Friday, December 30, 2011

fiber process ~ the good and bad

The part of the entire fiber processing that I most dislike is picking hay out of the alpaca's fiber:

The big pieces like in this picture isn't so hard to pick out, it's the small peices that get to be a pain.

But it's all worth it when I see fiber being made into yarn. That is by far my favorite part.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fading Fawn

One of my favorite colors for an alpaca is fading fawn. Fading fawn is when the alpaca is one shade of fawn at her top line, then fades to lighter colors throughout her side to her belly. Our own Tehya is a fading fawn. She goes from medium fawn at her top line, to light fawn and even beige by her belly.

What I love about the variated color, is to spin it with the different colors, making a variated yarn.

You could mix her blanket all together and make a solid color yarn. The color would be the middle color, as the lightest and darkest of the color mix together and balance each other out. But, to me that's not as fun to spin. I have some solid color alpacas and I do spin their solid color fiber into yarn, but the fun part to me is watching how the different colors combine.

This is Tehya's fiber, a bundle of medium fawn and a bundle of beige:

I make clouds with each color, careful not to mix the clouds (as that would end up completely mixing the color into an average color). Here is a cloud of the lighter beige color:

When I spin it into yarn, I grab clouds out of the bin in a random order. I may spin a cloud of light color, then a dark one or several light ones in a row. It's completely random, making the yarn completely unique.

I often take two strands of this yarn and ply them together for the finished product. This plying adds even more color and texture to the yarn. For this skein I am going to ply a strand of yarn from Tehya's fiber with a strand of yarn from Greyt's fiber (he is a medium rose grey). I will show pictures of that in a future blog post.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The new routine

A few weeks back I posted how J was starting a new job which meant for the first time since 2003, he was working a regular day shift. This meant huge changes for our family. For the last 8 years he's worked some form of 2nd or 3rd shift (mostly 3rds). Given Zack is only 9 years old, and Emma 12, the majority of their lives has been spent with odd shifts being normal.

The kids don't generally do well with change, and J would add that I don't generally do well with change.

And this particular change did mean a lot of changes for me specifically. When J worked off shifts, he was able to manage the morning farm chores. I was able to get myself and the kids up and out the door each morning without having to worry too much about the farm. I did the evening chores, given I came home from work when the kids got out of school. Well, with J's new job, he'd be leaving earlier in the morning than I do. And, given his commute and responsibilities, he'd be getting home later than me. Way back when we started our farm I did both morning and afternoon chores, but back then I only worked part time. I was a little concerned how this would all work out.

Now several weeks into it I'm happy to say things just seemed to fall into place. J adjusted to his new schedule (and loves being normal sleeping at night). Other than eating dinner later the kids haven't noticed a huge change to their daily life. They do notice J is home every weekend (he used to work on average every other weekend). And surprisingly, I quickly adjusting to doing the farm chores. The ironic thing is that I was most worried about the morning routine. I am NOT a morning person. I have issues getting out of bed each morning (to put it mildly). I was worried how I would manage everything. But what I forgot is that once I'm up in the morning, I'm up. It's that first step out of bed that is horrible, after that, I'm fine. I also stressed way more than I should have about whether I should shower first then do farm chores or do farm chores then shower (do I do the chores in my pjs?). The concern being the earlier I did the farm chores, the darker it would be outside. I couldn't picture how it would all work. As it is, J gets up before I do, but the fact he's already up makes it easier for me to get out of bed. I put my farm layers over my pj's and get right to the farm chores. When I come inside, Zack is up making his lunch, and he starts his chores of letting the dogs out and getting their food together. Then I shower. By the time I'm done, Emma is slowly emerging from her room. Somehow each morning we are all ready on time.

What has been a bit more of a struggle is that when J worked off shift, the kids and I were kind of lazy about supper each night. I would make the meal at different times, based on if I wanted run or what we had going on. I had plenty of time each night to complete the farm chores, and do my own exercise. Now with J being home each night, we aim to eat just after he gets home from work. Sometimes it's a bit of a stretch for me to finish the farm chores and get in a good run. Since all along I've been doing the afternoon chores, I was surprised that it was the afternoon chores, not the morning ones, that have been more difficult to arrange well.

We are thankful that everything has fallen into place and is working out well for our farm and our family.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Alpaca Street

We decided to add our farm to the web site Alpaca Street:

Oak Haven Alpacas, LLC

The site created this page for us off our OHVNA Alpaca Nation Farm Page. I would have NEVER put a picture of myself on the front page!! But there I am. I do have to say the picture of Emma having Victoria eat out of her hand is so precious. But Emma looks so young! It is 4 years old, she was only 8 years old then (now she's a 12 year old). She's changed but Victoria is pretty much the same :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!!!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you have a happy and blessed one!!!

We celebrate Christmas and this year we have had the incredible opportunity to marvel in what blessing we have. I am so blessed!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


While I'm not the biggest fan of winter, it's actually the cold I don't like. I love snow!!

This morning we woke up to only about an inch of snow, but being that we haven't had any accumulation up to this point, it was a welcome surprise. Typically by this time of year we've had several inches of snow (in addition to lots of shoveling and even missed days of school).

For this mornings chores, I was greeted with this outside:

Our youngest alpaca, Dutch, eating hay (the snowless spots around the hay bin are where the alpacas laid overnight):

One of my favorite alpacas, Challenger, in the snow:

And this is my baby, Zack, going sledding with the alpacas:

What you can't see is that around the corner there is a nice sledding hill. The alpacas don't mind when we sled back there. But I will never forget the time Zack talked me into getting into the sled with him, we started down the hill, and next thing we know Spot jumped into the sled with us!!! That was the most interesting sled ride I've ever had.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Huge Milestone

Back when we were thinking about starting an alpaca farm, we were most curious how farms got started. I mean, it takes a lot of $$ to begin this adventure. Of course, as many farms as we asked this question to, we got that many different responses. Based on these ideas, we developed our own plan.

Our plan was to use what cash we had on hand on our facility and supplies. The facility meant a barn, fence, fence post, and grass (which we have to plant, water and grow). The supplies included hay buckets, water buckets, hoses, grain bowls, grain, hay, and of course all the medical supplies. As you can see that all quickly adds up.

To purchase the alpacas, we first picked which alpacas we wanted to purchase. This meant visiting many farms, going to alpaca shows, and deciding what sort of alpaca we wanted. There can be a big difference in regards to buying a fiber alpaca vs buying an alpaca who will do well in the show. We chose to buy the most expensive females we could, ones proven in the show ring. We knew we wanted to show our alpacas, and wanted breeding females who could give us that show star. We made sure they came with breed backs, so at least the first few years we wouldn't have to worry about having a male.

To pay for the alpacas, we gave the selling farm a down payment, then financed them through the selling farm. This meant paying that selling farm a monthly payment, as arranged in a signed contract.

We originally purchased two bred females who came with a gelded male. This sale we paid off early and actually have had paid off for some time now. We purchased a second group of alpacas, in December of 2007. This package we agreed to a long term payment plan in order to keep the monthly payments low. This contact has just been completed this month ~ which means we now completely own all the alpacas in our back yard!!

It's funny how when beginning alpaca farmers get together, it is often the topic of conversation if you have your initial investment paid off. I am so excited to be able to say "YES!!!"

Now we start a new phase on our farm, where we completely own all the animals and anything is possible.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Alpaca's Name

I mentioned in my last post about how the farm identifier is used. Our farm identifier is OHVNA (for Oak Haven Alpacas).

I maybe should back track to explain that there is an Alpaca Registry, where most alpacas are registered. Not every farm registers all their alpacas, some farms likely don't register any, other farms register all of them. If you want to show an alpaca in an alpaca show, they have to be registered. I imagine many of the fiber alpacas out there are not registered.

As part of registering the alpaca, you gather a sample of their blood so that the Alpaca Registry (ARI) can do genetic testing. They determine if the dam (mom) and sire (dad) match the cria (baby). If they don't match, ARI will let you know.

Outside of the official name, most of our animals have a farm nick name. For example, on the farm we call OHVNA The Challenger "Challenger" and we call Gabriel Star of RobAsia "Gabe". What often surprises people visiting the farm is that the alpacas know their name. If I am putting out grain bowls and I want Snickers in the pen and Kateri out of the pen, I will say that and they will comply. It's almost scary sometimes how well they do understand me!! Not that they always listen to exactly what we say. They are more like a two year old toddler, they listen when they want to (for example if you are putting out grain, they listen well, if they think you might be trimming nails or giving shots, none of them listen worth anything).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not to be overshadowed

In addition to purchasing Lady Bing, we also purchased a juvi male. This boy's mom we believe is a harlequin grey: YO Peruvian Ginger Snaps. While her blanket is brown, her face and legs show grey and spots, a sure sign of a harlequin. Her sire is 5Peruvian Silverado, a famous silver grey (so there is clearly grey in her lineage). This boy's sire is PCA Accoyo Shangri-La. This means his genetics include a lot of accoyo and grey!

We looked up the meaning to Shangri-La: an earthly paradise. Another name for Shangri-La is Shamballa. This led us to name this little guy: ATA Peruvian Shamballa.

Doesn't he look macho?

If you are wondering why these names begin with ATA (when our farm is OHVNA) this is because when you buy an alpaca that is already born, but not officially registered, most selling farms allow you to name the alpaca, but ask that you use their farm identifier. We have done this with several alpacas we purchased this past year, we picked the name but used the selling farm's identifier. When you buy an alpaca already named and registered, you take them with the name they come with (though what you call them at the farm is up to you). When the alpaca is born on your farm, you get to name them and use your own farm identifier.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Introducing ~ ATA Peruvian Lady Bing

we are very excited to announce that she is the newest member to our herd!!!

Her face (I love the brown tipping by her nose):

Our story in acquiring Lady Bing goes back to this summer. First, as my regular readers know, we lost several cria this year. It was a rough summer for us. We had high hopes for an incredible show string, to have only 1 of our 2011 cria survive. While we do have some incredible yearling to take to shows (Challenger, Gabriel, Twilight, and Rose), we only have 2 juvis ~ Our Peruvian Thunder, and Dutch Harbor (who we purchased a few months back). While that is 6 alpacas, J would prefer 9.

A couple months back we were visiting a friend's farm. We were in one pen looking at an animal when Emma got my attention and pointed out a baby in the neighboring pen. Emma was smitten. I agreed, that baby was adorable. But with fiber animals, just because they are cute doesn't mean their fiber has what it takes. J and I are at a point we are looking for a specific fiber type. We are building on our breeding program with specific goals in mind. Later on we were in the pen with this adorable little girl, we grabbed her and opened up her fiber. It was as if light came down from heaven! She is bright and shiny with a very nice consistent crimp. And while she looks light fawn on the outside, way down by her skin she is light brown. It's as if her fiber has been frosted in a lighter color. Beautiful!!!!

We didn't go to this farm with the intent on buying anything. We came for other business. We didn't even approach the topic of purchasing the girl, but we sure did stand in awe of her. Then on the ride home J mentioned that beautiful girl. We both agreed she embodies what our breeding program is all about. She is exactly what we want.

Buying an alpaca is usually a significant expense and I often freeze a bit when money is brought up. So I sort of shut down. J proceeded to come up with a plan to purchase this girl. This is why we such a good team: he makes the plan, and I come up with all the possible pitfalls (he helps us move forward, and I make sure we are making good choices). In the end we make things happen.

While mulling over all the details, J came up with the perfect name for her. Her sire is 2002 Peruvian Lord Stanley, so, in keeping with the hockey theme, J thought Lady Bing was perfect. I love it!

On Sunday we officially purchased this girl. She is just barely six months old and not yet weaned, so we will bring her to our farm in a few weeks. I can't wait!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A New Chapter

Right now our alpaca farm is entering a new chapter. To signify this, I thought it would be fun to give the farm blog an updated look.

I'll post more about our new endeavors in future posts, so stay tuned.


Since becoming a farmer, my Christmas wish list has changed dramatically. This year the top of my list is new farm winter gloves. The ones I have are now not only thread bare in the finger tips, but there are actual holes. I also requested thermal socks, as all of mine have holes in them. It works out perfect, I have two main requests, and two kids to give suggestions too. I made it clear this is what I want and I will be sad if I don't get these things. I told them to work out who gives me what :)

J has also requested warmer socks, and he mentioned something about work boots and coveralls, but there is something bigger that I have plans to get for him this year. I'll post more about this another day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not so quick fix

A few weeks back I broke our poop rake. Not wanting to run to the store in the middle of chore time, I grabbed the poop scoop rake that we usually take to shows. I worried it would be a pain to use because it's shorter. As it turns out, the fact it's short isn't the problem:

The problem is that the teeth on the rake bounce around and don't grab well. This is the worst poop scoop rake I have ever used. I can't wait to purchase a different one. The problem being, every time I'm in the store I forget about it, and everytime I am doing farm chores I curse the fact I have forgotten.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another Easy Fix

One of my pet peeves when it comes to alpacas is when they waste good hay. I understand if they toss aside some of the bad stalky hay. I don't really want them eating that anyway, since it has next to no nutritional value. But when I pay premium for good hay, and they proceed to stick their head in the hay bucket and dump it all out on the ground, that annoys me.

We got these grates from another farm a few years back, but didn't use them. Actually I think we used them for a bit, but the alpacas would scrap their noses on them and it actually took fiber off their noses. J didn't want them to look that way so we put the grates away. After watching the old girls dump out bucket after bucket of premium hay, J decided the grates were a good idea after all. He put vet wrap around the grates so they aren't so harsh to take off the fiber from the alpacas' nose. These round grates are made out of metal, they are very heavy:

One of our hay bins that J made is a rectangle shape, so J built a rectangular grate for it:

The alpacas eat just fine around these grates:

And we have no more issues of them dumping out full bins of premium hay.

Monday, December 12, 2011


At our last vet visit the vet noticed a spot on one of our girls' back end (on her skin under her tail) that she thought looked like a sign of Zinc deficiency. Unfortunately I did not see what she was pointing at and still don't see it, but I trust her assessment.

We do know that being deficient in zinc can be an issue for alpacas. In their native environment, South America, there is more zinc than is available in our area. We also know that a zinc deficiency can lead to hair loss. For a fiber animal, their hair (fiber) is everything.

We figure if one of our alpacas is showing signs of a deficiency, likely more of them are also low. So J started reading up on ways to help provide zinc to alpacas. He read a theory that started, I believe, in Australia. What happened there is that it seemed all the sudden many farms were having problems with zinc deficiency. After some detective work, they realized this happened after there was a change in their water system. For years their water had been piped around in galvanized pipes. It was shortly after they switched to PVC piping that they started having problems with zinc deficiencies. The theory is that zinc leached off the pipes and into the water, giving the alpacas zinc. A solution was to put a piece of galvanized pipe in the water buckets. It's no more harmful than if all your water came to you piped in that way. And for years, many of us have consumed such water.

So J went out and bought some small galvanized pipe pieces:

And we dropped them into the water buckets:

I love a quick fix to a concerning issue. And best yet, the risk of side effects or consequences is small given for years water was piped this way. But of course, this is our alpacas we are talking about, we are sure to watch for any problems. It's been a few weeks and so far, no issues.

I am curious to see if this makes any difference to the alpacas. They drink the water just fine so that hasn't been an issue. I wonder if having more zinc might help them keep some of their facial coverage that often is lost over time. It will be interesting to watch and see.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Expendable Body Parts

On Saturday we had 200 bales of hay delivered to our house.

First we cleaned out the hay barn (it's more like a hay shelter or hay tent):

It's amazing how stuff can accumlate in there, that you didn't intend. This meant we had to find places for this "stuff". It lead to our getting junk out of the garage and basement (some stuff was donated, some stuff went to the dump). Then we could rearrange the stuff we needed (wanted) to keep. While it made for a lot of work on Saturday, it resulted in my having a hay tent full of hay and a clean garage and organized basement! I love clean and organized.

That picture is taken from the back of the hay shelter, where we stack the hay. For my day to day feeding of the alpacas, I enter through this end:

The fence and gate is to keep our house dogs out of the hay shelter. This is right in our backyard, where our house dogs go outside.

We ordered our alpaca hay from a supplier a few hours away from us. Since we can only haul about 50 bales of hay in our truck and trailer combination, we asked that they deliever the hay (there was an extra charge per mile for this, but we still felt it was worth it to have all 200 bales arrive at once).

Around mid-morning the hay truck with flatbed arrived:

They pulled the flatbed as close to our hay shelter as possible:

We all dumped the hay bales off their flat bed. The cost doesn't include their stacking the hay at our farm, that is all up to us.

After this point I didn't get many more pictures (I was quite busy the rest of the day). We moved and stacked these bales of hay into our hay shelter.

Emma and I did most of the moved of the hay bales, while J stacked them (I have a heck of a time stacking hay bales). It wasn't too far into our day when Emma and I noticed how the rope ties on the hay bales pulled on our hands. We joked "we don't really need finger, right?" As the day went on there were times we thought an arm was in the way or a leg and those are expendable body parts too, right?

I did have to take a picture of Emma and the chair she created out of the hay bales:

She was quite upset when we had to move and stack the bales that created "Chairee". I was shocked she would let me take her picture while she was dressed in her farm clothing, but she agreed, Chairee was that important to her.

We filled the hay shelter with 177 bales of hay. We then took the remaining bales up to our boy's barn. I can't believe I forgot to get a picture of the hay shelter stacked full (ok, I can believe it, we were beat and ready to close it up, no time to stop for pictures).

Now we are set with hay (and a clean garage and basement) for a few months.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Workout

Today was a real test of a work out. I've often advocated that having a farm is a great way to stay in shape. I do exercise in addition to doing farm chores, but that's more my own thing. My blog followers wouldn't know this, but there was a time in my life when I was very out of shape and overweight. In 2003 as a family we made a complete life style change (I lost 70 pounds in 8 months time, an accomplishment I am still so proud of, and best yet, I've kept my weight in a healthy range since losing all that weight). Ever since, I have made exercise a regular part of my life. I run several days a week to get in cardio workouts, and I also use the Shake Weight so that I have upper body strength. This upper body strength is essential to farm work (hauling hay, wrestling alpacas, carrying water and so forth).

Today we moved 200 bales of hay into our hay barn. It was a tough workout! These are really heavy bales of hay, at least 50 pounds each. We also cleaned out the garage and got rid of some other junk that had been accumulating. I'm most impressed that the kids were so very helpful!

I have pictures of our hay hauling day but tonight I am way to tired to post them. I'll be sure to post them tomorrow.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Matriarch Attack

The leader of our girls' herd is clearly our first alpaca, Victoria. She is in charge and makes sure everyone knows it. Every once in awhile one of the other girls will challenge her. I was shocked this past week when I found Maddie had done so! That's not like Maddie. I do wonder if it had something to do with Maddie's daughter, Twilight, since she was also present for this.

From a distance I saw this neck wrestling begin:

Up closer:

Here is Maddie post fight with her spit lip:

And the queen, Victoria, with spit lip:

Thursday, December 8, 2011


We only had 1 2011 cria from our own herd: Our Peruvian Thunder. So this year we don't have a cria gang to wean. (We do also have Dutch, who came to our farm when she was less than a month old, but she's still too young to wean so I'll talk about her another day).

I guess I should back up to say that our preferred method to wean would be self weaning. I would love it if the dam (mom) and cria (baby) would on their own decide to wean. I do believe nature knows best, and would love to let them do it on their own. However, it's not always practical to do that. For one, we have dams who will nurse to their own detriment. They will become so skinny that their own health is compromised. We can't have moms getting so thin that they are at risk of health issues. Also, we do take our cria to alpaca shows, which is stressful in itself. If you add on to that them being away from their mom for the first time, that's too much stress for a little one. We want weaning to be done well before show season starts up again.

I know different farms have different guidelines of when to wean. I've heard of farms that always wean at 6 months old. Once the cria are 6 months old they are taken out of the mom's pen. I've heard of 60 pounds being the cut off to wean. I've also heard of combining the two, a 6/60 rule, 6 months and 60 pounds (or it could be 6 months or 60 pounds). We like to do the AND rule, of 6 months AND 60 pounds. We also like to see that they are eating hay and grain well. Thunder just turned 6 months old, and is almost 60 pounds (he weighed in at 59 pounds). He has been eating grain for a long time now (and eats a good bowl of grain eat feeding time). He chows on hay with no issues. So we feel comfortable weaning him now.

There have been times we can't do our ideal. We have had situations when the dam got to thin and we had to wean earlier. You do what you have to. But I have to admit that we've always regretting having to do that. Our approach is to do whatever possible to keep the dam's weight up so that we don't have to wean early. In the past couple of years we've managed to do that and haven't had to wean early.

Sancha is an older mom who has been through weaning before. She handled it like a pro. Poor Thunder though, it was the worst day of his life.

Here he is, now in the young boy's pen:

Funny how he used to not want anything to do with me, but now that he's in the boy's pen, he follows me everywhere. I think he thinks I might be the one who can let him back by his mom.

I wish we had a better place to wean, because sharing a fence line between cria and dam is not ideal. He cries by the fence (note his mom is the white alpaca looking over at him, but she is at a distance. She's been through this before and I can tell by her behavior she agreed it was time):

My funny Sancha story from weaning day is this. We were a bit worried that Chaska who dominates the boys' pen might be a bit rough on Thunder. As boys will do, Chaska did try to mount Thunder. We kept an eye on it to make sure it was just normal boys play and not anything aggressive or harmful to Thunder (if it was at all concerning, I was ready to take Chaska up to the big boy's pen up the road. I even told him he better watch it or he will be the little one with the even bigger boys). Everything seemed to be going ok, so J and I went into the garage to finish putting stuff away from our herd health day. While in the garage we could hear a spit fight, which isn't unusual so we didn't even peak out to see what was going on. When we were done in the garage, I walked out to see the biggest spit lip on Sancha I have ever seen! I look over and through the fence she slathered Chaska with spit to the point his head and neck were green! She did not like him trying to mount her baby and she sure showed him!! He hasn't tried it again :)

Since Thunder is low man in his new pen, I opted to feed him his grain in the same area as Gabe (who has struggled with low weight so he is fed separate):

They are so wet it's hard to tell our black Gabe from our dark rose grey Thunder. In fact, in the morning in the dark I have a really hard time telling who is who until Thunder cries to me.

In one area is Chaska, Challenger and Sig, and in the other area is Gabe and Thunder:

To me there are three stages to weaning: first deciding when (for us 6/60), then how (take the cria out of the dam's pen, decide where to put them), and lastly, monitoring how they are doing. The first couple of days we watch that cria very closely. We want to make sure the new pen mates aren't hurting them. It is also essential that the cria is eating. If they are not eating hay, their gut can shut down and that is a horror story. I made sure to watch and see if Thunder was eating his grain, and we monitored that he was eating hay. Grain is not essential, but knowing he ate it shows he's doing well. There was one meal on his second day of weaning when he did not eat grain. I was assured to see that he did eat hay, and the next meal he ate up his grain. All was ok, as missing one meal of grain won't hurt him. We put a couple extra bins of hay out because sometimes the older ones in the pen will keep the new ones from getting to the hay bin (they will spit and push the new one away). Having extra bins out works really well whenever there is a new alpaca in a new pen.

You sure can tell by these pictures how wet it's been. The alpacas look very wet, but really, when you open up their fiber they are warm and dry by their skin. What I hate about the rainy cold weather is that the woods and ground look so bleak and blah. Snow would actually look prettier.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Herd Health

This past weekend we set aside Saturday for Herd Health Day. We try to set aside a day each month, though it doesn't have to be done that often, but that way if something else comes up we are still doing everything we need to for them.

On Herd Health Day we weigh all of our alpacas under 2 years old. If they are gaining rate at a fairly steady weight, we know they are doing well. If they slow down in their weight gain, stop gaining, or worse, have lost weight, we know we need to assess what might be going on. Often stress can cause their weight to slow or stall. This means show season can be rough on their weight, as can times like weaning. If we have an alpaca that is slowing down in their weight gain, or stopped, we assess them more frequently to make sure their stress is gone and they are back to gaining. If we have an alpaca who is losing weight, that is an emergency and we order a fecal right away. No healthy young alpaca should be losing weight, even if they have been through some stressful stuff.

On Saturday our young girls, Twilight, Rose and Dutch all were gaining well. We also body score them (by feeling how much meat is around their spine by their back hips) and they all seemed great. The boys, while they have been gaining weight, did not gain as much, and some body scored as thin. Given the boys are in an area with only yearling boys, I always give them a ton of hay. Growing young alpacas need hay to grow and thrive. So I knew hay wasn't our issue. We opted to up their grain intake to 1/2 a cup at each feeding. We will see how this works for them. I know typically hay has more of an impact on weight than grain does, but putting out more hay will just mean more sitting out in their bins. If upping the grain doesn't help, we will look into adding alfalfa to their hay. Alfalfa is a great way to help them put on weight, but it can affect their fiber by making it less fine. So for our young alpacas, we really don't want to compromise their fiber, unless we have tried everything else to address their weight.

Now it's weaning time! We aim to wean alpacas at 6/60 meaning they are 6 months old and 60 pounds. We also like to see that they are eating hay great and eating at least some grain. Thunder has been eating grain for a long time, and eats hay great, so no concerns there. He is 6 months old. He did weigh in at 59 pounds, which we felt was good enough, given he is meeting all the other requirements very well. His mom, Sancha, often has a hard time of losing weight while nursing and we want to bulk her up for her next cria that is due this summer.

I will write more about weaning in the next blog posting.

In addition to weighing them, we give AD&E shots to all our alpacas under 2 years old. Then we trim everyones toe nails. And we body scored all the alpacas older than 2 years old (as a loss in weight can indicate a bigger problem).

Herd Health Day went well. Each time we are amaze how when we first started our farm, even though we had fewer alpacas, it would take us all day. Now, even though we have more alpacas, it takes only a few hours, half a day. We've become so efficient at everything our time is cut in half.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wet and Cold

We have had some very wet and cold temps lately (not cold enough for snow though, which is more typical December weather for us.) When I went out to do farm chores on Saturday, this is what greeted me:

Once they heard me out there moving around, some starting looking over towards me hoping I was bringing food:

I often say when wet, they look like drowned rats:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Alpaca shows we have attended

I created a new separate page listing all the alpacas shows we have attended. My goal is to keep up this record so that over the years we will have a full report of where we have been. I only listed what place they took if it was 1st or 2nd place. The link to this page can be found on the left side column under "Our Alpaca Herd."

Here is the page:

Alpaca Shows we have attended:


Michigan International Alpacafest (MIAF) in Birch Run MI
~ paid a down payment for our 1st alpacas (Victoria, Kateri and Snowstorm) from South Haven Alpacas


Indiana Alpaca Invitational in Fort Wayne IN
~ helped South Haven Alpacas show their animals. It was a GREAT introduction to alpaca showing!

Michigan International Alpacafest (MIAF) in Birch Run MI
~ we took Sommerfield, Maxito, and Maddie (all showed in the shorn class, much to our disappointment)

Heartland Classic in Indianapolis
~ we took Sommerfield, Maxito and Maddie


Best of the Midwest Alpaca Show in Columbus OH
~ we took Shelby (2nd place!), Tehya (2nd place!), Maddie, Lightning and Maxito

Indiana Alpaca Invitational in Columbus OH
~ we took Tucker (2nd place!), Shelby, Tehya (2nd place!), Lighting

Michigan Breeders Show
~ we sent Lighting with another farm to attend this show

Michigan International Alpaca fest (MIAF) in Flint MI
~ we took Shelby (1st place!!), Tehya (1st place!!), and Lightning


Best of the US Alpaca Show in Columbus OH
~ we took Shelby, Tehya, Lightning, Lily, Cavalier and Pocahontas (1st and color champ!!)

Indiana Alpaca Invitational in Fort Wayne IN
~ we took Tehya, Pocahontas (1st place), Cavalier, Greyt and Lightning

Great Midwest Alpaca Festival in Madison WI
~ we took Tehya, Café and Pocahontas

Nationals in Fort Wayne IN
~ we took Tehya and Pocahontas

OABA Alpacafest in Springfield OH
~ we took Cavalier, Pocahontas and Rose (1st place)


Best of the US Alpaca Show
~ we took Twilight (1st!), Rose, Challenger (1st!), Chaska, Harley and Copper

Indiana Invitational in Fort Wayne OH
~ we took Twilight, Rose, Challenger (2nd place), Chaska, Harley, and Ginger

The Great Midwest Alpaca Festival in Madison WI
~ we took Twilight (1st!), Rose (1st!), Challenger (2nd!), Chaska, Ginger and Gabe (2nd!!)

Michigan Breeders Show in Davisburg MI
~ we took Twilight (1st!), Rose (1st!), Challenger (2nd!), Chaska (2nd!), Bo (2nd!) and Gabe (1st and Color Champion!!!!)

Michigan International Alpaca fest (MIAF) in Grand Rapids MI
~ we took Gabe, Sig, Challenger, Chaska and Harley

Wall of Fame:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fiber ~ drying the skein

I hang skeins by our fireplace (in the cold weather months) to dry:

After it's dry, I can put it into a ball and start knitting!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fiber ~ washing

I've had some comments asking when I wash the fiber. There are many ways to do this, and different spinners will do things in a different order. There was a time I washed the fiber after skirting it and before flicking it. After doing this quite a few times, we've settled on waiting to wash it until it's in yarn form. For one thing, you should wash it at this point anyway, to set the twist in the yarn. The other thing we found is that washing it earlier on messes up the organization of the alpaca fiber, making it harder to flick and spin.

Anytime you wash alpaca you have to be careful about not felting the fiber. The combination of heat, water and aggitation can felt the fiber. I've read this can happen very easily, so I have always been careful of this. But I also should say that in the three years I've been working with this fiber, I've never had it accidentally felt on me. But as a caution, I do try to be careful of this.

I fill the kitchen sink with hot water (about as hot as I would for washing dishes). I put in about as much Dawn dish washing soap as I could for a sink full of dishes. I gently put the skein of yarn in the sink:

I let it sit in this hot soapy water for about 20 minutes. I make sure not to aggitate it, just let it sit there.

After those 20 minutes are up, I gently pull the skein out, squeeze it very lightly. I hold the skein while I drain the sink. I then fill the sink with hot water, no soap this time. I sit it in there for about 5 minute. I gently squeeze the skien, and hold it while I drain the sink. I fill the sink one more time with plain water (no soap) and let it sit for about 15 minutes. The time on these can be changed, you just want to make sure the soap has a chance to get the grim out, and the yarn has a chance to sit in water with out soap to get the soap out I find a lot of the dirt sifts out during those two water only soaks.

This is what the yarn looks like by this point:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fiber ~ a skein

I make a skein of yarn with my swift. I find it easier to use than a niddy noddy.

I made hash marks on the post of my swift, marking where the bottom lever needs to be so that I can make either a 1 yard, 1.5 yard, or 2 yard skein:

I take the yarn from the spinning wheel:

And wrap it on the swift:

I tied the skein in three spots with a separate strand of yarn so that when I take if off the swift it stays as a skein.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fiber ~ plying

You can make single strand yarn skeins, doubles or triple ply. I'm pretty boring in that I always make a double, a two plyed skein.

I take two bobbins (it's best not to let these get too full with the single strand on there, since once they are plyed, they will take up more more room):

I ply the two strands together:

I did a little too much on each strand, I barely could fit the two plyed yarn on one of my bobbins:

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