A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 8, 2009

Snake Herding

Monday morning as I was happily scooping the poop in the girls pasture I noticed some of the crias paying attention to something outside the fence line.  I couldn’t see what was causing their distraction but thought it was most likely a rabbit.

A short while later though the attention had moved to the middle of the pasture and now along with the crias were Inca (one of the guard llamas) and Cinnamon.  Just looking at Inca and Cinnamon I could tell that something was amiss – they both were dancing, their tails held high and their necks stretched forward toward something on the ground.  At first I thought it was a stick and then I realized it was moving and the stick was in fact a snake.

I went over to see what sort of snake it was; if it was a rattle snake something would have to be done quickly as the attention of the alpacas and llamas would surely annoy it (snakes are not very sociable creatures and prefer not to be the center of attention!).

Fortunately the snake was a bull snake, about four feet long and the brown and tan variety, unlike the black and yellow bull snake I had seen earlier in the summer.  Still I didn’t think the snake would be too pleased about the attention the girls and crias were giving it so I needed to try and get it out of the pasture without the alpacas or llamas annoying it along the way.

Armed with my poop shovel in one hand and the rake in the other I decided that it would be easiest to follow the snake to the fence line using the shovel and the rake to keep any inquisitive noses away.  Of course once word got around the pasture that something different was happening the whole herd gathered to look at the snake.  The snake was very cooperative and made his way across the pasture with me walking behind him and the shovel and rake at either side of him.  Theresa got a little brave at one point and tried hard to get closer to the snake but I was able to guide her away with the rake and keep her from getting too close.  I did have to chuckle though as walked behind the snake guiding him on his way, it was just as if I was using the shovel and rake as we use the herding wands to move the alpacas when we need to, but this time I was herding one well behaved snake.

Soon the snake was through the pasture fence and headed down the driveway, my first attempt at snake herding had been successful and the girls and crias could go back to eating their hay.  I’m not sure my snake herding would be so successful with more than one snake and I am pretty sure that if the snake had been a rattle snake I would be using the shovel for a different purpose than herding snakes!  Let’s hope the rattle snakes stay away from the pasture and I never have to find out!


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.


November 19, 2008

The Chai Family – Masters (or Mistresses) Of Distraction


Our alpacas never cease to amaze me with their creativity, especially when it comes to getting more food!


I have mentioned before how we are fortunate enough to have several family groups of alpacas.  By family groups I mean alpacas who are directly related to each other mother/daughter, sisters, even now some grandmother/grand daughters.  The more I watch the family groups the more I realize how bonded these groups become, how they enjoy each others company and have a relationship with each other that is different from the relationship they have with other alpacas in the herd.


Such a group is the Chai family, which consist of Chai and three of her daughters, Cinnamon, Shiimsa and Kaneka.  The Chai family has been taught by their matriarch (Chai) that humans are to be tolerated from a distance and that all food in the immediate area is really just for them, despite what the other alpacas think.  Not one of the Chai family is backward in coming forward when it comes to food.


When it comes to evening chore time, certain alpacas get an evening ration of alpaca pellets.  These are alpacas that have a greater nutritional need such as late term pregnant dams or growing weanlings.  Currently none of the Chai family falls under that category and so they are not on the list to receive evening pellets.


According to the Chai family though there must have been some mix up in the selection of alpacas who receive evening pellets.  They feel they should get extra pellets and that I am totally wrong to exclude them from the pellet feast.


Our alpaca girls are pretty well trained to head into their appropriate pen when it comes to feeding time.  Most of them are standing waiting in place when I walk in with the stack of bowls containing pellets.  I say most of them, because every night without fail, there, in the last pen to be fed, stand Cinnamon and Shiimsa.


Cinnamon and Shiimsa are clever girls, they don’t want to stand out and get noticed, so they stand nonchalantly looking around as if they are just meant to be there.


So every evening I go through the process of herding Cinnamon and Shiimsa out of the pen, except now they have called in reinforcements to help them with their quest – Chai and Kaneka!  As I herd Cinnamon and Shiimsa out, Shiimsa will hesitate in the gate just long enough to let Chai and Kaneka in, so for me it’s back to square one as I start to herd Chai and Kaneka out of the pen.  But wait, just as Chai is headed out, Shiimsa or Cinnamon will cause a distraction and then bingo, before I know it another member of the Chai family is back in the pen and that family member gets really sneaky and hides from view (there are 3 –4 other alpacas in the pen who are meant to be there and who provide good cover!).


I’m probably not describing this as well as I could, but the actions of the Chai family are more than just a casual attempt to remain in a pen with food, it is an organized effort to ensure that at least one of the Chai family outwits me!  Without fail, I just think that I have all of the Chai family out of the pen; I shut the gate and up pops a head from one of the Chai girls!


I am beginning to think that the Chai family are actually a highly skilled group of distraction artists, they remind me of the gypsy children in Italy who will surround you and distract you while one of them adeptly removes your wallet, or the distraction burglars who will knock on your door, keep you busy and distracted while another one of the team steals from your house.  The Chai family are skilled at their task and succeed in outwitting me most of the time!


I will keep insisting to the Chai family that they are not going to get evening pellets, and they, I am sure, will in turn insist that the evening pellets should be theirs!



October 11, 2008

What A Week That Was

Carina's Cria

Carina's Cria


First I would like to say a big thank you to all who emailed kind words or posted them to the blog following Beeper’s passing.  It means a lot to us to know there are so many caring people in the world.  Cinnamon has settled down, but still looks for her cria every now and then; only time can help her now.


I usually take a break from writing the blog a couple of times a week, but when you see a break for several days it’s a sign that something else is demanding my attention and that was the case this week.


Following Beepers death on Monday, we had happier news on Tuesday when Carina went into labor – a cria was about to make its entrance into the world, and what an entrance she made.


As we watched Carina in labor we started to get the feeling that all was not right with the delivery.  Carina had managed to deliver the crias head but after waiting a short while there was no sign of the crias feet.  I examined Carina and discovered that the cria had its front legs folded as if it was cushed.  There was no way that cria was coming out without some help.  I tried to get one leg free but could not get the cria back far enough to give me room to maneuver the leg, so we decided that it was time to call the vet.


Fortunately our vet was out headed to an appointment in Portales, which is South of us.  While he was able to get to us quickly it seemed like an eternity, during which time we tried to distract Carina to stop her from continuing to push.  Alpaca pellets, hay and soaked beet shreds were all employed but each would only distract her for a few seconds.  Carina’s body was telling her to push.


When our vet arrived he immediately went to work and was able to free the crias leg and deliver the cria.  By this time Ric was completely convinced that the cria was a boy, as the cria was large, but when we took a closer look we discovered that the cria was a girl.


When we had been deciding who to breed Carina to last year, Ric had pointed out that we didn’t own any daughters from our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent.  Regent’s daughters have all been sold or born to other alpaca owners.  Ric said he thought we should have at least one Regent daughter in our herd and so Carina was bred to Regent in the hopes that their breeding would result in a girl.  I don’t know what Ric said to Regent to make that happen but it worked for we did get a girl.


Following the birthing Carina was obviously sore and tired and initially the cria seemed vigorous, but as the day went on we realized that she too had soreness.  The crias neck was bent and we could feel a couple of the neck bones protruding – she needed a chiropractor!  When the cria tried to stand on her legs she was uncomfortable and her right shoulder turned in at an odd angle.  Poor thing must have been really squashed on her journey into the world.  The cria was also two weeks early, but was a healthy 17 lbs. and apart from her joint discomfort she seemed fully developed.


With such a sore dam and a sore cria we knew we would need to work to keep them both comfortable and to help the cria nurse.  Carina was put on arnica to help with the bruising and was also given some banamine to ease her pain.  We were reluctant to give the cria banamine until she at least had nursed some colostrum.  As long as the cria was cushed she seemed comfortable and so we put her on blanket to cushion her from the ground.


To get the cria to nurse we were able to put her in a cushed position on my knees and then raise her up until she could reach Carina’s udder.  The cria nursed heartily and so began a regimen of helping the cria nurse every hour by putting her on my knees and supporting her.  We also massaged the crias neck and shoulders, which she really enjoyed, particularly between her shoulder blades.  It was good to feel her muscles start to relax as we worked them and to see her doze off while being massaged.


Unfortunately Ric had to leave town the day after the cria was born and so my days and nights have been spent working to help the cria nurse and of course doing the routine chores.  It’s not the first time I have had to work such long days and nights and probably won’t be the last, but the reward for all of those hours of work is looking out in the pasture early Wednesday morning and seeing our new little girl taking some shaky steps followed by a little buck and a kick – progress!


I am happy to report that as of Friday the cria is now able to stand on her own to nurse, trots along beside Carina and still enjoys her massages.  The cria is still not quite up to joining Sleeper and Dutchesses cria in cria races, but she gets more active every day and will no doubt soon be joining in the fun.  Her neck is straightening out and her shoulder joint has returned to a normal position.  Carina too is a lot more comfortable now and has been able to come off the banamine and arnica, but we will be waiting until the spring to breed her back.  After such a traumatic birth some extra recuperation time will not do her any harm.


And as for me, on Friday night I was able to have my first full night of sleep since Beeper was taken ill, and I can assure you I had no trouble sleeping!



October 7, 2008

A Sad Start To The Week

Our Dear Beeper

Our Dear Beeper

Sadly on Monday morning Cinnamon’s cria Beeper died.  We became aware that Beeper was not well when I did my last late night check on the pregnant girls on Saturday evening.  As I checked that all of the girls were okay I notice that Beeper was trying to poop but nothing was passing.  I watched him for a while, the poor little guy was pushing really hard but nothing was coming out.


I went into the house and got Ric to help me give Beeper an enema.  Crias do sometimes get constipated, especially if their dams have rich milk as Cinnamon does, but generally I do not like to give crias enemas unless it is essential, and in Beepers case it was.  The enema did not seem to help and so we gave him another one, he passed a little watery poop but was obviously still uncomfortable.


All through the night I checked on Beeper, initially every 20 minutes and then every hour once he seemed to settle down for the night.  I gave him a dose of Rescue Remedy to help him relax and it did seem to bring him some relief.


Sunday morning we tried to call our vet only to discover he was out of town, so we called a different veterinary clinic and talked to the vet on call there.  That vet advised us that the best thing we could do was continue with the enema’s and also give Beeper some Karo syrup which would help draw fluid into his digestive tract.  The vet advised us to keep Beeper hydrated, but said to hold off using any Banamine if possible as he was worried that it might affect Beeper’s kidneys. 


All through Sunday we kept up the regimine the vet prescribed and did manage to get Beeper to pass a little poop so we were optimistic that things were going in the right direction, but by Sunday evening Beeper was becoming bloated and was in pain.  He would strain so hard that he would fall over in the process.  We gave Beeper some Banamine and it did help ease his pain, we spent another sleepless night checking on the little guy.


Monday morning we called our vet as soon as we got up and arranged to take Beeper to the clinic.  There our vet was able to withdraw some poop from Beeper, but said that he could feel a clump of it higher in the bowel.  To try and move the clump of poop Beeper received more enemas and also was tubed with a solution of mineral oil and Epsom Salts.  Poor Beeper was really stressed about the tubing, and it was hard to watch him gasping and stressed, he just could not get comfortable.  Our vet gave him some Banamine and some Dexamethasone.   While we were waiting for Beeper to pass something our vet explained to me that the area where the problem was is not a good area for surgery, it has a unique system of blood vessels and typically surgery in that area ends up in a bad result.  The only option was the tubing and enemas.  Beeper did strain a couple of times, but just a tiny bit of liquid poop came out.


As I watched Beeper I noticed that he was starting to get blue around his lips and nose, he had been getting up and down quite a bit and seemed to be finding it harder to get up.  As Beeper tried to stand up I went to lift him and he went limp, at that point we knew that Beeper was not going to make it and he passed away a minute or two later.


Although we had an idea of what Beeper’s problem was I asked the vet if he could do a necropsy to see if it would provide us with any clues as to why Beeper became so plugged up.


The necropsy revealed that Beepers intestine had ruptured, but the puzzling thing was that while there was some poop in his bowels it was not a huge amount and our vet felt that the enemas and tubing should have been able to move it.  The vet checked Beeper’s stomach and it was not overfull with fluid, so it doesn’t appear that the tubing caused any problem.  There was one thing that was significant though, Beepers bladder was huge.  It didn’t seem to be just filled with fluid but seemed to contain quite a bit of air too, it was about the size of a large mango, which in comparison to Beeper is way larger than it should have been.  Our vet checked for other obstructions in the bladder or surrounding area but found none.  We had seem Beeper urinate earlier that morning so it did not make sense that his bladder was so large.


Unfortunately this is one of those cases where there isn’t really a good explanation as to what happened to cause Beeper’s problem.  It could be that Cinnamon’s rich milk made Beeper’s poop hard to pass, but if that were the case surely the enema’s would have helped.  The place where the bowel ruptured was adjacent to the bladder and I have to wonder if Beeper’s real problem was with his bladder.  As his bladder became enlarged it pressed against the bowel preventing the poop from getting through.


Cinnamon was in the trailer with us the whole time the vet was working on Beeper.  As Cinnamon tends to be highly strung we had given her some Rescue Remedy before we left the house and had also put Velvet in the trailer as a companion for Cinnamon.  Velvet is very calm and did seem to help Cinnamon remain calm while Beeper was treated.


We all miss poor little Beeper, he was quite a character and was such a strong little thing, but the one who misses Beeper most is Cinnamon.  She has been sitting in the pasture crying for her baby.  Whenever Cinnamon sees Ric or myself she runs to the fence crying looking to see if we have Beeper.  Our vet had his technician remove Beeper from the trailer so that Cinnamon would not think I had taken him, but still she runs to Ric and I in the hopes that we will bring Beeper back.  Cinnamon has also checked out Keeva’s cria Sleeper and Dutchess’s cria to make sure they are not Beeper.   So our concern now is for Cinnamon, we don’t want her to become ill from the stress of losing her cria.  We have put her on some MSE drench for the next few days and will also give her more Rescue Remedy throughout each day to help her with her grieving.


You can never get used to losing a cria or watching a grieving dam, it’s a hard experience but one that you risk having if you are in the alpaca business.  You always hope it won’t happen but once in a while it does.  We’ll miss you Beeper, with your funny little hum and your larger than life personality – we’ll definitely miss you.



September 30, 2008

Just Protecting Her Baby


With crias being born and National Alpaca Farm Days the weekend was a busy one.  It was a nice change of pace on Monday to have nothing on the agenda past the usual chores, follow up phone calls and sorting through the mail.


The two new crias are doing well and showing good weight gain.  Keeva’s cria still sleeps more than Cinnamon’s cria but is starting to get up and play between her naps.


Cinnamon and Keeva were both born at our farm and so are pretty comfortable with their surroundings.  Keeva has always been quite sweet and approachable, while Cinnamon is more curious and a little wary of strangers who try and handle her.  Both girls are proving to be great dams, but have their differences in how they behave with their crias.


On Friday afternoon after Cinnamon had delivered her cria our neighbor Tracy came to visit.  Tracy had helped us catch Cinnamon when Cinnamon went on her great escape escapade (See blog entry “Cinnamon’s Great Escape“August 13, 2008).  Tracy was anxious to know that all was well with Cinnamon and her cria and I had promised to let her know when Cinnamon delivered her cria.  So on Friday afternoon Tracy came down to visit Cinnamon, bringing with her four children who she baby-sits.  The children have been to the farm before and know to be quiet and calm around the alpacas. 


We all went over to the catch pen where I had Cinnamon and her cria.  We always put our new dams and their crias in a catch pen to allow them to bond and to give the cria time to get steady on its feet before being introduced to the rest of the herd.  Once we were at the catch pen we all stood quietly outside and Cinnamon walked over to check out her visitors.  Cinnamon usually loves to check out visitors to the farm stretching out her neck to sniff them, but this time was different.  Having taken a look at the visitors Cinnamon tried to stomp on them through the fence!


I felt sorry for the children who were taken aback by Cinnamon’s behavior.  I explained to them that Cinnamon was protecting her new baby and suggested that we all leave her alone so as not to stress her any further.  Needless to say the children were quite happy to go and visit with Stormy one of the older crias who was much more receptive to visitors!


This was the first time we have experienced a dam who was that protective on our farm.  I had seen the behavior before at another alpaca farm, when a dam who had been imported from Chile was extremely protective of her cria, but our girls have always been fine with visitors up to now.


Cinnamon soon calmed down and went back to eating her hay; she is been fine with Ric or me being near her cria, but definitely gives visitors the wary eye.  Having seen what happened during Tracy’s visit we were careful to keep our weekend visitors at a distance from Cinnamon.  They were able to see Cinnamon and her cria, but we did not allow anyone to get to close to the area where they she was. 


I am sure in time Cinnamon will become more relaxed over her cria, she is after all brand new to the idea having a cria and I would much rather she be attentive and protective than not be at all concerned about her cria.  For now she is following instincts that have been passed on to her from previous generations of alpacas, and we have to respect those instincts.



September 29, 2008

When One Starts They All Start!

Keeva and her cria

Keeva and her cria





Cinnamon having her cria the day before National Alpaca Farm Days seemed to start the other pregnant dams thinking about birthing.


Saturday morning as I was telling Bethany, our teenage helper, our plans for the day, I looked across the pasture and could see something was different about Keeva.  Lying in the shade of our large blue shelter, with Carina (also due soon) next to her,  Keeva’s tail was making some funny movements – she was in labor.


Our cria kit was still in the front porch from Friday when Cinnamon delivered, so it was nice and handy, but my collection of towels and blankets that I use at alpaca births was still in the washing machine.  We made a quick raid on the towel cabinet before heading out to the pasture.  (Note – if you are planning on delivering crias at your alpaca farm a large collection of old blankets and towels is a good idea!)


By the time we got to Keeva she had the crias head presented, and shortly afterward two feet appeared.  The delivery went well and with a couple more contractions Keeva presented us with a beige, female cria.  This was such a difference from Keeva’s previous birthing when she had a terrible dystocia (badly presented cria) and had to have veterinary assistance, which ended up with us losing the cria.  This time all went smoothly for Keeva and Keeva was anxious to meet her new baby, sniffing and clucking at the birthing fluids on the ground before she fully delivered her cria.


Keeva’s little girl is about three weeks premature.  Keeva had been showing signs that she was not going to carry her cria to term (See blog entry Doing The Cria Dance, September 10, 2008) so we were not totally surprised at her early labor.  Fortunately the cria’s lungs are well developed and with the exception of her being quite sleepy and wobblier than a full term cria she is doing well.  Keeva’s cria is just a little thing weighing in at 13.3 lbs.  We did end up having to milk Keeva a couple of times and feeding the colostrum to her cria to get the cria started and give her a little strength, but by the early afternoon Keeva’s cria was able to get up on her own and nurse from Keeva without a problem.


Keeva's Cria Soaks Up Some Sun

Keeva's Cria Soaks Up Some Sun


Interestingly Keeva’s cria and Cinnamon’s cria are almost identical in looks.  If you part their fleece you can see that they have different fleece styles, but just looking at them in the pasture it is hard to tell them apart.  They do both have the same sire, Tobiano.  We were very careful to make sure that Cinnamon and Keeva recognized which cria was which once we put Keeva and her cria into the pasture for the rest of the day.


So our National Alpaca Farm Day visitors got to see a brand new cria and of course Cinnamons cria who had been born the day before.  They also got to see me looking a filthy mess from taking care of Keeva and her cria but they all understood. 


During the course of the day Carina also started to look uncomfortable, but she did not go into labor.  Probably just that uncomfortable day that alpaca dams have about two weeks before giving birth, which will put Carina close to her due date.  Dutchess is the next girl due to give birth, only time will tell if Cinnamon and Keeva have made her thoughts turn to delivering soon.



September 27, 2008

Just in Time For National Alpaca Farm Days

Cinnamon's New Cria

Cinnamon's new cria


Our first cria of the fall arrived yesterday at 12:35 pm.  Cinnamon delivered a healthy, vigorous beige boy who weighed in at 15.3 lbs.  Cinnamon’s cria is out of our dark male herdsire Tobiano, whose crias have all been in the 13 –15 lbs range so far.  They tend to be study little crias with broad chests and a very square frame and this little boy is no exception.


We had thought that the breeding of Cinnamon and Tobiano would produce color, but alpacas love to outwit us humans and Cinnamon and Tobiano combined gave us a beige cria.  Alpaca color genetics are so much fun!


Cinnamon’s little boy is a real character.  He tried to kick me when I dipped his naval, kicked out at Cinnamon when she sniffed him, was scratching his head with his hind leg before he could cush and boy can he talk!  He really is a chatty little fellow.  He was up on his feet looking good about an hour after being born, not wobbly at all, but steady and skipping around.  He also was hungry and took no time in finding Cinnamon’s udder, which had plenty of creamy colostrum.  I think the recent addition of a little alfalfa to our girls diet gave Cinnamon some help in the milk department, although Cinnamon’s dam Chai is an excellent milk producer and milk production does seem to be a heritable factor in alpacas as it is in other livestock species.


Cinnamon had a textbook delivery with no assistance required, she even took a break to chew her cud after the cria’s head and legs were delivered!  As I dried off Cinnamon’s cria, she stretched her neck out to me, looked me right in the eye and then planted a gentle alpaca kiss right on my forehead, what a sweet girl.


Although she is a maiden Cinnamon is proving to be an excellent mother, she is very attentive to her cria, humming to him and sniffing him and she stands stock still while he nurses from her.


So our visitors to our farm will have a special treat today as they see our new young man prancing round, checking out how fast his legs will carry him!  For this boy we are going to need a name that is full of spirit, vigor and character just like him!



September 25, 2008

Griffin Saves The Day – Well Almost…..

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, General, guard llamas, llama — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 6:49 am

Griffin checks out Kanika when she was a small cria

Griffin checks out Kanika when Kanika was a small cria


As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, our llama ladies do a good job of guarding our herd.  In the past they have alerted us to stray dogs on our property and have even alerted us to when one of the alpacas was having difficulty giving birth.  Having three guard llamas means that one of them is always “on duty” even during the night, and so they provide us with round the clock security coverage.


When the llamas alert us to something there are some stages they go through.  First they will stand very erect with their tails arched up and their ears pointing slightly forward, this posture makes them seem even bigger than they actually are.  While holding this position they can snort, dance around a little or pull their lips back, depending on how they feel about the threat, but their actions are noticeable and will get my attention.


From that position, the next step for the llamas is to alarm call.  If the alarm call is ineffective they will gradually approach the intruder and if that doesn’t make the intruder have second thoughts about being in the pasture the llamas will eventually charge the intruder and try and stomp on it.


The other day when I was doing evening chores, I became aware of Griffin our rose grey llama posturing and snorting by the fence line, letting me know that something was bothering her.  She was soon joined by Cinnamon, one of the alpacas, who stood beside Griffin looking off towards the boys pasture.


For a while I thought perhaps we had a stay dog on the property, but could not see anything from where I was and so decided to go to where Griffin stood to check out what was getting her attention.


Once closer to Griffin I still could not see what was bothering her, until I realized she wasn’t really look at the boys pasture but rather she was looking straight ahead of where she stood, and there on the ground was a huge tarantula!


By now Cinnamon’s curiosity was getting the better of her and she reached down to sniff the tarantula.  The tarantula was not keen on Cinnamon’s attention and started to get annoyed with her sniffing, I didn’t want Cinnamon getting bitten by the tarantula and so shooed her away from the area.


The tarantula was a beautiful specimen, black, brown, hairy and about 4 inches across.  I didn’t want to kill it, but I couldn’t allow it to stay in the girls pasture so I grabbed the rake that we use for poop scooping and lowered the handle down to the ground to allow the tarantula to climb onto the rake handle.  Once my passenger was on board I carried him out to an area away from the alpacas and set the broom handle down so he could get off and continue on his journey.


Griffin had done a good job letting me know about the tarantula’s presence, however she seemed to draw the line at chasing and stomping the tarantula and was quite happy for me to take over dealing with the large spider.  Perhaps if I had not been near she would have taken her guarding actions a step further, perhaps she was quietly thankful that I was there to take away the spider so she didn’t have to get any closer to it and perhaps the tarantula was grateful I was there too, to save him from being stomped by our protective llamas!

(And talking of llamas, there are many beautiful llamas awaiting adoption to loving homes at Southwest Llama Rescue.  If you feel you could give a good home to two or more llamas, please get in touch with Southwest Llama Rescue who will work with you to find you llamas that will suit your needs.  If you don’t feel that you want to adopt a llama you can always sponsor one or send in a donation.  With feed costs constantly rising and the economy causing an increase in surrendered llamas Southwest Llama Rescue would appreciate all donations no matter how big or small)


September 10, 2008

Doing The Cria Dance!

 With Mags and Song receiving bottles of milk three times a day, there are plenty of opportunities to keep an eye on our late term pregnancy girls.  Cinnamon, Clarissa, Carina and Keeva are all due in October or November. 


In theory Cinnamon should be the first to deliver, followed by Keeva and Carina (who were bred on the same day) and then Clarissa who is due in early November.  I say in theory as any alpaca breeder will tell you that the girls have their crias when they feel like it and not to our schedule or planned due dates!


I noticed a couple of days ago that Cinnamon has some udder development which is about right for her stage of pregnancy.  She is a maiden alpaca and so we need to be prepared for her having her cria a little early or a little late.  I also noticed though that Keeva has udder development, in fact she has much more of a developed udder with full teats and wax caps on her teats, but on paper her due date is October 20.


Keeva’s last cria (which was also her first) was born right around his due date, it may be as she has previously delivered a cria her udder will develop a little while out from her due date.  Some experienced dams do develop their udder early, but Keeva is about six weeks from her due date and the signs I am seeing make me suspicious.


Yesterday afternoon, as I fed Mags and Song I noticed Keeva sitting not far away.  As I watched her I could see the form of her cria pushing against the skin under her tail, doing what we sometimes refer to as the cria dance.  It is not unusual to see that type of movement in a late term dam, but usually it is in the last couple of the weeks of pregnancy.  Eventually Keeva tired of the cria’s movements and stood up.  She stretched and as she did so her tail lifted showing a very swollen vulva.  I watched her again as she waddled off and visited a poop pile, thinking that the swelling might change as she walked or after she had pooped, but it didn’t. 


So Keeva is now under close observation.  She did breed more than once so it is possible that the first breeding did take, or it may be for some reason she is going to deliver early.  Only time will tell, in the meantime while the cria is doing his or her dance inside Keeva, the crias actions are making me do a cria dance all of my own, as I glance out of the window to the girls pasture checking on Keeva every time I pass, and wander out to the pasture if Keeva appears to be cushed in what to me looks like a funny position.  I still get the feeling that Fall cria season could be earlier than we expect!



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