A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

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

August 23, 2008

A Case of Confused Hormones? (Or Perhaps What’s In Those Weeds!)

 

Primeira

Primeira

Male alpaca behavior is such that when an ungelded male alpaca comes in contact with a female alpaca he will usually start to orgle and then pursue her.    I have seen this behavior in little male crias just a few weeks old; it’s in the genes I guess.  Male alpacas will from time to time have wrestling matches, sometimes due to one male stealing the other’s place at the hay rack, sometimes because a beautiful female alpaca is nearby and sometimes just to reinforce their place in the hierarchy of the group.

 

Usually female alpacas are most concerned with eating, sunbathing and mothering their crias.  Occasionally the adult females will join in with the crias evening play session, its quite amusing to see a fully grown female pronging around the pasture the crias.  Of course when a cria is born the girls in the group are all keen to check out the new arrival.  When a male alpaca is brought over for breeding to one of the females it is not unusual to have several of the females come over and sniff him, sometimes following him over to the breeding pen, other times snorting in disgust and returning to the serious business of eating.

 

Wednesday evening as I finished chores TeQueely came over and did her usual dance by the gate, trying to get my attention (at which she was successful) and letting me know that she was looking for a tasty treat. 

 

There are some weeds on our property that I know are safe for the alpacas to eat and which they are particularly fond of, so I stopped to give TeQueely a handful, knowing that if I failed to do so I would be subjected to disgusted stares from her for the rest of the evening (She has me well trained)

 

As I fed TeQueely one of the other girls Primera came to see if she could get a treat too and so I fed the girls some more weeds including a little bit of green tumbleweed that they seem quite partial too.

 

Having given the girls some attention I went into the house to get ready to visit one of the neighbors.  On my way out of the house as I passed the girls pasture I heard a commotion – spitting, squealing and grunting.  Looking across to see what the commotion was I could see that Primera was trying to breed Anya, one of our adult females.

 

Naturally Anya was not too thrilled with Primera’s attention and was letting her know her displeasure by spitting and squealing, but Primera was not being deterred by Anya’s actions.

 

I decided that I should intervene so went into the pasture and pulled Primera off Anya, but Primera was determined to mount Anya again.  After I had pulled Primera off Anya a couple of times I made Anya get up from her cushed position hoping that would help the situation.  Primera though decided that she would give Queen a try and jumped up and mounted her.  I removed Primera from Queen and stood holding her for a while, she was softly orgling (the noise a male alpaca makes during breeding) and was obviously not quite herself.  I stroked Primera for a while to try and calm her and divert her attention, this was quite remarkable as usually Primera will not let you near her unless she is in a catch pen, yet here she was standing quietly allowing herself to be stroked, looking at me with doe eyes.  Having calmed Primera down I felt that perhaps some form of distraction would help and went and got some of the pellets we feed the alpacas and spread them out in the feeding trays.  That did the trick; Primera’s mind went back to thinking about food.

 

This is the first time we have experienced a female alpaca getting amorous over another female alpaca.  I have heard from other alpaca breeders that once in a while they have witnessed that type of behavior but I don’t think it is a common thing.  From my experience working at a dairy prior to raising alpacas, I know that dairy heifers will often mount other heifers that are in heat.  At the dairy where I worked some of the heifers would wear chalk that would rub off on the backs of the heifers they mounted, indicating to the herdsman that the heifer with the chalk on her back was in heat.

 

So all I can think of Primera’s behavior was that Anya must have been in the right part of her ovarian cycle for her to emit a scent indicating she was ready for breeding.  Either that or there was something really strange in those weeds!

 

Rosemary

February 5, 2008

Primera Makes a Steal

PrimeraFeeding time is always interesting with the alpacas.  Each alpaca has it’s own idea of their place in the food chain, and there are always those who are first in line whether they need food or not.

In the evening we feed some of our alpacas an extra ration of pellets.  These are alpacas that have an extra nutritional need such as crias, weanlings and pregnant females.  Of course there are some of the other alpacas who don’t need any extra pellets, but try convincing them of that!

Primera is one such alpaca; she is an older female and was sent here for research.  Prior to coming to us none of Primera’s crias had survived.  Working with our vet we were able to get one of Primera’s crias to survive and he is still doing well to this day.  It took a lot of work to get him through the first few months of life, but to look at him these days you cannot tell what a struggle he had.  We have not yet been able to get a definite answer as to the problem with Primera’s crias, but we feel it is either some form of fatal gene, or that there is something in Primera’s milk that kills her cria.

So Primera’s main purpose in life is to provide fiber and also to act as a companion to single alpacas that arrive at the farm and have to be placed in quarantine.  Primera’s life is an easy one, she eats all day, sleeps a bit here and there, and mooches around the pasture.  By early afternoon she has taken up her position, sitting just inside the small shelter ready and waiting for dinner to be served.

With such an easy life Primera is not the slimmest of alpacas.  She is not overweight, but she certainly does not need any extra nutrition.

Primera however is convinced that she does need extra food.  She is pretty adept at walking into one of the pens where some of the girls get their “extras”.  She stands there trying to blend in and once or twice has managed to escape my attention.  If standing in the pen doesn’t work then Primera knows that she has to resort to other methods to try and get extra feed.  She has figured out that she can get her head through the bars of Chai and Zoie’s pen, once her head is through she then wedges her shoulders up against the bars and gives an almighty push to force the panel in and get closer to the feed tray.

To combat Primera’s efforts to get feed we have taken to putting a strap on Chai and Zoie’s pen that prevents Primera from pushing the panel in.  Primera is not too impressed with the strap and still tries to force the panel in, but having become unsuccessful in doing that she has now resorted to other methods.  Primera has figured out that if she puts her head through the panel and stretches her neck as far as possible that she can reach the end of the feed trough.  At that point she takes hold of the feed trough with her lips and pulls!  As soon as the trough moves a little closer she then uses her dental pad and teeth to grip the trough more firmly and pulls it towards the side of the pen until she can reach some of the pellets in it!

Of course Zoie and Chai are not too impressed with Primera’s trick.  Chai in particular is getting a little tired of watching her feed trough slide across the pen and then seeing the feed disappear into Primera.  Of late Chai’s response to Primera’s actions has been to bite Primera’s ears, but Primera is a tough old cookie and really doesn’t care and just continues to shovel pellets in her mouth as fast as she can.

It really is quite impressive to see an alpaca get so creative about gaining access to a handful of pellets, Primera has really had to work to figure this out, but figure it out she has.  I am not sure anything we do (and even Chai’s biting of Primera’s ears) will dissuade Primera from stealing food, but it will give her a different challenge to figure out and her efforts will give us some evening entertainment.

Rosemary

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