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!


February 13, 2008

On The Road To Fort Worth, Texas

The day has arrived for us to head down to Fort Worth to prepare the show grounds for the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show itself does not start until Friday but there is much work to be done before the exhibitors arrive and start checking in.  The last few weeks have been hectic with show preparations and so it is good to see the show drawing closer and knowing that it will soon all be behind us.

Of course leaving the farm is no easy task, the animals can not be left to fend for themselves and there are not too many people who want to spend their time caring for over 50 alpacas, two horses, five cats and four dogs.  In fact we have five people coming in to help with various tasks at various times in order to keep everything going.  Thank goodness for friends!  We have had a couple of run throughs with our helpers and so far so good, at the end of the day as long as all of the animals get food, water and good shelter (and a couple of walks at least for the dogs) then everyone should be fine.

It is inevitable that things seem to go wrong just before we leave, Toby the Pomeranian started with a virus or infection so it was back to the vet for more medicine.  Thankfully Toby’s latest health issue seems to be minor, but as we have fought hard to keep him healthy it is troubling to think that he is not 100% as we leave him for a few days.  He is still his lively, bright active self and so we hope that is an indication that he will be fine.

One of the alpacas Rosie decided to get a hair in her eye and then rub her eye on some hay in an effort to get the hair out.  The hay did nothing to help her eye, we did manage to get the hair out of her eye and have been bathing it and treating it in order to soothe it for her.

Then of course there is the weather.  Fine today but Thursday and Friday are forecast for snow, and possibly a lot of it.  Why does it seem that whenever we leave the farm the weather takes a turn for the worst and the poor farm sitters are left to struggle in the elements – Murphy’s Law I suppose!

Just to add another dimension of interest to our travels Ric has now completely lost his voice!  For the last couple of days I have had to act as his interpreter on the phone as it is almost impossible to understand him. 

It just seems to be a rule of thumb that life takes an awkward turn every time we leave for a show, or is it just our perception that things are that way.  Once we arrive at the show grounds I know our feet will hardly touch the ground, but I also know everything will work out and the show will go off well.

 The blog entries will probably be sporadic over the next few days, but I will try and post at least a little update as to how the show is going.  For those of you attending the show we look forward to seeing you there and wish you safe travels on your journey to Fort Worth.


February 10, 2008

Just Like His Dad!

Enchantment’s Snow Prince - Profile

I have been trying to get a good picture of Enchantment’s Snow Prince who is staying with us temporarily so that he can attend the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular in Fort Worth next week.

Snow Prince has settled in well with the weanling group.  We did end up putting Shiimsa back in with the main herd until the show, she is coming up to breeding age and while Snow Prince is a little young to be breeding he is within the window when it could be a possibility.  Having said that he hasn’t tried anything on with either Velvet or Athena and so I suspect he is not ready to breed yet.

Snow Prince is the son of one of our herdsires Enchantment’s Prince Regent and he has inherited Regent’s dislike of the camera!  I have lost count of the hours we have spent trying to get a good promotional shot of Regent, especially with his ears up.  Whenever Regent sees a camera he turns his rear end to face the camera, or if he decides to stay facing the camera he pins his ears back.  As you can see from the picture of Snow Prince he has the ears back pose down pat!  As fast as I managed to get Snow Prince to put his ears up he managed to put them down again as soon as my finger pressed the button on the camera.

Snow Prince is carrying a lot of fleece, which is one of Regent’s traits that he passes on to his offspring.  Snow Prince is a little more skittish than Regent’s offspring usually are, typically Regent’s offspring are curious and friendly, Snow Prince is curious but seems to spook easily.  Part of his behavior may be from lack of handling, but I also wonder if the fiber around his eyes is preventing him from seeing properly – he may just have a little trim around the eyes before he goes to the show.  While his full fleece face is impressive, if he cannot see properly he will not behave well in the show ring and will be more likely to be spooked by things.  I remember when Regent was showing we usually had to trim around his eyes at least once during each show season.

We may have enough of Regent’s offspring at the Fort Worth Show to enable us to enter a Get of Sire Class.   The Get of Sire class comprises of three alpacas that are the offspring of the same sire.  The three alpacas are shown simultaneously and should represent their sire’s ability to transmit his progeny in a uniform and consistent manner.   The Get of Sire class is a great one to win and good publicity for any herdsire, we sure wouldn’t mind winning it!


February 7, 2008

A New Arrival

As the TxOLAN show draws closer you may find my blog entries get shorter!  There is a lot of work to be done to get prepared for the show, and just not enough hours of the day to get it all done!  It will all get done though at the end of the day, and will go well I am sure.

Yesterday we received a new arrival at the farm, one of the sons of our Enchantment’s Prince Regent.  This young male is called Enchantment’s Snow Prince and is one good looking boy.  He belongs to our friends and mentors Rick and Ann Evans of Enchantment Farms Alpacas and he will be traveling to the show with us.  Rick and Ann will be traveling themselves but not to the show grounds.  They have some property in Arkansas that they are setting up and have to be there the weekend of the show and so asked us if we would take Snow Prince to the show.

Snow Prince seems to be an easy going guy, we have put him in with the weanlings who he will be stalled with at the show and so far they are all getting along well.

Snow Prince has a beautiful head on him and lots of fleece, both traits that Regent passes on to his offspring.  I need to take some pictures of Snow Prince for our herd records before he returns to his home farm.  Fingers crossed he will be going home with at least a blue ribbon to his credit.

That’s all from me for now; the show paperwork is calling again so it’s back to the grindstone!


January 29, 2008

It’s Back! The High Wind Returns

I had to chuckle at the weather forecast I heard on the radio yesterday.  The young lady (a meteorologist based in Amarillo) described the day as “another gorgeous day”.  To give the lady her due the temperature was at least warm, but it is difficult to apply the word gorgeous to the day when the winds are blowing around 30 mph with 50+ mph gusts.

To add to our “gorgeous” weather the dirt and tumbleweeds were blowing freely as well.  As I drove back to the house from an errand there were times on our road that visibility was only a few feet due to the blowing dirt and the only way to know about the tumbleweeds was to see them appear out of nowhere and then slam into the side of the truck.

The current dry conditions are almost as bad as they were in 2004 when serious dust storms were a problem.  I can still remember driving to the show in Fort Worth and driving through areas where the visibility was almost down to nothing.  Not what you want at the best of times but definitely not what you want when you are pulling a trailer load of alpacas.  It is tempting in those conditions to pull over and stop, but the problem is that even with the vehicle’s lights on people are still unable to see you and may run into the back of your vehicle.  We were so lucky that year to miss being involved in a major pile up in one of the dust storms we drove through.  We missed it by minutes, someone was watching over us that day.

Despite the dry conditions our winter wheat is making a valiant attempt at coming through, but unless we receive moisture within the next week or so the winter wheat is unlikely to survive.

The weanlings were not too impressed with yesterday’s weather.  Velvet in particular seemed to miss her dam and did a little fence pacing and ran up to me whenever I went into the pasture.  I suspect on days like these Velvet would feel safer cushed beside her mother in the pasture.

Today is supposed to be the same as yesterday, reasonably warm with high winds.  It will be another day when I will end up wearing a “Clovis tan” by the time chores are finished, due to our fine red dirt sticking to my skin.  There’s just nothing like another “gorgeous” day on the high plains of eastern New Mexico!



January 15, 2008

Born with a Smile

Ric and I are both involved in the upcoming TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, and alpaca show that will take place February 15 – 17 in Fort Worth, Texas.  Ric along with his business partner Danette McCleary will be performing the duties of halter show superintendent and I will be performing the duties of fleece show superintendent.  We would not normally get both of us that heavily involved in a show, especially one that we usually attend to show alpacas, but I had already volunteered to be the fleece show superintendent when the opportunity for Ric and Danette arose to get the contract for the halter show superintendent.  So the moral of that story is that I need to sit on my hands next time someone asks me to volunteer!

As the show approaches we are starting to get more telephone enquiries relating to the show.  Some people need guidance as to how to fill out the forms, some are new to showing alpacas and have questions as to the correct procedures, others have more general enquires such as directions to the show grounds, local hotels etc.

One such enquiry was from a man who had seen an article about alpacas in Progressive Farmer magazine.  The article had mentioned the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and that it was being held in Fort Worth, but apparently had not said at which facility the show would be held (which by the way is the Will Rogers Coliseum).  The man was excited that such a large alpaca show was going to be held in the Fort Worth area and was planning to come to the show.

I gave the man the information he needed and spent a few minutes talking to him.  I asked him if he already owned alpacas, he said he did not but was very interested in them and wanted to learn more about them.  He then came out with something that I hadn’t considered before but which made me smile, he said “How can you not fall in love with something that is born smiling”.

To this man the little crias faces hold a smile and had captured his attention.  In reality, as the crias are born, they are usually gasping as their lungs take in those first few breaths of air.  Once they are dried off and settled down though I can see how someone could see the crias as smiling.  Of course usually I am smiling by that time too, the sight of a cria being born will always be a joy to me.

I hope to meet the man at the show.  I told him that while I would probably be unable to leave the fleece room for much of the show, Ric might be a bit more accessible and that we would love to meet him.

It’s great to meet all of the different people who enquire about the shows we work on; they come from all walks of life but share a common thread, an interest or a love of alpacas.  It’s also great to hear their different perspectives about alpacas and the alpaca lifestyle. 

I will look forward to meeting this man who came out with a lovely thought about crias being born smiling, and I bet that one day he too will get to deliver a cria and realize that the smile will be not only be on the crias face but also on his own.


January 12, 2008

Seeing The Light

AthenaAs my work with the crias continues it is interesting to see the various break through points that they reach. 

First you can sense when they stop being so bothered by being handled.  They go from the “lets see if we can move away” mode to “oh it’s that woman again, we’ll just stand here”.  As I work on handling their feet there is a point when they suddenly click and realize that when they stand in balance it really isn’t too difficult to allow me to pick up their feet one at a time.

This last couple of days we have had good breakthroughs with Blast, Velvet and Athena with walking on the lead rope.  Surprisingly Blast was the first one to see the light.  He is the youngest of the three and a little immature in his thinking, but after a couple of walks around the pasture wearing his halter and lead rope he relaxed into it and started to walk well.  He still hesitates a little when we walk past his dam Clarissa as he wants to go and nurse from her, but he soon moves on, perhaps knowing that he will go back to her once our training session is over.

Velvet on the other hand, moved really well on the lead rope when she was in the pen, but when I took her outside the pen her walk became stiff and reluctant.  Yesterday we were about three quarters of the way around the pasture when she started striding out well with the smooth gait that she has.  Of course the fact that we were heading toward a hay feeder may have helped, but I walked her a little past it and she still did well.

Athena has always been the thinker of the group, and her mind is usually more focused on trying to figure out how to get out of doing what I want her to do, rather than just doing what I am asking of her.  But even Athena has now seen the light and walks really well when on the lead rope.  I can tell though that he mind is still whirring a bit as she walks, but that may always be the case with her.

The crias have done well with their training, all they need now is some “mileage” – time spent exposing them to different situations, keeping them walked and keeping them used to the idea of being on a halter.  In a few more weeks Blast, Athena and Velvet will be headed for their first show the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular in Fort Worth, Texas and hopefully their first blue ribbon too!


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