A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 7, 2009

Sometimes You Just Have to Spit!

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from people who are meeting alpacas for the first time is “Do they spit?”  It is sad that many people automatically associate alpacas and llamas with spitting as it is one small part of their behavior and it is something that occurs far less often than many people think.  On the whole alpacas and llamas are docile animals who are happiest going about their business.

Yes alpacas and llamas can spit, it is part of their vocabulary to other alpacas or llamas (usually saying “get out of my feed” or “stop annoying me”), and it is also a part of their defense mechanism.  Llamas and alpacas have very few ways to defend themselves and spit is one of those few ways.  If someone or something does something to a llama or alpaca which they really don’t like then they can spit as a way to startle that person or thing and stop whatever is annoying them.

We recently had a farm visitor who had been to a county fair where there was a camel on display.  The camel was being used to give rides and apparently had a ring through his nose so that his handler could lead him.  Our farm visitor witnessed a teenage boy go up to the camel and pull hard on the camel’s nose ring – and guess what, the camel spit at him.  Who can blame the camel for doing so.  No doubt that pull on the nose ring hurt the camel and the only way he could communicate his displeasure was by spitting.  Hopefully that teenage boy will never repeat his behavior again.

Our herd of alpacas and our three guard llamas are all laid back animals.  Farm visitors unfamiliar with alpacas and llamas are given a brief rundown of good pasture etiquette resulting in a happy, fun farm visit for both them and the animals.

Sometimes though we find ourselves in a position where we need to communicate to one of the alpacas that their behavior is inappropriate.  Such an occasion happened over the weekend when young Annochia kept mounting and attempting to breed Dream.  Now Annochia and Dream are both females so Annochia’s breeding attempt was never going to be successful.  Rather it is an indication to me that either one or both of those young ladies is reaching maturity and there is some hormonal confusion.  While Annochia’s behavior could be considered innocuous it is something I want to discourage.  If she continually tries to mount and breed Dream it could cause a retained CL in Dream causing her to be non receptive when the time comes to breed her.

Initially I tried removing Annochia from Dream, that worked for a little while but Annochia hung around close to Dream and as soon as I started to walk away Annochia would start to orgle and try and mount Dream again.  After several times of trying to remove Annochia from Dream I knew that I needed to talk to Annochia in “stronger language”.   The next time Annochia went to mount Dream I spit at her just as another alpaca would.  Now when I say spit I am talking of an “air spit” where there is the spitting noise but no accompanying regurgitated slime (I am sure you will be pleased to know that!).  At the first air spit Annochia turned away, I then followed up with a series of air spits and at that point Annochia got the message, walked away and left Dream alone.

I don’t recommend spitting at your llamas or alpacas as a part of your daily routine.  It is much better to use other methods of communicating with them as a rule, but once in a while the other methods just don’t get through and then you just have to spit.  Done right and in the right circumstances it does work and is quite effective.

Rosemary

May 27, 2009

What’s The Difference Between

Dream in Full Fleece

Dream in Full Fleece

 

This

 

 

 

and  This?

Dream Shorn

Dream Shorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turns out to be about 4 ½ lbs of fleece (not including belly and lower leg fleece).  Young Dream who weighed in at 93.5 lbs with her fleece prior to shearing certainly did well in the fleece production department.  For a little alpaca she has a lot of fleece.

Dream comes from a line of good fleece producers, her dam Rosie now 5 years old and about ready to deliver a cria still produced just over 4 lbs of fleece in her blanket, leg and neck combined and she too is not a large alpaca.

We have been pleased with our fleeces overall this year and I now have 15 show fleeces ready to be skirted in preparation for show.

Atlas who has done so well in the show ring produced a really dense, fine fleece with a wonderful long staple length that proved to be quite a challenge to Ric’s shearing skills.  Looking at Atlas prior to shearing we knew he was carrying a lot of fleece but had not quite grasped just how much superfine, dense, high frequency crimp fleece he has. 

White Blast who did well in the fleece shows last year has produced another spectacular fleece which is fine, dense and bright with beautiful crimp style.

Even our smallest alpaca Little Man (aka Tonka) did us proud with his fleece.  Weighing all of 58.2 lbs with his fleece on Little Man produced 2.3 lbs of silky, shiny cria fleece that almost hangs in dreadlocks from his head to his toes.

There are still a few alpacas left to shear but this week will hopefully see the end of our shearing for the year.  Next the show fleeces will be paying a trip to the skirting table in preparation for showing and then we will need to decide which fleece will be going to which show.  Lots of fleeces to show and lots of shows to show them in – what fun!

Rosemary

March 28, 2009

Brrr!

A Snow Covered Dream

A Snow Covered Dream

 

That was the word for the day yesterday when our temperatures plummeted, the winds picked up and the snow fell.

 

We were initially forecast to receive 5 – 7 inches of snow, but there was nowhere near that amount on the ground except for where the snow piled into drifts.  I suspect that whatever snowfall was supposed to be ours blew south in the high winds.

 

The alpacas were huddled up and snow covered by the time we woke up in the morning and I couldn’t resist taking the picture above of poor Dream who was just caked in snow.  Dream had created herself a warm dry spot by the shelter and did not want to get up, but the sight of the morning feed bowls soon changed her mind, persuading her to jump up and join in with the morning feed.

 

Marti who is here for breeding was a concern for us as she was shorn before she arrived here this week.  Fortunately Marti is a smart girl and was cushed in the corner of the shelter in the deep straw.  She was a little shivery though so after giving her a little alfalfa and her morning ration of pellets we put a blanket on her and also covered her with one of our sheep covers to act as a windbreak and to keep the blanket dry.  We kept a watch on her all day and she was up and active, eating hay and occasionally venturing out to the poop pile.  I bet she was wishing she could have her fleece back for at least a day.

 

Little Candytuft fared well in the snow, despite being very young she is a sturdy girl who already weighs close to 40 lbs and she already has a good staple length on her.    I didn’t see her looking cold or shivery all day, which is good, and by the afternoon she was skipping around in the snow.

 

The alpacas were all treated to some extra hay including some alfalfa, warm soaked beet pulp shreds and buckets of warm water.  They all remained active during the day, checking out the various hay feeders and running from shelter to shelter.  Of course they also decided that they didn’t really need to venture outside to use a poop pile and so by the end of the day the poop piles in the shelter were large and spreading.

 

Once again Mother Nature gave us a sharp reminder of how quickly the weather can turn in this part of the world, dropping us down into the 20’s and 30’s and sending us to the closet to pull out our insulated coveralls and alpaca socks once again.  It is incredible to think that the day before we had sunny skies and temperatures in the 70’s.

 

Today we are supposed to warm up just as dramatically as we cooled down, the snow will melt, the pastures will dry out and I’m betting Miss Marti will be just a little bit more comfortable than she was yesterday!

 

Rosemary

March 7, 2009

Back With The Herd

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

 

It’s hard to believe that three weeks have already gone by since the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show string have been in quarantine since their return home and thankfully have not shown any signs of illness.  Having spent their three weeks in quarantine it is now time for the show string to return to their respective pastures.

 

Atlas, Pride and Mags will rejoin Zin and the junior males, while Dream, Zianna and Kaneka will rejoin the female herd.

 

We didn’t put the fleece covers back on the show string on their immediate return from the show.  Call us soft if you wish, but we felt after doing so well for us at the show it would be a nice treat to allow the show alpacas to have a little time without their covers on, of course the first thing they did when they got home was to have a good roll, but that’s okay the dirt will drop out before their next show.

 

This last Thursday we were forecast for dangerously high winds.  It makes me take notice when the local meteorologists forecast “dangerously high winds”, bearing in mind that their idea of “breezy” is 25 –35 mph winds, it makes you wonder what wind speed would deserve the title “dangerous”.   We decided, in view of the forecast, we should put the fleece covers back on the show alpacas before the entire tumbleweed crop of western New Mexico landed in our pastures and in our alpaca’s fleeces!

 

The winds on Thursday didn’t quite live up to the forecast with wind gusts in the 50 mph range; strong enough we were glad we had put the fleece covers back on the alpacas.  The wind was also strong enough that poor Little Man had a real struggle to get across the pasture, but he’s a tough little guy and he made it.

 

Prior to putting the fleece covers on we cleaned the alpacas fleeces of the worst of the vegetable matter and took photos of the show string without their covers on.   The alpacas were not too cooperative about having their pictures taken, but we got one or two shots that we can use.  We also checked toenails and teeth and treated ears as a preventative measure against ear ticks.  Then it was back to the herd for the show string who wasted no time at all in getting reacquainted with the rest of the herd.

 

Rosemary

February 14, 2009

Today’s The Day

Dream's beautiful head

Dream's beautiful head

 

The show classes begin today at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  Alpaca show classes run the darkest fleeced animals first gradually working toward the lightest fleeced animals.  With this in mind I fully expect Kaneka (black), Mags (dark brown), Athena (medium brown), Atlas (who color checked as light brown rather than dark fawn), Pride (who color checked dark fawn rather than medium fawn) and Dream (medium fawn) to show today.  Zianna who is light fawn may also show today but may show first thing on Sunday morning depending on the speed at which the classes progress.

 

Young Dream has been receiving lots of attention and admiring looks from other alpaca breeders at the show.  Dream has a stunning head and great coverage making her very striking.  Dream is still not too enthused by all of the attention but I suspect by the end of the show she will be getting used to it.  Mags too seems to be settling down to all the attention.  At home he actively seeks out attention, but as of yesterday evening he was starting to remain cushed when visitors came to our pens indicating that even he had more than enough human attention to satisfy his needs.

 

The fleece show started judging yesterday and hopefully will be completed by this afternoon.  Once the fleece show has been opened for viewing we will be able to fins out if the any of the fleeces we entered won a ribbon.

 

Back home things have been reasonably quiet.  The four girls in the weaning pen who did not go to the show were a little unsettled the first day after their pen mates left for the show, today they are settled and more interested in hay than anything else.   Once the show alpacas return home the four girls in the weaning pen will be rejoining the main female herd group and the show alpacas will be put into the weaning pen for a three week quarantine period.  By the time the show alpacas return home they will be more than ready to stretch their legs and take a good roll in the dirt and then happily relax in familiar surroundings – even for alpacas there is no place like home.

 

Rosemary

February 13, 2009

Off To The Show They Go

In the early hours of Thursday morning Ric and I loaded up the alpacas going to the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular into our trailer and then Ric drove the seven or so hours to Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Ric’s journey was long but uneventful and the alpacas are now in their pens at the showground.  Atlas, Pride, Mags, Kaneka, Athena, Song, Zianna and Dream are the alpacas at the show this time and with the exception of Kaneka and Athena this is the first show for this group.

 

Ric reports that for the most part the alpacas are doing well, Zianna though is doing quite a bit of humming and seeking attention and Dream is also humming too and was not pleased to have her fleece color checked at the showgrounds – she growled at the volunteers checking her fleece!  Dream is so much like her dam Rosie who is very vocal and has that same growl when she wants to express displeasure.

 

The alpacas will not start showing until Saturday, so they will have time to settle into their surroundings before the classes start.  Ric will walk them as and when he can to get them used to their new surroundings.  Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas, our alpaca neighbors (they also have alpacas in Clovis, NM) will be arriving on Friday and will take over caring and showing our alpacas for us.

 

Ric will be pretty busy during the show as he is the show superintendent along with his business partner Danette McCleary.  Danette and Ric worked together as Show Superintendents in a volunteer capacity at some earlier alpaca shows and worked so well together that they decided to form a company M & M Supers and contract to work as show superintendents at various alpaca shows around the country.  The position of the Show Superintendent at the show is a big one, among the show superintendent’s duties is the receipt and verification of all of the entries, compilation of the class list, contracting the judges and ensuring the health and color compliance checks are carried out on all alpacas at the show.  The show superintendent basically coordinates the show making sure it runs smoothly – with over 500 alpacas at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular that adds up to a lot of hard work.

 

As for me, I have remained home to care for the herd and will anxiously wait to hear how our young alpacas do at the show.   We have spent many hours preparing our young alpacas for the show and can only hope that they show well.  Here’s hoping for lots of ribbons, preferably in blue (1st place) and purple (Color Champion and Reserve Color Champion)

Rosemary

January 1, 2009

It’s 2009 – Happy New Year

Pride, Dream and Atlas Enjoy A Sunset

Pride, Dream and Atlas Enjoy A Sunset

 

The New Year has arrived and as always we wonder what it will bring as it unfolds.  As 2008 began we were not to know that for us it would be a year of losses, the loss of our dear Sandie dog was followed by the loss of our young cat Snuggler, two crias Legs and Beeper were also to leave us and then in November the biggest loss of all, that of my father.

 

But thankfully there were joys too in 2008.   Many beautiful crias arrived at the farm, new friends were made, old friends were revisited and a beautiful grand daughter, Aida, entered our lives.  A little girl who is quick to smile and happily explores all of the new experiences life brings her.

 

I know for many 2008 was a tough year, reminding us to be grateful for what we have, a roof over our heads, food on the table, good friends and family.   Despite the bleak predictions of the media I hope that those who struggled so much in 2008 have some relief and assistance in the New Year.

 

In 2009 some lucky people will join us in owning and raising alpacas.  On this New Year’s Day they may be excitedly planning the purchase of their first alpacas, thinking about the structure of their alpaca business, anticipating their first steps into the alpaca world.  How exciting for us to think that we might contribute to their success, whether it be selling them their first alpacas or offering encouragement and guidance along the way.

 

As the New Year dawns I know that the alpacas will be in the pasture, carrying on oblivious to the significance of the date.  Their steady presence brings a perspective to life.    They appreciate each moment for what it is, and don’t concern themselves with the many “what if’s” that humans have.    As I am treated to a barrage of cria kisses from Nochi, a lingering look from Dream, a dance of expectance from TeQueely and the precious gift of the alpacas trust as I work among them, I am aware of how fortunate I am to have these beautiful creatures in my life.

 

For all who read this I wish a Happy and Prosperous 2009, remember that happiness is often found in the most basic areas of life and that prosperity is so much more than the amount of money in you have in your bank account.

 

Rosemary

December 24, 2008

Mom!!!!

 

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

 

 

I think that was the general cry as we let the fall crias back into the main pen following their first day of day weaning.  You can see from the blur of running weanlings in the photo above that they did not hang about in returning to their mothers!

 

The weanlings all handled their first day well, although some were definitely more at ease than others.  Zianna, Stormy and Pride walked over with us to the weaning pen without hesitation, while Dream and Annochia had already figured out that this was not going to be what they wanted and balked at the process of crossing the pasture.  Serenity and Atlas walked over with plenty of head turning and wondering where they were going.  Song being an orphan did not have a dam to worry about leaving, but was more concerned about staying with her buddies.  Song is no longer taking a bottle as Ric finished weaning Song and Mags off the bottle while I was in England.  Mags is already in with the juvenile male group and is settling in well.  Once they are weaned Pride, Stormy and Atlas will be joining him there.

 

During the day we kept an eye on the weanling group and for the most part they stayed in their shelter eating hay.  It was one of those windy New Mexico afternoons (sustained winds around 25 mph), helping encourage the weanlings to remain in the shelter and distracting them from watching the fence line for their dams.  There were a couple of times when one or two of them did come to the fence to look for their dams, but they soon returned to the weanling group when they realized that they could not get to their dams through the fence.

 

To help add some stability to the group we put a few of the maiden alpacas in the pen with them.  Kanika, Carissima and Velvet did a good job of calmly going about their daily business, reassuring the weanlings that all was well with the world.  We have found that the addition of two or three older alpacas in a weanling group helps provide an element of calm in what can be a stressful time for the weanlings.

 

Out of the whole group I think Annochia took the weaning the hardest.  A member of the Bjorn family, a very close family group of alpacas, she was not at all pleased about being away from her dam Anya, making me wonder if she will be as hard to wean as her dam was.  Both Anya and her sister Keeva took a lot of persuading when it came to the subject of weaning and I suspect Annochia may be the same.

 

As often is the case, the dams were not at all concerned about the crias being away for the day.  Serenity’s dam Snow did initially wander over and look through the fence at the weanling group, but soon returned to join the other alpacas at the hay feeder.

 

By evening chores though the weanlings were telling me they were more than ready to go back to their dams.   As you can see once the gate was opened they rushed to be reunited with their dams and then nursed hungrily as if they hadn’t eaten all day!

 

Today we will repeat the process again, and will continue to do so for about two weeks before the weanlings take the next step of staying away from their dams overnight.  Usually by that time they have adjusted to being away from their dams and will take the next step in their stride.  (Lets hope Annochia agrees with me on that point when the time comes!)

 

Rosemary

 

August 26, 2008

Taking Baby Steps

 

We are once again trying Dream with a lesser amount of milk during the day.  The last week or so while she has drunk her bottles without a problem there have been several times when she has either not seemed too hungry or drunk less milk from each bottle.

 

Yesterday we fed Dream in the morning along with the other crias and did not offer her a morning bottle.   She didn’t come and seek me out looking for it and she didn’t seem ravenously hungry when I gave her a bottle in the evening.  So it seems as if it is time to wean Dream off at least one of her two daily bottles. 

 

Dream is now just over three months old and is eating hay well plus a little bit of pellet supplement and calf manna.  She is a sturdy cria, full of energy and certainly not thin.  It is amazing to think that in the space of three months we have gone from feeding her every few hours to now only giving her one 10 oz bottle a day.  We were very lucky that Dream took well to the bottle and did not fight over it like many alpaca crias do and of course Dream still has her dam Rosie who she nurses from and the occasional drink of milk from our guard llamas.  Food is not in short supply where Dream is concerned!

 

It is interesting to watch the progress of the crias, they go so quickly from nursing from their dams every hour or so, to starting to try out the hay and then making sure that they get their fill of the hay before going to nurse and then play.  One of our neighbors dropped by the other night to watch the crias play and was most disappointed to find them with their heads immersed in the hay racks.  I explained to our neighbor that play starts later these days once the crias are feeling full, often that is after dark when all you can do hear is the whisper of their feet as they fly across the pasture.

 

People often talk about baby steps, meaning small steps, but with crias I am not sure those baby steps are so small.  In a few short months they go from birth, to first steps, to playing, to eating and the visits to their dams for nursing while still there, become less frequent.  Just a few months more and we will be thinking about starting to wean them and wondering how time has yet again passed by so swiftly.

 

Rosemary

August 8, 2008

A Couple of Updates

 

Things seemed to have settled down with young Dream’s milk intake.  While she had the one day when she seemed very hungry she has settled back to her pattern of taking 10 oz of milk or slightly less at each feeding.  The supplemental milk we give Dream is not a large part of her daily intake, she still has her dam Rosie who she nurses from and who seems to have a good supply of milk.  Some times when we are feeding Dream Rosie will wander over and call Dream away to nurse from her.  When that happens I do not intervene, Rosie needs to have her udder relieved and Dream needs the milk she produces.

 

Dream also nurses from Griffin the llama and when we body score Dream she is definitely not thin, but I have decided that for now we will stick with the 10 oz of milk twice a day rather than reducing it further.  In time Dream will most likely give me her own signals that she is ready to reduce the amounts she consumes and so I will follow her lead, at least until it comes time to wean her.  I did wonder the other day as I watched various alpaca crias nursing from the llamas at what point the llamas will tell the alpaca crias no more?  I suspect that once we do our final weaning that bond will be broken, but you never know, maybe one day I will be looking out and seeing those same crias all grown up and still nursing from the llamas!  Surely not!

 

We have made progress on our girl Queen who has the tooth abscess.  She has now finished her course of antibiotics and the swelling on her jaw is greatly reduced.  There is still a little bump there and we still have to drain and flush the abscess once a day.  We have noticed though that in the last two days the flush solution appears to be going into Queen’s mouth when we syringe it through the external hole of the abscess.  I can block the flush solution by placing my finger a little way up from the abscess and putting pressure on that area to block the progress of the fluid.  I am not sure that the bentadine/lactated ringer solution going into Queen’s mouth is detrimental to her, but if the flushing solution can make it into her mouth then I wonder if some of the pus from the abscess is traveling that way too.  We will be consulting our vet about the situation with Queen, but he is on vacation in Alaska until later this week.  (Lucky man – Alaska is beautiful at this time of the year and he well deserves the vacation).

 

In the back yard our Turffalo Tech Grass is also making progress.  The first sprigs we planted have started to grow and appear bushier.  They have also started to put out runners as they establish themselves in the ground.  The weeds unfortunately have started to creep back and so Ric is spending time every day pulling the little weeds from between the grass plugs.  Backbreaking work but it has to be done if the Turffalo Tech Grass is going to survive.

 

So good progress all in all, which is what we like to see.  Our pregnant girls who are due in the fall are also making progress of a different kind.  We see their crias moving around inside them and notice their appetites have increased; they also tend to take more breaks between sessions at the feed troughs, resting to chew their cud and enjoy the sunshine.  Not too many more weeks and they will be giving birth and we will be back into the cycle of delivering crias.  Funny it seems as if we just finished doing that!

 

Rosemary

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