A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 21, 2008

A Few Updates

For those of you who have been following the blog on a regular basis you might be wondering on the progress of some of the animals on the farm that have been mentioned in previous blog entries.  For the most part the news is good, and I thought you would like to hear how everyone is doing.

First I will start off with Zoie’s cria Zeus who was having such a tough time gaining weight during his first few months.  I am happy to report that Zeus is doing really well, he has started to show better weight gain and is turning out to be a good looking boy with lots of fleece.  He is still compact in frame, but his sire has a compact body shape and so that probably has a lot to do with Zeus’s frame style.  Zeus is starting to develop the same heavy bone as his sire too and I suspect he is going to be quite the stud when he matures!  (He thinks he has already matured and frequently tries his hand at trying to convince the girls he is ready for a date!)

Our girl Chai still is not 100%, she eats well and her energy levels are good but despite gaining back about 20 lbs of the weight she lost she sill has a gaunt appearance.  Her milk production has increased and her cria Kanika is a little mischief and doing well.  We drew blood from her yesterday (thank you to Bob Dart from Llano Soleado Alpacas for coming out on a cold morning to do that for us) and will see what her blood levels show this time around.  Chai has been off antibiotics for a little while now and hopefully her white blood cell count will have stabilized.  When we ran a fecal test on Chai she showed the lowest of levels of parasites but our vet advised us to worm her anyway.  Chai seemed to gain weight once we wormed her and I am going to worm her again to see how she responds this time.  As I mentioned in an entry the other day Chai has experienced a return of the facial abscess that we thought had cleared up, something that indicates to me that perhaps her immune system is not quite up to par.  Chai doesn’t seem to think she has a problem though and is first in line for food and eager to eat hay.  She has even started “arguing” with the other girls if they try to steal her spot at the hayrack.

Blast, Velvet, Athena and Shiimsa have made excellent progress with their halter training and day weaning.  We will be completing the final stages of weaning in the next week or so and preparing them for their first trip away from home (with the exception of Shiimsa who has been to a show before).

On the “pet” side of things, Toby the Pomeranian has continued to make excellent progress in his recovery from his vaccine reaction.  His medication has again been reduced and we are down to visiting the vet only every other week, however recent blood tests have shown that so far Toby is still not producing enough red blood cells.  The vet is hopeful that the reduction in medication may help that situation.  Toby has gained weight and is almost back to his old self, but does tend to be a little grumpier and is most likely more spoiled than he was before (is that possible I ask!).

Snuggler the barn cat has decided that he still enjoys time outside with his barn cat buddies.  He is completely recovered from his injuries and spends most of his time outside, but has figured out that he can get food in the house in the morning and then food down at the barn as well.  He often stays out overnight, something that causes me concern as I am not 100% sure that the dog that has been killing our cats and which injured Snuggler is not still paying us visits at night.  I must say that I have been surprised that during this cold snap that Snuggler has chosen to stay out in the cold rather than to stay in the warm house at night.   There have been a couple of nights that Snuggler has graced us with his presence but most nights he wants to be out and with his friends.

And finally there is Bandit the dog who is still with us.  We did have one family contact us about Bandit but unfortunately they did not follow up on their enquiry about him.  Bandit does not seem too concerned and enjoys his twice daily walks.  He loves to fetch a ball and has figured out where all the water sources on the property are – something that is a necessity to him as he still thinks it is fun to turn over his water bowl and then throw it up in the air for fun!  Bandit has a set routine on his walk when he takes off to visit Missy and Tripster the two dogs in the back yard, he then diverts over to see Sandie our other dog who has her own side yard (she doesn’t play well with others).  Once the visits are over Bandit gallops back to me at breakneck speed and then sits and waits for the reward of a dog biscuit.  We are still trying to find Bandit a good home and the pressure is now on to rehouse him as he is currently staying in the livestock trailer which we will need to use for the show in February.

As time goes by the girls in the alpaca herd are looking more pregnant each day, its hard to believe that in a few months we will be in cria season with more “little zippers” cavorting around the pasture – and hopefully warmer weather too!


December 20, 2007

Christmas? Next Tuesday? I’d better get busy!

Snuggler and Six ToesDuring a conversation with Ric yesterday he mentioned a function we will be attending this Saturday.  I was surprised that the function was coming so soon as in my mind I thought it was the following Saturday, even more surprising to me was that if Saturday December 22 is this Saturday that means Christmas Day is Tuesday! 

So yesterday was spent shopping for groceries so that the evening could be spent doing our holiday baking.  Fortunately I had already planned what I was going to bake and had most of the supplies on hand.  Some of the treats we are making need to be refrigerated overnight before the next stage of baking and so later today we will be having fun cutting out and decorating alpaca shaped ginger bread cookies, llama shaped Christmas cookies (we use the same cookie cutter but just change the shape of the ears and the position of the tail) and probably some dog, cat and horse shaped cookies to represent the rest of our furry family.

The previous night young Snuggler, the barn cat who now lives inside, had almost driven me to distraction with his high spirits and energy.  During the course of the evening he tried to steal my dinner, batted the Christmas tree branches, tried using the wooden alpaca as a scratching post and then resorted to launching himself onto me with all claws extended during my Pilates session.  Needless to say he is probably short of a life or two now!

I really didn’t want to have to battle a young cat whilst baking and was trying to figure out how to keep him calm when I remembered that the dogs will usually all fall asleep if I put the right music on the CD player, so I looked out a Christmas CD and bingo that was the end of Snuggler’s high jinx for the night as he curled up next to Six Toes for a good long nap.

While the baking we did yesterday and today is for humans, I think it only right that the animals get a treat too, so the dogs will be getting some peanut butter treats which include all sorts of good things such as flax seed meal and the alpacas ………. well I have yet to find a good recipe for alpaca treats but I know there is one out there somewhere.  Most likely I can adapt a horse treat recipe (and then kill two birds with one stone as I will have treats for the horses too).  Of course if worse comes to worse the alpacas, llamas and horses will probably be content with some chopped carrots and apples.  They have finished the last of their pumpkins and so will be ready for something new to nibble on.

Once the baking is finished then I suppose I should get on with some Christmas gift wrapping and I can pretty much bet a certain young cat will be wanting to lend a hand and probably will be losing another of those nine lives in the process!


November 11, 2007

Gremlins and Gratitude

Yesterday’s herd health day went really well and while we didn’t finish the whole herd we are more than three quarters of the way through with our health checks.   We were joined for part of the day by Jan and Corky Green of Muleshoe, Texas who are new alpaca owners.  Jan and Corky will have their alpacas delivered to their farm at the beginning of December and are looking forward to getting to know their herd.  Jan and Corky were a great help yesterday and had lots of good questions to ask during the course of the day.

In addition to our herd health day we also had five girls scheduled for behavior testing.  All five girls were about 14 days post breeding, so while they may have rejected the male last weekend when tested, indicating that they had cycled, yesterday’s behavior test was more of an indication as to whether we had a pregnancy started in any of the girls.  There must have been gremlins in the air as three of the girls cushed when introduced to the male and had to be bred again.  The other two though rejected the male and will be behavior tested again next weekend.  Fingers crossed we have some more little crias in the making.

It seems those pesky gremlins were also at work on our vehicles last week, as one by one they all broke down.  I think the three of them got together and conspired to see how much inconvenience they could cause us!  Our big truck will be fixed by Monday afternoon and thanks to a good relationship with the truck dealership we were able to borrow a vehicle for the weekend, the other two vehicles are going to take a little longer to fix though.  Oh well we can at least be grateful that one of the vehicles will be back with us pretty soon.

Today we will finish off the rest of our herd health checks in the morning leaving the afternoon free to enter everything into the computer bringing our records up to date.

For those reading this wondering about the progress of our barn cat Snuggler you will be pleased to hear he is making good progress.  He is putting a lot more weight on his front leg although he still is not using it normally; he shows improvement every day and is now happy to come into the house for the night.  With winter coming I am sure the warm house will start to become even more attractive to him.  Tomorrow we take him back for a recheck at the vet and I am sure the vet will be pleased at Snuggler’s progress.   We are so grateful that he is making such a good recovery and that he is settling in to his new life indoors at least in the evenings. 

So all in all a good end to the week, despite failing trucks and injured barn cats, we will have to wait and see what next week brings, but lets hope it involves less gremlins and more good things.


November 6, 2007

An Invalid of A Different Kind

Snuggler Enjoying the Sunshine  On any farm you usually find an assortment of various animals, some are production animals, some are companions, and others have a different function around the farm.  Here at Windrush Alpacas in addition to our alpaca herd we have two horses (usually described as our lawn ornament horses as they have an easy life and have little to worry about all day), four dogs, one fish, one inside cat and our herd of barn cats.

I say our “herd” of barn cats as when we first purchased our property that is indeed what they were.  The previous owner of the property had asked us if we wanted a few barn cats left behind and we, in our naivety, thought he meant two or three.  He actually meant 20 and the balance of the cat “herd” he moved with him, but only to a house across the road.  So in our initial years here there was a steady traffic of cats between our house and the property across the road.

Over the years our barn cat population has dwindled, some of the older cats passed away, some became ill and died and others were lost to an attack by our neighbor’s dog.   Our barn cat population was thereby reduced to six regulars and one visiting tomcat.

It is really interesting to watch a cat group and see the dynamics and interaction between them.  A couple of the cats would actually seek out our attention, but for the most parts the cats have no interest in us except for when the cat food is put out twice a day.

One of the friendlier cats is Snuggler.  We have had Snuggler from a kitten and he always has been content to hang out with the humans.  He is a great mouser and snake hunter, but also a very gentle cat who loves some attention and has a ready purr to share with anyone who strokes him.

Yesterday morning when Ric went down to feed the barn cats he found Snuggle in bad shape.  Poor Snuggler was covered in blood and had some pretty deep puncture wounds; he had lost some claws and also could not put any weight on his left front leg that was completely floppy.   There has been a large black and white tomcat hanging around our property for a while now and we know that he fights with Snuggler on a pretty regular basis.  On finding Snuggler in such poor shape we assumed that he had been fighting with the tomcat.

We brought Snuggler into the house and allowed him to curl up in the bed of our house cat Six Toes (who really does have six toes on every paw).  We put a nice soft piece of plush fabric in the bed for Snuggler to lie on and then set to washing off some of the blood.  You would think as sore as he was feeling Snuggler would have not been thrilled at our attention, but instead he started purring as I washed away the blood.

Fortunately we were able to get Snuggler in to see our small animal vet, she kept him for a few hours, cleaned him up some more, x-rayed him and started him on antibiotics.  Amazingly there are no breaks in any of Snugglers bones, but because of the swelling our vet cannot tell if there is any nerve damage to Snugglers front left leg.  His right rear leg has some loosening of the patella, and while he cannot put his full weight on that leg either our vet is hopeful that he will regain full use of that leg over time.  The front leg too may recover, but it is going to take longer to heal and it will be a time before we will be able to tell if it will ever return to a normal condition.

Our vet feels that because of the depth of the puncture wounds and the way that Snuggler lost some claws during the fight that the attacker was most likely a dog.  Snuggler must have put up a tremendous fight for his survival.

Cats can be incredibly resilient and hopefully Snuggler will make a full recovery, however there is one thing that may affect his progress and that is Snuggler has tested positive for Feline Leukemia.  It is a little bit puzzling to us how Snuggler can be positive for Feline Leukemia, as we are sure he tested negative as a kitten when we had his initial vaccinations done and we have kept his vaccinations current.  The Feline Leukemia will affect his immune system and that may hinder his recovery.  Over time he will most likely succumb to the leukemia or rather to some form of infection that his weakened immune system cannot battle, but our vet has seen cats with Feline Leukemia live good lives for several years and so we will hope that he has several happy years ahead of him.

For now Snuggler is content to sleep as cats often do when they are healing.  He only wakes every couple of hours or so, sometimes choosing to eat or drink a little, other times just checking his surroundings and then curling back up again.  He still purrs as we stroke him and we are hopeful that our gentle loving touch will help keep his spirits up and help him battle his pain.

We cannot be sure of what happened to Snuggler, we have reinforced our perimeter fences and gates since the previous set of dogs attacked our cats, but it is always possible that one crafty dog is still making it’s way onto the property.  Our outside dogs and the guard llamas have however been silent at night and they usually will alert us to dogs on our property.  Maybe Snuggler was injured on a neighbor’s property and managed to somehow drag himself home, or maybe the big tomcat is the culprit, I suspect we will never know the full details of how Snuggler received his injuries.

All we can do is take the best care that we can of this tiny black and white cat who has a big heart and a heap of courage, and hope that he will make a full recovery with time.


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