A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 14, 2009

Snow Crusted Crias!

The alpacas swarm in on a hay feeder in the snow

The alpacas swarm in on a hay feeder in the snow


After several dry weeks we finally got some moisture, a couple of inches of wet snow!   Yesterday morning started off with sleet but it soon turned to large white flakes of snow.  The snow soon covered the ground and also covered the alpacas.    Cushed, warm and comfortable the adult alpacas did not want to get up and so stayed cushed getting covered in snow until we started to put out feed.  The crias enjoyed the snow, playing chase, digging in it and nosing it, oblivious to the crust of snow building up on their backs. 

A Snow Crusted Chandra

A Snow Crusted Chandra

It’s amazing how a full fleece can stay on the top of the fleece and almost become an insulating crust.  Look at this close up of Velvet’s fleece to see how the snow just sits on the top.  If you parted that fleece you would discover that she was warm and dry close to the skin.

Velvet's Snow Covered Fleece

The alpacas didn’t seem concerned about the snow and thankfully the wind was light and so the temperature did not feel too bad as we did chores.  Obviously warm clothes and gloves were needed (including of course alpaca socks), but with the right attire doing chores in the snow was really not bad.  Of course I am talking about an Eastern New Mexico snowfall as opposed to a northern state snowfall, which would be much heavier and last for much longer.  I know I can cope with a few days of snow, but I’m definitely not cut out for the several weeks of snow some of the more northern states experience.

 Once the feed and hay was out the alpacas were all quite happy to stand out in the snow and eat from the hay feeders.  I was going to move one our of outside hayfeeders in to one of the shelters but as you can see from the picture below it was quickly surrounded by alpacas who were not keen on me moving it!


The alpacas enjoyed their daily treat of warm soaked beet pulp and we also added a little alfalfa to their hay to help them stay warm throughout the day.  


By the time the snow stopped falling everyone was pretty happy, the alpacas had full stomachs, the crias were having fun and we were happy to see moisture finally soaking our parched ground.



March 24, 2008

From Sun To Snow

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:36 am

Our Open Farm Day went well, with visitors coming and going throughout the day.  Some came to buy products, others came to see the alpacas and some people were interested in learning more about starting their own alpaca farm.

The alpacas all behaved well although the girls kept their distance from the fence line.  They seemed to know that it was in their best interests to stay away from the visitors this time and take things easy.   Asteroid was a star as usual and even tolerated being a participant in a toenail trimming display.  He was ready for a break by the end of the day but with Asteroid as long as he is getting kisses and attention he is quite happy to be touched and talked about.

The weather for Open Farm Day was perfect, in the low 70’s with blue skies and no wind!  We couldn’t have asked for a better day.  The girls did a fair bit of sunbathing, no doubt allowing their unborn crias the benefit of some warmth from the sun and perhaps even a little Vitamin D as the girls stretched out on their sides exposing their bellies – one of the few areas where their fiber coverage is less and perhaps might allow some vitamins to soak through.

Our last visitors left at about 4:15 p.m. giving Ric and I just enough time to draw breath before doing evening chores.

The forecast for Easter Sunday was for snow, and as the temperature was still relatively warm by 9 p.m. we couldn’t imagine that there was the slightest possibility that the weatherman’s prediction could be correct.  We should know better by now, New Mexico Spring weather can quickly swing from one end of the spectrum to the other and by 11 p.m. the winds were howling.  I checked on the alpacas and could see that they had all gathered either in or in front of their shelters for the night.

By Easter morning the snow prediction had come true, the snow was unable to accumulate as the ground was too warm, and the snowflakes that fell were tiny ones, but fall they did.  The temperature hovered just above freezing, not too bad for us to do chores in, but once again the poor alpacas systems were challenged with a 30 –40 degree temperature change. 

The moisture from the snow was most welcome and as the snow fell slowly but constantly throughout the day the moisture was able to soak into the ground. 

This spring is definitely cooler, by this time last year I had been wearing shorts for a least a couple of weeks, but also by this time last year our town had been hit by a tornado.  Easter Sunday (March 23) was the first anniversary of the tornado that hit just a few miles away from our farm.  We were very lucky to be spared any damage or devastation, but other families were not so lucky.  

Our temperature change between Saturday and Sunday was extreme, but I will take that and a little moisture over a tornado any time.  It’s anyone’s guess at the moment what weather we will experience for the rest of Spring and Summer but I am hoping that it will involve at least a little rain and no tornados.


January 16, 2008

Snow Gets a Surprise

Sandia SnowYesterday was another one of those “delightful” windy days on the high plains of Eastern New Mexico.  It started off reasonably calm, but the winds soon picked up again with gusts around 40 mph.  At least it was not cold as well with the temperature staying in the late fifties all day.  Today is supposed to be a different story though as an artic air mass descends upon us causing our daytime high to reach a chilly 28 degrees Fahrenheit and our nighttime low forecast to be 12 degrees.

We will be sure to put extra straw in the shelters for the alpacas to cush on during the course of the day and will be keeping a good eye on the young crias to make sure they are not starting to shiver or show signs of being chilled.  We may even give the alpacas an extra ration of warm soaked beet pulp shreds at evening chore time to help them stay warm throughout the night.

Chores took a little longer yesterday; they always do when you are battling the wind.  We typically start off with the boys’ pastures first and work our way towards the girls’ pastures that are nearer to the house.   It’s quite a challenge to put out hay and scoop poop in the high winds but it has to be done and so we just keep working at a steady pace until everything is completed.

Having put the weanlings in their day weaning pasture I headed back across the girls pasture picking up an empty hay bucket as I went and intending to put the hay bucket and the weanlings halters in the feed barn.

As I turned open the gate to go out of the pasture I heard a commotion.  Turning around I could see some of the alpacas scattering out from one of the feed pens.  I headed toward the pen to be greeted by the site of poor Snow with one of the large hay buckets on her head.  The hay buckets are 16 gallon rigid plastic and measure about 20 inches across, they are so big that I would never have imagined that an alpaca could get one on top of its head, but there was Snow in a total panic with the hay bucket on her head.  I ran toward the pen to go and help Snow and as I reached the pen she managed to get the bucket off her head.  I closed the pen gate and checked her out to make sure she had not hurt herself, she seemed fine just a little shaken and so I gave her a relaxing head rub to calm her down (there is an acupressure point on the very top of the skull which is good for relaxation). 

I am still puzzled as to how Snow managed to get the bucket on her head.  All I can think is that she had knocked it onto its side and then stuck her head into it to get some hay.  By sheer fluke the wind must have had enough force that when she went to lift her head out of the bucket, instead of the bucket coming off her head, it came with up with her.  Who would have thought that the wind could do such a thing?

I hope Snow was not too shaken up by her ordeal, she is only a few months pregnant and a maiden as well and I would hate to think of the stress of her bucket incident causing her to lose her pregnancy.  Snow is usually a calm alpaca, and was not shaking or showing signs of great stress when I examined her and so hopefully everything will be okay.


December 16, 2007

And Now a Good Snow

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:22 am

Snow Day Boys

Yesterday morning we awoke to a couple of inches of pristine white snow.  When I did my usual check out of the windows I could see most of the alpacas were in their shelters huddled together with just a few adventurous souls taking a walk around the pasture.

The snow had been forecast, but the forecasted amount varied quite a lot depending on which weather source we listened to. Prior to the snow there had been a downpour of rain and so underneath our snow is a pretty good layer of ice. 

The good thing about working from home is that when it snows you don’t have to worry about the drive to work, just put on your boots, step outside and there you are.  The snow does make chores a little harder and slower but with only a couple of inches of snow it really was not that bad.

As the sun came out so did the alpacas, little Kanika took off at a gallop enjoying the feeling of the snow flying up on her legs as she ran and she was a little disappointed that no one would join in with her playing.  The other alpacas though were more interested in when their morning feed would arrive and were waiting anxiously by the pasture gates.

Following chores we spent the day pricing some inventory that had arrived for our alpaca product booth downtown.  Later in the day we took the inventory to the booth and rearranged the display.  Fingers crossed we will have enough inventory to last us through the Christmas period.  Unfortunately our next order of socks has been put on back order, partly due to the demand for the socks and partly due to one of the mills sock machines breaking down.

Before we knew it chore time was here again.  The alpacas were once again hungry (cold weather has that effect on them!) and it’s always fun to try and push your way through the crowd of alpacas at the gate when you are carrying a full bucket of hay and the alpacas are hungry, ready to dive in the moment you enter the pasture.

Once everyone was fed, watered and scooped it was then time to wrap up the day with a nice evening walk through the snow with Tripster and Missy, two of our dogs.  Both dogs walk fairly well on the leash, but their attention is often diverted by the rabbits on the farm who are getting increasingly bold, so the walk can become a bit of a workout at times.   Still the three of us made it through the walk without slipping on the snow.

The temperature today is supposed to be warmer and I suspect by the end of the day all the snow will be gone at least until next Friday when the forecast is for snow again.  Who knows if we carry on with this weather pattern we may even end up with a White Christmas.


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