Sunday, October 31, 2010

Growing alpacas and herd health confessions

When we did herd health, we weighed our alpacas who are 2 years old and under. Here are their stats:

Eclipse' Ginger Ale (1 month old) ~ 27.4 pounds

OHVNA The Challenger (3.5 months old) ~ 48.2 pounds

OHVNA Chaska (3.75 months old) ~ 62.0 pounds

Smokey's Twilight (4 months old) ~ 55.4 pounds

Our Copper Canyon (5 months old) ~ 82.0 pounds
(the small brown one is Copper):

Enlightenment's' Rocky Rose (6 months old) ~ 78.0 pounds

Ashton Stones Little Miss Rosco (1 year, 2 months) ~ 111.0 pounds

OHVNA Pocahontas (1 year, 4 months) ~ 100.6 pounds

Kateri's Tehya (2 years, 3 months) ~ 152.8 pounds

Our guide for alpaca weights is that most of ours are born between 16 and 22 pounds, by 6 months we'd like to see them around 60 pounds, and by a year at 100 pounds. Grown adults can be anywhere from 100 to 230 pounds. Most alpaca farmers prefer not to breed an alpaca until they are 120 pounds, that's about when maturity seems to be reached. We have some that are on the smaller side, some that are bigger. Outside of a medical issue, size is a purely a matter of personal preference. I actually like the ones that are a bit smaller. For example, Victoria is my favorite phenotype and she is around 130 pounds. Greyt is another one that I would say is my favorite size, and he's around 140 pounds. We have other grown alpacas that are 200+ pounds. I know some people prefer the bigger sizes, it really comes down to what you personally like. In the end, it's really the fiber that counts, not the size of the animal. We only monitor their size to make sure they are healthy and thriving like they should be.

My herd health day confession is that today Lucy managed to throw and stomp on me. Alpacas are not typically aggressive, this only happened because I was restraining her so that J could clip her nails. Lucy is new to our farm, and this is the first time I have restrained her. She's a big girl, and very strong. J clipped 2 of her nails, while I wrestled with her to keep her still, then she suddenly jumped up. She bucked me in the chest and I went flying into the air and landed on my back. I don't know what happened to my leg. I don't know if my ankle twisted around or she stomped right there on me, but my leg instantly hurt very bad. Thankfully she was the last alpaca we needed to care for, because I limped inside and now have ice on my leg. I suspect by morning I will not be walking very well.

Frosty morning

This morning I woke up to a light frost covering everything outside, including the alpacas. Our thermometer shows a low last night of 25*F. Most of the alpacas choose to sleep outside, they don't seem one bit bothered by the frost on their backs.

Here is Victoria and Snickers' frosty backs (with Lucy's head in the background):

It's much harder to see the frost on the lighter colored animals, here is Latte and Sancha:

I knew it got cold last night. After getting home from taking the kids trick or treating, Spot got loose. I had to chase him down the driveway in the dark. Thankfully he wasn't too hard to catch this time, but it was sure was dark and cold out there.

This morning he was very sweet and apologetic:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Growing Cria

Ginger has been growing by leaps and bounds. She is outgrowing her cria coat:

We generally use the rule of thumb that any cria until 40 pounds, if it's under 40* needs a coat on. It seems to be working, cause she's growing and thriving. Though she's still a baby:

Thursday, October 28, 2010


The baby face of Ginger (I can't believe how much she has grown, she is outgrowing that cria coat):

The burr filled face of Rosco:

The cute macho face to Chaska:

Challenger's colorful face:

Lucy's face is the one who always greets me first:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oak Haven Leaves

Our farm is named Oak Haven due to the fact our alpacas live in a haven of oak trees. This means we have a ton of oak leaves. I remember when we first were researching alpacas, I read how the tannins in the oak leaves are toxic to alpacas. The first year they were here, we diligently raked every pasture area free of leaves. It was so much work, but we were sure we had to do this. Now, three years later, we've come to the conclusion that while the oak leaves may have some toxic effect, it would take a lot of oak leaves to create such a scenario. Alpacas much prefer to munch on their hay. As long as we have plenty of hay for them to graze on, they only eat the very rare oak leaf. The leaves would never make up the majority of their diet (which is what it would take to reach even close to toxic levels). They are more likely to eat fresh green oak leaves, than the brown ones that fall this time of year. I do make sure leaves do not clog up their water buckets, as that would leach out the tannins into their water.

Over Tuesday and Wednesday we had a pretty significant wind storm blow through our area. This made many more leaves blow off the trees. I was worried how many branches might blow down on the alpacas. Thankfully no damage was done. The trees are wonderful to provide shade in the summer, shelter from the wind in the winter, but not great for leaves in the fall, and broken branches in a storm.

Here is how bare the trees got after just one day of wind blowing (these were taken on Tuesday evening):

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dog shearing?

I said I was against it, but we did it anyway. Our house dog, Quinn, is a pure bred Miniature American Eskimo. His breed is supposed to be brushed everyday, not shaved down. When we picked him out, back when he was a puppy, he was so cute, I was just sure I could brush him regularly. Well, that didn't last long. Here he is, just over 2 years old, and leaving massive amounts of long white hair all over our house. He has the most wonderful personality, but the hair, I was vacuuming the house three times a week and still not keeping on top of it. The thought of him living another 12+ years and dealing with his hair all this time was too much. We came to a cross roads, something had to be done. Even though you aren't supposed to, we decided to shave him down. I've read that because his breed has two layers of fur growing in, shaving it down can mess up those layers so it never looks good again. Well, we can just keep him shaved down so we won't have to worry about how it grows back.

J ordered a dog grooming kit, and this weekend we sat down to shave Quinn. I held Quinn, J used the shaver. I have to say, Quinn behaved better than I thought he would. The shaver on the other hand, did not work as well as we thought. It may be because Quinn's fur was so long, it's so fine, and it wouldn't stay in the guard to be cut.

Here is Quinn before:

Quinn with Shadow before (just like black alpacas, black dogs are very hard to photograph), our two house dogs:

Here is Quinn after:

We have no plans to open up a dog grooming salon. But I am excited to think about less dog hair floating around my house.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


J ordered a grave marker for Dottie's grave:

We buried her in the front of our house, our driveway loops around creating a turn around area. In that area we have bird feeders and a bird bath. Back in Dottie's youth, she used to lay there in wait of attacking a bird or squirrel. Even when she was inside the house, she'd get up on the couch so she could look out at this area. It's right outside our front window, where we can see easily.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I haven't been as busy with fiber as I would like. I've even slacked off of my 1 skein a week goal. I need to get back to that. But we have been doing some things.

I have some of Rosco's fiber started into yarn:

This is an ear flap hat that I am almost done knitting, out of Cafe's fiber:

And J has been busy knitting, here is a hat he finished, out of Lightning's fiber:

Friday, October 22, 2010


Before each alpaca show, it is necessary to get a CVI (Certified Vet Inspection). On Friday, we took Cavalier, Pocahontas and Rose to get their CVI for Alpacafest, in Ohio. All passed with no issues.

We are starting to get excited about this impending show. We haven't gone to any falls shows, and have missed having the opportunity to show off our prized alpacas.

I'm sure I'll post updates throughout the show. It is the first weekend in November.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Farm girls

This past weekend we needed hay. Being alpaca farmers, getting hay is a regular farm chore. Typically J takes care of getting hay. I've often said that I take care of scooping poop, and he gets hay. I have a hard time lugging hay bales, they are heavy for me. But, with J still recovering from surgery, there was no choice, I had to help with hay. He drove the truck and trailer, and while he helped stack it, Emma and I lugged the bales to the trailer. Back at home, J was too sore to do anymore, so Emma and I stacked all 30 bales. I have to say farm girls are a different breed. Emma, at only 11 years old, was able to pick up and stack bales of hay! She could carry as much as I could. She was so proud of her strength. I know at 11 I would not have been able to do that.

Emma also takes care of feeding the male alpacas. That's her daily chore. She does a great job making sure they have hay and water.

Growing up on a farm teaches you things you wouldn't know otherwise. Emma has gained strength, responsibility and a lot of knowledge about alpacas.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Our family is a dog family. J has always loved dogs and actually he'd take home 20 dogs if I'd let him. I had to limit him to only 2 house dogs and 1 farm dog (Spot is a farm dog only, he has never been in the house). Our kids have grown up with dogs, so that is what they are used to. Both Emma and Zack really like dogs. I grew up not really liking dogs. It wasn't until I graduated from college and was faced with living on my own, that I wanted a dog. I did not want to be completely alone. A dog is a companion, a protector. With J working 3rd shift, there have been many times over the years that I'm grateful to have our dogs.

On Monday J picked up our newest family dog, Shadow.

Zack and Shadow:

Emma and Shadow:

He is a two year old Miniature Schnauzer. J has wanted a miniature schnauzer since I can remember. When we got Quinn, that's really what J wanted, but I vetoed it. Every schnauzer I had met seemed snippy. I've since learned that while they are protective of their family and can be stand-offish of others, they are very loyal to their family. I also decided that a low shedding dog was the main priority. After having 2 long haired white dogs, something had to change.

We heard that this dog was available and decided that while it was quite soon after losing Dottie, we were ready. Shadow happened to need a home, and when we went to meet him, he was so sweet I knew he was coming to our house. He's very friendly, and not at all snippy.

His official registered name is Zippy Von Zorro. He was called Zippy by his previous owners, but we decided to nick name him Shadow. The kids and I tested him and he didn't respond to either name, so changing it doesn't seem to phase him. Now to work on getting him to recognize "Shadow".

Quinn has had some adjusting to do. But he loves that Shadow will play with him. They played a lot of chase today:

The alpacas were keeping a close watch on the situation. When we took Shadow for a walk past the boy's pasture, they gave him the glare:

Believe it or not, but I made it into one of the blog pictures today, that never happens. Though it seems Shadow was favoring Emma over me:

Shadow is having some adjusting to do. He was living in a kennel in someone's yard. He's not used to being in the house, not used to having a family. He didn't seem to know what to do in the house, he'd lay on the rug right in front of the door. We did get him a double crate so he can Quinn can be companions:

The crate is only for overnight and when we are not home. Quinn tends to get anxious during those times and would mess with things. The crate keeps him safe and secure. Shadow used to live in a kennel, being in the crate only a short part of the time is a relief to him.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Dottie has been J's dog since she was only a few weeks old. By the time I met J and shortly thereafter, Dottie, she was just over a year old. She was still a spunky young girl, and actually acted like a puppy until she was at least 8 years old. Dottie was a high energy dog, who loved to run and jump. She would run so hard her ears would flap in the wind. Her hair was often wild, she was never the fancy pretty girl type, always a tough tomboy. Even in her old age, she still had her wild hair:

She used to run loose all over our land. I would be taking a walk in the woods and suddenly Dottie would run up behind me. She was always nearby, though we didn't always see her. Dottie loved the snow. Her favorite thing on a winter day was to lay by the fireplace, then run outside and roll in the snow. She would dive down in the snow, getting her ears deep into a snow drift.

Dottie has been a part of our family since before Emma was born. She had been good with kids, and took to Emma immediately. Emma was only 6 months old when Dottie was hit by a car. The injuries were significant and we were told at that time that these injuries would become a problem as she aged. In the mean time, we had ten wonderfully healthy years in there. One of Dottie's injuries was a shattered leg. To fix it, she had a steal rod pinned on the outside of her leg. It was quite gruesome. One day without thinking too much of it, I put Emma on the floor to play, while I went to wash some dishes. Later I looked back at her to find that Emma had scooted over to Dottie and was holding the steal rod in her hand! Dottie never growled, never cried, never made any noise, but the look on her face with her eyes bugging out was clear that she wanted me to remove this child from her grasp immediately. I have to say, if I had been in Dottie's position, I might have growled. Dottie had more patience and kindness than that. She knew Emma was just a baby and didn't mean any harm.

We were worried after her accident if she would be able to jump in the air and twirl around like she always had. It was amazing that with one leg having been shattered and the other hip out of socket (they never were able to get it back in correctly), Dottie managed to regain her jump twist maneuver. She also was able to run in the woods again, bouncing over logs and other obstacles, reminding me of Tigger. All you could see was a white fleck bouncing through the woods.

In the early years of our marriage, I used to tease J that I married him for Dottie. They say people marry for all sorts of reasons, and that seemed as good a reason as any. In fact, a good dog is better than many other reasons I've heard of. Though now, after 12 years together, he doesn't need to worry that without Dottie we'll fall apart.

Dottie has always been there for me. J has worked the night shift since 2003, and there have been several instances when there was a bump in the night that I, as the only parent home, had to go investigate. Dottie would always go with me, no matter what time, no matter where we had to go. She'd jump up and walk with me, going into the darkness ready to protect me. When I starting running several years ago, Dottie was the only dog who could last an entire run with me. All of our other dogs will run great the first few laps, but will tucker out too soon. Dottie's walk pace was my run pace, so she would set the pace for me. Whenever I was sad, even before I realized it myself, I would notice Dottie would follow me all over, never leaving my side. She was a loyal faithful dog.

Here is Dottie, in her old age, sitting in her favorite spot by the front window, with the kids:

I've often said that Dottie is the best dog ever. I know we've had other good dogs (and will again in the future), but I've said all along that no dog will be as good as Dottie. You can't beat her. No matter how much we like a dog, no matter how great we think he/she is, they are still no Dottie.

Dottie will forever be in our hearts, we will never forget her.

~ Dottie ~

Rest in peace sweet Dottie.
You have been the best dog ever.
You walked with me when I was too scared to go on my own.
You ran with me when I needed a running partner.
You comforted me when I was sad.
You dance when I had exciting news to share.
You protected and loved my babies as if they were your own.
You are the best dog ever.
Rest in peace.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bad hair day

Just when I thought I was having a bad hair day, I arrive at the boy's barn to see their top knots. We need to do some top knot trimming, they are getting a bit wild.

Here is Greyt:

Tucker's droopy top knot:

And my favorite, Snowstorm:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

He's really here

Last week I was very excited that Tucker finally came home. But I kept forgetting to take my camera down to the boy's barn (the boys are housed just down the road from us). I'd go down there to feed them, only to realize I forgot my camera.

This past weekend I got these pictures of him:

He looks pretty much how I remember him. If anything, his gray color looks lighter to me, but otherwise, he looks much the same. He greets me by the gate each time I come down there, just like he used to. We are so glad to have him back home!

While I was there, I took a quick snap shot of Fluffy, our barn cat. Fluffy came to our farm over 3 years ago, before the alpacas made their way here. She has been our constant companion. Unfortunately, every cat friend we've gotten for Fluffy has not lived very long. The truth is that the life span of a barn cat is not long. Fluffy, for some reason, always beats the odds. I don't know if she's a fighter or has super powers or what. We've joked that it might be that Fluffy wants to be the only cat and has lead the other cats to their demise. Or that Fluffy is like a cockroach and nothing will kill her. At the end of the world there will be cockroaches and Fluffy. Whatever it is that keeps her with us, we are thankful for. She's a great barn cat, killing all small rodents. She loves to be petted, but doesn't care much for her pictures to be taken. Here's the only snap shot I could get of her:

This is MY herd

Lucy has been at our farm just over a week. We are still getting used to each other. Since she came, I've had a hard time deciding if she is really friendly, really protective, or just curious. She will always greet me when I go out there, she'll walk up to me and get close. I love her big eyes:

Most of the time she just comes up to me as if to say "hi". But sometimes she runs over to me making a clucking sound. My niece described it so well, when she does this we don't know if she's preparing to spit on us, or is just greeting us. My niece said "that's when I run away." I haven't run away, and she has never spit on me. So I don't think it's a spitting issue. But I do think she feels protective of Latte's cria, Ginger. They both came to our farm last week, from the same farm, the same herd. Lucy seems more protective of the cria than Latte. And, somehow Lucy knows when I come out there to do something with Ginger, that's when Lucy will cluck and block me.

To block, she stands sideways right in front of me. As I walk I literally have to push her out of my way. All the time she's making a clucking sound, that makes me wonder if she might spit at me. It's as if she knows Ginger came from her former herd and it is her duty to protect her. Lucy will move from her block only to zig zag and block me again. The block amounts to this:

I can only take a few steps before I have to push her. Then she will zig zag around to this:

While I have a couple inches on Lucy, Lucy has mass on her side. She's a good size alpaca. I don't know exactly how much she weighs, but she's heavier than me. If she wanted to spit and kick and push me, she could make my life pretty miserable. I often classify alpacas in those with less mass than me, and those with more. The ones with less mass I always think I could take them on. But the truth is that I've had little young one wrestle me to the ground and give me bruises that lasted for weeks (of note, alpacas are not aggressive animals, these wrestling matches only take place when I am doing something to them that they do not like, such as shots and trimming nails. The alpaca goes into fight or flight mode and really do think I am dangerous. I have never been attacked, and any spit or bruises have been the result of my grabbing them). I've never had a big alpaca like Lucy do more than spit on me. And in her case, she hasn't even done that. The most she does, is stand in my way and cluck as if to say "leave that baby alone." I don't think she's trying to be mean to me. She's not aggressive at all. I think she's just protecting her herd and still isn't sure she can trust me. In time, we will come to know each other better.

I do love that she is friendly and greets me. We have several friendly ones on our farm, and they quickly become our favorites.
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