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:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Drowned Rats

On rainy days, more so when it's warm out, the alpacas will stand in the rain. We find the boys do this more often but some of the girls too. I think they look like drowned rats.




Max and Lightning:


After the rain subsides they slowly dry off and their fiber beings to look normal again.


Fall is the time to plant grass. We did this last fall and while it came up really well on the girl's pasture, pretty well on the boy's pasture, our alpacas ate it down. The girl pasture never recovered from spring. As the snow melted it moved as a line across the pasture. Each day the alpacas ate the grass that was at the melt line. They ate it fast enough that it never had time to grow very much. Our problem is twofold. One is that we had too many alpaca on the pasture. The other problem is that the pasture is in the woods and it struggles to grow (especially on the boys' side).

With the girl's pasture we decided to spread seed over the entire pasture, then cover the areas that were bare with hay/straw to help it grow. We did this a couple weeks ago. The bonus was that rain remnants from Hurricane Gustov came just after we planted, giving us a ton of much needed rain.

Here is the girl pasture (taken today). The grass has started to grow (the new grass is the brighter green color):

The boy's pasture was so sparse with grass (due to the fact it is more in the woods). We decided to completely start over planting their pasture. We put down lime to help rid the area of ferns, then a layer of alpaca poop (the best fertiliser). We rototilled the ground, mixing in the poop and lime plus trying to break up the fern roots to kill them off. We let that sit for a couple weeks. This past week we raked the area to smooth it out, then planted grass seed. We covered the entire area with straw. We were certain to get rain this weekend (it is raining as I type this), which we needed desperately to help the seed sprout and grow.

Here is the boy pasture this morning (a bit of rain on my camera lens):

This was not a fun job as, of course, we did it on a hot, humid day. And the hay gave us a rash, so I was itching for a couple days. The grass better come in very nice!

Poor Fluffy

Seems sometime yesterday Fluffy gave birth to a premature stillborn kitten. We only found one, and she does not appear pregnant anymore. I'm surprised there was only one again, she looked like she had a lot in there. We think she has some medical issue that prevents her from carrying more and leads to pre-term labor (we think Uno may have been premature also). Poor Fluffy.

On the positive, Fluffy is back to letting us hold her and playing with Nala.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Vet Visit

We took some of our alpacas to the vet today. Sommerfield, Maddie, and Maxito needed a vet check for the shows that are coming up. We also had the vet do an ultrasound on Victoria and Kateri to confirm pregnancy (we did spit test - if you put a male and female together and the male starts making his move but the female spits him off, she's usually pregnant. Though that isn't almost consistently accurate so we also had an ultrasound done. Some feel the ultrasound isn't that accurate either, but I've heard it depends on your vet. So far our vet has been correct so we feel pretty confident in it. Plus, now we have two separate tests to verify the pregnancy).

We got our yearlings their vet check for the shows coming up this fall. On September 19-21 we are going to Burch Run, Michiganm, for the Michigan Alpaca show. Then October 3-5 we are going to Indianapolis for the Heartland Classic.

Our halter training is coming along. I was impressed how well they did when we haltered them to the trailer and into the vets' office. It gave me hope we won't have bucking, wild alpacas at the show. But I'm still holding my breath!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Zack's surprise

Last night when it was time to feed the alpacas we were getting some serious rain. I tried to wait for a break in the rain but never got one. So, I fed them in the barn. This means I have to stand between them to keep them from stealing each other's food (some are too heavy and don't need extra, others are thin and need all they can get). Zack agreed to help me with feeding.

Zack was put on Victoria duty, which means he was to chase her away from anyone else's food. Victoria is known as the pig on our farm, she is always looking for food (and she is overweight so does not need it). Zack was doing a fantastic job of keeping Victoria out of Sancha's food. I was busy keeping order with Sommer, Maddie and Kateri. One of the times I turned to check on Zack, he had lost the color in his face and looked in shock. It took a moment for me to process, as he started screaming. Victoria had kicked him! I'm still surprised she did that. She's kicked me once before but usually she is not at all agressive (no alpaca is agressive and Victoria is actually one of our friendliest ones). I guess she's friendly unless you are keeping her from food. Zack must have been more surprised than anything because the kick did not even leave a bruise (having been kicked myself, I've had some nasty lingering bruises).

We chalked it up to another adventure in alpaca farming. In the future I'll guard Victoria in that sort of situation, though I do not think it's something that would happen again. In the almost year we have had alpacas this is only the 2nd time she has kicked. The other kicks I've gotten occurred when haltering Sommerfield. Alpaca's are not agressive animals. Though last night Zack wasn't too happy with them.

I wasn't going to

When visiting farm last year I swore I wouldn't be one of them that had bags of alpaca fiber sitting in my basement/garage/attic. I got into this business because I want to use the fiber. I taught myself to knit and have been eager to get my hands on our own yarn. Here it is, almost fall, and I have bags of fiber stacking up. South Haven Alpacas gave us bags of last years shearing from Snowstorm, Victoria and Kateri. I kept them in bags thinking I'd have it all made into yarn after this year's shearing. Well, that still hasn't happened.

There are 3 types of alpaca fiber. The Prime is the part that is along their back and sides, referred to as their "blanket". This is the best part that is made into great yarn. The neck and thighs are what are called "seconds". This usually isn't that good for yarn, some people throw this away, but other uses include making it into batting, filling cria coats with it, or felting it. I plan to felt it. The third type is called "thirds". This is from the legs and belly. It has more guard hairs (what makes it scratchy like wool) and does not have good crimp or conformity. Most farms throw thirds away (we composted it). It can be used as batting but rarely do farmers bother to do that. We opted to compost it thinking the birds may find it for making nests.

This is my pile of seconds, placed on top of my carding table. I have six bags of seconds:

Pile one of Prime bags:

The process is shearing, then picking out the debris (ie hay, weeds, clumps of dirt or whatever else stuck to the fiber). Carding it (which I have not done yet so I can't explain it yet). Then it can be spun into yarn. You can spin it yourself or send it to a mill.

Well, since the shearing was done, I have not gotten to cleaning and carding it. I have a table to do it on, I just need to find the time to do it. Plus, our alpacas are very dirty, so there is a lot of debris to take out. I'm dreading this job. We had the blankets of Sommerfield, Mattie and Maxito done for us. We were hoping to show their blankets this fall. Here we ran into a first year learning mistake. We did not realize if you want to show the blanket it has to be shorn in one piece and kept intact. Unfortunately this means we lose out on showing their blankets this year. At least the prime for those three is already cleaned for me. Here they are in the box (pile 2 of prime):

This is what the raw fiber looks like in the bag:

Up close:

It feels soft like cotton balls. It's warmer than wool but because only the best parts are used for yarn, it is not scratchy like wool (wool has guard hair throughout, which is what makes it scratchy). It is also hypoallergenic (from what I've read wool has lanolin in it that people can be allergic too, alpaca does not. There may be more to that than what I remember, but I do remember it is hypoallergenic).
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