Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The end of the year

Here our first full year of alpaca farming comes to an end. The first alpacas, Victoria, Kateri and Snowstorm, showed up at our farm in November of 2007. Early in 2008 Sancha, Sommerfield and Maddie came. Then we had the unexpected death of Remington :( who was soon replaced by Maxito. Maxito has since been traded for Apollo Griffon. We gained Tucker, a son of Grey Wing. And we have our three cria born in 2008, Lightning, Shelby and Tehya. From 3 alpacas to 11, our farm has grown a lot in the last year.

The fun parts of the process have been the births and going to shows. I also think we have had a lot of family time taking on farm projects. I'm impressed what farmers the kids have turned out to be. The hard part has been the unexpected health issues (Remington, then Lightning needing a transfusion, and J hurting his back)and growing faster than planned (we had to put in another barn and buy more food than we had budgeted for).

2009 we are expecting at least 3 cria. Sancha is due in just over 4 months. Then over the summer Victoria and Kateri should deliver. We still do not know if Sommerfield is pregnant, if so, make that 4 cria. By next year at this time we could have a farm of 15. Then 5 cria for 2010! And 7 for 2011!! That's a farm of 27 by 2011. Even with the females only having 1 cria a year, we are growing faster than we had planned.

I also hope to get my picture issue resolved soon so that I can get pictures back on my blog. I need those cute faces to keep it interesting :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Protective Mom

Wow did I get a lesson in how protective a mom can be!

On Wednesday when I went to feed the morning grain to the girls, I noticed Shelby was shivering. We have been watching her closely because she's the smallest and because her mom is outside a lot and Shelby tends to stay with her mom outside. We had snow on the ground but there had been some rain first. She had gotten wet, then the water froze and she was cold. I was alone at the barn but decided I needed to get a cria coat on her ASAP. I grab the cria coat and then I grab Shelby. Well, she's a strong little thing and it took some struggling to get the coat on her. In the end she had cushed and I was on the ground almost sitting on top of her. Mom, Victoria, did not like this one bit. As Shelby squirmed she cried and Victoria came to her side. When I had Shelby on the ground Victoria was behind me spitting at me and ready to step on me! I have never seen her so protective. I was sort of glad to see it because she's seemed like a very easy going mom, I wondered what she would do if her baby was in danger. She showed me.

This whole incident got Tucker all excited. Seems he likes a girl that is feisty. Later on that day we spit tested the girls with Tucker. Sancha spit at him before he even got through the gate. Kateri was spitting next. Victoria ran more than spit, but when she is open she is a flirt so this confirmed all three of them pregnant via spit testing (a female will spit off a male if they are pregnant, though this isn't 100% accurate by any means, it has some validity). Sommerfield was much harder to read. This is her first year being bred so she might not even know herself if she's pregnant. She sniffed at the males and flipped up her tail (signs of being open). Being that she's never been pregnant though, it's really hard to know. What was more telling to us is that Tucker chased her and tried to mount her, as if he could smell that she was open. We'll see. I think we will have her u/s this spring to see if we need to rebred her or not.

No Pictures

My blog is going to suffer for a bit here because I am having a problem getting pictures on it. Our home computer died. We have a laptop at home and while it runs, it is not compatible with the software to upload pictures from my camera (the laptop is a bit old). Hopefully we can find someone to fix out computer and it will be up and running and loading pictures again very soon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

comments on the alpaca business

Looking at the CBS clip I noticed below people have added comments. Many comments are in support of the business, but there are always some who claim it's a pyramid scheme and/or it will go the way of the ostrich or emus. The only comments I was shocked about were the ones that said it's a snobby Republican business - they apparently never met me! LOL I'm far from snobby (politics aside). Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and like all businesses/investments there are many opinions out there.

I say do your research. We did. We certainly did not jump into it one day on a whim. I had wanted to do it for over 10 years before I got the facts and felt we could do this. And even then, there are days I wonder how we are pulling this off.

It is an investment, but I think people who get the most from it enjoy nature, enjoy animals, and enjoy the alpaca community. We greatly enjoy spending time at the barn (even poop scooping is a break from my day job, there is something easy about it, rather than solving people's problems). I am very excited to knit items from our alpaca fiber, I can't wait! We love going to shows, and chatting with alpaca folks. And to add onto the "snobby" idea, alpaca people come from all walks of life. You can see it blatantly at shows. There are the big farms that drive in with their fancy trucks and trailers and have their polished outfits. There are some small farms that have really nice things but on a smaller scale. And there are those who rent a minivan to transport their 2 alpacas to the show (or drive in a run down old trailer). It's a very diverse crowd of people who show up to the shows, but all have the common interest in alpacas.

There are people who strictly see alpacas as an investment rather than a life style. That would not be my personal choice, but it is done, and some people prefer this. These are people that have another farm care for their alpacas, they personally only have limited involvement (and that varies greatly too, some come by frequently, others only go to shows, and I imagine there are some that do not have any contact with the animals). To me this is a different alpaca owner than the farmers that we are, but it is an option (especially for city folk who cannot have alpacas on their property, or those who just don't care for the nature part of it).

The business/investment is not for everyone. But I would not be so quick to say it's a scheme or to write it off as a "snobby" thing to do. Get more facts before making those assumptions, please.

Alpacas on the news

Last night CBS had a segment at the very end of the show on investments - in alpacas :)

I happened to see an email that this was going to be on, around 6:50 p.m. I turned the channel to CBS just in time to see it. Very cool to see alpacas on TV like that.

If you missed it:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cria Girls

Our girls have been growing a lot. Tehya's mom is still very dotting, but Tehya can be fiesty herself. Shelby is a strong little one too. Often her mom, Victoria will sleep outside, and Shelby will too. I frequently find them in the morning with frost on their backs.

Here is Tehya (fawn color) and Shelby (brown - eating at the feeder):

Tehya's face up closer:

Shelby's stance:

Shelby's face (I love how wooly it is!):


We spent last weekend splitting, hauling and stacking wood.

The extra that is stacked outside:

What we were able to put in the garage:

Our plan is to use the furnace less often and use the fireplace more. We hope to save a little bit of money by not using so much propane. We'll see what our next propane bill looks like. We do like a nice fire, but in the past we didn't turn off the furnace to do so.

Slowly we are becoming more self sufficient. We have plans to put in a big garden next spring. We will see how much we can do here at home to save money and live better.

Other Farm Animals

Here Is Quinn begging to come down to the barn with me. Sometimes I let him, other times I leave him home (he doesn't always listen very well, if I take him to the barn, I have a hard time getting him back in the house later on).

Since the cold weather hit, Nala has enjoyed spending her time up on the hay pile:

Fluffy is queen of the barn (I've read in the cat world whoever is the highest up, is the leader. This is why cats will fight up on top of furniture).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Apollo's Griffon

We exchanged Maxito with Picasso Farm in Illinois. They want white and we want color, so seemed like a really good trade. As I mentioned in the post with the pictures of Max, the kids were very sad to see him go. He was a sweet alpaca. But so is Apollo (we can't seem to decide if we should call him Apollo or Griffon, we tend to use nicknames on the farm).

He has been getting along well with the other boys. Of course there is the usual hirarchy to determine. So far I think Snowstorm rules the roost. Even Tucker didn't challenge him enough for him to lose that role. Now Apollo has tried, but Snowstorm still seems to be in charge. I wonder how things will play out when Lightning gets older.

Here are all the boys:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cold Mornings

Victoria and daughter, Shelby, with a bit of snow on them. Don't they look alike!

I don't think Tehya knows what to make of the snow:

Goodbye Maxito

After aquiring Maxito this past spring, we decided that he really doesn't fit into our breeding program. He was supose to be sort of a replacement for Remington (who died in transport to our farm). But he's not like Remington, we were were replacing with a different type of alpaca (Max being white and Remington having been rose gray).

This is Maxito when he came to our farm last spring:

Here is Maxito a couple weeks ago:

And here he is the day of the trade, it was raining pretty bad, and there was some snow (and of course, Max was out in the rain where he always seems to go):

The kids started to cry when Maxito left the farm. He's such a sweet boy. But J came back with Apollo Griffon, a light brown (or dark fawn) boy. I didn't get pictures of him yet, as it was really wet when he arrived. I'll get some pictures this week.

Santa Clause

Lightning has gotten so woolly on his face it looks like a big full white beard:

I tease him that he looks like Santa Clause :0

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Fall is here. The leaves are turning coloring and falling. The air is crisp and cool.

Quinn is getting his winter coat:

Tehya seems to grow in leaps and bounds. All the sudden one day she will look taller. It seems Shelby grows at a more steady rate, so she will finally catch up to Tehya, only to have Tehya suddenly shoot up taller. Tehya is a nice, strong, solid alpaca with great form (straight back, nice lined up bite, etc). This is a recent picture of Tehya:

Here you can see Tehya is taller than Shelby (Tehya is light fawn color, Shelby is brown. Tehya does seem to have a bit bigger build in general than Shelby, noted by a bigger rib cage and so forth). We've noticed lately how Sommerfield is looking like her mom, Sancha. Sommerfield is the closer white alpaca, Sancha is the one the furthest back. See how their faces are starting to look an aweful lot alike? They do not have the look we are breeding for. We prefer a face with more fiber (like Shelby and Tehya) and we prefer the shorter nose. In our breeding plan, we breed Sancha and Sommerfield to males who have those features we are looking for. Sancha's cria from this spring, Lightning, definately has face coverage. I nick named him Santa Claus cause it looks like he has a beard (I'll get a picture of him for a future post).

Shelby is growing nice and strong. I love her shiney brown color, and her fiber covers everywhere. The shiney looks gives her fiber a slippery feel. She has a bold crimp that is different from our other alpacas. Here is Shelby:

Zack snuggling up to Shelby (she doesn't look too thrilled, but note how much fiber is on her face, all the way up to her black muzzle):

New Feeder

J built a feeder for the alpaca's hay. It works awesome! It's big enough I can mix up the hay (we have mostly grass hay, but the girls get some alphalfa mixed in because they are having trouble with being too thin). They alpacas don't dump the hay out of this feeder. And with the top on it, it stays dry. The bottom of the feeder has slats so if moisture does get in there, it can drain out (rather than the hay buckets that would end up with water sitting in the bottom).

I think he should market his skills. He could build chutes and feeders for other alpaca farmers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

New photographer

Zack took some neat pictures I thought I'd share. I let him use my camera and was very impressed with the picturs he took. I could tell he was playing around with shadows and taking small parts of bigger things (like the tree pictures):

This is a fire I had going to do some housekeeping (burn up old papers and left over wood from building projects, along with boxes). I thought Zack captured the fire well (especially the flames and smoke):

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Feeding program

We tried cutting back on grain. Some of the things we've read and even talking to other owners, it seemed we were feeding an aweful lot of grain. Well, it didn't work. All out alpacas lost weight. At the show we noticed our alpacas were smaller than others there. It did hurt how they placed too.

So we are back to feeding them more grain like we used to. We also are going to do more with Vitamin D and A. We gave them all shots this past weekend. We'll see how this works.

Heartland Classic show in Indiana

We attended the Heartland Classic in Indiana the first weekend in October. We took Sommerfield, Maddie and Maxito. The show seemed to be run quite well. We definately want to attend again next year.

We met the owners of Hibben Hollow Alpacas, the home of Goldsmith. We told them that two of our cria from this year are Goldsmith babies (Tehya and Shelby). We'll keep them updated on future shows that we take the girls too.

Maddie had to be shown in the shorn class, her fiber was not long enough for full fleece. Maxito was also shown in shorn. In the future we will avoid showing in shorn, but this year we didn't realize this would happen. Maddie won a fourth place in shorn. Maxito won a fifth place. Sommerfield was shown in full fleece. There were 11 in her group. She placed sixth, which while that sounds bad, 6 out of 11 is still placing (they only place up to 6). The judge said she would like to see more bone on Sommerfield (in other words she's small, though she is tall, she is lanky). But because of her fleece she placed, rather than the other alpacas who were shown the gate (did not place).

Again we found we learned a lot at the show. It was good to talk to other owners. We also attending a seminar on advertising. I wanted to attend one on guard dogs but that was going on while Sommerfield was to show. I did get to meet an antonlian shepherd though. Wow are they big!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Due Dates

I added tickers to the bottom of the page to show when the Crias are due. Only 7 months before we'll need to start keeping a close eye on Sancha. Does that seem like a long time! I can't wait to watch these tickers get to due date.

Take a look at the tickers. I tried to find ones that looked like outdoors.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Sommerfield takes #2 in the spinnoff!

The spinner notes her fleece is: bright, attractive, lustrous, soft crimp, amazing fineness, lovely silky handle, smooth and silky, just glows! very nice :) On the negative we had too many second cuts in with it which caused the spinner to have to pull those out. She wrote, "because of the length variation, amount of second cuts and staple variations, this was difficult to prepare to spin - but worth the effort!" The issue of second cuts meant we did not do a good job post shearing of sorting the fiber. That was our mistake, and cost her first place :( Definately a learning experience!! At least we know her fleece is good and a "dream" for a spinner.

The entire white class:

The row of her award (her class of white alpacas):

Up closer:

Maddie (Midnight Masquerade) won 4th. Again here the issue was the second cuts - our big mistake. The spinner did note the fleece is appealing, soft, lofty, rich in brightness, and drafts easy (ease of spinning).

The black class:

The row Maddie was in:

The award:

What I love so much about these awards is that our focus is in producing great fleece in a variety of colors for crafters, to know it's good for spinners means we are getting where we want to be.

Around the show

Shortly after you arrive at the show you need to Compliance Check your alpacas. This is where they check their color and fleece length to make sure they are listed in the right class. Here is J and Emma walking the alpacas to the color check:

At the color check we realized we would be showing our alpacas in the shorn class. This is not ideal for us. The different classes are shorn and full fleece. The shorn class looks solely at conformation (such as their legs being the right way, back straight, teeth in line - like they do at a dog show). The full fleece class looks at both conformation and fleece (some shows are 50/50, meaning 50% of the score is conformation, 50% fleece, some are now moving to 60/40, 60% of the score is based on fiber, 40% on conformation). Since our focus is fleece, we need to show in full fleece. We do pay attention to conformation, but it's not our main focus. The way they decide which class you will show on depends on how long the fleece is. The fleece has to be 2 inches to show in full fleece. Sommerfield had the longest at 1.75 inches long. Once we realized all of ours would be showing in the shorn class we were concerned how well our alpacas will do, since our focus has been so much on the fleece.

Here J is getting Maddie use to the ring:

We were happy with how well they all did on the halter considering the struggle we had to halter train them (my advice, start young, we waited too long). Here J and Emma are letting them practice in the ring:

This is J showing Sommerfield (note all the whites, they class them by age, color and fleece length):

Emma enjoys Maddie (Maddie is so patient with the kids, but she kicked the woman doing the color check, the woman fell down! And Maddie laid down in the show ring when she was being shown.)

Show Set Up

At the show you purchase stalls to hold your animals. We had 2 stalls because we had a boy and girls. However, Max has not yet discovered girls, so he was fine to be in with the 2 girls. That left us a stall for our own stuff. Farms set up their stalls to show off their animals and advertise their farm. We had some banners made and J built wood (oak) structures to hold up the banners. Unfortunately the shelf did not work as planned, but we chalked that up to a learning experience. Much of the show was a learning experience. There is a huge learning curve in this business.

Our banner with the oak framing:

When we took the girls over to the ring, Max did not want to be left alone. They are herd animals so this reaction is common. We discovered that Maddie is very attached to Sommerfield. When waiting in line to show, Maddie kepted humming (a cry hum) so I stood there with Sommerfield to help Maddie calm down.

Friday, September 19, 2008


We are showing in our first alpaca show this weekend! We are taking Maddie, Sommerfield and Maxito, none of whom have been shown before.

Emma is coming with us. J and I have gone to a few shows, but never took the kids. Emma has been such a great help on the farm, so for a reward we invited her to come to the show with us.

We will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


We got a deal on a male and snatched him up. Yesterday J drove to Ohio and back with him.

It's wet here so I'll wait until he dries off to get pictures at our farm. Here are the pictures on Alpaca Nation:

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