A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

February 20, 2008

Back Home and Getting Back to Routine (Well Trying Anyway)

The days we were away at the show were long and busy and unfortunately I was unable to get to the computer to make any blog entries.  Most days we worked from early in the morning until the early hours of the next morning, and I don’t know that I would have made much sense if I had attempted to update the blog.  We finally made it home by 8 a.m. Monday morning – just in time to do chores!

All in all the show seemed to go well.  The fleece show went really well and I had a wonderful group of volunteers who worked hard, were fun to be around and made the fleece show go smoothly – a big thank you to all of those volunteers but in particular to Mary Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas, Chip Stanley of Rafter DS Alpacas and my sister in law Dena Buffington who stayed with the fleece show for the duration of the show.  A thank you also to the fleece show judges Ruth Elvestad and Sara Jane Maclennan who were a pleasure to work with.

Weather played a part in upsetting the organization of the show.  A large storm system brought snow and ice to many parts of the US and both judges and exhibitors experienced travel delays causing them to be late arriving at the show. 

In addition Ric was unwell for most of the show, but being Ric refused to stop working.  We finally got him to a doctor yesterday to be told he has a bad case of the flu and is likely to be laid up for several days as he recovers.

A thank you also has to go to our “farm sitting team” which consisted of our vet’s wife Charlotte Orton (ably assisted by her two little girls Ruby and Shelby who walked the dogs and sat with Toby while he ate his food), our friend Justus Anderson (who know considers himself an “alpaca wrangler”)  our teenage helper Bethany Heaton and her father Bill Heaton.  As Monday was a holiday and the schools were out Bethany showed up at our farm on Monday morning to do chores and she was a very welcome site when we pulled into the driveway after driving all night.  Justus also ended up with an extra stint of chores on Tuesday, but more on that later.

So now we have the task of getting back to normal, which in Ric’s case also means trying to get back to good health.  There are the end of show reports to be done, but they will not be too time consuming and then of course there is all of the equipment in the trailer to be unloaded, cleaned and put away ready for the next show.

It was good to see many of our alpaca friends at the show, and we were able to spend a little time catching up on news with some of them.  There were some beautiful alpacas at the show too, and while I was unable to see much of the halter show I did take the opportunity to have a walk around the alpaca barn late one night and get an “alpaca fix”

The alpacas we took to the show did well, for most of them it was their first show and they handled the experience well.  We also had some good show results, in particular the offspring of our herdsire Enchantment’s Prince Regent did really well – but more on that tomorrow …………….


February 13, 2008

On The Road To Fort Worth, Texas

The day has arrived for us to head down to Fort Worth to prepare the show grounds for the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show itself does not start until Friday but there is much work to be done before the exhibitors arrive and start checking in.  The last few weeks have been hectic with show preparations and so it is good to see the show drawing closer and knowing that it will soon all be behind us.

Of course leaving the farm is no easy task, the animals can not be left to fend for themselves and there are not too many people who want to spend their time caring for over 50 alpacas, two horses, five cats and four dogs.  In fact we have five people coming in to help with various tasks at various times in order to keep everything going.  Thank goodness for friends!  We have had a couple of run throughs with our helpers and so far so good, at the end of the day as long as all of the animals get food, water and good shelter (and a couple of walks at least for the dogs) then everyone should be fine.

It is inevitable that things seem to go wrong just before we leave, Toby the Pomeranian started with a virus or infection so it was back to the vet for more medicine.  Thankfully Toby’s latest health issue seems to be minor, but as we have fought hard to keep him healthy it is troubling to think that he is not 100% as we leave him for a few days.  He is still his lively, bright active self and so we hope that is an indication that he will be fine.

One of the alpacas Rosie decided to get a hair in her eye and then rub her eye on some hay in an effort to get the hair out.  The hay did nothing to help her eye, we did manage to get the hair out of her eye and have been bathing it and treating it in order to soothe it for her.

Then of course there is the weather.  Fine today but Thursday and Friday are forecast for snow, and possibly a lot of it.  Why does it seem that whenever we leave the farm the weather takes a turn for the worst and the poor farm sitters are left to struggle in the elements – Murphy’s Law I suppose!

Just to add another dimension of interest to our travels Ric has now completely lost his voice!  For the last couple of days I have had to act as his interpreter on the phone as it is almost impossible to understand him. 

It just seems to be a rule of thumb that life takes an awkward turn every time we leave for a show, or is it just our perception that things are that way.  Once we arrive at the show grounds I know our feet will hardly touch the ground, but I also know everything will work out and the show will go off well.

 The blog entries will probably be sporadic over the next few days, but I will try and post at least a little update as to how the show is going.  For those of you attending the show we look forward to seeing you there and wish you safe travels on your journey to Fort Worth.


February 10, 2008

Just Like His Dad!

Enchantment’s Snow Prince - Profile

I have been trying to get a good picture of Enchantment’s Snow Prince who is staying with us temporarily so that he can attend the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular in Fort Worth next week.

Snow Prince has settled in well with the weanling group.  We did end up putting Shiimsa back in with the main herd until the show, she is coming up to breeding age and while Snow Prince is a little young to be breeding he is within the window when it could be a possibility.  Having said that he hasn’t tried anything on with either Velvet or Athena and so I suspect he is not ready to breed yet.

Snow Prince is the son of one of our herdsires Enchantment’s Prince Regent and he has inherited Regent’s dislike of the camera!  I have lost count of the hours we have spent trying to get a good promotional shot of Regent, especially with his ears up.  Whenever Regent sees a camera he turns his rear end to face the camera, or if he decides to stay facing the camera he pins his ears back.  As you can see from the picture of Snow Prince he has the ears back pose down pat!  As fast as I managed to get Snow Prince to put his ears up he managed to put them down again as soon as my finger pressed the button on the camera.

Snow Prince is carrying a lot of fleece, which is one of Regent’s traits that he passes on to his offspring.  Snow Prince is a little more skittish than Regent’s offspring usually are, typically Regent’s offspring are curious and friendly, Snow Prince is curious but seems to spook easily.  Part of his behavior may be from lack of handling, but I also wonder if the fiber around his eyes is preventing him from seeing properly – he may just have a little trim around the eyes before he goes to the show.  While his full fleece face is impressive, if he cannot see properly he will not behave well in the show ring and will be more likely to be spooked by things.  I remember when Regent was showing we usually had to trim around his eyes at least once during each show season.

We may have enough of Regent’s offspring at the Fort Worth Show to enable us to enter a Get of Sire Class.   The Get of Sire class comprises of three alpacas that are the offspring of the same sire.  The three alpacas are shown simultaneously and should represent their sire’s ability to transmit his progeny in a uniform and consistent manner.   The Get of Sire class is a great one to win and good publicity for any herdsire, we sure wouldn’t mind winning it!


February 7, 2008

A New Arrival

As the TxOLAN show draws closer you may find my blog entries get shorter!  There is a lot of work to be done to get prepared for the show, and just not enough hours of the day to get it all done!  It will all get done though at the end of the day, and will go well I am sure.

Yesterday we received a new arrival at the farm, one of the sons of our Enchantment’s Prince Regent.  This young male is called Enchantment’s Snow Prince and is one good looking boy.  He belongs to our friends and mentors Rick and Ann Evans of Enchantment Farms Alpacas and he will be traveling to the show with us.  Rick and Ann will be traveling themselves but not to the show grounds.  They have some property in Arkansas that they are setting up and have to be there the weekend of the show and so asked us if we would take Snow Prince to the show.

Snow Prince seems to be an easy going guy, we have put him in with the weanlings who he will be stalled with at the show and so far they are all getting along well.

Snow Prince has a beautiful head on him and lots of fleece, both traits that Regent passes on to his offspring.  I need to take some pictures of Snow Prince for our herd records before he returns to his home farm.  Fingers crossed he will be going home with at least a blue ribbon to his credit.

That’s all from me for now; the show paperwork is calling again so it’s back to the grindstone!


February 4, 2008

And The Forms Keep Coming

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Shows, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:25 am

As the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular draws nearer the volume of paperwork is increasing.  More large packages of forms arrived last week and we are busy checking the entry forms and the alpaca’s registration certificates against the data entry in the online registration database.  We also need to check that people have submitted a liability waiver for the show grounds, a disclaimer regarding any business relationship they have with the judge, microchip numbers for their alpacas and shearing dates for their alpacas.

It seems as if every show another piece of paper or information is required and many exhibitors send in their entries with information missing.  Some of them are in a hurry to send in their forms, others don’t realize that certain forms need to be completed, and others seem to think that they can get away without sending the necessary information – they soon find otherwise!

This afternoon we received 113 emails all relating to the show and missing information or incomplete entries.  My poor email inbox is starting to groan!

Many alpaca breeders are not aware of the mechanics of running a show.  There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is not understood by many of the exhibitors.  Unless those exhibitors volunteer to help with the show then it is difficult for them to appreciate exactly what it takes to put on a successful alpaca show.

For several months now we have had conference calls of the show committee, originally on a monthly basis and now as the show gets nearer the calls are on a weekly basis.  I am sure as the show date gets nearer our phone and fax machine will both be very active!

Apart from chores, today will be spent verifying more entries in the show system and that will be our routine for most of the time leading up to the show.  I think we have probably received the last of the packages of entries, although there are always one or two that are really last minute in getting here. 

It’s going to be a busy week keeping up with everything and then trying to prepare for our trip to the show in about 10 days time.  I am sure we will make it, but I am also sure we will be glad when it is all behind us!


January 25, 2008

Those Pesky Forms!

The extended entry deadline for the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular is today.   This means that online registration through the TxOLAN website will be closed at midnight tonight and any paperwork relating to an entry to the show has to be postmarked with today’s date.

The show deadline was extended from January 15 to January 25 due to the website being down for a couple of days, but what is amazing to me is the number of entries that have been submitted since the original entry deadline.  There were a lot of people either waiting until the last minute to register for the show or who decided to come to the show at the last minute.  Now, alpaca breeders are notorious at being late at submitting their entries, but I think this is the biggest last minute rush I have seen so far!

Submitting entry forms to an alpaca show should be an easy thing, and once you have entered a couple of shows you get the hang of it quite easily.  To someone new to alpaca shows though it can be daunting.  I can still remember looking at the forms for the first show we entered and wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with them.

As the alpaca show system has become more refined, so it seems that there is more required on each form and more to be done to ensure entry to the show.

At the first show we entered we basically needed to know our animals name, date of birth, color and their ARI (Alpaca Registry Inc.) number.   You then had to figure out which class to enter and put that information on your form too.  At that time it was not unusual to be showing your alpaca in a class of one, which meant that you got a blue ribbon, but there wasn’t much worth behind it, as you didn’t have any competition.

These days all of that information is required, but also needed is the alpacas parentage information, the alpacas shearing date, copies (note the use of the plural) of the alpacas ARI certificate and a disclaimer statement regarding any business you may have done with a show judge.  Then there is the health paperwork too – proof of BVDV testing, a record of the alpaca’s microchip number, a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, any health test results required by the state you are traveling too – the list just keeps growing!

Along the way there have been the forms that have been discarded, such as the one that had a veterinarian declare that the male alpacas had two testicles, the female alpaca only four teats and that none of the alpacas had umbilical hernias.

The paperwork is so much for shows that I now have a special folder in which I keep all of the paperwork for the show that we are next traveling too.  From the day that I register for the show, this is the folder where everything goes, from copies of the show forms and health papers to hotel reservations.  The folder is invaluable, but heaven help me the day I accidentally leave it at home!

I can truly sympathize with the alpaca breeder who is attending their first show.  There is a lot to remember to do in preparation for the show, and a lot to do at the show.  Fortunately alpaca breeders are a friendly bunch and are usually more than ready to help each other out, especially when they discover it is someone’s first show.

As show superintendents for the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, Ric and I are responsible (amongst other things) for checking the correct paperwork is received, creating a database of the show entries, sorting the entries into their appropriate groups and also creating a class schedule.  I will give you three guesses what Ric and I are going to be doing this weekend (and most likely into the beginning of next week) – processing all of those entry forms!


January 20, 2008

Oh Where Oh Where Has My Show Fleece Gone?

 Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be organized.  Back in the spring when we were shearing the alpacas, I decided that with the slower pace of shearing it would be good to skirt the fleeces as they came off the alpacas.  By skirting as we sheared it would make a things a lot quicker later on when it came to sending the fleeces off for processing or showing.

One of the fleeces I had prepared was that of our white suri alpaca Christobal.  Christobal is 16 years old and his fleece is holding up well despite his years.  I thought it would be neat to show Cristobal’s fleece and have entered it in the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular Fleece Show, along with fleeces from TeQueely and Treasure.

With the entry paper submitted I went out to the studio to pull the three fleeces and make sure they didn’t need re-skirting before the show.  TeQueely and Treasure’s fleeces I found without a problem, but no sign of Cristobal’s fleece!

I know of at least a couple of occasions when we were pulling fleeces for other purposes and Ric had placed Cristobals fleece out for processing or display.    Ric is used to seeing show fleeces still wrapped in a sheet from shearing day, and so with Cristobal’s fleece not being in a sheet it looked to Ric as if it was ready to be processed.  I had told Ric that it was a show fleece and needed to be kept until after the show season was over.  I know we put that fleece somewhere safe to stop it from being sent off or used, but where is that somewhere safe?

The other night we both went through the fleeces in the studio with no joy.  We have searched high and low and still cannot find that fleece.  So today it is back to the studio to re-examine every bag of fleece in the hope of finding Cristobal’s show fleece.

I’ve never had this happen before, but then again this was the first time I had been so advanced in my preparations.  I think this year we will go back to “Plan A” of skirting the fleeces just before we show them – at least that we seem to be able to find them!


January 15, 2008

Born with a Smile

Ric and I are both involved in the upcoming TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular, and alpaca show that will take place February 15 – 17 in Fort Worth, Texas.  Ric along with his business partner Danette McCleary will be performing the duties of halter show superintendent and I will be performing the duties of fleece show superintendent.  We would not normally get both of us that heavily involved in a show, especially one that we usually attend to show alpacas, but I had already volunteered to be the fleece show superintendent when the opportunity for Ric and Danette arose to get the contract for the halter show superintendent.  So the moral of that story is that I need to sit on my hands next time someone asks me to volunteer!

As the show approaches we are starting to get more telephone enquiries relating to the show.  Some people need guidance as to how to fill out the forms, some are new to showing alpacas and have questions as to the correct procedures, others have more general enquires such as directions to the show grounds, local hotels etc.

One such enquiry was from a man who had seen an article about alpacas in Progressive Farmer magazine.  The article had mentioned the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular and that it was being held in Fort Worth, but apparently had not said at which facility the show would be held (which by the way is the Will Rogers Coliseum).  The man was excited that such a large alpaca show was going to be held in the Fort Worth area and was planning to come to the show.

I gave the man the information he needed and spent a few minutes talking to him.  I asked him if he already owned alpacas, he said he did not but was very interested in them and wanted to learn more about them.  He then came out with something that I hadn’t considered before but which made me smile, he said “How can you not fall in love with something that is born smiling”.

To this man the little crias faces hold a smile and had captured his attention.  In reality, as the crias are born, they are usually gasping as their lungs take in those first few breaths of air.  Once they are dried off and settled down though I can see how someone could see the crias as smiling.  Of course usually I am smiling by that time too, the sight of a cria being born will always be a joy to me.

I hope to meet the man at the show.  I told him that while I would probably be unable to leave the fleece room for much of the show, Ric might be a bit more accessible and that we would love to meet him.

It’s great to meet all of the different people who enquire about the shows we work on; they come from all walks of life but share a common thread, an interest or a love of alpacas.  It’s also great to hear their different perspectives about alpacas and the alpaca lifestyle. 

I will look forward to meeting this man who came out with a lovely thought about crias being born smiling, and I bet that one day he too will get to deliver a cria and realize that the smile will be not only be on the crias face but also on his own.


January 12, 2008

Seeing The Light

AthenaAs my work with the crias continues it is interesting to see the various break through points that they reach. 

First you can sense when they stop being so bothered by being handled.  They go from the “lets see if we can move away” mode to “oh it’s that woman again, we’ll just stand here”.  As I work on handling their feet there is a point when they suddenly click and realize that when they stand in balance it really isn’t too difficult to allow me to pick up their feet one at a time.

This last couple of days we have had good breakthroughs with Blast, Velvet and Athena with walking on the lead rope.  Surprisingly Blast was the first one to see the light.  He is the youngest of the three and a little immature in his thinking, but after a couple of walks around the pasture wearing his halter and lead rope he relaxed into it and started to walk well.  He still hesitates a little when we walk past his dam Clarissa as he wants to go and nurse from her, but he soon moves on, perhaps knowing that he will go back to her once our training session is over.

Velvet on the other hand, moved really well on the lead rope when she was in the pen, but when I took her outside the pen her walk became stiff and reluctant.  Yesterday we were about three quarters of the way around the pasture when she started striding out well with the smooth gait that she has.  Of course the fact that we were heading toward a hay feeder may have helped, but I walked her a little past it and she still did well.

Athena has always been the thinker of the group, and her mind is usually more focused on trying to figure out how to get out of doing what I want her to do, rather than just doing what I am asking of her.  But even Athena has now seen the light and walks really well when on the lead rope.  I can tell though that he mind is still whirring a bit as she walks, but that may always be the case with her.

The crias have done well with their training, all they need now is some “mileage” – time spent exposing them to different situations, keeping them walked and keeping them used to the idea of being on a halter.  In a few more weeks Blast, Athena and Velvet will be headed for their first show the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular in Fort Worth, Texas and hopefully their first blue ribbon too!


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