Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not in the plan

I started to look for a place that will fix female cats without making them get the entire series of shots (which is expensive, time consuming, and not really something that's done for barn cats). But, I never made an appointment. So it looks like Fluffy is going to have a litter soon:

I actually thought she might have been in labor today. Looks like it was a false alarm, but I do think it likely will be soon. Stay tuned.

KISS MI Alpaca

We attended a gathering of alpaca owners and breeders from around northern and central Michigan. The name that came out of it is KISS MI Alpacas (long story). We only created a name so we could start a yahoo group.

It was a great idea to get so many farms together. We met people who own 1 alpaca, and there was a couple there who have 175 alpacas! Some only have been in this business a few months, to ones who have been in it 20+ years. The couple with 175 alpacas have been in the business since the beginning (before AOBA was formed).

It was interesting and informative to get together. I have lots of thoughts racing around my head about the meeting. Not much I can verbalize yet, though a few things do pop to mind. One thing I did walk away from it with is that I think in some ways we are too hard on ourselves. We expect to have lush pastures and great alpaca products and so forth. Yet there are people who have been in this business for years and are struggling to get grass to grow and still have fiber in bags in their basement. It helped us put some things into perspective. Another thing that I had already been wondering is if we are overfeeding our alpacas. In their native region they do not get grain at all. In fact, they spend all day scaverenging for what little bit of grass they can find. Here we pen them up, and feed them grain and load them up with hay and want lush pastures.... So we are making some changes to our feeding schedule. One big thing is that we will eliminate the morning grain (that was for the pregnant girls only, but really Victoria does not need it, Kateri likely does not. Sancha may need something but we will try and see. If she loses weight we'll add in grain for her again). For the evening feeding most of the alpacas will only get fiber nutrients. The nursing and pregnant woman will get a little bit of grain. Of course we will slowly decrease this amount. And it will mean they will eat more hay. Plus with our reseeding the pastures they will not be able to roam out there so hay will be even more crucial.

The group plans to get together again. The next time will be in Grand Rapids, at Grand Alpacas, the home of the 175 alpacas. Now that should be very interesting! I'm excited about the group and what could come out of it.

Mother & Daughter

I love this mother and daughter picture:

Hot weather, pastures and fall

It's the end of August and that means the last hurrah of hot weather. Alpacas do not handle hot weather well. If you imagine wearing a sweater outside in the heat and humidity, that is about how they feel. We do what we can to cool them off. We have fans going in the barns.

Here is Sancha in front of a fan:

We also hose them off, getting water on their chest/arm pit area. If you get their fiber wet that actually makes it worse for them. Imagine wearing a wet sweater in the heat! But on their chest/belly area they have less fiber so you can get the water right to their skin. Most of ours do like to be hosed off - Max, Snowstorm, Victoria and Kateri. Mattie is starting to let us hose her off. Sommerfield wants nothing to do with it, nor does Sancha. But Sancha will go for a dip in the pool. This we fill on an as needed basis. That way the water is not sitting around with who knows what in it. It's filled when we have a hot day, then emptied that evening. Only Sancha will go in the pool, and since she won't let us hose her off, it's her only way to cool off. The little girls do like to drink the pool water before Sancha gets in there:

I do not know why but for some reason Nala seems to think when it's hot she should lay in the hay bucket:

The alpaca are so use to her being there they eat anyway!

Fall also means it's the time to plant grass. The best time of year for this area of the country is late August into September. We started getting the boy's pasture ready. Thankfully J's back is a bit better and he was able to help some.

J set up the plan to reseed the boys pasture. He had several things that he tried that did not work (like mulching the poop and hay). He spent more time on the attempts which unfortunately did not work out. In the end the plan was simplified. Move the poop to the pasture, rototill it into the ground.

We underestimated how much poop we'd use, we ended up running out! This is the empty poop pile:

We put it in strips in the pasture to rototill then spread in:

This is the pasture mid-rototilling:

Since we are having some really hot, dry weather we will put off seeding the boys pasture until a couple weeks into September. We'll focus our watering on the girls pasture instead (more on that to come).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

country vs city life

Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, this country living is a lot different than I'm use to. I love it. But it's a change. The positive include no traffic, no airplane noise, no neighbors close by.

There are things I never thought I'd be doing. Like composting and scooping animal poop, and spending hot summer days outside doing manual labor. Funny thing is our family seems to do best when we do have a project going on. Even if it is a labor intensive one that is done in the heat of summer.

Living in the country has put me in situations I never thought I'd be in. Like yelling to the dog, "get that deer jaw bone out of my living room!" The kids and I do enjoy going outside to try and figure out what animal the bone belongs to and what part it likely is. But I do not want the bone in the house. I have learned more about animals and nature than I ever thought I would. But so far it's been a fun adventure (sans the deer bone in the living room).

The summer is coming to an end, fall is coming and that means time to plant grass. We have a lot of work to do. I'll post more about it later.

Friday, August 22, 2008

twins on the farm

The girls sort of are twins, being they have the same dad. Even though they were due over a week apart, they were born on the same day too.

These two, not twins, but they might be mistaken for it! (they are really almost 3 years apart in age, the boy is just that big). They are completely opposite in personality. Note the attitude on the girl ;)

Seems we do a lot of things in groups of two on this farm.

Two young boys, who do a lot of neck wrestling:

other times they get along

Two Maidens

Two cats

Two Dogs

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Painted Boy Barn

It's really more a shelter than a barn, but we call it the boybarn. I finally got around to painting it.

This is the before picture (primer and sealer on it):

And after:

We got the color to match the other barn as close as we could. With them being different materials it is impossible for a perfect match. In most light it matches (sometimes not quite as well depending on how the light hits it).

Eating Time

We have alpacas that eat everything in sight and need limited grain. We also have some who are so skinny they need to be fattened up. So, we separate them at meal time to get them the right amount of grain.

Victoria is our "piggy". She is always looking for food. She eats alone in the barn, but only gets a small amount of grain. She eats out of the PVC pipe we put in.

Sancha is our skinny girl, so she not only gets more grain than Victoria, but we supliment with senior horse food (we have also tried alphalfa and dyne, vet recommended the senior horse food). She eats alone in the catch pen.

Kateri eats alone in the pasture. While she is a perfect weight for her frame, she tends to eat slow. Victoria will steal her food if she has the chance so we put Kateri and Tehya in the pasture.

I didn't get a picture of Maddie and Sommer, they eat in the paddock. Victoria can get to them but usually by the time she's gulped down her grain they are done. Maddie and Sommer are not yet bred so they only get a little bit of maintainance grain, plus fiber nutrients.

Seems that after grain time is cria feeding time. I caught this shot of Victoria and Shelby. I have no idea what would make one want to eat over the poop pile! (this is not a typical spot for them, thankfully).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reject Hay

Alpacas are kind of picky eaters. They will eat up a pasture of good grass, but when it comes to hay, they only want part of it, and leave the rest. The past they leave is mostly the stalky part. The first batch of hay we got last fall wasn't ideal for Alpacas and we had a lot of rejected hay (it ends up on the ground and ignored by them). We got really nice hay in our last batch. J say an advertisement in the local paper for "alpaca hay" and turns out an alpaca farm not to far from us had someone grow alpaca hay, they took what they needed and the guy had some additional that he sold to us. But we still get some rejected hay.

For a long time I was gathering up the rejected hay and putting it near the poop pile as it's own compost pile. We still have a ton piled up like that. But then I got an idea. I noticed near the door of the barn there was some hay that was lying there and underneath grew so grass (hay). (this is supose to be dolomite, instead the hay left there gave way to this):

So my idea was to gather up the rejected hay. Here is Emma raking some up in the boy shelter:

And sprinkle it all over the pasture. I found it easiest to go in rows:

It's amazing how fast the hay decomposes and becomes part of the ground (the strip of hay no longer visible). I'm not sure if my experience is actually growing grass/hay but it does seem to add something.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


We decided to shear our cria that were born in July. There are mixed thoughts and sometimes controversial opinions on if you should shear a cria born after shearing time (typically in May for this area). We decided to shear them mostly because it's been so hot and they both had a lot of long thick fleece. We felt it was best for them to be shorn. Their fleece will be plenty long by fall to keep them warm. We do not plan to show them until spring anyway, and with their cria fiber gone their fleece shouldn't hold onto debri as much as it would have if we left the cria fiber on.

Shelby Shorn:

Tehya Shorn:

Herd Health Day

On Saturday we held Herd Health day. This was the day for immunizations, weights and general overall assessment of the alpacas. We check their spine score to see if they are getting the right amount of grain, and we check for any problems. Everyone looks good and healthy.

We were suprised at some of their weights, not surprised at others. Sancha has been looking thin and weighed in at 156, for as tall and big boned as she is that's thin. Plus we can see her ribs. We did wean Lightning ::( He seems so young to me to wean but the Vet told us to do so last month given how big he is and how thin Sancha is. Lightning weighed in at 62 pounds! He's only 3 months old. We had been separating him from mom during the day, then letting him in with her at night. But as of this weekend, he's a big boy, in with the boys. Now Maxito, Snowstorm and Lightning are in one barn. All the girls are in the other.

Maddie weighed in at 73 pounds, at 11 months old. Maxito at 92, at a year old. Sommerfield did suprise me, because I was sure she was quite a bit bigger than Max, but she weighed in at 96 pounds. We need to get some weight on her so she's ready to breed this fall. I've heard different rules on when they are old enough and big enough to bred but I'd like her at least over 100 pounds. She's 1 year 4 months old now. We were hoping to bred her in October.

Kateria and Victoria continue to remain near the same weight. Their builds are so different that Victoria is a big on the heavy side (per her spine score). Kateria was 135 pounds, Victoria 133 pounds.

We didn't weigh Snowstorm. As a gelded male it's not essential he be weighed and he's so stubborn, we couldn't get him to the scale. He's really just a big baby.

The two babies, Shelby and Tehya are growing very well. At 1 month old Shelby is 28.4 pounds and Tehya is 32 pounds. Tehya has been consistently slightly bigger than Shelby, they have a different build. Both are a great weight and growing well.

Neglected Blog

Sorry I have not been blogging very much. We have had some difficulties with our internet connection (which unfortunately is dial-up). And J has been home (due to a back injury) so I have not been on the internet as much.

J updated our Alpaca Nation website with new pictures. Check it out! (link on left)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

summer days

The cria are growing and thriving. We did have to put "hernia belts" on Tehya and Shelby, but it hasn't slowed them down at all.

Their personalities are starting to show. Tehya is very fiesty (when we put the hernia belt on her she kicked my calf so badly I have a bruise over a week later). And she's more shy. Shelby is more curious and will walk over to people but if she gets scared she runs fast back to mom.

When the kids sit in the pasture Shelby will come over and look at them:

Tehya is more standoffish. She started to come but by the time I snapped the picture she was headed back to the barn and taking Shelby with her:

Lightning is slowly weaning because he's so big and Sancha has gotten very thin. She is pregnant too. We've been putting him in with his mom at night but during the day keeping him in the other pen. Lightning is very curious. He will follow Nala all over the pasture:

He also likes Quinn, and will sniff him whenever Quinn is at the barn:

Pin It button on image hover