Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Colder weather

Seems after a week of above average temperatures we are now below normal. What this means is I've given up hope of seeing that baby cria anytime soon *pout* It will come with it's ready, I guess....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Week

Another week of cria watch and no baby. I did not see any new signs at all this week. Sancha looked more uncomfortable last week Friday than she has since. She must have just been hot, though that could have caused contractions. I'm still holding out hope she'll have that baby tomorrow, on my birthday ;) But the reality is likely she'll hold off another couple weeks. When looking back at her days of pregnancy J noted that in the spring Sancha delivers later, the earlier births were fall births. They have done studies that indicate alpacas have cria earlier in the fall and later in the spring, the theory is that it coincides with warmer weather. From what we've pieced together of Sommerfield's birth Sancha held her for almost a year, that would give us a birth of May 10 or so. I don't know if I can wait that long! Patience patience....

Friday, April 25, 2008


I started composting about a year ago. It was my way of embracing country life. We had tried to move (long story) but things didn't work out. I decided since I was going to stay I should make the most of things and do all the "country" things I always thought I might do. Composting was an easy one to start. I bought a commercial bin. We could have made our own but we thought this would be the easiest way. I really like the bin, it would even look fine in a city residential yard. This is the standard about 3 ft tall black plastic bin with slits in the side. I do wish we had gotten a bigger one because there are times this one reaches the top. That's when I start turning it more so we can keep adding to it. I do think it composts slower because it's cold here so much of the year, and because our only real "brown" ingredient are the oak leaves we use to cover the kitchen scraps. Oak leaves are known for composting slowly.

In order to do this I had to learn all about composting. It's not hard, but you do need to get near the right balance of "brown" and "green" items in the pile. It needs to be wet, but not too wet. And the more you turn it and allow air into it, the faster it composes. More information can be found:

Not too long after we started composting we decided to go into the alpaca business. Talk about embracing country life! I quickly realized the potential for compost, as alpaca manure is touted as an excellent fertilizer.

We started a manure compost pile in the woods near the barn. I'll have to get a picture of how huge this pile is. It is mixed with hay and straw as there were times it was impossible to sort the two. I plan to work it into a compost using the manure and straw/hay so it should work out fine. I know some people prefer just the manure, which I need to look more into the benefits of that. For now, we'll make a mixed compost.

Last weekend we spent almost all day Sunday cleaning the barn of all the straw we had put down for the winter, and all the hay the alpacas knocked on the floor. Unfortunately a lot of hay was wasted, more so because the only hay we could find was not very good. And the straw we put down was much more than we needed or wanted. Being our first year doing it, we have learned a lot and will do things differently next year. For one, we likely won't put any straw down, or only a little. And with the hay, we found a source of really good hay so we should not have the waste that we ended up with this past year. But it does leave us this year with a very large pile of hay/straw mix. This we towed in the trailer to a spot in the woods near our house. We are planning to compost this. But what a huge chore! I took a picture of this pile, I had my daughter and dog sit in the front of the picture so you can get an idea of how big this area is (it includes all the area under the green tarp and extending behind it, and it's a couple feet deep, deeper in the middle of the pile):

I honestly am not sure how we will compose all of this! From what I've read, we need the balance of "brown" and "green". The straw/hay counts as "brown" so we will need a lot of green. I am not sure where that all will come from. I need to gather some more information to see how we will accomplish this. The end result would be some compost that we can use on the pastures we will eventually put in right by our house.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I'm not a patient person so this cria watch is not fun for me at all. I am excited to see our new baby! But seems the cria and Sancha are fine waiting it out a little longer (though Sancha looks uncomfortable, she might be ok with it being born now). My new hope is that it will be born on my birthday, April 28th. I was due on the 16th and came a little late, this baby can follow my lead. I think a baby alpaca born on my birthday would be a wonderful birthday present.

Every morning I go to the barn hoping she will be in labor, only to find her cushed in the barn waiting to eat the grain. Every afternoon I come home and wonder if I will see a baby cria, but no, just Sancha's big belly.

The kids are anxious too as we are all excited to see this baby. My neice says her friends ask her everyday if the alpaca has been born yet.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Emma and my niece love to help me at the barn. On Saturday they had a friend over who wanted to meet the alpacas. We brought down some carrots as a treat for them. Victoria and Kateri love carrots (we haven't been able to get the other ones to try them though).

Emma feeding Victoria a carrot:

My niece jumping in the hay/straw (doesn't it look like fun?):

All the girls jumping into the hay/straw:

No baby yet

Sancha showed no additional signs on Saturday of impending birth. This morning she again ate her morning grain. Doesn't look like today will be the day either. The waiting is hard! We can't wait to see that little one. Knowing my luck, she'll be ready to birth the day I have an important meeting I need to attend.

Everytime I see Sancha I start thinking of the song "do your ears hang low, do they wobble...." Her belly hangs down so low! I remember being pregnant with my kids, both 9 pound babies. Here Sancha could deliver a 20 pounder! Sommerfield was 23 pounds at birth. I can't imagine that!

Sancha (with Kateri behind her)

Sancha (with Victoria looking in)

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Yesterday, Friday, was our first really warm day. J noticed that Sancha was uncomfortable. She was wrestless and her nostrils were flaring (more so than any of the other ones). He bought fans for the barn because it was getting hot in there. Especially given the alpacas have not been shorn yet, they have a lot of fiber keeping them too warm. It's no suprise an 11 month pregnant alpaca with full fleece on would be hot.

Even after we got the fans going Sancha still seems uncomfortable but she did stand right in front of the fan. For a few days now she's stationed herself in that part of the barn. We wonder if she's picked that as her birthing spot. The baby was moving all over, and J wondered if Sancha was feeling contractions. We suspected Saturday might be the day.

Well this morning came, we raced to the barn at about 7 a.m. but no baby. And to our disappointment Sanch ate her morning grain (a sign of labor can be that the mom will not eat her grain). Her nose was still flaring some, so could be early labor. Her udder is bigger and appears to be filling with milk. So far she's showing the signs of "2 weeks prior to birth" based on information we've read.

2 weeks prior to birthing:

* returning often to one spot (choosing place for birth) - Sancha keeps returning to the one side of the barn

* rolling - we have not noticed this one

* sitting alone more often - hard to tell as Sancha was at times a loner before, but we have noticed the other 2 girls grazing while Sancha is in the barn which did not happen before

*slight to more prominent increase of udder size - we have noticed a distinct increase, it was bigger last week and now again this weekend even bigger

* a little dischrage at the vulva - this we have not noticed (but also haven't looked closely, she doesn't like anyone near her and kicked when we tried to look, plus who wants to upset an 11 month old pregnant alpaca, so we've stayed back for the most part)

* ventral swelling under belly - again here I haven't noticed but I haven't looked.

The next step is what happens 2 to 5 hours prior to birth:

* restlessness - I see this in Sancha now, pacing and wanting us to get away
* discomfort - she looks uncomfortable to me!
* lots of humming - I have not noticed this at all, but I can't say I've ever heard her hum, she's not a hummer in general
*Frequent visits to the dung pile - I have not noticed this, one I've been looking for
*Isolation from the heard - yes, we've seen this
* tail is up often - not really, it's more "up" than it use to be, but not all the way up
* discharge from vulva - nope

So we still have some more signs to watch for before we put her in the 2-6 hours prior to birth category. I think the big one being the frequent visits to the dung pile, that shows a need to push.

J looked up when Sancha has given birth before and it appears she's given birth as early as 329 days pregnant and as late as 349 (we have mixed information on Sommerfield's birth, she may have gone later than 349 days, but of the 5 others we could find information on: 349, 329, 329, 342, and 339 days). Right now she's on day 334. Definately in the range of when she's given birth before. They say alpacas' due date is 11.5 months (the chart goes by 350 days), but there is almost a 2 months range that is "normal". We are in the normal range based on charts and we are in the range Sancha has delivered before.

I'm off to the barn to see how she is doing now :) But we also could go on like this for another three weeks! Oh the waiting of cria watch, it's hard! I can't wait to see our baby.

Barn Cats

We have two great barn cats, Fluffy and Thunder. We thought we had 2 girl cats. I had heard you can spay them just before they turn a year old, so I had it in my head we'd do that this summer. There are plenty of cats in this world, we were not planning to add to the population. Well, two things went wrong with that plan. One is that one of the cats, Thunder, is actually a boy (as kittens sometimes it's hard to tell, but as they age it becomes more obvious which sex they are). The second, is that cats can start having babies as young as six months old! It appears that Fluffy is pregnant. We are pretty sure she is at least. We have no way to know how far along. I guess one day I'll come to the barn to find a litter of kittens.

In the mean time I am going to have Thunder fixed. One litter is plenty. Then after the kittens arrive we'll have Fluffy fixed also. I'm hoping it's a small litter. We are building another barn back by our house and could use a cat or two back here. But more than that, we are going to need to find some great homes for them. Being they are both long haired, I expect some long haired cute kittens. Expect cute kitten pictures, though it will be a surprise to all of us when it happens.

Fluffy (what a great name Emma gave her, she is "fluffy"):

Thunder, while he looks black, he has grey underneath and the black has reddish streaks in it when the sun shines on him (Zack did a great job naming him, epecially since we thought he was a she, Thunder is a perfect gender neutral name). In this picture Emma is holding Thunder:

Friday, April 18, 2008


I was gone for a few days at a training out of town. I wondered if I might come home to a baby cria, but no, Sancha is still pregnant, very pregnant. I did notice she was in the barn last night and again this morning. Odd for her, as they are almost always outside (provided there isn't deep snow). I wondered if the different behavior was signalling a baby was about to arrive. When I went to the barn this morning to feed the pregnant girls I realized that when they went out into the pasture, these bugs swarmed around their head, especially their ears. Poor girls. I don't know what kind of bugs they are. They are smaller than a horse fly (at least smaller than ones I've seen in the past). But dart at their ears like a horse fly. I hope this doesn't signal problems we'll have now that spring is here.

Emma did a great job of feeding and caring for the alpacas while I was gone :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A3's Peruvian Maxito

Our new male, replacement for Remington, is Maxito. He is a white, full peruvian and half accoyo huacaya. (sorry the pictures are a bit blurry, not the best cropping)

His dad, Senor Accoyo Pablo, has won several awards for his fiber. Pablo is a white full peruvian and full accoyo Huacaya. Maxito's grandsire, 6Peruvian Accoyo Tsunami, was a direct import from the accoyo herd by Pet Center in California. They call him "the super herdsire". His genetics are well known in west part of the country, but are rare for this area. His mom is 6 Peruvian Delta, a light fawn full peruvian huacaya.

We went to see him on Saturday. While it was raining and not the best circumstances to view fiber, we could definately see great crimp and brightness.

We plan to bring him to our farm after Sancha delivers. He will be in the barn/pasture with Snowstorm, meaning Maddie and Sommerfield will need to be moved in with the pregnant girls. We would like Sancha to have already had her cria, and for that cria to gain some strength before allowing Sommerfield back in that same pen. Sommerfield had been so attached to Sancha we worry she might not be nice to the new cria.

In the pasture:

With his group of boys:

best buddies

We've noticed a deep bond between Victoria and Snowstorm. They do have the same mother, and being that Victoria is a year older than Snowstorm, she would have been the cria at Hana's side when Snowstorm was born. But Linda from South Haven alpacas pointed out that Victoria and Kateri have always been together. They were born at near the same time, in the same pen. When they went places to be bred, they went together (when Snowstorm would not have gone). Funny Victoria and Kateri don't have a stronger bond. Alpacas must have a communication that we do not understand.

Since moving Snowstorm to the other barn/pasture, we often find him at the fence and Victoria at the fence right by each other. They will sleep in this position or chew their cud together. I've also noticed that the few times I've caught Victoria starting to wander out of the barn (when I've left the gate open) she first looks for gain by the grain bins, but then heads to the barn where Snowstorm is.

Here are the buddies:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Show - practice

We didn't show any animals at the show in Fort Wayne. We had signed up to show Remington and Sommerfield, but with Remington dying, we did not want to just bring Sommerfield. Instead J and I attended to get more insight into showing. As it happened the farm we bought Victoria and Kateri from, South Haven Alpacas, was in need of help. They had 3 girls and 5 boys to show. Since it was such a big show, there were times when more than one of their alpacas was to be shown at the same time. On Saturday only 1 of their's showed, but that meant there were 7 yet to be shown on Sunday morning, and 3 rings going at the same time. J ended up showing Contessa and Lucky Wind (Contessa is Victoria's daughter, Lucky Wind isn't from one of ours but is the same age as Contessa). At a smaller level show there is only 1 ring at a time, but being such a big show, there were at least 2 and at times 3 rings where they were showing.

The show was huge, a level 5 (biggest there is). And the competition was tough. Animals who won at other shows were not even placing at this show. In some ways we are glad we did not show any of ours as it was a tough show and might have been brutal for a first show. Though I am curious how Maddie would have done in a show like that (she did not have her ARI registration complete in time for signing up for the show). I do think both Maddie and Sommerfield are on the big side for their age. Some of the ones there looked so young, but when I looked up their birthdate, they ended up being older than Maddie (she's seven months old, youngest that can show is six months, so she would have been one of the younger one but looked bigger than many in her class).

We do plan to show both Maddie and Sommerfield in shows this fall. By then Maddie's registration will be all set. In the mean time, I need to start on halter training them.

This is the set up South Haven had for their alpacas (the white alpaca near the front of the first pen in Lucky Wind):

This is the stand they made to show off the awards for Princess and Bam Bam. Princess is Kateri's daughter and Bam Bam is Kateri's brother:

Buccaneer's Ribbons (he's Victoria's brother and the guy we plan to breed to Kateri):

J showing (not the best picture, I kept waiting for the good shot that never happened):

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Alpacas easier than dogs

I determined that in many ways alpacas are easier than dogs. For one, they don't need to be walked like a dog. They don't usually run off like a dog. They don't need to be "let out".

The real clincher is that while J and I are away at the alpaca show this weekend, Emma, our 8 year old, will take care of the alpacas. She's been a big help since the beginning with them. This past week she's practiced feeding them on her own. She does great with the grain and hay. The only thing she can't do is the water because it's too heavy for her to carry (but grandma or grandpa can help with that). Emma even started scooping poop (which I told her she didn't have to, I'd do it when we got home, but she insisted). I'm sure she'll do a great job.

She asked if she could take care of our dogs too, but J and I decided that would be too much. So they are going to the kennel. Dottie is a really good dog and would be ok, but Bailey can be ornery and if she ran off Emma might have a hard time. Plus coming to the house several times a day to let them out would be a huge responsibility. Alpacas don't need to be "let out". Alpacas aren't agressive, and even if they are ornery, their ornery is to spit or walk away (unlike a dog who can growel and nip). And Alpacas don't run off (unless you leave the gate open but I've taught Emma not to do that as I've had some alpacas start to wander off, but even then, they don't run, they walk and if you herd them back they come easy, unlike dogs who run and see you and run farther and faster, sort of like a 2 year old).

Indiana Alpaca Invitational

We are off to Fort Wayne, IN tomorrow to attend the Indiana Alpaca Invitational. J will assist South Haven Alpacas with showing their alpacas. They have been showing several at shows this year and it's been hard to be everywhere at once. It will be great experience for J too. I will be sitting in the audience taking notes and pictures ;) I can't wait to see Princess and Contessa (Kateri and Victoria's baby from last year), and the Buccaneer (who we will breed Kateri too this summer).


Can it be? Is there really no snow left on the pasture? I see some on the outside edge of the fence, but the pasture is finally clear (I'm sure just in time for us to get more snow, it is Michigan after all).

Zack with Thunder who came to the edge of the fence to greet us. The cats know that around 5 p.m. we will show up. They often sit out there and wait for us.

Emma feeding Sommerfield and Snowstorm treats:

Sommerfield with hay hanging out of her mouth:

No further sign of a baby from Sancha. Now I'm hoping she'll hold off until my birthday, that would be a neat birthday present!
Pin It button on image hover