A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 6, 2008

I’m Young, I’m Handsome and I’m Ready!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Reproduction, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , — alpacalady @ 6:23 am

It’s always fun to watch crias grow up, especially when they are crias of alpacas that you have raised from being a cria.  You get to see their personalities and traits develop and often see similarities between them and their sire or dam at that age.

 

Our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel is very special to us.  He was the last cria delivered to our first alpaca Jenny, who sadly died of an illness a short while later.  We knew Jenny was very ill before Zin was delivered and were amazed by her strength and her determination to carry her ctia to term.  So Zin was already special to us when he was born, and as he grew we realized that he truly was a special alpaca as he went on to win blue ribbons and color championships at shows.

 

Zin apparently knew his future involved providing herdsire services as from about three weeks of age he started to pester the girls.  Of course the adult girls were not going to take any nonsense from a three week old cria an consequently Zin encountered a lot of spit from the girls, but it didn’t put him off and today he is gainfully employed as a breeding male at our farm.

 

Zin now has several cria on the ground, one of which is the cria from our dam TeQueely.  TeQueely and Zin’s cria is called Pride (not his full name but that’s what we call him).  Pride is definitely a leader, initiating cria games, chasing around the pasture and seeking the attention of the other crias.  Just like his sire he too started to pester the adult girls when he was just a few weeks old, and the spit he often receives from them does nothing to cool his ardor.  Pride it seems is determined to follow in his sire’s footsteps.

 

So on Friday we should not have been completely surprised by the sight we saw outside one of the breeding pens.   We had Treasure breeding Rosie, and as Treasure orgled and the breeding went on, one of our boarders, Zoie, wandered over to the breeding pen and cushed outside, indicating she is ready to be bred. 

 

The next thing we saw was little Pride headed in Zoie’s direction, instinct told him that there was an open girl in the pasture who was cushed and ready to be bred, and to little Pride there was no question that he was the man for the job.  Well I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of Pride’s efforts, here’s one of them.

 

 

Pride Tries His Hand At Breeding

Pride Tries His Hand At Breeding

 

Zoie did not seem at all bothered that her “date” was a little young, and Pride kept trying to do his best with Zoie until he eventually became tired and had to take a break.  

 

Young, handsome and in his mind ready to breed.  Pride is setting himself up for a career just like his sire’s! 

Rosemary

December 2, 2007

Congratulations Moonie!

Windrush Moonlight Surprise  We had good news yesterday from our clients and alpaca friends Donna Given and Tamara Garel of Kiss Me Alpacas in Bandera, Texas.  Their female alpaca Celeste who was bred to our herdsire Windrush Moonlight Surprise (Moonie) has delivered her cria – a white male.  We are always excited to hear of one of our “grandchildren” being born, but particularly so with this one as it is Moonie’s first cria.

The cria was born quickly and without problems, he is very vigorous, was cushed within minutes of being born and was trying to stand shortly afterward.  It still amazes me how fast crias are up and standing following birth, their ability to do so being an instinctual behavior that helps them to avoid becoming prey.

This is Celeste’s third cria and to me brings back memories of when Celeste was boarded here and had her first cria.  I was really concerned with that birthing that Celeste would need assistance, as she was not dilated much, but she delivered him without any help.  I had two friends visiting the farm that day, one of whom was a nurse, I still remember her asking me if I knew how to perform an episiotomy on an alpaca, and being grateful that we did not have to resort to that!

Now Celeste is an experienced dam and a good one too, she is very attentive towards her crias and produces good milk, I am sure Moonie’s new son will thrive under the care of Celeste and of course Donna and Tamara.

It is a shame that Donna and Tamara live such a distance from us, as I would love to see Moonie’s first cria in person.   Tamara has promised to send me pictures and Celeste may come here for her next breeding in which case I will get to meet her new cria then.

So congratulations to Moonie, who now is a proven herdsire and of course congratulations to Donna and Tamara on your new arrival, may he win many ribbons for you and one day become a striking herdsire just like his sire!

Rosemary

November 27, 2007

Always, Always, Always Close The Gate

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Family, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:10 am

(Or how to get your wife to go from calm to irate in 0.6 seconds!)

Whenever we have visitors to the farm we are careful to check that as we enter and exit the alpaca pastures the gates are closed behind us.  We are also vigilant of small children who may feel it is okay to leave the pastures at will and not close a gate behind them.  The majority of visitors we have are careful to keep a watchful eye on their children, but we have had a couple of cases where parents have not been to concerned about their children and before you know it there is an open gate, a missing child and the potential for loose alpacas.

As we do morning chores we have an unwritten rule that all pasture gates need to be closed after entering or exiting no matter how short the time will be before that gate is used again.

Recently I had noticed that Ric had been pushing too but not latching one of the boys’ gates as he worked on that pasture in the mornings.  I warned him that eventually the alpacas would realize that the gate had not been latched and then they would be out of that pasture as fast as butter on a hot knife.

Well this morning was the day that the alpacas realized the gate was not latched.  I was in the house and out of the corner of my eye caught a fast movement outside.  I looked outside but did not see anything for a few moments.   Thinking it must have been a bird or a cat I was about to turn away from the window when I saw the movement again – galloping down the driveway was our champion herdsire Zin!  Also going down the driveway (but not galloping I might add) was Ric.

Fortunately our front gates were closed; also fortunately Zin being the herdsire that he is was occupied by strutting his stuff in front of the girls and sniffing at them through the fence.  I started to head out to help Ric catch Zin and then noticed that all of the males from Zin’s pasture were out running around the farm.  They were having a great time, snorting, kicking, bucking and running and of course also ended up by the girls.

So the next 20 – 30 minutes were spent persuading a group of male alpacas that they didn’t want to hang out by the girls, or even spend the day exploring the farm.  They did eventually go back to their pen, and apart from a little disruption to our morning no harm was done, but had the front gates been open and one of the alpacas had decided to head out onto the road it could have been a different story.

As you can imagine Ric quickly learned that I was not at all amused by this incident.  So the moral of this story is if you want a quiet and peaceful life and you want your alpacas to be safe and well, always, always, always shut the pasture gate behind you!

Rosemary

October 10, 2007

The Tale of A Male – From Dud to Stud!

I learned last week of an interesting situation regarding a male alpaca.  This particular alpaca will be three years old later this month.  He was sold as a breeding male and his new owners were very excited to add him to their herdsires, he had won some really nice ribbons in fleece and halter and really complemented their breeding plan.

When the new owners purchased the alpaca he had not yet been used to breed a female.  Not too long after they had purchased him they discovered one of their females had managed to work her way into his pasture and was being bred by him.  (The male alpaca is a good looking boy and the female alpaca must have decided that he was the one for her as it took her a bit of effort to get into his pasture).

It turned out that the accidental breeding was unsuccessful in that the female alpaca did not get pregnant as a result of that breeding.  The new owners of the male alpaca then started to expose him to some of their females during the spring breeding season.   The male alpaca did all the things a male alpaca should, he showed interest in the females, he mounted them, made the right “connection” with them and orgled during his breedings – everything was looking good except that none of the females became pregnant.

The new owners were understandably concerned that their new herdsire was for some reason unable to reproduce.  They had taken good care of him; the weather was not yet hot so heat stress was not thought to be a problem, so why was this male not getting the girls pregnant?  Fortunately the new owners of the alpaca had a good contract, and the seller of the alpaca, while disappointed was willing to work with the new owners to resolve the situation.  The seller consulted her vet and he suggested testing the sperm of the male alpaca to see if he had a low sperm count.  The seller was willing to take the alpaca back and refund his purchase price, but naturally wanted to make sure he was indeed non-reproductive before doing so.

The time came to test the male, and coincidentally at that time the female who had worked her way into his pen earlier had given birth to her cria from a different breeding and was ready to breed again.  (DNA testing confirmed that the alternative herdsire was definitely the sire of the new cria).   The new owners veterinarian suggested that they bring the male and the female alpaca into his clinic allow them to breed and then a sperm sample could be obtained from the female alpaca.

The test went ahead as planned and the results showed no sperm in the sample taken.  The new owners were naturally disappointed and contacted the seller to inform her of the news – the male alpaca was a dud, he would never sire a cria.

The seller started to make arrangements to take back the alpaca and refund the purchase price.  She understood that when you sell an unproven male there is always a risk that he will not be able to reproduce, she had covered that scenario in her contract and being a responsible and ethical alpaca breeder she was ready to honor her contract. 

But then something happened.  The new owners of the male alpaca went to breed the female alpaca to a different male and she was not receptive.  They had waited about 60 days before breeding her and when she spit off at the male they really had to wonder – could she be pregnant?

Off to the vets went the female alpaca.  The new owners of the male alpaca didn’t remind the vet that this was the female they had used for the sperm test preferring to wait until after the ultrasound.  The vet performed the ultrasound and immediately found an embryo, the female alpaca was pregnant and her only exposure to a male had been the “dud” alpaca.  When the new owners reminded the vet that this was the female that had been used for the sperm test he was very surprised, so surprised in fact he checked the female again with the ultrasound and quite clearly could see that she was pregnant!

So what happened, we have to ask?  How can a male alpaca with no sperm manage to impregnate a female alpaca?  The vet who did the testing is experienced with camelids and yet this pair of alpacas was defying the results of his test.  

Could it be that the alpaca produces sperm intermittently allowing for times when there is seminal fluid that does not contain sperm.  Camelids have some traits that are unique to them; one of them is that when the male alpaca breeds he “dribbles” sperm throughout the whole breeding.  This is one of the reasons that alpaca breedings take so long (anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes), however it is thought that semen quality is uniform throughout the breeding process.

Having done a little research on this situation the one phrase that kept coming up is “it is difficult to collect semen from camelids”.  The technique that was used by the vet to collect semen in this instance is the recommended technique, however in all the references I found on this subject it was also mentioned that alpaca semen is very viscous making it hard to handle and it is difficult to determine parameters such as sperm concentration and motility.  So perhaps the handling of the sample after collection was the issue, but so far I have not found a good and definite explanation as to why in this particular case there was absolutely no sperm in the sample.

At the end of the day though there is a happy ending, the male has now proven himself, the seller does not have to take back the male and refund the purchase price, the new owners get to keep the male they like so much and get to look forward to a cria next year, and that female alpaca who worked so hard to get into that male’s pasture has finally had her date with her dream boy.  Maybe she knew all along that her stud was definitely not a dud!

Rosemary

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