A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

June 4, 2009

And We Do This Because…?

Carissima and Glow

Carissima and Glow

I find it a little amusing that sometimes the alpacas and llamas decide that our good management practices are not really for them.  Too often I have seen one of the herd toss some hay on the floor beside the hay feeder and merrily munch on the hay on the floor.  We do put grids over the hay in our hay feeders but sometimes they still manage to pull a clump out and deposit it onto the floor where apparently it just tastes better.  The llamas are perhaps worse about the alpacas for doing this.  They think nothing of overturning a hay bucket to deposit the contents on the ground, often destroying the bucket in the process. (Note we are now trying flexible rubber hay buckets to see if they stand up to llamas better).

Yesterday morning I was greeted by the site of Carissima (that’s her on the left of the picture that was taken prior to her being shorn) happily drinking out of a muddy puddle that lay just a foot or so away from the automatic waterer.  We had a pretty good storm the night before and as often happens on our hard, dry ground the water accumulated in puddles.  To Carissima this puddle was tasty, she stood and drank heartily from it, while close by stood the Nelson automatic waterer full of cool, clean, fresh water with not an alpaca or llama close by except for Carissima.  I shooed Carissima away from the puddle but later in the day caught her drinking from it again.  Perhaps the dirt gave it some added flavor or better mineral content, whatever the reason Carissima thought the puddle water was worth drinking.

In any herd management seminar you will be told to make sure that alpacas and llamas have fresh, clean water and that their hay is put into above ground feeders.  We are advised to do this to help keep parasites at bay and to make sure our alpacas and llamas have the best and most sanitary feeding conditions possible.  The trouble is that the alpacas and llamas are smart enough (within reason) to rearrange their feeding and drinking arrangements to their wants.

Of course we will continue to put the hay in the hay feeders to keep it off the ground and we will continue to have lots of fresh, clean water available to the herd, but as I watch the alpacas and llamas happily tossing their hay on the floor or drinking from a muddy puddle I do have to wonder “and we do this because…”


February 17, 2009

They’re Back!

Carissima's Fleece

Carissima's Fleece


Ric and the show alpacas finally made it home at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning.  With packing up the show equipment and helping one exhibitor who got his RV stuck in one of the doors to the showground Ric’s trip home was delayed.  Driving a long distance at night is not fun, even more so when you are on your own and hauling a trailer load of alpacas and Ric ended up having to stop a couple of times for rest breaks. 


The alpacas had become quite comfortable in the trailer and were not really inclined to get out once they had come home.  A little bit of coaxing and the sight of their alpaca buddies soon got them jumping out of the trailer and they are now happily settled in the quarantine pen for the next three weeks.  So far we have not had any reports of illness in the alpacas visiting the show, so fingers crossed all that came home with the alpacas was their show ribbons and not some nasty bacteria or virus.


The show alpacas were ready to eat once settled in their pen, I am sure they are happy to be home away from the hustle and bustle of the showground.


From all reports young Mags behaved very well at the show, we had been unsure of how Mags would react to being around a lot of people, but he settled down well and seemed to enjoy watching all of the activity around him.  When it came time to show he behaved very well.   Perhaps being in shows is Mags forte and that extra activity and attention is what he needs to keep him occupied.


Now we have the task of unloading all of the show equipment, cleaning it up, restocking supplies and repacking everything ready for the next show.  Over the years we have learned that it really is best to take care of everything immediately after the show, that way there is one less thing to worry about during the hectic days that occur just prior to a show, when we often wonder if we will ever be ready to leave!


I finally found out that Carissima took second in her class in the fleece show, not a bad result at all as it was a large, competitive white class and the first place winner was our “Windrush White Blast” who went on to take White Color Champion.  We can’t complain at that result can we!


Our next show will most likely be the Great Western Alpaca Show that takes place in early May in Denver, until then our show string will be taking a well deserved break and we will return our attention to the daily care of the herd while making our plans for shearing, spring breedings and the arrival of the spring crias – which will be happening before we can blink I’m sure!


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!



October 26, 2007

We have a name!


After our usual discussion of several names we have arrived on one for our new cria, her name will be …………..Kanika.

It didn’t take us too long to name her this time.  Ric found a web site with hundreds of different names with not only the country of origin for the name, but also the meaning of the name.  As Kanika is a very dark brown we were looking for something that made reference to her dark coloring.  When we are picking alpaca names we always bear in mind how easy the name is to pronounce, after all, if we cannot pronounce the name how can we expect someone else to and if our girl (or boy) has just won a class then we want people to be able to remember the name of both our farm and the alpaca in question.

The name Kanika is of Kenyan origin and means black cloth.  While our Kanika is not really black and more of a rich chocolate brown we are still not 100% convinced that she will stay that color and wonder if she may become more of a bay black as she grows older.  If Kanika does get darker as she ages some of her fleece may well find itself into some black cloth one day.

Kanika is already up to 16.4 lbs that reflects some good daily weight gains and the quality of Chai’s milk.  Chai has always been a great milk producer and she is going a great job with her cria again. 

Yesterday Kanika spent most of her day sleeping in the sun, nursing and having the occasional frolic around the pasture.  Carissima and Zeus have been a little slow to invite Kanika into their play sessions, but by yesterday evening she was leading the crias in a full gallop around the pasture. 

We received Kanika’s IgG results back yesterday too, which at 1500 were enough to satisfy us that she will be fine and will not need a plasma transfusion.   So little Kanika is looking good and progressing well and we will look forward to watching her grow and develop.


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!


October 15, 2007

Hey Llama Lady – Got Milk?

Zeus Nursing Inca

Well it looks as if little Zeus has found yet another milk source to feed his appetite.  I took this picture on Saturday after evening chores.   A few minutes earlier both Carissima and Zeus were nursing from Inca the llama but by the time I grabbed the camera Carissima had decided that she wanted to play and had moved away.

I’m not sure if Inca has got milk at this stage, usually once she starts allowing crias to nurse from her she takes a few days before her milk actually comes in.  Inca is the one who is initiating this; she follows the crias around and then nudges them underneath her and encourages them to nurse.  She has never had a cria of her own but this is not the first time she has encouraged crias to nurse from her and on previous occasions she has produced milk.  It is fairly unusual for an alpaca to allow a cria other than her own to nurse from her (unless she is like Carissima’s dam Carina and easily distracted with a bowl of good hay at which time she allows Zeus to nurse from her), but from what the ladies at Southwest Llama Rescue tell me it is not unusual for a llama to allow other crias to nurse from her.

Inca typically waits until the crias are at least a few weeks old before she starts encouraging them to nurse, our theory is that by that time they are about the size of a llama cria and so she feels more attracted to them.  Maya and Griffin our other two llamas have not yet allowed a cria to nurse from them but the other morning Maya was standing with Carissima under her while Inca had Zeus under her so it may be that Maya will soon be joining the “milk bar”.

Zeus is now up to 21 lbs.  It has been a slow and erratic road to get him to this point with some days showing very little gain and others having greater gain, but at least we are seeing a steady gain which is a good thing.  He has now started nibbling on hay and today we found him eating some soaked beet pulp shreds.  Zeus still gets to nurse from Carina a couple of times a day while she is distracted with the alfalfa hay, any calories we can get into him are good calories.

We are very fortunate to have a llama that will come into milk for our crias, I know of another alpaca breeder who uses goats to feed alpaca crias who need extra milk, although with goats being so short that conjures up quite the picture in my head!  With the llamas there is plenty of room for that cria to stand and nurse even as he grows up, so we will stick with our llama girls and look forward to Zeus showing even better weight gain.


October 4, 2007

Back Home Following a Great Experience

I arrived back at home Tuesday evening after a long day and a long drive.  I was up at 5 a.m. Central Time (4 a.m. Mountain Time) that morning and so was ready to just relax once I made it home, of course I first had to get smothered by the dogs who were happy to see me and check on the alpacas.  Carissima and Zeus ran up to me while the rest of the herd contentedly chewed their cud, everyone looked good and Carissima and Zeus decided to entertain me with some cria races, which Velvet, Blast and Athena decided to join. 

The Compliance Check Clinic in Shawnee, Oklahoma was a great experience, very educational and a good opportunity to discuss various show situations with other alpaca breeders at the clinic.  It was also wonderful to meet Connie Alexander, the AOBA Show Division Administrator, in person.  Ric and I have both talked to Connie numerous times on the phone and so it was great to finally meet her in person.  Connie is dedicated to her job and has always impressed us with her knowledge of the AOBA Show Rules.  It was apparent from Connie’s class that part of the reason for her success at her job is that she loves the work she is doing.  Thank you Connie for a great class! 

Volunteering at the Judges Oral Reasons Clinic was a great experience.  Watching the judges taking part in the education process gave us volunteers a greater appreciation for all that an AOBA Show Judge goes through to obtain their certification.  We also started to appreciate how tiring the work of an alpaca show judge can be.  We only had to stand with alpacas through Monday afternoon and part of Tuesday morning and we were more than ready to take a break on both days.  An alpaca show judge is usually on his or her feet for two full days of judging, not only standing but making decisions about the alpacas in the class and then deciding on the oral reasons that they are going to give to the exhibitors and audience for the placement of the alpacas.  It must take a lot of stamina both mentally and physically to judge an alpaca show, and alpaca owners should all be thankful that there are individuals who willingly take on that task.   

My days away while busy were most enjoyable and educational, and I will volunteer to assist at a Judges Training Clinic again if I have the opportunity. 

On our daily Zeus update the little devil did not gain much weight yesterday, his energy levels are still good and he had a good chase around the pasture with Carissima last night.  It may be that he didn’t think to nurse from Carina while she was busy eating her alfalfa the day before.  I think little Zeus is going to be a constant challenge until we can get him eating some grain and hay, but I am confident that we will get him through this.  We have a lot of tools in our toolbox of ideas and we will just keep trying to ensure he gains weight.  Last night I was encouraged to see him nibbling on a little of the alfalfa, which will add a few more calories to his daily intake.  I think having Carissima around is a real benefit to Zeus, he watches her and follows her lead on so many things, perhaps without her he would not have started to nibble on hay yet, and he certainly would not have had Carina to steal milk from! 

It was good to see that Ric was able to figure out the intricacies of updating the blog, he did such a good job in my absence I think I can plan on taking more days away from the farm – somehow I think he may not agree with my on that point! 


September 29, 2007

National Alpaca Farm Day is Here!

Zeus Looking CuteWell today is the day, we have the grass mown, the place tidy (well as tidy as we ever get), the alpacas instructed to be on their best behavior, the cookies made and the alpaca products ready to sell – it’s National Alpaca Farm Day. 

Our radio interview at KTQM on Friday went well, with Ric discovering that the microphone is not going to bite him – a big thank you to Grant and Misty at KTQM for allowing us airtime to promote our event. 

We are not sure how many people will attend today, the nearby air force base has a major change of command ceremony on Monday (not just a change of Wing Commander but the mark of the beginning of a new mission for Cannon Air Force Base) and many people from the base are involved in the preparations for that, there is an ethnic fair being held in downtown Clovis and the wind is forecast to be blowing hard! 

Even prior to the event the publicity already gained for National Alpaca Farm Day has been great and can only have raised public awareness of alpacas.   Some alpacas appeared on the Today Show (go to http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/16487590/ to view the footage), the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association have run ads on both cable and satellite TV and numerous newspapers have published press releases about the event. 

Here at the farm little Zeus finally gained 0.5 lbs yesterday, now if we can only get him to repeat that gain today.  I have got to the point that I hold my breath as I stand on the scale with him and hope that his weight has gone up and not down.  I am not sure which of the steps that we took is working, but something appears to be so for now we will carry on with all that we are doing.  Carissima is still growing by leaps and bounds and is one of the sweetest crias you could wish to meet; she knows her name and comes running over when I call her in the pasture. 

Carissima and Zeus have been having fun in the evenings chasing each other around the pasture and they have been great entertainment as they frolic around under the soft light of the beautiful harvest moon we have had the last couple of days.  I tried to capture pictures of them in the moonlight, but my photography skills are not up to the challenge of moonlight and fast moving crias. 

Immediately after our Open House I will be heading to Shawnee, Oklahoma for the Compliance Check Class and to volunteer at the Judges Training Clinic.  It is about a seven hour drive to Oklahoma City, where I am going to stop for the night, and I am sure I am going to be glad to see the hotel room after the long drive.  I am not sure of the Internet access availability over the weekend so if the blog is quiet it means I am unable to get online.  Then again I might just turn the blog over to Ric for a couple of days and see what he can come up with! 


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