A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 17, 2009

Hang on Queen!


Our alpaca Queen is one of the grand dams of the pasture.  Now eleven years old, she is able to rule over the younger alpacas by just looking at them.  She can throw a look that says “you wouldn’t dare” and the younger alpacas agree, they would not dare to cross our Queen.


Queen is an alpaca who breeds easily, births easily and has beautiful, robust, vigourous cria.  Her last cria Atlas recently took 1st in his class at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and is a striking herdsire in the making.  The only time Queen has lost a pregnancy was after she moved here from her previous owners farm.  She was seven years old at the time and had never been off her home farm, the stress of the move was just too much for her I guess and while she never outwardly showed any signs of stress she did absorb her pregnancy.  Once rebred though she carried her next pregnancy to term and has never looked back since.


When Queen lost her pregnancy it drove home to me just how bonded these alpacas become with their herd mates.  I had already decided that Queen would live out her days here and purchased her knowing that she would become one of our foundation herd, but the reaction from her being moved here helped me decide that once our alpaca girls reach a certain age we need to plan on them staying with us for the rest of their lives.  To move them to a different herd just becomes too hard on them.


This past weekend I noticed Queen was a little uncomfortable, she laid around more than usual, rolling on one hip and pushing her legs out to the side.  She did eat but not as heartily as usual and it was obvious that she was not feeling 100%.  I could see her cria moving every now and then, which was a good sign, and when I offered her some soaked beet pulp shreds she readily ate them from the spoon, something she would not normally do, as she prefers to keep her distance from humans.  I felt the beet pulp shreds being soft, moist and fibrous might help her digestive tract stay active and as an added precaution I gave her some MSE drench that contains probiotics and digestive enzymes.  By the afternoon Queen was acting normal, eating hay and cushing in a more relaxed way.


Having owned Queen for a few years now I have my herd records to refer back to and I know that she has had this type of uncomfortable stage in each of the pregnancies she has had here.  Queen is a compact alpaca and by now her unborn cria will be going through some major growth spurts.  It almost seems as if in the last week her pregnancy “bump” has doubled in size.  I am sure at times her cria is pressing on her digestive tract and causing some of the discomfort she is feeling.


Last year Queen decided to have her cria early, when he was born Atlas was healthy and strong and looked like a full term cria, but he was born 2 –3 weeks prior to his due date.  In fact Queen caught us unawares with Atlas’s birth as we had gone out to another farm for the day to shear alpacas, but fortunately had our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart check on the herd only to find that Queen had delivered her cria.


I am hoping that Queen holds on at least another month before delivering her cria, two months would be even better.   The cria is only in its ninth month of gestation and its survival chances should it be born now would be slim to none.  So Hang on Queen, we know you are uncomfortable but we really need you to carry that cria for a while longer!   (And you can guarantee that from now on Queen will be under very watchful eye!)



December 31, 2008

Just Ticking Along

Anya, Cinnamon and Willow, three friends born within days of each other, relaxing in the winter sun

Anya, Cinnamon and Willow, three friends born within days of each other, relaxing in the winter sun


With school being out the last couple of weeks it has meant that Ric has not been called in to teach and so has been available to help out more with various tasks around the farm.  We have been working our way through each pasture checking and trimming teeth and toenails, body scoring the alpacas and inspecting their fleeces.   Everyone looks fine, with the exception of a couple of broken toenails (the result of boys rough housing).


Ric has set up a drain plug heater in one of the big water tubs to prevent it from freezing at night, along with an air hose to blow the water out from the water hose to prevent it from freezing too.  It sure beats dragging buckets of warm water out from the house to water the alpacas with (although the buckets of water provide a great workout for the arm muscles!)


The weather has been fluctuating from warm to cold to warm as cold fronts pass through the area, a situation that always has us more watchful.  The change in barometric pressure seems to have an effect on an animal’s digestive system.  Our vet reports more cases of colic in horses when the barometric pressure suddenly changes, and it does seem that when we have an incident of digestive upset in the alpacas it is often around a period of changeable weather.


Thankfully for the last couple of days the wind has died down, it is tiring enough for us to be hearing and battling the wind as we do chores, how much more so must it be for the alpacas and horses who are out in the wind all day and night.  Certainly they seem a bit lighter in spirit and more relaxed since the wind has subsided, exploring the pastures more and stretching out for a bit of winter sun bathing.


The weanling group are making progress, although I have to say that this particular group of weanlings seems the most determined to continue nursing from their dams.  Usually by now at least a few of the group will be headed for the hay rather than their dams when it comes to be reunited with them in the evening, but this group are all still having a good nurse – perhaps they are egging each other on to do so!  I have noticed though that where, during the first couple of days, there was an explosion of weanlings dashing to find their dams, now they are walking across to the girls and taking more time to find their dams.  Small progress, but progress all the same. 


When I walk into the weanling pen during the day there are always a couple who will come over and tell me their tale of woe.  Dream in particular likes to come over and hum at me, resting her head on my legs and turning her face up to me in the hope that her big brown eyes will persuade me to open the gate and let her back in to her dam Rosie.  Annochia too likes to let me know how she feels about the day weaning process, and expresses her displeasure quite loudly.


As the weanlings are walked across to their day pasture every morning, they also are receiving some good halter training practice.  They are all walking well on their halters, a couple of them are still a little stiff as they walk, but every day we see them getting better and more comfortable with wearing a halter.


So things are ticking along, and soon when the new year starts there will be a return to a more normal routine (if there ever is any such thing as normal!).  The New Year will bring plans for shows, seminars, alpaca sales, product sales and more.   Of course there will be new crias coming on the scene and before we know it shearing will be upon us too with the hive of activity that shearing brings.  As the saying goes “Time stands still for no man” and that is certainly the case around here!


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