A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 16, 2008

A Productive Day

Yesterday we finally had a chance to catch up on some of the routine herd health tasks.  Between the show in Fort Worth and illness we were a little behind schedule and with many of our pregnant girls coming up to 60 days from birthing we wanted to take care of as many tasks as possible so that we can leave those girls alone until after they have their crias.

Our young friend Alex Stewart joined us for the day; Alex was the subject of a previous post on the blog when he formed an instant bond with Stars, one of the alpacas on the farm, during a farm visit.  Alex has a good touch and manner with animals and is interested in becoming a veterinarian, he had asked if he could come out to the farm on herd health days to assist us and this was the first opportunity we had for him to do so.

Between the three of us we were able to get a lot done and now most of the herd has received a manicure and pedicure (okay we really just trimmed their toenails), preventative ear tick treatment and had their weight and body score checked and recorded.  The few alpacas that we didn’t manage to get too will receive their herd health check during the week.

It is important to keep up with these routine tasks.  Overgrown toenails can cause the alpacas to walk badly and put a strain on their joints, as the weather warms up ticks will be more active and can cause major problems if they take up residence in the warmth and safety of an alpacas ear, and overweight or underweight alpacas need to have their diet adjusted to keep them in good condition.

While dealing with the pregnant girls we were careful to try and avoid excess stress on them, the last thing we want to do is lose a pregnancy because of stress caused by something as simply as a toe nail trimming.  Each girl is different in her personality and hormone levels, some took our work in their stride while others were not so at ease.  To help keep the girls from undue stress we gave them some Bach’s Rescue Remedy about 30 minutes before working with them.  Rescue Remedy is a wonderful preparation and helps just take the edge off things for the girls without us having to sedate them.

Having accomplished much during the day we were joined in the late afternoon by Donna Given of Kiss Me Alpacas who was delivering three of her females to us for spring breedings.  Donna traveled to us from her home in Bandera, Texas and was traveling with her friend Deborah and Deborah’s two daughters Laura and Rachel.  Donna’s daughter Tamara had intended coming on the trip but unfortunately had to stay home to write a paper for a course she is taking.

Donna’s three female alpacas – Celeste, Marty and Cariad – plus Celeste’s cria Skylar Moon and Cariad’s cria Copper Chai were all pleased to come out of their trailer after the long drive and took no time at all to start exploring the quarantine pen.  Celeste was enthralled with some tumbleweeds that had blown into the pen and proceeded to rub herself all over them and then roll on them.  While the tumbleweeds obviously felt good to Celeste we did remove them from the pasture, as the last thing Donna needs is to have to spend time picking tumbleweed out of her alpacas fleeces.

During the afternoon our friends Justus and MJ stopped over too, and so the group of us went out for an evening meal together.  We ate lots, discussed much and enjoyed a great end to a productive day.


November 11, 2007

Gremlins and Gratitude

Yesterday’s herd health day went really well and while we didn’t finish the whole herd we are more than three quarters of the way through with our health checks.   We were joined for part of the day by Jan and Corky Green of Muleshoe, Texas who are new alpaca owners.  Jan and Corky will have their alpacas delivered to their farm at the beginning of December and are looking forward to getting to know their herd.  Jan and Corky were a great help yesterday and had lots of good questions to ask during the course of the day.

In addition to our herd health day we also had five girls scheduled for behavior testing.  All five girls were about 14 days post breeding, so while they may have rejected the male last weekend when tested, indicating that they had cycled, yesterday’s behavior test was more of an indication as to whether we had a pregnancy started in any of the girls.  There must have been gremlins in the air as three of the girls cushed when introduced to the male and had to be bred again.  The other two though rejected the male and will be behavior tested again next weekend.  Fingers crossed we have some more little crias in the making.

It seems those pesky gremlins were also at work on our vehicles last week, as one by one they all broke down.  I think the three of them got together and conspired to see how much inconvenience they could cause us!  Our big truck will be fixed by Monday afternoon and thanks to a good relationship with the truck dealership we were able to borrow a vehicle for the weekend, the other two vehicles are going to take a little longer to fix though.  Oh well we can at least be grateful that one of the vehicles will be back with us pretty soon.

Today we will finish off the rest of our herd health checks in the morning leaving the afternoon free to enter everything into the computer bringing our records up to date.

For those reading this wondering about the progress of our barn cat Snuggler you will be pleased to hear he is making good progress.  He is putting a lot more weight on his front leg although he still is not using it normally; he shows improvement every day and is now happy to come into the house for the night.  With winter coming I am sure the warm house will start to become even more attractive to him.  Tomorrow we take him back for a recheck at the vet and I am sure the vet will be pleased at Snuggler’s progress.   We are so grateful that he is making such a good recovery and that he is settling in to his new life indoors at least in the evenings. 

So all in all a good end to the week, despite failing trucks and injured barn cats, we will have to wait and see what next week brings, but lets hope it involves less gremlins and more good things.


November 10, 2007

Herd Health Day

Today we are having a Herd Health Day and have invited some new alpaca owners and potential alpaca owners to join us for the day.  We like to have a Herd Health Day about once a month.  Truth be known though with over 40 alpacas on the farm Herd Health Day usually ends up being spread over two days.

Herd Health Day gives us a chance to have hands on time with each alpaca, we will weigh each one and also body score them.  Weighing gives us a figure for our records to show whether they have increased or decreased their weight and by body scoring as well we get a better indication of whether the weight they are holding is a good weight for that individual alpaca.

Having weighed the alpaca we will then check its teeth and toenails to see if any trimming is needed.  The toenails only take a couple of minutes to trim and most of the alpacas are not too bothered by it.  Some of the breeding males and pregnant females are not too keen on having their back legs handled but with some careful handling and patience most will allow us to trim their toe nails without a problem. 

Trimming teeth is a little more difficult, we do have a special tool to trim teeth with which only takes a few seconds per alpaca but first we have to get the tool into their mouths and that is more of a challenge then trimming their teeth.  The tool we have has a template that sits over the teeth to ensure that we do not over trim and to help keep the alpacas tongue out of the way during trimming.  The tool works well on those with a regular bite but if we have an alpaca with an uneven bite or maybe one tooth that is longer than the rest then we usually have to use a Dremel tool to trim. 

To be able to use the Dremel tool we have to have a hard cutting blade, as the alpacas teeth are quite tough.  We also use a dog rope toy to put into the alpacas mouth to keep it open during trimming.  When trimming starts it is important that one person keeps an eye on the alpacas tongue to make sure it is kept away from the cutting blade.  Additionally it is a good idea to have a spray bottle of plain water available to spray onto the alpacas teeth to keep them cool during trimming.

Herd health day is also a good opportunity to assess each alpacas fleece.  Fleece can change in it’s qualities from year to year based on nutrition and also the genetics of the alpaca, so it is a good idea to monitor your fleeces for changes and also to assess them realistically.

We also use Herd Health Day to treat our alpacas ears for ear ticks.  With this fall being very mild the ticks are still very active and while we have not seen many signs of ear tick problems so far, we would like to keep it that way and so a preventative treatment is a good idea.  We like to use Adams Fly Spray and Repellent For Horses, which we draw up into a syringe and administer in doses of 2 cc per adult ear, 1.5 cc per weanling ear and 1 cc per cria ear.  We syringe the solution into the ears, massage the ear for a couple of seconds and then stand back as the alpacas will want a good shake when released.

As we work through our herd we will make notes in our barn book of all of the alpacas weights, body scores, treatments given and any other observations.  Those notes will then be transferred into our herd software program.

Herd Health Day is an important part of our routine and we hope by inviting new alpaca owners and prospective alpaca owners they will get a chance to learn more about caring for their alpacas.  From our experience there is nothing like that hands on time to prompt questions and tips that will prove useful to an alpaca owner.

By the time we are finished with Herd Health Day it will be time to do chores, but we will have accomplished a lot during our day and will be able to take time off in the evening as reward for a good days hard work.


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