A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 1, 2008

People Arriving, Paca’s Leaving

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, Crias, General, shearing — Tags: , , , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:31 am




Yesterday saw the arrival of Kathryn and Tracy Annis from Dripping Springs, Texas.  Kathryn and Tracy are here to pick up four of their girls, Rebecca, Rosson, Athena and Zoie and take them back to Texas.  The alpacas have been boarded here while on consignment sale but now Kathryn and Tracy have a place where they can board them at no cost and so decided to take up that offer.  Rebecca, Rosson, Athena and Zoie will still be listed for sale from our farm so if you are looking for some beautiful alpaca girls to either get your herd started or add to you herd let me know!


I will be a little sad to see the girls go, they have been here for close to two years and during that time I have seen Rebecca and Zoie give birth and have raised their crias.  Zoie’s cria Zeus who we worked so hard on getting to gain weight when he was younger will be staying with us and soon joining our herd of junior boys under the watchful eye of our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel who does well with the younger males.  Zeus is a beautiful young male with such a bright white fleece that shines in the sunshine.  I am looking forward to seeing him mature and using him as a herdsire in the future.


Rebecca and Zoie are old hands at traveling and Athena has been to a show or two, but little Rosson will be in for her first long trailer ride.  She did go to the vets with us when we took Rebecca and Zoie for Brucellosis and TB testing, the testing being a requirement for re-entry of alpacas into the state of Texas.  I know that Rosson will miss her seven little cria buddies, it will be very strange to her to be the only cria in her little group, but she will have Rebecca with her and maybe even Athena will buddy up with her.  Athena herself will be leaving her herd mates, but being a little older will probably adjust easier to the change.


Of course waiting for the girls in Texas is a real treat – grass!  Not lush pasture right now, but at least some grass to graze.  The shorter grass will give them a chance to gradually get used to grazing having been in a dry lot situation for so long.


We will enjoy our time with Kathryn and Tracy, they are both a lot of fun to be around and it has been well over a year since we have seen them.  Poor Ric will be putting up with a weekend full of alpaca talk and fiber talk as Kathryn is also a knitter and now also a weaver and Tracy is a herd manager, shears alpacas and is a Camelidynamics Practitioner.  I am sure Ric will manage to keep his sanity though.  Most likely will busy himself with projects in his workshop where it will be relatively peaceful compared to the chatter of three women who have a lot to catch up on and a lot to talk about!




January 19, 2008

A Handy Catch (Rope)

Over the years we have acquired various supplies and tools for our alpaca farm.  Some have been really successful; others end up collecting dust or being stored in a box.   Some of the tools are unique to the alpaca business, others are standard livestock supplies and others are tools that we have adapted to work for a purpose other than that for which they were designed.

Yesterday I had occasion to use one of my favorite tools, the catch rope.  Our catch rope is one from the Camelidynamics range.  It is made of a beautiful soft cotton rope and has an adjustable ring and hook attachment making it adaptable for any size alpaca.

Our dear Chai still has some remnants of the facial abscess that she developed in the fall.  We thought it had gone, the holes that it was draining from were healed and there was no swelling in the immediate area.  There must have been a tiny speck of bacteria left though, as within a short while we could see the abscess was growing larger again.  So it’s back to draining the abscess on a daily basis and treating it to see if this time it will go completely.  Abscesses can be tricky devils to get rid of, and it has been our experience that it is not unusual for an abscess to reappear quite easily.

Ric often works as a substitute teacher for the local elementary schools.  Having gained his degree in elementary education he feels that he should put his education to good use.  He enjoys working in the different schools and the schools seem to like having him.

Yesterday was one of the days that Ric was teaching, which left me to deal with Chai’s abscess on my own.  Chai is a sturdy girl, even following her recent illness and weight loss.  She has regained a lot of the weight she lost prior to giving birth to Kanika, but I am still concerned that she is not 100% well.    Of course Chai is not too keen on us messing around with her facial abscess and often pulls away as we try to drain and treat it.

In situations such as Chai’s when I don’t have anyone to help me, I find the catch rope invaluable.  I can easily catch Chai while she is eating in the morning and once the catch rope is on I can steady her and prevent her from backing away from me while I work on her.  I don’t like to tie alpacas up when I am working on them, I find that the restriction puts them on edge and makes them harder to deal with.  With the catch rope I can give the alpaca a little leeway to move and help the alpaca to feel less trapped.

As I work on Chai she will frequently put her nose up in the air in an effort to get away from me, often I can adjust my touch to where she is less inclined to raise her nose up, but sometimes there is no getting around the fact that draining the abscess is painful.  It has to be done though, and so if Chai persists in putting her nose in the air I loop the loose end of the catch rope over Chai’s nose like a halter nose band, which gives me a little more control over her.

The catch rope is quite long, when I work with halter training crias it is great to be able to put the catch rope on them and also put a good space between us until they feel more comfortable with someone getting close to them.  The length of the catch rope allows me to put that space between the crias and me.  The other advantage of having a long catch rope is that when you leave your medicine supply box outside of the pen, you are able to open the gate to the pen, reach your supply box and then return to the pen, all the while still having your alpaca contained by it’s being on the other end of the catch rope.  That is exactly what happened to me yesterday. 

Having started to soak and drain Chai’s abscess I realized that I had left the Scarlet Oil that I was going to apply to the abscess in the medicine supply box outside the pen.   I could have tied Chai up, or I could have draped the catch rope over her back while I left the pen.  It was so easy though to leave the catch rope on her, and then leave the pen for a couple to seconds still holding onto the catch rope and maintaining contact with Chai while I retrieved my supplies. 

The catch rope is a simple piece of equipment, but sometimes it is the simplest things that are the most useful and certainly in the instance of the catch rope that is the case.


November 12, 2007

Time for School Kids!

Carissima and Zeus Kiss   The fall show season is over for us, but rapidly approaching is the spring show season and so it is time to set a regular halter training program in motion for our “kids”.  Blast, Athena and Velvet will all be making their debut on the show circuit this spring and Shiimsa will be entering a few more shows before we start to consider breeding her.

Our halter training program starts early in life for our crias.  One of the biggest keys to success with halter training an alpaca is trust, if your crias trust you then it is far easier to work with them and the results will usually be better.  So how do you gain a crias trust?  Well one of the first things to bear in mind is that as cute and cuddly as crias appear it is a pretty scary prospect to have a human wrap themselves around the cria in a hug.  That is not a behavior that alpacas do to each other and really is quite intimidating to them.  We always aim to be calm and quiet around our crias, they are naturally curious and so we will often crouch down and allow them to come up and sniff us.  Sometimes even eye contact is enough to put off a cria, remember that in alpacas a direct hard stare can be interpreted as a challenge or defensive behavior.  If I have a cria that seems interested in approaching but is a little reluctant I will often look down at the ground rather than at the cria and that in itself is enough to reassure the cria that it is okay to approach.

Each cria has its own distinct personality, some will be timid, and some will be bold.  Be aware that the cria who comes up to you all the time sniffing, following, nibbling and even jumping at you in play may be viewing you as his or her alpaca equal and in time that may lead to behavioral problems.  Crias need to understand appropriate boundaries and behavior around humans so that they grow up to be well mannered and manageable alpacas.

As our crias grow I do from time to time run a firm but gentle hand over their neck and back to get them used to a human touch.  I am careful never to surprise them with this, the last thing you want them to do is be on edge around you, but it is good to get them used to the human touch.

Handling the crias legs is another step that I start from an early age.  At lot of issues with handling alpacas legs arise from the alpaca feeling unbalanced, insecure or trapped when a leg is felt or lifted and it is important to work with the alpaca to ensure that it feels comfortable with having its legs handled and its feet picked up.

Like children a crias attention span is usually pretty short, so little and often is the way to go.  A few minutes of good handling work every other day or so will give your cria a sound basis to work from as the training progresses and will make the trainers job much easier.  I enjoy my time working with the crias and the weanlings, learning to adapt to each ones personality and figuring out which methods work best for that individual alpaca.  Training alpacas is not a “one size fits all” system and it is important to remember this.

If you are new to working with alpacas (even though you may have experience with working with horses, cattle or other species) I heartily recommend a visit to the Camelidynamics web site. There you can learn more about the Camelidynamics system of handling alpacas and obtain useful tools to help you with your work with alpacas.  I will write more about handling alpacas as the week goes on and I make progress with my class of 2007.  I am sure I am looking forward to working with Blast, Athena, Velvet and Shiimsa more than they are looking forward to working with me, but I will make their school lessons as relaxed and pleasant as can be.


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