A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 12, 2008

It’s Going To Be Busy In May!

As spring approaches our thoughts turn to spring crias.  Already a couple of the unborn crias can be seen kicking their mothers during the day.  Bjorn’s cria is especially active and does a merry dance most evenings.

In preparation for the birthing season I have run my due date report and May is going to be a really busy month as we have the majority of our females due to give birth that month.  They start off from the 5th May and continue on right through to the beginning of June.  Of course crias like babies come when they are ready, not when we want them to, so we will have to be prepared for flexibility on both ends of the birthing schedule.

I had better make sure I have my supply cupboard is replenished and that I have plenty of cria coats on hand in case the evenings are still a little chilly.  I have already spoken to our vet’s office to make sure he is not planning on taking a vacation that month, hopefully everything will be smooth sailing with the births but I want to know that he is available should we need him.

While it will be a busy month at least we will have the majority of births within a short time and just imagine all the fun those crias are going to have playing together.

I really like to have several crias in the same age group at the same time, they just seem to thrive better than a single cria among a bunch of adult alpacas, I think the companionship of the other crias stimulates them more.  That’s not to say it is wrong to have just one cria among a bunch of adults, sometimes that is inevitable and we have had that situation from time to time.  The other advantage of having several crias born at the same time is that should there be milk production problems with one of the dams we may be able to encourage a cria to nurse off a different dam as we did with little Zeus earlier this year.

At the same time that all the crias are being born we will also be entering shearing season.  It is going to take some juggling, but with us shearing our own alpacas it gives us the advantage of being able to allow a dam to give birth and bond with her cria prior to shearing her.  If we had a hired shearer coming in we would have to shear on the date he was here and that may not be the best for a dam in the very late stages of pregnancy.

So it’s going to be a busy May, but I hope it will also be an enjoyable one with lots of beautiful crias to watch and some happy sheared alpacas by the end of the month.

Rosemary

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year From Clovis, New Mexico!

Here we are at the start of a New Year, to some New Year’s Day is just another day but to me it is an exciting time to start anew, setting new goals and heading forward to enjoy another year of life.

The year 2007 was a year that brought both sadness and joy.  The loss of our dear friend Dick Pottinger was particularly hard, as was watching Dick’s wife, my best friend Linda, suffer the tragedy of the loss of her husband.  Linda has been amazing during this past year, it is a difficult process adjusting to life without ones soul mate but Linda has gone forward with her usual tenacity and determination and while she misses Dick terribly she has also made sure that her life remains full and meaningful.

I am fortunate enough to have two best friends and my friend Val also unfortunately had a challenging year.   The timing of things in our lives can be an interesting concept, and while both Val and Linda were experiencing the sadness life can bring, they also discovered the warmth, support and happiness of a deepening friendship.

My father’s deteriorating health and admission to a nursing home and my mother’s ongoing battle with Social Services about funding my father’s healthcare was another low point in 2007.  It is sad to realize that it doesn’t matter how hard you work during life or how diligent you are in supporting your country and doing things the right way, at the end of the day modern governments have little or no consideration for your efforts with the exception of appreciating the assets that they now claim to be theirs.  On the bright side of that situation though is the way my mother has turned into a whirlwind of activity and action as she coped with what must be one of the hardest times of her life.  She may be in her 80’s but I think she can still run circles around many who are a fraction of her age.

But along with sadness often comes joy and what could be more joyful than going to a beautiful wedding of two special people.  Laura and Ren had a wonderful wedding in England, and while Ric and I had somewhat separate travel plans in order to get us both there and the alpaca herd safely cared for, we did both make it to the wedding and even had a whole seven days vacation together!

Now we excitedly look forward to the birth of Laura and Ren’s first child and our first grandchild, in just under 90 days we will be grandparents!  Joyous news that we learned in 2007 and that will carry us forward into 2008.

Then of course there were our animal happenings.  The arrival of the first cria from our herdsires Zindel, Tobiano and Moonie, the continuing outstanding show record of the cria from our herdsire Prince Regent, the arrival of dog number four Tripster, the survival of our dear elderly cat Six Toes whose heart is showing signs of wear but who still has a great life and one of the loudest purrs, and the survival of our Pomeranian Toby despite a serious vaccine reaction.  Along the way we met wonderful people and gained new friends, at alpaca shows, through animal rescue organizations, through our day to day business and also through this blog.  For all of you who have posted comments through the past year I sincerely thank you and look forward to your input as 2008 continues.

In a time when economies world wide are somewhat shaky and when wars are being fought and lives lost, those of us who live in safety, with little threat to our lives, a roof over our heads and food on our table have a lot to be thankful for.  I am sure there will be some “wobbly” spots in 2008, but I am also sure that there will be a lot of happy times along the way, that’s just the way life is.

Happy New Year to you all, may 2008 bring you good health, happiness and prosperity.

Rosemary

November 12, 2007

Time for School Kids!

Carissima and Zeus Kiss   The fall show season is over for us, but rapidly approaching is the spring show season and so it is time to set a regular halter training program in motion for our “kids”.  Blast, Athena and Velvet will all be making their debut on the show circuit this spring and Shiimsa will be entering a few more shows before we start to consider breeding her.

Our halter training program starts early in life for our crias.  One of the biggest keys to success with halter training an alpaca is trust, if your crias trust you then it is far easier to work with them and the results will usually be better.  So how do you gain a crias trust?  Well one of the first things to bear in mind is that as cute and cuddly as crias appear it is a pretty scary prospect to have a human wrap themselves around the cria in a hug.  That is not a behavior that alpacas do to each other and really is quite intimidating to them.  We always aim to be calm and quiet around our crias, they are naturally curious and so we will often crouch down and allow them to come up and sniff us.  Sometimes even eye contact is enough to put off a cria, remember that in alpacas a direct hard stare can be interpreted as a challenge or defensive behavior.  If I have a cria that seems interested in approaching but is a little reluctant I will often look down at the ground rather than at the cria and that in itself is enough to reassure the cria that it is okay to approach.

Each cria has its own distinct personality, some will be timid, and some will be bold.  Be aware that the cria who comes up to you all the time sniffing, following, nibbling and even jumping at you in play may be viewing you as his or her alpaca equal and in time that may lead to behavioral problems.  Crias need to understand appropriate boundaries and behavior around humans so that they grow up to be well mannered and manageable alpacas.

As our crias grow I do from time to time run a firm but gentle hand over their neck and back to get them used to a human touch.  I am careful never to surprise them with this, the last thing you want them to do is be on edge around you, but it is good to get them used to the human touch.

Handling the crias legs is another step that I start from an early age.  At lot of issues with handling alpacas legs arise from the alpaca feeling unbalanced, insecure or trapped when a leg is felt or lifted and it is important to work with the alpaca to ensure that it feels comfortable with having its legs handled and its feet picked up.

Like children a crias attention span is usually pretty short, so little and often is the way to go.  A few minutes of good handling work every other day or so will give your cria a sound basis to work from as the training progresses and will make the trainers job much easier.  I enjoy my time working with the crias and the weanlings, learning to adapt to each ones personality and figuring out which methods work best for that individual alpaca.  Training alpacas is not a “one size fits all” system and it is important to remember this.

If you are new to working with alpacas (even though you may have experience with working with horses, cattle or other species) I heartily recommend a visit to the Camelidynamics web site. There you can learn more about the Camelidynamics system of handling alpacas and obtain useful tools to help you with your work with alpacas.  I will write more about handling alpacas as the week goes on and I make progress with my class of 2007.  I am sure I am looking forward to working with Blast, Athena, Velvet and Shiimsa more than they are looking forward to working with me, but I will make their school lessons as relaxed and pleasant as can be.

Rosemary

November 11, 2007

Gremlins and Gratitude

Yesterday’s herd health day went really well and while we didn’t finish the whole herd we are more than three quarters of the way through with our health checks.   We were joined for part of the day by Jan and Corky Green of Muleshoe, Texas who are new alpaca owners.  Jan and Corky will have their alpacas delivered to their farm at the beginning of December and are looking forward to getting to know their herd.  Jan and Corky were a great help yesterday and had lots of good questions to ask during the course of the day.

In addition to our herd health day we also had five girls scheduled for behavior testing.  All five girls were about 14 days post breeding, so while they may have rejected the male last weekend when tested, indicating that they had cycled, yesterday’s behavior test was more of an indication as to whether we had a pregnancy started in any of the girls.  There must have been gremlins in the air as three of the girls cushed when introduced to the male and had to be bred again.  The other two though rejected the male and will be behavior tested again next weekend.  Fingers crossed we have some more little crias in the making.

It seems those pesky gremlins were also at work on our vehicles last week, as one by one they all broke down.  I think the three of them got together and conspired to see how much inconvenience they could cause us!  Our big truck will be fixed by Monday afternoon and thanks to a good relationship with the truck dealership we were able to borrow a vehicle for the weekend, the other two vehicles are going to take a little longer to fix though.  Oh well we can at least be grateful that one of the vehicles will be back with us pretty soon.

Today we will finish off the rest of our herd health checks in the morning leaving the afternoon free to enter everything into the computer bringing our records up to date.

For those reading this wondering about the progress of our barn cat Snuggler you will be pleased to hear he is making good progress.  He is putting a lot more weight on his front leg although he still is not using it normally; he shows improvement every day and is now happy to come into the house for the night.  With winter coming I am sure the warm house will start to become even more attractive to him.  Tomorrow we take him back for a recheck at the vet and I am sure the vet will be pleased at Snuggler’s progress.   We are so grateful that he is making such a good recovery and that he is settling in to his new life indoors at least in the evenings. 

So all in all a good end to the week, despite failing trucks and injured barn cats, we will have to wait and see what next week brings, but lets hope it involves less gremlins and more good things.

Rosemary

September 30, 2007

A Busy Enjoyable Day

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:27 am

National Alpaca Farm day for Windrush Alpacas is over.  Rosemary and I had a great day visiting with several people that came over to see our farm, visit with our very inquisitive males, and receive a sniff or two from the llamas. Most visitors took the time to look over our line of products that we relocated for the day from our downtown Clovis store.

The morning started out slower than expected but it was great to have some time to spend with a couple that drove nearly two hours to discuss their future expectations as they prepare to become involved in our alpaca industry.  Rosemary spent some time with other visitors while we were able to discuss many of the details of raising and caring for alpacas and what one can expect with this variety of livestock.  It was great to be able to have Rosemary join us for nearly an hour as we took the time to visit with the alpacas and give Farron and Patrick opportunity for some hands on time.

While the morning visitors were not as numerous as expected we did have several visitors in the afternoon.  It was an enjoyable day for the youngsters as they were able to get nose to nose with some of our crias as they playfully inspected the two legged little ones in their domain.

While we had full intentions of having our tables and brochures set up in the car port yesterday for the event, the weather dictated otherwise, with high winds forecast and close to 40mph gusts we decided (Rose insisted) it would be much wiser to set up our displays inside.  This was a cause for concern for me as we have been using our little studio building as a fleece sorting and skirting area.  The numerous fleeces that had not been prepared for shipment, skirting table, and a collection of boxes along with other supplies for shows and travel had found their way into this fairly small space.  I’m sure Rosemary was secretly conniving with the weatherman to make sure I would get inside and clear up the controlled chaos and turn the space into a tidy area to work and relax in.  She succeeded.  The room is now neatly set up with a tidy work area and hopefully we will soon be able to finish off the skirting of our show fleeces and prepare the rest of our animal harvest for shipment to the various mills we use for our product.

Rosemary is off to Oklahoma for the weekend and into Tuesday as she attends a much anticipated seminar by an esteemed expert on the intricacies of color checking animals prior to and during a show.  Rosemary and I have attended many shows during our years as alpaca owners and the common theme that runs into every show are the high number of show entries that are moved to different classes because of errors in the color verification of the animals.  The shows are getting larger every year as more alpacas are being shown around the country and accurate color verification will be gaining even more attention from show superintendents.

While Rosemary is enjoying her training I will be holding down the fort at home enjoying my time with the playful crias and watching over the rest of our herd.

 To our new friends, Patrick and Fallon,  I hope you enjoyed your visit with us as much as we enjoyed talking about our favorite subject.  Alpacas!

Ric

September 27, 2007

Using Big Bales with Alpacas – Follow-up

Big Bale in Carport ShelterIt’s been a little while now since we started our experiment with using big bales of hay with the alpacas.  The girls have almost munched their way through two big bales, while the boys are just about finishing their first one. So what do we think of the big bale experiment so far?  There are definite pros and cons, lets start with the pros. 

  1. Cuts down on chore time – using a big bale reduces one step from the daily chores as we do not have to put out as much hay into the individual feeders.
  2. Hay price is cheaper – typically the price of a big bale is less than the price of the equivalent weight of small bales.
  3. In a dry lot situation the alpacas have something to munch on all day.  Having a big bale of hay available 24/7 helps simulate the natural grazing habits of alpacas
  4. They provide instant bedding for the alpacas – as the hay falls onto the floor it makes a nice layer of bedding for the alpacas that they love to lie on.
  5. The crias love to play on the bales as they get smaller.  Our crias have certainly found the big bales fun to climb on as the bale gets smaller.

 So onto the cons. 

  1. There is a lot of wastage.  As the bale is eaten down the hay falls down around the sides of the bale and gets stepped on and blown around in the wind.
  2. Less exercise for the alpacas (and llamas!).  We are finding that instead of wandering from feeder to feeder the alpacas and llamas get stuck into eating the bale and there they stay until they are full.
  3. Harder to monitor the daily consumption of hay by the alpacas.  The big bales we are using are lower protein hay that is suitable for all day feeding, however if the hay were higher in protein it could result in some chubby alpacas over time.
  4. Certain alpacas can dominate feeding at the big bale.  Some of the alpacas are finding a position to eat the bale from and then not allowing the other alpacas into that spot.
  5. Risk of spreading parasites is higher.  The alpacas stand on the hay that falls on the floor, they may have been standing on the poop pile a short while before standing on the hay and whatever is on their feet can easily transfer to the loose hay around the bale.
  6. Harder to obtain hay for shows.  It really doesn’t work as well to fork some hay off the bale and take it with you to the show.  We got lucky this last show and had a small core of a bale left which we were able to place into a large hessian sack for transporting to the show.  If the bale had been bigger though it would have been more difficult to work with.
  7. Crias love to play on the bales as they get smaller – fun for the crias, but also has a potential for one of them to get hurt jumping on and off the bale.

 So at the moment there are more cons than pros on using the big bales, however we haven’t given up on the idea yet.  

We feel that in order to successfully use big bales we are going to have to devise some sort of containment system for the big bale that will allow the alpacas to eat the bale, but also will contain the hay that drops off the side of the bale.  The containment system would need to be adjustable so that as the bale gets smaller the containment system can be adjusted to the size of the bale.  By containing the hay that falls off the bale we will hopefully also stop the alpacas from standing on the fallen hay and reduce the parasite contamination risk.  The other advantage of the containment system is that it will prevent the crias from jumping on top of the bale.  I hate to be a spoilsport, but there is a risk that one of them could get hurt jumping on and off the bale. 

For now we have the girls big bale in the large carport shelter in their pasture.  The shelter keeps the rain or wind off the bale, but still there is a mess of hay on the ground.  The problem I have with the position of that bale is that I cannot see what the girls are up to.  When you have alpacas due to have their cria it causes moments of concern when you can’t see that girl and so walk out to the pasture only to discover she is engrossed in eating a big bale.  Ideally I would like to have an open sided carport in the pasture where I could see the alpacas, yet which would still provide shelter to the alpacas and the big bale. 

So we will keep working with the big bales for now and see if we can reduce the cons and increase the pros. 

Rosemary

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