A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 15, 2013

Farewell to a Faithful Guardian

A sad part of raising alpacas and llamas is that at some time in their life we have to let them go.   As some of our herd ages this is a situation we will no doubt be encountering more often.  It’s tough, but unavoidable.

This morning our guard llama Griffin passed away.  At 13 years old Griffin was middle aged in llama terms, some llamas live well into their twenties but in Griffin’s case that was not to be.

We acquired Griffin through Southwest Llama Rescue along with our other two llamas Maya and Inca.  Griffin’s registered name was Twilight’s Griffin Girl, her fleece was a beautiful rose grey.  Griffin was always more aloof than Maya and Inca, she was a strong and proud girl and took her job of guarding the herd seriously unless someone started putting out hay and then she was quite easily distracted!  Griffin loved to find a higher piece of ground to stand on so she could survey her “kingdom”.  She also loved a really good roll in the dirt, and a nice “shower” with the hose during the hot days of summer.  When we used to hose her legs Griffin would start a dance, spinning and twisting as she enjoyed the cool water on her skin.  You had to make sure to stay out of her way unless you wanted to be showered from mud flinging up from under Griffins feet!

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Griffin looking proud after shearing

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Griffin gets up close and personal

From her records we knew that Griffin had once had a cria, but sadly he did not live long.  When crias were born on our farm Griffin would often nuzzle them and follow them around, and it was on more than one occasion that Griffin joined in the evening cria pronk.  It was so funny to see the little alpaca crias pronking around accompanied by a pretty hefty llama!

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Griffin checks out one of our crias Kaneka

We had known something was not right with Griffin since July.  While I was away visiting family in England Ric called me to tell me Griffin was not eating.  I was due to return a couple of days later and by that time Ric had managed to get Griffin eating again but something was not right with our girl.  We consulted our vet and he felt that Griffin might have congestive heart failure and warned us that it would only be a matter of time before we had to say goodbye to her.

Amazingly Griffin perked up and seemed to be doing better, she was back to eating again and eagerly staking her claim on the morning and evening hay as she loved to do.  The alpacas all knew not to mess with Griffin at feeding time.  We were optimistic.  Perhaps the vet’s diagnosis was wrong.  Griffin seemed good and we were happy to see her looking like her usual self.  But then we noticed that once again Griffin was not right.  She seemed to be losing muscle in her rear end, she stood awkwardly and getting up and down seemed more difficult for her than normal.  We again consulted our vet.  When he examined her he said that her heart sounded good and that the symptoms she had displayed earlier in the summer were all gone, but he was a little baffled as to what was causing Griffin’s discomfort and muscle wasting.  Tests were done to see if perhaps there was a neurological problem or perhaps an issue with Griffin’s spine, blood tests were run to see if there was anything abnormal, but nothing showed up in any of the tests to give us a clue.

We tried various treatments from probiotics to antibiotics, we treated for parasites and ear ticks, we put Griffin on some arthritis medicine in case that was the problem.  I used my photonic red light on her and gave her gentle massages.  Griffin would respond for a while and start eating again and then stop eating and start to lose muscle again.  Neither our vet nor we could come up with any clues to help us figure out what on earth was plaguing Griffin.

Last week Griffin again went off her feed.  We managed to get her eating again, but within a couple of days she would not eat anything we offered to her.  Ric and I were both very concerned about Griffin and what we should do for her.

Last night when I did chores I walked Griffin over to the pen where she liked to eat.  As I walked behind her I noticed she was tripping over even the smallest of rocks in the pasture, she just didn’t look good.  I offered her food and stroked her neck.  I talked to her and told her that if she felt it was time to leave us then I understood.  I told her how much we loved her and what a great job she had done for us guarding the herd.  I told her we would miss her but that we would be okay.

This morning when I got up I looked for Griffin and found her standing by the fence in front of the house.  The nights have been cold recently and Griffin had been spending them in the big blue shelter at the other side of the pasture, staying in there until the hay was put out.  But this morning she had already made her way across the pasture.  I watched Griffin walk around a little and then cush down.

When our helper Leigh Ann arrived I asked her to keep an eye on Griffin and told her that I was very worried about her.  Not too long after Leigh Ann went out to feed the alpacas she came back in and told me that I needed to come to Griffin.  Leigh Ann had seen Griffin’s legs suddenly thrash and Griffin had gone onto her side.

Leigh Ann and I went out and I when I looked at Griffin I knew her time to leave us had come.  Griffin was still conscious.  I put a blanket and a towel under her head and sat with her, stroking her and talking to her until she took her last breath.  Leigh Ann stayed with Griffin and me too, giving us both comfort during a difficult time.

Maya, Inca and Griffin

Maya, Inca and Griffin, the three girls always worked as a team

Our Griffin will be buried in one of the grass pastures that the alpacas and llamas like to visit when we let them out for a day of grazing.  From that point you can see all three alpaca pastures and the hay barn so Griffin can continue to guard over us night and day.  I would like to think that she now has been reunited with her cria and is pronking around with him free of pain and full of joy.

To our faithful guardian Griffin, farewell dear one, you served us well and gave us many years of joy.  We will miss you.  May you now rest in peace.

Rosemary

March 16, 2009

The Folly Of Mother Nature

A Scared Baby Rabbit

A Scared Baby Rabbit

 

Just before our recent snow fall it was starting to look like spring around the farm, fruit trees were blossoming, elm trees were bright green with young leaves, the bluebirds had arrived for their short stay before heading further north and madam skunk had been prowling the property.

 

Then the snow came and everything was plunged back into winter.  That is the nature of the weather in Eastern New Mexico, extreme and changeable.

 

While doing chores in the snow on Friday morning I was made aware of how much nature had been fooled by our warmer days.

 

Putting hay out for the girls is always a bustling time.  They want to be the first to get their head in the hay feeder, or even better get their head in the bucket of hay I am carrying, especially if we are treating them to a little alfalfa as was the case on Friday.

 

As I put hay out in the feeders in the large blue shelter Griffin the llama was standing by my shoulder trying her best to get her head in the hay bucket.  Suddenly from the direction of Griffins feet came a squealing sound.  The sound was vaguely familiar, I didn’t think it was a cria and hoped it was not as we are not due for any births until May.  The squealing continued and eventually I found the source of the noise.  There under Griffins foot was a tiny baby cottontail rabbit. 

 

Fortunately Griffin did not have her feet completely on the rabbit, she’s a large girl and that would have been the end of the rabbit I am sure.  I nudged Griffin to move and the little rabbit dashed off to the side of the shelter.  It was then I noticed a ball of downy fur nestled in the straw where the mother rabbit had made a nest out of her own fur.

 

The dashing of baby rabbit number one had alerted baby rabbit number two who then ran out of the nest to the side of the shelter.  There was no sign of the mother rabbit, but there was enough activity to get the attention of the llamas and the alpacas.  They watched with curiosity as the little rabbits ran around the shelter dashing from one side to the one.  Then, once the rabbits had stopped, Inca (another of our llamas) and Griffin decided that they should check out what these little furry speeding balls of fur were.  Very gently Inca and Griffin reached out their necks and sniffed the rabbits.  Can you imagine what must have been going through those rabbits minds as the large llama muzzles came down towards them?

 

After a couple of sniffs and some words of reassurance from me that the rabbits were okay Inca and Griffin returned to eating hay.  Two of the alpaca girls Keeva and Ma Cushla though felt they needed to be in on the action and so also went over to sniff the baby rabbits, who by now must have been petrified.

 

As the rabbits seemed okay, apart from being scared, I decided that the best thing to do was to leave them alone to settle back down and return to their nest in the hope that the mother rabbit would return to care for them.  I moved the girls hay feeder away from the nest to make sure that no one stepped on the rabbits again and left the shelter.

 

We have seen the baby rabbits since Friday; Ric caught a glimpse of them on Saturday morning.  They seem to be faring well and I am pretty certain the mother rabbit is tending to them when we are not around.

 

I am glad that the little rabbits and their mother were not scared out of the shelter.  It provides great shelter for them and has some nice deep straw in it where they can stay hidden and warm, provided that is that the girls do not step on them again.  It is early though for such small rabbits and goes to show how Mother Nature sometimes fools herself.

 

Rosemary

September 25, 2008

Griffin Saves The Day – Well Almost…..

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, General, guard llamas, llama — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 6:49 am

Griffin checks out Kanika when she was a small cria

Griffin checks out Kanika when Kanika was a small cria

 

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, our llama ladies do a good job of guarding our herd.  In the past they have alerted us to stray dogs on our property and have even alerted us to when one of the alpacas was having difficulty giving birth.  Having three guard llamas means that one of them is always “on duty” even during the night, and so they provide us with round the clock security coverage.

 

When the llamas alert us to something there are some stages they go through.  First they will stand very erect with their tails arched up and their ears pointing slightly forward, this posture makes them seem even bigger than they actually are.  While holding this position they can snort, dance around a little or pull their lips back, depending on how they feel about the threat, but their actions are noticeable and will get my attention.

 

From that position, the next step for the llamas is to alarm call.  If the alarm call is ineffective they will gradually approach the intruder and if that doesn’t make the intruder have second thoughts about being in the pasture the llamas will eventually charge the intruder and try and stomp on it.

 

The other day when I was doing evening chores, I became aware of Griffin our rose grey llama posturing and snorting by the fence line, letting me know that something was bothering her.  She was soon joined by Cinnamon, one of the alpacas, who stood beside Griffin looking off towards the boys pasture.

 

For a while I thought perhaps we had a stay dog on the property, but could not see anything from where I was and so decided to go to where Griffin stood to check out what was getting her attention.

 

Once closer to Griffin I still could not see what was bothering her, until I realized she wasn’t really look at the boys pasture but rather she was looking straight ahead of where she stood, and there on the ground was a huge tarantula!

 

By now Cinnamon’s curiosity was getting the better of her and she reached down to sniff the tarantula.  The tarantula was not keen on Cinnamon’s attention and started to get annoyed with her sniffing, I didn’t want Cinnamon getting bitten by the tarantula and so shooed her away from the area.

 

The tarantula was a beautiful specimen, black, brown, hairy and about 4 inches across.  I didn’t want to kill it, but I couldn’t allow it to stay in the girls pasture so I grabbed the rake that we use for poop scooping and lowered the handle down to the ground to allow the tarantula to climb onto the rake handle.  Once my passenger was on board I carried him out to an area away from the alpacas and set the broom handle down so he could get off and continue on his journey.

 

Griffin had done a good job letting me know about the tarantula’s presence, however she seemed to draw the line at chasing and stomping the tarantula and was quite happy for me to take over dealing with the large spider.  Perhaps if I had not been near she would have taken her guarding actions a step further, perhaps she was quietly thankful that I was there to take away the spider so she didn’t have to get any closer to it and perhaps the tarantula was grateful I was there too, to save him from being stomped by our protective llamas!

(And talking of llamas, there are many beautiful llamas awaiting adoption to loving homes at Southwest Llama Rescue.  If you feel you could give a good home to two or more llamas, please get in touch with Southwest Llama Rescue who will work with you to find you llamas that will suit your needs.  If you don’t feel that you want to adopt a llama you can always sponsor one or send in a donation.  With feed costs constantly rising and the economy causing an increase in surrendered llamas Southwest Llama Rescue would appreciate all donations no matter how big or small)

 Rosemary

July 26, 2008

Griffin Gets A Cool Do

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, General, guard llamas, llama, shearing — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 6:48 am

Griffin Shorn

Griffin Shorn

 

Earlier in the spring when we sheared the alpacas we decided not to shear the llamas at that time.  The llamas had been shorn the previous year and when we had first acquired them we were told that we only need shear them every other year.  The llama fleece is different from the alpaca fleece in that it contains a lot more guard hair and evolved to give llamas a certain amount of protection from the elements.  So initially we thought we would not shear the llamas this year but the thought was always in the back of our mind that if the llamas showed signs of being bothered by the heat we would go ahead and shear them.

 

Until recently the llamas had seemed fine but over the last week or two we had noticed that Griffin seemed a little uncomfortable.  She was swishing her tail a lot and nibbling at her hindquarters as if something was bothering her.  We had a quick look at her to make sure there was nothing readily apparent and could not see any signs of lice or bugs or any wounds or sore spots.

 

So yesterday we sheared Griffin to see if that will help her.  The llamas behave quite differently from the alpacas when it comes to shearing.  They seem to behave better if there are fewer people in the shearing area.  I don’t know why that is, but we do find the llamas are much easier to handle for shearing if only Ric and myself are present.  On some occasions Ric has shorn them completely on his own and they did well.

 

Griffin did well today, although she was not happy about us shearing her rear legs and so we did end up putting a blindfold on her.  We just used a clean old tee shirt, which we folded lengthwise to form the blindfold, the tee shirt was then placed over Griffin’s eyes and was held in place by tucking it into her halter.

 

As Griffin’s fiber came off (a beautiful Rose Grey fleece it is) we examined the fleece for ticks, bugs or evidence of any unwanted guests, but everything looked normal.  Her tail however was very matted and so we removed what matting we could and sheared her tail down. 

 

As dry as our spring was I do wonder if Griffin just has a case of dry, itchy skin.  Our alpaca Ma Cushla developed dry skin, which we discovered when we sheared her.  We changed Ma Cushla’s diet to include more fiber nutrients and some feed developed for pregnant and nursing dams and crias.  The change of diet seemed to help Ma Cushla and so we will change Griffin’s ration a little bit and see if it has a as well too.

 

Of course now we feel that should shear our other two llamas Maya and Inca, so it’s back to shearing again, then we will be well and truly done with shearing – until next year that is!

 

Rosemary

March 30, 2008

Velvet Takes On A Challenge

Velvet - March 2008

I’m not sure what is on Velvet’s mind these days; since weaning she seems to be seeking attention from the other alpacas and not always in a good way.

Velvet does follow her dam Queen around sometimes during the day, but Queen is one of those alpaca dams who has no qualms about “cutting the apron strings”.  Once Queen is ready to wean her crias she does not want to have anything to do with them.  Bjorn on the other hand is quite happy to have her daughters by her side even when they have had crias of their own, and most of the other dams in the pasture have some bond with their adult offspring but not Queen.

So perhaps Velvet is feeling that severance from Queen, but what ever it is, she has decided that she will get attention one way or another. 

First she started by trying to wander round with some of the other dams in the herd but they were not interested in buddying up with her. Then having failed at finding a friend with the older dams Velvet decided to go for something bigger – a llama!

As I looked out across the girls pasture the other day there was Velvet with her head under Griffin, one of the llamas.  Velvet appeared to be trying to nurse from Griffin, and while Griffin tolerated it for a minute or two she then decided that she had enough of Velvets affections.  Turning around she nudged Velvet from under her and then placed her neck over Velvet’s, a dominant action in the body language of camelids.

Velvet didn’t take the hint from Griffin, instead deciding to provoke her more by taking Griffins leg in her mouth and pulling on it.  Now Griffin can be tolerant, but she is a very proud llama and so could not allow herself to be pulled around by an alpaca weanling.  Griffin retaliated by grabbing Velvet’s leg in her mouth and pulling on Velvet.

At that point I decided that it was time for me to intervene.  The horseplay was not yet rough, but having seen alpacas and llamas play I know that it can soon escalate to some heavy pushing and shoving.  As gentle as Griffin is, she is several times larger than Velvet and even in play she could inadvertently hurt Velvet.  So Velvet’s game was over at least for a while.

Yesterday though Velvet was back provoking Griffin again.  As I looked out to check on the girls there was Griffin with Velvet’s leg in her mouth and then Velvet was grabbing Griffin by the leg.  I intervened again and sent the two girls off in different directions, watching and waiting to make sure Velvet didn’t return to bother Griffin again.

Velvet has other alpacas close to her age in the pasture who she feeds with every day, and I am a little surprised that she doesn’t seek their attention over that of Griffin.  Blast is always happy to play with other alpacas and Athena has been around since Velvet was born and is quite happy to walk around the pasture with Velvet.   But for some reason Velvet seems to need more than the attention of her peers.  If we had forced weaning on Velvet I would be suspicious that she had not been fully ready for weaning, but it was Queen who started that process off and made it clear to Velvet that the milk bar was closed.  Then again perhaps it is something in the genes, Velvet’s half sister TeQueely used to challenge the llamas when she was about Velvet’s age, but she would never take them on physically, instead preferring to run up to them and posture at them trying to intimidate them as best she could.

So perhaps Queen’s crias have a dare devil streak in them.  Whatever it is Velvet had better be careful that she does not take on too much of a challenge, and I had better be keeping an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t get herself into a heap of trouble!

Rosemary

October 15, 2007

Hey Llama Lady – Got Milk?

Zeus Nursing Inca

Well it looks as if little Zeus has found yet another milk source to feed his appetite.  I took this picture on Saturday after evening chores.   A few minutes earlier both Carissima and Zeus were nursing from Inca the llama but by the time I grabbed the camera Carissima had decided that she wanted to play and had moved away.

I’m not sure if Inca has got milk at this stage, usually once she starts allowing crias to nurse from her she takes a few days before her milk actually comes in.  Inca is the one who is initiating this; she follows the crias around and then nudges them underneath her and encourages them to nurse.  She has never had a cria of her own but this is not the first time she has encouraged crias to nurse from her and on previous occasions she has produced milk.  It is fairly unusual for an alpaca to allow a cria other than her own to nurse from her (unless she is like Carissima’s dam Carina and easily distracted with a bowl of good hay at which time she allows Zeus to nurse from her), but from what the ladies at Southwest Llama Rescue tell me it is not unusual for a llama to allow other crias to nurse from her.

Inca typically waits until the crias are at least a few weeks old before she starts encouraging them to nurse, our theory is that by that time they are about the size of a llama cria and so she feels more attracted to them.  Maya and Griffin our other two llamas have not yet allowed a cria to nurse from them but the other morning Maya was standing with Carissima under her while Inca had Zeus under her so it may be that Maya will soon be joining the “milk bar”.

Zeus is now up to 21 lbs.  It has been a slow and erratic road to get him to this point with some days showing very little gain and others having greater gain, but at least we are seeing a steady gain which is a good thing.  He has now started nibbling on hay and today we found him eating some soaked beet pulp shreds.  Zeus still gets to nurse from Carina a couple of times a day while she is distracted with the alfalfa hay, any calories we can get into him are good calories.

We are very fortunate to have a llama that will come into milk for our crias, I know of another alpaca breeder who uses goats to feed alpaca crias who need extra milk, although with goats being so short that conjures up quite the picture in my head!  With the llamas there is plenty of room for that cria to stand and nurse even as he grows up, so we will stick with our llama girls and look forward to Zeus showing even better weight gain.

Rosemary

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