A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 8, 2009

Warm Weather Wigglers


Our winter has been very mild and dry and our spring looks as if it is going to be warm, dry and windy (as always!).  Already our temperatures have hit the 80 degree mark a couple of times, the fruit trees are starting to blossom and everything living is getting signals that spring is here.  It is still possible for us to have a downward swing in temperature; a late frost is not unheard of here and unfortunately will kill the fruit tree blossoms reducing our chances of any peaches or apricots from our trees.


Along with the warm weather the insect population is starting to become more visible.  We saw a yellow jacket (large wasp type insect) the other day, crickets are starting to appear and the dreaded ticks have also started to make an appearance.


Unfortunately our sandy soil and warm temperatures make an ideal environment for ticks, and even worse alpaca ears are an ideal place for ticks to take up residence.  The warm, sheltered environment of the alpaca ear is just the type of place a tick likes to live in and ticks will happily feed not only on the alpacas blood but also on any debris generated by the alpacas ears.


We had a bad run in with ticks in the past, our girl TeQueely had a terrible fight with tick paralysis (See entry December6, 2007)  and my battle to save her has made me an avid campaigner for tick prevention.


Many alpaca breeders do not realize that their alpacas may have ticks in their ears.  Often there are very few signs of the ticks, sometimes you will see the alpacas shaking their heads, sometimes an alpaca will hold an ear back, occasionally there may be some black debris found in the alpacas ear, but often the signs are few to none.


Having spent time exploring an alpaca ears with an otoscope (don’t try this unless you have had some education from your veterinarian as you can easily damage the alpacas ear drum) I am amazed at how many hiding places in an alpaca ear there are.  With an otoscope and alligator forceps I can usually locate any offending ticks and remove them, but ticks are also capable of hiding deep in the ear canal past where the otoscope can reach.


So what is to be done about these tiny but potent creatures?  Well as often is the case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and there are few things you can do to keep the tick population down.


Some alpaca breeders keep guinea fowl or chickens with their alpacas, as the birds will eat any bugs they find.  This can be a good option; the birds will pick up bugs not only from poop piles but also from roll spots and other areas around the pasture.  If you are keeping birds with your alpacas make sure you get them from a farm that is very conscious of the health of their birds, the last thing you want to do is bring viruses or nasty bacteria onto your farm.  Also try and feed unmedicated feed, as the medicines in chicken feeds are fatal to alpacas.  If unmedicated feed is not available then make sure it is kept securely away from the alpacas.


Putting diatomaceous earth on roll spots and poop piles may also help keep down the tick population.  Make sure that you use food grade diatomaceous earth as it is safe to be used around livestock, the commercial and pool grades of diatomaceous earth are not suitable for use around livestock.


I have heard of some breeders feeding garlic to their alpacas to help reduce ticks and other parasites.  I have not tried that yet and am still researching the pros and cons of using garlic on alpacas.


Finally treating the alpaca’s ears during tick season will kill the ticks and depending on what you use may also kill the tick eggs.  We prefer to use Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for horses, it kills both the ticks and the tick eggs and we have found it to be very effective.  We shake the bottle well (the solution tends to separate when it is sitting for a while), pour some into a container and then draw up 2 cc in a syringe.  We administer 2 cc per ear on the adult alpacas, 1.5 cc per ear for the weanlings and 0.5 cc per ear on the crias.  We put the syringe in the ear, depress the plunge and then massage the ear before letting go.  Make sure you stand well back once you let go as the alpacas will shake their heads and some of the solution will fly out of their ears and you don’t want to get it in your eyes.


Over the last year or so the Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for Horses has become a little difficult to find.  If Adams is not available I have heard of Catron IV being used, but as it comes out in a foam I find it harder to ensure the correct dosage


Once tick season arrives we treat our alpacas ears about every thirty days.  I don’t usually go for routine worming or parasite prevention as I feel that overuse of certain products has resulted in some parasites becoming resistant to the products, but there are some circumstances when you have little choice but to treat on a regular basis. 


Having had one experience of tick paralysis in the herd I don’t want to have another, so for now we will continue treating the alpacas on a regular basis and in time we may find other solutions that are just as effective in preventing ticks – and who knows we may even invest in some chickens for our own herd.  Tick prevention and farm fresh eggs – sounds like a good option to me!


July 31, 2008

Dolly Lingers, Flies Arrive

The last few days have been more humid than we usually experience in this part of the country and have coincided with the arrival of August heat.    We have been keeping a close eye on the alpacas, who are used to our high temperatures but who are not used to the humidity.  The fans have been running 24 hours a day and the Gatorade has been present in the water buckets to provide the alpacas with electrolytes.


Watching the herd they appear to be handling the heat index well.  While there are moments when several of the alpacas will be stretched out in the sun and asleep for the most part they have still been active, nibbling at hay and exploring the pastures.  Lack of activity can be an indication of heat stress and so to see our alpacas moving round pretty much as usual is a good sign.


The crias love to play still and their latest game seems to be one of trying to see who can leap up in the air and give the fanciest kick.  I think Zianna is holding first place in that game with Annochia and Dream coming a close second.


Amazingly the reason for our humidity is the lingering effect of Hurricane Dolly that hit the South Texas coastline last week.  Once Dolly had landed she headed North West, as she traveled over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains her timing and placement was just right to cause about 7 inches of rain in 24 hours for the village of Ruidoso, New Mexico.  Ruidoso to me always seems more of a small town than a village but it is commonly referred to as a village.  Whether it is a town or a village it is a charming place and we have happy memories of time spent there over the years.  Ruidoso is also home to Enchantment Farm Alpacas, the farm where we purchased our first alpacas.


Unfortunately the rains from Hurricane Dolly caused major problems in Ruidoso as the Rio Ruidoso broke its banks and major flooding caused devastation with between 300 and 500 people having been evacuated.  Having seen the news we called and spoke to the Evans family of Enchantment Farm Alpacas and also Marilyn Smith of Portas Nirvana Alpacas, also in Ruidoso, and both reported that they are okay and not badly effected by the floods.


At Windrush Alpacas we did not experience any of the heavy rains, we had one short burst of rain but apart from that the only signs we have seen of Hurricane Dolly is cloudy skies (with some quite spectacular clouds) and increased humidity, and then there are the flies.


We had been doing quite well regarding the flies until the moisture and humidity arrived at the end of last week.  A few days after that and the flies started appearing en masse.  It is amazing to see how many flies can suddenly appear without warning.  We are still using Diatomaceous Earth on our alpaca feed and sprinkled on the poop piles, but I think the volume of flies is just too much for any product to handle.   Our flytraps are filling up within just a day or two, which is unusual for us even for August, which is typically our worst month for flies.  Hopefully as time goes on the Diatomaceous Earth will have a greater effect and the fly population will dwindle.



July 1, 2008

Cria Fly Masks

I had a comment posted to the blog the other day from Dothia asking if there was such as thing as a fly mask for crias and if so where to purchase them.


We usually don’t put fly masks on our crias, as crias tend to get up to all sorts of mischief during the day putting their little faces in all sorts of places that could lead to the masks coming off.  Additionally crias grow at such a fast rate that any cria fly mask would have to be very adjustable to be able to fit well.  However when you are experiencing a bad fly season the crias do get bothered by the flies just as much as the adults.


We try and prevent the fly situation in the first place by top dressing our alpaca feed with diatomaceous earth every day.  We make sure to use food grade diatomaceous earth and have it in a plastic shaker (you could use a washed out parmesan cheese container, the sort with the lid that has holes in the top, or a small plastic jar with holes drilled in the lid works well too).  We then sprinkle a teaspoon or so on top of the feed.  


So far since we have been using the diatomaceous earth our fly population does seem to be less, but August is typically our worst month for flies so we will see how things are this August.  You can read more about diatomaceous earth in my blog post of May 21, 2007


With crias you have to be so careful about what you can use on them.  Just like young children they can be more sensitive to products than adults and so products such as fly spray may not be safe to use on them.  I have heard of people using herbal preparations usually containing lavender and/or citronella but again you would need to be careful about the strength of the product.  Scented dryer sheets are another remedy I have heard of for fly control, some people say that if you rub them over an animal they repel flies, but when we have tried them we have found that it only lasts a little while and then you need to rub the animal again – something that is time consuming if you have a large herd.  Feeding your alpacas garlic is also said to be effective, but I am still researching that subject as to how much garlic to feed and whether it causes the fiber to smell.  Of course as crias are nursing and not typically eating feed anything that you put on top of feed for alpacas to eat will most likely not be effective for crias.


So back to the original question of cria fly masks.  I do remember that some clients of ours needed a cria fly mask a few years ago and I think they got theirs from Quality Llama Products, Inc.  Quality Llama Products have a “XS” size fly mask for young alpacas, but it does not say that size is for crias.   It would be worth giving them a call and asking them about the sizing.  I have dealt with Quality Llama Products in the past and they were very friendly and helpful.


If anyone else reading this posts knows of a source for cria fly masks perhaps they could post a comment and share that information.



October 18, 2007

Poop, Soup and an Interesting Facial!

Yesterday was an incredibly windy day with sustained winds at 35 – 40 mph and some wind gusts reaching in the mid fifties.  It is always a challenge to do chores in those conditions, getting the hay to the pastures without half of it blowing away, putting out fresh water without a ton of sand landing in it, trying to scoop poop and getting it successfully in the wheelbarrow – such are the joys of doing chores in high winds.

On such an inclement day I have little inclination to be working outside so once the chores were finished it was time to take care of some tasks inside the house.  I am leaving on Friday to go to the Wild and Wooly Alpaca Expo in Folsom, Louisiana to give a presentation on preparing alpaca fleece for showing, and so took the opportunity to gather my paperwork together, check my travel arrangements and start packing for my trip.

With the fall weather outside, it was a good day to have something warm to eat and so I made up a batch of minestrone soup for lunch.  It’s been several months since it has been cool enough to have soup here and so it was a welcome change to our lunch time menu – and it didn’t last long either!

Then it was time to run some fecal tests on the girls pasture.  I had tested the quarantine boys the day before and discovered that despite giving them a preventative treatment for coccidia when they first returned from the State Fair there was still some coccidia present, so another round of treatment is in the works.  The girl’s fecal test however was good which was pleasing and is a testament to our quarantine procedures and also to our use of diatomaceous earth on our feed.  As always when working with fecal samples I was extra careful in the handling of the samples and also of the clean up of my work area once I had finished my tests.  Bleach solution is a wonderful thing!

By 4:30 pm it was time for chores again and the wind was still blowing hard, so round two of battling the winds commenced.  The poor alpacas were not too impressed with the weather either, they loved the falling leaves dropping into the pasture but the wind and dirt blowing into their eyes was not nice for them.  They have access to their shelters and stayed in there for part of the day, but as grazing animals they need to get out and about several times during the day.

On days like today we joke that there is no need to spend money on skin exfoliation treatments in this area – just a couple or rounds of doing chores in the wind and the dust and you get plenty of abrasive exfoliation for your skin!  So not only did I get my work done but I also got to have a facial too!


October 17, 2007

Keeping the Flies at Bay

Homer Wearing His Fly MaskThese last few days the flies have been making their presence felt despite the cooler weather.  They are not as bad as they have been in other years, but still they are around and pesky little devils they are.  Every morning we find dead flies in the feed barn so the cooler night temperatures are killing some of them but we really need a good cold snap to get the message home to the flies to “cease and desist”.

To help keep the fly population down we top-dress our feed with diatomaceous earth, which acts as a mechanical wormer.  We also sprinkle the diatomaceous earth on the poop piles to help break the life cycle of the flies and keep them away from our property.

For the most part alpacas do not get too worried about flies, you may see an alpaca shake his or her head to drive the flies away or see them twitching slightly in the belly area as the flies land on them.

We do have one special case on the farm though who needs a little bit more TLC when it comes to fly protection.  One of our adult males Homer is being treated for an eye ulcer that is making slow but steady progress.  The affected eye has some Silvadene paste put in it once a day and while most of the paste stays on the eyeball some of it does come off onto Homers face and the flies seem to find that attractive.

To help make Homer’s life more pleasant we have put a fly mask on him.  The fly mask is dual purpose for not only does it keep the flies away from Homers eyes it also diffuses the light that is getting to the eye helping the eye to heal better. 

The fly mask looks a little strange but it is effective.   Many visitors to the farm are concerned that Homer cannot see out of the mask, but he can see well.  The material the mask is made of is a heavy-duty nylon mesh which holds it’s shape well and offers good protection from the flies and dust.  You can get a fly mask for horses made from the same material.   When we first started to use the fly mask we would take it off Homer at night, but sometimes the wind picked up during the night and then he would get dust in his eye which does not help his eye ulcer to heal, so now we leave the mask on 24 hours a day.

Hopefully Homer’s eye ulcer will soon be healed and we can take his fly mask off.  He doesn’t seem to be bothered by the mask, but we’re sure he has a really good case of “hat hair” by now – not the thing to entice the girls when you’re an adult male alpaca!


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