A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 1, 2009

Alpacas In, Alpacas Out

 

This weekend we have been joined by Dale and Melissa Armer of Hidden Acres Farm in, Lena Louisiana.

 

Dale and Melissa have come to pick up their alpacas Orchid and Candytuft. Orchid and Candytuft have been with us since March so that Orchid could be bred to our Enchantment’s Prince Regent. Orchid has been confirmed pregnant and is now able to travel home. We have enjoyed having Orchid and Candytuft here, in particular watching Candytuft grow up from a one month cria to the now 5 month cria that she is.

 

Having traveled such a long way to pick up Orchid and Candytuft, Dale and Melissa decided to add value to their trip by bringing us two more of their girls for breeding to our males. So as Orchid and Candytuft leave, Mirabella, Ladybelle and Mirabella’s cria Ginnybelle arrive.

 

The three new arrivals have quickly settled in and today our time will be spent with Dale and Melissa talking about all things alpaca and helping them make their final decision as to who to breed Mirabella and Ladybelle too. The girls however will not be bred until around November so that when they have their crias next year they will not be delivering in the heat and humidity of a Louisiana summer.

 

Of course all of our herd were curious about the new arrivals, gathering at the fence line to look at the new girls in the quarantine pen. The new girls seemed glad to see other alpacas following their long trailer ride and of course wasted no time in having a good roll in the dirt!

 

Rosemary

 

 

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.

 

Rosemary

April 15, 2009

There’s Nothing Quite Like A Good Auntie

Candytuft stands between Orchid and Ma Cushla (really girls you need to learn to chew with your mouths closed!)

Candytuft stands between Orchid and Ma Cushla (really girls you need to learn to chew with your mouths closed!)

 It has been interesting to watch the progress of young Candytuft who is here with her dam Orchid who is here for breeding.

 

When Candytuft first arrived she was very wary of us, not wanting to come near us at all, sticking closely to her dam’s side.  We didn’t force the issue, crias are curious by nature, I knew that if we just went about our business without making an attempt to interact with her that her curiosity would get the better of her.

 

In a short time Candytuft has progressed from running away as soon as she saw us, to peering around the side of her dam to watch us, to now coming up when we are putting out hay and gingerly taking some from our hands.  Candytuft is coming around and gradually starting to trust us.

 

Along with learning to trust us, Candytuft has also formed a bond with our grey alpaca Ma Cushla.  Ma Cushla has always been something of a herd auntie, she has never been able to carry a pregnancy to term and so has never had a cria of her own.  Instead Ma Cushla likes to be the auntie to the various crias at the farm.  Something about her attracts the crias to her; in return she is very gentle with them and even joins in with the crias when they have one of their “cria dashes” around the pasture.  Candytuft has been no exception to Ma Cushla’s charms.

 

While the other alpacas in the quarantine pen would all be at one hay feeder, it was not unusual to find Ma Cushla and Candytuft side by side at the other hay feeder eating together.  Orchid seems quite willing to leave her little one with Ma Cushla and shows no concern that her cria is not at her side as long as Candytuft is with Ma Cushla.

 

Orchid has now completed her quarantine period and we have put her and Candytuft in with the main herd.  Sometimes with visiting female alpacas we will leave them in the quarantine pen for the duration of their stay along with our two companion females Primera and Ma Cushla, but with Candytuft being the only cria in the quarantine pen we felt it was healthier for her to be able to interact with the other crias in the main herd.

 

The first day of Orchid and Candytuft being in with the main herd was strange to them, they didn’t know where to go to eat and had to get acquainted with the other girls in the pasture.  Orchid soon discovered which pen she would be fed in, Candytuft preferred to stay outside of the pen initially and on those first few days while Orchid was eating we would find Candytuft seeking out Ma Cushla and comfortably settling in beside her until Orchid had finished her feed.

 

Now Orchid and Candytuft are more settled in with the main herd.  Most times Candytuft now goes into a pen with Orchid to eat, but other times she stays out and seeks out the company of her favorite herd auntie Ma Cushla, proving that as is the case for many crias there’s nothing quite like a herd auntie for good company.

 

Rosemary

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.

 

Rosemary

March 21, 2009

The First of the Farm Visitors Arrive

 

Yesterday afternoon our friend and fellow alpaca breeder Dale Amer arrived at the farm bringing with him a date for one of our alpaca boys.  Dale drove from Alexandria, Louisiana, a long drive especially when you are hauling a trailer with a female alpaca and her young cria.

 

We had the quarantine pen set up ready for the arrival of the two alpacas, and Orchid (the adult female) and her cria Candytuft soon made themselves at home.  Our girls all lined up at the fence line to view the new arrivals and our fall crias were very curious about Candytuft, staring at her through the fence and watching her explore the quarantine pen.  To keep Orchid and Candytuft company we also put our two non-reproductive females Primera and Ma Cushla in the quarantine pen.  It is so nice to have a couple of females who we can use for quarantine companions, especially when you only have one or two alpacas arriving to go into quarantine.  Alpacas really do like to be in groups and by providing Primera and Ma Cushla as companions we find that the visiting alpacas soon settle down and start to feel at ease.

 

Dale is a relatively new alpaca breeder and so today will be devoted to answering any burning questions he has and showing him how we manage our herd at our farm.  He will also get to select which male he wishes to breed Orchid to.

 

Orchid and Candytuft will remain in quarantine for three weeks and then we will breed Orchid.  Hopefully she will get pregnant easily and it won’t be too long before she is headed back to Louisiana, although in view of the long journey ahead of her she will probably not return home until she is at least 60 days pregnant.

 

What was good to see last night was that at dusk Candytuft was galloping around the pasture as a happy cria will do and Orchid was standing at the hayrack alongside Ma Cushla and Primera.  Looks like the long journey did not bother our two visitors too much!

 

In the next few days we will have another visiting alpaca arrive – breeding season is definitely starting and according to our herdsires it’s not a moment too soon!

 

Rosemary

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