A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 24, 2009

On a Happier Note

 

Following a sad start to the week, it was good to see something happier happen in the herd.  For the first time in her pregnancy I saw Shiimsa’s cria kicking.

 

Shiimsa is a maiden alpaca and while I was sure from her shape and her recent ravenous appetite she was still pregnant I had not yet seen her cria move.  I find that sometimes in maiden alpacas you do not seem to see the cria move as much as in those alpacas who have had a cria or two.  I suspect that the toned muscles of the maidens hold up stronger than the muscles of the older girls and thus hide the movement of the cria until those movements become really strong.

 

As Shiimsa’s pregnancy has progressed she has been gaining a nice round shape and definitely looks like a pregnant alpaca but there is nothing quite like seeing that cria move to make you feel confident that all is progressing as it should be.

 

Shiimsa is not due until the beginning of June and it will be interesting to see what color her cria is.  Shiimsa herself is a true black alpaca and we have bred her to our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel who is a light fawn.  Shiimsa’s dam Chai (AB Iyiyiy) is a medium fawn but has grey and black genetics in her background.  When we bred Chai t0 Zin we got Kanika who is also true black.  Shiimsa’s sire Tobiano is dark brown but his sire was true black so we feel that we have a chance of Shiimsa producing a black cria from her breeding to Zin.  Then again at times it seems as if alpacas have not read the book on color genetics and we could end up with a totally unexpected color on Shiimsa’s cria.

 

Shiimsa’s owner Teri Faver of Almost Canyon Ranch is very much looking forward to the arrival of Shiimsa’s cria.  This will be the first cria born to Teri’s alpacas.  Teri plans on coming to visit Shiimsa this weekend and I think she will be surprised by how much Shiimsa’s “bump” has grown since she last saw her.  Teri will then have the anxious wait that all first time alpaca owners have for their first cria to be born.  Let’s hope Shiimsa does not go too far past her due date and keep Teri waiting too long, still at the end of the day as long as Shiimsa produces a healthy cria I suspect that Teri will not mind the extra wait!

 

Rosemary

 

 

March 7, 2009

Back With The Herd

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

 

It’s hard to believe that three weeks have already gone by since the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show string have been in quarantine since their return home and thankfully have not shown any signs of illness.  Having spent their three weeks in quarantine it is now time for the show string to return to their respective pastures.

 

Atlas, Pride and Mags will rejoin Zin and the junior males, while Dream, Zianna and Kaneka will rejoin the female herd.

 

We didn’t put the fleece covers back on the show string on their immediate return from the show.  Call us soft if you wish, but we felt after doing so well for us at the show it would be a nice treat to allow the show alpacas to have a little time without their covers on, of course the first thing they did when they got home was to have a good roll, but that’s okay the dirt will drop out before their next show.

 

This last Thursday we were forecast for dangerously high winds.  It makes me take notice when the local meteorologists forecast “dangerously high winds”, bearing in mind that their idea of “breezy” is 25 –35 mph winds, it makes you wonder what wind speed would deserve the title “dangerous”.   We decided, in view of the forecast, we should put the fleece covers back on the show alpacas before the entire tumbleweed crop of western New Mexico landed in our pastures and in our alpaca’s fleeces!

 

The winds on Thursday didn’t quite live up to the forecast with wind gusts in the 50 mph range; strong enough we were glad we had put the fleece covers back on the alpacas.  The wind was also strong enough that poor Little Man had a real struggle to get across the pasture, but he’s a tough little guy and he made it.

 

Prior to putting the fleece covers on we cleaned the alpacas fleeces of the worst of the vegetable matter and took photos of the show string without their covers on.   The alpacas were not too cooperative about having their pictures taken, but we got one or two shots that we can use.  We also checked toenails and teeth and treated ears as a preventative measure against ear ticks.  Then it was back to the herd for the show string who wasted no time at all in getting reacquainted with the rest of the herd.

 

Rosemary

February 4, 2009

Getting ready for the show

Windrush Zindel's Kanika

Windrush Zindel's Kanika

 

Yesterday we made a trip to the vet’s with some of the alpacas who will be attending the 10th Annual TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular in Fort Worth, Texas later this month.    When you are transporting livestock from state to state you often encounter different rules and regulations regarding health checks and health requirements for your animals.  The rules and regulations vary from species to species and can change from time to time.

 

For our alpacas to enter Texas we need a Health Certificate issued by our vet and also a permit number from the State of Texas.  Additionally all intact (not neutered) alpacas over 18 months of age need to have a negative brucellosis and TB test within six months of entry into the State of Texas.  So it was that Kanika and Athena had an appointment with the vet to have blood drawn for Brucellosis testing and the TB test administered.  We picked up Regina Dart and her alpaca Mayflower on the way to the vets (Athena also belongs to Regina but boards at our farm).

 

It was only on the way back from the vets that I realized that Kanika is only 16 months old and so did not really need testing.  I guess that will teach me to calculate alpaca ages in my head!  As the blood had already been shipped to the lab by the time I realized my error we decided to let the test run.  Who knows, maybe Kanika will need to take another trip to Texas within the next six months in which case her brucellosis and TB tests will still be current.

 

It is always a good idea to research what tests or paperwork you need for a show well in advance of the show date.  Some tests just take longer than others and it would be awful to discover that you could not get the necessary testing done in time for a show.

 

The 10th Annual TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular starts on February 12 (exhibitor check in day) and will run until February 15 so we should have plenty of time to get the results of the brucellosis and TB tests prior to the show.  We also have to take the alpacas back to the vets on Friday for the TB tests to be read (the TB test is administered in the area around the base of the alpaca’s tail where it can be easily read if there is a reaction to the test).  At that time we will take the younger show alpacas along as well so that our vet can examine them and make out the health certificate.

 

There are still plenty of things to do before the show, prepare fleeces for the fleece show, check the alpacas microchips (AOBA shows require all alpacas entering the show grounds to have a microchip), print out copies of BVD test results, print out copies of the alpacas registration certificates, check toenails and teeth and of course pack up all of the supplies that travel with us to a show.   There is a lot to do it’s is going to be a busy week or two!

 

Rosemary

 

September 22, 2008

Safely Home From The State Fair

 

The New Mexico State Fair is over and Ric and the alpacas arrived back home yesterday evening.

 

This year’s State Fair Alpaca Show was a little smaller than those of previous years with approximately 224 entries.  The economy and high fuel prices are making people think hard about which shows they travel to.  According to the State Fair staff, livestock entries were down across the board and a local news channel reported that attendance at the State Fair was also down.

 

Still the alpaca entries came from several states, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and California to name a few.

 

According to Ric our four alpacas all behaved well and were very relaxed for the whole trip.  Only one of them Windrush White Blast had been to a show before, for the other three this was a new experience.

 

Unfortunately young Zeus did not place in his class, one of the hazards of being in a competitive class of juvenile white male alpacas, usually the largest class at a show.  Zeus is a little small for his age and that probably went against him, but he is still young, has a beautiful bright white fleece and has lots of time to grow.

 

Blast did also not fair as well as we had hoped, but he did come away with a 6th place ribbon, the judge liked his fine, soft handing fleece and crimp style but felt he was not as dense as some of the other alpacas in the class.

 

Windrush Zindel’s Carissima took a third in her class, and she was the youngest in her class as well.  The judge really liked her fleece (it is really nice if I say so myself!) and commented that that she realized Carissima still has some growing to do. Carissima is starting to enter that gangly adolescent stage that young alpacas go through, so hopefully in a few months she will be looking more adult, and I bet her spring show season will be a successful one.

 

Finally our true black juvenile Windrush Zindel’s Kaneka did us proud by taking not only second in her class but also going on to win the Reserve Color Champion – well done Kaneka!  And well done Ric for traveling to the show on your own, setting up and manning the booth and showing the alpacas, even with just four alpacas shows are hard work on your own, but they also are fun too,

 

Now the show alpacas will be placed into quarantine for the next three weeks, just in case they picked up any parasites or other ills during their trip.  The biosecurity and vet checks at the show were very thorough, but there is still always a risk of bringing back something unwanted and if that does happen we don’t want it spreading through the herd, especially as we have young crias due to be born any day.

 

Back at the ranch, we continue with cria watch, no sign of any imminent births yet, just some heavily pregnant dams waddling around the pasture, enjoying the cool breeze of the fan, having a roll in the dust from time to time, dipping their feet in the water bucket (I’ve lost track of how many times I have had to rinse and refill the bucket!) and eating hay to keep those crias growing!

 

Rosemary

February 29, 2008

Kanika, You’re a Mess!

Kanika Headshot

Having distributed the loose hay into the shelters and put some outside, we were enjoying watching the girls lying on the hay.  They all sat in a line on top of the hay following the path that it made in the pasture.   Naturally there was some rolling taking place and all in all the alpacas were enjoying the loose hay.

Then it came time to do evening chores and we realized we had forgotten something – Kanika had not being wearing her sheep cover.  The reason we were reminded of this at evening chores was that there she stood covered in tiny little pieces of hay!  The hay almost took her from being a dark brown alpaca to being a light fawn one – it was everywhere!  Kanika’s first fleece is superfine and like all cria fleeces it acts like Velcro, trapping anything that comes in contact with it.

 We had Kanika wearing a fleece cover until just a few days ago, but had taken it off as was getting to small and it looked as if her fleece was starting to felt a little.  Our intention was to let Kanika run around without her fleece cover for a couple of days in order to allow her fleece to relax and not be so felted.

Instead though we were greeted with a cria whose fleece was full of vegetable matter.  Kanika must have had a great time rolling in the hay, but however would we get her fleece clean. We took a couple of steps to try and clean Kanika up.  First we used our Click and Slick wands (see picture below). 

 Click n Slick Wands

The Click and Slick wands were very popular with alpaca breeders around the time that we started in the alpaca business.  The wands can be used to generate static in the fleece, which helps draw the small pieces of vegetable matter out.  You start off by flicking the fleece with the wand with the wavy edge, and then once you have brought the debris to the surface of the fleece you use the straight edged wand to flick the debris off the fleece. 

We stopped using the wands on our show alpacas when we realized that if you used the wands too heavily on the fleeces it destroys the architecture of the fleece and the alpaca does not show at it’s best.  The fleece architecture does bounce back after a few days, but at a show you don’t have that long to wait.

For a situation such as Kanika’s though, and also on shearing day the wands can be useful at cleaning fleeces at least a little.  So gently we used the wands on Kanika yesterday and managed to get some of the vegetable matter out of her fleece. 

Next we put a new fleece cover back on Kanika to prevent more debris getting into Kanika’s fleece.  We will check her fleece again in a couple of days to see how much vegetable matter has dropped off her fleece.  It may be that we need to go over her with the wands again, only time will tell.

I do hope we can salvage Kanika’s fleece, if it is too heavily laden with vegetable matter then the processors will not want it and I will definitely not be able to show it in that state.  Fingers crossed though most of the vegetable matter will fall out over the next few days.

 Of course from Kanika’s point of view she cannot understand what the fuss is all about, all she knows is that she had a good time rolling in the hay.

Rosemary  

November 7, 2007

Good News All Round

Enchantment’s Prince Regent  I think everyone loves to hear good news, there is so much bad news in the media that many people I talk to are thirsting to hear good news.  It’s also funny how sometimes we get a run of bad news and then thankfully something changes and the good news starts flowing in.

Our first piece of good news today is that Snuggler the cat is doing much better.  After a day of doing pretty much nothing but sleeping he is now up and around, albeit hobbling on his two good legs.  His right rear leg will at least take some of his weight although there is still some looseness there.  His left front leg still has some swelling and is dragging, but I feel it is improved and dragging less than it was when we took him in to the vet on Monday.  Certainly he was up to following me around yesterday afternoon and even jumped up onto the chairs, insisting on sitting next to me while I worked on the computer.  It is great to see him showing such interest in life, even though he made typing on the computer difficult as he tried to bat the keys with his good paw.

Little Zeus has had a good couple of days too, with some more consistent weight gain.  He is eating a little grain and more hay than he was so maybe his system is starting to get used to those new additions to his diet.  He now weighs 26.7 lbs and has not too much further to go to reach the 30 lb mark.  We are still putting a cria coat on him at night as our nights are starting to get close to freezing and I still want to save every calorie I can with that young man.

Kanika is rapidly gaining ground on Zeus and now weights 22.7 lbs.  She is a real live wire, stirring up the other crias to play, coming over to check out what we are doing when we enter the pasture and having regular sessions when she just bucks and runs for joy.

Rebecca has had no further signs of discomfort and is back to being one of the first to meet me at the gate in the morning, which is good to see despite her grumbles and groans when I wont let her steal pellets from the feed bowls as I walk into the pasture.

Over the weekend the LA Deep South Show was held in Shreveport, Louisiana and we have heard that the offspring of our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent did well in the halter show.  We have had reports (unconfirmed as yet) that Regent’s daughter CHR Carlee’s Peak (owned by Copper Hill Ranch) took fourth in her class, Regent’s son Prince Regent’s Treasure of Airlie (owned by Timber Lodge Alpacas) took first in his class and another of Regent’s sons Traversura’s Sulaimon (owned by Tierra Prometida Alpacas) took not only first in his class but went on to take the white color champion as well.   Well done to all our Regent grandkids and well done for Regent for being such a superstar herdsire male!

Rosemary

October 27, 2007

Help – I’ve lost my baby!

I often tell people how important it is to know your alpacas well, I feel that knowing how each one behaves on a daily basis and understanding their individual personalities is crucial to the health and happiness of the herd. 

Knowing your alpacas well also makes you more aware of when they are trying to communicate something to you.  Alpacas can’t hold a conversation with humans the way one human would with another, but they are smart animals and they can devise their own ways of communicating with you.

If you are reading this and think there is no way an alpaca can communicate his or her needs with a human, then I ask you to read on and perhaps you will change your mind. 

When alpaca crias are first born they are on their feet within a short while after birth.  They have evolved to do this over hundreds of years to ensure their survival.  Usually once the cria is on its feet there is a very short time before the cria finds its dam and then nurses.  Scent goes a long way toward helping a cria find it’s dam, and an instinct to search out the dark or shadowy areas helps the cria find it’s way to the dam’s udder.  You sometimes hear of alpaca crias who try and nurse from a dark corner in a stall, or from the shadowy area underneath a wall-mounted feeder.  Those crias have found a dark or shadowy area (albeit the wrong one) and their instinct tells them that they should find an udder there (they won’t and that’s why it’s important not to put crias in solid sided stalls and to remove wall mounted feeders from a stall until after the cria has found its dams udder a couple of times.)

We monitor our newborn crias closely and make sure that they nurse well from their dams, we also give the dam and cria time alone in a stall to bond.  Once the cria has dried off, nursed a few times and is steady on it’s feet I then allow the dam and new cria to join the herd.  There is always great excitement among the girls when a new cria joins the group with much sniffing of the new arrival and sometimes even a little nudging and licking.   During that first day or two of life the crias eyesight is still not completely focused and sometimes the little ones can lose track of their dam as she moves around the pasture.  Given time the two will find each other, but if I am out in the pasture and see a new cria looking for it’s dam then I will gently herd it in the right direction and make sure the two reunite.

Our latest cria Kanika is a little bit of an independent girl and it has not been unusual for us to find her quite a distance from her dam Chai.  Chai is a good dam but she loves her food and will often have her head buried in the hay feeder.  Periodically she comes away from the hay and will search the pasture to find Kanika and check on her and when Chai’s udder is full she will make sure Kanika nurses.

Yesterday following morning chores we had some girls that we needed to breed.  While I was supervising one of the breedings Chai came up to me and hummed a little.  Now Chai is not really a hands on alpaca, she will readily come up to you to steal fruit from you if you have any, and at feeding time she is more than ready to get her head in the feed buckets but apart from that she prefers to interact with other alpacas.

When Chai came up to me the only thing I had in my hand was a lead rope, I thought she thought maybe the lead rope was something to eat and so held it out for her to sniff and check out, but the lead rope was not what Chai was interested in.   Chai stood directly in front of me and again hummed and I wondered what it was that she wanted.  It was a bit early for her to be interested in breeding so I didn’t think it was the male alpaca in the breeding pen that was getting her interest.  I waited a little longer to see if Chai was just hopeful that I had food and would wander off once she realized that I didn’t have anything to give her, but Chai remained in front of me staring at me and giving a little hum every now and then.

Then I realized that I could not see Kanika anywhere nearby and that the reason for Chai’s attention to me was that she had lost her baby.  Looking around the pasture I could see Carissima and Zeus over by the large blue barn so I thought that Kanika was most likely with them but may have gone into the blue barn where Chai could not see her.  I started to wander over to the blue barn and called for Chai to come with me which she did.  Having reached the barn I checked inside but there was no sign of Kanika.  Chai was now right behind me looking inquisitively into the barn, when she realized that Kanika was not in the barn she again stared at me and hummed. 

I thought of other places Kanika could be, I checked the alleyway between the fence line and the large blue barn but there was no sign of Kanika.  I checked all of the feed pens and the area around the big bale feeder to no avail and all the time I was checking Chai was following behind me, when I stopped Chai stopped, when I walked Chai walked.  The last hiding place I could think of was the alley between the small blue shelter and the fence, surely Kanika had to be there, but there was no sign of her.  Now I was starting to really get worried, where could Kanika possibly have gone?

I thought back to our activities that morning and realized one of the last things Ric did was walk out of the gate with a heavily loaded wheelbarrow of poop that needed dumping.  Perhaps Kanika had followed him out of the gate without him realizing.  I looked around outside of the pens but could not see any signs of a cria and Chai was still following close on my heels also looking for her cria. 

I started to call Ric who was in the house to see if he had any ideas where Kanika could be, I was now worried that she had somehow wandered off from the farm but was baffled as to why she would do that and how that could happen as we are so careful with opening and closing gates on the farm.  Just as I was dialing the house from my cell phone I walked back to the front of the small blue shelter and then noticed a little piece of dark cria fleece sticking out from under the hay feeder, there she was!  Kanika had fallen asleep under the hay feeder and then had become surrounded by the other girls who were busily eating out of the feeder.   Kanika was still asleep under the feeder blissfully unaware that Chai and I had been looking for her.  I felt bad waking her up but it was more important that she be reunited with poor Chai who had been worried as to where her cria was.  So the two were happily reunited.

What interests me about this situation is that Chai actively sought me out to help her.  She could have just wandered about the pasture on her own looking for her cria.  Most likely if I had seen her doing that I would have realized something was wrong and checked on her.  But Chai instead chose to come to me and in her own way told me that something was wrong.  It took a while for me to understand what she was trying to tell me but she got her message through eventually.  I firmly believe that Chai either thought I had her cria (she is used to us taking Kanika every day to be weighed and knows we always bring her back) or remembered that I had herded Kanika to her during those first couple of days when Kanika and Chai would become inadvertently separated.

I am sure had I not been in the pasture this morning Chai would have eventually found Kanika, it just would have taken her a lot longer to find her and in the meantime she would have become quite distressed.  But Chai didn’t choose to look for her cria alone, instead she came and found me and followed me as I worked my way around the pasture looking for Kanika.  I didn’t have any food with me at the time to cause Chai to follow me and this is very unusual behavior for Chai – so can alpacas communicate with humans?  I know what I think the answer is, but I’ll let you make up your own mind.

Rosemary

October 26, 2007

We have a name!

Kanika

After our usual discussion of several names we have arrived on one for our new cria, her name will be …………..Kanika.

It didn’t take us too long to name her this time.  Ric found a web site with hundreds of different names with not only the country of origin for the name, but also the meaning of the name.  As Kanika is a very dark brown we were looking for something that made reference to her dark coloring.  When we are picking alpaca names we always bear in mind how easy the name is to pronounce, after all, if we cannot pronounce the name how can we expect someone else to and if our girl (or boy) has just won a class then we want people to be able to remember the name of both our farm and the alpaca in question.

The name Kanika is of Kenyan origin and means black cloth.  While our Kanika is not really black and more of a rich chocolate brown we are still not 100% convinced that she will stay that color and wonder if she may become more of a bay black as she grows older.  If Kanika does get darker as she ages some of her fleece may well find itself into some black cloth one day.

Kanika is already up to 16.4 lbs that reflects some good daily weight gains and the quality of Chai’s milk.  Chai has always been a great milk producer and she is going a great job with her cria again. 

Yesterday Kanika spent most of her day sleeping in the sun, nursing and having the occasional frolic around the pasture.  Carissima and Zeus have been a little slow to invite Kanika into their play sessions, but by yesterday evening she was leading the crias in a full gallop around the pasture. 

We received Kanika’s IgG results back yesterday too, which at 1500 were enough to satisfy us that she will be fine and will not need a plasma transfusion.   So little Kanika is looking good and progressing well and we will look forward to watching her grow and develop.

Rosemary  

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