A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 13, 2009

Off To The Show They Go

In the early hours of Thursday morning Ric and I loaded up the alpacas going to the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular into our trailer and then Ric drove the seven or so hours to Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Ric’s journey was long but uneventful and the alpacas are now in their pens at the showground.  Atlas, Pride, Mags, Kaneka, Athena, Song, Zianna and Dream are the alpacas at the show this time and with the exception of Kaneka and Athena this is the first show for this group.

 

Ric reports that for the most part the alpacas are doing well, Zianna though is doing quite a bit of humming and seeking attention and Dream is also humming too and was not pleased to have her fleece color checked at the showgrounds – she growled at the volunteers checking her fleece!  Dream is so much like her dam Rosie who is very vocal and has that same growl when she wants to express displeasure.

 

The alpacas will not start showing until Saturday, so they will have time to settle into their surroundings before the classes start.  Ric will walk them as and when he can to get them used to their new surroundings.  Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas, our alpaca neighbors (they also have alpacas in Clovis, NM) will be arriving on Friday and will take over caring and showing our alpacas for us.

 

Ric will be pretty busy during the show as he is the show superintendent along with his business partner Danette McCleary.  Danette and Ric worked together as Show Superintendents in a volunteer capacity at some earlier alpaca shows and worked so well together that they decided to form a company M & M Supers and contract to work as show superintendents at various alpaca shows around the country.  The position of the Show Superintendent at the show is a big one, among the show superintendent’s duties is the receipt and verification of all of the entries, compilation of the class list, contracting the judges and ensuring the health and color compliance checks are carried out on all alpacas at the show.  The show superintendent basically coordinates the show making sure it runs smoothly – with over 500 alpacas at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular that adds up to a lot of hard work.

 

As for me, I have remained home to care for the herd and will anxiously wait to hear how our young alpacas do at the show.   We have spent many hours preparing our young alpacas for the show and can only hope that they show well.  Here’s hoping for lots of ribbons, preferably in blue (1st place) and purple (Color Champion and Reserve Color Champion)

Rosemary

December 24, 2008

Mom!!!!

 

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

The weaning crias rushing back to their dams

 

 

I think that was the general cry as we let the fall crias back into the main pen following their first day of day weaning.  You can see from the blur of running weanlings in the photo above that they did not hang about in returning to their mothers!

 

The weanlings all handled their first day well, although some were definitely more at ease than others.  Zianna, Stormy and Pride walked over with us to the weaning pen without hesitation, while Dream and Annochia had already figured out that this was not going to be what they wanted and balked at the process of crossing the pasture.  Serenity and Atlas walked over with plenty of head turning and wondering where they were going.  Song being an orphan did not have a dam to worry about leaving, but was more concerned about staying with her buddies.  Song is no longer taking a bottle as Ric finished weaning Song and Mags off the bottle while I was in England.  Mags is already in with the juvenile male group and is settling in well.  Once they are weaned Pride, Stormy and Atlas will be joining him there.

 

During the day we kept an eye on the weanling group and for the most part they stayed in their shelter eating hay.  It was one of those windy New Mexico afternoons (sustained winds around 25 mph), helping encourage the weanlings to remain in the shelter and distracting them from watching the fence line for their dams.  There were a couple of times when one or two of them did come to the fence to look for their dams, but they soon returned to the weanling group when they realized that they could not get to their dams through the fence.

 

To help add some stability to the group we put a few of the maiden alpacas in the pen with them.  Kanika, Carissima and Velvet did a good job of calmly going about their daily business, reassuring the weanlings that all was well with the world.  We have found that the addition of two or three older alpacas in a weanling group helps provide an element of calm in what can be a stressful time for the weanlings.

 

Out of the whole group I think Annochia took the weaning the hardest.  A member of the Bjorn family, a very close family group of alpacas, she was not at all pleased about being away from her dam Anya, making me wonder if she will be as hard to wean as her dam was.  Both Anya and her sister Keeva took a lot of persuading when it came to the subject of weaning and I suspect Annochia may be the same.

 

As often is the case, the dams were not at all concerned about the crias being away for the day.  Serenity’s dam Snow did initially wander over and look through the fence at the weanling group, but soon returned to join the other alpacas at the hay feeder.

 

By evening chores though the weanlings were telling me they were more than ready to go back to their dams.   As you can see once the gate was opened they rushed to be reunited with their dams and then nursed hungrily as if they hadn’t eaten all day!

 

Today we will repeat the process again, and will continue to do so for about two weeks before the weanlings take the next step of staying away from their dams overnight.  Usually by that time they have adjusted to being away from their dams and will take the next step in their stride.  (Lets hope Annochia agrees with me on that point when the time comes!)

 

Rosemary

 

October 30, 2008

Mags Takes A Step In The Right Direction

 

For some time now we have been trying to persuade Mags, the orphaned cria, that trying some alpaca pellets would be a good thing to do.  For those new to the blog, Mags was orphaned the day after he was born and has been having a trying time learning that he is in an alpaca not a human, or that humans are not alpacas.

 

Behaviorally Mags has made slow but steady progress.  He is much calmer around humans and has learnt to keep a respectful distance.  Once in a while he will transgress in his behavior, usually when we have had a farm visit, but he is still young and there is time to get him on the right path before hormones kick in and complicate things.

 

One of the things that is a delight to see is Mags joining in with the evening cria play.  When he first arrived he was very much the loner, with the exception of Song (another orphaned cria) he rarely interacted with the other alpacas voluntarily.  Now he will sometimes join in as the other crias race and prong around the pasture.  Slowly but surely he is becoming part of the herd.

 

At 56 lbs and five months old Mags really does not need the three bottles of milk a day we have been giving him.  With Mags though, the bottle has become more of a security blanket than a nutritional need and the sight of his bottle also seems to instigate some of his bad behavior.

 

Last Saturday I decided that it was time to cut Mags and Song back to two bottles.  It had been a busy day with the birth of Melody’s cria and I went past the time of the mid day bottle.  Both Mags and Song did not seem bothered, going about their business eating hay and lying in the sunshine.  I watched the two throughout the afternoon and neither one came and paced by the fence, so the mid day bottle was dropped and has not returned.

 

Having dropped the mid day bottle the next challenge was to get Mags to try some alpaca pellets.  Song has been eating pellets for a little while now and needed no encouragement in eating, but Mags had, to date, refused to have anything to do with the pellets.

 

Every day we had been putting him in with the other crias in his age group, hoping that their behavior would encourage him to eat pellets too.   Mags though would not join in, preferring to sulk in the corner.  Occasionally he might take one pellet in his mouth, roll it around and then spit it out again, but that was the best that he would do.  Hay was not a problem to Mags and he ate that willingly, but pellets just didn’t capture his attention.

 

On Sunday I happened to have a bowl of feed with me when Mags came into one of the shelters.   No other alpacas were around and so I offered him the feed bowl to see what he would do.   At first he did his usual trick of taking one pellet and spitting it out, but then very gently he tried another one and this time he chewed it and swallowed it – progress!  For several minutes Mags slowly took small mouthfuls of the pellets and ate them.

 

At evening chores Mags went into the cria pen as usual, the cria group eat out of communal troughs and are quite comfortable establishing their place at the troughs, but for Mags I felt that perhaps the troughs were too competitive, so I took him a small bowl of pellets and set it down in front of him.  Slowly he lowered his head and started eating.

 

The next day at feeding time I was prepared to do the same for Mags, but before I could put his bowl down he already had his head in one of the trays and was eating – finally!

 

So Mags has taken another step in the direction of acting like an alpaca, for the moment he is quite timid in his approach to eating pellets which surprises me given his usual boisterous personality.  Maybe in time that will change, maybe he is still adjusting to the fact that he is an alpaca and feels he is low in the pecking order in the cria group.  Still there continues to be hope for Mags.  I feel he will always need mindful handling, especially as he approaches and reaches breeding age, but we have time and experience on our hands and I hope with those two commodities Mags will one day be able to be a well mannered breeding male who produces champion offspring.

 

Rosemary

October 5, 2008

Update on Mags and Song – and Happy Birthday Linda!

Mags and Song Share A Piece Of Hay

Mags and Song Share A Piece Of Hay

The two orphan crias Mags and Song are growing well.  They still get a bottle three times a day.  Song has been taking less milk each feeding and is down to between 4 – 8 oz per feeding.  Once Song has finished with her bottle she is quite adamant that she does not want any more milk, but will often try and nurse from Mags, which I suspect, is more for comfort than for food.

 

Mags on the other hand is not keen on reducing his milk intake.  As big as he is, it is time for him to start a gentle process of weaning from the bottle.  While Song happily eats hay and alpaca pellets, Mags will occasionally take one pellet in his mouth and play with it but that is it.  He does eat hay, which is a good thing, but I feel he is too reliant on the milk bottle.  So we have started to reduce the amount of milk in his bottle.  That hasn’t gone over well with Mags and set him back a little on his bad behavior, but we continue to be consistent in managing his behavior and taking him through the weaning process.

 Mags Runs To Greet Me 

It is quite sweet to see Mags and Song together, they tend to eat hay together during the day and they often cush next to each other at night.  Song has started to buddy up a little with one of the other crias Stormy, while Pride has tried hard to engage Mags in play but Mags shows little interest in cria games.  I feel that Mags might always be a bit of a loner but maybe when we transition him to the junior males pen he will interact more with the older boys as he develops.

 

On a separate note, today is a special day as it is the birthday of my dear friend Linda.  Linda has recently moved into a new house and is busy remodeling it to make it her dream home, and I know that the results of her labor will be beautiful.  I don’t know if Linda will have time to read this blog in between her remodeling projects, but I know she is a frequent reader of the blog and I would be most remiss to not wish her a very Happy Birthday and thank her for being the wonderful friend that she is.  (Oh and by the way Linda when you have finished remodeling your house we have one over here you can come and work on!).  Have a wonderful birthday and don’t work too hard!

 

Rosemary

 

 

September 2, 2008

Waitress Service Please!

 

The bottle feeding education of Song is going well, I thought it might take her a couple of days to adjust to us moving the bottle away from Mags, but today she latched onto the bottle with ease.  Now we just have to figure out the best system for one person to feed them both at once, as that will sometimes be necessary.  Mags is the most insistent about his bottle and will take his through the fence so we are thinking that it would work best to put Mags in a pen, have the person feeding stand in an adjoining pen, offer Mags his bottle through the fence and then get Song started on her bottle in the pen where the person feeding is standing.

 

With the arrival of the three new girls for breeding (Moonshadow, Arianna and Sonora) we have put the weanlings back in with the main herd to allow the pasture they were in to be used as a quarantine pen.  Our quarantine pen is quite adaptable and with a series of gates and panels can easily be converted to allow a 10 ft alleyway between that pen and the main herd.

 

Putting the weanlings back in with the main herd was not a problem, in fact we had tried it on two previous occasions, but Kaneka had returned to nurse from her dam Chai both times.  As Chai is pregnant we did not want Kaneka to stimulate Chai to produce milk which could in turn cause Chai to abort the pregnancy she is carrying.  This time Kaneka did try to nurse on the first day, but Chai kicked her away a couple of times and so hopefully Kaneka now has the message that the milk bar is closed.

 

For the first day or so of feeding we know it is going to be chaos as the weanlings try and figure out which pen to eat in.  Ric has put together an additional pen and we have figured out the best combination of which girls go into which pens, trying to match them up by the speed at which they eat and their nutritional requirements.  Alpacas are smart though and I am sure the herd will soon figure out who goes where.  Once the girls have learned which pen they eat in it is not unusual to find them standing in the pen waiting for us to bring them their food.  Waitress service I guess!

 

Rosemary

September 1, 2008

Sometimes You Just Have to Be a Little Crafty

Song learns to take a bottle from under Mags

Song learns to take a bottle from under Mags

 

Song and Mags the two orphaned crias have been with us for four days now, we have been getting to know them and they have been getting to know us.

 

Mags, the handsome boy,  is going to take some work to get him into an alpaca frame of mind, but we are seeing some subtle signs that give us hope that he can grow into a well adjusted male alpaca.  He is spending less time standing by the gate looking for us and more time eating hay and sitting a little closer to the main alpaca group.  He still will not eat any pellets, but he is eating hay and gets a bottle three times a day.   Mags does have moments of inappropriate behavior but we are consistent in correcting him and he appears to be slowly learning.

 

But along with Mags own problems he has brought a solution to a different problem.  Despite not being interested in a bottle, little Song has been searching for milk.  She has tried to nurse off our dams, but our dams are not willing to accommodate that.  Inca the llama is still eyeing up Song and I still feel in time those two will hook up, but in the meantime Song persistently tries to get milk from any source she feels is appropriate.

 

On Saturday Ric fed some weeds he had pulled to the girls pen and while the girls were busily eating Song managed to have a good nurse from Anya and Ivanna, until they took a break from weed eating and realized that the cria nursing from them was not theirs.

 

We had noticed that when we fed Mags his bottle, Song would try and nurse from Mags.  Now as Mags is a male alpaca, there is only one appendage on him where an alpacas udder would be and there is no way Song is going to get milk from there! 

 

Having watched Song try and nurse from Mags I had an idea.  If Song thought that Mags could give her milk, why don’t we go along with it and put a milk source there.

 

So it was that we went out into the pasture on Saturday evening armed with two bottles of milk.  We brought Mags into one of the shelters and Ric started to give him his bottle.  Once Mags was busy we waited for Song to put her head under Mags and start “nursing” from him.  I had prepared the second bottle of milk for Song and put some watered down Hi-Cal (a sweet high calorie supplement) on the nipple of the bottle to give it a good taste.  Kneeling on the other side of Mags I maneuvered the nipple of the bottle toward Song’s mouth, squeezing it to put a little of the milk on the tip of the nipple.  Carefully I started to put the nipple into the side of Song’s mouth as she nursed from Mags.  I think both Ric and I were holding our breath as we waited to see what Song would do, and thankfully she did exactly as we hoped she would, she took the nipple into her mouth and drank the milk from the bottle.  Eureka!

 

Song drank heartily and Mags was not at all concerned about the activity going on around him.  His only concern was his milk bottle.  As Song continued to nurse I tried to bring the bottle round so that she was no longer under Mags, but as soon as the bottle was moved away from Mags she rejected it and went back to trying to nurse from Mags.   In Song’s mind, milk only comes from under an alpaca!

 

So now we have a plan.  For the next few days we will continue to hold the bottle under Mags to get Song to nurse.  Hopefully she will start to recognize her own scent and Mags scent on that bottle and day-by-day, inch-by-inch we will gradually offer the bottle away from Mags.  It will be a delicate process but hopefully we will get to the point where I no longer have to kneel down and put the bottle under Mags in order for Song to take it.  However if that’s what it takes to get Song to take a bottle then that is what we will have to do, although it will mean two people will be needed to feed Mags and Song at the same time.  If Song is persistent in refusing the bottle away from Mags it may be that we can set up a bottle holder for Mags’ bottle, get him to start taking his bottle and then hold Songs bottle underneath him for her to nurse.

 

So you see sometimes it does pay to be just a little crafty!

 

(You can see our milk maneuvers in the picture at the top of this blog entry.   On Sunday Marilyn Knudsen and Roberto Ibarra of Altiplano Alpacas and also Melita Clark and Mark Hogan of Milagro Meadow Alpacas visited us to deliver three alpaca girls for breeding.   Roberto helped me to feed Mags while Marilyn kindly took pictures.   Thank you Roberto and Marilyn for helping to capture the moment!)

Rosemary

August 30, 2008

Well – They could be Twins!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Cria Care, Crias, General, guard llamas, llama — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 6:56 am

 

The two orphaned crias Song and Mags have arrived at the farm and are going through the process of trying to settle in.  It has to be strange for them both (although Mags did spend one day here on another occasion).  They have new places to check out, new faces to see and a new routine to their day.  All in all the two did well today, they were a little confused at evening feeding but give them a couple of days and they will soon get the hang of things.

 

Of course our crias were overjoyed to check out the new arrivals, their curious faces looking first from a distance before they charged over to see who the new arrivals were.  Once our crias were nearer it was immediately apparent that we have a problem – Zianna and Song are almost identical!  Apart from the fact that Zianna has fawn fiber on the bridge of her nose and Song has white fiber with a little snip of fawn on the bridge of her nose the two crias look like twins and they are not even related.

 

I wasn’t able to snap a picture of the “twins” today, but will try and get one over the next few days.  One sure way to tell them apart is that Ivanna will allow Zianna to nurse from her but will not allow Song to do so.  Poor little Song had a try but after first thinking that Song was Zianna, Ivanna bent around to sniff the cria nursing from her and realized that it was not hers and chased her away.

 

Song has so far refused to take a bottle, and we are hoping that Inca the llama will take to Song and allow her to nurse, but even Inca seemed confused at the sudden presence of two Ziannas!  Song does eat hay and a little of the alpacas pellets but we are sure some llama milk would please her.

 

Mags in the meantime looks completely different from anyone else in the pasture.  He is a striking male and a beautiful rich dark brown in color.  Mags is not entirely convinced he is an alpaca and tends to pay more attention to humans, so we are working on helping him integrate more with the other crias so that he can learn that he really is an alpaca while he is still young.  As the saying goes “Rome was not built in a day” and it will take time for Mags to realize he is really an alpaca, but I am sure over time the chase and play of the cria group will appeal to his alpaca nature and convince him that those four legged alpacas are much more interesting than the two legged humans.

 

Rosemary

August 29, 2008

There’s Nothing Like A Piece Of Hay In Your Mouth (if you’re a cria that is!)

Atlas with his never ending piece of hay

Atlas with his never ending piece of hay

 

As the crias grow and start to experiment with eating hay, they go through a stage when it seems as if they always have to have a piece of hay in their mouth.  If you watch them they chew on it, turn it around in their mouth and carry it proudly, but they never seem to swallow it.  On numerous occasions I have had to take a piece of hay out of Dream’s mouth before she has her bottle, and I can guarantee she is looking for that piece of hay to put back in her mouth as soon as she is finished.

 

The picture at the top of this post is not as I hoped it would be.  Just seconds earlier Atlas, Pride and Dream had been standing in a line, each one with that “never ending” piece of hay in their mouth.  They looked so sweet as they stood together, but as usual when I went to take their picture they all moved and the only one I captured was Atlas – and even then you can barely see the piece of hay in his mouth.

 

I don’t know whether at this stage the crias are just enjoying the sensation and taste of the hay in their mouth, or whether they want something to constantly chew on as their teeth develop.  All of the crias can and do eat hay now and have no problem chewing and swallowing it, but a lot of the time they will be wandering around the pasture with that one lone piece of hay in their mouth.

 

Today our cria group is going to be joined by a couple of new additions.  Not newborn crias (I can’t predict when that will happen and the girls wouldn’t let me anyway), but rather two orphaned crias.  One of them is a male cria “Mags” (not his registered name but that is what we call him) whose dam Maggie unfortunately died following delivering Mags.  We are actually in the process of becoming co-owners of Mags with our friends Bob and Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas.  Mags is a striking cria and brings with him some beautiful fleece qualities from his sire Andean Night and his grandsire General Schwarzkopf.  Bob and Regina have put in many hours bottle feeding Mags and feel it is now time that he come and join our cria group and start to integrate more with alpacas closer to his own age.  The other cria coming to our farm is “Song”, a female cria whose dam died following an accident.  Song has been doing well since her dam died and eats some hay and pellets but we are hoping that she will take advantage of our nursemaid llamas to give her some milk in her diet. 

 

I am sure that the two new crias will enjoy the company of our sociable little cria group, and hope that they will soon be joining in the nightly cria games.  Our crias are just about ready to start on a little more structured handling and halter training, so after a few days to allow Songs and Mags to get used to their new surroundings they too will be joining in cria school – probably each with a piece of hay in their mouth!

 

Rosemary

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