A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 17, 2009

The Element of Temperament

 

As mentioned in the previous post temperament is very important in an alpaca that will be working with children, or for one that is going to be entered into performance and obstacle classes.

 

Alpacas as a rule are docile, but like all species some alpacas can change temperament when under stress or uncertain of their surroundings or handler.  Some alpacas are definite home bodies enjoying nothing more than mooching around the pasture and eating hay, others are a little more outgoing showing natural curiosity and being quite happy to go to new places or be away from their herd for a short while, a few alpacas are more boisterous trying to crowd you and seeking attention.

 

It is good to observe any potential alpaca purchase in his or her home environment.  Typically that is when the alpaca is going to be at its most relaxed state and you will be able to see how it interacts with the other alpacas in the herd and also how it interacts with humans such as its owner or visitors to the farm.

 

For an alpaca that is going to be used for performance and obstacle classes though, it is good to observe that alpaca outside of its usual environment.  If you are brand new to the world of alpacas and want to purchase an alpaca just for performance and obstacle classes then a good place to look for a potential performance and obstacle alpaca is at an alpaca show.  Watch the alpaca as it is shown by its handler, is it relaxed and yet paying attention to its handler or is it nervous and concerned about the alpacas around it and the various noises of the show grounds. 

 

Ask questions of the alpaca’s owner as to how the alpaca has been trained.  Is the alpaca used to traveling?  Has the alpaca been in many shows, if so how did it behave?  How does the alpaca do when you trim its toenails?  How does the alpaca behave when you have to show its teeth (it is common practice in alpaca halter shows for the judge to look at the alpacas front teeth to check for correct bite).  Are there any things/actions that the alpaca likes or dislikes?  Does the alpaca have any bad habits (nipping. kicking etc.).  Has the alpaca had any health issues?  What kind of mentoring and after sales support will the owner provide to you if you buy the alpaca?  (More on mentoring and after sales support in a future post.)

 

Your questions and observations will help you get a feel for the alpacas personality.  Don’t be afraid to ask the owner if you (or whoever will be the alpacas handler) can take the alpaca for a walk, pick up the alpacas feet, look at its teeth, look at the alpacas fleece.  Ask if the owner is willing to take you and the alpaca to another location to show how the alpaca reacts.  A reputable alpaca breeder will happily answer your questions and work with you to make sure that the alpaca you buy is best suited to you needs.

 

Purchasing an alpaca for whatever reason is something that should not be done on a whim or on emotion.  Alpacas can live into their 20’s and need good care and attention throughout their life time.    If you are uncertain as to if alpacas should become part of your life consider asking a local alpaca farm if you volunteer time there helping with chores and working around alpacas in order to get a better idea of what life with alpacas is like. 

 

Finally remember one of the golden rules of owning alpacas – you cannot keep an alpaca on its own, it needs other alpacas around it to be healthy or happy.  At a minimum this means one alpaca buddy, two or more is even better.  If you cannot afford to purchase and maintain more than one alpaca look into agisting (boarding) the alpaca at a farm that already has other alpacas.

 

Take your time making your decision about alpaca ownership and which alpaca you is right for you.  

 

Rosemary

 

January 16, 2009

Top 10 Qualities of An Obstacle and Performance Alpaca.

It’s funny how one small thought can generate a whole conversation.  Having written about our Stormy being selected by young Abby Dart to be an Obstacle and Performance Alpaca I decided it would be interesting to get some feedback from Abby’s mom, Regina, as to what she thinks are the Top 10 qualities of a performance alpaca.

 

Regina very kindly emailed me her Top 5 qualities along with Abby’s Top 6 Qualities.  Here is what Regina and Abby said:

 

Regina’s Top 5 selections for a child’s show buddy:

 

1)           Temperament – Must be very sweet natured and mellow to be able to work with young children safely. Should display no to very little concern about being hugged on, and handled all over – from head to tail.  No nipping, no spitting, and no kicking especially! Can’t be too pushy or “in your face” – that can be too intimidating for young kids.

 

2)           Temperament – Must handle stress of shows well. Some very sweet alpacas just get too stressed at shows, and don’t enjoy the experience.  That can ruin the show for both the alpaca and the child.

 

3)           Temperament- Must be easy to train, adapt to new situations well, and bond with child during training sessions.

 

4)           Size of the alpaca should fit the child he/she will be working with.  This is not a “must”, but smaller pacas are often easier for smaller competitors to handle.

 

5)           Healthy and sound – Just makes for a better show buddy.

 

 

 

Abby’s Top 6 Selections:  (Note:  Abby thought these up all on her own, and before Regina  even jotted down her answers.  We think she had some pretty sound choices!)

 

1)That he doesn’t jump on me.

 

2)He’s nice

 

3)He’s easy to halter up.

 

4)He likes people.

 

5)Not spooky.

 

6) He’s the right size for me.

 

 

One consistent theme jumps out from Regina and Abby’s selections and that is temperament of the alpaca.  Part of the temperament of the alpaca is genetic; the result of the breeding that created that alpaca, but the way the alpaca is raised and handled and the environment it has lived in also contributes to the alpaca’s temperament.  More on that subject later.

 

Having received Regina and Abby’s input I then spoke to Audrey Conklin of West Texas Gold Alpacas.  Audrey has entered numerous performance and obstacle classes and has trained many alpacas to be able to compete in those classes, she has a lot of experience in alpaca performance and obstacle.  Audrey agreed with Regina and Abby’s selections but had some other suggestions to offer too. 

 

So it was that what had started off as a simple blog entry has generated a lot of thought and discussion.  To try and cram all of that information into one blog entry would be information overload for many readers and so I have decided to break it down into two or three entries that I will post over the next few days.

 

I have never participated in alpaca performance and obstacle classes myself, mainly because the handler is required to go over the obstacles and as uncoordinated as I am I would not do my alpacas justice!  For many alpaca breeders performance and obstacle classes are not of huge importance, consequently little seems to have been written on the subject and yet I am sure there are many alpaca handlers (and potential alpaca handlers) who would love to learn more about how they can be successful in performance and obstacle.  So check back in the next day or two to learn some snippets on performance and obstacle alpacas, from the selection of the alpaca, to the importance of mentoring from experienced alpaca owners, to how performance and obstacle training can help with herd management and to the introduction of the newly formed AOBA Alpaca Youth Association.

 

 Rosemary

January 14, 2009

Stormy’s New Career

Stormy - Off to a new career as a performance and obstacle alpaca

Stormy - Off to a new career as a performance and obstacle alpaca

Our Stormy was born back in June in the middle of a sandstorm, hence his name Windrush Desert Sandstorm.  Despite the challenging weather conditions at the time of his birth he emerged into the world a happy-go-lucky, laid back lad.

As Stormy has grown he has kept his laid back personality.  His dam Willow is a sweetheart and it seems as if Stormy has inherited her even temperament.  Stormy is also small like his dam Willow and that combined with the long staple length of his fleece has made him look more and more like a puffball as he has grown.

One thing I particularly like about Stormy’s temperament is that while he is curious and likes to investigate what is going on around him he is not pushy. Once he has discovered what is going on he will either watch from a respectful distance or go back to doing something that he finds to be more interesting.

Stormy’s halter training was a breeze; Mitch Murry from Sandy Acres Alpaca Farm was visiting our farm and helping us weigh alpacas. Mitch went out into the pasture to catch one of the other crias, Song, to bring her to the barn for weighing. When Mitch arrived at the scales I realized that the alpaca on the end of the lead rope was not Song but was in fact Stormy. Stormy had never worn a halter before and yet he walked willing with Mitch out of the pasture, away from his dam and over to the scales. Now that’s one easy halter training session!

During a recent daily update phone call with our alpaca neighbor Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas I was talking about Stormy and how easy he was to handle. Regina mentioned that she might be interested in Stormy for her daughter Abby who likes to take part in alpaca Performance and Obstacle competitions. At the weekend Abby came out to the farm and met Stormy and took him for a “test drive”. The two did well together and Abby decided that she would like Stormy for her special alpaca and so Stormy will be leaving us soon to go and be with Abby and start training for his new career as a Performance and Obstacle alpaca.

Many children (and also some adults) enjoy taking part in alpaca Performance and Obstacle classes. The classes are fun and can be quite challenging. While there are a certain amount of mandatory obstacles included on the course, the show can pick various other approved obstacles for inclusion in the course. Often the class participants do not learn of the exact nature of the obstacles until an hour or so before the class and of course there is no practicing on the course prior to the class starting.

The purpose of the Obstacle Class is to demonstrate the team effort between the alpaca and its handler, the level of training of the alpaca and the alpaca’s willingness to cooperate with its handler. According to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) Show System Handbook the ideal performance in an alpaca Obstacle Class “consists of a poised and calm team that performs the required movements with promptness and willingness on a loose lead” .

Bearing in mind that description of the “ideal performance” you can see why Stormy is a good choice for Abby. Stormy’s easy going personality and willingness to learn will help Abby and Abby, who now has at least two years experience of alpaca Obstacle and Performance classes under her belt, will be able to train and encourage Stormy as he learns to do things he has never done before!

We look forward to watching Abby and Stormy compete in their classes and hope that there will be many ribbons in the future for this up and coming young team. Good Luck Abby and Stormy we will be cheering you on from the sidelines at the shows!

Rosemary

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