Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring and the pregnant girls

Sancha is due in April, but her belly seems plenty big already. I've gone to watching her baby move everyday after she eats her grain. We wonder if she may deliver soon (before due date). She seems to be showing some signs (teats are bigger and her private area is pink, which is said to be a sign of delivery soon). J put tape on her tail so that it's out of the way during birth and will keep it that way until she's bred again (usually about 2 weeks after birth they are ready to breed again).

The snow seems to be melting in a line across the pasture, starting on the north side and moving to the south. It must have to do with how much shade each area gets. The alpacas, especially the pregnant girls like to walk along the line of the snow and eat the grass as it emmerges from the freshly melted snow.

another paddock and catch pen

Since we put up the second shelter in the winter, we were not able to adjust the fencing. The original barn not only has the pasture fenced in, but has a paddock and a catch pen. The purpose of the catch pen is to assist in "catching" the alpacas so that we can halter them. The catch pen has one openning, and is a small area so that the alpaca has no where to run. The idea behind it is that you can grab at the alpaca in that pen, but not outside of the pen so that they feel safe from being grabbed otherwise (they hate being grabbed so their feeling safe is important). The paddock is nice if we want to keep the alpaca's near the barn, like if the vet is coming, we can herd them into the paddock/barn area and close the gate so they can't get too far away. That way we do not have to chase them all over the pasture.

The ground is still somewhat frozen but we managed to get the fence up for the paddock and catch pen. Now I need to get going on halter training Sommerfield and Maddie, I've been using the excuse of too much snow on the ground and no where to halter them.

The kids were curious about what J was doing (putting up the gate), and the alpacas were curious.

the alpacas trying to figure out what we are doing:

The paddock

The Catch pen (really hard to see in a picture, it's between the paddocks. Each paddock is directly in front of the barn door, the new catch pen butts up to both paddocks):

Monday, March 24, 2008

Earning their keep

The cats are officially earning their keep. I came to the barn yesterday morning to find a dead mouse. Good job kitties! I predict that Fluffy is the one who did the killing but Thunder has been a lot more active lately so could have done it also.

Cria watch

We are officially on watch for Sancha's cria (baby). She's due April 20th, but it's close enough she could deliver any time now. I've been excited about the birth coming soon and ask her everyday how the baby is. But when I saw it snow on Friday, I got the feeling that this cria is going to wait for warmer weather. I have heard that spring cria are often born later rather than earlier, and fall cria are more likely born earlier rather than later. The theory is that they are born for the warmer weather. But who knows. Just because most spring ones are born later doesn't mean Sancha definately will be one of those. So I will still be studying her everyday.

Last night after we fed them their grain my neice and I watched Sancha's baby move all over in her belly. It looked like a wave going across her belly. We found if we looked at her left side we could see the movement better.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Check Him Out

The Buccaneer is Victoria's and Snowstorm's young brother. He's done awesome in the show ring and now starting his stud career. When we bought Victoria and Kateri we were also given 2 bred backs. This summer we will use one to bred Kateri to Buccaneer.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Kateri: mom to a champion!

Kateri's first cria, Princess, won Spring Bling Color Champion!

Princess (I can see some resemblence to Kateri) more pictures can be found on her web page at South Haven Alpacas:

Princess is a bay black which is very hard to get a good picture of (the dark fiber animals do not show their features well in pictures, unfortunately).

Princess remains at South Haven Alpacas (link to South Haven Alpacas on the left column of the blog, she is listed as "for sale" on that web site, click on her name and you will get to her page with more pictures and a description of her).

Kateri, who we call "Kateri Berry", is the proud mom

Kateri tends to be shy but I was able to get some close up pictures of her

Now I really cannot wait to see her cria for this year! She's not due until July so we have quite awhile to wait. In the mean time, Sancha is due with her baby April 20th, so could be born anytime now. Every morning I look at her and ask how the baby is, but no sign of anything yet. Maybe she will hold off until my birthday.

The morning

This morning down on the farm the alpacas were begging for treats. J started giving them treats every morning when he was there feeding the pregnant girls. Of course now I carry on the tradition.

enjoying the treats

A close-up of Victoria, it's hard to get a good picture of her face because her fiber is so dark

The Chute

I don't know if I have posted a picture of the chute J made to do herd health care. I think it was made during the time I did not have a camera that worked. Here is the dreaded chute:

It looks tall and slim but all the alpacas fit in it fine. Even Sancha who is close to 200 pounds (with a pregnant belly). When not in use for the alpacas, we put the cat dish in there.

It has been helpful in holding the alpaca still during vet checks. And some of the alpacas do well in it for toenail trimming. Victoria and Maddie are fine in it, and really so is Sancha. Sancha hates being haltered but usually will go in the chute ok. Now Kateri and Snowstorm, they HATE the chute. We've gone to trimming Snowstorm's nails in the field instead.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm back

I spent the last two weeks out of town at a training for my "other" job (I work part time out of the house). It was a good training, but I did miss my babies (both the human ones and the furry ones ;) ).

I did come home on the weekend to help J with a herd health day. Sancha needed a shot since she is due very soon. And they all needed toe nails trimmed. Sancha spit at J when he tried to get her in the halter, but after that she was fine. Kateri not only spit when we haltered her, but spit constantly when we were trying to get her into the chute. I got two good face-fulls of spit - NASTY! The smell alone is bad enough. My eyes were irratated for a few days (I have heard of getting an eye infection from the spit). We ended up not even cutting her nails in the end, gave up. I guess she was having a very hormal day. The young girls did fine. Though I do need to work on halter training them. Snowstorm gave us some resistance, but his nails were so bad we had to trim them. We ended up trimming them in the field and not even bothering with the chute since we couldnt' get him in it.

Sancha's baby is due April 20th. J wrapped her tail with tape to help keep the fur out of the way and to help us see progress without having to touch and move her tail. She did not like that tape at first but now does not seem bothered by it.

Everyone seems to have adjusted fine to the changing around of barns. J put a barrel of hay right by the gate separating the two pastures. They often lay by that hay barrel as if they are hanging out together.

We still have solid snow cover on the pastures. I know they are looking for grass, but none to be found quite yet. We have a lot of mud by the barns. Hopefully spring with come soon, this slow thaw has been messy.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Barn Arrangements

On Saturday I moved Snowstorm, Maddie and Sommerfield to the new barn. We decided this would be best with Sommerfield being so attached to her mom, Sancha. Sancha is due with a new baby in April (though their window of having the baby could be a month earlier or a month later). We want Sancha to get a break from Sommerfield (she often spits her off, carely annoyed with her). And we want to make sure the new cria is safe. Likely all would be fine with them all remaining together, but since we can separate the pregnant ones, we might as well do so and play it safe. We have heard stories of other alpacas harming the new cria, espeically when it's first born and still weak. We want to make sure the cria is strong enough before having the young girls around it. After the cria is born we will reevaluate the separate herds and decide where to go from there. But it depends how strong the new cria is.

So I separated them, then fed them. I wanted Snowstorm and the young girls to view the new barn as a good place with food! Then I filled the hay bucket and water bucket. They ate but then realized they were cut off from the others and started fighting with each other. I thought Snowstorm was annoyed at Sommerfield because she kept humming (whining and crying). J thinks Snowstorm was asserting his dominance, that he is leader of that pack. That makes sense.

Victoria did not like that she was the only one in the barn at feeding time. I moved Kateri and Sancha into the pasture because Victoria steals their food. Victoria has gotten too heavy which puts her at risk for having a difficult labor and difficulty producing good milk. We need to slim her down some (the cria will get what nutrients it needs, just like in a human the baby gets what it needs, the mom is the one who depletes, but we will make sure not to cut her back too much because she is pregnant). After the gate to the pasture with Kateri and Sancha was open, Victoria was fine.

Sommerfield continued to hum and Kateri did also. Sancha just stood around and looked. Snowstorm got into a few spitting matches with Sommerfield. Emma got very upset about it saying that Snowstorm was being too mean to a baby girl. I did watch and Sommerfield held her own, though I do think Snowstorm is leader of that pack!

In the afternoon I took a walk and went by the pasture/barn several times. I found at times Snowstorm and the girls were in their barn eating, and the pregnant girls were by the gate between the two pastures. At other times the pregnant girls were in their barn and Snowstorm and the young girls were by the gate. They did seem to want to be together. Sommerfield was by far the most upset, most often standing by the gate trying to get through. But that just shows why we need to separate her from her mom. She is too attached and with a new cria on the way it is past time for Sommerfield to break that bond. It is sad to see her so upset. But I think about when Maddie first came to our farm, she looked for her mom and hummed. But she survived and is doing fine. Sommerfield will too.

I felt bad leaving them separated over night. At first I debated letting them all be together over night and then separating again in the morning. But given how difficult it was to herd the right ones in the right pasture/barn. And given how insistant Sommerfield is in getting back to her mom. I decided that letting them be together overnight would just make it harder to separate them in the morning. They will sort it out.

It will be interesting to see how they are this morning.

Another big change is that Snowstorm, Maddie and Sommerfield will be switched to only eating grain once a day. That is all they need (technically they do not need grain at all, but some is good for fiber production). I have been feeding two times a day for the pregnant girls. But it was too hard when they were all together to just feed them and not the younger girls and Snowstorm. Now that they are separate, I can just feed the pregnant ones. I expect when I go down there to have some objection, especially from Snowstorm. But they will get use to this change. I will make sure they have plenty of hay and water.


Maybe I shouldn't have favorites but I just can't help myself. Kateri and I first bonded when she arrived and she was the shy one in the back. Victoria and Snowstorm always got things first and got the attention so I made a point to seek out Kateri. She also hummed a lot when she first arrived. Likely out of aggitation. I think she missed her baby, Princess (who remained at South Haven Alpacas). I also love Kateri's hair, it's wild.

Maddie captured my heart the first time I saw her picture. I love the white and black coloring on her face. Right now she's the youngest on our farm, and the most friendly.

Sommerfield is a sweetie too but not quite a friendly as Maddie. She has incredible fiber! It is long and thick and has crimp. I can't wait to have some made into yarn.

Here are the two young girls:


Here are some of the things I knit over the winter.

First a scarf that I made out of alpaca yarn:

A baby layette, but not out of alpaca yarn (it would have been nice, if I had some I would have!):

Slipper socks for my niece (again, not out of alpaca yarn, but still good practice at knitting):

Saturday, March 1, 2008


I finally got some pictures back (from the period of time I did not have a digital camera).

These are from last fall. The first shows off our green pasture with the alpacas in the distance. We hope once the snow melts that beautiful green pasture will come back!

We had a lot of leaves that had to be raked up. Don't let Zack fool you in these pictures, he was not really "helping" more goofing off while I raked the leaves.

Crazy cat! Fluffy loves to crawl on people's shoulders.

Snowstorm eating out of the 1/2 cut PVC pipe.

A picture of Kateri from this fall (before snow):

Moving barns

Our plan is to move Snowstorm, Maddie and Sommerfield to the smaller barn. This will give Sancha a bit of a break as the two little girls follow her around everywhere. Sancha is due April 20th, but could deliver a month early (or later). We want her to have a peaceful and ease as possbile. Sommerfield is very attached and could benefit from some independence.

We started a trial run at feed time last night. We got the two girls and Snowstorm into the other barn to eat. Snowstorm did not want to leave Victoria. And Victoria appeared upset as she was pacing in her barn. Sommerfield ran to eat, but after her meal was done she tried to get through the gate to go back by her mom. Since it was late at night and already dark we openned the gates between the two pastures/barn and let the alpacas choose where to go. This morning we plan to separate them and see how they do for the day. I have not decided if I will keep them separate or allow them to sleep together again tonight for a more gradual transition.

I will be gone all week out of town. J will have to take over the daily feeding. At least with the pregnant girls in one barn he will just need to feed them in the morning, and everyone in the evening. We did discover that Victoria has again put on too much weight so we need to cut back her food. Sancha needs extra as she is in the last months of pregnancy.

Vet visit

We had the vet out to our farm yesterday. This was a meet & greet along with some exams. We needed blood drawn on Maddie for her ARI registration. We also were interested in having the 3 bred girls tested to make sure they are still pregnant. Alpacas can absorb the fetus, even when they are further along. Stress is usually the cause. Since they all came to us bred, there was stress in transport and in coming to a new farm. We *think* we can see Sancha's baby in there, and I was pretty sure I could see a baby bump on Kateri, but Victoria did not look the same. I was chalking it up to her carrying different. She must be carrying a boy and the other two have girls (or so I was theorizing).

The vet did an ultra sound on all three bred girls. Kateri was first and a pregnant uterus was found along with some baby parts. All seems well. Sancha was next. Since Sancha is due in about 7 weeks it was harder to find (due to how the alpacas carry the baby) but a baby was spotted moving around and kicking :) Victoria was last and her's was very hard to find. The vet wondered if Victoria might be further along than what he thought. We did not think that could be possible as she was transported to Hibben Hollow and bred to Goldsmith shortly after arriving there. She would not have laid for Goldsmith if she was already pregnant. The vet was able to find a spine that had to be from the baby. Still a mystery why it was located in a bit different spot.

We discussed with the vet a vaccine schedule and she took a fecal sample.

After the vet left J looked over Victoria's file and it turns out she had the same thing happen the last time she was pregnant. She must really carry differently than average. Since her first cria, Contessa, was born healthy and through a regular birth we are less concerned about the odd ultra sound on her. Though we will keep a bit of an eye on her in case she delivers before due date.
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