A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 28, 2009

One Paca Too Many

 

Sometimes things within the alpaca herd are a fine balance and the smallest of changes can upset that balance and cause problems.

 

Our herd pointed this out to us recently. 

 

When Marti, Orchid and Candytuft completed their quarantine period we allowed them to join the main female herd.  As usual there was much sniffing and checking out of the new additions to the herd.  We then had to figure out where Marti and Orchid were going to eat at feeding time, Candytuft at that time was not eating pellets and so we thought she would most likely go wherever Orchid went.  (Note:  Candytuft has since discovered the pellets and is now not at all shy about pushing her way into a feed bowl!).  Marti has stayed with us before and we felt confident that she would figure out a good place for her to eat.

 

Our custom at feeding time is to have the girls eat in pens in groups of similar need.  We group fast eaters together, slower eaters together, heavily pregnant girls together etc.

 

Orchid went in to eat with Chai, which worked out well as Orchid does not hold back when it comes to getting her share of the pellets and neither does Chai.  Marty started off eating with Orchid and Chai, but after a couple of days decided that she didn’t like that arrangement and instead went in with the eight dams of the fall crias.

 

We didn’t think too much about Marti’s move to a different pen.  The pen the eight girls feed in is a large one, certainly large enough to accommodate nine alpacas at feeding time – or so we thought.

 

A couple of days after Marti had moved to the bigger pen I noticed that Clarissa, who also eats in that pen, had a slight choke.  I made sure that Clarissa was okay and didn’t think too much more about it.  The next day though Clarissa started to choke again at feeding time, this time a bit harder. 

 

Choke in alpacas can be a serious problem; left unattended the choke can cause additional problems and can even result in the death of the alpaca.  Interestingly there is an article about an alpaca that died as a result of a choke situation in the latest edition of Alpacas Magazine.   The article is worth reading and explains the possible consequences of an unattended choke.

 

We were concerned that as Clarissa had choked two days in a row that she might have scratched or irritated her esophagus and so decided that we should feed her soaked feed for a couple of days.  To do this effectively we needed to put Clarissa in a pen on her own to eat, and so utilized a catch pen that we had available.  Clarissa enjoyed her soaked feed and did not choke again, but she also took really quickly to eating on her own in the catch pen.  By the second time of feeding her in that catch pen she ran over to it and was standing waiting for us as we arrived with her food bowl. 

 

Clarissa had not choked at all before Marti joined the feeding group, but apparently the addition of Marti to the group just tipped the dynamics and balance of that group enough to cause a problem.  As far as Clarissa was concerned Marti was just one paca too many.

 

Within a couple of days Clarissa was back to eating unsoaked feed without any problems with choking.  Marti and the other seven girls in her feeding group were getting along well and Clarissa was still running to the catch pen at every feeding time and so we decided to let that arrangement continue, with Clarissa now having what we refer to as “her own private dining area”.  Balance has been restored to the herd and everyone is once again happy.

 

Rosemary

October 20, 2008

Well Look Who’s Here!

 

Clarissa's Cria

Clarissa's Cria

 

 

 

Saturday morning as we were doing chores we noticed Clarissa walking a little stiffly.  Waddling around with her tail in the air it was apparent that she was in labor.

 

According to our records Clarissa wasn’t supposed to be having her cria until mid November so for her labor was about a month early.  All progressed well though with her labor and she delivered a little white male cria.

 

Clarissa’s cria was indeed little weighing in at only 11.9 lbs, the smallest we have had born on the farm to date, but apart from his small size he was healthy and strong.  He was soon sitting in a cushed position and then was trying to stand looking for Clarissa and wanting to nurse.

 

Once we had dried off the cria and made sure he was nursing well, we put him and Clarissa in a catch pen to give them time alone to bond.  With Clarissa and her cria settled we went back to our breeding records to check when Clarissa was bred.

 

Clarissa actually bred four times, once on October 27, once on November 10, once on November 20 and then again on December 2.  The first three breedings had been to our junior herdsire Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure and at that time Treasure did not have any confirmed pregnancies.  Having tried Clarissa and Treasure three times, apparently without success we then bred Clarissa to our herdsire Windrush Moonlight Surprise who is a proven herdsire.  Following Clarissa’s breeding to Moonie she had three behavior tests where she rejected the male and then was confirmed pregnant, so we were thinking that the breeding to Moonie was the successful one.

 

But now we have a cria, who really doesn’t look like Moonie, and apart from being small looks to be full term.  So the question is for this cria “Whose your Daddy”!  Is he a premature Moonie cria, or is he a small full term Treasure cria?  Well once we send in his blood card to the Alpaca Registry the DNA testing will reveal all, until then all we can do is guess.

 

At this point I am suspecting that our latest little boy is a Treasure cria; both Treasure and Clarissa are small which might explain the cria’s small size.  Moonie is a larger male and I feel that if the cria was over a month premature we would have some other indications that he was premature such as floppy ears, teeth not being emerged or being down in the pasterns.

 

Until we get the DNA results all we can do is speculate and be happy that we have a healthy but tiny cria (and he’s quite adorable too!).

 

Rosemary

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!

 

Rosemary

August 19, 2008

Ow Baby, That Hurts!

Clarissa, one of our alpaca dams is due to have her cria in the fall.  We have started to see the cria moving frequently and it seems to be an active little thing.

On Friday evening when I was doing chores I noticed that Clarissa was not getting up.  Instead of coming over to check out the hay wagon she stayed cushed in front of the shelter.  That is not normal behavior for Clarissa who is usually up and milling around with the others trying to get the first bite of the hay.

I went over to check on Clarissa and discovered why she was not getting up; her cria was kicking heavily, drumming out its own dance on Clarissa’s side.  Poor Clarissa, no wonder she was not getting up!  I left Clarissa alone, knowing that in a while, once the cria had settled down, she would get up and join the other girls at the hayracks.

Clarissa did get up and was soon eating as normal.

During our Saturday morning feeding Clarissa again had a problem, she choked on her feed while eating.  A choking alpaca can be a serious situation, and is something that should not be left unattended.  Sometimes the attention needed is just some close observation, other times more intervention is needed.  One important thing to remember though is to try and keep the choking alpaca calm.  If the alpaca is calm it will be easier for him or her to relax allowing the blockage to clear the throat.  If the alpaca is stressed the muscles around the throat will tense and make it more difficult for the blockage to move.

Fortunately our feed is designed to dissolve should it become stuck in an alpaca’s throat.  It’s not a pretty sight, as the alpaca will regurgitate a green foamy mess as it clears the blockage, but better that than a choking alpaca.

We kept Clarissa under observation during the day and she seemed to improve and eventually joined the other alpacas eating hay.  In the evening though she started to cough and choke again.

By this time I was becoming concerned about Clarissa and wondering what effect all of this choking and coughing might have on her cria.  She seemed to be moving the blockage but was obviously still not feeling herself.  I gave her a large dose of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which did seem to help her relax a little, but by the early hours of Sunday morning Clarissa was still having intermittent choking spasms.  By this time she didn’t appear to actually have anything blocking her throat, rather her throat was now irritated and possibly sore.

We decided to give Clarissa some Banamine to help her relax further and to maybe take away the soreness and irritation to her throat.  About 30 minutes after having the Banamine Clarissa seemed a lot better and we decided it was okay for us to call it a night.

 

A bad choke can cause irritation to the throat, and once you get irritation there it can lead to further choking as food comes in contact with the irritated area.  We didn’t want Clarissa to have another day of choking and so on Sunday morning we soaked her feed along with some beet pulp shreds and once everything was nice and soft we fed the mixture to Clarissa in a pen by herself.  We wanted to make sure Clarissa got all of the feed she wanted and make sure Clarissa could eat in peace without being challenged over her food by her usual pen mates.  Clarissa ate well with no further choking episodes, but just to be on the safe side I left her penned up for a while with a bucket of hay so she could continue to eat in peace.  Clarissa also got a dose of the MSE drench to help her digestive system to continue to function normally.

Once Clarissa had a good feed I allowed her out of the pen to rejoin the rest of the herd eating hay.  For the rest of the day Clarissa did well, she was a little less active than normal and I went out to check on her frequently only to discover she now had hiccups!  Poor Clarissa, what a time she was having.

This is not the first time Clarissa has had hiccups, and her previous bouts of hiccups have been at the same stage of pregnancy.  One time she had hiccups for three days in a row, which seemed to concern us more than her.  This makes me wonder if there is a connection with her stage of pregnancy and her choking and hiccupping.  Perhaps her cria is pushing on something and having an effect on Clarissa’s ability to breath normally and pass food into her stomach compartments.

Another large dose of Rescue Remedy seemed to do the trick for Clarissa’s hiccups and by the evening feed she was pretty much back to her usual self.  We will continue to soak her feed and feed her separately for the next week or so, we don’t want to risk another irritation to her system.  We will also hope that Clarissa’s cria will settle down for a while and stop doing whatever he or she is doing to cause Clarissa such discomfort.  I’m betting that cria will be quite the character when it is born and from the way it was kicking the other night quite the runner too!

Rosemary

July 16, 2008

Well Isn’t That Pretty

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

The last couple of days I have been busy preparing a couple of fleeces for the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) Continental Fleece Show which is to be held in Denver, Colorado on August 2 and 3.

 

I enjoy entering the AFCNA Show, it is a big show with good competition and included in the price of the entry fee is a DVD of all of the seminars given at the show, plus the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces for each class.  It is so nice to “take part” in the seminars at your leisure at home, how many seminars have you attended in the past where you later wish you could repeat or re-hear part or all of the seminar.  Well with the AFCNA show seminars being recorded and sent out on DVD after the show you can repeat all or part of the seminar as you need.   It is also great to see the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces, especially if your fleece is one of those winners; it gives you feedback which is accessible time and again.    My experience at shows is that usually you are so busy with the show itself that you do not get time to attend the seminars, if you are showing alpacas and win you hear the judges comments at the time of your class, but it is so easy to forget the exact words used and sometimes the PA system at the show grounds means that all you hear is a garbled noise.  With the AFCNA show the judges comments are available to you at your convenience – isn’t that a nice luxury.

 

I am sending in the fleeces of our young male Windrush White Blast, who is out of our dam Clarissa and a herdsire from Texas called FRA Lucero.  I have been really pleased with Blast and when we sheared him his fleece was so beautiful I knew it was a definite candidate for a show.  No doubt Blast’s fleece will be in a large highly competitive class, but I feel it is good enough to stand up to the competition.  Just look at it in the picture at the beginning of this blog entry, it is beautiful, bright and shiny with a consistent high frequency crimp – such a pretty fleece and I am sure it will catch the judges attention.

 

Also being sent off to the show is the fleece from our young female Windrush Zindel’s Velvet Princess.  Velvet is the first offspring from our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel and she has a unique velvety handle to her fleece.  Velvet’s fleece has a higher frequency crimp than Blast’s but lower amplitude of crimp.  Two very different fleece styles but each beautiful in its own right.

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

 

So I will finish preparing the fleeces and send them on their way to the show later this week.  Fingers crossed they will win some nice ribbons, and even if they don’t at least I will get some education and fun from watching the show DVD’s.

 

Rosemary

January 17, 2008

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:43 am

Well the cold air arrived as promised and yesterday was spent making sure that all animals would be as comfortable as possible during the cold snap.  The llama pillows are firmly wrapped around the faucets and hopefully we will have working faucets outside this morning.  An overnight low of 7 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind-chill taking the temperature down to minus one is a little bit of an insulation challenge though!

As the air cooled off yesterday (helped of course by the usual 26 mph sustained winds!) I watched the alpacas as they figured out the best way to stay warm and out of the wind.  I put most of the hay inside the shelters to encourage them to go inside, but they do so love to be outside and several of them stayed out until all of the hay in the outside feeders was gone.

The alpacas and llamas are pretty smart when it comes to figuring out which side of the shelter provides the best protection from the wind and when I ventured outside I checked the areas that they were cushed in and it wasn’t too bad.

During the late afternoon I looked out and saw Clarissa and Willow, her cria of two years ago both cushed in the pasture.  Typically Clarissa and Willow don’t hang out too much together, unlike Bjorn’s family who are almost glued to each other’s side.  Today though there were mother and daughter cushed fairly close together.  Not only were they cushed together but also each one had her head down and turned to one side in exactly the same manner.  They looked like a couple of bookends.  I went to get my camera to snap the shot, but as I closed the door on my way out to take the picture the click of the door caused Clarissa to raise her head and the moment was gone.

I’m still trying to figure out a way to have my camera with me and ready to work all the time, no success on that puzzle yet though.

I am betting that Clarissa and Willow spent much more time together last night as the alpacas all cushed together for the evening.  When the group all cushes together it is amazing how much heat they generate.  Today it is supposed to get up to all of 30 degrees for our daytime high; if it gets any warmer I will have to look out my shorts! 

Rosemary

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