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.



January 16, 2009

Top 10 Qualities of An Obstacle and Performance Alpaca.

It’s funny how one small thought can generate a whole conversation.  Having written about our Stormy being selected by young Abby Dart to be an Obstacle and Performance Alpaca I decided it would be interesting to get some feedback from Abby’s mom, Regina, as to what she thinks are the Top 10 qualities of a performance alpaca.


Regina very kindly emailed me her Top 5 qualities along with Abby’s Top 6 Qualities.  Here is what Regina and Abby said:


Regina’s Top 5 selections for a child’s show buddy:


1)           Temperament – Must be very sweet natured and mellow to be able to work with young children safely. Should display no to very little concern about being hugged on, and handled all over – from head to tail.  No nipping, no spitting, and no kicking especially! Can’t be too pushy or “in your face” – that can be too intimidating for young kids.


2)           Temperament – Must handle stress of shows well. Some very sweet alpacas just get too stressed at shows, and don’t enjoy the experience.  That can ruin the show for both the alpaca and the child.


3)           Temperament- Must be easy to train, adapt to new situations well, and bond with child during training sessions.


4)           Size of the alpaca should fit the child he/she will be working with.  This is not a “must”, but smaller pacas are often easier for smaller competitors to handle.


5)           Healthy and sound – Just makes for a better show buddy.




Abby’s Top 6 Selections:  (Note:  Abby thought these up all on her own, and before Regina  even jotted down her answers.  We think she had some pretty sound choices!)


1)That he doesn’t jump on me.


2)He’s nice


3)He’s easy to halter up.


4)He likes people.


5)Not spooky.


6) He’s the right size for me.



One consistent theme jumps out from Regina and Abby’s selections and that is temperament of the alpaca.  Part of the temperament of the alpaca is genetic; the result of the breeding that created that alpaca, but the way the alpaca is raised and handled and the environment it has lived in also contributes to the alpaca’s temperament.  More on that subject later.


Having received Regina and Abby’s input I then spoke to Audrey Conklin of West Texas Gold Alpacas.  Audrey has entered numerous performance and obstacle classes and has trained many alpacas to be able to compete in those classes, she has a lot of experience in alpaca performance and obstacle.  Audrey agreed with Regina and Abby’s selections but had some other suggestions to offer too. 


So it was that what had started off as a simple blog entry has generated a lot of thought and discussion.  To try and cram all of that information into one blog entry would be information overload for many readers and so I have decided to break it down into two or three entries that I will post over the next few days.


I have never participated in alpaca performance and obstacle classes myself, mainly because the handler is required to go over the obstacles and as uncoordinated as I am I would not do my alpacas justice!  For many alpaca breeders performance and obstacle classes are not of huge importance, consequently little seems to have been written on the subject and yet I am sure there are many alpaca handlers (and potential alpaca handlers) who would love to learn more about how they can be successful in performance and obstacle.  So check back in the next day or two to learn some snippets on performance and obstacle alpacas, from the selection of the alpaca, to the importance of mentoring from experienced alpaca owners, to how performance and obstacle training can help with herd management and to the introduction of the newly formed AOBA Alpaca Youth Association.



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