A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 7, 2009

So Which Handsome Prince Created Sleeping Beauty?

 

 

Sleeper Enjoys Some Hay

Sleeper Enjoys Some Hay

I finally got around to sending in the last of the fall cria ARI registrations the other day. With the online registration complete, I mailed in the crias blood cards for DNA analysis for parentage verification. We often wait before sending in our ARI registrations for a few reasons. First we want to make sure that the cria makes it through the first few months of life. You hate to think of losing a cria but if does happen then it is usually within the first 30 days of its life. Some may argue that it would be useful to have the cria registered for the national herd records, but at the end of the day economics comes into play and to me it does not make sense to pay to register a cria who is no more.

 

Another reason we hold off registering our crias is that sometimes they change color as they mature. We have had several crias who start off beige at birth and change to white by the time they are six months old. Our Kanika looked to be dark brown or bay black when she was born but by the time we came to shear her she was the most beautiful true black. A client of ours delivered his dam to us for breeding with her white cria by her side. When he came to pick his dam and cria up he was surprised to see that the cria’s fleece was no longer white. The fleece looked white from the outside but when you parted the fleece the fiber inside was a definite light fawn (and no it was not staining from our red dirt!). Crias definitely can change color.

 

So often our crias are five or six months old before we register them, sometimes even older.

 

The registrations I sent off the other day were for Chandra and Sleeping Beauty (whom we call Sleeper) and they are both definitely older than six months. Interestingly in my herd book I show that Chandra and Sleeper could both have been conceived on the same day November 11,2007. I say “could” have been conceived on the same day because when it came to their birth dates there was quite a bit of difference. Sleeper was born on September 27, 2008 and Chandra was born on October 17, 2008. Chandra’s birth date is in the range of her being a full term cria. Sleeper would have been a little premature (and that was the note I had in my herd book).

 

Going back a little further in the herd book I could see that Sleeper’s Dam Keeva bred about three weeks prior to the November 11 breeding, so maybe that was the breeding that resulted in Sleeper, if so that would mean that Sleeper’s sire is our herdsire Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure rather than our herdsire Tobiano – hmmm…

 

My records show that we had tried breeding Keeva to Treasure but the breeding didn’t seem to take. As Treasure was in his first breeding season we didn’t like to force the issue and so decided to put Keeva with Tobiano instead at the next breeding attempt. Tobiano and Keeva bred without a problem and from then on Keeva was not receptive to any male alpacas, so we assumed that Keeva was carrying a Tobiano cria.

 

Thankfully when you go to register a cria you have the option to list two potential sires, and so that is what I did the other day. I personally feel that Sleeper is Tobiano’s cria, she has certain traits that I have seen before in his offspring and Keeva as an experienced dam is not likely to cush for a male when she is already pregnant.

 

Now we will wait and see what Sleeper’s DNA blood card reveals – is she a Treasure cria or a Tobiano cria? Time and DNA will tell.

 

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

September 29, 2008

When One Starts They All Start!

Keeva and her cria

Keeva and her cria

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon having her cria the day before National Alpaca Farm Days seemed to start the other pregnant dams thinking about birthing.

 

Saturday morning as I was telling Bethany, our teenage helper, our plans for the day, I looked across the pasture and could see something was different about Keeva.  Lying in the shade of our large blue shelter, with Carina (also due soon) next to her,  Keeva’s tail was making some funny movements – she was in labor.

 

Our cria kit was still in the front porch from Friday when Cinnamon delivered, so it was nice and handy, but my collection of towels and blankets that I use at alpaca births was still in the washing machine.  We made a quick raid on the towel cabinet before heading out to the pasture.  (Note – if you are planning on delivering crias at your alpaca farm a large collection of old blankets and towels is a good idea!)

 

By the time we got to Keeva she had the crias head presented, and shortly afterward two feet appeared.  The delivery went well and with a couple more contractions Keeva presented us with a beige, female cria.  This was such a difference from Keeva’s previous birthing when she had a terrible dystocia (badly presented cria) and had to have veterinary assistance, which ended up with us losing the cria.  This time all went smoothly for Keeva and Keeva was anxious to meet her new baby, sniffing and clucking at the birthing fluids on the ground before she fully delivered her cria.

 

Keeva’s little girl is about three weeks premature.  Keeva had been showing signs that she was not going to carry her cria to term (See blog entry Doing The Cria Dance, September 10, 2008) so we were not totally surprised at her early labor.  Fortunately the cria’s lungs are well developed and with the exception of her being quite sleepy and wobblier than a full term cria she is doing well.  Keeva’s cria is just a little thing weighing in at 13.3 lbs.  We did end up having to milk Keeva a couple of times and feeding the colostrum to her cria to get the cria started and give her a little strength, but by the early afternoon Keeva’s cria was able to get up on her own and nurse from Keeva without a problem.

 

Keeva's Cria Soaks Up Some Sun

Keeva's Cria Soaks Up Some Sun

 

Interestingly Keeva’s cria and Cinnamon’s cria are almost identical in looks.  If you part their fleece you can see that they have different fleece styles, but just looking at them in the pasture it is hard to tell them apart.  They do both have the same sire, Tobiano.  We were very careful to make sure that Cinnamon and Keeva recognized which cria was which once we put Keeva and her cria into the pasture for the rest of the day.

 

So our National Alpaca Farm Day visitors got to see a brand new cria and of course Cinnamons cria who had been born the day before.  They also got to see me looking a filthy mess from taking care of Keeva and her cria but they all understood. 

 

During the course of the day Carina also started to look uncomfortable, but she did not go into labor.  Probably just that uncomfortable day that alpaca dams have about two weeks before giving birth, which will put Carina close to her due date.  Dutchess is the next girl due to give birth, only time will tell if Cinnamon and Keeva have made her thoughts turn to delivering soon.

 

Rosemary

September 10, 2008

Doing The Cria Dance!

 With Mags and Song receiving bottles of milk three times a day, there are plenty of opportunities to keep an eye on our late term pregnancy girls.  Cinnamon, Clarissa, Carina and Keeva are all due in October or November. 

 

In theory Cinnamon should be the first to deliver, followed by Keeva and Carina (who were bred on the same day) and then Clarissa who is due in early November.  I say in theory as any alpaca breeder will tell you that the girls have their crias when they feel like it and not to our schedule or planned due dates!

 

I noticed a couple of days ago that Cinnamon has some udder development which is about right for her stage of pregnancy.  She is a maiden alpaca and so we need to be prepared for her having her cria a little early or a little late.  I also noticed though that Keeva has udder development, in fact she has much more of a developed udder with full teats and wax caps on her teats, but on paper her due date is October 20.

 

Keeva’s last cria (which was also her first) was born right around his due date, it may be as she has previously delivered a cria her udder will develop a little while out from her due date.  Some experienced dams do develop their udder early, but Keeva is about six weeks from her due date and the signs I am seeing make me suspicious.

 

Yesterday afternoon, as I fed Mags and Song I noticed Keeva sitting not far away.  As I watched her I could see the form of her cria pushing against the skin under her tail, doing what we sometimes refer to as the cria dance.  It is not unusual to see that type of movement in a late term dam, but usually it is in the last couple of the weeks of pregnancy.  Eventually Keeva tired of the cria’s movements and stood up.  She stretched and as she did so her tail lifted showing a very swollen vulva.  I watched her again as she waddled off and visited a poop pile, thinking that the swelling might change as she walked or after she had pooped, but it didn’t. 

 

So Keeva is now under close observation.  She did breed more than once so it is possible that the first breeding did take, or it may be for some reason she is going to deliver early.  Only time will tell, in the meantime while the cria is doing his or her dance inside Keeva, the crias actions are making me do a cria dance all of my own, as I glance out of the window to the girls pasture checking on Keeva every time I pass, and wander out to the pasture if Keeva appears to be cushed in what to me looks like a funny position.  I still get the feeling that Fall cria season could be earlier than we expect!

 

Rosemary

November 9, 2007

Tea With Everything

Echo’s friend Rascal  Being a British Citizen afternoon tea is something that I enjoy on a daily basis.  I don’t make a high tea every day (tea, sandwiches, cakes etc.) but I do enjoy my afternoon cup of tea. 

While in moderation drinking tea is good for you there are other uses for tea besides just drinking it.  My mother makes a tea bread called “Bara Brith”, a Welsh recipe that calls for the dried fruit to be soaked in tea overnight.  It’s a recipe that many Americans don’t appreciate as it is close to a fruit cake and for some reason Americans have a fear of any sort of fruit cake.  I must admit having tasted American fruit cake I can understand a little of that fear as it is typically made with too much dried fruit, too much sugar and does not contain a lacing of brandy, whisky or rum as any good British Fruit Cake does.  Tea can also be used for staining things (it stains really well) and I have seen some people use tea to give an aged appearance to paper.

Yesterday we had cause to use tea for a different purpose, the tea we used was chamomile tea and the purpose was to bathe the eyes of one of our alpacas.  The day before we had let one of the groups of boys out into the back pasture for a day of running around and finishing up a round bale of hay we had set in that pasture.  The boys had a good day and reluctantly came in at evening chores (either that or they were too full to move too quickly).

The next day we noticed Echo had some watering of his eyes, we checked his eyes and could not see any ulcers or any foreign objects in them.  As a precaution we put a little Silvadene cream in each eye.

Yesterday Echo’s eyes were still watery and all we can think is that he has either rubbed them on the hay and irritated them or he is having some form of allergic reaction to something out in the pasture.  Usually by this time of the year the pollens have started to get less, but as this year has been so warm the plants are still happily pollinating and we are getting medium to high pollen counts on a daily basis.

Interestingly Echo’s sister Keeva also use to get weepy eyes on high pollen days when she was younger.  Keeva thankfully outgrew her allergies and hopefully Echo will too if that is the problem.

Chamomile tea has some very soothing properties and we find it good to use to flush and soothe irritated eyes.  Obviously the tea needs to be cold before being applied and I usually make the tea in the morning and then allow it to cool in the refrigerator before using it.  A word of caution though, if you decide to use chamomile tea on any eyes do make sure that the tea is 100% chamomile and not a mixture of chamomile and something else.  Many teas available in the grocery store are called chamomile tea but contain other herbs too that may be irritating to the eyes, so stick to 100% chamomile tea.

The chamomile tea will hopefully give Echo some relief from his irritated eyes.  We will continue to apply it daily until his eyes no longer weep, and maybe next time we let Echo out into the back pasture he will get to wear a fly mask like Homer does to prevent his eyes from getting irritated again.

Rosemary 

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