A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 22, 2009

Guess the Weight of the Cria



McKinley - He's heavier than he looks



If we had been playing that game at the weekend we would have lost!  As part of our routine we had scheduled to weigh Whisper and McKinley.  Whisper was born August 31 with a birth weight of 14.7 lbs, while McKinley was born September 5 with a birth weight of 19.1 lbs.

McKinley is quite a tall cria and Whisper is just the opposite small and compact.  They were the last of the summer crias to be born and are very close in age.  With the exception of Theresa’s cria, the latest cria to be born on our farm, McKinley and Whisper are the two smallest crias of our summer cria crop.

When Ric picked up McKinley it was obvious from Ric’s face that McKinley was a little heavier than expected.  Ric valiantly carried him to the scales and back, but by the time he got to the pasture gate he was calling out “help me” for McKinley indeed was no light weight having weighed in at 54.5 lbs.

Next to go to the scales was Whisper – surely she weighed a lot less.  Were we in for a surprise!  Again as Ric picked up Whisper his face showed the strain (is Ric really getting out of shape I began to wonder, no more Open Farm Day cookies for him!), but Ric had good cause to be taken aback by Whisper’s weight for she weighed in at 58.7 lbs!  She weighed even more than McKinley!



Little Whisper - only she is not that little anymore!




We have been raising alpacas now for over 10 years and so usually are pretty in tune with how much a cria weighs based on its size, but these two really have surprised us for they do not look that big.  Both McKinley and Whisper have dense fleeces though and I suspect that some of that weight is fleece weight.    Whatever the reason for McKinley and Whisper’s weights, I think it is safe to say that they are both healthy, hearty crias and that their dams Bjorn and Willow are doing a great job in the milk department!  Keep up the good work girls (and stay away from those cookies Ric!)



July 2, 2008

The cria workout is almost over

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, Cria Care, Crias, General — Tags: , — alpacalady @ 6:29 am

Since our first cria of the spring was born we have been undergoing a daily workout, carrying each one to our scales to be weighed.


In an ideal world we would have a set of scales in the girls pasture so that we would not have to carry the crias at all and could just gently herd them onto the scales.  But for now the only place we can have our scales is in another barn and so we end up carrying the crias to the scales.


When a cria is born we weigh it daily until it reaches 25 lb.  A crias weight gain or loss can tell you a lot about the health of a cria, and can give you an early red flag that the cria might be experiencing a problem.  If the cria’s dam is a maiden the crias weight can also reflect how good of a milk producer the dam is.  For the first day or so we take the dams with the cria to the scales, which is less stressful on both the dam and the cria.  After that we weigh the crias while the dams are still eating their morning ration and are too distracted to notice where their crias are.


Once the crias weigh 25 lbs. we go to weighing them every other day, once they reach 30 lbs, we weigh them once a week.  Typically once the crias weigh 30 lbs.  their growth rate slows down a little.  By the time the crias weigh 35 lbs. are arms are getting tired and we then weigh the crias once a month.


With eight crias being born this year the task of weighing the crias has been quite a workout.  For the most part the crias are quite relaxed and still as we carry them to the scales, having got used to the process since the day they were born.  Once in a while we will get one who gets a little restless, especially if the other crias are busy playing as the cria being weighed wants to join in.


Now nearly all of our crias are over the 30 lb. mark and our daily workout is diminishing, which is a good thing.   It means our crias have all reached healthy weights and it means one less thing to do during morning chores!



January 22, 2008

Zeus’s Weight Gain – What We Did

Zeus On Camera

Several people have contacted me regarding Zeus’s weight gain and how we accomplished some success with him.  Leigh Thomas kindly made a comment to the blog asking the same question and so I thought it might be helpful to write a little about what we did for Zeus.

First off I have to say that any time you have an alpaca that is causing you concern it is best to consult with your veterinarian and gain his or her expert opinion.  We had spoke to our veterinarian about Zeus and he was of the opinion that the main factor in Zeus’s erratic weight gain was a maiden dam that had low milk production.  Sometimes this will happen with a maiden dam, it does not necessarily mean that they will always be this way.  Often on the next pregnancy their milk production will be greatly increased and their next cria will gain weight without a problem.  There are some dams though that are poor milk producers and always remain so despite the breeder’s best efforts, one has to question whether those dams should continue to be bred.   Milk production can be a heritable trait and so that dam may go on to continually produce female cria that themselves have a difficult time producing milk.  Fortunately poor milk producing dams are the exception rather than the norm.

Something else to consider is testing the crias thyroid function.  That was going to be our next step with Zeus if he had not started to show a better growth rate.  A thyroid imbalance will often cause a cria to be slow to gain weight.  Typically those crias that do have a thyroid problem exhibit low energy levels, but not always to the point where it causes the breeder concern.  I remember one young male alpaca that came here for boarding who was extremely undersized for his age; his owners had thought that he was just a quiet alpaca who was slow to grow.  We body scored the alpaca and he body scored around 3 out of 10, he was most definitely thin.  With his owners consent we ran a thyroid test on the alpaca and the results revealed that his thyroid was under active.  In humans an under active thyroid often results in weight gain, but this is not usually the case in alpacas.  We started the alpaca on a thyroid treatment and within a short time he gained weight and within a couple of months we were able to take him off the medicine.  He has been fine ever since.  This particular alpaca also had crusting around his nose and mouth that we think was related to his thyroid condition.  We cleaned the crusting daily with a diluted tea tree oil solution and over time as the alpacas thyroid came into balance so the crusting stopped.

But back to what we did for Zeus.  I really believe it was a combination of things that helped Zeus get back on track.  First we are fortunate enough that one of our other dams, Carina, allowed Zeus to nurse from her alongside her own cria Carissima.  As long as Carina was distracted by a large bucket of hay she was happy to let Zeus nurse.  We made sure that Zeus, his dam Zoie, Carina and Carissima all went into pen together twice a day to allow Zeus two good nursing sessions from Carina.  Interestingly I caught Zeus nursing from Carina again the other day, she was busy eating at one of the hay feeders, but on seeing her Zeus perked up his ears ran over and started nursing from her.  We are also blessed with a nursemaid llama, Inca, who will come into milk on occasion and let crias nurse off her.  Zeus did nurse of Inca although of late that seems to have stopped.

The other thing we did was to ensure that Zoie got additional nutrition to help increase her milk production.  We added some alfalfa hay to her diet and also some calf manna.   As Zeus grew we waited for him to show interest in Zoie’s feed and then gradually introduced him to eating calf manna too.  You have to be careful about certain grains and young crias as you can cause digestive problems if a cria starts to eat grain at too early of an age.  However we had used calf manna before on our vets recommendation, he feels that it is easier to digest than some of the other feeds available and so is less likely to cause problems in crias.

The brand of calf manna we use is Manna Pro.  It is a brand that has been around for many years and is used for many species of livestock.  I like Manna Pro because it has some ingredients in it that just make sense to be used in a situation such as Zeus’s. 

Manna Pro has Brewers Yeast in it which helps with digestion of the calf manna, but also Brewers Yeast can have a positive effect on milk production.  Two herbal ingredients of Manna Pro are Fenugreek and Anise Oil.  Both Fenugreek and Anise are ingredients that I use in the herbal lactation stimulant that I make up for my expectant dams (we feed the herbal lactation stimulant two weeks prior to birthing and for two weeks post birthing).  The Manna Pro Calf Manna also contains Vitamin A supplement, VitaminD supplement, Vitamin E supplement and Vitamin B12 – all vitamins that are used to help encourage good growth.   Linseed Meal is another ingredient that is in the Calf Manna and which is helpful to good growth and overall condition. 

The Calf Manna runs about 25% protein, which is a high protein level for alpacas.  Certainly I would not feed it to the whole herd, but for those who are struggling to keep weight on or for dams that are low milk producers it can be a good choice.  The other caution I have about feeding calf manna to alpacas is the copper levels, which may be a bit high for alpacas.  Feeding it short term should not be a problem but I would not suggest using it long term as an alpaca’s regular daily feed.

Finally I think it is important with young crias to make sure they are getting adequate access to hay or grazing.  Very young crias of course do not graze or eat hay, but as they age you will see them starting to nibble at the grass or walking around with a piece of hay in their mouth.  Once crias have started to nibble on hay or grass do make sure that there have somewhere that they can have access to hay without the adults being able to jostle them out of the way.  Some breeders use a creep feeder, which enables the crias to go in and out of an area of the pasture, but blocks the adult alpacas from entering.  We use our “cria club” a pen where the crias go in the morning and evening while the adults are receiving their feed.  The cria club is for crias only and allows them to have some time with a hay feeder and, once they are old enough, a tray of pellet supplement.  Here they can eat in peace without being threatened or shoved out of the way.  The cria club is also an excellent place to introduce crias to being handled and halter training.

Having a slow growing cria can be a very frustrating and worrying experience.  Crias can crash rapidly, which, of course, is the last thing any alpaca breeder wants.  With your vet’s input and your persistence and good management crias can be helped to get over the stumbling block of slow initial growth.


January 21, 2008

A Few Updates

For those of you who have been following the blog on a regular basis you might be wondering on the progress of some of the animals on the farm that have been mentioned in previous blog entries.  For the most part the news is good, and I thought you would like to hear how everyone is doing.

First I will start off with Zoie’s cria Zeus who was having such a tough time gaining weight during his first few months.  I am happy to report that Zeus is doing really well, he has started to show better weight gain and is turning out to be a good looking boy with lots of fleece.  He is still compact in frame, but his sire has a compact body shape and so that probably has a lot to do with Zeus’s frame style.  Zeus is starting to develop the same heavy bone as his sire too and I suspect he is going to be quite the stud when he matures!  (He thinks he has already matured and frequently tries his hand at trying to convince the girls he is ready for a date!)

Our girl Chai still is not 100%, she eats well and her energy levels are good but despite gaining back about 20 lbs of the weight she lost she sill has a gaunt appearance.  Her milk production has increased and her cria Kanika is a little mischief and doing well.  We drew blood from her yesterday (thank you to Bob Dart from Llano Soleado Alpacas for coming out on a cold morning to do that for us) and will see what her blood levels show this time around.  Chai has been off antibiotics for a little while now and hopefully her white blood cell count will have stabilized.  When we ran a fecal test on Chai she showed the lowest of levels of parasites but our vet advised us to worm her anyway.  Chai seemed to gain weight once we wormed her and I am going to worm her again to see how she responds this time.  As I mentioned in an entry the other day Chai has experienced a return of the facial abscess that we thought had cleared up, something that indicates to me that perhaps her immune system is not quite up to par.  Chai doesn’t seem to think she has a problem though and is first in line for food and eager to eat hay.  She has even started “arguing” with the other girls if they try to steal her spot at the hayrack.

Blast, Velvet, Athena and Shiimsa have made excellent progress with their halter training and day weaning.  We will be completing the final stages of weaning in the next week or so and preparing them for their first trip away from home (with the exception of Shiimsa who has been to a show before).

On the “pet” side of things, Toby the Pomeranian has continued to make excellent progress in his recovery from his vaccine reaction.  His medication has again been reduced and we are down to visiting the vet only every other week, however recent blood tests have shown that so far Toby is still not producing enough red blood cells.  The vet is hopeful that the reduction in medication may help that situation.  Toby has gained weight and is almost back to his old self, but does tend to be a little grumpier and is most likely more spoiled than he was before (is that possible I ask!).

Snuggler the barn cat has decided that he still enjoys time outside with his barn cat buddies.  He is completely recovered from his injuries and spends most of his time outside, but has figured out that he can get food in the house in the morning and then food down at the barn as well.  He often stays out overnight, something that causes me concern as I am not 100% sure that the dog that has been killing our cats and which injured Snuggler is not still paying us visits at night.  I must say that I have been surprised that during this cold snap that Snuggler has chosen to stay out in the cold rather than to stay in the warm house at night.   There have been a couple of nights that Snuggler has graced us with his presence but most nights he wants to be out and with his friends.

And finally there is Bandit the dog who is still with us.  We did have one family contact us about Bandit but unfortunately they did not follow up on their enquiry about him.  Bandit does not seem too concerned and enjoys his twice daily walks.  He loves to fetch a ball and has figured out where all the water sources on the property are – something that is a necessity to him as he still thinks it is fun to turn over his water bowl and then throw it up in the air for fun!  Bandit has a set routine on his walk when he takes off to visit Missy and Tripster the two dogs in the back yard, he then diverts over to see Sandie our other dog who has her own side yard (she doesn’t play well with others).  Once the visits are over Bandit gallops back to me at breakneck speed and then sits and waits for the reward of a dog biscuit.  We are still trying to find Bandit a good home and the pressure is now on to rehouse him as he is currently staying in the livestock trailer which we will need to use for the show in February.

As time goes by the girls in the alpaca herd are looking more pregnant each day, its hard to believe that in a few months we will be in cria season with more “little zippers” cavorting around the pasture – and hopefully warmer weather too!


November 21, 2007

Progress Report

Well something seems to be working!  After three days of little Zeus not gaining weight at all he gained a whole pound yesterday.  This is the biggest single gain yet for the little guy and makes me optimistic that as he transitions to eating more hay and pellets he will start to show a better growth rate.  So what caused this good gain, well I did give him 5cc of the MSE drench, and in addition to that I have started putting him and little Kanika in a pen for a while with some good hay and some calf manna.  Kanika is too young to be interested in the calf manna, but she enjoys the hay and keeps Zeus company.  Zeus is happy to have some time where he can eat without being challenged by the other crias.  Now we just have to see if we can get him to gain weight well on a regular basis.  Fingers crossed he will show another good gain today when we weigh him.

Chai is also making good progress, her second set of blood work showed that she was still fighting an infection so back on the antibiotics she went.  She has already gained weight and is starting to look a lot better.  In addition her facial abscess is now healed, there is some scarring but over time that will fade, and the All Species Poultice really helped draw all of the pus out of the abscess and keep the surrounding tissue healthy.

Our dear dog Toby has made some minor progress too.  We had more blood work run on him on Monday and while he is still not out of the woods yet his levels showed some slight improvement.  Unfortunately he is not eating despite our best attempts, as is evidenced in our refrigerator which now contains all sorts of bowls of various foods we have tried him with.  So we have had to resort to syringe feeding him.  It is a stressful task for him and us but unless he starts to eat he will develop further complications.  Syringe feeding Toby is a two-person job (how can one Pomeranian be so strong when he is really very weak!) but at least he swallows the food once it is on his tongue.   The good news is that the food is staying down and Toby is a little livelier.  As our vet said, we still have a long way to go but we can have a little optimism.

So some progress in the right direction on our three patients, great news indeed.


November 14, 2007

Zeus Loses His Coat!

Zeus Standing Proud Well it had to happen eventually, little Zeus has finally outgrown his cria coat.  We tried to put it on him Monday evening but within minutes he was taking part in the nightly cria races with the coat hanging around his neck.  It didn’t seem to bother him too much, but it really doesn’t do him any good hanging from his neck so I took it off him and wondered if he would have a good weight gain the next day.  I am glad to report that he did gaining 0.8 lb, one of his biggest gains ever.  I hesitate to assume that he will now have a steady and strong weight gain, it seems that every time I do that he defies me and doesn’t gain the next day.

We did do something a little different the day before Zeus’s weight gain and that was to feed some calf manna to Zoie (Zeus’s dam), Carina and Chai.  Zeus was in the pen too and so could have nibbled on some of the calf manna.

The calf manna was really intended for Chai who is having a hard time holding her weight.  We will be taking Chai in to the vets for her follow up blood work and hopefully the latest blood panel will give us an indication as to what is going on with Chai.  We will also run a fecal test on her to check for parasites, previous fecal tests have shown Chai free of parasites, but just in case we are missing some parasites in a dormant stage it will be worth running another test.

The calf manna is an interesting product that has been used in livestock for many years.  A milk based product it is easily digestible, it runs about 25% protein and contains the herbs fenugreek and anise which are two of the ingredients in the lactation stimulant herbal mix we use.   I figured that with Zoie needing to produce more milk for Zeus, Chai needing more calories in her diet and Carina feeding both Carissima and Zeus the three of them could benefit from a little calf manna in their diet.   We have decided to feed the three girls a cup each of the calf manna every morning and night in addition to their regular feed and we will be interested to see what effect it has on them.  The calf manna does have a very distinctive odor to it but our girls and Zeus didn’t seem to care too much about the odor and were happy to eat the calf manna quickly.

So we will have to see if calf manna is indeed manna from heaven for Chai and Zeus!


November 7, 2007

Good News All Round

Enchantment’s Prince Regent  I think everyone loves to hear good news, there is so much bad news in the media that many people I talk to are thirsting to hear good news.  It’s also funny how sometimes we get a run of bad news and then thankfully something changes and the good news starts flowing in.

Our first piece of good news today is that Snuggler the cat is doing much better.  After a day of doing pretty much nothing but sleeping he is now up and around, albeit hobbling on his two good legs.  His right rear leg will at least take some of his weight although there is still some looseness there.  His left front leg still has some swelling and is dragging, but I feel it is improved and dragging less than it was when we took him in to the vet on Monday.  Certainly he was up to following me around yesterday afternoon and even jumped up onto the chairs, insisting on sitting next to me while I worked on the computer.  It is great to see him showing such interest in life, even though he made typing on the computer difficult as he tried to bat the keys with his good paw.

Little Zeus has had a good couple of days too, with some more consistent weight gain.  He is eating a little grain and more hay than he was so maybe his system is starting to get used to those new additions to his diet.  He now weighs 26.7 lbs and has not too much further to go to reach the 30 lb mark.  We are still putting a cria coat on him at night as our nights are starting to get close to freezing and I still want to save every calorie I can with that young man.

Kanika is rapidly gaining ground on Zeus and now weights 22.7 lbs.  She is a real live wire, stirring up the other crias to play, coming over to check out what we are doing when we enter the pasture and having regular sessions when she just bucks and runs for joy.

Rebecca has had no further signs of discomfort and is back to being one of the first to meet me at the gate in the morning, which is good to see despite her grumbles and groans when I wont let her steal pellets from the feed bowls as I walk into the pasture.

Over the weekend the LA Deep South Show was held in Shreveport, Louisiana and we have heard that the offspring of our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent did well in the halter show.  We have had reports (unconfirmed as yet) that Regent’s daughter CHR Carlee’s Peak (owned by Copper Hill Ranch) took fourth in her class, Regent’s son Prince Regent’s Treasure of Airlie (owned by Timber Lodge Alpacas) took first in his class and another of Regent’s sons Traversura’s Sulaimon (owned by Tierra Prometida Alpacas) took not only first in his class but went on to take the white color champion as well.   Well done to all our Regent grandkids and well done for Regent for being such a superstar herdsire male!


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