A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 31, 2009

Fall’s First Snow Fall


First Snow of Fall

First Snow of Fall



This was the sight we were greeted with when we did chores on Thursday morning – snow!  You may be able to tell from the picture that this was a wet snow with big, heavy snowflakes.  As fast and as furious as the snow was falling you would think that we would have had a large accumulation, but our ground was still warm and we ended up with just about an inch of the fluffy white stuff.

When I had set out for Blue’s early morning walk at 5:45 a.m. the temperature had been quite mild, but as is often the case in New Mexico within an hour everything had changed.  The wind started to roar, the temperature dropped and then the flakes started falling.

Many of the alpacas remained cushed as the snow started.  They had made a nice warm spot on the ground and didn’t want to give it up.  Theresa in particular did not want to move, heavily pregnant she felt more comfortable staying put, blinking away the snowflakes as they landed on her eyes.


Theresa Sits in The Snow

A very pregnant Theresa refuses to budge from her spot despite the snow



After feeding, the boys soon made a dash for cover and stayed under their shelters until things started to warm up.  The girls ate quickly and then headed for the hay feeders, but some of them were quite happy to stand out in the snow.  Theresa was a little shivery at feeding time, a result of her refusing to give up her spot in the pasture, but a bowl of alpaca feed and alfalfa followed by some hay and warm soaked beet shreds soon had her warmed up.

We usually have a snowfall around Halloween; this one was a little early but not too far off track.  Parts of the state got a foot or more of snow – rather them than me.  Once our Halloween snowfall has arrived we often don’t see snow again until January.

For this weekend the forecast is for temperatures in the 60’s – much better weather for Theresa to deliver her cria in.  As of Friday night it looked like she had a little udder development so maybe we will get more of a treat than a trick this Halloween!



August 17, 2009

Preparing for Baby

It’s interesting to watch our pregnant dams as they get closer to the end of their pregnancy.  Their pregnant bump grows larger and often changes shape as the cria repositions itself during the day.  Sometimes the cria looks to be all on one side, other times the cria looks as if it has dropped right down in the dams abdomen and at the very end of the pregnancy the cria looks as if it is about to pop out of the dam at any moment as it stretches its legs causing movement at the base of the dam’s tail.

Some dams, such as our Queen, develop a voracious appetite and seem to spend their day constantly eating.  Others slow down their eating, delicately nibbling here and there and taking their time to chew their cud often.

When the weather is warm we often find our heavily pregnant dams parked in front of the fan.  The extra weight of the cria they are carrying generates more body heat and they need the opportunity to spend time in a nice cool spot.

We often notice that our late term dams “pick their spot”.   They will spend more and more time in one particular spot in the pasture, often an area a little way from the rest of the herd.  This spot usually ends up being where they go to when they start labor.  Alpacas don’t “nest” as such, but they do seem to find comfort in being in that spot that they have picked once labor starts.  This isn’t to say that the cria will be born in that spot as once labor starts the dams can move around quite a bit as they push and work on getting their cria delivered.   Unless something drives them away from that spot then often the cria will be delivered not far away from the area where the dam has spent many hours in her final weeks of pregnancy.

Willow is due to have her cria at the end of August and she has already picked out her spot in the pasture.  Last time she delivered her cria she did so in our large blue shelter, but the weather had dictated that choice as she delivered during a sandstorm.  Willow is smart enough to know that the shelter was a much more comfortable place to deliver a cria when the wind and dust are blowing.

This year Willow’s spot is in one of the pens that we use to feed the llamas every morning.  It has now become part of Willow’s routine that once she has been fed and the llamas have been let out of their pens that she make her way over to the one llama pen where she carefully cushes on the ground.  Once she is comfortably cushed she sits there for at least an hour, sometimes more, her ears back a little, sometimes flickering as her cria gives her a swift kick or two.  Willow doesn’t look uncomfortable during this time but you can tell something is going on.

You can bet we will be watching Willow as she gets closer to her delivery date, particularly when we see her over in her “spot”.  Let’s hope the llamas have finished eating by the time Willow decides to go into labor, or else there could be competition for that selected spot!


September 17, 2008

Welcome to Maternity Ward 8







Last weekend saw the arrival of seven more alpaca girls and one female cria.  The alpacas all belong to our friends and alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas. 


Bob is due to have knee surgery this week and so we are helping out by looking after some of their girls for them while Bob is out of action.


Out of the seven girls, four are heavily pregnant, and I mean heavily – those are some big crias those girls are carrying!   We too have four heavily pregnant girls, Cinnamon, Clarissa, Carina and Keeva making a total of eight girls on maternity watch! 


From Bob and Regina’s herd we now have Victorian Glow, Dutchess, Kimmie, Merry Me, Melody, Essie, Rose and her cria Andromeda joining in with the daily routine of pasture life.  All the girls have settled in well, some have stayed with us before and so just take being here in their stride.  Little Andromeda is enjoying being with the other crias and loves to have a session every evening when she displays her best bucking and jumping techniques, she’s an agile girl.


To make things more manageable we have rearranged the pastures so that the heavily pregnant girls are together.  Once they start to deliver their crias we hope that the fall crias will become a close-knit group as our spring crias have done.  We feel that it is best that the fall crias be allowed to find their feet before being introduced to the rough and tumble of the spring cria group.


As always it is fun getting to learn the new girls personalities.  Glow is the matriarch of the group, ruling with a silent but very present authority.  Dutchess I think would like to have top position in the herd, but respects Glow and so from time to time tries to pick on one of the other girls to establish some sort of hierarchy.   As Dutchess is about a week from her due date I suspect she is pretty hormonal too, which might explain some of her dominant behavior.


Kimmie has a pregnancy bump that is about as wide as she is long!  I know she has looked like that in previous pregnancies, but she makes an interesting sight when she cushes and her “bump” distributes itself along the ground.


Merry Me is a big, stout girl, but quite mellow and easy going, as is her daughter Melody who will soon be of breeding age.   Essie too is sweet and mellow, hanging out with Melody and taking things easy.  Then there is Rose, an absolute sweetheart and also a devoted mother to her cria Andromeda.  While Andromeda likes to play she cannot get far without a concerned set of hums from Rose to check on her whereabouts.


So Maternity Ward 8 is now up and running, all the expectant dams are in place and it’s just a matter of watching and waiting to see who will be first to start off the birthings!



April 3, 2008

Hell Hath No Fury Like…….


A mother alpaca who feels that someone has threatened her cria! 

Just as I was finishing chores yesterday morning I heard a huge commotion coming from the large blue shelter in the girls pasture.  A group of the girls came running out and I could hear a couple of them screaming.  While the girls do squabble from time to time this was more than squabbling and I couldn’t figure out what on earth was going on.

As the dust settled I could see that the two screamers were Theresa and Rebecca.  Both girls are due to have their crias in May and both are very hormonal!  Alongside Rebecca was her last year’s cria Athena.  Athena is weaned and now over a year old, but she still likes to spend time with her dam from time to time.

The screaming continued as Theresa and Rebecca faced off and along with the screaming there was also some spitting taking place. 

When alpacas get into squabbles I usually wait a little while to see if they sort things out for themselves, more often than not they will.    Occasionally I do have to intervene if a couple of the boys are fighting too hard, but with the girls their battles are usually short.    That was not the case today though as Theresa and Rebecca continued to chase each other in circles, screaming as they went.

I went over to see if I could at least break their eye contact and diffuse the situation.  Fortunately I was wearing one of my hooded sweatshirts – the hoods provide excellent spit protection when required.

The two girls were as mad as they could be at each other.  I walked between them and Theresa stood in a defiant pose with her head and tail up, her lips trembling with anger.  Rebecca was very agitated and continue to scream and spit but now was directing her anger toward me.  I stepped toward her and Athena (who had remained by Rebecca’s side), put my hand up in front of her and firmly told her “No”.  The girls know that this means I am not willing to take any more spitting or screaming and will usually stop at this hand signal.

 Rebecca did stop, but then Athena decided that under the circumstances maybe she should return to nursing, putting her head under Rebecca.  As Athena is well weaned, Rebecca was not going to allow her to nurse and now directed her fury at Athena.  Poor little Athena flipped her tail up over her back in submission, and so I stepped between Rebecca and Athena and again raised my hand in front of Rebecca and told her “No”.

By this time Rebecca was getting the message, but there was still a lot of posturing going on between her and Theresa.  I got the girls moving and did my best to make sure that Theresa and Rebecca went in separate directions, but neither one of them really wanted to back down from the other.

Eventually Rebecca and Athena went into one of the feeding pens and Theresa headed off toward another.  I decided to take each girl a little hay, not as a reward, but rather as a way for her to clear the spit out of her mouth.  Alpacas and llamas will usually head to the hay following spitting, and use a mouthful to get the taste of the spit out of their mouths.

Theresa accepted her hay quite readily, Rebecca was a different story.  Athena by this time had cushed in the pen with Rebecca and looked a little shaken, so I walked over to check her and was met by Rebecca who started to scream at me again.  Athena remained cushed but again flipped her tail over her back.  It then struck me that something had caused Rebecca to be protective of Athena, while she had appeared to be directing her fury at Athena a little earlier, I think she was actually trying to protect her.  What I saw perhaps was not so much anger but fear that something was going to happen to Athena.

I stayed with Rebecca and Athena for a while, talking calmly to Rebecca and letting her see that I was not a threat to Athena.  She started to calm down and then sniffed Athena all over, checking to see that her daughter was okay.

I think that most likely this whole episode started when Theresa chased Athena away from one of the hay feeders.  Theresa can be particularly grumpy at the end of her pregnancy and I have seen her chase other alpacas away from her patch of the hay before.  She can become quite angry in the process and on one occasion a couple of years ago we ended up putting her in a pen on her own for a while until she calmed down.  I guess those hormones are just too much for Theresa by this time of her pregnancy.

Rebecca on the other hand is usually very calm.  She does get excited at feeding time and is quite vocal, grumbling to let us know that we should be getting her feed to her sooner, but I have never seen her get as angry as she was today.  While she has always been attentive to Athena, she has never been a dam who is extremely protective of her cria. She certainly showed Theresa today that even though Athena is more than capable of surviving on her own, Theresa had better not mess with her or else she will have to deal with Rebecca!

The rest of the day was peaceful with Theresa and Rebecca settling down to eat hay in separate areas and Athena joining her weanling friends in an afternoon chase around the pasture.

When I think of all of the girls we have in their last 60 days of pregnancy, I realize that we have quite a hormonal concoction in the pasture right now – maybe I will be wearing that hooded sweatshirt with it’s built in spit protection for a bit longer yet!


October 9, 2007

What to do about Chai

ChaiOur near term pregnant alpaca Chai was definitely not herself yesterday morning.  She did not get up at feeding time and when I went over to her she did get up but not easily and had difficulty running.  Chai is not a “hands on” alpaca and while she will usually come into her pen to eat, she will not let you just walk up to her and catch her in the pasture and typically runs away.  Today though while she did her best to run something obviously was bothering her.

We examined her left front leg that seems to be the leg causing her the most problems.  We couldn’t find any heat or swelling in the leg but she is tender around the knee joint.  We also checked Chai’s foot pad to make sure she didn’t have a cut or abscess of the foot but her foot pad looked good.  Of course Monday was a holiday and our vet was out of town for the day, so we gave Chai some Banamine to ease her pain and will be talking to our vet today to see what he feels we should do.

The Banamine made a definite improvement in Chai and she was a lot more mobile during the day.  Still not as mobile as the other girls but she is very close to having her cria so I would expect her to be taking things a little easy.  The Banamine most likely eased any inflammation and took away some of the pain she is experiencing.

Whatever she has done I am sure the extra weight of pregnancy is not helping Chai any, but she still has 13 days to go before her due date, and it is never a good idea to induce pregnancy in alpacas as typically the cria will not survive.  The Banamine while obviously helping her also has it’s drawbacks, it can affect milk production in alpacas which is not what we need in a near term alpaca.  I am really not sure of the effect the Banamine will be having on Chai’s unborn cria either.  I am comfortable with giving Chai the odd dose of Banamine at her stage of pregnancy, but I wonder if the Banamine would affect her cria if we were to give Chai some every day for several days.  That is one question I will have for our vet when I speak to him.

It is difficult to know how best to proceed with Chai, ideally I would like to take her in for the vet to examine her, but as she is a nervous alpaca I would hate to stress her out and cause her to abort her cria.  I am thinking it would be best to draw some blood from Chai and see if anything untoward shows up in the results.  We can do the blood draw here on the farm, which will be a lot less stressful to Chai than taking her in to the vets office.   Once Chai has had her cria we could then run them both into the vet so that he could examine and possibly x-ray Chai’s leg.

Apart from her leg Chai is doing well and yesterday we saw more signs that she is getting ready to have her cria.  Chai is now slightly puffy under her tail and her udder has wax caps on the teats, she is also ravenously hungry which is quite often the case in late term pregnancy alpacas and she spent a lot of the day eating hay from the new big bale we have put in the pasture.

Once I have spoken to out vet we will hopefully have a plan of action for Chai, it is hard to watch her being so uncomfortable, especially when she is so close to having her cria.  Still the new big bale brought her some comfort as when she wasn’t eating on it she was lounging around on the hay that had fallen on the ground, and even better than that she discovered that she could lie in front of the big bale and just stretch her neck out and reach the hay – smart girl!


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