A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 28, 2009

One Paca Too Many


Sometimes things within the alpaca herd are a fine balance and the smallest of changes can upset that balance and cause problems.


Our herd pointed this out to us recently. 


When Marti, Orchid and Candytuft completed their quarantine period we allowed them to join the main female herd.  As usual there was much sniffing and checking out of the new additions to the herd.  We then had to figure out where Marti and Orchid were going to eat at feeding time, Candytuft at that time was not eating pellets and so we thought she would most likely go wherever Orchid went.  (Note:  Candytuft has since discovered the pellets and is now not at all shy about pushing her way into a feed bowl!).  Marti has stayed with us before and we felt confident that she would figure out a good place for her to eat.


Our custom at feeding time is to have the girls eat in pens in groups of similar need.  We group fast eaters together, slower eaters together, heavily pregnant girls together etc.


Orchid went in to eat with Chai, which worked out well as Orchid does not hold back when it comes to getting her share of the pellets and neither does Chai.  Marty started off eating with Orchid and Chai, but after a couple of days decided that she didn’t like that arrangement and instead went in with the eight dams of the fall crias.


We didn’t think too much about Marti’s move to a different pen.  The pen the eight girls feed in is a large one, certainly large enough to accommodate nine alpacas at feeding time – or so we thought.


A couple of days after Marti had moved to the bigger pen I noticed that Clarissa, who also eats in that pen, had a slight choke.  I made sure that Clarissa was okay and didn’t think too much more about it.  The next day though Clarissa started to choke again at feeding time, this time a bit harder. 


Choke in alpacas can be a serious problem; left unattended the choke can cause additional problems and can even result in the death of the alpaca.  Interestingly there is an article about an alpaca that died as a result of a choke situation in the latest edition of Alpacas Magazine.   The article is worth reading and explains the possible consequences of an unattended choke.


We were concerned that as Clarissa had choked two days in a row that she might have scratched or irritated her esophagus and so decided that we should feed her soaked feed for a couple of days.  To do this effectively we needed to put Clarissa in a pen on her own to eat, and so utilized a catch pen that we had available.  Clarissa enjoyed her soaked feed and did not choke again, but she also took really quickly to eating on her own in the catch pen.  By the second time of feeding her in that catch pen she ran over to it and was standing waiting for us as we arrived with her food bowl. 


Clarissa had not choked at all before Marti joined the feeding group, but apparently the addition of Marti to the group just tipped the dynamics and balance of that group enough to cause a problem.  As far as Clarissa was concerned Marti was just one paca too many.


Within a couple of days Clarissa was back to eating unsoaked feed without any problems with choking.  Marti and the other seven girls in her feeding group were getting along well and Clarissa was still running to the catch pen at every feeding time and so we decided to let that arrangement continue, with Clarissa now having what we refer to as “her own private dining area”.  Balance has been restored to the herd and everyone is once again happy.



April 16, 2009

Reading Between the Lines


Now that the visiting alpacas quarantine period is over its time for us to get started with the breeding process so that we can get the alpacas pregnant and returned to their owners.


Orchid is going to be shorn prior to breeding, she is carrying a lot of fleece and it will be much safer to shear her first rather than shear her in the very early stages of pregnancy.


Marti arrived at our farm already shorn and so at the weekend we introduced her to our herdsire Treasure, who is the male Marti is to be bred to.  Marti initially ran a little, not completely unusual in an open alpaca, but sometimes it is an indication that she is not at the part of her cycle where she is most receptive to breeding.


Marti did cush for Treasure fairly quickly so we were optimistic that she would breed that day, however a short while later she stood up again.   We were not certain why Marti stood up; it was possible that she found the act of breeding painful in which case we would have needed to investigate things further.   Treasure again mounted Marti and again she cushed but shortly afterwards stood up.  At that point we decided that it was time to call a halt to the proceedings, as something was not right as far as Marti was concerned.


We knew that Marti had a reproductive work up prior to coming to us and that her owner’s vet declared her sound for breeding so we suspected that Marti’s behavior with Treasure was most likely due to her being in the wrong part of her reproductive cycle for breeding, even though she cushed quite readily for Treasure.


Yesterday we decided to try Marti with Treasure again so see if her behavior would be any different.  Again she ran a little but this time when she cushed she stayed cushed and allowed herself to be bred.  The breeding proceeded without any problems and Marti did not show any signs of discomfort during the breeding.


So Marti’s behavior at the first time of being put with Treasure was her way of saying that she was not receptive for breeding.  The fact that she cushed was a little misleading, but she is timid by nature and she may just have felt dominated by Treasure which caused her to cush.  Her behavior of standing up during the breeding was a more definite indication that she was not receptive to breeding at that time.


Alpacas have very distinct individual personalities and when it comes to breeding females it is helpful to know and understand their personality.  By getting acquainted with the various personalities it makes it a little easier to read the behavior of the female alpaca when she is introduced to a male.  In Marti’s case we knew her to be timid by nature and that helped us assess her behavior when first introduced to the male.


Apart from the biosecurity advantages of the three week quarantine that we enforce on alpacas coming onto the farm, it also gives us a chance to observe and get to know visiting female alpacas before introducing them to the male alpacas.   By being able to read their subtle signals and understand what they are trying to tell us by their behavior we are better able to assess where they are in their reproductive cycle or if there may be something else causing them to be non-receptive to breeding.


We will behavior test Marti in about a week to see if she will reject the male indicating that she has probably cycled, if so we may be on our way to achieving a successful pregnancy.  The process of breeding alpacas is not a difficult one, but it does take time, knowledge of alpaca reproductive behavior and the ability to be able to read between the lines to understand what the female alpaca is telling you.




March 28, 2009


A Snow Covered Dream

A Snow Covered Dream


That was the word for the day yesterday when our temperatures plummeted, the winds picked up and the snow fell.


We were initially forecast to receive 5 – 7 inches of snow, but there was nowhere near that amount on the ground except for where the snow piled into drifts.  I suspect that whatever snowfall was supposed to be ours blew south in the high winds.


The alpacas were huddled up and snow covered by the time we woke up in the morning and I couldn’t resist taking the picture above of poor Dream who was just caked in snow.  Dream had created herself a warm dry spot by the shelter and did not want to get up, but the sight of the morning feed bowls soon changed her mind, persuading her to jump up and join in with the morning feed.


Marti who is here for breeding was a concern for us as she was shorn before she arrived here this week.  Fortunately Marti is a smart girl and was cushed in the corner of the shelter in the deep straw.  She was a little shivery though so after giving her a little alfalfa and her morning ration of pellets we put a blanket on her and also covered her with one of our sheep covers to act as a windbreak and to keep the blanket dry.  We kept a watch on her all day and she was up and active, eating hay and occasionally venturing out to the poop pile.  I bet she was wishing she could have her fleece back for at least a day.


Little Candytuft fared well in the snow, despite being very young she is a sturdy girl who already weighs close to 40 lbs and she already has a good staple length on her.    I didn’t see her looking cold or shivery all day, which is good, and by the afternoon she was skipping around in the snow.


The alpacas were all treated to some extra hay including some alfalfa, warm soaked beet pulp shreds and buckets of warm water.  They all remained active during the day, checking out the various hay feeders and running from shelter to shelter.  Of course they also decided that they didn’t really need to venture outside to use a poop pile and so by the end of the day the poop piles in the shelter were large and spreading.


Once again Mother Nature gave us a sharp reminder of how quickly the weather can turn in this part of the world, dropping us down into the 20’s and 30’s and sending us to the closet to pull out our insulated coveralls and alpaca socks once again.  It is incredible to think that the day before we had sunny skies and temperatures in the 70’s.


Today we are supposed to warm up just as dramatically as we cooled down, the snow will melt, the pastures will dry out and I’m betting Miss Marti will be just a little bit more comfortable than she was yesterday!



March 24, 2009

And The Latest Visitors Are…


Donna Given and her alpaca Marti.  Donna and her daughter Tamara Garel own Kiss Me Alpacas in Bandera, Texas and are long time customers of ours.  Last spring they brought us three of their alpaca girls for breeding Marti, Celeste and Cariad.


Celeste was bred to Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel and delivered a beautiful beige daughter on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), Cariad who is a daughter of our Enchantment’s Prince Regent is due to deliver any day now.  Cariad was bred to our Windrush Moonlight Surprise so we soon will have another Moonie cria on the ground.


Marti unfortunately lost her pregnancy in the seventh month of gestation.  The seventh month can be a tricky time in a pregnancy as that is when the fetus really starts to put a demand on the dams system.  Donna and Tamara rushed Marti to the vet when they realized she might be aborting her cria, the vet kept Marti in for observation but unfortunately was unable to stop her from losing her cria.  Following the loss of the cria Donna and Tamara had blood work run on Marti and the cria was also examined, but the vet was unable to establish a reason for Marti having lost her cria.


So Marti is coming back to us for rebreeding and hopefully this pregnancy will go to term without any problem.


It will be good as always to see Donna, Tamara had to stay at home to keep an eye on Cariad and also had to work so was unable to travel with Donna.


I do hope the weather stays warm as Donna and Tamara had their shearing day last weekend and so Marti is newly shorn.  Our forecast did mention the chance of snow on Friday – I hope it doesn’t get that cold or poor Marti will really feel it!


Should it turn really cold we can always pen Marti in a stall inside one of the barns with some deep straw and I even have a blanket she can wear if need be.  Fingers crossed though the temperatures will stay warm enough where all we will get is some gentle rain – we need the moisture but for Marti’s sake I am really hoping that the snow stays away!



July 7, 2008

Our Visitors Go Home

Over the weekend we were joined by Tamara Garel of Kiss Me Alpacas who traveled to our farm to pick up her three alpaca girls who had been visiting us for breeding.  The three girls Celeste, Marti and Cariad are confirmed pregnant and were over 60 days bred, putting them at a good stage in their pregnancy to travel home.    Also going home with them were Celeste’s cria Skylar and Cariad’s cria Copper.


Tamara was of course excited to see her alpacas again.  They had been delivered to the farm in March and by the time they had gone through the three week quarantine, breeding, shearing and confirmation of pregnancy it was July.  How time flies!


We prefer pregnant females not to travel before the 60 day point of their pregnancy if possible.  We have made a few exceptions in the past when the journey was a short one and the alpaca was one who was calm about traveling, but we feel it is better to wait a little longer to travel than to put a pregnancy at risk.


Before loading the alpacas in the trailer we gave each of the pregnant girls some banamine.  The banamine will help prevent soreness from traveling and can also prevent early contractions.  Needless to say Tamara had a nice thick layer of bedding in the trailer to cushion the alpacas on their journey home.


It’s always good to spend time with our alpaca friends and clients and the weekend with Tamara was enjoyable.  We worked a little with Tamara and her crias on halter training, looked at fleeces together, showed off our alpacas and of course took in the more social side of life to include a trip to the 4th of July fireworks display put on by our Chamber of Commerce.


Sunday morning saw Tamara and her alpacas headed on their way home.  There is always a tinge of sadness to say goodbye, but a promise of joy ahead with the anticipation of the birth of the crias next year.    Three more alpacas for Tamara and her mother Donna to add to their herd, and three more crias for our boys to add to their list of progeny.



June 25, 2008

Three for three is a good thing!

Yesterday was ultrasound day.  The three female alpacas from Texas – Cariad, Marti and Celeste were at a point in their pregnancy when we could confirm their pregnancy by ultrasound and so we headed off to the vets with the three girls in the trailer.


Out vet usually likes to ultrasound at the 45 day post breeding point.  Some vets can confirm pregnancy by ultrasound as early as 21 days post breeding, but our vets’ ultrasound equipment is older and so less clear than some of the newer models.


The girls were actually all closer to 50 to 60 days bred, we had sheared them just a week or so ago and we wanted to wait a while after shearing to make sure the pregnancies had held.  Before shearing we had given the girls Banamine to help with soreness and to help block any early contractions and we had also sedated them with some Acepromazine.  All three girls handled shearing well, and a few days after shearing we behavior tested them with one of our male alpacas and all three rejected the male.


I always love to watch the ultrasound screed and see the image of the embryo as the vet finds it and today we were treated to the sight of three embryos, one in each of the girls. 

We have called the girls owners and given them the good news and they are naturally anxious to get their alpacas home.


So a good day all in all, and it even finished off with a little rain in the evening, what more could we ask for?



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