A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 6, 2008

Time for the Winds of Change


It seemed appropriate that yesterday, November 5, 2008 the wind blew hard for most of the day.     The election results of November 4 told the world that many in the US are ready for change and it really felt as if the winds of change had physically reached the high plains of New Mexico by Wednesday morning.


The alpacas, of course, are not at all concerned with elections or politics; they instead put their attention to chasing the leaves that blew across the pasture.  For some the leaves were even more enticing than their morning ration of grain and I had to go and show them their food bowls before they would take their attention away from their leaf eating quest.


During the day the temperature was still in the 60’s and the crias took to cushing in the straw and sunning themselves while they were low enough to the ground to avoid the wind.


The fall crias are all developing their individual personalities. Sleeper (Keeva’s cria) still lives up to her name and can usually be found stretched out in a relaxed pose, when not sleeping though she has developed quite the appetite for hay and will let you know her displeasure if you try and move her away from her food.  Chandra (Carina’s cria) can usually be found close to Sleeper, although does not sleep as much as her buddy.  Chandra loves to come up and enquire as to what you are doing, tipping her head to one side and giving you a quizzical hum.   Nochi (Glow’s cria) is a little live wire, zipping across the pasture usually with a buck or a kick thrown in to the mix, she has to check out everything that is going on and often gets into mischief.  Little Man (Clarissa’s cria – not his registered name but that is the name that has stuck for now) is a quiet but determined little guy.  He might be small but he is sturdy and enjoys instigating some of the cria play, usually with Evelyn who is closest to his size.  Evelyn  (Essie’s cria) has just the sweetest of personalities, coming up to you to offer you cria kisses, calmly enjoying her neck being stroked and nuzzling you for attention.  Then there is Atlanticus, who always walks around the pasture with a purposeful attitude, almost as if he has tasks to complete during his cria day – but if he loses sight of his dam he lets out the most heart wrenching cries (I guess he’s really a sensitive boy at heart).  Finally there is Nazca (Kimmie’s cria) the last to be born and already growing like a weed.  Nazca enjoys sitting in the sunshine with a regal air about him, he’s still figuring out the other crias but has already started to join in the evening cria races, usually running side by side to Little Man and Evelyn.


By the time the sun set yesterday, the wind was still blowing at 26 mph with gusts up to 40 mph and with the sun’s disappearance the temperature dropped rapidly.  Time to bundle up the crias in their cria coats with the three smallest crias (Little Man, Evelyn and Nazca) and their dams being moved to the stall in the big shelter to give them some extra protection for the night.  With nighttime temperatures being predicted to be in the 20’s it seems as if winter is starting to head this way.  We have been spoiled recently with a beautiful Indian summer but it seems as if the winds of change are bringing in more seasonal and colder days – oh well, it was nice while it lasted and before we know it spring will be headed our way.



October 28, 2008

Paca Jammies!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Cria Care, Crias, General — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 6:25 am

Clarissa's Boy Wearing His Paca Jammies

Clarissa's Boy Wearing His Paca Jammies


With the last few evenings having temperatures in the 30’s I have been putting the three smallest crias and their dams in a sheltered stall overnight.  The first night the dams were not at all impressed, they did lots of humming and poked their heads through the stall panels.  Once I made the situation more appealing by adding a little alfalfa to their hay feeder the dams decided that it was not really that bad of a deal and have got into the routine of being taken over to the stall every night.


The crias love to bed down in the straw in the stall, and their cria coats give them some added warmth.  When I check on them through the evening I can feel that their little bodies are warm under their coats, which is exactly what I want.


Clarissa’s cria has had a slow start with his weight gain and so has been the cria that I have been most worried about keeping warm.  He just doesn’t have any extra calories to waste on shivering and trying to keep warm.    I had a little dog coat that I put on him in addition to his cria coat, and while I could get it on it wasn’t the best fit.


Regina Dart had suggested to me that I try a children’s sweatshirt on Clarissa’s little man to see if that would help.  I had mentioned this to my neighbor Darlene, who has been dropping by to check up on me and help with the chores when she can while Ric is away.


On Sunday Darlene invited me to her house for Belgian Waffles (and very nice they were too), once we had finished eating Darlene told me that we had a project to do.  She then produced a small hooded zip up sweatshirt with a soft fleece lining – an extra coat for Clarissa’s little man.  Darlene cut the hood and the labels off the sweatshirt and we tried it on Clarissa’s cria – it fit’s!


The sweatshirt doesn’t unzip completely so you have to be a little crafty about getting the crias back legs through, but once that part is done it is quite easy to manipulate the crias front legs into the sleeves of the sweatshirt and behold – Paca Jammies!


The extra effort to keep Clarissa’s cria warm is also paying off as he is showing more regular weight gain and now starting to act like a cria should, with some bucking and kicking and running around the pasture.  


I am not really one for dressing up my pets (I believe that my dogs have fur for warmth and don’t really need the addition of any doggie clothes), but I have to admit that Clarissa’s little boy looks incredibly cute in his new outfit – what do you think?




October 13, 2008

What No Cria?

Filed under: alpaca, alpaca behavior, alpaca behaviour, Alpacas, camelids, Cria Care, Crias, General — Tags: , — alpacalady @ 6:11 am

A Cria Coat Abandoned By It's Wearer

A Cria Coat Abandoned By It's Wearer

The rain continues to fall and while the weather forecast was for “showers” we are receiving heavy downpours day and night (and even a tornado watch on Saturday evening).  Our alpacas are somewhat soggy but the winter wheat is drinking up the moisture, and the alpacas will get to enjoy that in time.


Saturday’s game of cria “Jack In the Box” calmed down a little when after several hours of hard rain the crias started to realize that perhaps the dry of the shelter was quite inviting.  But of course crias are young and love to play and soon a new game was invented by the crias to keep themselves amused during the rain.  The new game was “remove the cria coat”.


Carina’s cria seemed to keep herself out of the new caper for the most part (although even she had her cria coat removed at one point on Sunday morning), but Sleeper and Dutchesses cria had endless fun removing each other’s cria coats throughout the day.  My pasture visits to check on the crias usually resulted in my finding at least one cria coat abandoned in the middle of the pasture.  On one visit I found two cria coats lying on the ground side by side, I could just imagine the two culprits working with their lips at the Velcro straps on the coats and then tugging the coats to the ground.  Yet surprisingly, despite the numerous times the coats were removed I never once caught them in the act of pulling the coats off.


I did find Sleeper at one point playing with her coat as it lay on the ground, creeping up to it, sticking her nose on it and then dashing off at top speed as if she had just carried out a brave dare.


I guess when it’s a rainy day even crias get bored and need to find something to amuse themselves.  With more rain forecast for the next two days I wonder what game they will come up with next?!




October 12, 2008

Wet Weather Jack In The Boxes

Yesterday we were treated to some heavy moisture as a result of Hurricane Norbert coming in over California.  It’s amazing to think that weather in California could affect our weather in New Mexico, but on this occasion it did.  The day started off with some heavy showers in the morning the rain became heavier and steadier rain as the day went on.


With three young cria in the pasture I wanted to make sure they stayed as dry as possible.  Sometimes a crias dam will get comfortable sitting out in the pasture during a heavy rain and there beside her will be her soaking wet cria.  I know that alpacas are pasture animals and a little rain will not hurt them, but I hate the thought of a young cria getting soaked to the skin and then becoming cold and possibly chilled as the evening draws in.


In preparation for the weather I had some cria coats ready.  Carina’s cria has been wearing a cria coat at night since she was born, but Sleeper and Dutchesses cria were not used to wearing cria coats.  As soon as it started to sprinkle with rain I went out and put the coats on the crias.  Once a cria is wet it can do more harm than good to put a coat on over their wet fleece so I wanted to get the coats on the crias before they became wet.


Throughout the day I would check on the crias.  At one point when there was a break in the rain, Dutchesses cria suddenly appeared without his cria coat on.  He was running and kicking his little legs up in the air as if to say, “I’m free, I’ve got it off” and there in the pasture lay his cria coat.  I went out and put the cria coat back on, much to the little guy’s disgust.  He’s a macho young man and I think the idea of having to wear a cria coat was not macho enough for him!


Whenever the rain started to increase I would look out to check that the crias were inside the shelter and quite often they were not.  Their dams were all taking shelter but the three little ones would be sitting out in the pasture cushed in the rain.  So out I would go and put the crias back in the shelter, where they would stay either until the rain eased or until they felt it was a good time to run outside again.  I seemed to spend most of my afternoon running out, gathering up crias and putting them back in the shelter, only to find they had popped back out again a short while later.  It was like trying to keep the lid on three very active Jack in the Boxes!


For most of the year our three sided shelters are great for our weather, but on a day like yesterday it would have been lovely to have a barn I could have penned the crias and their dams in.  Still this amount of rainfall is a rare occurrence in our area and our alpacas much prefer to be out than in, so it is hard to justify building a large enclosed barn to be used just a few times a year.


I am not sure that the crias found their trips in and out of the barn fun, but towards the end of the day I did start to wonder if I was the victim of a mischievous alpaca game, as the little ones tried to see how often and how fast they could get me to come out of the house to put them back into the shelter!



November 26, 2007

Do I have to wear my coat Mom?

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 7:21 am

Kanika Wearing Her Cria CoatWith the temperatures being so low over the last few days we decided to keep Kanika’s cria coat on her both during the day and at night.  Kanika is now over 27 lbs. in weight and the cria coat barely fits her, but we felt it was important that she have some extra protection from the cold.  We did take her coat of for an hour or so on Saturday but she quickly started to shiver and so back on the coat went.  Kanika is pretty good about wearing her coat, but as she gets bigger and stronger it gets more challenging to catch her to get the coat on.

So how do you know it’s time for a cria to stop wearing it’s cria coat.  Well it depends on several things and really is a matter of common sense.  If the cria is below 30 lbs. and the temperature is dropping down into the 30’s over night you probably need to be putting a cria coat on him or her.  Sometimes it is hard to see if a little cria is shivering and you may actually have to pick him or her up to be able to feel if the cria is shivering.  If the cria is one that has been sickly or slow to gain weight you would want to consider leaving the cria coat on and help prevent the cria from burning off extra calories.  Of course is the cria is one that is “at risk” you probably want to keep him or her inside a shelter or barn with their dam and maybe one or two other companion alpacas.

One thing to beware of is putting a cria coat on a damp or wet cria.  That can make things worse rather than better.  If your cria is damp or wet you need to try and get them to somewhere that is sheltered and dry where they can dry off either on their own or with assistance from you.  Usually alpacas fiber is only wet the top surface, if you part it the fiber is dry close to the skin, so blotting with a dry towel and gentle blow drying is usually sufficient to dry off that top layer.

Cria’s are not the only ones who need extra protection from the cold, older or thinner alpacas who may also feel the effects of severe cold.  Those alpacas may need to be kept in the barn or shelter overnight, or may need a coat of their own to wear.  We have only ever had one adult alpaca that needed to wear a coat, but it definitely helped her on those cold winter nights.

There are various places where you can buy cria coats, Useful llama Items and Quality Llama are just a couple of places that specialize in alpaca supplies.  We now make our own cria coats, we have figured out a pattern for them and adapt it to the size we need (it also can make a pretty good dog coat too).

Hopefully today will live up to it’s promised forecast of being warmer and Kanika can have her coat off at least for the day time.  Whether her coat is on or off she is always the instigator of the cria races these days, it’s her own instinctual way of keeping warm and a lot more fun than wearing a coat!


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