A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

June 15, 2009

Now What Will The Neighbors Think!

The things we do in the name of the alpaca business.  On Saturday Zianna was being picked up by her new owners Melita Clark and Mark Hogan of Milagro Meadow Alpaca Ranch.  Melita and Mark were also bringing us two of their girls for breeding to our herdsires.

Melita had requested that we run a fecal test on Zianna prior to her going to her new farm.  My intention had been to run that test on Friday, but I ran into a problem – no poop.  There was, of course, plenty of poop in the pasture but I could not say which was Zianna’s.

There is a method to extract some poop from an alpaca that my vet has shown me, but I really prefer to collect fecal samples that have been deposited on the poop piles.  Sometimes though it seems as if you can’t catch sight of the alpaca you want to test when that alpaca is on the poop pile.  That was the case with Zianna, no matter how long I waited or how much of a distance I put between the poop pile and me Zianna was not cooperating.  Eventually I gave up the wait resigning myself to having to keep an eye on Zianna on Saturday morning and running the test before Mark and Melita arrived.

Saturday morning arrived and as is my routine I took my first cup of coffee over to the front door so that I could look over the front pasture and check on the girls.  As I looked across the pasture all of the girls looked calm and relaxed with no one showing signs of being in labor, everything looked good.  Then I noticed her; there was Zianna at the poop pile!  So it was down with the coffee off to the kitchen for a zip lock bag and then out to the pasture to collect a sample.  Was I properly dressed for this mad dash into the pasture – of course not, but hey who cares about pajamas and pink Croc shoes in the pasture when the goal is to collect a poop sample from a particular alpaca.  I got my sample and was able to run the test before Melita and Mark arrived – Mission Accomplished!


May 24, 2009

Nighttime Antics in the Pasture

A Freshly Shorn Zianna - My Nighttime Pasture Check Companion

A Freshly Shorn Zianna - My Nighttime Pasture Check Companion

As the pregnant girls get nearer to their due dates I make sure I make at least a couple of visits to the pasture during the evening.  Past experience tells me that while the majority of alpacas birth between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. once in a while you will get one who decides to birth at a different time of day and even sometimes at night.

Typically (but not always) nighttime births happen due to a problem with the delivery.  Sometimes a dystocia, sometimes it might be a maiden female who is slower to deliver as her body has to stretch more for the first cria to come through.

Evening pasture visits can be quite interesting.  Most times the alpacas are contentedly cushed in their family groups, chewing their cud and enjoying the cooler night air.  Other times I will find the crias at play, chasing each other around the pasture or pronging with delight.  Rabbits prove to be a source of entertainment for the alpacas, heaven help the poor rabbit who tries to cross the pasture when the alpacas are feeling mischievous and frisky as that rabbit will soon find that it will be mercilessly chased all over the pasture.

The last few nights though I have had a companion on my nighttime pasture checks.   One of the yearling alpacas, Zianna has taken to joining me as I walk between the different groups of the alpacas making sure that everyone is okay.  The first evening that Zianna did this it seemed she was fascinated by the beam of the flashlight that I carried, walking alongside the beam and jumping back when the flashlight beam moved toward her.  By the end of my pasture check Zianna had taken to rushing up to the beam, snorting and then galloping off for a short distance, only to shortly return again.  Zianna’s actions soon had the younger alpacas up and joining in the game, turning a peaceful nighttime pasture into a frenzy of alpaca frivolity.

Now Zianna has got used to the flashlight beam and will trot along behind me “talking” to me with her alpaca clucks as I walk around.  I am not sure what she is saying, but I am pretty certain that it has to do with either wanting more of my attention or a request for food.  What ever she is saying, Zianna makes a good companion on my nightly pasture checks.  When I have finished checking the pasture I make sure I finish up by a group of alpacas, tell Zianna that it is time for me to go and leave her with the herd.  At that point Zianna does not follow me to the gate, she knows it is time for her to stay with her alpaca friends and settle down for the night – unless a rabbit crosses the pasture,  in which case I am sure she is one of the leaders in the rabbit chase!


March 7, 2009

Back With The Herd

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on

Atlas poses for a picture before having his fleece cover put back on


It’s hard to believe that three weeks have already gone by since the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  The show string have been in quarantine since their return home and thankfully have not shown any signs of illness.  Having spent their three weeks in quarantine it is now time for the show string to return to their respective pastures.


Atlas, Pride and Mags will rejoin Zin and the junior males, while Dream, Zianna and Kaneka will rejoin the female herd.


We didn’t put the fleece covers back on the show string on their immediate return from the show.  Call us soft if you wish, but we felt after doing so well for us at the show it would be a nice treat to allow the show alpacas to have a little time without their covers on, of course the first thing they did when they got home was to have a good roll, but that’s okay the dirt will drop out before their next show.


This last Thursday we were forecast for dangerously high winds.  It makes me take notice when the local meteorologists forecast “dangerously high winds”, bearing in mind that their idea of “breezy” is 25 –35 mph winds, it makes you wonder what wind speed would deserve the title “dangerous”.   We decided, in view of the forecast, we should put the fleece covers back on the show alpacas before the entire tumbleweed crop of western New Mexico landed in our pastures and in our alpaca’s fleeces!


The winds on Thursday didn’t quite live up to the forecast with wind gusts in the 50 mph range; strong enough we were glad we had put the fleece covers back on the alpacas.  The wind was also strong enough that poor Little Man had a real struggle to get across the pasture, but he’s a tough little guy and he made it.


Prior to putting the fleece covers on we cleaned the alpacas fleeces of the worst of the vegetable matter and took photos of the show string without their covers on.   The alpacas were not too cooperative about having their pictures taken, but we got one or two shots that we can use.  We also checked toenails and teeth and treated ears as a preventative measure against ear ticks.  Then it was back to the herd for the show string who wasted no time at all in getting reacquainted with the rest of the herd.



February 14, 2009

Today’s The Day

Dream's beautiful head

Dream's beautiful head


The show classes begin today at the TxOLAN Alpaca Spectacular.  Alpaca show classes run the darkest fleeced animals first gradually working toward the lightest fleeced animals.  With this in mind I fully expect Kaneka (black), Mags (dark brown), Athena (medium brown), Atlas (who color checked as light brown rather than dark fawn), Pride (who color checked dark fawn rather than medium fawn) and Dream (medium fawn) to show today.  Zianna who is light fawn may also show today but may show first thing on Sunday morning depending on the speed at which the classes progress.


Young Dream has been receiving lots of attention and admiring looks from other alpaca breeders at the show.  Dream has a stunning head and great coverage making her very striking.  Dream is still not too enthused by all of the attention but I suspect by the end of the show she will be getting used to it.  Mags too seems to be settling down to all the attention.  At home he actively seeks out attention, but as of yesterday evening he was starting to remain cushed when visitors came to our pens indicating that even he had more than enough human attention to satisfy his needs.


The fleece show started judging yesterday and hopefully will be completed by this afternoon.  Once the fleece show has been opened for viewing we will be able to fins out if the any of the fleeces we entered won a ribbon.


Back home things have been reasonably quiet.  The four girls in the weaning pen who did not go to the show were a little unsettled the first day after their pen mates left for the show, today they are settled and more interested in hay than anything else.   Once the show alpacas return home the four girls in the weaning pen will be rejoining the main female herd group and the show alpacas will be put into the weaning pen for a three week quarantine period.  By the time the show alpacas return home they will be more than ready to stretch their legs and take a good roll in the dirt and then happily relax in familiar surroundings – even for alpacas there is no place like home.



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)


December 24, 2008



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!)




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.



June 28, 2008

And Finally…….

Zianna    Zianna Close Up

Our last cria to be introduced is Windrush Zianna, born on June 4th to our dam Ivanna and our herdsire Zin.  Zin has had a good season on our farm having sired Atlas, Rebecca’s cria, Pride, Anacia and Zianna. While Tobiano gave us his cria contribution in the form of Dream, Serenity and Stormy.


Zianna’s arrival coincided with the passing of our little cria Legs (see post June 6th, Witnessing Life’s Circle) and she was a reminder of the brighter side of life.  A beautiful light fawn color with almost an apricot tinge to it, liquid brown eyes and the thickest of eyelashes Zianna is quite a character.  She loves to check out what you are doing and is quite a vocal cria, a trait that comes from her dam Ivanna.


Ivanna handled Zianna’s birth with ease; she is an experienced dam and a great milk producer.  She prefers to have people keep their distance a little while she is birthing, but interestingly she allowed one of her previous crias, Cariad (who is here for breeding) to be with her as she delivered Zianna.  I did eventually remove Cariad from the immediate area where Ivanna was as Cariad was being very curious about the half delivered cria and was starting to get in the way.  Ivanna delivered Zianna in her favorite place, right in front of the fan in the small shelter and I used some portable panels to prevent the other alpacas from intruding into the area as she finished delivering.  Cariad was still able to see her dam and was very curious about her new sister once she was delivered.


Zianna was the cria that Theresa decided to “steal” a few days after she was born during Theresa’s hormonal confusion!  Zianna seemed quite happy to be with Theresa and would try and nurse off Theresa when Theresa encouraged her too, but Theresa did not have milk and so eventually Zianna would return to Ivanna for nursing, much to Theresa’s dismay.  We eventually had to separate Theresa and Zianna, as we really did not want Zianna bonding to the wrong dam.


Zianna is already over 30 lbs, testimony to Ivanna’s good milk production record, and is one of the first to greet you when you go out in the pasture.


Of course Zianna was not the last to be born, Pride was born on June 9 and Desert Sandstorm (or Stormy as we call him) was born on June 13, but in all of the chaos at the time of Zianna’s birth I did not get a chance to introduce her.


We now have one cria left to be delivered this summer, our maiden dam Cinnamon is due in July and we are looking forward to seeing what she produces.  We see her cria kicking frequently and day by day Cinnamon gets a little larger but is not huge.  So are we going to get a little female cria or a little male cria, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!



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