A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

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

March 7, 2009

Back With The Herd

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

 

It’s hard to believe that three weeks have already gone by since the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show string have been in quarantine since their return home and thankfully have not shown any signs of illness.  Having spent their three weeks in quarantine it is now time for the show string to return to their respective pastures.

 

Atlas, Pride and Mags will rejoin Zin and the junior males, while Dream, Zianna and Kaneka will rejoin the female herd.

 

We didn’t put the fleece covers back on the show string on their immediate return from the show.  Call us soft if you wish, but we felt after doing so well for us at the show it would be a nice treat to allow the show alpacas to have a little time without their covers on, of course the first thing they did when they got home was to have a good roll, but that’s okay the dirt will drop out before their next show.

 

This last Thursday we were forecast for dangerously high winds.  It makes me take notice when the local meteorologists forecast “dangerously high winds”, bearing in mind that their idea of “breezy” is 25 –35 mph winds, it makes you wonder what wind speed would deserve the title “dangerous”.   We decided, in view of the forecast, we should put the fleece covers back on the show alpacas before the entire tumbleweed crop of western New Mexico landed in our pastures and in our alpaca’s fleeces!

 

The winds on Thursday didn’t quite live up to the forecast with wind gusts in the 50 mph range; strong enough we were glad we had put the fleece covers back on the alpacas.  The wind was also strong enough that poor Little Man had a real struggle to get across the pasture, but he’s a tough little guy and he made it.

 

Prior to putting the fleece covers on we cleaned the alpacas fleeces of the worst of the vegetable matter and took photos of the show string without their covers on.   The alpacas were not too cooperative about having their pictures taken, but we got one or two shots that we can use.  We also checked toenails and teeth and treated ears as a preventative measure against ear ticks.  Then it was back to the herd for the show string who wasted no time at all in getting reacquainted with the rest of the herd.

 

Rosemary

September 22, 2008

Safely Home From The State Fair

 

The New Mexico State Fair is over and Ric and the alpacas arrived back home yesterday evening.

 

This year’s State Fair Alpaca Show was a little smaller than those of previous years with approximately 224 entries.  The economy and high fuel prices are making people think hard about which shows they travel to.  According to the State Fair staff, livestock entries were down across the board and a local news channel reported that attendance at the State Fair was also down.

 

Still the alpaca entries came from several states, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and California to name a few.

 

According to Ric our four alpacas all behaved well and were very relaxed for the whole trip.  Only one of them Windrush White Blast had been to a show before, for the other three this was a new experience.

 

Unfortunately young Zeus did not place in his class, one of the hazards of being in a competitive class of juvenile white male alpacas, usually the largest class at a show.  Zeus is a little small for his age and that probably went against him, but he is still young, has a beautiful bright white fleece and has lots of time to grow.

 

Blast did also not fair as well as we had hoped, but he did come away with a 6th place ribbon, the judge liked his fine, soft handing fleece and crimp style but felt he was not as dense as some of the other alpacas in the class.

 

Windrush Zindel’s Carissima took a third in her class, and she was the youngest in her class as well.  The judge really liked her fleece (it is really nice if I say so myself!) and commented that that she realized Carissima still has some growing to do. Carissima is starting to enter that gangly adolescent stage that young alpacas go through, so hopefully in a few months she will be looking more adult, and I bet her spring show season will be a successful one.

 

Finally our true black juvenile Windrush Zindel’s Kaneka did us proud by taking not only second in her class but also going on to win the Reserve Color Champion – well done Kaneka!  And well done Ric for traveling to the show on your own, setting up and manning the booth and showing the alpacas, even with just four alpacas shows are hard work on your own, but they also are fun too,

 

Now the show alpacas will be placed into quarantine for the next three weeks, just in case they picked up any parasites or other ills during their trip.  The biosecurity and vet checks at the show were very thorough, but there is still always a risk of bringing back something unwanted and if that does happen we don’t want it spreading through the herd, especially as we have young crias due to be born any day.

 

Back at the ranch, we continue with cria watch, no sign of any imminent births yet, just some heavily pregnant dams waddling around the pasture, enjoying the cool breeze of the fan, having a roll in the dust from time to time, dipping their feet in the water bucket (I’ve lost track of how many times I have had to rinse and refill the bucket!) and eating hay to keep those crias growing!

 

Rosemary

March 6, 2008

Cooperative Quarantine Can Have It’s Benefits

Our friends and mentors Rick and Ann Evans from Enchantment Farm Alpacas stopped by yesterday to pick up their alpaca Enchantment’s Snow Prince. Snow Prince is an offspring of our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent and had been with us to the recent TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, winning a second place ribbon in a very competitive class of yearling white males.

Snow Prince had been put into quarantine with the rest of the alpacas that had been at that show, and having spent close to three weeks in quarantine without any signs of any health problems he was safe to return home and go straight in with Rick and Ann’s other alpacas.

We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas who are also here in Clovis. Working together we are able to share transportation to shows, split loads of feed and hay, share supplies and also work together to provide a good quarantine solution for when our alpacas return from shows. Both of our farms have quarantine pastures and by pooling our resources we can have several groups of alpacas in quarantine at the two farms if needed. On this occasion the show string went to Bob and Regina’s for quarantine, and so when Rick and Ann arrived at our place to pick up Snow Prince I had to take them up to Llano Soleado Alpacas (or Windrush North as we jokingly call their farm, with ours being Llano Soleado South) to collect him.

Being able to work cooperatively on quarantining our alpacas is a benefit to both farms. If we worked independently we would need to have at least two quarantine pastures each, one for male alpacas and one for female alpacas and there would be occasions when there was just one alpaca to be pastured on his or her own. By working together we can avoid the “lone alpaca” scenario and use our quarantine pastures to the best advantage.

I had a conversation just the other day with another alpaca breeder who was saying how difficult it is for small alpaca farms to effectively quarantine their alpacas, especially if they have only a few acres to work with. Unfortunately some small farms decide that they cannot devote any space to a separate quarantine pen and end up putting incoming alpacas in with the rest of their herd, thus exposing their whole herd to whatever viruses or bacteria that incoming alpaca may bring with it.

Perhaps a better solution for these small farms would be to partner up with other small farms in the area and quarantine their incoming alpacas together. Ideally the farms would share the same ideas about herd health and biosecurity and would attend the same shows, thus making it easy to quarantine alpacas returning from those shows together. Usually there would be more than one alpaca to be quarantined at a time, which would be easier on the alpacas too as they are such herd animals.

Admittedly there may be some small farms who are not fortunate enough to have another alpaca farm reasonably close by to partner with on quarantine facilities, but as the alpaca population grows and more alpaca farms spring up hopefully within a short time there will be another alpaca breeder in their area and the farms will be able to work together.

Working cooperatively with another farm really does have its advantages, both for quarantining and in other areas of farm operation. So if you are a small alpaca farm, check out your alpaca “neighbors” and see what you can do to work together, it could make your lives easier.

Rosemary

September 24, 2007

On The Matter of Boys

The State Fair is now over and Ric and the alpacas have returned home.  All of the show alpacas will now be placed in quarantine for about three weeks just in case they picked something up at the show that could be transmitted to the rest of the herd.  We will also give them a preventative treatment for coccidia for the next five days, as that is a parasite that can sometimes make an appearance after shows.   

Having the Darts of Llano Soleado Alpacas so close to our farm works out great for both herds.  We each take one group of alpacas for quarantine – this time we will quarantine all of the show males from both farms and the Darts will quarantine all of the show females from both farms.  By doing this each farm only needs to provide one quarantine pasture, plus it means that there are no lone alpacas quarantine, as between us we always have more than one show alpaca of each sex.

Our boys did not do quite as well at the show as Shiimsa, but we still came home with some ribbons.  A fifth place for Rascal and a sixth place for Treasure with little Echo and Rian not placing.  All of the boys we took to the show were white and the white male classes are typically the most competitive classes in the show, so to even get a ribbon in a white class these days is something to be grateful for.

On the home front, Zoies cria now has a name; his owners are calling him Zeus.  It is a name that really suits him and follows the “Z” theme of his sire (Zindel) and dam (Zoie).  It also ties in with his grandsire Poseidon so all in all it is a good name for the little guy. 

Young Zeus had actually lost 1/10 of a lb. in weight when we weighed him yesterday morning, it is not unusual to have crias lose some weight on their first day but I am still a little concerned about Zoie’s ability to produce milk.  I feel she has some, but wonder if it is enough for her cria.

Signs that a cria may not be getting enough milk are lethargy, frequent nursing and a lack of a milk moustache when the cria comes away from nursing his dam.  Zeus trotted around a little yesterday, but I would like to see him a little more active, he is not nursing frequently but I did see Zoie walk away while he was nursing yesterday.  I went out and watched Zeus trying to nurse and noticed that Zoie’s teats each have a raw spot or two on them.  Either little Zeus has some sharp teeth, or he is sucking so hard on Zoie that he is irritating her udder.  When watching Zeus nurse I do not see a milk moustache on him when he comes away from nursing, milk moustaches are harder to see on white crias but I just don’t see any signs of milk on his lips.  He could well be fooling us as he did have a small frolic around the pasture with Carissima yesterday evening that shows that he at least has some energy.

So this morning we will see how much weight Zeus has gained, if it is very little or a weight loss I will introduce a supplemental bottle or two of goats’ milk and yoghurt.   Perhaps if Zeus felt fuller then he would not suck so hard on Zoie and her udder will get a chance to heal.   Actually Zeus has taken matters into his own hands (or feet!), I caught him earlier today stealing milk from Carina as Carissima was nursing.  If Carina had not been producing much milk I would have taken steps to stop Zeus from nursing her, but as she produces a lot of good milk I let him continue to nurse.  Hopefully as the days go by Zoie’s milk will really come into it’s own and we will not need to be so concerned about little Zeus.   Whether or not he stops stealing milk from Carina will be a different matter though, to quote my mother “it’s unusual for a man not to find his way to the pantry” and in Zeus’s case I think he has found a new pantry to visit in Carina!

Rosemary

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