A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 26, 2009

Weanling Update


Our spring crias are just about weaned, I say just about because we tried putting the female weanlings back in with the main female group this weekend and Annochia still wanted to nurse from Anya.  Annochia’s behavior was not a complete surprise to us; Annochia comes from the close Bjorn family who don’t like to be weaned.  Anya did kick Annochia off but we decided that we would put the weanlings back in their own pasture for a while longer just to make sure that no one brings their dam back into milk.


The dams really have taken the weaning process in their stride.  What was interesting with this group of weanlings was that the boys weaned with more ease than the girls.  Usually the boy crias are the most reluctant to wean, not so with this group though.


We have now graduated Pride and Atlas into the junior male pen.  After their move they did spend a couple of days hanging around the gate wondering how they could get back to the female herd, but now are starting to integrate well.  Something that was unexpected was that our orphan young male Mags has really settled down since the arrival of Pride and Atlas in the junior male pen.  Mags went over to that pen a few weeks before Pride and Atlas and was still actively seeking human interaction, but with the arrival of Pride and Atlas young Mags is acting much more like an alpaca.  Perhaps he feels he now has some seniority in the herd pecking order and that has given him the reassurance he needed.


Stormy has now gone to live with his new owner Abby Dart and we got a lovely report yesterday from Abby and her mother Regina on Stormy’s progress.  Abby already has Stormy going over bridges, jumping over jumps and going through a maze – good job Abby!


So now in the weanling pen we have only girls – Annochia, Dream, Serenity, Song, Zianna, Kaneka, Velvet and Carissima.   Kaneka, Velvet and Carissima are yearlings and are already weaned but have provided a good stabilizing influence on the weanlings.  We now take the weanlings (both boys and girls) for walks on their halters several times a week to help them become relaxed at being on a halter and they are all doing well.


For us weaning is a process that needs to be handled with care and consideration.  True it takes more time to go through day weaning before final weaning, but it makes for a gentler separation for the alpacas.  It is a stressful time for the weanlings and sometimes for the dams too and it is worth putting extra effort into the process to make it as easy as possible for all involved. 



December 31, 2008

Just Ticking Along

Anya, Cinnamon and Willow, three friends born within days of each other, relaxing in the winter sun

Anya, Cinnamon and Willow, three friends born within days of each other, relaxing in the winter sun


With school being out the last couple of weeks it has meant that Ric has not been called in to teach and so has been available to help out more with various tasks around the farm.  We have been working our way through each pasture checking and trimming teeth and toenails, body scoring the alpacas and inspecting their fleeces.   Everyone looks fine, with the exception of a couple of broken toenails (the result of boys rough housing).


Ric has set up a drain plug heater in one of the big water tubs to prevent it from freezing at night, along with an air hose to blow the water out from the water hose to prevent it from freezing too.  It sure beats dragging buckets of warm water out from the house to water the alpacas with (although the buckets of water provide a great workout for the arm muscles!)


The weather has been fluctuating from warm to cold to warm as cold fronts pass through the area, a situation that always has us more watchful.  The change in barometric pressure seems to have an effect on an animal’s digestive system.  Our vet reports more cases of colic in horses when the barometric pressure suddenly changes, and it does seem that when we have an incident of digestive upset in the alpacas it is often around a period of changeable weather.


Thankfully for the last couple of days the wind has died down, it is tiring enough for us to be hearing and battling the wind as we do chores, how much more so must it be for the alpacas and horses who are out in the wind all day and night.  Certainly they seem a bit lighter in spirit and more relaxed since the wind has subsided, exploring the pastures more and stretching out for a bit of winter sun bathing.


The weanling group are making progress, although I have to say that this particular group of weanlings seems the most determined to continue nursing from their dams.  Usually by now at least a few of the group will be headed for the hay rather than their dams when it comes to be reunited with them in the evening, but this group are all still having a good nurse – perhaps they are egging each other on to do so!  I have noticed though that where, during the first couple of days, there was an explosion of weanlings dashing to find their dams, now they are walking across to the girls and taking more time to find their dams.  Small progress, but progress all the same. 


When I walk into the weanling pen during the day there are always a couple who will come over and tell me their tale of woe.  Dream in particular likes to come over and hum at me, resting her head on my legs and turning her face up to me in the hope that her big brown eyes will persuade me to open the gate and let her back in to her dam Rosie.  Annochia too likes to let me know how she feels about the day weaning process, and expresses her displeasure quite loudly.


As the weanlings are walked across to their day pasture every morning, they also are receiving some good halter training practice.  They are all walking well on their halters, a couple of them are still a little stiff as they walk, but every day we see them getting better and more comfortable with wearing a halter.


So things are ticking along, and soon when the new year starts there will be a return to a more normal routine (if there ever is any such thing as normal!).  The New Year will bring plans for shows, seminars, alpaca sales, product sales and more.   Of course there will be new crias coming on the scene and before we know it shearing will be upon us too with the hive of activity that shearing brings.  As the saying goes “Time stands still for no man” and that is certainly the case around here!


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!


January 8, 2008

Step by Step We’re Getting There

Filed under: alpaca, alpaca handling, Alpaca Shows, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 7:59 am

The weanling and cria halter training is progressing well and the weanlings have now graduated from walking on the lead inside the training pen to taking a short walk around the pasture.

It would be foolish of me to try and walk them all at the same time; I can see how that would end up in a tangle of lead ropes and confused alpacas!  With each alpaca having  a distinct personality there are still differences in their learning curves and until they get closer in their stage of progress I respect their differences and work on an individual basis.

As the weanlings walk around the pasture on a halter and lead you can tell that they are still not sure what this is all about.  They are used to being able to wander around that area at will, and I am sure that my tour of the pasture is nothing like the path they would walk if they were off the lead, and therefore it is a little bewildering to them.

I often walk weanling alpacas at the same time as one that is halter trained.  Seeing the halter trained alpaca walk calmly along beside me seems to reassure the alpaca in training that maybe this process is okay after all.  They then stop thinking so much about why we are doing what we are doing and relax into walking more freely.

Shiimsa has been a great help in this process as she leads really well and is quite happy to walk anywhere I take her.  It can be a bit trying for her if there is an alpaca that wants to pull back on the lead rope or not move at all, she will often turn her head and look at the offending alpaca as if to say “what’s your problem”.  Shiimsa’s withering look though typically doesn’t make the reluctant alpaca move any better.

So step by step we continue to make progress and I am sure that by show time the weanlings will be ready to show themselves to their best advantage.  Of course you never quite know how a young alpaca is going to behave at it’s first show, sometimes the ones you think are going to be the best are the ones that act up the most and vice versa.  But by working with them, gaining their confidence and exposing them to different situations before the show they will have a better chance of being more at ease when show time comes around and less stressed by the whole process.


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