Friday, April 30, 2010

Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show and Fiber Fair

Being only a week since we were in Wisconsin, it really was too much to haul all our show alpacas to this show this weekend. While it's close, in state, we do have to pick and choose which shows we go to, and who we take. We can't take all the alpacas to all of them. J is working some of this weekend (Sunday night), and Emma has a soccer game on Saturday (she missed one last week which was bad enough, missing 2 in a row would make her being on the team sort of pointless). Sometimes life does limit the farm.

We are very thankful that our friends at Ashton Stone Alpacas are willing and able to take some of our alpacas to this show.

What we did when we set up our Spring Show schedule was try and see if all of our show animals could get to at least 2 shows. The best ones going to more shows (like Tehya and Po :) ). Our show animals being: Tehya, Shelby, Lily, Pocahontas, and Rosco (the girls) and (the boys) Lightning and Cavalier. Lily and Shelby were sold at our first show of the year. We had thought Shelby would sell, but we had not planned on Lily selling (it's a nice bonus that she did - 2 sales is great!). We had Lily signed up to go to both Indiana and Wisconsin (she's one of the good ones we really wanted to get to as many shows as we could). In Indiana, Rosco took Lily's place. In Wisconsin, we took Cafe. We had originally thought Rosco would only be going to the Best of the US in Columbus, Ohio, so going to this Michigan show would give her a 2nd spring show. As it turned out, this will be Rosco's 3rd spring show, which is even better to get another show under her belt. Lightning went to the Indiana show, but because he's a breeding age male, we did not bring him to Ohio or Wisconsin (would have meant sectioning off the trailer for him, and a separate pen). So this will be Lightnings second spring show. Tehya, Po and Cav already were signed up for at least 2 shows, it was only Rosco and Lightning that we signed up for 1, so that is why we decided to send them to this show.

Sancha's White Lightning (AKA Lighting, or Lightning Bugs, or Bugs). This likely will be Lightnings last show before beginning his breeding career. I know some farms do bring 2+ age males to shows. We have at times in the past (Tucker last year and Greyt this year). But ideally we don't. It's more work in transport and pens at the show to keep them separate. And Tucker was such a pistol in the pen at the show, kept trying to get out. They really are more work in that sense. We hope our males prove themselves in the ring as juvi and yearlings. Then, the proof is in the cria.

Here is a picture of Lightning from this winter:



Ashton Stones Little Miss Rosco is also going. Here she is on our farm this past spring (looking at that picture I do think she's grown quite a bit since it was taken):



One of these years we will make it to this show, even if it is just for the day. We debated trying to go for a day this year, but between Emma's soccer game on Saturday, it left Sunday, and J can't go into work on no sleep.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's a woman thing

Isn't that how the saying goes, it's a woman prerogative to change her mind?

Our alpaca ladies have done just that. Now that the warmer weather has hit, they have decided that they love their shelter. These ladies who all winter hardly ever went inside, now won't leave the shelter. I'm sure it has something to do with the fans in there :)

I noticed this before we moved the maidens to the new area. These pictures were taken last week.

I don't know if it's a true hierarchy, but it seems that the older girls get the back spaces, right by the fans (Sancha and Victoria). The young weanlings are just inside the doorway (Po and Rosco). And the yearlings/maidens, Tehya and Maddie, they seem to be in the middle. Kateri is the only one out of order, but she's so doting, she would want to be in the front to keep her eyes on things. It's amazing how all these girls fit inside this shelter; there is plenty of room. Many of them did stand up when I arrived with the camera, but that is all they did. I've seen them all cush inside there with room to spare.




(seems I had some hay dust on my camera lens)

Madison news

There was an article published on the Great Midwest Alpaca show.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Girl's new home

I think an ideal alpaca farm set up would have several separate areas to segregate different animals. I could see reasons for various different ways to do it. One set up could be having an area for pregnant/birthing moms, a maiden area and a weanling area. Another way I could see is having a "heavy" area for those girls you don't want to have any extra grain, and a skinny area for the ones who have a hard time keeping on weight (you could put more alfalfa in that pen). I have often wanted the heavy/skinny separation being that we have Victoria who will eat anything and everything but doesn't need to, and we have Sancha who got so thin we had to wean one of her cria early. We've found ways to feed her more and Victoria less, but some times that is a pain. We put in a new area this spring, which we plan to use to separate out the weanlings and the un-bred maidens (PoPo, Rosco, Cafe and Tehya). This way the pregnant, birthing, and nursing mothers are not bothered by last years babies and un-bred maidens (on our farm this would mean PoPo, Rosco, Cafe and Tehya in one area, the bred females, Sancha, Victoria, Kateri and Maddie in another area). Well, since this last show, we decided to make a switch on this and move out last weekends show animals.

Another good reason for a separate area would be for the farm's show animals. I have heard of big farms having their show string separated from the rest of the farm animals. This creates a sort of quarantine so that if an animal that went to a show picked up something there, they would not infect the entire herd, especially the young or pregnant girls. This is what we ended up doing. It seems Tehya isn't feeling well (an upset intestines). At this point we don't know that it is even contagious, but since we can separate her out, we will. We don't want to risk any chance of infecting the pregnant girls, or Rosco, who is going to a show this weekend. So we moved Tehya, Cafe and PoPo to the new area. These three were all at the same show, in the same stall. So if Tehya did pick up something, the other two have already been exposed anyway.

They seemed to like moving into the new area. These funny animals love to eat up the woods grass:



The girls have already eaten all the woods grass in their current area, and I expect the small amount that is in this new paddock will be chewed down shortly. I haven't found woods grass to be harmful to them (nothing I've found on-line indicates it to be toxic, and they ate it up last year with no ill effects). Technically oak leaves are toxic to them. When we first had our alpacas I was paranoid about this. But after having them for awhile, I've come to respect the part that it would have to make up most of their diet in order for it to be toxic. I certainly am careful not to let leaves sit in their water (the tannins in the leaves will seep into the water and would be toxic). But overall I find the leaves don't bother them as long as they have plenty of hay to make up the majority of their diet. We always make sure they have plenty of hay.

Here is Cafe with a mouth full of woods grass:



The inside of their shelter is stocked with water and hay and fans:



After Rosco comes back from the show this coming weekend we will put her in with these girls in the new area. That will leave the pregnant girls, Sancha, Victoria, Kateri and Maddie alone in the old area. Sancha is due in less than a month, and Maddie is due a week later. It won't be long and there will be cria roaming about - I can't wait!

processing the show

After each show we go to I have all these thoughts racing through my head. I usually take the day off of work on Monday after a show, and find all day long my mind is processing. (I take the day off because I'm usually too tired to be worth much productivity and to do laundry and all those after trip chores).

One thing we learned (the hard way) is to make sure the alpaca's teeth are nice and trim before a show. Some of my thoughts I've already expressed in regards to combining color classes. (See previous days postings for that rant). The venue wasn't ideal in that the pens were mostly behind a wall from the rings (except for the big sponsors who were in the same room as the rings). We do prefer venues where it's all one big room. It also was cold in there, but this had more to do with the rainy 40* weather. And actually, I'll take cold if it brings rain because that moisture does help the fiber look really nice. Another down side was the distance. With having our last animal to show be in the 2nd to last class, we were at the show until past 4 p.m. on Sunday. By the time we picked up the kids and got home, it was after midnight. That's a long weekend.

One thing we noticed in the ring, and this is just our observation, I have no data to back it up, was an increase in animals with white spots. I wondered if maybe the stigma of the white spot is starting to lessen as people understand better how to breed these animals. Two animals with a white spot, when bred together, have a 25% chance of producing a blue eyed white (they each have a 50% chance of passing on the white spot, and if they both do, a blue eyed white is the result). As an industry we don't want blue eyed whites, because they often are also deaf. It is not responsible to produce animals with these birth defects. With responsible breeding though, you can have an animal with a white spot and never produce a blue eyed white. We would never breed Maddie to an animal with a white spot, or a tuxedo grey, so she will not produce a blue eyed white. She does have a 50% chance of passing the white spot onto any of her cria. But a white spot in itself is not a birth defect. J thinks that these white spotted animals are due to farms that are breeding for grey. The by-product of trying to breed grey (especially when tuxedo greys are involved) means that sometimes there will be a black or brown or fawn produced that does have a white spot. Since grey is a very popular color right now, that increase in breeding choices alone would account for more white spotted animals. This makes a lot of sense to me. I would be curious to hear if other people have noticed an increase in white spotted animals.

Overall we enjoyed this show in Madison, Wisconsin. I did appreciate that the building had bright lighting in the rings. Everything seemed to run smoothly at this show. I love the town of Madison. We had a nice hotel, and found places to eat easily. You would not believe the struggle we have when we go to Columbus, Ohio, just to find a gas station or a restaurant. It's enough to make us not want to go to a show there again. Also, the venue there, the building is dark and hard to see well. It makes us appreciate towns where things are easily accessible. One thing we found unique in Madison was a Wal-mart with a parking lot under the store. I have never seen anything like it. We had to stop there because I forgot to bring some essential personal items (who forgets to pack underwear? I guess I do). The Wal-mart had escalators and elevators from this underground parking lot to the level of the store. It was really neat. I could see in the snowy winter and during rain storms this being a huge benefit. The town seemed to be growing and productive. So different from most of the rest of the mid-west where the economy has been hit so hard. The town was clean and seems to be thriving. I loved all the lakes in Madison. No wonder I remember swimming and biking a lot when we lived there. I didn't find I recognized much, but we were downtown, and when I lived there some 20 years ago, we lived a bit out of town.

I knew I was forgetting something in this post when I wrote it so I am adding this part now:

Another thing that we thought about a lot at this show was how taking 3 alpacas is different from taking 6 or 9 (the number we took to the last two shows we were at). I felt more relaxed because at this show I knew there was no chance I would end up in the ring showing an animal. For some reason I fear this happening. Though I know in reality I could do it, and do well at it. I do most of the daily farm chores, I hold our animals for herd health, I halter train our animals, I know them. I could do fine in the ring with them. And actually it's not even that. I know I could do it. It's more the idea of being in front of people that sort of freaks me out. I think I need to just go in the ring one time to get over this fear. It's sort of like having to take a speech class in school, what a horror for someone like me. I'd rather hide in the audience. Anyway, despite my liking the fact I knew there was no chance I'd end up in the ring, we felt that the show went slow and wasn't as exciting. J said he'd never choose to take "only" 3 again (with the exception of Nationals next month, that's different, there is no point to take more than your best to a big show like that). I have a feeling our fall show(s) will be bigger than "just" 3 animals. I think we actually preferred the show with 9. We were busy with lots to see and do and think about. Though at this last show it was nice to network, and I do think we had more time to talk with the farms in neighboring stalls, I think in the past I overlooked how much networking and chatting goes on in the show ring and around the ring, that we have been more apart of at shows where we do have a lot of animals.

This blog post seems kind of all over the place. I must still be processing the show in my mind. I also have been thinking a lot about small farms at big shows and how we can compete. Having gone to a few shows this spring, and seeing some threads on alpaca forums, I know this is a topic that is being discussed; it's not just floating around in my head. But, this is still simmering in my mind and not ready for a verbal post. I think I'll wait until after we attend the National show, and have some time to process that to get into this topic further.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pocahontas' placement = our fault

We have no one to blame but ourselves, and trust me, we are doing a lot of that.

Pocahontas showed in a mixed class of "Huacaya Multi/Indefinite Female". There were 2 pintos in the group, both of which had black blankets and white on their face, neck and legs. And there was one other indefinite dark, like our PoPo. They were all juvi's (under a year old). There were no yearlings for this color class (which also meant no color championship). I do think the pintos have an advantage because their blanket is usually one color, whereas the indefinites by definition have many colors in their blanket. It's easier for one color to be consistent with crimp and fineness, creating a nice handle. My own opinion is that they shouldn't mix classes (they also mixed rose grey with silver grey which I think is unfair. Rose grey is like brown and silver grey like black, you wouldn't judge brown and black together, so I don't think they should rose grey and silver grey. But, the rules state that they can. I may need to start a campaign against combining classes. That could be my newest soap box issue. Like I need an issue to vent about ;) ).

Anyway, Pocahontas received 2nd place. Not that second is bad, and when our animal deserves 2nd next to an incredible 1st placed animal, I take honor that we were right up there with that animal. But in this case the judge said that 1st place went to the one who had the complete package, and then spoke about teeth. What it came down to was the teeth! Po had the better fiber, and has everything else going for her. The judge even said to J that if he had trimmed her teeth she would have gotten 1st place! GRRRRR! What is even more frustrating is that the night before we left for the show J looked at her teeth and commented that they needed to be trimmed, but for some reason we didn't do it. We knew it needed to be done, we skip doing it, and she got 2nd place because of it. Now that is a mistake we will NEVER do again!!! Two 1st place ribbons and she deserved 1st again, had we not messed up.

Tehya made us proud

Tehya showed in a class called "Huacaya Light Female - Yearling" which means there was a mix of light fawn and beige. Tehya is light fawn. The darker color has the disadvantage of having a hard time being as fine as the lighter color (this dates back to the fact Peru improved the most on the white fiber because that is what the textiles wanted, so white fiber is finer and superior. Each time you go to a darker shade, it is less improved upon). We were worried how this might affect her placing. I am proud to say that Tehya took 2nd in a class of 10! The one who received first place was beige, so Tehya was the 1st of the light fawn. And the 1st place winner received color champion! People in the audience thought the judge might give color reserve to Tehya, but then didn't. It's rare for the 2nd place to get color reserve, so that would have been a very huge honor. But understandable when she didn't, it was an honor to be close to getting it. We are very proud of her placing where she did. Tehya has had an impressive show career. Just one more show and she will begin her breeding career.

Here are all her ribbons:


Adding that the one who beat Tehya, receiving 1st place, is a beige alpaca named I am Electra. This alpaca has won four 1st place ribbons, and 3 color champions! She is not for sale by her farm, Dougherty Creek, but will be a foundation animal for them (as noted on their web site). I felt her fiber and took a good look at it. She is incredible, no doubt about that.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wisconsin Show Day 1

Today started with our waking up way too early. We are in a different time zone, so it felt later to us. And, I think kids have ruined me for life, I can no longer sleep in (or maybe it's just old age seeping in).

We had plenty of time to get ready and head out to the venue. Here is my picture of the Alliant Engery Center:



Inside the arena is a circular room with a huge seating area. There are two rings set up in the middle. One ring is for the Suri Alpacas, and one for Huacaya. There are two levels of seating, all the way around the arena. This is what one ring looks like:



Also inside the arena were the stalls for the farms that sponsor the show, and a herd sire row.

Around the arena there is like a wide hallway going all the way around the building, where the pens are set up. It was impossible for me to get a decent picture of this. I don't think you can really see how this hallway type area is circular. But, here is what the pens look like:



Our pen is off in the distance, with the big green oak leaf :)
Here is our pen:



Here are our girls up close:



Every venue does their set up a little different for the pens. We've been to some shows where they have sod in each stall. Some shows allow you to use straw, and some just supply shredded cardboard. It is interesting to see how every farm uses the different products to set up their stall. Everyone does it a bit different. We've seen many farms that put the shredded cardboard down, then their stall mat. Some even tape the mat down with duct tape. We had the matt on top at the first show we went to, and it was horrible. I still have horror thoughts about what happened. The first day of the show we came to show our animals and they had laid and rolled in poop all night long! It was so horrible. Add on that they were white animals (I can still picture them, Sommerfield and Max all covered in poop. Maddie was there too but being black it didn't matter so much). It was awful. We then learned the trick of putting the cardboard or straw on top of the mat. This way the poop falls inside the straw or shredded cardboard and the animal doesn't lay right in it. In Ohio, we put the shredded cardboard under the mat to soak up the pee, then straw on top of the matt to hide the poop. This is the ultimate set up. We never had to poop scoop the entire weekend. Some shows do not allow you to use straw due to it being a fire hazard (this sometimes is a rule for the venue). For this show we didn't take straw because we weren't sure if we would have room to transport it. So we put the cardboard on top of the matt:



This works fairly well to keep the poop off the animals. We do scoop some poop, but don't have to worry like the incident at our first show. The only down side is that when the animals do roll, they spread the shredded cardboard everywhere, all over the isle.

We've found that Tehya's role in our herd is that of mother hen, and protector. The only one of ours to show today was Cafe. When we got her haltered and took her out of the pen, Tehya become very upset. She tried to get out of the pen too. This is the role Maddie used to hold, before she became pregnant. It's neat to see their roles and how they change over time. Then when we did get Cafe back to the pen, and fed them their grain, Tehya wouldn't let Cafe eat! I don't know what that was all about, but it was clear Tehya was not going to allow Cafe to have any grain.

Cafe showed in a mixed class of Yearling Fawn, both Dark Fawn and Light Fawn. This was to Cafe's disadvantage because she is the darker color (one of only 2 dark fawn, there were 6 light fawn). We knew this would be a hard class for Cafe, and then we saw the competition. Yikes! There were animals from some really big name males. We took Cafe to this show hoping to get some feedback on her qualities. We plan to breed her this summer, and need to know her positive and negative qualities so that we can breed her to the right. We need to make sure the male has what she lacks. We were glad that at least Cafe placed so that we could get feedback on her. We know she's not 1st place quality, but we also believe we can get quality out of her. She placed 6th (of 8). The judge said that her fiber is consistent (this refers to her crimp, bundling and handle). Her negative would be that she isn't as fine. This confirmed the need for a fine male. I also think her fiber isn't very bright, so a bright, fine male is what she needs.

Tomorrow Tehya will show pretty early on in the morning (3rd class to show). She is in a mixed class of Yearling Light - both beige and light fawn together. For Tehya, this is a disadvantage because she is the darker color. There are 10 in her class (3 beige, and 7 light fawn).

We are disappointed that they combined the classes for Cafe and Tehya. It really put them at a disadvantage (especially since both ended up the darker of the group). It fits with the show rules, it's just that most of the shows we have been to they left them separate. I prefer them separate, I think that makes a more fair playing field.

Pocahontas will show in the Multi/Indefinite Class. She will be 1 of four in her class. Two are pinto and 2 are Indefinite Dark. It's really hard to say who has the disadvantage in this group. Personally I wish they would separate out the two, do a class of pinto and a class of Indefinite Dark, but I'm not in charge ;) This will be the second to last class to show. It's gonna be a long day tomorrow.

For dinner, we had reservations at the Lombardino's Restaurant, an amazing Italian restaurant downtown. We had seen it last night, but heard you needed reservations, so made them for tonight. It was fantastic! I'm going to start looking forward to going to shows for the great food.

Friday, April 23, 2010

In Madison, Wisconsin

We made it to Madison! The drive went well, with no noted issues. We've found that it's ideal to get to a show venue before 3 p.m. We arrived just before 2, so great timing. This means less of a line to do the vet check, and less of a line for unloading, and for color check. It gives us plenty of time to set up and get checked into our hotel before getting dinner. I did take pictures of our pen set up, but I left the camera in the truck and now that I'm all snuggled into our hotel room, I'm too tired to go get the camera. I'll post my pictures tomorrow night.

We are at the Alliant Engery Center in Madison. We have never been to this show before, so we had no idea what to expect. The stalls are a bit strange in that they try to fit rectangular stalls in a rounded area surrounding the arena. It's a bit awkward. It's also not one big room, which we have found at other venues we like so much. There is a circular passageway around the arena where the stalls are set up. There is a wall separating the stalls from the arena. We'll see how this goes. Tomorrow we will have time to walk around and take a better look.

We found our hotel fine and were happy to see a hot tub. Nothing like relaxing after a long drive and setting up! I have some bruises from wrestling with Cafe last night (seems she did not want us to trim her nails prior to the show). She not only knocked me down (which isn't so easy, I've held quite a few bigger alpacas than her), but she also jumped over our fence around our paddock! (It is lower than our outer fencing, but still, she should not be able to get over it).

For dinner we jumped in the truck and set the garmin to find us something. We decided to try the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.. What an incredible meal! I had:
Texarkana Burger
One-third pound of choice beef* broiled to perfection topped with sharp
cheddar, BBQ sauce, applewood bacon, haystack onions, chipotle cream
cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles on a JalapeƱo roll.

It was the best burger I have ever had! I mean that too.

J had:
the great dane’s brat & bacon pretzel burger
A one-third pound U.S.D.A. choice ground beef* patty and a one-quarter
pound bratwurst* patty grilled with caramelized onions and topped with
applewood smoked bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles and tomato.
Served on a pretzel roll with a side of Peck’s Pilsner mustard.


J tried some of their brewed beer. I am not a beer person, but did enjoy a sip of his. For beer, it was good. I had some specially made cream soda. That was a nice treat.

Tomorrow morning they are having the alpaca show exhibitor meeting at 8:30 a.m. This is late compared to what we are used to. Many of the shows we have been to have this meeting on Friday evening, then start the show at 8 a.m. sharp on Saturday, or they have the meeting right at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. It will be a slower start for sure. Add on the time change, and this will feel like 9:30 a.m. for us. Also, we usually have an animal in one of the first classes (we usually have at least 1 black animal with us). But we only have 3 animals here, all of which won't show until later. We easily could arrive just in time for the 8:30 meeting, then feed our alpacas, then go out to breakfast. Should be a slow paced morning.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Leaving for Wisconsin

Friday morning we leave for The Great Midwest Alpaca Festival in Madison, Wisconsin.

A little known fact about me, I spent some of my childhood living in Madison. From the middle of 1st grade through 5th grade, I lived there. I wonder if any of it will look familiar?

This is our third spring show. We are only bringing 3 alpacas with us, all females. We decided to scale down a bit for this show. It is a further drive for us, and we are stopping in Chicago to drop the kids off at my parents' house. We need to make sure we have room for all our stuff and the kids' stuff. I'm sure with only 3 alpacas back there we will have plenty of room. It will also mean a slower pace show for us. That will give us time to meet new people. We have never been to a show in Wisconsin.

We are bringing Kateri's Tehya. Tehya is also going to Nationals, which will be the end of her show career. We have a breeding date in the works for her :)

On our farm:


Tehya has won some second place ribbons, and this is the 1st place she received last fall:



We are bringing CCAP Cafe au Lait. This will likely be Cafe's last show. We plan to breed her this summer/fall.

On our farm:


And, we are taking our star, OHVNA Pocahontas. We'll see how she does at her 3rd show.

On our farm this past winter:


1st show, 1st place:


Second show, 1st place:


We are still waiting on the color banner she won at her 1st show. I hope we have it in time to hang up at Nationals.

Alpaca Western Extravaganza 2010

We entered Tucker and Tehya in the spin off at the Alpaca Western Extravaganza.

Tucker won 1st place!

The judge said:
"beautiful color, nice sample"
"a joy to spin"
The negatives were that is was a little sandy and some second cuts.

Tehya won 2nd place!

The judge said:
"nice luster to locks"
"well defined crimp"
The negatives were that there were some second cuts in the sample (totally our fault) and there was some sand in the sample.

Lesson learned, we must skirt out those second cuts and shake out that sand.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Pyrenees care

We've had our Great Pyrenees, Spot, for a year now. I have done fairly well with combing him weekly (or so). Before we got him, we did research on the breed. We had read that you are not supposed to trim their coat because it will ruin their fur. His coat is a lot like our house dog, Quinn, who is an American Eskimo. Their fur works fine on it's own to thin out in the summer for them to be cool enough. They have an undercoat along with a longer overcoat. The coat layers work together to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I actually like that you are not supposed to trim them. One less thing to think about doing. Last year we didn't do anything other than the usual combing. But, we had a very cool summer last year. Even with that cool summer, Spot has some really hot days. We've heard of some farms that do shave down their Great Pyrenees. We've debated what to do.

This is the comb I have been using:



We heard about another gadget, a Coat King Stripper, that is supposed to do an even better job at getting out the old undercoat. So we got one:



Comparison of the two:



I decided to give the new gadget, a Coat King Stripper, a try. Here is Spot before:



The fur that came out:



I usually let the fur fly in the wind. I hope birds will snatch it up to build into their nests. The part that I don't think about is that Spot hates birds and won't let them land in the pasture. I'll have to hope for a really strong wind to carry the fur out of the pastures so the birds have a chance at it.

I felt that the stripper did a great job of getting the fur out. It really tackled matts, which in the past I would have been stuck on what to do (most likely would have had to cut out). It really tore those matts out. I don't know that you can see a difference in him in the pictures. I didn't get his back end/butt very well. I was doing all this on my own and he kept sitting down. Spot is the sweetest thing, never grumpy to me, but not always cooperative. Given his size, it was hard for me to keep him from sitting and comb him. I'll need some help to get his butt/back end.



I'm impressed with the product. He feels less hairy, and I think looks more trim (once I get his butt/back end he'll be even better). And after thinking about it, we are reminded that we really like that we aren't supposed to trim his fur. That's one of the things I like about the breed, easy care. Simply brush/comb him and he's all set. I don't think we will shave Spot down. I believe in trying to be true to a breed, and his breed isn't supposed to be shaved down. If I wanted a dog shaved down, I should get a breed that is supposed to be groomed that way.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moving the weanling boys

Sunday evening we moved Cavalier and Golden up to the boy's weanling barn. We weighed them before we left the girls' area (the scale is there). Golden was around 75 pounds and Cavalier almost 70 pounds.



On halters, we walked them up our drive to the boys' area. In the distance is Emma walking Cavalier.



At the boys barn, they ran in and met the older boys by the fence. Everyone was sniffing everyone, the weanling boys showing they are submissive by their tails going up.



We let Lightning in with the weanlings. We found he is getting beat up by the older boys. I am a bit worried he is going to pick on the weanlings (he will be 2 years old in a few weeks). If he is too rough, we can switch him with Snowstorm. Snowstorm is our gelding. He has been in with weanlings before and done very well. He's a great uncle.

Lightning did sniff them to see if they are female. He chased them some. In some ways this is a good sign, he's ready to breed. Just as long as he figures out very soon that these two are boys.



Here is Golden and Cavalier in their new paddock at their new home:

Boys will be... boys

This weekend I caught Cav trying to mount Cafe! Cafe had been rolling on the ground getting a dust bath. As she stopped, Cav jumped on her back, in position to breed. I had my camera on me, but didn't snap a shot, I was so focused on getting him off of her. She spit at him and he stopped before anything actually happened. Here they are after I caught them:



Cafe sort of looks like a guilty teen, but Cav is a proud stud. He's been the only boy back by the girls too long. He thinks he's so manly.

I've heard boys as young as 7 months being confirmed as getting a girl pregnant. Though I do think that is rare, it is possible. Cav is pushing 8 months old, so we definately need to get him out of the girls area. The only girls we have that are open and old enough to get pregnant are Cafe and Tehya. Though Cafe is likely still too young yet. I'm a bit worried that if I caught this, what might he have done that I didn't catch.

This all happened on Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, we had the boy weanlings in their new boy weanling barn. We have already taken too much of a chance having Cav with the girls as long as we have. (Our other weanling boy is Golden, while he's the same age as Cav, he acts younger, Cav was clearly the top male in the herd).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Composting alpaca waste

I've found there are two types of compost that I get from our alpaca farm: poop and straw/hay refuse. The poop is obvious and one farms plan for. The hay/straw refuse is one I didn't realize we'd have so much of. Some of it is bedding from the shelters over the winter. Some of it is the stalkier hay that the alpacas eat around (they eat the good stuff and push the rest on the ground). We also put straw in our trailer during long rides, but then when we clean that out we have that straw too.

This past weekend I cleaned up a lot of the straw/hay refuse. I lost count of how many wheel barrows full I lugged around of the stuff.

Some of the straw/hay refuse I use in our pastures. We have pure sand soil that does not grow grass well. If I put hay/straw on the ground, it helps the ground retain water and the straw/hay decomposes into soil that is more friendly to grass. I do this with the dry straw/hay. Now the stuff that is wet and especially the straw/hay that is mixed in with alpaca poop (like the bedding in the barn where they poop) I don't put in the pasture. That we make into a compost.

It's not hard to compost. All you need is the items to compost, water (if it's too dry it won't decompose, but too wet won't work either, so some moisture is necessary), and if you want it like dirt, time for it to decompose. Usual rules to composting include adding the right amount of "green" and "brown" items. For my kitchen compost container, I do adhere to these rules. For our alpaca poop piles, I don't bother. It will compost into pure alpaca poop (the best fertilizer) all on it's own. And I actually prefer this to be pure, so that it is the most potent fertilizer. Alpaca poop is nice in that you can use it fresh. Some animal manure cannot be used fresh because it will "burn" plants. This is not true with alpaca poop. Ideal for putting in new grass pastures would be to put down alpaca poop, rototill it in the ground, add grass seed, then put the straw/hay refuse on top. For my flowerbeds, I dig a hole, put in a big scoop of alpaca poop, then plant the plant on top. My plants grow very well doing this.

Our compost area has a poop side, and a hay/straw/poop side. This way, if you want pure alpaca poop fertilizer, we have it. If you want to add in hay/straw we can do that too. We leave the piles open to natural elements because that is what helps it decompose the best. I left the wheel barrow in the picture to give perspective on the size of the piles. I have a hard time making the piles higher, I tend to go wider, but over time I can wheel on top and add a layer. I am on my second layer with the straw/hay piles.

Compost poop pile, it starts near the beginning of this picture and goes to the wheelbarrow:



The start of my second layer of straw/hay compost:



Last year when we put in a garden we just took wheel barrows full of the poop and dumped it into our garden area. Then we rototilled it in. Than planted plants/seeds as directed. This worked very well.

Girls are gross

Not to be outdone by J's hard work, I spent my weekend doing spring cleaning outside. Last weekend I tackled the the garage, this weekend I cleaned out the girl's barn.

This past year we put down straw and then let hay that the girls didn't eat cover the ground in the girl's shelter. Quite a few farms do put a layer of bedding down to help keep the alpacas warm in the winter. But, not everyone does this. We do live where it is cold, but, we found they didn't spend much time in the barn at all. I don't think we will put bedding down next year. Or, if we do, it will be only a very little bit. This is how their shelter looked:




Saturday I spent much of my day cleaning the hay/straw mixture out. It took about 4 hours to haul all of it out (that's 4 hours split up between making the kids food to eat and doing laundry, so in the end it felt like I spent almost all day out there). At first I convinced myself it wasn't hard work, just tedious. You take a full wheel barrow out, only to come back and find you hardly made a dent in it. But, then it really was hard work. Our girls do poop and pee in the barn, and that mixed into the straw/hay was a huge mess. It was hard to get it scopped up and into the wheel barrow. While I was cleaning out the barn, the ladies were, of course, curious. They watched my every step, and when I'd walk off with a wheel barrow full, they would sneak into the shelter to see what is going on. One time I came back and found one of them had walked in there and pooped! Now that is really crazy. They have poop areas in the paddock and in the pastures, there was no need to come into my clean area to poop (I suspect with about 99% certainty it was Victoria, not to name names or anything). That sealed it for me, girls are gross.

Here is the shelter cleaned out:





I'd like to put some fresh dolomite in there to really clean up the inside. I'm disappointed it didn't clean up better. But, our girls hardly ever come inside the shelter so it isn't that big of a deal.

On Sunday I cleaned up this area:



Last year J started to pile their refuse hay (the stalky stuff they eat around and leave for waste). But, this pile got a bit out of hand. So I decided to clean it up.

Here it is almost cleaned up (just a couple little piles to finish up):



This didn't even take me an hour to clean up. But it's nice to have it done. I also cleaned up some of the other hay laying around the ground. I like to use it to cover new grass in the pasture.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring's new projects

J has been very busy adding on new things at our farm. Many projects he works on during the week when I'm at work and the kids are at school. We come home to new things all the time :) This week was his weekend at work, so he was home during the week, giving him time to finish up some projects.

We decided to add on a girl's shelter so that we can separate our pregnant/birthing ladies from our maidens. This will help with feeding, since we feed our pregnant/nursing girls more grain. And it will give the birthing moms some space with birthing and their newborn. Another benefit of this is that when it comes time to wean our cria this coming year, we can just put the weanlings in the maiden area and they will be separated from their moms (this past year we had them stay at another farm for a couple weeks to wean, which worked great, but it's an added benefit not to have to move them off the farm).

J completed the new maiden girl's shelter.
Front (we still need to finish picking up the trash):



Back:



In those pictures you can also see some of the fences that he moved around. We need to get more fencing to complete their pasture, but we also have some trees to deal with. That is still a project in process.

He also had some dolomite delivered to fill in around the gates and the new hay shelter:



J also fixed up the weanling boy's barn. We had stored hay in there for the last year. But with Cav and Golden needing to move out of the girl's area, and our stud boys being too aggressive, we need that barn for weanling boys again. I'll have pictures of this when we move the boys there.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Indiana 1st Place Picture

You know it's a good sign when you go to get your alpaca's picture taken at a show for getting a 1st place ribbon and the photographer recognizes you.

This is OHVNA Pocahontas' second 1st place blue ribbon.



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Warms Days - water and rolling

Not that it's been that hot here yet, but we did hit the mid 70's on Sunday. It was one of those days where the breeze feels warm, even in the morning. A day you expect in the summer, not early spring.

I didn't think it was hot out yet, but I suspected the girls were hot when they were gathering around me while I filled the water buckets:



Then, I caught Sancha trying to put her foot into the water (if you look very closely at the red bucket you can see her white leg coming out of it).



Sancha is our one alpaca who likes to cush in a swimming pool. All our other alpacas prefer having a hose of cold water sprayed on their chest/belly. Sancha loves a cold pool, and will try to turn a water bucket into a pool when she can. She won't put her foot in there when I'm standing nearby, but the second I walk away she will. We usually do not have water buckets on the ground because of this. We don't want her to put her foot in the drinking water, then have another alpaca drink out of it - yuck! Seeing her do this inspired me to get out the water bucket hangers. (I only recently added the unheated water buckets, the heated ones are hanging inside the shelter). As long as the buckets aren't on the ground, Sancha won't put her foot in them.

When I was getting hay out for the girls and cleaning out the water bucket Sancha got all gross, I noticed several of them rolling in the sand. When they are hot they will find a spot and roll. We have found that usually they have one or two spots in their area that are rolling spots (the boys have a couple spots too).

First I caught PoPo rolling, but she sat still before I snapped a picture:



I caught Victoria just as she was starting to roll:



I caught Sancha as she had completed a roll and was back on her belly:



Then I caught Sancha on her back with her legs in the air!



I decided the girls were hot. It was in the mid 60's by this point, the sun was shining bright, and the girls still have their winter coats on. I got out the hose and filled the pool for Sancha (distracting her from the water buckets). I have never seen Sancha cush so long inside the pool! Usually by the time I get the camera she's already out of the pool. In fact, some times I don't even see her in the pool. She'll wait until I walk away and then cush so fast by the time I look back she's already out of the pool (with her legs and belly wet as evidence).





Many of the other girls would gather around her, but none of them will get into the pool. After Sancha got out of the pool, I used the hose to spray the chest/belly of anyone who wanted it. Kateri ran from across the pasture to come get sprayed off. Maddie and Victoria were already fighting over the cool wet spray. I was surprised that some of our 2009 cria were willing to let me spray them. Usually the young ones are suspicious of it. I find most often it's the hot and miserable pregnant girls who are most interested in being sprayed down. I don't have a picture of me spraying them because I was busy spraying them ;)

I do want to add two words of warning. First, a warning about pools. There have been incidents of cria being born in pools and drowning. There are other incidents of young cria falling into a pool and drowning. Pools with water left in them can harbor bugs (mosquitoes for example) or worse, nasty parasites. I could see the water being a cause for infection such as mastitis or other infections. So, while we do use a pool, we also use caution. I never leave it full of water (which is even easier because ours has several cracks in it, it won't hold water). I also don't use a pool if I suspect impending birth. If there is water in the pool, one of us is out there watching. We drain it before we leave the area. It's a great way for Sancha to cool off (the only alpaca we have who will use it). Oh, and Spot used it quite a bit last year too :) But caution should also be exercised.

The second caution is about alpacas rolling. I could see someone looking up alpacas rolling and see this post and think it only means they are hot and all is fine. Hopefully that is all that it is. They do often roll when warm (or maybe it's that their backs itch). But, a pregnant alpaca can also roll if they have a uterine torsion or if they are having a very difficult birth. That is how we found Sancha when she was delivering Lightning, but he was stuck. It's their natural reaction to roll to push along a difficult labor. So if your rolling alpaca is a female near their due date, please do wait until they stand up to see if they were just rolling, or if they are in the middle of delivery. I almost ignored Sancha's difficult birth, thinking she was merely rolling. Had I not stopped and taken a second look, I would have never known she needed intervention with her delivery.
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