Sunday, January 27, 2008

We got a scale and alpaca weights

Given vet scales and easily cost $600+ we were not eager to go out and spend that money, we didn't get a scale right away. But now that we have alpacas that are under a year old we do need to monitor their weight. And it won't be long until we have some cria who will need to be weighed.

So Saturday we set up the scale and put the alpacas on it. They do not like to be haltered! J was the lucky one to catch and halter them then pull them to the scale. I stood behind the alpacas and pushed their back hips into the scale.

Maddie weighed in at 66 pounds. She's 4.5 months old and appears to be a good weight for her size. She has a good spine score so she's a perfect weight for her frame.

Sommerfield weighed in at 88 pounds, which appears right on for her body frame (her spine feels like a 3). She's pretty big for her age, given that breeding is usually done when they hit 90 pounds, and she's almost there. We plan to wait until late summer to early fall to breed her. But she will be plenty big by then, and will be around 18 months old (most start breeding between 15 and 18 months depending on the alpaca, the bigger ones earlier as they are ready earlier). Also we noted when Sommerfield first came to our farm she was showing herself to all the alpacas (she didn't know if they were males or not). At less than a year she was already presenting as ready to breed. In the wild some male would have tried! But we don't have any able males near her so we will wait a bit.

Sancha is a spitter and spitted a few times as J, but did eventually get on the scale. She weighed in at 190 pounds. We knew she was a bigger than average alpaca (average is supose to be 150 pounds) because she is taller and has a bigger frame than our other females. She seems to be a perfect weight as her score (spine score) is right on.

Snowstorm would not cooperate and after much struggling we gave up. I would have predicted he was over 200 pounds (before we got the scale). But looking at him next to Sancha, I bet they are very close in weight (though that can be deceptive, as we will see with the later weigh ins). He is overweight as his body score was a 5 to start, is slowing going to a 4.

Victoria was a suprise, she looks big but I think it's more due to her very dense and long fiber. She weighed in at 142.6 pounds. I fully expected her to be above the 150 (thinking 170-180). We were off on her! She is a bit on the heavy side for her frame as her spine score is a bit higher than the 3 it should be.

Kateria, who we thought was so much smaller than Victoria weighed in at 142.8! They are almost the exact same weight. I'll have to see if I can get a picture of them together, because I swear Victoria looks heavier.

Monday, January 21, 2008


We borrowed a camera to get some pictures on this blog. I want to share my babies :)

The first time we met Maddie she was trying to hide between the other alpacas. She had no idea she was black and they are white and she was not hidden at all :)

Here Maddie is eating a leave, the silly goof. Oak leaves can be toxic to alpacas but only in huge qualtities, this one leaf will not hurt her.

I love the markings on her face, shows off her eyes.

This is Remington. He's a 1/2 brother to Maddie, and I do think their faces look a lot alike. Remington is not yet at our farm, we need to finish a shelter for him first. This picture was taken when we visited him at Autumn Alpacas (he belonged to KaSar farms but was agisting at Autumn Alpacas). We are excited to get him here soon.

Sommerfield is 9 months old. She looks a little bit chunky, but that is all fiber! Having been born in the spring she was not shorn so she has a bit more growth than the others. Sommerfield's fiber is nice and thick and has good crimp. We are waiting to see how her top knot fills in, but we do see a lot of cheek wool. Sommerfield seems to like the dirt (like Snowstorm - why is it always the white ones who like the dirt!). So she is a bit dirty, but inside the fiber it's nice and clean and white. Sommerfield is in the middle of a growth spurt so her back legs are longer than her front legs. As she grows that will even out. Her mom, Sancha has a very straight flat back, which we expect Sommerfield will have when she's done growing.

What a cute face! You can really see the cheek wool here.

This is Sancha. She is the oldest alpaca that we have, and seems to be leader of the pack (though sometimes shares that job with Victoria). We are very excited that she's been bred to Avatar and will be delivering our first cria in mid-April. Since both dam and sire are white we are expecting a white cria, but you never know. I think she looks pregnant but some say you can't tell until about a month before they are due. I'm predicting a girl, she seems to be carrying high in her ribs (just a wild guess).

I love this picture of Snowstorm, it really shows off his "smile". Funny thing about him is that he's been the easiest for me to manage. When he first came here he was so big, and with only 3 alpacas, he often gave me trouble (stealing food from the others ect). But now that we added in most alpacas, Snowstorm is the best behaved. He herds where I want him to go. He waits his turn. He's awesome.

Our farm kitties, Fluffy and Thunder, hanging out in the hay.

Farm Visit - Pictures!

I finally got the pictures that we took from a farm visit we had in December. My neice had a birthday party and all the kids came over to see the alpacas. They fed them carrots. Most of the girls wanted to feed the alpacas, some were hesitant at first, but then when they saw the others doing it, they wanted to too.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


We got a hold of Sommerfield last night to check her fiber. I was happy to feel that she is not overweight, she just has a lot of fiber on her. Her fiber was thick and had crimp. It will be interesting to see how to does in shows this spring.

Very cold weekend

The temps this weekend are in the single digits with wind chills below 0*F. Very cold! We put out some more straw for the alpacas. Fed them a little bit extra grain, and made sure they have plenty of hay to eat. When we went to check on them this morning they seemed to be doing fine. Suposedly alpacas are supose to do fine in the cold, their fiber keeping them warm. It's heat that is rough on them. But the cold is miserable to me and I can't help but worry how they are doing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I had read about pronking but I must not have really understood what it was. I was picturing young alpaca dancing in the pasture as "pronking". This morning it turns out I saw pronking. I fed the alpacas and when I got back I mentioned to J that while the pregnant alpacas were eating, Sommerfield started bucking. I thought she was really mad that they were eating and she wasn't (Maddie was humming very sadly and Snowstorm was giving me a look). J said "that's pronking." Oh! Now I get it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Turns out Maddie is older than we thought. Somehow J and I thought she was born in October. We were puzzled that she was old and big enough to wean given an October birthdate. Well she was born September 2nd, so definately old enough to wean. Now it makes sense why she is almost the same size as Sommerfield. They are about 5 months apart in age.

Maddie has become rather friendly. She is a curious alpaca. Well, all apacas are curious and given the chance they want to watch what you are doing. But I've found some are the first to come check out what you are doing, and some are the ones who stand in the back of the group to watch. Victoria has always been the first one, we often call her "nosey". Kateri is one that is more likely to stand in the back. Now it seems Maddie is even faster than Victoria in coming to see what I'm doing. Maddie has also let Emma pet her. She seems to be ok with people coming near her. However, I have a lot of difficulty herding Maddie, she doesn't seem to see the need to move.

Sancha, on the other hand, is very quick to move, but jumps and moves so fast she never goes where I was directing her. She loves food, at lot like Victoria who will eat as much as they can get, even spitting at other alpacas to get more food.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Everyone on our farm is adjusting since the addition of Sancha, Sommerfield and Maddie. Feeding time has been pretty much chaos. I think we make it more difficult in that we measure out the grain specifically for each animal. Some of the farms we have visited do it this way. But others just set out grain and let them eat, no set measuring for each animal. When we did a "free for all" type arrangement, Victoria ate more than her share and Kateri got less. That is what lead to the weight issues here. I do remember it taking a few days for us to get into a good routine with Victoria, Kateri and Snowstorm. It's expected there will be an adjustment now too. Especially since these 3 came from a bigger farm where there was a free for all type arrangement.

I was happy to see that no one pooped in the barn. I was worried someone might decide there needed to be a poop pile inside. They did start a new one in the pasture (up to this point there was only 1 pile, right outside the door of the barn in the pen area). That's fine with me that they started another pile (as long as it wasn't in the barn ;) ).

Sommerfield and Maddie seem to be confused by the cats. They watch the cats, and sniff the cats and seem to be puzzled by what the cats are and what they are doing. The cats have become good buddies and love to wrestle so that adds entertainment for the alpacas. Sommerfield seems very dependent on her mom, Sancha. Sommerfield is 9 months old and is weaned but follows her mom everywhere and has tried to nurse (though Sancha fights her off and won't let her). We are concerned this could be more of a problem when Sancha's new baby is born (due in mid-April). We don't want conflict between Sommerfield and the new cria. It would be ideal to separate Sommerfield and Sancha but we do not have enough pastures to do that. Maddie is almost as big as Sommerfield, though she is younger. We are not sure on her exact age because we haven't gotten all her records yet. We believe she was born in October, so still really young, around 3 months old. She is doing great considering she was taken from her mom and weaned cold turkey when we picked her up. I feel bad for her. I know it's nature, but still sad to think about. She is doing great, holding her own with the other alpacas (I've seen her spit the big ones off when they push her too much). She seems to follow Sommerfield around (who is following Sancha).

J said he got Sommerfield and Maddie into the holding pen this morning to get a good look at their fiber. He said based on their behavior it does appears that they have had hardly any human contact. It is going to take some training to get Sommerfield halter trained for shows by this spring. It's never too late to train them, but we need to start working hard on it. He did the morning feeding today and said it was chaos again. I haven't come up with a good idea of how to handle it. It's my turn to do the feeding tonight, so I need to come up with a game plan.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I am mad at Kodak

Back on October 12th my camera broke (I remember vividly because it was in the middle of my daughter's birthday party). I looked into getting it fixed. I came across the Kodak "upgrade program". This is where you send in your old camera that needs a repair, they keep it, but send you a coupon for 25% off a new camera. My camera is at least 5 years old, an upgrade would be awesome! So I jumped on that deal.

I filled out the form and sent in my camera as I was instructed to. The first glitch happened when the place I sent my camera to (a repair place) sent me an estimate for repair. I called them and explained I was not seeking repair, I was enrolled in the Kodak upgrade program. They told me that Kodak had not sent them the paperwork that showed I was enrolled and I needed to contact them.

I emailed Kodak about the problem and they emailed me back with the assumption my camera never got to the repair place. I emailed again explaining that my camera was there, waiting for them to give me my coupon. Another email back stated I needed to call the 800 number since we did not seem to be communicating well through email. So I called the 800 number, waited on hold, then waited for the guy to find my reference number. Then he had to talk to someone else. In the end he said I would get my coupon.

Three weeks later, no coupon.

I wanted to get my new camera before Christmas. Now it is mid-January and I still don't have it. My blog would be so much better with pictures.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

They are here!

Today we drove to Autumn Alpacas to pick up Sancha, Sommerfield and Maddie. Originally we did not think we could pick up Maddie yet but Ed felt she was big enough to wean.

Our trailer and truck worked great, no problems. The alpacas seemed to travel well in there. J had put a sealer on the floor, then some mats and straw on top of that, along with vents to make sure there was air flow. We were happy to see that there is plenty of room in the trailer, much more than we realized. We had 3 in there (course 2 are little ones) but there was plenty of room. We shouldn't need anything bigger than this one.

Back at our farm there is some adjustment to be made adding in 3 girls. There was sniffing and some spitting but overall a friendly greeting. We will see how it all works out. It will be interesting to see if Victoria remains queen of the farm. Maddie and Sommerfield did not know what to do with the cats, they would go up and sniff them and watch them play.

Feeding time tonight will be interesting.

J is working on a shelter so that we can bring Remmington home soon. We will move Snowstorm in with Remmington. There is plenty of room in the barn as it is now, but given 3 of the girls are due to have babies and 2 are under a year old, we think it best to make it a mom/baby barn for now. Remmington and Snowstorm can be in a "boy" barn.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dare I dream?

Tomorrow we are going to pick up Sancha and Sommerfield. We may be able to take Maddie too!!! Oh I hope so :)

Conditioned Behavior

The famous psychology experiment by Pavlof showed that you can incite a response to a stimulus even if the stimulus is not provided. His experiment was to ring a bell, then give dogs food. After this was repeated for multiple days the dogs started salivating at the sound of the bell, expecting food. In time he did not even have to provide the food, just the bell would make the dogs salivate even if they did not get food afterward.

At our house we have joked that seeing me makes the dog have to poop. It doesn't matter when I get home, it doesn't matter if they were just outside, when I come home the dogs have to go outside. I'm sure this goes back to when they were pups and I would come home from work to let them out. Though I can't say they poop everytime they go out.

Now it seems seeing me is making Kateri poop. It started because I usually clean up poop while the alpacas are eating. Kateri loves to be the first to poop after the pile is cleaned up, so she would poop right after she was done eating. Then there were some days I didn't clean the poop, but Kateri still would poop after eating. After a couple weeks I noticed when I walked up to the barn to feed them supper, Kateri would poop upon seeing me. She wasn't even waiting until after she ate, or for the cleaned up poop pile. Yesterday hit a new point, I was going for a walk and walked by the pasture, it was not meal time for them, but Kateri saw me and walked over to the pile to poop. Seems I make her poop. Not sure I want to be associated with poop!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


This spring we want to participate in some alpaca shows. Maddie is really too young (she could make the cut off for some shows but we feel it would be better if she was a bit older so we will hold off on showing her until fall). Remington has only been shown once despite being 2 years old. And at that showing he was in the wrong color class. We really need some more shows under his belt. And there is Sommerfield who will be 1 in April, who has yet to be shown. We are curious how she will do in shows (given her white color and the fact white is such a difficutl category). Plus she is for sale and I'm sure buyers want to know how well she does too. But that leaves us with the problem of transporting and showing an almost 1 year old female and a 2.5 yeard old male. They cannot be kept together.

We have debated back and forth on what to do. We would like to show at the Indiana Invitational in March so we need to make a decision and sign up. J emailed the show organizer and they said they could give us an extra divider for our stall so we would only need 1 stall and could have both in there. J is going to work on making a divider for our trailer so that we can transport both of them. Looks like we are going to a show!

Rainy Day

When I walked out to the barn this morning I found the alapacas eagerly eating the fresh green grass that had emerged overnight as the rain and warm temps melted the snow. Snowstorm was the first to notice me approaching but quickly when back to munching on the grass. They clearly prefer the grass over the hay they had to eat when there was snow cover.

As expected Snowstorm was wet and muddy (he does love to roll in the mud). Victoria always seems even more wet than the other two but does not show the dirt as much (given her darker fiber). Though today Victoria had dirt hanging from her, and straw stuck in her top knot. Kateri again is the least wet. I like to think she's the neat nick of the group.

In general alpacas do not smell bad like many animals do. Usually if I find a strong odor in the barn it is from the cats. Some farmers say the alpacas do not smell at all. I think they do have an odor but it is mild. However, today the alpaca poop pile was quite smelly. I'm sure that is due to my not having cleaned it yesterday, and the fact it rained all night. Additionally there was wet straw and hay that had gotten pushed into the pile. I scooped it all up and put sand down so that it drains better.

Since it is a rainy day and I did not have much else to do I spent time writing up our introduction for our page on Alpaca Nation. I still need to edit it but hope to have it posted by the end of today. Hard to put into words all I want to say!

Monday, January 7, 2008

January Thaw

As often happens in January we have had some warm temps along with rain that has melted a lot of the snow. In town there are only a few piles of snow left. We live in the woods and it always takes longer for the snow to disappear. When I went to feed the alpacas after work today I was happy to see some grass showing in our pasture. I was worried we would still have complete snow cover. Of course the alpacas are a mess. Snowstorm is wet and has clearly been rolling in the mud. Victoria was drenched this morning already, and had not dried much since. I can't see the dirt on her as well given her dark fleece. Kateri tends to stay cleaner than the other two. She was slightly damp and some dirt but nothing like Snowstorm. I think she spends more time in the barn since she is not as wet as the other two.

There was a lot of ice outside the barn, both the entry way and the back exit. In the front we are really careful when approaching the barn. The back exit is where the alpacas leave the barn which had me concerned. On Sunday Kateri slipped a bit, but thankfully did not fall. Today the ice was even worse so I took some of the wet straw and hay and put that over the icy patches outside. I figure the hay isn't tasty to eat now anyway since it's wet. That seemed to make it a lot less slick out there. I have heard of alpaca's falling and breaking a leg. I also notice Victoria slipping a bit on the mat inside the barn so I made sure the straw was distributed over the mat to help stop slipping there.

Thunder seems to be adjusting well to her new home. Ironic that since we got her we have had thunderstorms. I wanted to kiss her the first day she was here when she used the alpaca poop pile for her litter box. Fluffy usually goes in the barn which I end up having to clean up, yuck! This morning when I was feeding the alpacas Fluffy was no longer an attack cat but was wrestling with Thunder.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Herd Health Day

Saturday was set aside for Health Day for our alpacas. Being that we only have 3 on our farm it did not take us all day, but I do think it's important to set aside plenty of time to dedicate to the monthly health requirements.

This month the agenda included trimming nails, shots, checking teeth, checking weight, and looking all over the alpaca. Since last month J struggled to get any of the alpacas into the chute, this month he had me there to assist. We were determined that these things needed to be done.

First victim was Snowstorm. Snowstorm is a big alapca, and he is very stubborn. He has been known to kick. We closed off the gates to the pasture, and J herded the alpacas into the catch pen. There they had no where to run to. J got the halter on Snowstorm and led him to the chute in the barn. I kept the barn door open because I think the alpacas prefer that. They do not like to be closed in, so leading them to an area where they feel trapped goes against their nature. Snowstorm led well until we got to the chute, he did not want to go in. I got out the poles that he usually moves from but even a tap on his butt did not get him moving (I even did it harder than a tap and he would not move). We all struggled and eventually got him in the chute. J trimmed Snowstorms nails while I held his halter. The chute does give the alpaca places to lean, but I found the closer I was to Snowstorm the less he struggled. He did cush a few times (cushing is when the alpaca sits down), but we managed to get him to stand again. For the weight check J feels the back spine, it should be in a V shape. Before Snowstorm was overweight and his V was very flat. We cut back on his grain and this month J reports he is at a "4" which is much better. J gave him his shot (Ivermectin which is for meningeal worm, a worm that is found in deer but an live in the ground where deer are present and be transferred to Alpacas).

While we were working on Snowstorm, Victoria kept coming in the barn to see what was going on. We did notice that Fluffy was not her usual attack cat. Seems she enjoys playing with Thunder and isn't so needy for attention. When I arrived at the barn I found both cats snuggled in the cat cage together. Thunder did sometimes wander into the chute and we had to move her away.

Victoria was next. J got her halter on and led her to the chute. Since she arrived we have not trimmed her nails so they were pretty bad. She had appeared to be a bit overweight at our last health check so we have cut back her grain. J said this time she was down to a "4" and doing much better. She got her nails trimmed, a shot, and fiber check. J felt her belly and thought he may have felt a baby in there moving around.

Kateria was last since she is our known spitter and the one last month that gave J a really hard time. She did not want to get into the chute either, but I was hesitant to hit a pregnant girl with the pole (like I did with Snowstorm). I ended up getting behind her and pushing her butt with my body instead, which actually worked better. In the chute she really struggled and kept trying to cuch. I ended up holding her lead tight and putting my arms around her neck. That way she felt like I was holding her and did not struggle as much as if it was just the chute holding her. When trimming her nails J accidently nicked her. I have trimmed dog nails (which are the same, a nail with a pad underneath, and a vein in the nail, you trim just up to the vein, but if you nick it, they will bleed) so I understand how easy that is to do. She got her shot, teeth check, and fiber check. Kateria had been a bit underweight last month which is why we went to feeding her separate from the other two (they kept stealing her food). This month she was right on with weight based on her V.

This month's health day is complete.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Alpaca Trailer

Although we have been looking into an alpaca trailer, we hadn't made any decisions. It's become more of an immediate need as we are to pick up Sancha and Sommerfield next weekend. Plus, we plan to go to shows this spring and will need it then for sure.

We have gone back and forth between the benefits of a horse trailer vs a cargo trailer (you can add vents/windows to it). We went looking on Friday but I was not ready to make a decision. Today we purchased a cargo trailer. In the end the cost of a used horse trailer was about the same as a new cargo trailer. The used horse trailers had some rust, worn tires and some of them had stalls built inside that we would have to dismantle. We were not able to find a use cargo trailer so that was not an option (though that would have been the best one).

We bought a black 6x12 cargo trailer. The black trailer looks great with our black truck. Now we are in business!

Tiger 2?

We had been offered a kitty by Nelson's at Nelson's farm market. At first I wasn't ready for another one with all that happened with Tiger. But Fluffy seemed so lonely and with the holidays over we decided it was time.

Mrs. Nelson let us pick which one. We choose a little black kitten (in the light the black has a red/orange cast to it). Since this kitten did not look like a tiger it didn't make sense to name it Tiger. After several options for names were discussed, Zack chose the name: Thunder.

I knew Fluffy had grown since we've gotten her but I had no idea how much! Next to Thunder Fluffy looks huge. Fluffy was scared of Thunder at first, Thunder did not seem to pay any attention to Fluffy, Thunder was interested in investigating the barn and pasture.

I'll add pictures when I get a camera.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Alpaca Nation

We are now on Alpaca Nation, the big web site for alpaca farms . This is where alpaca farmers post information on their farm, what they are about, what alpacas they have, and so forth. There are also forums where alpaca farmers can discuss all the ins and outs of alpaca life.

Our farm page is Oak Haven Alpacas

I'm having trouble figuring out how to post links so let's see if this works. I'd love to figure out how to put a link on a regular word (not the actual link) as that would look much better in the blog.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


It is cold tonight! Emma and I walked down to feed the alpacas, with snow crunching under our feet. You know it's cold when the snow crunches. I wore my regular layers and I was cold! Hope that alpaca fleece keeps them toasty. And I hope Fluffy has a really warm place to curl up. I know she does, just can't help but worry when it's this cold. Single digit temps tonight with the wind chill bringing it under 0. I made sure to put out extra hay just to make sure they have enough to eat to stay warm.
Pin It button on image hover