A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 2, 2009

A Special Little Girl Arrives


Here's Moonbeam!

Here's Moonbeam!

After our recent run of boy crias we were starting to wonder if we would have any girl crias this cria season.  On Tuesday June 23, Ivanna answered that question for us when she delivered a beautiful white female cria – finally a girl!

Ivanna’s little girl has bright shiny white fleece with lots of little bundles and she looks to have good fiber coverage all the way to her toes.

We didn’t get to see Ivanna’s cria being born as she was already delivered and sitting sternal when we went to check on the girls first thing in the morning.  I think our girls are being extra smart this year delivering their babies early in the day before the heat hits us.  With temperatures in the high 90’s to 100’s the days have been hot and now we have had some rain there is some humidity added in to the mix creating a higher heat index.  Usually our girls are pretty predictable in delivering their crias between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., but this year we have now had two of the girls deliver early in the morning when the air is still cool.

Ivanna’s little cria was none the worse for her unsupervised delivery, she was quick to get up on her feet and she was hungry!  We put Ivanna and her cria in a pen in the shade to allow them time to bond and then continued with our chores.

I like to think that all of our crias are special, but this little female cria is extra special.  Not just because she is our only female cria this year, but also because she is the last cria from our herdsire Moonie who passed away in April.  Moonie only has four offspring, three of which are males (including our Little Man), so our little girl will be the only female Moonie offspring and I suspect she will not be going far from our farm.

It wasn’t hard to name our new little girl, I wanted to include something in her name that would reference Moonie and with her bright white fleece a name immediately sprung to mind.  So say hello to Windrush Moonbeam our extra special little girl.


May 27, 2009

What’s The Difference Between

Dream in Full Fleece

Dream in Full Fleece






and  This?

Dream Shorn

Dream Shorn









It turns out to be about 4 ½ lbs of fleece (not including belly and lower leg fleece).  Young Dream who weighed in at 93.5 lbs with her fleece prior to shearing certainly did well in the fleece production department.  For a little alpaca she has a lot of fleece.

Dream comes from a line of good fleece producers, her dam Rosie now 5 years old and about ready to deliver a cria still produced just over 4 lbs of fleece in her blanket, leg and neck combined and she too is not a large alpaca.

We have been pleased with our fleeces overall this year and I now have 15 show fleeces ready to be skirted in preparation for show.

Atlas who has done so well in the show ring produced a really dense, fine fleece with a wonderful long staple length that proved to be quite a challenge to Ric’s shearing skills.  Looking at Atlas prior to shearing we knew he was carrying a lot of fleece but had not quite grasped just how much superfine, dense, high frequency crimp fleece he has. 

White Blast who did well in the fleece shows last year has produced another spectacular fleece which is fine, dense and bright with beautiful crimp style.

Even our smallest alpaca Little Man (aka Tonka) did us proud with his fleece.  Weighing all of 58.2 lbs with his fleece on Little Man produced 2.3 lbs of silky, shiny cria fleece that almost hangs in dreadlocks from his head to his toes.

There are still a few alpacas left to shear but this week will hopefully see the end of our shearing for the year.  Next the show fleeces will be paying a trip to the skirting table in preparation for showing and then we will need to decide which fleece will be going to which show.  Lots of fleeces to show and lots of shows to show them in – what fun!


April 23, 2009

Tragedy of the Shortage of Large Animal Vets



Moonie in happier times

Moonie in happier times


This post is a difficult one to write, and if you love animals it will be difficult to read, but what happened here on the farm on Monday is one example of the consequences of a national shortage of large animal vets


On Sunday afternoon one of our herdsires Moonlight Surprise (Moonie) had a seizure.  Just before I went out to do afternoon chores I noticed a commotion in the adult males pen.  I thought they were just doing the usual wrestling and chasing, but then I realized something was wrong. 


I could see Moonie getting up and then being picked on by the other males, they were chest butting him and chasing him away from the male herd.  While the male alpacas do fight and squabble this was different, the other males were making a concerted effort to ostracize Moonie from the herd. 


As I watched I noticed Moonie was also running strangely with his neck straight out, he was following the fence line and there was something very odd about his behavior.


I went out and caught Moonie and realized that something was affecting his vision.  I prepared a small pen in the area where the younger males are and took Moonie over to that pen.  Moonie wasn’t blind, he had some limited vision allowing him to see things when he got close up to them, but his vision was not normal.


Moonie was distressed about his condition, his nostrils were flaring and he was unsettled.  I gave him some Bach’s Rescue Remedy and then showed him where the water and hay were in the pen.  I took his temperature which was 99.5 a little low but not terribly concerning.  A while later Moonie had another seizure, his body contracted pulling his neck to the right, followed by trembling of his head and rapid movement of his eye lids, he staggered as the seizure progressed.  As the seizure continued I did my best to make sure he didn’t hurt himself by falling against anything.  As Moonie came out of the seizure I could tell his vision had been affected again.  Moonie started following the fence line, walking round and round the pen.


This was not the first time we had known Moonie to have a seizure, about two years ago Moonie had been seen to have one.  He was in quarantine following a show at the farm of our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart.  Following shows we often quarantine our show string together.  It means that one farm can quarantine the boys and the other farm quarantine the girls often avoiding the situation where one alpaca is quarantined alone.  When Moonie had his first seizure the quarantine period had passed but we had not picked our alpacas up from the Darts farm.  That seizure was small and was followed by another about a week later.  Our vet examined Moonie and run some bloodwork on him but there were no clues as to why Moonie had those first two seizures.   Now two years later Moonie was having seizures again.


Being Sunday night our vet was not available, by the time nightfall came Moonie had calmed down and was quietly cushed in his pen.  He was not drinking any water or eating hay, but he did nibble on some pellets we put in his pen.


Monday morning came and Moonie was comfortably cushed in his pen.  We saw him get up and go to the poop pile and then again start eating the pellets in his bowl.  He seemed more alert and almost back to normal, but about an hour after we first saw him in the morning he had another seizure.


As soon as the vet clinic was open I called our vet.  Our vet told me that he was unable to come out to our farm that morning, his schedule was already fully booked, but he could see Moonie at 4 p.m. that afternoon.  Listening to my description of Moonie’s condition he was puzzled as to what could be going on with Moonie, but of course it is very difficult to diagnose a condition over the phone. 


By the time I spoke to our vet Moonie was going around and around in circles around his hay bucket, always circling to the right.  Moonie had also started alarm calling, indicating his level of distress to be high.  The poor boy couldn’t understand what was happening to him.


Our vet suggested I give Moonie a small dose of Acepromazine and some Thiamine to try and help Moonie remain stable and calm until the afternoon appointment.


Moonie was having seizures approximately every hour, the Thiamine did seem to help him and I was optimistic that the vet would be able to treat him later that day.  As the morning progressed though the seizures continued and started to get more severe each time.  As if that was not bad enough our vet then called me to say that he was not going to be able to get away from the client he was with and could not see Moonie that day.  I explained that Moonie was getting worse and asked what I should do, our vet suggested that I call another veterinary practice in Texas to see if they had any vets in our area.  


You might wonder why our vet suggested calling a veterinary practice in a neighboring state, we are after all in an agricultural community with a large number of cattle and horses, but the truth is that the vets who are contracted with the local dairies will not come out to see other clients.  The veterinary practice in Texas was our only other option.


Sadly the veterinary practice in Texas did not have anyone in our area, they offered for us to drive Moonie over to them but by this time Moonie was down and couldn’t get up.    At 2:30 p.m.  Moonie died.


I have had alpacas die before; sadly part of any livestock business is the inevitable death of some of your animals.  With the best care in the world at times things will happen that we cannot fix and animals die.  This death though was the hardest I have had to witness yet, my alpaca was suffering and even when I knew he was dying and tried to get a vet to come out to put him down the response I got was that the area vets were busy and could not help.  It is one thing to lose an alpaca, it is entirely different thing to have to watch that animal suffer in his final moments and not be able to do a thing to ease that suffering.  My only hope is that in those final moments Moonies brain had shut down to where perhaps he wasn’t feeling what was going on.


It is known that there is a national shortage of Large Animal Vets in the United States, a recent article in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel refers to the problems that shortage presents, not just to livestock owners but also how that shortage could be a threat to national security.  What is worrying is that the situation is only likely to get worse.


Our large animal vet has been looking for another vet to join his practice for well over a year with no luck.  The number of veterinary college graduates who choose to specialize in large animal practice is small.  Trying to find a veterinarian who is of the caliber that our vet desires and who also wants to live in dry and dusty eastern New Mexico is a difficult task. 


I am sure our vet is not happy about the situation with Moonie; it cannot be easy for him to turn down a client with an emergency situation.   Our vet is just one person and if he is already dealing with another client’s emergency he cannot walk away from that emergency until he has completed whatever treatments he needs to administer.  How is he supposed to choose between two clients both urgently needing his services?  On speaking to his wife later in the day she described Monday as “a day from hell”.


Large animal veterinary practice is not a popular choice of career, the hours are long and the conditions are often filthy and demanding.  It takes a special person to be a large animal vet and while at times the job is rewarding that is apparently not enough to persuade people to become a large animal vet.


I wish I had a solution to the shortage of large animal vets in the US, if only to prevent another animal and owner from encountering the situation I did on Monday.  The only thing I can think to do is to sponsor organizations who have a scholarship scheme for veterinary students specializing in large animal practice.  


We do not know what caused Moonie’s seizures; we have submitted his body to the Texas Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab (TVMDL) in Amarillo, Texas for a full necropsy.   We hope that something from that necropsy will shed some light on what was wrong with Moonie, but there is always a chance that the results of the necropsy will be inconclusive.


My heart breaks over the loss of my gentle herdsire Moonie.  He really was one of the gentlest alpacas, his easygoing nature inherited from his dam Carina.    Moonies fleece was very fine and consistent with little guard hair; a trait that is valued in the alpaca world and that made him a valuable part of our breeding program.


We had not used Moonie as much as we would have liked to, he currently has three offspring on the ground with a fourth one due later this spring.  One of his offspring is our Windrush Peruvian Tonka who we lovingly refer to as Little Man.  Ironically when Little Man was born he bore no resemblance to Moonie, but now as he grows his face is strikingly similar to that of his sire.  That similarity will now be part of Moonie’s legacy and in time we hope that Little Man will step in to take over the herdsire career that his sire was unable to complete. 


To my dear Moonie, I hope you understand that I did what I could for you; it was not enough to save you I know, but I don’t know what else I could have done.  I will truly miss you.



March 23, 2009

Getting Acquainted

Orchid and Candytuft our guest alpacas

Orchid and Candytuft our guest alpacas


The weekend was a full one.   First we settled Orchid and her cria Candytuft in to the quarantine pasture with Ma Cushla and Primera, weighing them first so that we can monitor Candytuft’s weight and also know if Orchid is holding her weight during her visit.  Orchid is a little on the heavy side, but as Candytuft is a strong, robust cria she will probably nurse a lot of that extra weight off Orchid.  Our farm must be such a dramatic change for those two girls after the lush green pastures of Louisiana.


We then spent time getting caught up with Dale, finding out what he had been up to since he retired from the Air Force and updating each other with news of friends and acquaintances. 


Dale had asked us if we could spend Saturday educating him in good and bad points to look for when purchasing alpacas and also showing him routine tasks such as toe nail trimming, teeth trimming, our feeding practices and other aspects of alpaca care.  So Dale got a pretty intensive Alpaca 101 course in a day!  It was a lot of information for him to take in, but he seemed appreciative of the information we shared with him and said he felt more confident in assessing alpacas by the time he left us on Sunday.


Part of Saturday morning was spent helping Dale decide which herdsire he wanted to use on Orchid.  We looked at Orchid first and established her strong and weak points and then showed him our herdsires and also their fleeces from last year.  Our Enchantment’s Prince Regent was Dale’s selection and I am sure that Regent and Orchid will make an outstanding match.


After that we went over the breeding contract and also talked about contracts in general to help Dale when he comes to drawing up contracts for his own alpaca clients.


We covered a lot of information during Dale’s visit, it was a lot to take in and remember but Dale knows that if he forgets anything or needs to clarify anything he only has to pick up the phone and call us.


During his visit Dale commented on how relaxed our alpacas were and how our girls go into their different feeding pens at feeding time.  He also said he hopes Orchid and Candytuft will learn to be that relaxed while they are with us.


For now Orchid and Candytuft are wary of us and still getting used to their new surroundings.  We will take things easy with them initially, not making an effort to interact with them unless they come up to us.  So far Orchid has come up to sniff me a couple of times, but Candytuft will only stand behind Orchid and peer around her to look at me – she will come around in time I am sure.   We will handle them with care and respect during their visit and in time they will learn to relax around us.


For many alpacas one of the biggest hurdles in human interaction is trust and we work hard to raise our alpacas to know that they can trust us.  During their stay Orchid and Candytuft will learn to trust us too, already they are watching how our alpacas interact with us which in itself will help them feel more at ease with us.  Alpacas being herd animals do pick up on the behavior of others in the herd.


Once quarantine is over we will introduce Orchid and Candytuft to our main female herd.  It will be nice for Candytuft to be able to play with the fall crias, while she is quite a bit younger than them she is a good size for her age and will not have any problem joining in the cria games in the evening.


Already though Candytuft has an admirer.  I discovered Little Man (aka Windrush Peruvian Tonka) looking longingly through the fence at her on Sunday morning.  Usually Little Man is one of the first to go into the cria pen at feeding time, but on Sunday morning he was completely distracted by Candytuft’s presence.  I’ve told Little Man that he will get a chance to meet Candytuft soon, but somehow I get the feeling that for him it will not be soon enough.  He may be a little but he’s telling me he’s definitely a man in alpaca terms, a herdsire in the making – one day Little Man, one day.



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.



January 7, 2009

Time To Celebrate – Little Man Makes It!

Little Man aka Windrush Peruvian Tonka

Little Man aka Windrush Peruvian Tonka


To 30 lbs that is!


Clarissa’s cria who we fondly call Little Man has finally passed the 30 lb. mark.  When he was born in October he weighed in at only 11.5 lbs.  Little Man had a slow start on the growth curve, sometimes only gaining 0.1 lbs in a day compared to the other crias who were happily gaining 0.5 – 0.75 lbs. per day.


Clarissa has been a good milk producer in the past and so we are not sure why Little Man was so slow to grow.  We increased Clarissa’s feed to help her produce more milk, which did help a little but still reaching 30 lbs. took a long while for Little Man.  I guess when you start off tiny the road to size is an uphill one.


We do not expect that Little Man will ever be a big alpaca.  His dam Clarissa is on the small side as is his half sister Willow.  We are still waiting conformation on Little Man’s sire; he is either an on time offspring of Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure or a premature offspring of Windrush Moonlight Surprise.  Just looking at his bright, bright white fleece and feeling it’s almost waxy handle I suspect that Treasure may well be Little Man’s sire.  Treasure has won best brightness awards in fleece shows as well as blue ribbons and championship ribbons in both fleece and halter.  As Little Man’s body style develops he is looking more like Treasures stocky, compact stature than Moonies taller, longer frame.  We will just have to wait and see what his DNA tells us.


We did delay in sending Little Man’s blood card in to the Alpaca Registry for DNA testing, only because we could not decide on a registered name for him.  Little Man is a broad chested, heavy boned young man, a compact alpaca in miniature and we were not certain that to give him a registered name of Windrush Little Man was the right thing to do.  Thankfully Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas came to our rescue, when she said Little Man looked like an alpaca Tonka toy and so that is how Little Man has come to be registered as Windrush Peruvian Tonka (but he will always be Little Man to us!).



November 6, 2008

Time for the Winds of Change


It seemed appropriate that yesterday, November 5, 2008 the wind blew hard for most of the day.     The election results of November 4 told the world that many in the US are ready for change and it really felt as if the winds of change had physically reached the high plains of New Mexico by Wednesday morning.


The alpacas, of course, are not at all concerned with elections or politics; they instead put their attention to chasing the leaves that blew across the pasture.  For some the leaves were even more enticing than their morning ration of grain and I had to go and show them their food bowls before they would take their attention away from their leaf eating quest.


During the day the temperature was still in the 60’s and the crias took to cushing in the straw and sunning themselves while they were low enough to the ground to avoid the wind.


The fall crias are all developing their individual personalities. Sleeper (Keeva’s cria) still lives up to her name and can usually be found stretched out in a relaxed pose, when not sleeping though she has developed quite the appetite for hay and will let you know her displeasure if you try and move her away from her food.  Chandra (Carina’s cria) can usually be found close to Sleeper, although does not sleep as much as her buddy.  Chandra loves to come up and enquire as to what you are doing, tipping her head to one side and giving you a quizzical hum.   Nochi (Glow’s cria) is a little live wire, zipping across the pasture usually with a buck or a kick thrown in to the mix, she has to check out everything that is going on and often gets into mischief.  Little Man (Clarissa’s cria – not his registered name but that is the name that has stuck for now) is a quiet but determined little guy.  He might be small but he is sturdy and enjoys instigating some of the cria play, usually with Evelyn who is closest to his size.  Evelyn  (Essie’s cria) has just the sweetest of personalities, coming up to you to offer you cria kisses, calmly enjoying her neck being stroked and nuzzling you for attention.  Then there is Atlanticus, who always walks around the pasture with a purposeful attitude, almost as if he has tasks to complete during his cria day – but if he loses sight of his dam he lets out the most heart wrenching cries (I guess he’s really a sensitive boy at heart).  Finally there is Nazca (Kimmie’s cria) the last to be born and already growing like a weed.  Nazca enjoys sitting in the sunshine with a regal air about him, he’s still figuring out the other crias but has already started to join in the evening cria races, usually running side by side to Little Man and Evelyn.


By the time the sun set yesterday, the wind was still blowing at 26 mph with gusts up to 40 mph and with the sun’s disappearance the temperature dropped rapidly.  Time to bundle up the crias in their cria coats with the three smallest crias (Little Man, Evelyn and Nazca) and their dams being moved to the stall in the big shelter to give them some extra protection for the night.  With nighttime temperatures being predicted to be in the 20’s it seems as if winter is starting to head this way.  We have been spoiled recently with a beautiful Indian summer but it seems as if the winds of change are bringing in more seasonal and colder days – oh well, it was nice while it lasted and before we know it spring will be headed our way.



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