit) and he had no hesitation in starting to orgle at Willow as soon as he entered the pen.  Willow though had other things on her mind – food.  She had found something growing in the pen and was busily nibbling it.  She didn’t even glance over her shoulder at Treasure but just carried on eating.  Treasure was not to be deterred and mounted Willow, who continued to eat and still didn’t even acknowledge Treasure’s presence. 

 

We decided that Willow should probably be paying better attention and so lifted her head to stop her from grazing, once we did that she cushed and all seemed to be going well with the breeding.  That is until we went to leave the pen, at which time Willow seemed to think this was her opportunity to get out of the pen and back to her favorite past time of eating.   In the end we had to bring a flake of hay into the pen for Willow to nibble on while she was bred.  Then and only then would she stay cushed.   Poor Treasure it’s a good job male alpacas are not insulted by such behavior!

 

 

Rosemary

October 10, 2007

The Tale of A Male – From Dud to Stud!

I learned last week of an interesting situation regarding a male alpaca.  This particular alpaca will be three years old later this month.  He was sold as a breeding male and his new owners were very excited to add him to their herdsires, he had won some really nice ribbons in fleece and halter and really complemented their breeding plan.

When the new owners purchased the alpaca he had not yet been used to breed a female.  Not too long after they had purchased him they discovered one of their females had managed to work her way into his pasture and was being bred by him.  (The male alpaca is a good looking boy and the female alpaca must have decided that he was the one for her as it took her a bit of effort to get into his pasture).

It turned out that the accidental breeding was unsuccessful in that the female alpaca did not get pregnant as a result of that breeding.  The new owners of the male alpaca then started to expose him to some of their females during the spring breeding season.   The male alpaca did all the things a male alpaca should, he showed interest in the females, he mounted them, made the right “connection” with them and orgled during his breedings – everything was looking good except that none of the females became pregnant.

The new owners were understandably concerned that their new herdsire was for some reason unable to reproduce.  They had taken good care of him; the weather was not yet hot so heat stress was not thought to be a problem, so why was this male not getting the girls pregnant?  Fortunately the new owners of the alpaca had a good contract, and the seller of the alpaca, while disappointed was willing to work with the new owners to resolve the situation.  The seller consulted her vet and he suggested testing the sperm of the male alpaca to see if he had a low sperm count.  The seller was willing to take the alpaca back and refund his purchase price, but naturally wanted to make sure he was indeed non-reproductive before doing so.

The time came to test the male, and coincidentally at that time the female who had worked her way into his pen earlier had given birth to her cria from a different breeding and was ready to breed again.  (DNA testing confirmed that the alternative herdsire was definitely the sire of the new cria).   The new owners veterinarian suggested that they bring the male and the female alpaca into his clinic allow them to breed and then a sperm sample could be obtained from the female alpaca.

The test went ahead as planned and the results showed no sperm in the sample taken.  The new owners were naturally disappointed and contacted the seller to inform her of the news – the male alpaca was a dud, he would never sire a cria.

The seller started to make arrangements to take back the alpaca and refund the purchase price.  She understood that when you sell an unproven male there is always a risk that he will not be able to reproduce, she had covered that scenario in her contract and being a responsible and ethical alpaca breeder she was ready to honor her contract. 

But then something happened.  The new owners of the male alpaca went to breed the female alpaca to a different male and she was not receptive.  They had waited about 60 days before breeding her and when she spit off at the male they really had to wonder – could she be pregnant?

Off to the vets went the female alpaca.  The new owners of the male alpaca didn’t remind the vet that this was the female they had used for the sperm test preferring to wait until after the ultrasound.  The vet performed the ultrasound and immediately found an embryo, the female alpaca was pregnant and her only exposure to a male had been the “dud” alpaca.  When the new owners reminded the vet that this was the female that had been used for the sperm test he was very surprised, so surprised in fact he checked the female again with the ultrasound and quite clearly could see that she was pregnant!

So what happened, we have to ask?  How can a male alpaca with no sperm manage to impregnate a female alpaca?  The vet who did the testing is experienced with camelids and yet this pair of alpacas was defying the results of his test.  

Could it be that the alpaca produces sperm intermittently allowing for times when there is seminal fluid that does not contain sperm.  Camelids have some traits that are unique to them; one of them is that when the male alpaca breeds he “dribbles” sperm throughout the whole breeding.  This is one of the reasons that alpaca breedings take so long (anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes), however it is thought that semen quality is uniform throughout the breeding process.

Having done a little research on this situation the one phrase that kept coming up is “it is difficult to collect semen from camelids”.  The technique that was used by the vet to collect semen in this instance is the recommended technique, however in all the references I found on this subject it was also mentioned that alpaca semen is very viscous making it hard to handle and it is difficult to determine parameters such as sperm concentration and motility.  So perhaps the handling of the sample after collection was the issue, but so far I have not found a good and definite explanation as to why in this particular case there was absolutely no sperm in the sample.

At the end of the day though there is a happy ending, the male has now proven himself, the seller does not have to take back the male and refund the purchase price, the new owners get to keep the male they like so much and get to look forward to a cria next year, and that female alpaca who worked so hard to get into that male’s pasture has finally had her date with her dream boy.  Maybe she knew all along that her stud was definitely not a dud!

Rosemary

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