A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 22, 2009

Guess the Weight of the Cria



McKinley - He's heavier than he looks



If we had been playing that game at the weekend we would have lost!  As part of our routine we had scheduled to weigh Whisper and McKinley.  Whisper was born August 31 with a birth weight of 14.7 lbs, while McKinley was born September 5 with a birth weight of 19.1 lbs.

McKinley is quite a tall cria and Whisper is just the opposite small and compact.  They were the last of the summer crias to be born and are very close in age.  With the exception of Theresa’s cria, the latest cria to be born on our farm, McKinley and Whisper are the two smallest crias of our summer cria crop.

When Ric picked up McKinley it was obvious from Ric’s face that McKinley was a little heavier than expected.  Ric valiantly carried him to the scales and back, but by the time he got to the pasture gate he was calling out “help me” for McKinley indeed was no light weight having weighed in at 54.5 lbs.

Next to go to the scales was Whisper – surely she weighed a lot less.  Were we in for a surprise!  Again as Ric picked up Whisper his face showed the strain (is Ric really getting out of shape I began to wonder, no more Open Farm Day cookies for him!), but Ric had good cause to be taken aback by Whisper’s weight for she weighed in at 58.7 lbs!  She weighed even more than McKinley!



Little Whisper - only she is not that little anymore!




We have been raising alpacas now for over 10 years and so usually are pretty in tune with how much a cria weighs based on its size, but these two really have surprised us for they do not look that big.  Both McKinley and Whisper have dense fleeces though and I suspect that some of that weight is fleece weight.    Whatever the reason for McKinley and Whisper’s weights, I think it is safe to say that they are both healthy, hearty crias and that their dams Bjorn and Willow are doing a great job in the milk department!  Keep up the good work girls (and stay away from those cookies Ric!)



September 1, 2009

Beautiful Day, Beautiful Cria

Willow's New Cria

Willow's New Cria

Monday was a beautiful day, temperatures were in the 80’s, a light breeze was drifting across the pasture and everywhere was damp from rain we had received the night before.  It was New Mexico at its best with bright blue skies, brilliant sunshine and some fluffy white clouds in the sky.

Willow must have thought it a beautiful day too for that morning she went into labor.  I first noticed her looking restless at 9:40 a.m., she was sitting on one hip her legs kicked out to one side.  After a while she would get up and walk around then cush again rolling onto one hip or the other.  From there she started pushing a little harder and making those frequent visits to the poop pile that are often a sign of labor in alpacas.  Then her contractions became very strong and she cushed again, rolling onto one hip and pushing hard.

I could see progress was being made and so left Willow alone (that’s the hardest part of watching an alpaca in labor sometimes!).  Soon I could see a little white foot and nose emerging from Willow, followed shortly by another little white foot.  When I saw Willow was between contractions I moved her to a pen so that she could finish labor in peace without being bothered by the rest of the herd.

At 10:40 the cria was born, a shiny bright, snowy white female cria – beautiful!  The cria looked quite small, but when I picked her up she felt heavier than she looked, perhaps an indication of some good heavy bone.  Willow is not a large alpaca and Treasure the cria’s sire is an average sized alpaca and so I expected that the offspring from that pairing would not be huge.  Later when I weighed Willow’s cria she was 14.7 lbs. a nice weight for a smaller dam to deliver.

A Close Up of Willow's Cria's Fleece - if only you could feel it!

A Close Up of Willow's Cria's Fleece - if only you could feel it!

There is no doubting that Treasure is the sire of this little girl for she has his outstanding brightness to her fleece and that silky, slightly waxy handle.  The pairing of Willow and Treasure was a good one and I think this little girl will be one to watch out for.

The usual routine of the day went out of the window as I spent time watching Willow and her cria, making sure Willow passed her afterbirth without problem and that the cria found Willow’s udder and had a good nurse.   Later I let the pair out in a pen so that the cria could stretch her legs and have a trot around, and as she discovered that her legs would carry her well and fast, so Willow ran beside her not wanting to let her new baby out of her sight.

Days like those are just one of the advantages of being an alpaca rancher.  For those first precious hours of that cria’s life you can put the routine to one side and just enjoy the miracle of a new life.  I think you have to agree it’s not a bad way to earn a living is it!


February 27, 2009

There’s Nothing Quite Like Good Manners

Mile High Merry Me

Mile High Peruvian Merry Me


At feeding time alpacas are usually not shy in coming forward, they love their feed and as you walk into the pen you are met with the jostling of the herd as they vie for the position closest to the feed bowls.  In the girls pen our Anya is always first in the queue, with Theresa not far behind.  Rosie, Shiimsa, Velvet and Willow are normally in the next “row” in the hope that they too can get their noses in the feed bowls before anyone else does.  With the junior boys I know that Zeus and Blast will make a mad dash for the boxcar as they know that they get fed in there first, while in the adult boys pen Braveheart will always be first in line, reaching over your shoulder to get the first munch on the pellets.


Feeding time is definitely a time of bustling alpaca energy, so when we run into the occasional polite alpaca it almost takes us by surprise.


Mile High Peruvian Merry Me belongs to our alpaca neighbors Bob and Regina Dart.  Merry Me is staying at our farm along with several other of the Dart’s breeding females who came here to deliver their cria.


Merry Me is a well built girl and would have no problem physically shoving another alpaca out of the way should she choose to do so, but that’s the thing with Merry Me, she never would do such a thing.


I think Merry Me is the most polite alpaca I have ever met.  Every morning when we feed she waits until her seven pen mates have entered their feeding pen before she even thinks about entering the pen herself.  Once her feeding companions are in place, then and only then will she come forward.  If there is another alpaca standing between Merry Me and the pen entrance she will not push past them, she will either gently walk around them or wait for me to move them out of her way.  This girl really does have good manners!


It took us a little while to realize why Merry Me would not rush into the feeding pen as the other alpacas do.  It’s not that she is shy, it’s not that she is timid, she is just well mannered.   I’m not sure if Merry Me’s politeness is just her nature or whether her breeder taught her her manners, but what I am sure of is it is certainly nice to have such a polite alpaca on the farm.  Now if I can just get her to give some lessons in manners and etiquette to some of the others…



July 14, 2008

Indifference – The Alpaca Way

Alpaca girls are quite matter of fact about their dates.  I have had one or two who have shown an attachment to a particular male, but for the most part they resign themselves to the breeding process, and during the breeding spend their time looking around at any activity nearby.  I have had one girl fall asleep during a breeding, much to the dismay of her mate who then started to sniff her and produce an orgle with almost a question mark in it’s tone.  (Orgling is the noise made by the male alpaca during breeding)


On Saturday we behavior tested Bjorn and Queen, both of whom have been bred and who are experienced dams.  Bjorn refused to go anywhere near the pen where the male alpaca was, planting her feet in the ground and putting her ears back.  Normally Bjorn leads easily so we took her actions to be a firm rejection of the male.  Queen ventured into the pen with the male but soon ran away and then as a parting gesture spit at him.  So it is looking promising that Bjorn and Queen may be pregnant.


Next we decided to breed Willow to Treasure.  We had tried this breeding combination last year but Treasure was not quite ready to breed at that time and Willow never did conceive from that breeding.  We later bred Willow to Tobiano, which resulted in her current cria Desert Sand Storm or Stormy as we call him.


Willow is quite the character; she was born hungry and always tells us she is hungry when it is feeding time.  She tends to be on the chubby side and so we don’t always listen to her grumblings as to how she hasn’t been fed enough.   Willow is also our alpaca escapologist.  She will try and get through the smallest of gaps, wiggle her way past you when you are opening the gates and generally seize any opportunity she gets to make an escape from the pasture.


In preparation for breeding we placed Willow in a secure pen and then brought Treasure over to her.  This year Treasure is definitely ready to breed (and now has a confirmed pregnancy to his credit) and he had no hesitation in starting to orgle at Willow as soon as he entered the pen.  Willow though had other things on her mind – food.  She had found something growing in the pen and was busily nibbling it.  She didn’t even glance over her shoulder at Treasure but just carried on eating.  Treasure was not to be deterred and mounted Willow, who continued to eat and still didn’t even acknowledge Treasure’s presence. 


We decided that Willow should probably be paying better attention and so lifted her head to stop her from grazing, once we did that she cushed and all seemed to be going well with the breeding.  That is until we went to leave the pen, at which time Willow seemed to think this was her opportunity to get out of the pen and back to her favorite past time of eating.   In the end we had to bring a flake of hay into the pen for Willow to nibble on while she was bred.  Then and only then would she stay cushed.   Poor Treasure it’s a good job male alpacas are not insulted by such behavior!




March 15, 2008

Watching and Waiting For Willow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:01 am

Willow our escapologist alpaca is looking most definitely pregnant, Ric described her the other day as a little butterball as she almost looks as wide as she is long!  Willow is not a very big alpaca; she takes after her dam Clarissa who is on the small side.  Being small and having a short body does mean that for both Clarissa and Willow their pregnancies show earlier than some of the longer bodied alpacas.

As I have watched Willow’s “bump” grow, I have started to wonder if she is expecting a large cria and if so if she is going to be able to deliver without any problems.  She is maiden and so has not delivered a cria before so I hope that the delivery of her cria will be routine without any problems.  But something has been nagging me about her looking so big, we have other females due before her and even allowing for their body style they still do not look as advanced in their pregnancy as Willow does – and then it struck me, maybe I anticipating the wrong due date.

This really came to mind when I was pulling up Willow’s records the other day.  I had previously run a due date calendar from my Herdlogic software where we keep all the alpaca records and it showed Willow due in June 2008.  While I was looking up some show record information on Willow I checked her breeding records too and those records refreshed my memory as to what happened with Willow during last year’s breeding season.

Willow actually bred three times, the first breeding was one of the earliest ones we did for our herd and was to our Junior Herdsire Trevasura’s Altiplano Treasure.  Willow had cushed readily when introduced to Treasure and the breeding seemed to go well, but during one of the following behavior tests several weeks later she cushed again.  We bred Willow at that time to our herdsire Tobiano and again all seemed to be going well until during one behavior test she cushed again.  We rebred Willow to Tobiano and this time each subsequent behavior test resulted in Willow rejecting the male.  Based on those observations we based Willow’s due date on that last breeding.  Now though I am beginning to wonder.

Simply put, during a pregnancy it is the hormones in the female alpacas system that make her unreceptive to the male alpaca.   What happens though if those hormones are not produced to the necessary levels to instigate that behavior, or if perhaps the female alpacas brain does not recognize those hormones as it should.  Well then you could get a maiden female alpaca that would breed again despite being pregnant.

At this stage it is hard to tell if that is the case with Willow or if she is just carrying a large “bump” during her pregnancy.  We have heard of other alpaca breeders who have had maiden females who breed after being pregnant and then get a cria too early for the latter breeding date.  Once the cria is born the breeders realize that the cria is a result of the first breeding. 

For now all I know is that Willow is definitely pregnant, when she has her cria will perhaps give me a better idea of when she conceived the pregnancy.  Having used two different sires on Willow will also help us determine when the cria was conceived as when we submit the crias blood sample to the Alpaca Registry, Inc. for DNA testing they will let us know which is the correct sire.

I will keep a close eye on Willow in the coming weeks, if the first breeding date was the successful one she could have her cria as early as April, so we need to be prepared in case that is when the cria is born.  All we can do in the meantime is watch and wait, in time nature (and Willow) will give us the answer.


February 22, 2008

Now Girls That’s Just Not Nice!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:52 am

On Tuesday I had to take Ric to the hospital.  He had been ill since before the TxOLAN show and when we tried to get him in to see the doctor they did not have any appointments available.  After hearing his symptoms the nurse who called me said I needed to take him in to the Quick Care Clinic at the hospital.  Ric wasn’t able to drive himself in and I had not even started chores yet.  Our friend Justus had called earlier to check on us and had offered to help if needed and so I called Justus and recruited him in to do the chores that morning.

The wait at the hospital was a long one; fortunately I took my knitting with me to pass the time.  We had just been taken back to one of the examination rooms when Justus called. 

On answering the phone Justus asked me if I wanted the good news or the bad.  I told him that I really didn’t mind which I received and asked him if there was a problem.  Justus then told me that he had carried over a bucket of hay to the girls pasture and set it down outside the gate.  He then went to get another bucket of hay and when he came back the gate was open and there wasn’t an alpaca or llama in sight!  Poor Justus, I can just imagine how he must have felt! 

So that was the bad news, the good news was he had found all of the girls and they were still on our property.  He had managed to get some of them back in the pasture but there were about nine of them and the three llamas that had found the haystack and were not willing to go back to their pasture.  I had to chuckle as I know how the llamas are when they don’t want to go back to their pasture, they are quite happy to lead you a merry dance around the property until they decide they have had enough fun for the day and then walk back into the pasture.

I called Bob Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas and fortunately he was able to drive over to our place to help Justus with the girls.  Not so fortunate was Bob’s wife Regina who had also come down with the flu.

Within a short time of Bob’s arrival all of the alpacas were back in their pasture.  By the time Bob arrived Justus had looked out some halters and had figured out that the sight of the halters alone was enough to get the girls moving away from the hay.

So how had the girls got out from their pasture?  I am pretty sure I know how and who the culprit was – Willow!  You see Willow is our escapologist alpaca, since the day she was born she has always loved to squeeze through small spaces (so much so that she had to be delivered by C-Section).  I always have to watch Willow in the mornings as she will be standing on the right hand side of the gate ready to make her break for freedom as soon as the gate is opened.  There have been a couple of times that she has nearly managed to get past me and I have ended up hanging on to her for dear life.  On one occasion I almost ended up riding Willow as she tried to duck between my legs as I walked into the pasture.  She is both fast and determined.

The gate was most definitely shut when we left, and it was still shut when Justus arrived.  I have seen Willow playing with the gate latch before and now know she has figured out how to flip the latch up so that she can open the gate.  I am sure Anya would have been Willow’s accomplice as she is always right beside Willow first thing in the morning.  Once the gate was open the girls would have had no hesitation in leaving their pastures to explore the farm as they do in the summer when we allow them out to graze.

I explained to Justus that Willow and Anya were the most likely culprits in opening the gate, and that I felt that the girls were just taking advantage of his being a new helper, much like children at school will take advantage of a substitute teacher.

The good thing about alpacas is that being such herd animals they are going to stick together and not wander too far.  Our girls know exactly where our haystack is kept and I can just see them kicking up their heels with glee as they ran over to the “forbidden fruit”.   If alpacas could giggle I would bet they were doing that too as they realized they had just outwitted the “new guy”.

I had a talk with the girls later that day when I returned home.  They just looked at me as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths and went back to the business of eating hay and chewing cud.

We now have a pin inserted in the gate latch so that Willow cannot perform her little trick again.  And Justus  – well I hope he will feel comfortable helping us out again, but the last time I spoke to him he mentioned something about moving to Colorado!


January 17, 2008

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:43 am

Well the cold air arrived as promised and yesterday was spent making sure that all animals would be as comfortable as possible during the cold snap.  The llama pillows are firmly wrapped around the faucets and hopefully we will have working faucets outside this morning.  An overnight low of 7 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind-chill taking the temperature down to minus one is a little bit of an insulation challenge though!

As the air cooled off yesterday (helped of course by the usual 26 mph sustained winds!) I watched the alpacas as they figured out the best way to stay warm and out of the wind.  I put most of the hay inside the shelters to encourage them to go inside, but they do so love to be outside and several of them stayed out until all of the hay in the outside feeders was gone.

The alpacas and llamas are pretty smart when it comes to figuring out which side of the shelter provides the best protection from the wind and when I ventured outside I checked the areas that they were cushed in and it wasn’t too bad.

During the late afternoon I looked out and saw Clarissa and Willow, her cria of two years ago both cushed in the pasture.  Typically Clarissa and Willow don’t hang out too much together, unlike Bjorn’s family who are almost glued to each other’s side.  Today though there were mother and daughter cushed fairly close together.  Not only were they cushed together but also each one had her head down and turned to one side in exactly the same manner.  They looked like a couple of bookends.  I went to get my camera to snap the shot, but as I closed the door on my way out to take the picture the click of the door caused Clarissa to raise her head and the moment was gone.

I’m still trying to figure out a way to have my camera with me and ready to work all the time, no success on that puzzle yet though.

I am betting that Clarissa and Willow spent much more time together last night as the alpacas all cushed together for the evening.  When the group all cushes together it is amazing how much heat they generate.  Today it is supposed to get up to all of 30 degrees for our daytime high; if it gets any warmer I will have to look out my shorts! 


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