A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 6, 2009

Au Revoir Shiimsa and Rio

Shiimsa and Rio

Shiimsa and Rio

Sunday saw the departure of Shiimsa and Rio from our farm.  Their new owner Terri Faver collected them so that they could start their new life at Terri’s farm, Almost Canyon Ranch in Canyon, Texas.

Shiimsa is a little bit of a nervous girl and so we gave her some Rescue Remedy to help relax her during her move and also gave both Shiimsa and Rio some MSE Probiotic and Enzyme drench to help their digestive systems adjust to the change in their surroundings.

Shortly after we had finished morning chores we loaded Shiimsa and Rio into Terri’s trailer and they were on their way.  The day was a nice cool one, ideal for traveling alpacas.  Shiimsa showed some concern by humming as we loaded her up, but what she didn’t realize was that once she arrived at her new home she would be reunited with Anya and Serenity who Terri had also purchased from us.  As far as Rio was concerned as long as his dam was there all was okay, I am sure he will miss playing with our other crias, but hopefully Serenity will feel still young enough to join in with his cria games.

What Shiimsa and Rio were also unaware of was that they will soon have access to grass pasture, as Terri has been working hard to get her pastures set up so that the alpacas can go out and graze.  Now that will make them happy!

So we said our farewells to Shiimsa and Rio, but it was really more a case of Au Revoir as we will be seeing them next weekend when we take Regent and Zin over to Terri’s ranch next weekend to breed Anya and Shiimsa.


March 17, 2009

Hang on Queen!


Our alpaca Queen is one of the grand dams of the pasture.  Now eleven years old, she is able to rule over the younger alpacas by just looking at them.  She can throw a look that says “you wouldn’t dare” and the younger alpacas agree, they would not dare to cross our Queen.


Queen is an alpaca who breeds easily, births easily and has beautiful, robust, vigourous cria.  Her last cria Atlas recently took 1st in his class at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and is a striking herdsire in the making.  The only time Queen has lost a pregnancy was after she moved here from her previous owners farm.  She was seven years old at the time and had never been off her home farm, the stress of the move was just too much for her I guess and while she never outwardly showed any signs of stress she did absorb her pregnancy.  Once rebred though she carried her next pregnancy to term and has never looked back since.


When Queen lost her pregnancy it drove home to me just how bonded these alpacas become with their herd mates.  I had already decided that Queen would live out her days here and purchased her knowing that she would become one of our foundation herd, but the reaction from her being moved here helped me decide that once our alpaca girls reach a certain age we need to plan on them staying with us for the rest of their lives.  To move them to a different herd just becomes too hard on them.


This past weekend I noticed Queen was a little uncomfortable, she laid around more than usual, rolling on one hip and pushing her legs out to the side.  She did eat but not as heartily as usual and it was obvious that she was not feeling 100%.  I could see her cria moving every now and then, which was a good sign, and when I offered her some soaked beet pulp shreds she readily ate them from the spoon, something she would not normally do, as she prefers to keep her distance from humans.  I felt the beet pulp shreds being soft, moist and fibrous might help her digestive tract stay active and as an added precaution I gave her some MSE drench that contains probiotics and digestive enzymes.  By the afternoon Queen was acting normal, eating hay and cushing in a more relaxed way.


Having owned Queen for a few years now I have my herd records to refer back to and I know that she has had this type of uncomfortable stage in each of the pregnancies she has had here.  Queen is a compact alpaca and by now her unborn cria will be going through some major growth spurts.  It almost seems as if in the last week her pregnancy “bump” has doubled in size.  I am sure at times her cria is pressing on her digestive tract and causing some of the discomfort she is feeling.


Last year Queen decided to have her cria early, when he was born Atlas was healthy and strong and looked like a full term cria, but he was born 2 –3 weeks prior to his due date.  In fact Queen caught us unawares with Atlas’s birth as we had gone out to another farm for the day to shear alpacas, but fortunately had our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart check on the herd only to find that Queen had delivered her cria.


I am hoping that Queen holds on at least another month before delivering her cria, two months would be even better.   The cria is only in its ninth month of gestation and its survival chances should it be born now would be slim to none.  So Hang on Queen, we know you are uncomfortable but we really need you to carry that cria for a while longer!   (And you can guarantee that from now on Queen will be under very watchful eye!)



October 7, 2008

A Sad Start To The Week

Our Dear Beeper

Our Dear Beeper

Sadly on Monday morning Cinnamon’s cria Beeper died.  We became aware that Beeper was not well when I did my last late night check on the pregnant girls on Saturday evening.  As I checked that all of the girls were okay I notice that Beeper was trying to poop but nothing was passing.  I watched him for a while, the poor little guy was pushing really hard but nothing was coming out.


I went into the house and got Ric to help me give Beeper an enema.  Crias do sometimes get constipated, especially if their dams have rich milk as Cinnamon does, but generally I do not like to give crias enemas unless it is essential, and in Beepers case it was.  The enema did not seem to help and so we gave him another one, he passed a little watery poop but was obviously still uncomfortable.


All through the night I checked on Beeper, initially every 20 minutes and then every hour once he seemed to settle down for the night.  I gave him a dose of Rescue Remedy to help him relax and it did seem to bring him some relief.


Sunday morning we tried to call our vet only to discover he was out of town, so we called a different veterinary clinic and talked to the vet on call there.  That vet advised us that the best thing we could do was continue with the enema’s and also give Beeper some Karo syrup which would help draw fluid into his digestive tract.  The vet advised us to keep Beeper hydrated, but said to hold off using any Banamine if possible as he was worried that it might affect Beeper’s kidneys. 


All through Sunday we kept up the regimine the vet prescribed and did manage to get Beeper to pass a little poop so we were optimistic that things were going in the right direction, but by Sunday evening Beeper was becoming bloated and was in pain.  He would strain so hard that he would fall over in the process.  We gave Beeper some Banamine and it did help ease his pain, we spent another sleepless night checking on the little guy.


Monday morning we called our vet as soon as we got up and arranged to take Beeper to the clinic.  There our vet was able to withdraw some poop from Beeper, but said that he could feel a clump of it higher in the bowel.  To try and move the clump of poop Beeper received more enemas and also was tubed with a solution of mineral oil and Epsom Salts.  Poor Beeper was really stressed about the tubing, and it was hard to watch him gasping and stressed, he just could not get comfortable.  Our vet gave him some Banamine and some Dexamethasone.   While we were waiting for Beeper to pass something our vet explained to me that the area where the problem was is not a good area for surgery, it has a unique system of blood vessels and typically surgery in that area ends up in a bad result.  The only option was the tubing and enemas.  Beeper did strain a couple of times, but just a tiny bit of liquid poop came out.


As I watched Beeper I noticed that he was starting to get blue around his lips and nose, he had been getting up and down quite a bit and seemed to be finding it harder to get up.  As Beeper tried to stand up I went to lift him and he went limp, at that point we knew that Beeper was not going to make it and he passed away a minute or two later.


Although we had an idea of what Beeper’s problem was I asked the vet if he could do a necropsy to see if it would provide us with any clues as to why Beeper became so plugged up.


The necropsy revealed that Beepers intestine had ruptured, but the puzzling thing was that while there was some poop in his bowels it was not a huge amount and our vet felt that the enemas and tubing should have been able to move it.  The vet checked Beeper’s stomach and it was not overfull with fluid, so it doesn’t appear that the tubing caused any problem.  There was one thing that was significant though, Beepers bladder was huge.  It didn’t seem to be just filled with fluid but seemed to contain quite a bit of air too, it was about the size of a large mango, which in comparison to Beeper is way larger than it should have been.  Our vet checked for other obstructions in the bladder or surrounding area but found none.  We had seem Beeper urinate earlier that morning so it did not make sense that his bladder was so large.


Unfortunately this is one of those cases where there isn’t really a good explanation as to what happened to cause Beeper’s problem.  It could be that Cinnamon’s rich milk made Beeper’s poop hard to pass, but if that were the case surely the enema’s would have helped.  The place where the bowel ruptured was adjacent to the bladder and I have to wonder if Beeper’s real problem was with his bladder.  As his bladder became enlarged it pressed against the bowel preventing the poop from getting through.


Cinnamon was in the trailer with us the whole time the vet was working on Beeper.  As Cinnamon tends to be highly strung we had given her some Rescue Remedy before we left the house and had also put Velvet in the trailer as a companion for Cinnamon.  Velvet is very calm and did seem to help Cinnamon remain calm while Beeper was treated.


We all miss poor little Beeper, he was quite a character and was such a strong little thing, but the one who misses Beeper most is Cinnamon.  She has been sitting in the pasture crying for her baby.  Whenever Cinnamon sees Ric or myself she runs to the fence crying looking to see if we have Beeper.  Our vet had his technician remove Beeper from the trailer so that Cinnamon would not think I had taken him, but still she runs to Ric and I in the hopes that we will bring Beeper back.  Cinnamon has also checked out Keeva’s cria Sleeper and Dutchess’s cria to make sure they are not Beeper.   So our concern now is for Cinnamon, we don’t want her to become ill from the stress of losing her cria.  We have put her on some MSE drench for the next few days and will also give her more Rescue Remedy throughout each day to help her with her grieving.


You can never get used to losing a cria or watching a grieving dam, it’s a hard experience but one that you risk having if you are in the alpaca business.  You always hope it won’t happen but once in a while it does.  We’ll miss you Beeper, with your funny little hum and your larger than life personality – we’ll definitely miss you.



August 19, 2008

Ow Baby, That Hurts!

Clarissa, one of our alpaca dams is due to have her cria in the fall.  We have started to see the cria moving frequently and it seems to be an active little thing.

On Friday evening when I was doing chores I noticed that Clarissa was not getting up.  Instead of coming over to check out the hay wagon she stayed cushed in front of the shelter.  That is not normal behavior for Clarissa who is usually up and milling around with the others trying to get the first bite of the hay.

I went over to check on Clarissa and discovered why she was not getting up; her cria was kicking heavily, drumming out its own dance on Clarissa’s side.  Poor Clarissa, no wonder she was not getting up!  I left Clarissa alone, knowing that in a while, once the cria had settled down, she would get up and join the other girls at the hayracks.

Clarissa did get up and was soon eating as normal.

During our Saturday morning feeding Clarissa again had a problem, she choked on her feed while eating.  A choking alpaca can be a serious situation, and is something that should not be left unattended.  Sometimes the attention needed is just some close observation, other times more intervention is needed.  One important thing to remember though is to try and keep the choking alpaca calm.  If the alpaca is calm it will be easier for him or her to relax allowing the blockage to clear the throat.  If the alpaca is stressed the muscles around the throat will tense and make it more difficult for the blockage to move.

Fortunately our feed is designed to dissolve should it become stuck in an alpaca’s throat.  It’s not a pretty sight, as the alpaca will regurgitate a green foamy mess as it clears the blockage, but better that than a choking alpaca.

We kept Clarissa under observation during the day and she seemed to improve and eventually joined the other alpacas eating hay.  In the evening though she started to cough and choke again.

By this time I was becoming concerned about Clarissa and wondering what effect all of this choking and coughing might have on her cria.  She seemed to be moving the blockage but was obviously still not feeling herself.  I gave her a large dose of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which did seem to help her relax a little, but by the early hours of Sunday morning Clarissa was still having intermittent choking spasms.  By this time she didn’t appear to actually have anything blocking her throat, rather her throat was now irritated and possibly sore.

We decided to give Clarissa some Banamine to help her relax further and to maybe take away the soreness and irritation to her throat.  About 30 minutes after having the Banamine Clarissa seemed a lot better and we decided it was okay for us to call it a night.


A bad choke can cause irritation to the throat, and once you get irritation there it can lead to further choking as food comes in contact with the irritated area.  We didn’t want Clarissa to have another day of choking and so on Sunday morning we soaked her feed along with some beet pulp shreds and once everything was nice and soft we fed the mixture to Clarissa in a pen by herself.  We wanted to make sure Clarissa got all of the feed she wanted and make sure Clarissa could eat in peace without being challenged over her food by her usual pen mates.  Clarissa ate well with no further choking episodes, but just to be on the safe side I left her penned up for a while with a bucket of hay so she could continue to eat in peace.  Clarissa also got a dose of the MSE drench to help her digestive system to continue to function normally.

Once Clarissa had a good feed I allowed her out of the pen to rejoin the rest of the herd eating hay.  For the rest of the day Clarissa did well, she was a little less active than normal and I went out to check on her frequently only to discover she now had hiccups!  Poor Clarissa, what a time she was having.

This is not the first time Clarissa has had hiccups, and her previous bouts of hiccups have been at the same stage of pregnancy.  One time she had hiccups for three days in a row, which seemed to concern us more than her.  This makes me wonder if there is a connection with her stage of pregnancy and her choking and hiccupping.  Perhaps her cria is pushing on something and having an effect on Clarissa’s ability to breath normally and pass food into her stomach compartments.

Another large dose of Rescue Remedy seemed to do the trick for Clarissa’s hiccups and by the evening feed she was pretty much back to her usual self.  We will continue to soak her feed and feed her separately for the next week or so, we don’t want to risk another irritation to her system.  We will also hope that Clarissa’s cria will settle down for a while and stop doing whatever he or she is doing to cause Clarissa such discomfort.  I’m betting that cria will be quite the character when it is born and from the way it was kicking the other night quite the runner too!


July 4, 2008

Found Him!

Well the watching and waiting paid off, we have found the culprit with the diarrhea, it’s Atlas.


Atlas is the oldest of our cria group and so is definitely trying out the hay, but he also is a milk thief and has tried milk from several of the dams in the pasture.  Atlas is a pretty good milk thief too, he waits until the dams’ cria is happily nursing and the dam is not paying attention and then sneaks his head under the dam to steal some milk.  Our older dams are wiser and realize pretty quickly that they have an intruder, but some of the younger dams take a while to realize.


We do discourage Atlas when we see him nursing from other dams, we do not want him depriving the other crias of their milk or putting an unnecessary strain on the dams.  We do allow Atlas to nurse from our llama Inca, as she does not have a cria of her own and actively encourages crias to nurse from her (see blog entry Hey Llama Lady – Got Milk to read more about Inca)


Atlas does of course have his own dam Queen to nurse from, but Queen is an experienced dam who has very definite rules for her crias, one of which is that they don’t nurse from her until she has had a good chance to pick out the best hay.  Once she has finished at the hay feeder she will find her cria and allow nursing, but until then she makes her crias wait.   Queen’s crias are always robust and outgoing so I guess her rules work for her and her crias.


We have started Atlas on the MSE drench and Biosponge and he has shown some improvement, he will be under a close watch until he gets back to normal and if he does not continue to improve we will look at other causes and treatment options. 

Funnily enough the picture I used for yesterday’s blog entry is a picture of Atlas wrestling with Dream, maybe my subconscious knew all along which cria has diarrhea and was trying to tell me!



May 29, 2008

Enough Already!

The last few weeks have been a catalogue of problems and apparently life is thinking that we have not had our fair share of them.


Bjorn’s cria has been making steady improvement with the lax tendons in his legs and on Sunday evening we even let him out of his pen for a few minutes.   He seemed a little depressed and Bjorn was anxious to be out with the herd.  The cria did well and enjoyed his time and even tried to run and buck a little. 


By Monday morning though I could tell something was not right, the cria was lethargic and was not nursing as frequently as before.  We weighed him only to discover he had lost weight.  Something was definitely amiss and so we took his temperature to see if that would give us any clues.  The poor little cria’s temperature was 103.8, which is too high for a cria (normal temperature being 101.5 to 102.5).  We gave the cria some banamine to help reduce his fever and started him on some MSE drench.  We also started him on a course of Tucoprim, which is an antibiotic.  We kept a close eye on the little guy during the day and by early afternoon he seemed a little brighter but still not right.  We took his temperature again and this time it was 104.8, we were not progressing in the right direction with this cria.  So in addition to the Tucoprim we started him on some Naxcel.  Naxcel is a good antibiotic but you do have to be careful when using it in crias as it can destroy their intestinal flora.  In our case the MSE drench should provide good probiotics to help keep the crias intestinal flora healthy.


Monday evening brought us another problem to deal with when we went out to do evening chores and discovered our horse Sabre had a hole in his side.  The hole was about 8”long, 4” wide and was deep; fortunately while there was a lot of damage to the skin layers the abdominal cavity was still intact.  But of course Monday was a holiday and there wasn’t any veterinary service available.


In his younger days Sabre was very accident prone (perhaps his recent injury was him reliving his youth!) and I have had various experiences with various injuries on Sabre.  His wound was not bleeding and the blood that had flowed at the time of the injury had coagulated on the wound.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that it is often better to leave something like that than to try and clean it as the blood has formed a barrier on the wound giving it some protection.  Sabre didn’t seem too bothered by his wound and so we penned him and his mother Savannah up for the night knowing that we would be off to the vets in the morning.  


Loading Sabre into the trailer the next morning was not an easy task.  He has never been fond of loading and unfortunately he loaded in the trailer, tried to turn round and get out again and banged his head on the trailer in the process.  It took forever to get him back in that trailer and we had to recruit help to make it happen, but eventually he was on his way to the vets.  Just to make things really fun, once he was at the vets Sabre refused to get out of the trailer!  He did come out eventually with some persuasion and received the veterinary care he needed.  Now we have the task of caring for his wound, but fortunately it is not too difficult and only needs to be done a couple of times a day.  It’s going to take several weeks for the wound to heal, but our vet assures us it will heal and Sabre will be fine.


Just to round things off on Tuesday afternoon we had a delivery of a semi truckload of wheat hay.  All was looking good until we realized that the hay was just a few inches too high to allow the semi truck to get through our entry way (our entry way is 13 feet high and usually is not a problem to a semi truck).  So instead of being able to park the truck close to the hay barn we had to park it out on the road, unload the hay onto a tractor and a forklift, drive each load to the hay barn and then restack the hay.  That took a while (several hours actually!) and we certainly got our exercise for the day.  If you have never had the opportunity to unload 530 bales of hay from a trailer and then restack them then you need to give it a try at least once in your lifetime.  I promise you once you have done so, the next time you see a semi load of hay going down the road you will have a much greater appreciation for how it all got stacked on the truck in the first place.


Once again Bob Dart from Llano Soleado Alpacas came to our aid, kindly loaning us his forklift and spending time helping unload the hay.  His daughter Abby also came to help in the evening and busily loaded up the loose hay from the truck into buckets for us so that it would not be wasted.  Thanks again Bob and Abby, we couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you also goes to Alex Stewart who is helping us on the farm this summer.  It was Alex’s first day with us yesterday and boy did he learn the meaning of the word labor!  Still he helped out without complaint and has even told us he is ready to help us with the next load.  Yes, our hay fun is not over yet as semi load number two will be here Friday and we get to do the hay unloading all over again.   Ah, life on the farm – great isn’t it!



November 5, 2007

Isn’t it always the way ……

Yesterday’s trip to the 2007 Small Farm Conference and Trade Show in Moriaty was a success, we met people who were keen to learn about alpacas and who enjoyed our presentation.  We got a little time to look around the event but as our presentation was one of the last of the day by the time we had finished many of the vendors and informational booths had either packed up or were in the process of doing so.  We have asked the organizers of the event to keep us on their list for next year.  We are pretty certain that by next year word will have spread about the event and there will be more interest in it.  There were several presentations we would have liked to be able to attend, and so next year we may plan on spending a day or so in the area rather than driving up and back in a day.

 We did well with our efforts to get up early and be on the road in plenty of time.  The fact that we switched back to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time did help us a little and we were able to be on the road by 9:15 with chores done and dogs walked and happily worn out for the day.

In addition to doing our regular chores we also had to take time to examine and treat one of the alpaca girls.  We had noticed Becky acting a little strangely the night before.  As the temperature dropped and we started our evening chores I saw that Becky was lying stretched out on the concrete close to the water feeder.  Now if it had been a hot summer’s day I would think nothing of it as the girls like to lie on the cool concrete when the weather is hot, but yesterday evening was not hot and it struck me as strange that Becky was lying on the concrete.  When the feed bowls came out though Becky got up and ate as normal.  Later on when we went to do our last check of the evening we found Becky sitting on her own inside the small blue shelter.  This behavior is unusual for Becky as she usually sits outside and close to the rest of the herd.

By this morning we could tell something was amiss with Becky, she ate when the feed was put out but within a short while she moved away from the herd and cushed with her legs stretched out to the side.  She appeared to be uncomfortable and then lay completely stretched out on her side.

Not liking what we saw, we caught Becky and put her in a pen so that we could take a closer look at her.  One of the first things we noticed was a lot of gut sounds coming from Becky.  We took her temperature and were surprised to find it only read 94.3 (the usual alpaca temperature is 101.1), Becky was not shivering and her ears felt warm to the touch, but her core temperature was definitely low.  We suspected that Becky had some digestive discomfort and so gave her some MSE drench to help improve her rumen function and also a shot of Banamine to help relax her and relieve the pain she was in.  I also gave Becky a photonic red light treatment of her nine standard points and also the digestive points (more information on photonic red light treatment to follow in another post).  As anadded precaution we also treated Becky’s ears for ear ticks using 2cc of Dr. Adams Fly Spray and Repellent for Horses in each ear.

While we waited for the banamine to take effect we were able to continue with chores and observe Becky’s actions.  Fortunately within a short time Becky was looking much better and up eating hay.  We watched Becky long enough to satisfy ourselves that she was going to okay while we were gone for the day.

When we returned later in the evening the first thing we did was to check Becky, who at the sight of us stood at the pasture gate anxiously awaiting feed.  Our helper Bethany was already doing the chores when we got home and we were able to keep an eye on Becky and watch her as Bethany completed the chores.  Becky ate well and later on was seen to be cushed and chewing her cud.

I suspect that Becky had eaten something that gave her a stomachache and caused her unusual behavior in the morning.  Thankfully all seems well now and we were able to still get off on time to complete our journey.  It always seems to be the way of life that whenever you are in a rush to get somewhere something will happen to slow you down.  We like to think that circumstances like that happen for a reason and just try and go with the flow of whatever life throws at us.


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