A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 16, 2009

Where Does The Time Go To?

Windrush Chandra

Windrush Chandra, February 2009 - she's grown a lot since then!

The past week just seemed to evaporate!  It’s hard to imagine where the time goes or is it?  Of course there was the distraction of Theresa’s new cria to keep us occupied.  Theresa’s cria is a sweet and lively little thing, exploring the pasture, coming up to see what we are doing, giving cria kisses and taking off on cria races around the pasture.  She is now up to 20.8 lbs and she and Theresa are back in with the main herd.  Theresa is a very protective dam and will not take any nonsense from the older crias who might think they are going to play rough with her baby!

Sunday (November 15) saw the end of the early bird discount for stalls at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular which will be held February 12- 14, 2010 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.  We always try and enter alpacas in the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and it’s great to be able to get discounted stalls and so we needed to make our decision this week as to which alpacas will attend the show.  We are lucky to have many alpacas to choose from but show expenses soon mount up and we can’t take them all.  We ended up registering our two new junior herdsires Biscotti and Champ and our Prince Regent daughter Chandra.   Show results from different shows and different judges can do a lot to enhance your Junior Herdsires breeding career, shows also provide an opportunity to showcase your junior herdsire in front of other alpaca breeders who might be interested in booking breedings to him.    With Chandra our motivation in showing her is a little different.  As our one and only Prince Regent daughter on the farm (the others have all sold or belong to our clients) we are curious to see how she places in the competitive white classes.  Our intention is for her to become part of our foundation herd so it will be good to get feedback from a judge as to Chandra’s strengths and weaknesses.  With her dense, fine fleece, correct conformation, graceful presence and her Prince Regent head (her sire has a beautiful head style which Chandra has inherited) we are hopeful that Chandra will walk away with a ribbon.

Of course the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular also has a fleece show and we will be sending in entries to that too, but I have a little more time to get those entries in the system.  Once entered though I then need to get busy skirting the fleeces in preparation for the show – February will soon come around.

We also had several enquiries during the week from people interested in learning more about alpacas, the alpaca lifestyle and what it takes to start up and run a successful alpaca business.  It’s always great to spend time talking to people interested in alpacas and to share with them some of the knowledge we have gained over the years.  I still remember the excitement Ric and I felt in the days when we were researching the alpaca business and the kindness of the alpaca breeders we spoke to at that time.  It is nice to now be able to “pay it forward” and share our knowledge with those looking into bringing alpacas into their life.

Add to those activities the daily chores, some behavior tests of bred females, some toe nail trimming, work on our websites, preparation for next weekend’s Open Farm Day, and work on a knitting project that someone has asked me to make and I guess it’s hardly surprising that our week disappeared before our eyes.  No complaint here though as it is fun work, a great lifestyle to be living and beats shuffling papers in an office any day!

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

February 18, 2009

Still Bragging!

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

 

Having unpacked the truck I have had a chance to examine the scorecard for Windrush White Blast’s fleece that won white color champion at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular last weekend.

 

One of the reasons I like fleece shows so much is that no matter where you place you get your scorecard back with your fleece giving you some feedback on where you fleece scored high and where it scored low.  The scorecard is a good record that you can look at and keep with your alpaca files.  In halter classes if you place the judge will give oral reasons for your placing, but then you have to remember what the judge said, which when you are showing several alpacas over the course of the day can prove to be a bit of a challenge.  Oral reasons are not given to the alpacas that place outside of the top six.  We figure to have half a chance of remembering accurately what the judge said in a halter class you would have to have a) a good memory b) a tape or video recorder running during the show or c) use a tape recorder immediately after your class to record what the judges comments were about your alpaca, which could be difficult if you have back to back classes.

 

With AOBA fleece shows the scoring is done using an absolute point system.  You have the potential for scoring 100 points total and that 100 points is divided over several fleece traits.

 

Below is a copy of our scorecard for Blast’s fleece.  As you can see he scored high pretty much across the board, with his lowest score being in the area of fleece weight.  I had suspected that the score for the annualized weight of Blast’s fleece would be a little low because he has fine fleece and also he is not a very big alpaca.

 

 

 

Blast's Fleece Score Card

Blast's Fleece Score Card

 

 

 

 

Blast’s total score was 84.5 – not too shabby!  I like the judge’s comments too “Overall wonderful traits!  Wow!  I might be biased but I have to agree with the judge on the Wow factor of Blast’s fleece.

 

Blast will turn two in June and his breeding career will hopefully begin by fall of 2009, so if you know of any single female alpacas looking for a hot date give us a call or drop us an email as we are sure Blast will be willing to oblige!

 

Rosemary

February 17, 2009

They’re Back!

Carissima's Fleece

Carissima's Fleece

 

Ric and the show alpacas finally made it home at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning.  With packing up the show equipment and helping one exhibitor who got his RV stuck in one of the doors to the showground Ric’s trip home was delayed.  Driving a long distance at night is not fun, even more so when you are on your own and hauling a trailer load of alpacas and Ric ended up having to stop a couple of times for rest breaks. 

 

The alpacas had become quite comfortable in the trailer and were not really inclined to get out once they had come home.  A little bit of coaxing and the sight of their alpaca buddies soon got them jumping out of the trailer and they are now happily settled in the quarantine pen for the next three weeks.  So far we have not had any reports of illness in the alpacas visiting the show, so fingers crossed all that came home with the alpacas was their show ribbons and not some nasty bacteria or virus.

 

The show alpacas were ready to eat once settled in their pen, I am sure they are happy to be home away from the hustle and bustle of the showground.

 

From all reports young Mags behaved very well at the show, we had been unsure of how Mags would react to being around a lot of people, but he settled down well and seemed to enjoy watching all of the activity around him.  When it came time to show he behaved very well.   Perhaps being in shows is Mags forte and that extra activity and attention is what he needs to keep him occupied.

 

Now we have the task of unloading all of the show equipment, cleaning it up, restocking supplies and repacking everything ready for the next show.  Over the years we have learned that it really is best to take care of everything immediately after the show, that way there is one less thing to worry about during the hectic days that occur just prior to a show, when we often wonder if we will ever be ready to leave!

 

I finally found out that Carissima took second in her class in the fleece show, not a bad result at all as it was a large, competitive white class and the first place winner was our “Windrush White Blast” who went on to take White Color Champion.  We can’t complain at that result can we!

 

Our next show will most likely be the Great Western Alpaca Show that takes place in early May in Denver, until then our show string will be taking a well deserved break and we will return our attention to the daily care of the herd while making our plans for shearing, spring breedings and the arrival of the spring crias – which will be happening before we can blink I’m sure!

Rosemary

August 9, 2008

The Fleeces Are Back – With Ribbons

Winning Fleeces - Blast and Velvet

Winning Fleeces - Blast and Velvet

 

 

 

Thursday saw the arrival of the FedEx van and the return of the fleeces we sent in to the AFCNA Continental Fleece Show.

 

One of the fun things about mail in fleece shows is the moment when you open your box and discover if your fleeces have won ribbons – it’s a little bit like opening a Christmas or birthday gift, except sometimes you experience a little disappointment if your fleeces have not won anything.  Still with a fleece show you at least get the scorecard in with the fleece showing you how your fleece scored in the various areas (fineness, handle, uniformity of micron/length/color, crimp style, staple type/density, brightness, lack of medullation, lack of impurities/stain/damage and fleece weight) and any comments from the judges.

 

So how did our fleeces do?  No firsts or seconds I am afraid, but we did get ribbons.  A 4th place for Velvet and a 5 th place for White Blast.  Not too shabby for a large show with over 300 entries.

 

Velvet’s fleece had been moved from the dark fawn class to the light brown class.  This is not the first time that has happened to Velvet.  Her color is between the two shades and we have found that it depends on the lighting at the facility as to which color designation she is given.  Having the vicuna shading (graduating from dark on her back to lighter fleece toward her belly) Velvet is always at a little bit of a disadvantage when compared to a solid brown or solid fawn alpaca.  When I skirt her fleece to prepare it for showing I end up removing all of the lightest shade, leaving just the dark and mid shade, which of course reflects in her fleece weight.  In fleece shows we are aiming to show the good qualities and consistency of the fleece and so to leave the lightest fiber on Velvet’s show fleece would result in fewer points for color consistency.  Velvet is also very fine which does not help her fleece weight either.  At the end of the day though there were three other fleeces that scored higher than Velvets.  Her score card will give me pointers as to which areas she is lacking in and will assist me in helping to decide which herdsire to breed her to when she comes to breeding age.

 

White Blast placed 5th in his class.  I know the competition in the white classes would have been stiff and so a 5th place is still an achievement.  Another bullet to add to Blast’s future herdsire resume!  Blast’s fleece scored high in all areas except his fleece weight where his fineness and small stature probably didn’t help him too much.  Blast is still young though and has been doing some good growing this summer.  While he will never be a large alpaca he is not undersized by any means and according to him he is ready to try his hand with the ladies.  As he is only 15 months old it will be a little while before he goes on his first date, but he definitely has the potential to make a good herdsire.  As well as Blast’s fleece scores the Judge had written the comment “Commendable Brightness” in the notes area of Blasts scorecard, which is a nice compliment in itself.

 

The fleeces will now go back out to the studio for storage until the next show.  They might need a little straightening out depending on how they were handled at the show, but it will not take much to get them ready for the next time.

 

We are proud of the achievement of our two young alpacas and have several more fleeces to show during the course of the year, which, fingers crossed, will also bring us more ribbons in due course.

 

Rosemary

July 16, 2008

Well Isn’t That Pretty

Blast's Fleece

Blast's Fleece

The last couple of days I have been busy preparing a couple of fleeces for the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) Continental Fleece Show which is to be held in Denver, Colorado on August 2 and 3.

 

I enjoy entering the AFCNA Show, it is a big show with good competition and included in the price of the entry fee is a DVD of all of the seminars given at the show, plus the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces for each class.  It is so nice to “take part” in the seminars at your leisure at home, how many seminars have you attended in the past where you later wish you could repeat or re-hear part or all of the seminar.  Well with the AFCNA show seminars being recorded and sent out on DVD after the show you can repeat all or part of the seminar as you need.   It is also great to see the judges’ oral reasons on the winning fleeces, especially if your fleece is one of those winners; it gives you feedback which is accessible time and again.    My experience at shows is that usually you are so busy with the show itself that you do not get time to attend the seminars, if you are showing alpacas and win you hear the judges comments at the time of your class, but it is so easy to forget the exact words used and sometimes the PA system at the show grounds means that all you hear is a garbled noise.  With the AFCNA show the judges comments are available to you at your convenience – isn’t that a nice luxury.

 

I am sending in the fleeces of our young male Windrush White Blast, who is out of our dam Clarissa and a herdsire from Texas called FRA Lucero.  I have been really pleased with Blast and when we sheared him his fleece was so beautiful I knew it was a definite candidate for a show.  No doubt Blast’s fleece will be in a large highly competitive class, but I feel it is good enough to stand up to the competition.  Just look at it in the picture at the beginning of this blog entry, it is beautiful, bright and shiny with a consistent high frequency crimp – such a pretty fleece and I am sure it will catch the judges attention.

 

Also being sent off to the show is the fleece from our young female Windrush Zindel’s Velvet Princess.  Velvet is the first offspring from our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel and she has a unique velvety handle to her fleece.  Velvet’s fleece has a higher frequency crimp than Blast’s but lower amplitude of crimp.  Two very different fleece styles but each beautiful in its own right.

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

Velvet's Beautiful Fleece

 

So I will finish preparing the fleeces and send them on their way to the show later this week.  Fingers crossed they will win some nice ribbons, and even if they don’t at least I will get some education and fun from watching the show DVD’s.

 

Rosemary

February 26, 2008

Still Playing Catch Up

There is still work to be done as a result of the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  Judges and volunteers expenses need to be paid, mail in fleeces need to be shipped back to their owners and then there is the end of show report to prepare for the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA).  So that will be my task for today so that I can put the show “to bed” until next year, but then again ………

You see the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular Show Committee is already working on the planning for next years show!  The conference calls will be starting up again shortly, with the first one being a chance to recap what went well and what needs to be improved on for next year.

Many exhibitors while understanding that a show takes a lot of planning perhaps don’t understand just how much planning it does take.  In reality the cogs that make the show work never stop and there is always something going on to make the show run smoothly the following year.

Fortunately for me once my show report has been turned in there is not too much that has to be done for next year’s show until closer to the show date.  The judges for next year are already under consideration and once they have been contracted I get a little breathing space.  There are some minor changes that need to be made to the show forms and some supplies that are required that I need to get while they are still fresh in my memory.

For the Event Coordinator though it is a different matter, and our Event Coordinator Sandy Steffy of Whisper Soft Alpacas is ready to get things moving in order to make next year’s show a success.   Sandy is a hard worker and has that lovely persuasive charm that many people from the Southern States have.  It’s hard to say “no” to Sandy as she sweet talks you in her lovely Louisiana lilt!

I was very impressed with Sandy during the recent TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, she was easily found throughout the event, she checked on the various show managers often and anything you needed she organized quickly.  Not once did I see her flustered and always she was pleasant to all she met.  I know by Sunday Sandy had to have been ready to drop, but she never once let it show.  I will look forward to working with Sandy in the next year.

So the show “catch up” will go on, although a little like a cat that chases it’s tail I am not sure that we ever really will get completely caught up, but that’s just the nature of the beast isn’t it?

Rosemary   

February 21, 2008

And The Results Are ….

Our alpacas certainly did us proud at the TxOLAN Alpaca Show.  We had entries in both the fleece and halter classes and won ribbons in both.

In the fleece show our black yearling female “Windrush Shiimsa” took a third place in her class, my darling “TeQueely” (who two years ago at this time was unable to walk) took a first place in her class, and our herdsire “Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure” who we co-own with Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas took not only first place in his class but also was selected as the White Color Champion and won a special judges award for Best Brightness.  In addition to all of those ribbons two offspring from our herdsire “Enchantment’s Prince Regent” took Brown Color Champion (LSA Regent’s Moonlight Pavane) and Brown Reserve Color Champion (Prince Regent’s Treasure of Airlie) in their fleece classes.

While judging was going on in the fleece show, our alpacas in the halter show were also being judged.  Windrush Shiimsa won fifth place out of a large class of 13 and Zindel’s Velvet Princess took fourth out of a class of six.  One of our client’s alpacas that we had also taken to the show “Isaac’s Athena” took the third place in Velvet’s class.  The youngest of our alpacas at the show “Windrush White Blast” unfortunately did not place, he was in a large class of white male juvenile alpacas (one of the most competitive classes at any show).  Blast is a little on the small side and that may have gone against him in the show ring, but he is young and has plenty of time to develop yet.  Blast has a beautiful fleece and I am sure his fleece will do well in the fleece shows after shearing.

The ribbons continued to flow for Regent’s offspring in the halter show as well as the fleece show.  LSA Regent’s Moonlight Pavane” took second in her light brown yearling class and “Prince Regent’s Treasure of Airlie” took fifth in a large class of dark brown yearlings.  Two more of Regent’s offspring “Travesura’s Sulaimon” and “Enchantment’s Snow Prince” took first (Sulaimon) and second (Snow Prince) in their white yearling male class against some stiff competition.   As if that was not enough we entered Regent into the Get of Sire Class and he took third out of a very large class of Get of Sire entries.  The Get of Sire class comprises of three alpacas that are the progeny of the same sire.  The three alpacas are evaluated simultaneously in the ring by the judge and should represent their sire’s ability to transmit his positive traits to each progeny in a uniform and consistent manner.  For Regent’s group of three to take third in such a large class was good credit to Regent’s strength as a herdsire.

So we left the show with a sense of achievement, it is always great to win ribbons at a show, but more than that the success of Regent’s offspring brings a special feeling of accomplishment.  It is one thing to have a ribbon winning alpaca, but when you have played a part in the creation of that alpaca that is a special achievement in a class of it’s own.

Rosemary 

October 21, 2007

Fiber in Folsom

Saturday’s Wild and Wooly Alpaca Expo went well, the attendance from the public was down from last year but with local elections going on, one of the largest craft fairs in the US taking place just up the road and the Louisiana State University Football team playing in Baton Rouge there were plenty of other distractions in the area.  There was a steady stream of people all day and who knows what today will bring. 

During the day I got to meet several alpaca breeders from the Louisiana and as always it was good to get together and exchange ideas and learn from each other. 

The Expo had a small fleece show and I was able to spend some time in the fleece room, which is always time well spent.  The judge was Shannon McConnell from Illinois, who with the fleece judging now over will today be giving an educational seminar on what judges are looking for in the show ring.  

My fleece skirting seminar seemed to be well received, it was a much more condensed version than I usually give but the attendees said that they learnt a lot and hopefully they walked away with more confidence in preparing their fleeces for showing. Today I will have to be mindful of the timing of my presentation as I have to make sure that I get to the airport in time to return my rental car and catch my flight home.  Hopefully I will find my way back to the airport easier than trying to find my way out of the airport area. 

I did speak to Ric today, no news on Chai to report and today the weather in Clovis is forecast to be windy and very cold so the chances are she will not have her cria today as alpacas usually birth in fine weather.  We really don’t want a cria being born on a cold windy day so let’s hope she holds onto her cria until a warmer day. 

When I spoke to Ric he was getting ready to do some unexpected work – he discovered water leaking from our well house while doing morning chores.  Not a good thing, let’s hope it’s something that’s easy to fix! 

Rosemary

October 6, 2007

Is it really Fall?

I am beginning to wonder what has happened to our seasons, after a relatively wet summer with cooler than average temperatures we are now experiencing a warm, dry fall.    Yesterday the temperature reached 90 degrees with high humidity as well, high for us that is.

The alpacas didn’t seem too bothered by the heat; they did a fair bit of sunning but moved around the pasture well so I was not too concerned about them.  Having turned the fans off earlier in the week we had to turn them back on to provide some breeze, I guess when the first snow hits the ground it will be time to clean off the fans and put them up for the winter.

Chai was the only alpaca that seemed to be taking it easier than normal, but considering that she is only two weeks out from her due date her behavior was not unusual.  Of course we kept a close eye on her throughout the day to make sure that she was not going into labor.  Chai loves to sit on the bed of hay in the big shelter, I suspect it provides nice cushioning for her ever growing “bump”, but it means that we have to walk out to physically check on her rather than just looking out of the window.  Throughout the course of the day Chai looked good and was definitely enjoying lying on the hay and nibbling what is left of the big bale that was in the big shelter, she has developed wax caps on her udder now and so we are probably not too far off from her giving birth.

On the Zeus report there is exciting news, he had his biggest gain yet yesterday 0.6 lbs!  We were so excited that we phoned his owners and told them that we were going to have a party.  What will be really exciting is if he can show the same gain today, you can bet we will be holding our breath again as we step on the scales with him this morning.

We finally have a weekend we are both home so are planning on sorting through some fiber to send it off for processing into socks and also sorting out which fleeces to send to the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA).  We have a lot of fleece to sort through and the process will take a little while but once we get into the routine of sorting some fleece every day the job will soon be done.  We also have several show fleeces to skirt so I need to work on those too as there are some good shows coming up which I would like to enter.

It will be nice to have a weekend without dashing here and there, that is of course unless we end up dashing out to deliver Chai’s cria!

Rosemary

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