A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

October 2, 2009

Now Where Are We?

Well…  Ric is still at home with the alpacas.  I am in England visiting my mother on my annual trip to my home country.  Usually I travel earlier in the year, but this year shearing, crias and new a new puppy meant I postponed my trip to the fall.

Today England is warmer than I remember it being in the fall (or autumn as we tend to refer to it in England).  The English summers have been getting warmer and drier, the storms more severe and the fall and winter milder.  You cannot help but wonder about global warming when such climate change takes place.  I think you would have a hard time convincing many British people that global warming is not a fact.

 During my trip I will be helping my mother with tasks such as filing her tax return and anything else she has on the to-do list for me.  My mother has coped remarkably well since the loss of my father last year, but there are a few things she needs assistance with (and let’s face it who really enjoys filing tax returns anyway!).

 I also will be spending time with my good friends Linda and Val (with a very special party on the agenda but more on that later), my nephews and former sister in law Roisin (who is still very much a member of our family) and of course Laura (step daughter), Ren (Laura’s husband), grand-daughter Aida and Paul (step son).  Also on the agenda is a trip to Totley in South Yorkshire to visit my Dad’s cousin Stella and hopefully see a nearby alpaca farm and while I am there I am hoping to be reunited with my friend Anne-Marie who I have known since pre-school.  Anne-Marie and I have kept in touch on and off through our parents and now via Facebook which has brought us together again.

 At home Ric is very busy with caring for the farm.  It’s a lot for one person to take care of, and now has he added task of looking after puppy Blue who will let  you know in her own way (by chewing something you treasure!), if she feels she is not getting enough attention.  I fully expect Ric to be somewhat worn out and possibly a little thinner by the time I get home – although our dear neighbor Darlene is providing him with some meals and so I know he will not starve to death (A big Thank you Darlene as always!).

 As well as routine chores Ric will be hauling loads of hay while I am gone.  We finally found some wheat hay that satisfies our requirements, with only one drawback; it has some wheat heads in it.  We really do prefer beardless wheat hay, but this year have not been able to find any that is nutritionally correct for the alpacas.  The hay we purchased is almost perfect in its analysis and was cut just as it started to head out, so we felt that it was the best option available to us.

 As if all of that is not enough Ric also will be keeping a close eye on Theresa who is due October 25.  For her first four crias Theresa gave birth on day 345 of her pregnancy, but then threw us for a loop by not delivering her fifth cria until day 368 in temperatures above 100 degrees.  So who knows when Theresa will give birth this year.  Before I left I checked Theresa, her udder was not yet developed and she was not puffy under her tail so there should be at least a little time before she gives birth.  I had a word with Theresa too and asked her to hang on to her cria until I was home, but not to wait until day 368 again – I guess we will soon find out if she was listening.

 My blog entries will be sporadic during my trip I am sure.  Ric may decide to post an entry or two – in his spare time that is, but whether his entries will be coherent or just consist of a string of exhausted zzzzzz’s will remain to be seen!


May 21, 2009

Back on the hay trail

It’s that time of year again; time to start looking for a supply of hay to keep the herd fed and healthy for the next year.  Already area farms are starting to cut wheat hay and with yet another dry year hay is going to be sparse and sought after.

With the annual quest for hay we are also reminded how important it is to have the hay tested before we purchase it.  Hay can look good and smell good but without an analysis there is no way to tell the nutrient content of the hay. 

I get into some interesting conversations with hay farmers when it comes to asking about analysis of their hay, one farmer I spoke to recently became quite indignant when I asked if he had analyzed his hay.  He assured me he had but when I pushed him for the results of the analysis his reply was “seven”.  I asked him what the seven related to and he told me “that was what the hay tested at and it’s some of the best hay you will find”.  Well, if the “seven” related to the protein content of the hay then I would not consider it to be very good hay, but who knows what the “seven” was.  I asked the farmer if I could see a copy of the analyses and he told me “your not supposed to ask that”.  I decided that particular farmer and I did not need to do business, thanked him for his time and left it at that.  I suspect that the hay had not been analyzed and that he had mistakenly assumed that I was not knowledgably about matters of hay analysis.

One of the next hay farmers we dealt with was a much more pleasant experience.  A lovely man with some nice looking, sweet smelling wheat hay.  He readily admitted that he had not had his hay analyzed but was quite happy to sell me a bale so that I could take it to our local forage testing lab for analysis.  The farmer asked me questions about what nutrients the alpacas needed in their hay and was willing to hold some of his crop for me until the hay was tested.  Sadly the hay came back with a very high potassium level, something that could cause reproductive problems with the alpacas and could also contribute to heat stress.   The forage testing lab told me they have seen a lot of high potassium in the wheat hay this year, so much so that they have already checked the calibration of their equipment to make sure that the tests are accurate.  To date it seems that the testing equipment is fine but there is a problem with a lot of the wheat hay this year.

So the search continues and this afternoon we spoke to a hay grower who seems to really know what it takes to grow good hay.  He tests his soil and fertilizes to balance out what his soil is able to provide.  He tests all of his hay and also seemed knowledgeable about the nutrient requirements of various livestock.  This particular grower has not dealt with alpaca nutrition before but was interested to learn about our needs.  For now his hay is sold out but we have asked to be notified when his next cutting becomes available.  This particular hay grower is the type of hay grower that we like to deal with, he understands not only what it takes to grow good nutritious hay but has an understanding of livestock nutrition and understands our concern about acquiring hay that is suitable for our alpacas in its nutritional content.

If we did not take the effort to test any prospective hay we could easily make some costly mistakes.  Hay that is only 7% protein is completely inadequate and would no doubt cause health problems in our herd over time, likewise hay with high potassium could cause problems in the herd.  Granted it takes some time to get hay tested and we have to pay for the testing, but our local forage testing company can usually get us test results within a day or two and the test costs less than $20 – a small investment but necessary investment if you ask me.

(Footnote  – we also always ask for a sample of the hay to take home to feed to the alpacas, in the past we have had hay that tested out well but that our alpacas would not eat.  No matter how well the hay tests if the alpacas refuse to eat it we would be wasting our money to buy it!)


January 6, 2009

Exploring new options in hay

As we move forward into the New Year, our minds can’t help but start to think about hay.  Will there be any new hay available locally?  What quality will it be?  What will the price be?


We are fortunate enough to have a stash of wheat hay on hand, and should be okay for hay until after the spring, however then we will need to look for something to replenish our stocks.


Typically we feed wheat hay to our herd.  It is grown locally, it tests well provided that it is cut at the right time and the alpacas love the taste of it.  If possible we prefer to buy a full years supply at a time to make sure we have plenty on hand and to provide consistency in the alpacas diet.


When Ric was at the feed store the other day the store owner mentioned to him that they have some large round bales of Tiffany Teff grass for sale.  A relatively new hay crop Tiffany Teff is a warm season annual grass that originates in Africa.


In the literature that is available about Tiffany Teff grass it is often referred to as being similar to Timothy in nutritive value and highly palatable.  Values such as 12-17% protein, 80 –120 RFV are mentioned and Tiffany Teff is also said to be high in calcium phosphorus, iron, copper aluminum, barium and thiamine.  Potassium levels can be as high as 2.5 to 3.0, which in the world of alpaca hay is too high.


So the question to us is “Is this suitable for alpacas”?  At the moment we really cannot say for sure.  We took a small sample of the hay and let the alpacas try it and they ate it readily and seemed to enjoy it.  So the hay has passed the taste test, however we really do not know what is in the hay until we have it tested.


Our local forage testing lab ADM Labs has been out and taken a core sample of the hay for testing and we should know soon how the hay looks on paper.    Depending on the results of the forage testing we will most likely try and do some further research to see if can determine if Tiffany Teff hay is suitable for alpacas when fed long term.  With Tiffany Teff grass being so new to the hay market it is possible that no one really knows if it is suitable long term for alpacas, but as it seems to be an up and coming forage crop I think it is worth us taking a little time to find out all that we can about it.



March 2, 2008

In Search of Good Hay – Again

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Nutrition, Alpacas, camelids, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:40 am

In order to keep consistency in our feed we try and buy as much hay at one time from our suppliers.  This year we have been spoiled by two suppliers who had enough hay on hand that we could buy a few bales at a time and then go back to buy more.  By doing this we have been able to spread our hay bill over several months, which has been helpful.

Yesterday when we called one of the hay suppliers he warned us he had very little hay left.  People have been buying up his hay, and as other suppliers have been running out more and more people have been buying from our suppliers.

By the time Ric reached the hay farmers property he had indeed sold all of the big round bales of hay tht he had.  Ric ended up bring home some big square bales of hay, really big that is 4ft x 4ft x 8 ft.   The hay is the same crop as the big round bales were from, but with the new shape of bale we are going to have to rethink how we will feed it.

So part of yesterday was spent tracking down available hay in the area.  We have found a couple of sources and plan on visiting them on Monday to look at the hay and take a sample for testing.  Then if it is any good we had better act fast and buy as much as we can before someone else buys it!


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