A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

June 26, 2009

Next Please!

Shiimsa and her cria Rio

Shiimsa and her cria Rio

With Queen, Chai and Rosie all having had their crias we still had Shiimsa, Ivanna, TeQueely and Willow to go. 

Shiimsa is now owned by Terri Faver of Almost Canyon Ranch.  Shiimsa is one of Terri’s first alpacas and is her first pregnant dam, so Terri has been anxiously awaiting the birth of Shiimsa’s cria.  With Shiimsa being so far along with her pregnancy when Terri purchased her it was decided that Shiimsa would stay with us until after she delivered her cria.

On June 18 we thought Shiimsa was in labor and so called Terri to let her know.  Terri was able to take time off from work and come over for the day, but alas it turned out to be a false alarm and no cria arrived.

On June 21 though it was a different story.  Following chores Ric and I noticed Shiimsa stretched out beside the hay wagon.  Shiimsa typically spends a lot of her day at the hay wagon, but she rarely stayed there to stretch out or sunbathe, so to see her lying beside the hay wagon was a clue that she might have started labor.

We watched Shiimsa for a while and we could see that this time she really was in labor.  I called Terri who was taking part in a horse show that day and left her a voicemail to let her know that Shiimsa was in labor.  A short while later I received a call back from Terri, she had finished showing her horse and so was leaving the horseshow to take her horse home and then head our way.

By the time I spoke to Terri I could just about see the birthing sack starting to emerge.  Progress was a little slow, but Shiimsa is a maiden alpaca and so her body had to do some new stretching to accommodate the progression of the cria.   I decided to go into the house to collect my birthing kit, towels and other supplies, thinking I had several minutes before the cria was born.

By the time I had gathered my supplies I could see two little legs flapping around behind Shiimsa.  From her earlier slow progress Shiimsa had gathered speed and the cria was nearly fully emerged! 

I made it to Shiimsa just as her cria landed on the ground.  I moved the cria onto a clean blanket and started to dry it off and then checked to see whether the cria was a boy or a girl – it was another boy and another handsome boy at that.

Shiimsa’s cria is either bay black or black and has an unbelievably soft handle to his fleece.  His fleece is crimpy, shiny, fine and dense – what more could you ask for in such a dark male alpaca.

We knew Terri had been hoping for a girl, but once she arrived and saw her new cria she was very happy with him.  Terri already had a name picked out for him – “Rio”.
It is sometimes hard to tell the quality of a young cria, so much can change as they grow up, but little Rio is already showing a lot of potential.  Conformationally he is well put together and with that spectacular fleece I see the words “Color Champion” in Rio’s future.  If that is the case Rio will be following in the footsteps of his sire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel as well as his grandsire Dom Lucilio and his great grandsires Royal Fawn and Acero Marka’s Champ.

Shiimsa has proved to be an excellent mother; she is very attentive to Rio and gets quite distressed when he is out of her sight.  Shiimsa also has lots of milk, a great trait for a female alpaca.  I think Shiimsa has given Terri a great new addition to her alpaca herd.

Ric and I will look forward to seeing Rio grow and mature, we will be making a point to monitor this young male’s show and breeding career, but that is all in the future, for now we will have fun to watching him gallop around the pasture with the other spring crias. 


June 11, 2009

Someone Was Paying Attention!

What a handsome boy!

What a handsome boy!

Well its good to know that someone listens to me once in a while!  Following my previous blog entry about our overdue pregnant girls Queen’s cria decided to be the first to make an appearance.

Queen had been particularly large during her pregnancy, so we were not surprised when she delivered a 20.2 lb. male cria at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday morning.  No wonder Queen had cria limbs poking so prominently during her pregnancy, this is one sturdy boy and he also had an 8.2 lb. placenta to go with him.  I am sure Queen feels a little better for lightening her load!

The delivery of Queen’s cria went smoothly, we noticed her separated from the herd when we first got up on Tuesday morning and as the morning progressed she spent her time cushed and getting up and down to visit the poop pile.  Queen did come in to eat when we fed the girls but she soon cushed again, so as soon as she had finished eating we let her out of her pen.  A short while later the cria’s head presented and a couple of contractions later two feet popped out.  Queen did take a little rest before pushing the cria’s shoulders out and then one last contraction delivered the rest of the cria.

We had been curious about what color Queen’s cria would be, he is the first cria from our herdsire Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure who is white but whose sire 4Peruvian Altiplano Gold threw a lot of colored cria.  Queen is black but does have a black and white udder and a small white spot on her hip.   Queen has never had a cria that is lighter than medium fawn no matter what color she has been bred to and she didn’t let us down this time.  Queen’s boy is a medium brown and fades to a light fawn on his belly.  He has a broad dorsal stripe and has black on his muzzle and ears.  His legs also are either black or dark brown blending to a medium brown as they reach his blanket area.  What a handsome boy he is!

Queen's cria trying out his legs

Queen's cria trying out his legs


When Queen’s cria was first delivered he was wet and his fleece was long but not yet curling, as soon as that fleece dried though what a difference.  Lots and lots of curls of silky, soft, bright fleece – Treasure and Queen did us proud.

The rest of the day was spent making sure that Queen’s cria was nursing well, allowing the two to bond and then introducing our new arrival to the herd.

So at least one of those crias was listening when I told them that it was time to make an appearance, I wonder who will be the next one to come forth into the world.


June 10, 2009

Why Are We Waiting, Why Are We Waiting!

Queen and her ever growing bump

Queen and her ever growing bump

I think that is the song our overdue pregnant females must be singing.  The girls are more than ready to have their crias but the crias just aren’t coming yet.

Queen (pictured here) is huge.  You can see to the right of the picture how one of the crias limbs is poking out from her side.  It is amazing to me that the cria still has room to move, but move it does.  Last night after evening chores we could see the cria moving just under the base of Queen’s tail, we see this movement often in late term pregnancy alpacas but in Queen it was particularly pronounced.  I am just amazed that the cria does not just fall out as close as it is to Queen’s tail.  Queen doesn’t seem perturbed by her crias movement, far from it; she spends most of her day eating (while I spend my time watching her thinking that the more she eats the bigger that cria will be – ouch!).

Rosie too is quite large and obviously ready to be relieved of carrying her cria.  Rosie spends most of her time cushed in the shade or stretched out in the warmth of the sun and does not move around too much during the day.

Shiimsa has a nice sized bump and spends her day waddling and mooching around.  She often has her ears back these days and I think her cria’s activity dictates how Shiimsa’s ears will be positioned at any given time.

Chai, Ivanna, TeQueely and Willow have not reached their due dates yet, but we can see that their crias too are growing by leaps and bounds.  If Queen, Rosie and Shiimsa are anything to go by then Chai, Ivanna, TeQueely and Willow will all go past their due dates before delivering their crias and they too will be singing “why are we waiting” although of course alpacas can’t really sing, they can only hum!


March 17, 2009

Hang on Queen!


Our alpaca Queen is one of the grand dams of the pasture.  Now eleven years old, she is able to rule over the younger alpacas by just looking at them.  She can throw a look that says “you wouldn’t dare” and the younger alpacas agree, they would not dare to cross our Queen.


Queen is an alpaca who breeds easily, births easily and has beautiful, robust, vigourous cria.  Her last cria Atlas recently took 1st in his class at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and is a striking herdsire in the making.  The only time Queen has lost a pregnancy was after she moved here from her previous owners farm.  She was seven years old at the time and had never been off her home farm, the stress of the move was just too much for her I guess and while she never outwardly showed any signs of stress she did absorb her pregnancy.  Once rebred though she carried her next pregnancy to term and has never looked back since.


When Queen lost her pregnancy it drove home to me just how bonded these alpacas become with their herd mates.  I had already decided that Queen would live out her days here and purchased her knowing that she would become one of our foundation herd, but the reaction from her being moved here helped me decide that once our alpaca girls reach a certain age we need to plan on them staying with us for the rest of their lives.  To move them to a different herd just becomes too hard on them.


This past weekend I noticed Queen was a little uncomfortable, she laid around more than usual, rolling on one hip and pushing her legs out to the side.  She did eat but not as heartily as usual and it was obvious that she was not feeling 100%.  I could see her cria moving every now and then, which was a good sign, and when I offered her some soaked beet pulp shreds she readily ate them from the spoon, something she would not normally do, as she prefers to keep her distance from humans.  I felt the beet pulp shreds being soft, moist and fibrous might help her digestive tract stay active and as an added precaution I gave her some MSE drench that contains probiotics and digestive enzymes.  By the afternoon Queen was acting normal, eating hay and cushing in a more relaxed way.


Having owned Queen for a few years now I have my herd records to refer back to and I know that she has had this type of uncomfortable stage in each of the pregnancies she has had here.  Queen is a compact alpaca and by now her unborn cria will be going through some major growth spurts.  It almost seems as if in the last week her pregnancy “bump” has doubled in size.  I am sure at times her cria is pressing on her digestive tract and causing some of the discomfort she is feeling.


Last year Queen decided to have her cria early, when he was born Atlas was healthy and strong and looked like a full term cria, but he was born 2 –3 weeks prior to his due date.  In fact Queen caught us unawares with Atlas’s birth as we had gone out to another farm for the day to shear alpacas, but fortunately had our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart check on the herd only to find that Queen had delivered her cria.


I am hoping that Queen holds on at least another month before delivering her cria, two months would be even better.   The cria is only in its ninth month of gestation and its survival chances should it be born now would be slim to none.  So Hang on Queen, we know you are uncomfortable but we really need you to carry that cria for a while longer!   (And you can guarantee that from now on Queen will be under very watchful eye!)



August 22, 2008

Congratulations Girls!


Wednesday we made a trip to the vets with three of our pregnant girls – Theresa, Shiimsa and Queen.  The three girls have all rejected the male three times now and were between 40 and 50 days bred so we wanted to confirm their pregnancy by ultrasound.


Troy and Mary Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas actually own Theresa, but we are so used to having her at the farm that we slip up occasionally and call her ours.  Shiimsa and Queen are both ours, with Shiimsa being a maiden alpaca (this is her first pregnancy) and Queen being an old hand at the art of getting pregnant.  With some of our older girls we have taken to not ultrasounding them, trusting their rejection of the male as being a sign that they are pregnant, but as Queen had recently had a tooth abscess, had been on antibiotics and subjected to having her abscess drained on a daily basis we wanted to make sure that she had maintained her pregnancy.


Shiimsa we felt certain was pregnant, as her behavior had changed a lot since she was bred.  She is more dominant at the feed tray and has turned into a bossy girl.   Theresa had fooled us last year,  telling us she was pregnant by rejecting the male alpacas when in fact she was not pregnant and had a Retained CL  (See post June 9, 2008 – Not Quite The Result We Expected).  Having treated Theresa for a Retained CL and bred her, we were reasonable confident she was now pregnant but didn’t want to be fooled again by her behavior.  An ultrasound would reveal if this time she were carrying a cria.


We started the ultrasounds off with Theresa and in a short time our vet found a very large fetus – let’s hope that it is a large girl. 


A very nervous Shiimsa was next but she handled the ultrasound well and again our vet quickly found the fetus.  He said that looking at Shiimsa’s fetus he felt that she was about a week further along in her pregnancy than Theresa, which is about right.


Queen was last for the ultrasound and decided to cush when the vet started to examine her.   Our vet left Queen cushed and started the ultrasound, but was unable to see her uterus clearly as Queen had a very full bladder which was pushing up in the area of her uterus.  We should have told Queen to visit the poop pile before we set off I guess.  Our vet’s technician then suggested that perhaps the procedure would be more effective if we could get Queen to stand up.  With a little encouragement Queen did stand up and Ric was able to support her to where she could not cush again.  The vet started the ultrasound procedure and immediately found a pregnant uterus complete with fetus – great news!  (Queen by the way gave us her usual “I told you so look” before jumping back into the trailer).


We were happy to have the three girls confirmed pregnant.  Theresa and Shiimsa are bred to Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel our multiple color champion herdsire, and Queen is bred to Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure, also a color champion herdsire who we co-own with Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas.  


It was good to be able to inform Theresa’s owners that they now have another cria on the way.  Theresa has always produced beautiful cria and I am sure the combination of Theresa and Zin will be a good one.  In about eleven months time we will get to see what Shiimsa and Queen produce from their breedings, it seems like a long while to wait but I am sure before we know it the girls will be giving birth!



July 23, 2008

Getting to the root of the problem

 Queen - Head Shot  

Our trip to the vet yesterday proved fruitful in that we were able to get to the bottom of the problem of Queen’s jaw abscess.


Our vet first examined the lump externally and then tried to get some pus to drain from it.  The lump was significantly smaller than the day before, we had drained the abscess ourselves earlier in the day but had not been able to get much pus from it.  Our vet was unable to get anything else out of the abscess and felt that was a good sign that the abscess was draining well on it’s own.


Having examined the lump externally our vet them probed it internally.  The probe went in quite a way but the good news was the vet could feel bone.  Just to be on the safe side though he suggested an x-ray of Queen’s jaw which we willingly agreed to.


Queen behaved well throughout all of the poking, prodding and x-rays.  She did grumble a bit from time to time but stood quietly for most of the time.  The x-ray revealed that Queen has an infected tooth.  It is the first molar on the left hand side of her jaw.  Our vet has new equipment that allows him to download the x-ray image to his computer.  It was so much clearer than trying to decipher an x-ray on the usual light box.  We could easily see that the root of the infected tooth was much different in appearance to the healthy teeth in Queen’s jaw.


From the x-ray it was back to examine the affected tooth.  A large syringe wrapped in vet wrap was put sideways into Queen’s mouth to hold her mouth open.  The vet them pulled on the tooth using some large plier type tool (it was a specialized veterinary tool).  The tooth is still firmly attached; our vet also checked the area for odor and did not find any which is also a good sign.


Having discovered what the problem was we then needed to discuss our options.  Option one was to put Queen on antibiotics for two weeks and hope that they would knock out the infection.   This option would be easy to do, but the chances are the problem will flare up again over time.  Option Two was to remove the tooth.  For this option Queen would be anesthetized and then, given how strong the tooth still was sitting in the jaw, it would most likely need to be chiseled out.  There would then be the challenge of maintaining the area where the tooth had been removed to prevent any further infection.  The advantage of this option would be that it would be a long term solution and with the way the current abscess was placed there was a ready made drain in Queens jaw.


Option Two sounded as if it might be the better option, except that our Queen is about 30 days pregnant.  When we told the vet about Queen’s pregnancy he said that he felt we would be better off waiting to extract the tooth.  He felt from his examination that it would last through her pregnancy and that once Queen has her next cria we can set a date for the tooth to be extracted.


Option One still has it’s risks as it is better to avoid antibiotics during pregnancy, especially the first 60 days, but the risk is less at this point.  The antibiotic we will be using is one that we used previously on a pregnant dam that had a bone abscess on her leg bone.  That dam was on high doses of the antibiotic for a large part of her pregnancy and both her and her cria were fine.  Hopefully that will be the case with Queen and the cria she is carrying.


There is always the slight chance Queen will lose her cria due to the stress of the vet exam today, we will hope not but is a fact we have to face.    If Queen does lose her cria we will need to accept that is how things are meant to be and go ahead and remove the offending tooth from Queen’s jaw.  Fingers crossed though the antibiotic will be effective and all will be well with Queen and her pregnancy.




July 22, 2008

One Lump or Two

Over the last few days we noticed that our alpaca Queen had something going on with her jaw.  The first sign was that she was not closing her lips properly but kept them slightly open, then some swelling started to appear on her jaw line and that swelling has grown quite rapidly.


Queen has had problems in this area before.  About two years ago she had a tooth abscess that we treated first with high dose antibiotics.  The abscess showed a little improvement but there was still a lot of swelling there.  An x-ray revealed that there was not any bone involvement at that time.  Sometimes with a tooth abscess the bone gets eaten away by the bacteria that is also causing the abscess causing further complications. 


When Queen had not responded to the high dose antibiotics our veterinarian suggested putting in an antibiotic implant.  The procedure was quick, Queen was given a sedative (to which she was very receptive) our vet made an incision in the area of the abscess, drained the abscess put in the implant and quickly sewed Queen up again.  The implant was left in for three weeks and then removed.  The removal was as quick and easy as the initial implant and the abscess by that time had gone.


Our vet had warned us that we may see further problems in that area of Queen’s jaw, and last year we did see some swelling but it soon went down again.  This year however the swelling was rapid and quite significant, getting to golf ball size very quickly.  By Sunday evening chores the swelling had gone from being hard in texture to becoming soft and pliable and so we felt that we may need to get it lanced by the vet.


We already had an appointment with the vet for today.  Some of the alpacas at our farm our returning to their owners and need brucellosis and TB tests for the health certificate in order that they may travel, so we called and asked if it would be okay if we could bring Queen in too to have her lump examined.   


I guess Queen heard us making the arrangements for a trip to the vet as by yesterday afternoon the lump had ruptured.  (Knowing Queen as we do we think she decided to take care of business herself rather than have the vet do it!).  We cleaned the area and the hole in the lump carefully, flushing it out with some bentadine solution.  We then dried it off and applied some wound dressing to help treat the area, keep it free from flies and yet still allow it to remain open to drain.  Queen will still be going to the vet today, just to have him cast his expert eye on the problem and advise us as to how to continue to treat it.


I suspect that for many days to follow we will be draining and irrigating Queen’s lump, but I am glad that it ruptured to the outside rather than into her jaw area which would be difficult to treat.  A course of antibiotics for Queen will also be quite likely.


All being well the lump will gradually diminish and we will not see any further instances of it.  The mere presence of the lump though does make me wonder if Queen may be a little run down, another thing to discuss with the vet.  Queen is in her middle years, nursing a large cria and we think expecting another cria and so it is possible that she could be run down and need some extra TLC for a while.   Nothing less than treatment fit for Queen I think!



May 14, 2008

Surprise – In more ways than one!



Queen and her New Cria


Well did we get a surprise yesterday, Queen had her cria early and we were not even home!


We left mid morning to go and shear alpacas for Jan and Corky Green of Muleshoe, Texas.  Knowing that we had several girls due and overdue we checked everyone thoroughly in the morning.  There were three girls who were slightly puffy under their tails and none of the pregnant girls was showing a well developed udder.  In maiden alpacas it is not unusual for them not to show many signs of imminent birth, but usually with your more experienced dams there are signs that birthing is not far away.


Having checked the girls thoroughly we watched their behavior for a while.  All of them were eating heartily and none of them were acting uncomfortably.


I was not entirely happy about leaving the girls for the day, but Jan and Corky were short of help with their shearing and after they had spent all of Sunday helping us with our shearing I hated to leave them in the lurch.  So I called Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas, our Clovis alpaca neighbors, and asked if they could check on our girls during the day just in case something happened.

 Head Shot of Queen\'s New Cria

Well happen it did!  When Bob came to check on the girls at 1:30 pm he discovered that Queen had delivered her cria, a beautiful medium brown boy out of our Color Champion Herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel.  Bob says the cria was still wet when he found him so he could not have been born long.  Both the cria and Queen were doing well and Bob stepped into alpaca delivery mode and very kindly made sure that Queen passed her placenta, the cria was nursing well and dipped the crias naval in iodine.  He then put Queen and the cria in a pen with some hay and water to allow them time to bond.


As soon as Bob called me to give me the news I could tell from the chuckle in his voice that something had happened, his words were “Queen fooled you” and fool us she did!


Just before leaving we had seen Queen on the poop pile.  She only visited it once and she was not at all puffy in her tail area.  We watched as she waddled off to a different area of the pasture, she didn’t lie down, but rather stopped and looked over her shoulder at us as if to say “What do you two want”.   (Bob thinks she was actually telling us to hurry up and leave so she could have her cria in peace!)


Queen is an independent alpaca and out of all of the girls she is the one who I would expect to want to wait until we are out of the way before giving birth.  She is an experienced dam and I was with her last year when she gave birth and then she gave definite signals that she was in labor.  With that pregnancy she was two weeks overdue, with this one she was early.




Thankfully all went well with Queens labor and we have a lovely 20.1 lb boy to watch as he gallops around the pasture.  As huge as Queen was prior to giving birth I am glad she delivered a little early as if her cria had been much bigger I wonder if it would have been a difficulty birth.  Thankfully too we have such good alpaca neighbors and friends in Bob and Regina who were able to come out and check on the girls for us – and who knew what to do when they found a new cria to deal with.  Thank you Bob and Regina!


So today we are scheduled to do some more shearing for Valerie Smith in Plainview, Texas, but after yesterday’s experience with Queen I am afraid Ric will be going to Plainview on his own and I will be staying home to watch pregnant alpacas who will no doubt decide that as I have stayed home none of them will give birth!



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