A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 18, 2017

Unexpected Treasures


Sometimes we can try so hard to make things happen, yet our plans don’t work out as expected. Then at other times we discover acts of serendipity, when things just happen without any effort on our part.

Our gardening efforts at the farm have been historically hit and miss. A shortage of water on the farm, dry desert heat and drying winds, lack of time to dedicate to care of the plants, and a distinct lack of green fingers on my part have meant that any crop production has been low.

So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered a bumper crop of pumpkins and sunflowers in the area where we compost the alpaca poop! I’ve tried for years to grow sunflowers on the farm but experienced total failure, pumpkins had never really crossed my mind as I knew that they needed quite a bit of water. Yet here they were happily growing side by side, and in the case of the pumpkins very happily growing.

So had did this bounty happen? Well every fall we ask people to bring us their leftover pumpkins to feed to the alpacas. We feed the pumpkins to the alpacas and the alpacas are very happy. Every day we feed black oil sunflower seeds to the alpacas and the alpacas enjoy eating the seeds. As part of the feeding process some of the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are left on the ground and get raked up when we are raking up the poop piles and off they go to the compost area. In addition to this process last year we had a whole bag of sunflower seeds that got moisture in the bag and molded, so off they went to the compost pile as well.

Maya Eating Pumpkin

The seeds have been sitting there for a while, the alpaca poop has been breaking down into what alpaca breeders like to refer to as black gold, then this year we have been blessed with some rain and poof! Low and behold our bountiful crop appeared!

How cool is that! That Mother Nature did her own thing and created a much better result than all my efforts could produce!


The pumpkins are about ready to harvest. To start with we will use some to decorate the farm. Once their decoration duties are done we will use some of them to feed to the alpacas, llamas, chickens and guineas. Some of the pumpkins appear to be sugar pumpkins so will be cooked and used for pumpkin pies and cookies, with some cooked pumpkin being reserved in case we need it for a sick animal (pumpkin is an excellent soother of the digestive tract). I was hoping to be able to harvest some sunflower seeds from our sunflowers but our horses Savannah and Saber decided to eat the heads off most of the sunflowers. No wonder their coats are looking so glossy! Hopefully they will leave me at least a few sunflower heads to harvest for next year.


So where do we go from here. Well my plan for next year, provided we have a chance of rain, is to take a random assortment of vegetable seeds, toss them on the alpaca compost area and let them grow if they wish to. Why toil for vegetables when they apparently do better without me? (Although I probably should consider a horse fence!).

Until next time,


November 15, 2013

Farewell to a Faithful Guardian

A sad part of raising alpacas and llamas is that at some time in their life we have to let them go.   As some of our herd ages this is a situation we will no doubt be encountering more often.  It’s tough, but unavoidable.

This morning our guard llama Griffin passed away.  At 13 years old Griffin was middle aged in llama terms, some llamas live well into their twenties but in Griffin’s case that was not to be.

We acquired Griffin through Southwest Llama Rescue along with our other two llamas Maya and Inca.  Griffin’s registered name was Twilight’s Griffin Girl, her fleece was a beautiful rose grey.  Griffin was always more aloof than Maya and Inca, she was a strong and proud girl and took her job of guarding the herd seriously unless someone started putting out hay and then she was quite easily distracted!  Griffin loved to find a higher piece of ground to stand on so she could survey her “kingdom”.  She also loved a really good roll in the dirt, and a nice “shower” with the hose during the hot days of summer.  When we used to hose her legs Griffin would start a dance, spinning and twisting as she enjoyed the cool water on her skin.  You had to make sure to stay out of her way unless you wanted to be showered from mud flinging up from under Griffins feet!


Griffin looking proud after shearing


Griffin gets up close and personal

From her records we knew that Griffin had once had a cria, but sadly he did not live long.  When crias were born on our farm Griffin would often nuzzle them and follow them around, and it was on more than one occasion that Griffin joined in the evening cria pronk.  It was so funny to see the little alpaca crias pronking around accompanied by a pretty hefty llama!


Griffin checks out one of our crias Kaneka

We had known something was not right with Griffin since July.  While I was away visiting family in England Ric called me to tell me Griffin was not eating.  I was due to return a couple of days later and by that time Ric had managed to get Griffin eating again but something was not right with our girl.  We consulted our vet and he felt that Griffin might have congestive heart failure and warned us that it would only be a matter of time before we had to say goodbye to her.

Amazingly Griffin perked up and seemed to be doing better, she was back to eating again and eagerly staking her claim on the morning and evening hay as she loved to do.  The alpacas all knew not to mess with Griffin at feeding time.  We were optimistic.  Perhaps the vet’s diagnosis was wrong.  Griffin seemed good and we were happy to see her looking like her usual self.  But then we noticed that once again Griffin was not right.  She seemed to be losing muscle in her rear end, she stood awkwardly and getting up and down seemed more difficult for her than normal.  We again consulted our vet.  When he examined her he said that her heart sounded good and that the symptoms she had displayed earlier in the summer were all gone, but he was a little baffled as to what was causing Griffin’s discomfort and muscle wasting.  Tests were done to see if perhaps there was a neurological problem or perhaps an issue with Griffin’s spine, blood tests were run to see if there was anything abnormal, but nothing showed up in any of the tests to give us a clue.

We tried various treatments from probiotics to antibiotics, we treated for parasites and ear ticks, we put Griffin on some arthritis medicine in case that was the problem.  I used my photonic red light on her and gave her gentle massages.  Griffin would respond for a while and start eating again and then stop eating and start to lose muscle again.  Neither our vet nor we could come up with any clues to help us figure out what on earth was plaguing Griffin.

Last week Griffin again went off her feed.  We managed to get her eating again, but within a couple of days she would not eat anything we offered to her.  Ric and I were both very concerned about Griffin and what we should do for her.

Last night when I did chores I walked Griffin over to the pen where she liked to eat.  As I walked behind her I noticed she was tripping over even the smallest of rocks in the pasture, she just didn’t look good.  I offered her food and stroked her neck.  I talked to her and told her that if she felt it was time to leave us then I understood.  I told her how much we loved her and what a great job she had done for us guarding the herd.  I told her we would miss her but that we would be okay.

This morning when I got up I looked for Griffin and found her standing by the fence in front of the house.  The nights have been cold recently and Griffin had been spending them in the big blue shelter at the other side of the pasture, staying in there until the hay was put out.  But this morning she had already made her way across the pasture.  I watched Griffin walk around a little and then cush down.

When our helper Leigh Ann arrived I asked her to keep an eye on Griffin and told her that I was very worried about her.  Not too long after Leigh Ann went out to feed the alpacas she came back in and told me that I needed to come to Griffin.  Leigh Ann had seen Griffin’s legs suddenly thrash and Griffin had gone onto her side.

Leigh Ann and I went out and I when I looked at Griffin I knew her time to leave us had come.  Griffin was still conscious.  I put a blanket and a towel under her head and sat with her, stroking her and talking to her until she took her last breath.  Leigh Ann stayed with Griffin and me too, giving us both comfort during a difficult time.

Maya, Inca and Griffin

Maya, Inca and Griffin, the three girls always worked as a team

Our Griffin will be buried in one of the grass pastures that the alpacas and llamas like to visit when we let them out for a day of grazing.  From that point you can see all three alpaca pastures and the hay barn so Griffin can continue to guard over us night and day.  I would like to think that she now has been reunited with her cria and is pronking around with him free of pain and full of joy.

To our faithful guardian Griffin, farewell dear one, you served us well and gave us many years of joy.  We will miss you.  May you now rest in peace.


March 13, 2008

Feed The Llamas Challenge!

Feed The Llamas Challenge

Today’s blog entry will involve little writing from me, but it involves a cause that is dear to my heart – Southwest Llama Rescue.

The mission of Southwest Llama Rescue is to provide safe refuge for unwanted, neglected or abandoned llamas through intervention, education and necessary support. They also seek placement and lifelong care for all llamas entrusted to their care.   We adopted our three guard llamas from Southwest Llama Rescue and are very happy with our three adoptees.

Southwest Llama Rescue is run by a small but dedicated band of volunteers who never cease to amaze me with their energy and devotion to their cause.    Like many volunteer organizations funding is a concern for Southwest Llama Rescue and in order to be able to provide the necessary care to the llamas they rescue Southwest Llama Rescue has to rely on donations and grants.

The information below was sent to me by Southwest Llama Rescue, regarding a challenge grant they have been awarded.  I hope you will take the time to read the information and see it in your hearts to help Southwest Llama Rescue meet their challenge goal.  It is a big goal for a small organization, but if many people donate a little the goal will soon be met.  (Go on, feed a llama, you know you’ve always wanted to!)


Feed The Llamas Challenge


A generous charitable organization has awarded Southwest Llama Rescue (SWLR) a challenge grant for $4,500 to help feed the llamas in our care. For every dollar you give, the charitable trust will double it!?  Once we raise $4,500, we will be awarded another $4,500. This $9,000 will feed 30 llamas at our Silver City Sanctuary for a whole year!


We need your help to match this grant. Please consider giving $100, $50, $10, ANY AMOUNT will help. With enough people giving even just a little, we know our $4,500 challenge can be met.


Your donation, of any amount, will be used ONLY to purchase hay/feed for the llamas in our care.  Our private sanctuary is home to 12 permanent llama residents and an average of 20 awaiting placement.  Many of the llamas in our care were surrendered to SWLR due to owner health, family or financial strife and–in some cases–due to neglect or abuse.


ANY amount is much appreciated. Please indicate your donation is designated for the Feed-the-Llamas Challenge.

Contribute by:1.  Debit/credit card:  Visit www.paypal.com and donate using the email address swlr@wildblue.net


2.  Check:  Mail a check payable to SWLR, Inc., 1472 St Francis Drive, Santa Fe NM 87505

All contributions are tax-deductible in accordance with U.S. Law for contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations.Questions?

Call 505-690-2611 ~ email swlr@wildblue.net

SWLR, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, 100%-volunteer organization, founded in 2004 to provide safe refuge for unwanted, neglected or abandoned llamas through intervention, education and necessary support and to seek placement and lifelong care for all llamas entrusted to our care.

~ ~ ~

Southwest Llama Rescue

swlr@wildblue.net 505-690-2611


February 3, 2008

There’s Nothing Like a Wuffle!

As a member of Southwest Llama Rescue (SWLR) I receive messages from their Yahoo Group.  Yesterday there was a message from “Baxter” one of the founders of SWLR regarding an article that has appeared in a publication called “Desert Exposure”.  The article is about the sanctuary in Silver City, New Mexico that Baxter runs for llamas (and a few other furry and feathered friends).  It is a lovely article, well written with a nice tone to it, hopefully it will bring greater exposure to SWLR and the work they do.  Even better, maybe some of the llamas at the sanctuary will get adopted as a result of the article and Baxter will gain some more volunteers.

You can view the article at


There are some misquotes in the article, such as Baxter’s comments about llama fiber, but it has been my experience that no matter how hard you try there is always at least one misquote in any article written.   At the end of the day this article was written to highlight Baxter, her work with SWLR and the llamas in her care and it does just that.

Our three guard llamas Maya, Inca and Griffin all came from SWLR and I believe that all three of them spent time at the Silver City sanctuary under Baxter’s loving care.  My llama ladies are not quite as hands on as some described in the article, but we have a lot of fun with them and they do a great job of protecting the alpaca herd.

The first picture in the article shows Baxter being nuzzled by Chloe, one of the llamas at the sanctuary.  Baxter prefers to refer to this as Chloe giving her a “wuffle”, which I think it is a much more descriptive term for the way in which camelids great others.  I receive “wuffles” from the alpacas (and occasionally even from the llamas) every day, and there is nothing quite like a “wuffle” to brighten your day!

Baxter loves each and every one of the 30 llamas currently at the sanctuary, and all of those who have been in her care over the years.  Baxter gets to know all of the llamas well and does an excellent job of matching up llamas and new owners.

Enjoy the article and if you have been thinking about adopting a llama (you would actually need to adopt two unless you already own a llama), maybe now is the time to do it.  After all there’s nothing quite like getting a wuffle!


December 12, 2007

Pacas Around the Tree

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, Family, General, llama — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:35 am

Christmas Pacas  For our Open House at the weekend we tried to add a little bit of Christmas cheer to the farm.  We had Christmas music playing in the studio and had a nice bayberry candle burning in a little chiminea to provide a Christmas aroma while our guests browsed the alpaca products that we had for sale.

Looking around the studio though it looked a little bare, we decided that we needed some form of Christmas tree to brighten the place up.  By the time we decided this it was a little late to go out and buy one, so Ric was sent packing to one of our storage buildings to dig up our “skinny trees”.

The skinny trees made it into our household a couple of years ago.  Usually at Christmas time we have a live pine tree in the house for our Christmas tree.  Like many people we were in the habit of going to a local Christmas tree lot and picking out the perfect tree.  A couple of years ago though our Christmas tree routine failed when there was a shortage of trees, we went to the Christmas tree lot only to be told that there were no trees available.  At first we thought it was a joke, but then discovered that it was not and there were no Christmas trees available in Clovis, New Mexico at that time.

How could we have Christmas without our traditional tree?  We were not fans of artificial trees but that seemed our only option.  We went to a couple of stores but were not impressed with the artificial Christmas trees they offered.  Eventually we ended up at a craft store and that’s where we spotted the skinny trees.  Ric was not too impressed initially and I suppose it was hard to get used to the idea of something so different from our usual Christmas tree, but they were the only thing we had come anywhere close to liking and so three skinny trees of various sizes came home with us.

Having set the skinny trees up at home, we decided that we really quite liked them, so much so that we used them again the following year.  They are very different and not too everyone’s taste but many people who visited us commented on how much they liked them.

So this past Saturday the skinny trees were dug out from storage and two of the three were set up in the studio.  They looked a little bare and so we started to look around for something to make them look more appealing.  Our eyes came upon our two extra large toy llamas that Ric’s son Paul had sent us from Peru a couple of years ago.   This particular size of toy llama is hard to come by and I had asked Paul to buy us a couple if he saw them in his travels, which he did (thank you Paul!).  Then we saw our carved wooden alpaca, that particular figure is from Ruidoso, New Mexico which has several craftsmen who carve bears out of wood using chain saws.  An enterprising alpaca friend of ours had approached one of the craftsmen and negotiated for him to carve a batch of alpacas with his chain saw.  When we saw them we had to have one and so the carved alpaca took up residence in the studio.

Ric has a much more artistic eye than I and in minutes had the trees, llamas and alpaca set up.  Several of our visitors commented on how much they liked Ric’s Christmas scene and so we are thinking of moving it into the house now that Christmas is closer.  We will bring the third tree into the house too and Ric will rearrange things to incorporate that tree.  I guess to some people it might seem to be a bit of an odd Christmas decoration but we feel it is appropriate for us and will enjoy having our little herd of “easy keepers” (no feed or vet bills on these guys!) in the house for a while.

Of course we are not too sure how Snuggler the cat will behave around our trees, he’s quite a lively young fellow and from years of cat ownership I know Christmas trees seem to have a magnetic quality to young cats.  We will just have to hope that all goes well with Snuggler and the trees and be prepared to wake up to a tangle of trees and cat in the morning!


November 25, 2007

Getting Creative – Llama Pillows

The last couple of days have seen some really cold temperatures.  Our daytime highs dropped suddenly from the high 70’s to the low 30’s – brrr.  On Thanksgiving morning we were also treated to a snowfall, nothing too heavy, but snow all the same.  Following many weeks of dry conditions the moisture from the snow is very welcome.

With the cold though come some challenges, little Kanika has to wear her cria coat day and night to make sure she stays warm, and we have put straw bedding in the shelters to give the alpacas a warm surface to lie on.  One of our main challenges though is freezing water faucets.  The water hydrants we have installed are supposedly frost proof, but in certain cold conditions they still freeze and by Thanksgiving morning only one or two of the hydrants were working.

Ric got to work with a heat lamp to defrost the frozen hydrants.  Having fresh water available in cold weather is just as important as having it available in hot weather.  Even in cold weather an alpaca can become dehydrated if it does not drink enough water and that can lead to all sorts of other problems.

Having defrosted all of the hydrants and got them working we now had to figure out a way to stop them freezing again.  During the summer Ric and I had discussed the possibility of using alpaca fiber as insulating material, we had various ideas about how it could be used, but put the thought to the back of our minds.  Now was our chance to get creative.

Having sent a lot of our lesser quality fiber off to be processed into rugs, we hated to use our really fine fiber for an insulation experiment, so instead we settled on using some of the fiber shorn from our llamas for the project.

Ric took the llama fiber and stuffed it into old feed sacks making “llama pillows”.  The trick was to have enough fiber in the sack to provide good insulation while still allowing the “llama pillow” to be molded around the hydrant.  Once the sacks were taped closed they were wrapped around the hydrant and then covered with an inverted trashcan.  Voila!  One protected hydrant!

So far our llama pillows are working well, but if we were to do this on a more permanent basis then we need to adjust our prototype.  First we need to put the llama fiber into something that is breathable but yet which would prevent moisture from getting into the llama fiber, which could cause it to rot.  Then we have to establish exactly how much fiber provides good insulation and in which form would it work best.   Would alpaca or llama batting be a better option than the loose fiber?  The trashcan cover works but is a little unsightly and awkward to handle, so a different cover would be a good idea.

So there are many refinements to be made to our project but in the meantime our crude prototype is keeping our hydrants working.   Llama pillows are wonderful things!


November 24, 2007

Expect the Unexpected

Our Llamas Griffin, Maya and Inca  When the phone rings at 7:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning it usually means someone has a problem.  That was the case this Thanksgiving morning.  The caller was a young lady who recently adopted some llamas from llama rescue, she had gone out to check on the llamas in the morning to find one of them had a swollen head.  The poor llamas head was literally swollen up like a balloon and there was blood coming out from the llama’s eyes.

As there was not one area of swelling it seemed unlikely that this was an injury, a more likely cause was a snakebite.  The temperatures over the last few days have dropped dramatically and so most snakes would have gone to ground by now, but there was at least one still out there and active.

I told the llamas owner that she really needed to call the vet, but I knew realistically it was going to be difficult to find vet on Thanksgiving who was working.  Even more of a challenge was that the llama that needed treatment was on a ranch many miles from the nearest town.

I asked the llama owner if she had any banamine on hand which might help ease the swelling, but she did not have any.  All the owner had on hand was some penicillin.

I suggested that the owner still try her best to get hold of a vet, but also suggested that she start calling neighboring farms and ranches to see if they had any medicines on hand that she could use. 

The llama owner asked me to call Pat Little at Southwest Llama Rescue, which I did.  Pat is one of the “angels” of Southwest Llama rescue who not only helps coordinates a lot of the llama adoptions, but also houses many of the llamas that are looking for new adoptive or foster homes.  Pat has many years of experience with llamas.

I hated disturbing Pat’s Thanksgiving morning, but knew that Pat would want to know about the llama with the snakebite.  Pat was soon on the phone with the llama’s owner giving her advice as to what she needed to do.

Unfortunately despite calls to three different vets no one was able to come out to treat the llama.  Fortunately though as of yesterday the llama was doing much better, her eyes were starting to open a little and she was eating grain, which is encouraging.  The llama’s owner had given the llama some penicillin and also gave her some Claritin that she had on hand in the house.  I am not sure what effect the Claritin would have on the llama but so far it does not seem to have had an adverse effect, and who knows maybe it helped.

When you are raising livestock you need to be prepared to expect the unexpected.  Who would have thought that a snakebite would occur on a cold and snowy (yes it snow during the morning) November day, but it did occur and unfortunately the llama’s owner did not have the supplies on hand to deal with the situation or at least buy herself a little time while she found a vet who could help her.

It would be unrealistic to expect every alpaca and llama owner to have a full veterinary supply cupboard of medicines and other veterinary supplies, but they should at least have some basic supplies on hand.  Over the years we have accumulated various supplies and learnt which medicines to keep on hand.  We do not have a high incidence of snakes in this area but if we did I would certainly have the medicines on hand to treat a snakebite.  

Usually your veterinarian can advise you what you should keep on hand in case of emergencies, and I am sure it will vary from area to area depending on different threats and risks.  Having established the supplies that you need, make sure that you then go out and get them, it’s Murphy’s Law that emergencies happen after hours or on holidays.  When the unexpected happens having a basic medicine kit on hand could mean the difference between life and death.


October 28, 2007

Mmmm – Pumpkins!

Pumpkin EatersWe are just a few days away from Halloween and many houses in the area have pumpkins as part of their fall displays.

Many people do not realize that pumpkins are grown in large numbers in Clovis, New Mexico and then trucked all over the US for sale.  So many pumpkins are grown that throughout the pumpkin picking season you will see semi truck loads of pumpkin culls (the misshapen or damaged ones) being dumped in fields for cows to munch on.  It’s quite amusing to drive past a field of cows and see them chewing away, their mouths stuffed full of pumpkins.

Last fall as part of Ric’s degree course in Elementary Education, Ric and his class mates developed a learning based activity evening for one of the local schools and used pumpkins as the theme of the evening.  Children learned how to calculate the circumference and diameter of pumpkins, how to weigh pumpkins, how to carve pumpkins and all sorts of other exercises involving pumpkins.  One of the local farms very kindly donated the pumpkins for the evening and the evening was a big success.

A week or so ago one of Ric’s classmates who is now teaching full time contacted him to see if he could help her out with finding some pumpkins.   The same farm that donated the pumpkins last year was willing to donate more pumpkins this year and so Ric drove out to the pumpkin field and collected about 50 pumpkins.   Again the pumpkins were culls but many of them only had minor flaws and the children enjoyed working with them.

When Ric collected the pumpkins he picked out six for our own use.  We may carve one or two of them, but the main reason we wanted the pumpkins was for a treat for the alpacas and llamas.

Last year we fed pumpkins to the herd for the first time, some of the alpacas were a bit wary of the pumpkins while others were more willing to try them out.  The llamas were a different story though and zoomed in on the pumpkins, eating them with much gusto and not allowing the alpacas even a sniff at them.  Maya in particular made a point of devouring every scrap of pumpkin that she could find.

 Maya Eating Pumpkin

We had asked our vet last year if it was safe to feed pumpkins to alpacas and he told us that they were safe to feed and were actually a good nutritional source.  He said that while he would not recommend feeding the alpacas a diet of nothing but pumpkins he could recommend feeding the pumpkins as an occasional treat.

This year the alpacas were more aware that a pumpkin is edible and tasty and managed to get a least some of the pumpkin away from the llamas who had made a beeline for the pumpkins as soon as they saw us bring them to the pasture.

As of last night there was not a scrap left of the pumpkins we had fed the girls, the flesh, seeds, skin and stem of the pumpkins was all gone and all that remained was some happy cud chewing camelids!


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