Monday, March 30, 2009

Switching Animals On the Show String

We decided to make a change in our show string for the show in Indiana this weekend. Instead of taking Maddie, we are going to take Tucker. Maddie has now been shown in both shorn and full fleece. We know her strengths, and her weaknesses. In sum, we need to breed her to a male with great staple length, bigger build, and bundling in his fiber. That is what Maddie needs to be a great show animal. She has a lot of great traits, but those weaknesses are holding her back. Now that she's about ready to breed, we will make sure to get those traits for her offspring. We did not feel taking her to another show would help us learn anything new for her. Tucker, on the other hand, has never been shown. We plan to start his breeding career this year, but want some outside opinion on his strengths/weaknesses.

It won't change our stall assignments. Maddie required the same space as Tucker will. The only difference will be that we won't put everyone together as we did last time. Tucker being a male ready to breed should not be with the littler ones. We plan to put Tucker and Bugs in one stall, since they already are housed together they should be fine together. That will leave Shelby, Tehya and Jolly Roger in the other stall. I do think Tehya will miss Maddie, she's become a surrogate mom to her.

If only I had my sweater out of Tucker's fiber complete! Wouldn't it be cool to wear that while showing him ;)


We had a hint of spring arrive here in Michigan. We even got to the point the snow was melted and my crocuses were starting to bloom. I LOVE spring! I love the flowers starting to bloom and the animals coming to life again. Even the alpacas relish a nice pronk in the pasture after a long cold winter (where they seem to stay within only a couple feet of the barn).

We were able to get some work done raking leaves off the pasture before the bad weather hit on Sunday. This included some snow, rain, bitter cold wind and cloudy overcast skies.

On the plus side, a snowy blistery day forced me to stay inside and get some much needed housework done. It seems this former neat nick has let farming become a priority over a clean house. I didn't get as much done inside as I should have, but I got side tracked with spinning some yarn ;) I am working on knitting a sweater for myself out of Tucker's fiber and I wanted to make sure I have enough yarn to take with me on our travels this weekend.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Herd Health Day and a sick alpaca

We've come to find that herd health day is a workout for us, and usually leaves at least one of us slightly injured. Wrestling those little cria is more work than it looks. But, this is what insures their health. This herd health day involved ivermectin shots (for prevention meningeal worm that they can get from snails that carry it from deer, which we do have in the woods here). We also weighed most of them and checked them over throughly, and trimed teeth on those that needed it. We did not realize how to care for their teeth so some of our younger ones had longer teeth than they should have (we should have trimmed them a long time ago, then through their regular eating they could stay trim for the most part). This was a live and learn experience. Now that everyone is trimmed, most of them should maintain that through regular eating and we won't have to trim them again.

This time we also had to check for illness. It seems Lightning Bugs is not feeling well. He had some loose stool and was not eating like he usually does. Sommerfield had a bit of loose stool too, but her's cleared up with some immodium and it never affected her appetite. Bugs has had a harder time recovering. We put bounce back in his water and we tried to set up some grain for him that the other boys couldn't get too. He would take a couple of bites then walk away. We thought if we left some grain out for him he'd eventually eat it. This did not work as Snowstorm busted into it anyway and ate it all. Of course. This morning Bugs ate much better, so we think he's on the mend. J also bought some rolled oats to see if he will eat that. Not eating can be very detrimental to an alpaca (it is for any animal but more so for an alpaca). If they completely stop eating it will stop their digestive system which can cause death. They have a more complex digestive system (that I do not fully understand) which involves three stomachs, and they need to eat periodically or it will shut down. So we are watching him very closely.

The only other concern noted was some dematitis on Tehya's foot. That we are treating with athlete foot medication and should be fine in a couple of days.

All the alpacas are gaining weight and doing well. I think Maddie was the only one who didn't gain as much as we'd like so we are going to add some shreaded beet pulp to her daily grain. Sommerfield scored on the thin side so we will add shreaded beet pulp to her grain too.

Other than my being sore today, thankfully I did not sustain any injury. J said he's sore too. Who knew herd health day could be more of a work out than running!

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Pastures

We managed to get things done in the shelter and move the pregnant moms back by us on Saturday. Kateri did not want to leave her baby, and who could blame her? But, it's time to wean and time for more pasture lands. Last year the girls ate up all their grass faster than it could grow. This year with 2 more girls on the land, it had no chance. So the three pregnant moms, Sancha, Kateri and Victoria are now on by the new shelter on new land. We didn't seed the pasture yet, it's too early in the spring to do that, and we did not have it far enough along last fall to seed. There is a lot of woods grass back there that they seem to prefer over the hay. We did make sure to cut down anything that could potentially be poisonous to them.

They are slowly adjusting. I think initially Kateri was most upset to leave her baby. She kept going back to the gate that we first led her in at and humming. But Sancha seems to be the one who is having a harder time adjusting now that they are back there. I wonder if Sancha has always been with a good size herd and can't wrap her mind around there only being three of them. Hold on Sancha, you will have three babies born back there in no time. They do not like the shelter, they won't go near it. But I remember way back when our first 3 alpacas arrived at the other barn, they didn't want to go in there either. It takes them a bit to get adjusted.

The young ones who were left up front seem to be adjusting fine. They have the advantage of staying where they were at. I suspected Maddie would take over as leader. I know at the show the little ones looked to her and she mothered them (when we took one off to show, Maddie to hum for them to come back). Sommerfield may need to be moved back with the moms because she keeps flirting with the boys in the pen next to them. She is very ready to breed. However, we don't want a baby born in early March so we are trying to hold off a few weeks yet.

Friday, March 20, 2009


This weekend we hope to move our pregnant moms to a new shelter back by our house. We want to keep a closer eye on the pregnant ones, and watch the cria run and play once they are born. Right now they are all about 1/4 mile away from our house so we have to walk to go see them.

The plan is to move the 3 pregnant ones back by us. Then Maddie, Sommer and all cria (Shelby, Tehya and our visiting Jolly Roger) will stay up at the bigger barn. The boys will remain in their barn. This way there should be more pasture land for the little ones up there.

I hope it is good weather so we can get this all done!

Less than 2

In less than 2 months Sancha will be having her cria! I can already see the little one bumping around inside there. Sancha is older and her belly hangs lower than the younger moms. Of course we are taking bets on if it will be a boy or girl and what color is will be. I'm thinking dark fawn girl. (I was right 2 out of 3 last year)

Kateri isn't due until July but she looks huge this time! I don't know why. J wondered if maybe she was carrying it differently than last year. I'm wondering if she's going to have a boy. I'd love a true black boy from her. She's bred to The Buccaneer, a true black color champion (and Victoria's half brother).

Victoria is her usual self, not showing she's pregnant at all. But if she even see a boy she's ready to spit, so I'm sure she's pregnant.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Show Girls!

We are very excited to announce that our 2 goldsmith daughters did great at the show!

The way shows run they start with black and work their way up to lighter colors. Shelby was the first of our Goldsmith girls to show because she's a darker color. I was a bit concerned how she would show because she has different fiber than I've seen before. I love it, but I was concerned how it would go over. I've heard that zipper crimp gets the preference. Her crimp is very bold and not zipper like at all. However, we noticed that as people walked by her, they often commented on her. When we haltered her and brought her up to the ring she got a lot of attention.

In the ring the judge had a very difficult time deciding on first and second place. In the end she put Shelby in 2nd. For such a hard show, we are very pleased with that placing.

Our Shelby:

In one ring they were showing girls, in another ring the boys were being shown. As sometimes happens we had one going in one ring and one ready to go in the next. J had Shelby in the ring, and I ran to get Jolly Roger for his class. I almost had to actually show an animal! But it ended just in time. J did all the showing *phew* Though I was running around when the judge was talking about Shelby.

The judge said Shelby has perfect conformation and that her fiber is incredibly uniform. I believe she gave the other one 1st because it had more fineness (that's what I think J told me she said).

All the first and 2nd place winners of each class stand in the color championship of their color. The 1st place winners are considered for Color Champion. The Reserve Color champion is then picked from the 1st place winners who did not get color champion and the 2nd place in the class of the one who got Color Champion. In Shelby's color championship there was a mix-up and Shelby was standing in the place of the 1st place winner (J said the ring steward put him in that spot). Shelby was being considered for the overall color champion, which a 2nd place winner is not supposed to be. I was in the audience and a man next to me said "that judge really likes that one little on there" referring to Shelby. He could tell by how the judge was going over her and kept going back to her. He had no idea that was my baby :) until I told him. Then it got sorted out that she was supposed to be in the 2nd row, not to be considered for champion. There were rumblings in the audience that the judge was going to pick that one. Well shoot! I really think if Shelby had placed 1st in her class she would have won the color champion. I don't know if the judge then regretted her decision on 1st place, because the 1st place from Shelby's class did not get color champion or reserve.

On day two Tehya was up to be shown. I've heard that it is very hard for fading fawns to win because they have different colors running through their blanket (in Tehya's case the top of her back is medium fawn, and it goes to light fawn and even beige). Different colors make it very hard for the fiber to remain consistent (sometimes the different colors can cause places with more crimp than other places and different levels of softness). I was nervous how the class would work for Tehya and almost hoped they put her in indefinite class instead (there they all would have a variety of colors working against them). She was placed in the light fawn class (which was determined by a judge, we had signed her up for that class, but the color check people were not sure).

Tehya also got 2nd place. In this class the judge said she had 3 that she really struggled over where to place them. I believe she said that both 1st and 2nd had good conformation, but that 1st had a bit more density. She was impressed with how uniform Tehya's fiber is (so much for fading fawn hurting her, it didn't, she's uniform anyway).

Our Tehya:

In this color championship Tehya was in the 2nd row like she's supposed to be. The 1st place winner from Tehya's class did win Color Champion, so Tehya was brought forward to be considered for Reserve Color Champion. The judge said to J, "you aren't making this easy on me," referring to how nice Tehya is. In the end she did not get reserve, but it's very rare that the 2nd place winner does. It can happen, but when it does it causes a lot of waves. Usually one of the first place winners from the classes gets the Reserve Color Champion.

We are very excited and proud of our girls!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Our first show is coming up this weekend - the anticipation, anxiety and excitement is coming to a peak!

We love going to shows. We like meeting up with other farms that we have met along the way. We love seeing all the various alpacas under one roof. J seems to like showing our animals (so far I have avoided leading them into the show ring, though one of the these days we will have to show 2 at once and I will have to). I am very curious to see how they will do. We have 3 cria who have never been shown before.

I am trying to get my week organized ..... so much to do, so little time!

Farm Guard

We now have a guard for our farm. This past weekend J went to pick up Spot, our new Great Pyrenees. Spot was working at South Haven Alpacas, until they had to sell off their herd. We were very fortunate to find an experienced guardian dog.

We are working on finishing the barn and pasture back by our house so that we can move some of the alpacas back there. Spot is already guarding the area. We hope in a couple weeks to be able to move some of the alpacas. Last year they ate up the pasture up front so quickly that we know we need more land for them to graze on.

Spot arrived on Sunday and the kids could not be more excited. Both of my kids and my two nieces spent the afternoon playing with Spot. They tell me he likes to play "follow". This is where they walk or run around and he follows them. Spot has been great with the kids. While they say he's big and reminds them of a bear, he's as gentle as can be with them.

The first night he did bark on and off all night. We knew this would happen with a guard dog. It is after all his job to watch and guard the land. I'm sure it was even worse because he's in a strange place and with the woods so close by there were bound to be some animals lurking out there. His second night he did not bark nearly as much (or I managed to sleep through it).

Spot is a great addition to our farm. I'll get picture of our gentle giant up soon.
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