Friday, November 30, 2007


Overnight we had our first snowfall that stuck to the ground (we've had some flurries but no accumulation). I was not expecting this much accumulation or I would have gotten up earlier to tend to the alpacas. As it was, we had time to feed them this morning and that was it. Friday I volunteer in Zack's class at school so we had to get going. Zack only has half a day of school so we got home by lunchtime to go out of the barn.

The alpacas seemed to be poking their heads through the gate inside the barn to reach the hay that is stacked up. There is some hay in their 2 feeders (one is a little kiddie pool and the other is a blue barrel). But seems that hay was picked over and not as tasty as the ones stacked in the barn ;) I took down a new hay bail and put that out for them, they instantly started eating it up. Zack and I shoveled the snow off the front drive to the barn so that we don't have to walk through deep snow to get in the barn. And I shoveled snow out of the pen just in back of the barn. The Alpacas tend to hang out there and often sleep there so I thought it best to get the snow out of there and let them see some grass. I can see tracks in both pastures so they have gone into the pastures today, but it doesn't look like they could get to any of the grass to eat.

The water bucket heaters appear to be working very well, the water has not been freezing. I have had some problems with hay and dirt falling into the water so I cleaned out the buckets today and put in fresh water. Fluffy's water needed to be changed as it was frozen, and her canned cat food was frozen. Guess she'll have to settle for dry food this winter. Maybe one day a week we could put canned food out for her. Oh and for the water, even if her water is frozen she will be fine. I caught her one day climbing up the fence and leaning over to drink out of the alpacas' heated water buckets. She's resourceful.

We have mats in the barn that are insulated to help the alpacas stay warm, but so far I have not found them to sit on them. Instead they sleep in the pen just outside the barn. We have not yet gotten straw for inside the barn. Most farmers do provide straw for warmth. J is concerned about how messy straw will be and we are not sure it is necessary, especially given the fact the alpacas seem to prefer to stay outside. Though today with the snow and cold wind they do seem to be standing in the barn.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Do alpacas spit?

Do alpacas spit? I get asked that a lot when people find out we have alpacas. Yes, like Camels and Llamas, Alpacas do spit. But they do not spit as much as Llamas (at least that's what Alpaca farmers all say).

In the time we've had the alpacas on our farm, I've witnessed four spitting incidents. The first one was Kateri spitting at a jogger going by on the road (which is through the woods, so some distance off, the spit did not get anywhere near the jogger). Then one day, I think it was last week, Kateri and Victoria got into a fight about something and they were spitting at each other. Last week I also saw Kateri spit at Fluffy (not sure what that was about). Then last night when we fed the alpacas Kateria and Victoria got into a fight and were spitting. I was scooping poop and didn't move out of the way fast enough. Spit came flying and landed right on me. Nice and green and wet. If you've seen the "Dirty Jobs" episode with alpacas, Mike got sprayed too (but the alpacas was mad at him, at least in my situation I was a bystander). The girls kept this spitting fight up even when I yelled at them to stop. Emma yelled and finally got their attention to stop. They were standing in the barn door spitting at each other.

I wonder what they have been fighting about because something is going on between them. Tonight Kateri would not let Victoria anywhere near the feeding area. I had to move Victoria's food for her, but she still would not eat. Kateri kept giving her a mean look. J said that shows that Kateri has to still be pregnant to be that moody. Kateri had been very passive and Victoria was the one who ate first. I think Kateri had enough of Victoria pushing her around and took a leadership role.

It has been a rough few days at our farm due to the loss of Tiger. Zack cried and cried on Tuesday, but now by Thursday seems to be doing a lot better. He had a ton of questions that I answered as honestly as I could. While doing errands on Tuesday he and I bought a box at Hobby Lobby to burry Tiger in. Zack and Emma drew on the box. Zack drew a picture of himself in the box so Tiger would know he was always watching over her. Emma drew hearts around the name "TIGER". J dug a hole by a tree on the side of our house where we burried Tiger in her box (the story is a bit longer in that J burried her before we got home, not knowing we planned a funeral so he went out in the dark to unburry her so we could burry her as Zack and I planned). It was a hard day for all of us. Emma had more questions the next night, I think because she had less time to process it all. Zack was there when I finally admitted Tiger was no longer alive, so he rocked with Tiger and said goodbye while crying. He spent the afternoon alternating between crying and asking questions. Emma did not find out about Tiger until Zack and I came home. She found out and jumped right into decorating the box then outside to burry Tiger. J believes Tiger had a hole in her heart. He says when he puts all the symptoms together it appears she had a heart defect, which he thinks likely was that she was born with a hole in her heart.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The cruelty of nature

Today is a hard day at our farm. Tiger passed away.

Tiger was the runt of the litter and has always acted like she was moving in slow motion. I worried her heart was not working right because she seemed to breathe in a belabored way. I also noticed she seemed to lack survival instincts. For example when Zack would run around, Fluffy would move out of Zack's way, Tiger never did, she just sat there. We also had trouble getting Tiger to eat, and she was very very thin.

This morning when I went to the barn she was having a difficult time moving. I found her snuggled up in the cage in a warm blanket, but while I was feeding the alpacas she dragged herself over to me. She had so much difficulty I was concerned she was dying. I took her home to feed her kitten milk through a dropper. I got some milk into her, but while I was rocking her after feeding her, she passed away. Nature was cruel to her. She was not born with what she needed in order to survive. The kids will be very sad, as will we all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kids and Alpacas

You know your child spends too much time at the barn when his swimming instructor shows him how to swim holding his hand as a scoop and she asked him what you scoop (she was thinking ice cream) and he replies "poop". So Zack has been swimming while "scooping poop." (I bet his instructor is telling everyone she can about the kid she's teaching who scoops poop). The kids both love coming to the barn with me.

In general Alpacas are gentle animals and are safe around children. Alpacas only have bottom teeth (they have a hard plate on top) so they cannot bite like other animals. In addition, alpacas are not aggressive. Their first defence is to run, though they will also stomp (I have heard of them stomping a squirrel or similar size animal). Children can be more the issue, because alpacas are gentle animals they are also very protective. Any fast movement and the alpacas get away. Alpacas do not like to be touched, and they know how far away your hands will reach so they stay that far away. Our alpacas have been here for over a week and I have yet to touch them (other than when I haltered them when they first came). This is deliberate on my part. The reason being if you try to touch them they will back off and the more you do that, the more they will stay away from you. I want them to be friendly and to feel safe coming near me, so I do not annoy them by grabbing at them. We have taught our children this also. The kids take turns coming with me to feed the animals. But they know they are not to grab at the alpacas. They can measure out and bring the feed to the alpacas. If they want to touch an animal they can pick up the kittens and pet them and play with them. So far this has been working. Sometimes Zack has a hard time with moving too fast in the barn and scaring the alpacas, but for the most part the kids and alpacas are getting along very well.

It will be interesting to see how our alpacas handle it when we have our first visitors to the farm. One of my nieces said Victoria let her pet her. I hope they are friendly and allow visitors to pet them. That is part of the fun of visiting a farm.

Safer feeding time and chores

This morning I got Snowstorm to eat out of the cut PVC pipe. I put his grain in his bowl, and let him smell it (as I do every morning). Instead of putting it on the ground as I have been, I stepped backward towards the PVC pipe. Then showed him as I poured the grain into the pipe. Initially he stepped back when I poured it. I put the bowl leaning up against the pipe and then I backed out of the way. He stepped foward and ate. He was happy to have his grain!

Chores with alpacas are pretty minor. I choose to feed them grain twice a day. I prefer this so that I check on them at least twice a day and it spreads out their food. It is possible to feed them grain once a day, or no grain at all (there is debate on the necessity of grain, but because we are breeding for good fiber, we feel grain and fiber nutrients are important for our alpacas). In the morning I feed them grain and fiber nutrients. I have been feeding the kittens extra canned food at this time too (more so for Tiger who is so very small but Fluffy is active so I'm sure it helps her too). The kittens have dry food out all the time. And I check all the water to make sure the alpacas buckets are full and the cats water isn't frozen. That is all I usually do in the morning. It takes maybe 10 minutes max.

In the evening I again give grain to the alpacas. Then I usually scoop poop. Some farmers scoop poop everyday, others less often. I find once a day to work well for me, then it is a small chore (but if I miss a day it isn't terrible either). Our alpacas all use one spot so it is very easy to find and scoop. I knew the alpacas had small poop pellets, but I did not realize they poopped as much as they do. I thought since they ate so little grain that there would not be that much poop, but I forgot about all that grass and hay. I put all the poop in a ditch that was dug in the woods. We plan to use it as fertilizer (it is supose to be one of the best fertilizers).

While doing my chores the alpacas follow me around, as does Tiger the kitten. Tiger usually sits right by me. Fluffy runs around and investigates what I do but also runs up trees and chases leaves. The alpacas seem fine with the kittens. They watch where the kittens go and smell them occassionally. Today when I was cleaning I found Tiger laying right by Kateri. It was like Kateri was mothering Tiger, watching over her and blocking the wind from her.

We have a mat area in the barn which is intended to help insulate the alpacas against the cold. In general alpacas tollerate the cold very well (hot weather is difficult on them, cold is not such an issue). But with the cold weather of Michigan, most local farmers have some sort of mat insulation and/or staw in the barn to give additional warmth. Today when I was finishing up my chores I noticed some hay that had spilled onto the mat. We keep the hay in a kiddie pool in the barn for the alpacas to eat, but as it the nature with hay, some spills out. I decided to sweep it off. After I was done, the alpacas came in and sat down inside the barn. They have been sitting and sleeping in the pen just behind the barn. I guess they were waiting for me to sweep ;)

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I had my first experience with choke. This is when an alpaca eats their grain too fast and it gets caught in their throat. The hope is they will cough and gag it up, but there have been times owners have had to put a tube down the alpacas throat. We had heard that feeding the grain out of half a pipe (a pipe cut in half) lessens choke, but Snowstorm has not been receptive to eating it that way. I bought him a bowl that he has been using. Well he choked tonight. He seemed to gag, then throw up, then gag, then throw up. This happened several times. I went inside to ask J about it, and he said it was choke, to make sure Snowstorm was still breathing. I went back outside where Snowstorm was still gagging and throwing up, yet breathing. Emma and her cousin had feed the animals tonight and were watching with me. He seemed to throw up quite a bit, then sat down. At first I worried he was cushing, like he was in pain, but he was sitting down. Every evening after supper the three alpacas sit in the pen just outside the barn. I have seen them sleep there. He seems to have just been settling in for the night. We waited a little bit to make sure he was alright, he was no longer gagging or throwing up.

I will check on him again tonight to make sure he is ok. We will need to switch him to eating out of the cut pipe. I do not want to risk this happening again.

Additional information on choke:

Caution must be used in the case of pelleted and ground up pelleted feeds. While these are excellent for providing alpacas with a specific measure of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, their ability to expand in size when combined with water can lead animals to choke. "Choke" in alpacas refers to clogging of the esophagus or the tube leading to the stomach, not blockage of the wind pipe (trachea). It is a medical emergency though, and sometimes requires veterinary intervention to relieve it. Sometimes the alpaca can dislodge the food, or the breeder can massage the esophagus externally to move the blockage on. If not relieved, the alpaca will be unable to swallow their food and the saliva that they secrete in copious amounts. This can quickly lead to aspiration and pneumonia. Choke is easily identified by the repetitive regurgitation of saliva with some food particles mixed in. Sometimes the alpaca can fix the problem themselves, but if it is not relieved in a few minutes by the alpaca or the manager intervening, a veterinarian needs to be called.


Grain or pellets are not the alpacas “natural” diet and so the alpaca has not evolved to deal with large clumps of food traveling down its throat. One alpaca might try to take another’s food, which encourages them to take larger mouthfuls than they normally would, swallow faster and sometimes cause a choke.

Usually it is quite obvious when an alpaca is choking, they will cough, make louder swallowing or gulping noises than usual, put their head down towards the ground, flare their nostrils and in some instances regurgitate food. It is an unpleasant experience for the alpaca and also a scary one for the owner to observe. If the choke continues the alpaca may cush and lay it’s neck out along the ground, it can also start to bloat or even colic a little during a bad choke episode or if the choke is not attended to fast enough.
One of the problems with choking is that typically the alpaca becomes stressed and tense about the situation, and the more tense the muscles of the alpaca are the less able they are to release the stuck food.

If we see an alpaca choking during feeding time we monitor that alpaca but keep enough of a distance to where the alpaca does not feel stressed about our presence. If we can see that the choke is resolving itself we will do no more than observe the alpaca. Once we are convinced the choke is over then we will leave the pasture but not before. Often that is all that is needed, but on the few occasions when the choke continues then more action may be called for.

If you are inexperienced at dealing with an unresolved choke your best course of action is to call the vet, he or she will be able to guide you through steps you can take to help the alpaca to relax and to dislodge the stuck food. Often the vet will recommend a dose of banamine to help the alpaca relax, the banamine takes a little while to kick in but it is usually very effective in relaxing the alpaca and resolving the choke. We also like to give a choking alpaca some Bach’s Rescue Remedy as that can help them to relax too.
We have some steps in place at our farm to help prevent choke in the first place. Our feed is specially made for alpacas and has been developed to dissolve should it become lodged in the alpaca’s throat. At feeding time we group our alpacas so that the slow eaters feed together and the faster eaters feed together. By feeding our alpacas by their eating habits the risk of choke is lowered. Another important thing is to have enough feeders or feed bowls to allow each alpaca to have sufficient room to eat. We feed most of our alpacas using individual rubber bowls, and are careful to leave adequate space between each bowl. We also have some feeding trays dotted round the pens. The feeding trays are set a little off the ground and made of PVC pipe cut in two and mounted on a wooden frame. An additional step we take is to always be present when the alpacas are eating grain, it doesn’t take them long to eat it and you can catch a choke situation much earlier and decide which action, if any, to take.

With good feeding practices chokes are rare things, if you have an alpaca that frequently chokes during feeding time it would be a wise move to have it checked out by your vet to make sure there isn’t something physically wrong with the alpaca that is causing it to choke so frequently.

Choke situations can be a scary thing for both the alpaca and the owner, but with the correct handling they can usually be resolved easily, and with good feeding practices they can be reduced or avoided, which is the best way to be.

Sounding the alarm

I took the dogs jogging again today, and we passed the alpaca's pasture. First I had Dottie with me and the alpacas stayed back when usually when they see me they walk towards the fence. But they did that the other day when I jogged with the dogs. Then I jogged with Bailey. For some reason they did not like Bailey. I heard this odd shrill sound, sort of like a bird, but I could tell it was coming from the alpacas. I couldn't tell who was making the sound as none of their mouths moved. Emma happened to be in the barn playing with the cats and said Snowstorm was making the sound, she knew because she could see his lungs moving. On my second lap they still were making that sound at us so I took Bailey home and finished my jog on my own. Snowstorm did it again when it was just me, even after I spoke to let him know it was me. I guess jogging with the dogs is too scary for them.

Our dogs and alpacas

On Thursday I took the dogs jogging with me. The path I take goes past the alpaca's pasture. I first had Dottie with me. She noticed the alpacas right way. Barked a couple times but then stopped and looked as I told her it was ok. Dottie came into the barn with me when I fed the alpacas. Dottie behaved but the alpacas did not want to come into their side of the barn with Dottie in the so I had to tie her outside.

Then I took Bailey jogging with me. On the first pass of the pasture Bailey was so intent on sniffing Dottie's trail that her nose never left the ground. After I turned and took a second pass at the pasture, then she noticed. She stopped, looked, but never did bark. I'm surprised because Bailey is scared of everything. But Bailey also loves to go jogging and I do find when she's jogging with me she is happy and does not bark and get into trouble as much. The alpacas would not come anywhere near the fence where Bailey and I were, when they usually do follow me. They stood back from the dog. Overall I think that is a good safety measure. In our area domestic dogs are the biggest danger threat to alpacas, so I want them to stay away.

Editted to add that I was careful when allowing the dogs near the alpacas. I kept the dogs at a safe distance. The dogs were always on a leash and on the other side of the fence from the alpacas. Even when Dottie was in the barn, there was a fence between her and the alpacas, and Dottie was on a leash. Our dogs are great family dogs, but are not trained alpaca guardian dogs. Domestic dogs are the biggest threat to alpacas, dogs can hurt an alpaca. And even though my dogs are great with my kids, I do not know how they would act towards an alpaca. I think it is important to observe safety measures with all animals. Our dogs are not meant to live with the alpacas, but to live with us and walk/jog on a leash next to the alpacas pasture. Only trained guardian dogs should be allowed near alpacas.

Cold! 20* overnight

It has been very cold overnight, temps in the 20's. I went to feed the alpacas yesterday morning to find them happy, but frost on their fleece. We had several days of misty rain weather. That combined with them rolling in the dirt created some damp fleece, that then froze. They looked like they had frosted tips. Cute beauty technique.

The alpacas definately are warming up to us. They come into the barn when we arrive, knowing we will be feeding them. They now go to their own feed, so feeding time works out well. When I leave after feeding and cleaning up the pasture, they follow me along the fence.

The cats seem to be doing ok in the cold too. They have really long fur and they stay in the barn by the hay when it's really cold. Their water did freeze overnight but Fluffy figured out how to walk on the wood part of the divider in the barn to reach the alpaca's water (it is heated to prevent freezing). I do not think Tiger has figured this out, so we bring fresh water every morning to make sure she has plenty of water. Poor Tiger. Tiger remains small and do not appear to eat much. We bought wet cat food for her, hoping to get her to eat more. We give it to her and she just looks at it. Initially we keep Fluffy away so Tiger can eat, but she doesn't. Fluffy ends up eating it. Tiger must be eating some of the dry food (we keep that bowl full all the time), because she is going to the bathroom. Fluffy is very active, running all over, chasing leaves and climbing trees. Tiger is calm, mostly sitting by our feet while we are there.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Clean fleece?

I wish I could post a picture of Snowstorm, how he was when he arrived, and what he looks like a few days later. You could all laugh with me! Clean fleece, ummmm that was a pipe dream. Seems Snowstorm likes to roll on the ground and picked a spot in the pasture where the grass was thin. He's filthy. The girls seems to do it too, but their fleece is brown to start with so you do not notice it as much.

First time in the barn

I forgot to tell the story of how the alpacas came into the barn after being in the pasture (we did herd them into the barn when Linda dropped them off, but after that they did not want to come into the barn). The alpacas seemed scared of the barn and wouldn't come in.

On Sunday, J and I were in the barn trying to get the alpacas food sorted out. Emma and Zack were out in the pasture with the alpacas. The kids got into a fight and Zack started bawling, then ran into the barn to us. The alpacas followed him. Seems alpacas either felt bad for Zack, or are that nosey.

They are curious animals. Yesterday (Wednesday) I was picking up leaves in the west pasture. They had been using the east pasture, but I said "you can come with me". They ran out there before I could get through the gate! The grass must be greener on the other side ;) They ate grass, ran around, and rolled in some dirt, while following me around the pasture. They would come up to me, but not close enough for me to touch them. If I looked at them, they would back off. I have read that alpacas know how far your arms/hands can reach and will stay just out of that distance. I witnessed this to be very true!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


J did the morning feeding on Monday and got the girls to eat out of the pipe trough. Snowstorm wouldn't but J left some grain on the ground that did get eaten. Snowstorm is proving to be very stubborn (which isn't a big deal, we have a stubborn dog, a stubborn child and J and I have been know to be a bit stubborn too). Snowstorm will fit right in with us!

The kids and I fed them in the evening and the girls ate out of the trough with no problem. I bought a bowl that we could put on the ground for Snowstorm. No sense fighting with him over it. The alpacas either really like their food or are getting use to us because they stayed in the barn, in the pen, even with me and the kids in there pouring grain (Emma poured for the girls, Zack brought Snowstorm his bowl).

The cats remain in the barn so they must be getting along fine with the alpacas. I will need to start brushing the cats though, their fur is so long, I worry it will mat if it is not brushed. We will see how they like that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The second nights feeding

On the second night (Sunday night) I went to the barn by myself so there were no kids moving around to distract the alpacas. When I got to the barn, the alpacas were already inside. Seems they have adjusted to it. I gave Tiger (the kitten) some wet cat food (since she's a runt she seems to need more) so she was out of the way eating that. Fluffy was mad I did not give her any so she was running around the barn pestering everyone, but the alpacas did not seem to notice her. (After Tiger was done eating I did let Fluffy finish up what Tiger did not eat).

The alpacas appeared to think it was food time and had their eyes glued on me. They came up to the gate that separates them from where the food is (and where I was). I measured out food for 1 female and walked into the pen and poured it into the pipe. Victoria started eating it and then Kateri joined in. I was happy seemed to be working just right. Then I went and measured out food for Snowstorm. But when I brought his food into the pen Victoria came after that food and Snowstorm refused to come over by it. I spent the rest of the time trying to get them to eat where I wanted them too, trying to cox them to where I had put their food. In the end the girls ate out of the scoop and Snowstorm would only eat if I dumped the food on the ground. He is stubborn!

While it was not quite what a wanted it is progress from the night before. The biggest plus being they were in the barn, and they let me walk all over the pen while they were in there too.

Next we will try pouring the grain into bowls and putting the bowls by the pipe trough. Eventually we will get something to work.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The First 24 Hours

When Linda arrived with the alpacas, she took me into the trailer and showed me how to put the halters on them so we could walk them into the barn. The first one she haltered and we passed that one over to Emma to hold until we walked to the barn. The second one I attempted to halter, then passed to J to walk to the barn. The last one I haltered and walked to the barn. Zack wanted to walk one but we worried he would have a hard time with it so he hung onto the leash with me.

We brought the alpacas into the barn and then out into the pasture. They instantly started eating the grass. We have been so happy with how well it came in and seeing the alpacas enjoy it we know our work to put it in was worth it.

Linda helped us herd up the alpacas so that we could get Snowstorm into the alpaca chute where she could show J how to cut Snowstorms toenails. J is in charge of the medical stuff (being that he is an RN). J will cut the girls nails another day. It was a bit of a struggle to get Snowstorm into the chute, seems he is very stubborn and he is a big alpaca. I'm glad Linda was there to help.

Linda gave us the fleece from all three animals from this past years sheering. I was so excited to get that! I was not expecting it but have wanted to get my hands on some alpaca fleece. She also gave us all the ribons the 3 alpacas have won, and their records (medical records, transport records and show records).

After Linda left we set out to feed the alpacas. We had seen one farm where they took a plastic pipe, cut it in half and let the alpacas eat off of that. The reason to do that was that is lessens the chance the alpaca will choke on their grain (which can be a complication). Also, you can flip the pipe over when not in use and the flies cannot sit on it. We liked the look of that set up and put that in our barn. But, these alpacas had never seen it before, they were use to eating out of bowls. We put the grain out and they would not come into the barn. We tried many different things. J was able to get them to eat out of his hand when he walked to them in the pasture and they would follow him to the barn but not go in. He took herding poles and guided them into the barn. They stayed for awhile but would not eat. The kids and I tried moving into the pasture so the alpacas might want to go into the barn to escape us. Nothing seemed to work. We left for a bit to see if they would eat after we were gone. We came back about an hour later and they had not eaten. We let the cats out of the cage and left the animals for the night hoping the alpacas would eat once we were gone.

The next morning (Sunday) we went out to the barn around 7:30 a.m. The alpacas were in the pasture. My Father-in-law said he saw them laying down just outside the barn door, where they apparently slept. They seem very skiddish of our barn (maybe it is too different then they are use to). The grain was still there, they had not eatten any of it, even though they knew where it was.

I took the scoop for the grain and put the grain in it, then went out to the pasture and coxed the girls into eating out of the scoop. I had seen other farmers do this, and Zack did it at one of the farms we visited. Victoria was the first to eat, then finally Kateri joined her. I made sure Snowstorm stayed back as the pregnant females need this grain, his is optional. I was able to get the girls to eat all their share. J fed Snowstorm, some Snowstorm ate out of J's hand, and some Snowstorm ate off the ground.

At one point during the feeding it sounded like Kateri sneezed. I wondered if she was mad and was actually spitting (they will spit when mad). I looked and on the road there was a jogger going by - she had spit! She was on the alert. That jogger had not made any sound that I could hear. These alpacas are in tuned! Victoria watched the jogger until he was out of sight.

We have gone out there to visit the alpacas several times today. I went for a walk around the pasture and the alpacas would come out to the fence near me. The cats did too. In fact Tiger escaped through the fence, she is so small she could fit. I worry about her going on the road so we will have to keep a very close eye on her. Fluffy is too big to fit through the fence, but she is a climber and I bet she will learn how to get out (she climbed a tree on Friday, Zack was so upset yelling "call the fire department we need a fireman" she did end up climbing down herself). I did see the kittens in the pasture where the alpacas sniffed them. Tiger didn't seem to notice, but Fluffy did hiss at the alpacas. The alpacas sniffed and walked away. Hopefully they will all get along, they seemed ok (especially for a first meeting). I have read Alpacas like cats, and they seemed to be fine with the kittens there. But alpacas do stomp as a defense and those kittens are small (especially Tiger who is a runt and not very fast). So far so good.

We will see how feeding goes tonight. One thing we have noticed is that the alpacas are more likely to come into the barn if the front barn door is open (the alpacas come in through the back). Then they can see through the barn. The problem being if the barn door is open the kittens can get out and Fluffy likes to hide under cars. I worry Tiger would not know to move if a car did come near her. We will have to try some different things. I think tonight we will lock the kittens in their cage, then feed the alpacas with the barn door open. Leave them alone for awhile. If the alpacas eat, then later we can let the kittens out of their cage and close the door so all is safe overnight.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Alpacas are here!

This afternoon Linda arrived with the alpacas, Kateri, Victoria and Snowstorm. It worked out great as J had just finished getting all the leaves out of one of the pastures so it was all set for the alpacas. I spent the last three days raking leaves (a chore I hate but did for the sake of getting the leaves out of the alpacas way). The alpacas loved the grass and immediately started eating.

Linda showed J how to trim the toe nails on Snowstorm. He will do Kateri and Victoria's toe nails on another day (after they have settled in more as they are pregnant and we don't want to put too much stress on them).

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of their arrival because my digital camera is not working. We also are trying not to put too much stress on the girls so we are keeping things low key. Pregnant females when under stress can reabsorb a pregnancy which we do not want to happen. We would get another breeding but being winter we do not want a cria born in the winter, so we would have to decide if we should hold off until spring which postpones having a cria significantly.

Kateri is due July 19th
Victoria is due July 14th

July will be baby cria fever!

I am very excited that Linda brought the fleece from all three animals for me! I was thinking I would have to wait until the sheering in the spring before I would get any. Now to look into a mill to send it to so I can have some yarn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Victoria - picture and information

Birthdate: 7/28/2004
Heritage: 7/8 Chilean, 1/8 Other/Unknown
Color: Dark Brown

Awards Received
2005 MOPACA 5th place combined brown juvenile females
2005 PAOBA Breeder's Showcase 5th place dark brown juvenile females
2005 Michigan International Alpacafest 3rd place dark brown yearling females
2006 Wisconsin Spring Fling 4th dark brown yearlin females
2006 IAOBA Alpaca Festival 4th of 8 dark brown yearling females
2006 Great Midwest Alpaca Festival 4th of 7

This is what South Haven Alpacas says about Victoria:

On June 16th Victoria gave us a gorgeous Light Fawn female cria. Perfectly conformed and dynamite fiber. Victoria is an excellent mom and easy birther. .....

Victoria was the first cria born on our farm. We were very pleased with the result of breeding our award winning dam Hana to the sensational true black Dark Shaddow. She has very fine fiber combined with perfect conformation and bite. Her color background includes True Black, Silver Grey,Medium Fawn, White,and obviously Dark Brown. She has three award winning half brothers,our own Thorr, Snowstorm, and The Buccaneer.

Victoria is mild mannered and easy to handle. Definitely not the dominant female, she can hold her own at feeding time. She sports the same topknot as her dam and brothers so we feel she will probably pass this attractive trait to her offspring.

Snowstorm - picture and information

Birthdate: 7/29/2005
Heritage: 1/2 Chilean, 1/2 Peruvian
Color: White

South Haven Alpacas has this to say about Snowstorm:

Snowstorm is the biggest cria born on our farm. His color was a surprise due to his dam's propensity to throw color. Even though she is white she has produced two black and one brown crias. Never the color she was bred to. Snowstorm carries color genetics for Fawn(all shades), True Black, Brown(all shades), Silver Grey, and White.

Snowstorm's show record is very respectable when considering the level of competition among whites. He handled very well in the ring. His personality is shy and he prefers to stand back when the boys come to the fence. He gets along well in the herd... So why are we selling him? Too many boys from the same dam. Two of his brothers are being retained for our breeding program. We cannot give him the breeding opportunities he deserves.

Kateri - picture and information

Birthdate: 6/28/2004
Heritage: 1/4 Chilean, 1/2 Peruvian
Color: Light Brown

Awards Received
First Place Brown(combined) Juvenile females 2005 MOPACA
Second Place Light brown Yearling females 2006 IAOBA


This is what South Haven Alpacas say about Kateri
Kateri is named for an Mohawk princess who several times saved the lives of some of the first french missionaries in north america. We felt this was a good name for a female sired by Tecumseh. Having explained the name, we can guarantee that you will easily fall for this princess. She has a gentle nature and is easy to handle. Her fiber is very soft with a bold crimp. Conformation is perfect as well as her bite. Her light brown color is perfectly accented by her true black muzzle and feet.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pictures of the kittens

Here are some pictures that Jillian took of the kittens.

They are sisters, though the orange striped one is smaller (likely the runt of the litter):
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This will be Zack's. He named it "Tiger":
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This is Emma's kitten, she named it "Fluffy":
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Tonight we will go and pick up the kittens. We will put them in the barn with lots of food and warm hay. I'm expecting the kids will be spending most of the weekend down at the barn.

J talked to Ken and Linda who say the Alpacas may be coming November 15 or 16th, which is next week! That works out well as the kids do not have school on the 15th so I was planning on being home anyway.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


We have been looking for 2 cats for our barn. The idea is for them to (hopefully) be mousers as we have alpacas food in there. And with living in the woods mice are a given. Also, I thought it would be neat for each of my kids to have a cat to take care of. They can play with the cat and be responsible for feeding the cat, and possible chase the cat around. But then not mess with the alpacas as much. Some of the farms we visited, the kids got to chasing the alpacas. My kids are curious and want to pet and play with the alpacas, but alpacas do not always want to be petted and chasing them gives them anxiety. We don't want our new alpacas to be scared off by kids chasing them. So the hunt for 2 cats began. Unfortunately most shelters will not adopt out cats to be outdoor cats, so that left us with looking for "free kittens" signs.

As it happened, one of my co-workers, Jillian, sent out on email asking if anyone wants 2 kittens! She also happens to be an alpaca farmer - for an office of about 20 people, that's a huge coincidence.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Not so fast

The alpacas aren't coming quite yet. Linda wasn't able to go to Wisconsin to pick them up. We are hoping to get them by the end of November, but plans are not set exactly. They will get here, just a matter of when.

In the mean time we are looking for a vet for our alpacas. We thought the vet we use for our dogs would work, but they no longer see large animals. So we need to come up with a plan B. We also need to find more hay. There is a hay shortage in Michigan due to the dry summer (drought). We have some hay, but not enough for the winter. Oh, and we are looking for 2 cats for our barn, as mousers. Plus this way the kids can each have a cat to call their own.
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