A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 11, 2008

What A Week That Was

Carina's Cria

Carina's Cria


First I would like to say a big thank you to all who emailed kind words or posted them to the blog following Beeper’s passing.  It means a lot to us to know there are so many caring people in the world.  Cinnamon has settled down, but still looks for her cria every now and then; only time can help her now.


I usually take a break from writing the blog a couple of times a week, but when you see a break for several days it’s a sign that something else is demanding my attention and that was the case this week.


Following Beepers death on Monday, we had happier news on Tuesday when Carina went into labor – a cria was about to make its entrance into the world, and what an entrance she made.


As we watched Carina in labor we started to get the feeling that all was not right with the delivery.  Carina had managed to deliver the crias head but after waiting a short while there was no sign of the crias feet.  I examined Carina and discovered that the cria had its front legs folded as if it was cushed.  There was no way that cria was coming out without some help.  I tried to get one leg free but could not get the cria back far enough to give me room to maneuver the leg, so we decided that it was time to call the vet.


Fortunately our vet was out headed to an appointment in Portales, which is South of us.  While he was able to get to us quickly it seemed like an eternity, during which time we tried to distract Carina to stop her from continuing to push.  Alpaca pellets, hay and soaked beet shreds were all employed but each would only distract her for a few seconds.  Carina’s body was telling her to push.


When our vet arrived he immediately went to work and was able to free the crias leg and deliver the cria.  By this time Ric was completely convinced that the cria was a boy, as the cria was large, but when we took a closer look we discovered that the cria was a girl.


When we had been deciding who to breed Carina to last year, Ric had pointed out that we didn’t own any daughters from our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent.  Regent’s daughters have all been sold or born to other alpaca owners.  Ric said he thought we should have at least one Regent daughter in our herd and so Carina was bred to Regent in the hopes that their breeding would result in a girl.  I don’t know what Ric said to Regent to make that happen but it worked for we did get a girl.


Following the birthing Carina was obviously sore and tired and initially the cria seemed vigorous, but as the day went on we realized that she too had soreness.  The crias neck was bent and we could feel a couple of the neck bones protruding – she needed a chiropractor!  When the cria tried to stand on her legs she was uncomfortable and her right shoulder turned in at an odd angle.  Poor thing must have been really squashed on her journey into the world.  The cria was also two weeks early, but was a healthy 17 lbs. and apart from her joint discomfort she seemed fully developed.


With such a sore dam and a sore cria we knew we would need to work to keep them both comfortable and to help the cria nurse.  Carina was put on arnica to help with the bruising and was also given some banamine to ease her pain.  We were reluctant to give the cria banamine until she at least had nursed some colostrum.  As long as the cria was cushed she seemed comfortable and so we put her on blanket to cushion her from the ground.


To get the cria to nurse we were able to put her in a cushed position on my knees and then raise her up until she could reach Carina’s udder.  The cria nursed heartily and so began a regimen of helping the cria nurse every hour by putting her on my knees and supporting her.  We also massaged the crias neck and shoulders, which she really enjoyed, particularly between her shoulder blades.  It was good to feel her muscles start to relax as we worked them and to see her doze off while being massaged.


Unfortunately Ric had to leave town the day after the cria was born and so my days and nights have been spent working to help the cria nurse and of course doing the routine chores.  It’s not the first time I have had to work such long days and nights and probably won’t be the last, but the reward for all of those hours of work is looking out in the pasture early Wednesday morning and seeing our new little girl taking some shaky steps followed by a little buck and a kick – progress!


I am happy to report that as of Friday the cria is now able to stand on her own to nurse, trots along beside Carina and still enjoys her massages.  The cria is still not quite up to joining Sleeper and Dutchesses cria in cria races, but she gets more active every day and will no doubt soon be joining in the fun.  Her neck is straightening out and her shoulder joint has returned to a normal position.  Carina too is a lot more comfortable now and has been able to come off the banamine and arnica, but we will be waiting until the spring to breed her back.  After such a traumatic birth some extra recuperation time will not do her any harm.


And as for me, on Friday night I was able to have my first full night of sleep since Beeper was taken ill, and I can assure you I had no trouble sleeping!



June 27, 2008

And It’s Back to the Cria Introductions with …….

Anacia as a new born

Windrush Anacia, daughter of our Windrush Anya.  Anacia was born on June 2nd, the sixth cria of our cria season.  When Anacia was born we were already bottling feeding Dream and taking care of little Legs as well as shearing.  Life was busy to say the least and the picture at the start of this post is the only one I have of Anacia when she was new born.  That’s a sure sign I was really busy when I only have one photo of a newborn cria!


Anacia was a big cria, weighing in at 21.7 lbs.  Her dam Anya is a big girl, but this was her first pregnancy and the delivery was a little tricky.  First Anacia’s head only presented, then after we had eased Anacia’s legs out Anya became tired and stopped while Anacia’s rib cage was half delivered.  As I watched Anacia start to turn blue I knew that the contractions were squeezing hard on her rib cage and it was time to help with some gentle pulling to ease Anacia’s body out of Anya.  Having delivered Anacia past her rib cage and seeing her color return, I waited for her hind legs to be delivered, which is usually very quick.  Anya though was tired and took another break from delivery; Anacia now being very alert tried to cush while she only had the front end of her body out in the open!  I have not seen a cria do that before (and I should have had my camera there for that picture), so Anacia sat quite patiently until Anya gave one final contraction.


Poor Anya looked quite drawn down after delivering Anacia and the placenta.  We gave Anya some extra feed and hay, a cool bucket of water and some MSE drench to perk her up.  I also started her on a course of arnica in applesauce three times a day to help reduce soreness and swelling following delivery.


Anacia unfortunately picked up the same infection as Legs the day after she was born and so the first few days of her life were spent with her receiving antibiotic shots to fight the infection and banamine shots to keep her temperature down.  Fortunately Anacia made a full recovery and is now a healthy, hearty 35 lbs plus cria.  She loves to prong in the evening and is so pretty as she glides around the pasture leading the other crias in their nightly dance.


Anacia was beige when she was born, almost a very light champagne color, but we believe as she ages she will most likely be all white.  I am curious to see how her personality emerges, as her dam Anya is very outgoing and is always the first in line for food.  At feeding time it almost seems as if we have several Anya’s as where ever we go with the feed there is Anya.


I will try and capture a better picture of Anacia in the next day or so as she is a pretty girl and you really can’t see her well in my one and only picture!



June 7, 2008

And Our Next Introduction is ……

Windrush Ashling\'s Dream

Windrush Ashling’s Dream who was born at 1:30 a.m. on May 17th.   This little girl decided to present herself in an unusual birthing position resulting in us seeing just one leg and two ears when she first started to make her appearance. 


Dream’s dam Rosie is a maiden and had been giving us signs during the afternoon that she might be in labor, so we had decided to check her through the night just in case and we were glad we decided to do so.  Often late afternoon or evening births are dystocias and Rosie’s behavior had set off our alarm bells.


I managed to free Dream’s stuck leg, but could not get her head to move back into the birth canal so it could be repositioned.  Ric offered to have a try and he managed to get Dreams nose turned around so that she could be delivered.


It was a traumatic birth for poor Rosie and she was tired and sore afterwards.  Little Dream only weighed in at 13.5 lbs, but in view of the circumstances of her birth we were glad she wasn’t any bigger.


Rosie was too sore to allow Dream to nurse initially so we milked her out as best we could and fed the colostrum that we got from Rosie to Dream.  We also started Dream on a colostrum substitute for the next 24 hours, as we knew she would not be getting enough colostrum from Rosie.


Thankfully Dream has turned out to be an easy cria to bottle feed, she accepts the bottle readily, which is not always the case with alpaca crias.  We started her off with a bottle every couple of hours around the clock and gradually increased the hours between each feeding.  Now Dream nurses from her dam and gets 2 –3 bottles from us during the course of the day and thankfully the nighttime feeds have stopped.


Dream is a sweet cria, a little mischievous and definitely aware of the fact that we provide some of her daily milk.  When she sees us outside her little head shoots up, her ears stand erect and then she runs over to see if we have her beloved bottle of milk.


Over the last few tumultuous weeks it has been quite soothing to feed Dream her bottle.  I am so familiar with the details of her little face now, the crease of her nose, the two swirls of fiber on either side of that crease, her dense top knot that seems to get thicker each day.   I enjoy watching her as she focuses her eyes on the bottle and eagerly sucks on the bottle until it is drained dry.  As hard as it is to get up in the middle of the night after only a couple of hours sleep, when you walk out into the pasture and are rewarded by a fuzzy face anxiously awaiting your arrival, it makes you forget how tired you are.


Dream is a special cria in more ways than one, she is the great grand daughter of our first alpaca Jenny, and her dam Ashling was the first female cria to be born on our farm.  We sold Ashling but sadly she passed away after giving birth to Dreams dams Rosie.  Ashling’s owners at the time named Rosie (her real name is Rose Marie) after me and asked if we would raise her, as she had to be bottle fed.  So Rosie came to stay with us until she could be weaned from the bottle and returned to her owners.


In time Rosie’s owners decided to leave the alpaca business and Rosie is now ours.  So now little Dream has joined us too.  She is a pretty medium fawn color and the daughter of our herd sire Tobiano.  When we came to name Dream we wanted her name to be special. 


Following Ashling’s death I had made her owners a photo presentation of Ashling set to the music “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker.  The day after Dream was born I had to make a run to the grocery store to get milk and yogurt in preparation for feeding her.  As I drove home what should come on the radio but Joe Cocker’s song “You Are So Beautiful” and I knew at that moment what Dream’s name should be.


If you are unfamiliar with Joe Cocker’s song you can listen to it at http://www.last.fm/music/Joe+Cocker/_/You+Are+So+Beautiful


The song is a short one, only lasting a couple of minutes.  When you listen pay particular attention to the lyrics of the second verse and you will understand why Windrush Ashling’s Dream received her name.




May 21, 2008

Say Hello To Our Newest Arrival

Our Newest Arrival




























The two girls who appeared to be in labor on Monday were just teasing me.  After a while they both settled down and still no cria from either one to date, but I bet it won’t be long.  I feel sure that our odd weather is having an effect on the girls; I do hope that it settles down soon so that they can deliver their crias before they get too large.


Our newest arrival though is anything but large.  She was born around 1 a.m. Saturday morning and we haven’t had a full nights sleep since she arrived!


This little girl weighed in at 13.5 lbs, a small cria and also a tired and weak one by the time she arrived.  Her dam tried to deliver her but she managed to get herself well and truly stuck and we ended up assisting with the birth.


We had been aware that her dam was possibly in labor late in the afternoon and so had been making regular checks to see how things were progressing.   Typically a dam that goes into labor in the late afternoon or evening will have a bad birthing presentation.  On what was going to be our last check at 12:30 a.m. I discovered the cria being presented but could only see one leg and two ears – not a normal birthing presentation.  I went up to the house and got Ric to come and help and we gathered our usual birthing supplies that we keep in a kit ready to go during birthing season.  I also made sure we had plenty of gloves and lube, as I knew we were going to have to assist with the birth.


When we examined the dam and cria we discovered that the crias left leg was bent back and her nose was tucked down and to the left resulting in her presenting the crown of her head to the birth canal.  I was able to free the leg, but was unable to maneuver the crias head so Ric had a try and manage to push the crias head back just enough to get her nose out through the birth canal.  The rest of the delivery was easy compared to getting the cria unstuck but naturally the dam and cria were both tired.


Having a cria born during the very early hours of the morning also presents another problem in that the cria needs to be dried off quickly and kept warm.  Armed with towels and a hair dryer we worked on drying off the cria while her dam took a well earned rest.  It always seems to take forever to get a cria dried, but eventually we got her dry enough to where we could put a cria coat on her and wrap her in blankets to keep her warm.  This little girl was most definitely not too thrilled about her introduction to the world and kept trying to curl up into a fetal position.


Our new little girl has started life with a few challenges.  Her dam was very sore following the birth and was not willing to let the cria nurse.  We were able to milk the dam out some and give the milk to the cria, but also ended up bottle feeding her some cattle colostrum for the first 24 hours.  The cria is now nursing off her dam, but needs supplementary feed to so we are giving her a bottle every two hours around the clock.  As each day goes on she gets a little stronger both physically and in her bond to her dam.


We did have a little set back with our new little girl when she started being lethargic and ran a temperature.  After consultation with our vet we have her on antibiotics, with her being so small the shots we are giving her seem miniscule, but they seem to be doing the trick and she has been more active since starting on them.


Of course we still have the job of giving her a name and as fragile she is and as much as she has hung on to life we really feel it needs to be something special, maybe as the gap between her bottles increases and we get more rest we will be able to think of something fitting for such a brave little girl.



May 20, 2008

What a Weekend!

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what plans we have made, life will tell us quite firmly that there are other things that need our attention at that moment and our plans have to fall by the wayside.


We had planned on shearing alpacas on Saturday and Sunday, but that was not to be.  First we had ordered some more blades and cutters for our shears and they didn’t arrive, then we were greeted with rain on Saturday morning and it continued to rain on and off throughout the day.  It is never good to shear wet alpacas and so Saturday’s weather really but an end to our plans, but even more than that was the fact that neither Ric or I got any sleep on Friday night/Saturday Morning as by 1 a.m. Saturday we were delivering a cria in the pasture and from then on our time was spent caring for the dam and the cria.  More on that situation in another blog entry, but as of now the dam is doing well and the cria is not the strongest but is hanging in there with some supplemental feeding.


We decided it would be foolish to put a pair of shears in Ric’s hands when he had not been to sleep since the day before and so cancelled our plans to shear on Saturday.  By Sunday we still had to care for the cria through the night but felt up to shearing and so Sunday’s shearing went ahead as planned.  We were fortunate to have lots of help show up, especially as on Sunday morning our horse Sabre decided to colic.  Thankfully one of our neighbors was able to help us with him and he seems to be doing much better now, but is still under a watchful eye.  A big thank you goes out to our neighbor Darlene for all of her help with Sabre and also to Bob, Regina, Nathan and Abby Dart, Corky Green and his grand-daughter Christina, Jennifer, Alex and Megan Stewart and Bethany Heaton for helping out with shearing on Sunday, and another thank you to our friend Bergie who loaned us some cutters and blades so that we could keep shearing.  When you are sleep deprived and stretched in many different directions it’s wonderful to have such helpful friends and neighbors.  We still have a lot of alpacas to shear but we made some good progress on Sunday.


As I write this blog entry it is Monday afternoon.  The day is extremely hot, our daytime is high expected to reach 95 degrees and two of our girls appear to be in labor.  Funnily enough they are mother and daughter (Bjorn and Anya).  My day is now being spent watching the girls from afar, filling water buckets with water and Gatorade, hosing down alpaca legs and bellies and of course feeding our new cria.   I have all of my birthing supplies ready, plus a jug full of electrolytes and a good power lunch to keep me going through the day.  Now all I need is two healthy crias and maybe even a good nights sleep (although I suspect that is going to be several days in the making!)



May 7, 2008

Back Home and Back to Business

My visit to England is over and I arrived back in the US late Sunday evening.  Unfortunately my flight from London was delayed by two hours and so my two hour forty minute layover before my connecting flight was reduced to just forty minutes.  It was a challenge to retrieve my luggage, clear immigration, clear customs (including an extra baggage inspection as I had brought food back with me) recheck my bags and make it to my next flight, but miraculously I made it!


Of course now there is much to catch up on, from email and bills to preparing for shearing and birthing of the crias that are due, but it’s not insurmountable and I am sure by the end of the week I will be almost back to normal (whatever normal is!).  Having been without internet access for most of my trip this blog has been lacking in entries while I have been gone, but now I am home the entries will be posted regularly.  If you posted a comment on the blog while I was gone and haven’t heard back from me yet then please know I will be in touch shortly.


The animals are all pleased to have me back home, the dogs gave me a rapturous welcome, the cats tried to tell me that they needed more food and the horses greeted me with a lot of whinnying.  The alpacas all came up to see me and I received lots of “wuffles” from them as the gathered around me in the pastures.  The pregnant girls are all looking much bigger than when I left and some of them have developed udders showing that they are not far off from giving birth.  The boys sense that changes are about to occur in the girls pasture and are giving longing looks to the girls.  As the girls reach the last stages of their pregnancy their hormone levels change and the boys are more than aware of this.


Monday afternoon brought with it an urgent situation for our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas.  One of the dams at their farm had been in labor for most of the morning and wasn’t making progress.   By lunchtime the vet had decided to do a C-section on the dam and I joined Bob and Regina at the vet’s office to give them a helping hand.  Fortunately the cria was still alive when the vet delivered him – a beautiful male cria with soft shiny crimpy fleece.  Not that we could see that when he was delivered as he was very wet and covered in birthing fluids.  My part of the process was to get him dry and take care of him while the vet completed the surgery on the dam.  The cria was remarkable strong despite his traumatic birth and once dried off he was very hungry.  As soon as was possible we got some colostrum from the crias dam and give it to the new cria who greedily sucked it down.  The cria appears to be fine and healthy but unfortunately the dam had to be euthanized yesterday following complications from the surgery.  It is always hard to lose an alpaca; to see a dam struggle for the survival of her cria and lose her life in the process is especially heartbreaking.   That little cria is one special boy and I hope that he goes on to win many ribbons for the Darts and brings them much pleasure as he grows and thrives. 


By Tuesday it was time to get into shearing mode as the Darts had a shearer booked to shear some of their herd.  The shearing went well, and it was a good chance to wake up those muscles that I don’t use for the rest of the year but do use once a year during shearing holding alpacas and picking up fleece.  Thank you Bob and Regina for giving me a warm up session prior to our starting to shear our herd this weekend!


It hasn’t taken me long to get back in the thick of things, life has a way of doing that especially when you work with livestock, but it keeps me out of trouble – well most of the time anyway!


October 5, 2007

Getting Feedback from the Girls

TobianoHaving settled back in at home it’s time to get back in the groove of things here at the farm.  As the fall temperatures start to drop we are preparing for our fall breeding schedule.

We have several females that we bred in the spring and we need to establish if they are definitely pregnant or not.  We also have some girls who will need breeding this fall so we need to test their reaction to a male.

Tobiano was the lucky boy who got to try out the females this time.  He is one of our more aggressive breeding males and usually provokes a response from the female.

We kept the females we wished to behavior test penned up after morning feeding and then brought Tobiano over to a spare pen in the girls pasture.  As we walked Tobiano into the pasture Theresa came over with her tail held high and clucking at Tobiano.  We have seen Theresa exhibit this behavior before when she is pregnant, but she also exhibits similar behavior sometimes when she is not pregnant.  As Theresa seemed determined to get Tobiano’s attention we allowed her to go into an adjoining pen to Tobiano’s, we then caught her and put her in the same pen as Tobiano, within seconds of entering the pen Theresa was spitting hard so we let her back out in the pasture.  Theresa must have felt that she needed to be even more emphatic about her not wanting to see any male alpacas as she stayed a few feet away from Tobiano’s pen spitting and posturing the whole time we were testing the rest of the girls.  I tried telling her that we had got the message that she is pregnant, but she still insisted on hanging around to send some more spit in Tobiano’s direction. 

Fortunately Tobiano was not put off from his task by Theresa’s behavior (some breeding males, especially the younger ones can be put off by behavior such as Theresa’s) and he successfully behavior tested the remaining females.  Willow, TeQueely, Ivanna, Anya and Rebecca were all pretty admanent that they are pregnant and have no further use for a male alpaca at this time. 

Cinnamon too spit hard at Tobiano but we are not entirely convinced that she is pregnant.  We had thought Cinnamon was pregnant in June but then she cushed (albeit reluctantly) in July so we had thought she was no longer pregnant.  As a maiden alpaca it could be that she was confused in July when she cushed and was pregnant at that time, so to make certain that we establish Cinnamons status we will book her in to see the vet for either a progesterone test or an ultrasound.  Fingers crossed our pretty Cinnamon is pregnant. 

We did have one girl cush for Tobiano but he was not allowed to breed her.  Keeva cushed within minutes of entering the pen.  I was not entirely surprised to see Keeva cush, she had a terrible dystocia (bad birthing presentation) last year and had some scar tissue as a result of the vets efforts to birth the cria.  Keeva did breed in the spring but apparently the breeding did not take, or she has aborted her cria in the early stages of pregnancy.  My suspicion with Keeva is that she has a uterine infection, we did flush her following her dystocia but feel our next step with Keeva at this time is to talk to our vet about her and perhaps also flush her again.

So Tobiano had a somewhat frustrating morning, but he did a good job for us and was pretty good about backing off the females once we were satisfied that they were pregnant.    Now having established the status of the girls we can plan to actually breed those females that are open (not pregnant) in the next week or two.


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