A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 2, 2009

What a lovely hat!

Rose Marie in her lovely hay hat

Rose Marie in her lovely hay hat

 

That’s our Rose Marie wearing the latest in alpaca headgear – the hay hat.

As fetching as Rose Marie’s “hat” looks it is something we try to avoid.   The hay on her head will at some point fall off and then possibly land on the blanket area of her fleece or another alpaca.

We do our best to keep our fleeces as free from vegetable matter as possible, it makes preparing the fleeces for show or processing so much easier, and processors do not like to deal with fleece laden with vegetable matter.  Once in the fleece the vegetable matter can shatter making it almost impossible to remove.  If the processor tries to process the fleece with a large amount of vegetable matter still in place it will result in a yarn that has a prickly, harsh feel to it.

In an effort to keep the vegetable matter under control we built our hay feeders so that they are only a few feet off the ground.  This encourages the alpacas to keep their heads down as they eat, rather than to take mouthfuls of hay and then pick their heads up.  With their heads up the alpacas look around and inevitably drop hay on the nearest alpaca contaminating that alpacas fleece.

Further steps we take to protect our fleeces is to put heavy duty wire grids on top of the hay in the hay feeders to help keep the hay in the feeder, plus we put Matilda Sheep covers on some of our alpacas to keep their fleeces out of the wind and fine sand that we have, particularly the young crias with their extra fine fleeces.

 Rose Marie’s “hat” came about on one of the colder days we recently experienced.  We mixed a little alfalfa in with the rest of the hay and the alfalfa leaves dropped to the bottom of the hay feeders.  Rose Marie is particularly fond of alfalfa and in an effort to make sure she didn’t miss out on a single one of the sweet alfalfa leaves she dug deep in the hay feeder and when she lifted her head she was wearing her fetching hat.  We had needed to remove the wire grid from that particular hay feeder that day making it easy for Rose Marie to get her head into the hay and forage for alfalfa leaves.

When it comes to clean fleeces we keep in mind the phrase “clean pastures, clean fleeces” and do our best to reduce the chances for things to get into the alpacas fleeces.  Fortunately the hay Rose Marie had on her head that day was easily removed out of harms way – and rapidly eaten by another alpaca!

 Rosemary

January 3, 2008

Protecting Our Assets From The Weather

Keeva wearing a fleece coverThe spring alpaca shows are rapidly approaching.  The cria class of 2007 has been put into training and is making good progress.  It is interesting to learn more of each cria’s personality as I work with them.  Athena is the thinker of the group and a little headstrong, Velvet is carefree and obliging, Blast is the most insecure about the process flipping his tail in submission and then running to Clarissa to nurse after his session is complete.  In the younger crias Carissima is not quite sure what the purpose of all this halter training is but goes along with it anyway, Kanika seems to enjoy the experience and Zeus is very obliging until there is food around and then he becomes distracted.

For Shiimsa the spring shows will be a continuation of her show career and most likely she will be bred after shearing and then taken off the show string.  Shiimsa does well on the halter but I am including her in my halter training group to refresh her memory and also to provide some stability to the younger alpacas in the group.

With halter training well on its way we decided that we would introduce the show string to their fleece covers.  Fleece covers are a little controversial in the alpaca show world; to us they protect our beautiful fleeces from our relentless winds and fine red dirt.  If we lived in an area with lush green pastures and gentle weather I would most likely not be too concerned about fleece covers, but the elements are against us where we are and so we do use them.  At the end of the day the fleeces that have been protected by the fleece covers are much more desirable to the processors and easier for us to prepare for processing than if the fleeces had been left exposed to our weather and soil.

We do not cover our fleeces year round, but usually put them on in the fall (we’re late this time around!) and remove them after shearing.  The alpacas then go without covers until the following fall.  For newborn crias I leave the fleece covers off until they are at least 30 – 40 lbs.  I don’t want to interfere with the bonding process of the dams and their crias, and I also feel that crias need to run around in just their fleece at least for the first few months of their lives.

The first day of wearing their fleece covers can be a little stressful to the crias, they don’t understand what this thing is on their backs and they have to get used to the feeling of the leg straps.  We keep a very close eye on them as they adapt to life with a fleece cover.  Very occasionally you will get one that just cannot accept the cover and is completely bothered by it, for those crias it is not worth the risk of keeping the cover on and we remove it.  The majority of the crias though settle down after a short while and go back to their usual daily routine.

So with their covers having been put on the crias were allowed a day off from halter training school.  One day off most certainly won’t hurt and by the time school resumes the crias will be used to their covers and able to focus on halter training again.

Rosemary

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