A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 8, 2009

Snake Herding

Monday morning as I was happily scooping the poop in the girls pasture I noticed some of the crias paying attention to something outside the fence line.  I couldn’t see what was causing their distraction but thought it was most likely a rabbit.

A short while later though the attention had moved to the middle of the pasture and now along with the crias were Inca (one of the guard llamas) and Cinnamon.  Just looking at Inca and Cinnamon I could tell that something was amiss – they both were dancing, their tails held high and their necks stretched forward toward something on the ground.  At first I thought it was a stick and then I realized it was moving and the stick was in fact a snake.

I went over to see what sort of snake it was; if it was a rattle snake something would have to be done quickly as the attention of the alpacas and llamas would surely annoy it (snakes are not very sociable creatures and prefer not to be the center of attention!).

Fortunately the snake was a bull snake, about four feet long and the brown and tan variety, unlike the black and yellow bull snake I had seen earlier in the summer.  Still I didn’t think the snake would be too pleased about the attention the girls and crias were giving it so I needed to try and get it out of the pasture without the alpacas or llamas annoying it along the way.

Armed with my poop shovel in one hand and the rake in the other I decided that it would be easiest to follow the snake to the fence line using the shovel and the rake to keep any inquisitive noses away.  Of course once word got around the pasture that something different was happening the whole herd gathered to look at the snake.  The snake was very cooperative and made his way across the pasture with me walking behind him and the shovel and rake at either side of him.  Theresa got a little brave at one point and tried hard to get closer to the snake but I was able to guide her away with the rake and keep her from getting too close.  I did have to chuckle though as walked behind the snake guiding him on his way, it was just as if I was using the shovel and rake as we use the herding wands to move the alpacas when we need to, but this time I was herding one well behaved snake.

Soon the snake was through the pasture fence and headed down the driveway, my first attempt at snake herding had been successful and the girls and crias could go back to eating their hay.  I’m not sure my snake herding would be so successful with more than one snake and I am pretty sure that if the snake had been a rattle snake I would be using the shovel for a different purpose than herding snakes!  Let’s hope the rattle snakes stay away from the pasture and I never have to find out!

Rosemary

March 31, 2009

Is It Me Or Are The Winds Getting Worse?

Inca Peeks Around The Corner Of The Shelter During Last Friday's Snow Storm

Inca Peeks Around The Corner Of The Shelter During Last Friday's Snow Storm

 

We are used to windy weather in the spring in Eastern New Mexico, but it seems as if the wind is getting more extreme.  Yesterday we were treated to sustained winds of 42 mph with the occasional 50+ mph gust thrown in for good measure!  It’s quite something to look out into the pasture and see our feed wagon moving across the pasture propelled by wind power!

 

Raking up the poop and taking the wheelbarrows out to the compost pile in those high winds was quite an experience.  Putting out hay was also fun as we tried to get it into the feeders before it all blew away.

 

The alpacas seemed to take the high winds pretty much in their stride.  We did see one or two watery eyes, which is hardly surprising considering all of the dust blowing around.  We will check the herd today and make sure everyone’s eyes look good.  For the most part the alpacas stayed cushed, getting up to eat and drink and make a mad dash between the shelters.

 

By the end of the day I think everyone was tired of the wind except two of the llamas Maya and Inca who decided to have a pronging session around the pasture.  It was wonderful to see them running and pronging, they looked very elegant and they interspersed their pronging with squeals of delight.  I’m not entirely sure what there was to be delighted about but I wonder if perhaps they were getting some extra lift from the high winds and that is what was pleasing them.  It’s not often that the llamas have a good pronging session so something must have tickled their fancy – either that or the wind had caused them to loose their sanity by the end of the day!

 

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

July 4, 2008

Found Him!

Well the watching and waiting paid off, we have found the culprit with the diarrhea, it’s Atlas.

 

Atlas is the oldest of our cria group and so is definitely trying out the hay, but he also is a milk thief and has tried milk from several of the dams in the pasture.  Atlas is a pretty good milk thief too, he waits until the dams’ cria is happily nursing and the dam is not paying attention and then sneaks his head under the dam to steal some milk.  Our older dams are wiser and realize pretty quickly that they have an intruder, but some of the younger dams take a while to realize.

 

We do discourage Atlas when we see him nursing from other dams, we do not want him depriving the other crias of their milk or putting an unnecessary strain on the dams.  We do allow Atlas to nurse from our llama Inca, as she does not have a cria of her own and actively encourages crias to nurse from her (see blog entry Hey Llama Lady – Got Milk to read more about Inca)

 

Atlas does of course have his own dam Queen to nurse from, but Queen is an experienced dam who has very definite rules for her crias, one of which is that they don’t nurse from her until she has had a good chance to pick out the best hay.  Once she has finished at the hay feeder she will find her cria and allow nursing, but until then she makes her crias wait.   Queen’s crias are always robust and outgoing so I guess her rules work for her and her crias.

 

We have started Atlas on the MSE drench and Biosponge and he has shown some improvement, he will be under a close watch until he gets back to normal and if he does not continue to improve we will look at other causes and treatment options. 

Funnily enough the picture I used for yesterday’s blog entry is a picture of Atlas wrestling with Dream, maybe my subconscious knew all along which cria has diarrhea and was trying to tell me!

 

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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