Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lake Michigan

I did not grow up living in Michigan, but just about every summer for vacation we'd go camping in Michigan. We loved to camp by Lake Michigan. We'd spend the morning hiking in the woods,

the afternoon swimming in Lake Michigan and climbing the sand dunes,

and the evening in front of a camp fire.

Now I live in the woods of Michigan. Lake Michigan is less than an hours drive from my house.

I've made a deal with my kids that when the lake temperature gets into the 70's, I'll take them to the lake. I love to swim and I love Lake Michigan, but I tend to be cold and don't care to swim in cold water. With the recent heat wave, water temps were well into the 70's. On Monday afternoon Zack and I headed to the lake for an afternoon swim. This weekend both Zack and Emma joined me at the lake. We spent most of Saturday and much of Sunday swimming in the lake and climbing the sand dunes. I didn't take my camera with me so these pictures are borrowed from other sites. What a wonderful way to spend a warm and sunny summer weekend.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Treatment - alpaca digestion problems

I know frequently people come across this blog while doing a google search. And since recently I wrote about Cheyenne's terrible situation with a bowel obstruction (impacted cria, sand colic in an alpaca are other keys words that could be searched by someone), I know doing a google search on any of these key phrases could pull up this blog, I want people to know what new information we found. I also hope all my fellow alpaca farmers who read this blog can tuck this information way in case they run into something similar in the future.

First for sand colic, I highly recommend doing a quarterly treatment of psyllium fiber. A popular brand would be Sand Clear (sold for horses). I have used that in the past, but because it seemed like it was getting kind of pricey, I switched to Metamucil (the kind sold for human consumption, I buy the generic walmart brand for an even more economical way to do it). I used to do one serving every month because we live in a very sandy area. But I admit I haven't done it since last summer. Over the winter I stopped because our sand was covered in snow. Then this spring, I sort of forgot about it (I'd think I should do it but never got around to it). After our experience with Cheyenne, I won't forget again. I don't know that it would have saved her, but I don't want to see another alpaca suffer like that. I've since read that it's best to give the fiber everyday for a week each quarter (four times a year). They can't overdose on fiber, so more is better, less won't do the trick. This past week I have given them each a dose with their evening grain. They do kind of sniff the grain and back away, but eventually they ate it (the very first time they didn't even really eat, so the next meal was the same bowls and eventually they ate it). I have heard of alpaca farmers just putting the dry metamucil on the grain. I found that didn't work since they'd eat the grain and the dry powder would fall below the grain and sit all over the bowls. I don't think they actually ate much of it. What I've found works really well for us is to mix 1 serving of metamucil with equal parts water (I smash it in a small bowl with a fork). This makes a sort of paste. I mix the paste with their daily ration of fiber nutrients, and put that as a dressing on top of their grain. Like I said, the first few times I don't know that they eat it all, but after a week of doing this, they get most of it. Because we live in a such a sandy area, I may do this more than quarterly during the summer months. It's a preventative measure, and extra won't hurt them.

From what we've read, it likely was NOT sand colic that was Cheyenne's problem. The more likely issue would be a chunk of hay stuck in her intestines. Cria are just learning to eat hay and it's not uncommon for a bunch to get stuck. I only write about the sand colic because that was something I mentioned in previous posts that could have been her issue.

For the bowel obstruction (impacted cria) we recently found a great thread about this on the forum at Alpaca Nation (I linked directly to that thread for anyone to reference).

Some interesting things we learned was that while we were so anxious to get Cheyenne to make it until Monday when we could get her to the vet, that might not have been the ultimate answer. From what people have written in that thread, the surgery can save them, but an alpaca's digestive system is so complex that within a year from surgery, they usually die due to complications from scar tissue. I would hate to have had Cheyenne suffer again like that. It was freeing to hear that surgery was not necessarily the big answer. In retrospect, listening to what others have said, we would not have opted for surgery anyway.

What we would do in the future is give a higher concentration of mineral oil (we were following the alpaca field manual directions, but from what we've read, a higher dose is necessary for these situations) or even karo syrup (as recommended in that thread on alpaca nation). We also would not have pushed bottles like we did. We thought she needed food to survive, but after reading that thread, it wasn't the necessity that we thought it was (though she wasn't nursing at all by the time we discovered the problem, a bit different than the scenario in the thread). Reading that thread I realize that by the time we discovered Cheyenne's problem, it was already quite severe. The chance of getting it to pass then is grim.

In the future our focus would be tubing mineral oil (in a higher dose) or karo syrup, enemas, and fluids (pedialyte and water with baking soda if bloated).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Our Blessings ~ many cria

We bought our first alpacas in 2007 (Victoria and Kateri are our original two bred females, we purchased them along with a gelding, Snowstorm). Within months we purchased Sancha, Sommerfield, and Maddie.

In 2008, we had 3 cria born: Sancha's White Lightning, Victoria's Shelby and Kateri's Tehya.

Lightnings birth picture (his birth story is here):

Shelby and Tehya were born on the same day, and are from the same sire (Goldsmith) so we have always joked they are twins (paternal twins anyway). Their birth story is here.

Shelby as a newborn:

Tehya as a newborn:

In 2009, we again had three cria, and again two girls and a boy (in the alpaca world having girls is considered good luck, since you can use a male on several girls, more girls is better for breeding the future). Our 2009 cria were: Snow Lily by Lord Stanley, OHVNA Pocahontas and OHVNA The Cavalier.

Lily's birth story is here and here (this one with pictures):

Pocahontas birth story (link):

and the last one for 2009 was The Cavalier (story here and pictures here):

In 2010 we had four cria born, this time three boys and one girl (at some point the boys had come): Our Copper Canyon, Smokey's Twilight, OHVNA Chaska and OHVNA The Challenger.

Copper's birth story here and pictures here.

Our longest pregnancy to date was that of Twilight, we thought she'd never come. Her birth story is here.


Then Chaska was born, his birth story here:

And the last for 2010 was The Challenger, birth story here:

It's been fun to look at these newborn pictures again, some of them have changed so much! Twilight and Challenger I think look the most different today (as yearlings).

While 2011 has been a rough year for our farm, we will never forget the cria we have had.

First there was OHVNA Cheyenne, birth story here, newborn pictures here, her unfortunate passing story here:

Our Peruvian Dark Thunder was born (story here):

Then there was "little guy" who only graced our farm for just over a day (birth story and his passing story):

There will be more cria to see and grow on our farm. This is only a moment in time. We have been blessed with so many cria who have grown and thrived. Many have done fantastic in the show ring.

While I sat and watched Cheyenne throughout the day yesterday, I sat on our alpaca observation deck spinning yarn. What a soothing activity for such an emotional day. There is a peace that this farm brings, despite the sometimes difficult times, there is an over whelming peace that can be found outside with these wonderful creatures.

Rest in Peace ~ Cheyenne

I'm very sad to report Cheyenne did not make it through the night.

It's all so sad. It doesn't help that little guy passed away only a few days ago. This can go down in the record book as the worst week for our farm. I do want to assure everyone that alpaca farming is not usually like this. I've been reflecting on our blessings, as a friend reminded me, our farm has been greatly blessed. But as with nature, there is the good and the bad. Right now we've been hit hard with the bad, but I know there's more good to come.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cheyenne's Sunday afternoon update

She is still hanging in there. We've gotten her a take a few bottles (though it's taken some coaxing). We've given her two doses of mineral oil (once last night and again today). We believe she has a bowel obstruction, most likely due to sand. If so, the mineral oil should push it out. I've seen her poop and pee, so she is not getting dehydrated. We aren't sure if the poop is actually going through yet or if it was stuff that was left in her system. She has times she looks a bit better, walking and drinking water on her own, but other times she cushes and stares off into space. She won't nurse off her mom (though mom has tried to encourage her), so we are bottle feeding her. She isn't eating any hay, and has no desire to eat. It's still pretty touch and go, but she's better this afternoon than how we found her yesterday afternoon.

Very Sick

We could use many prayers and positives thoughts for our 2 month old cria, Cheyenne, she is very sick.

First, let me say this has nothing to do with our shearing her (my last blog post). She was actually shorn last weekend, July 17 (as noted by the date stamp on the pictures). I just didn't have a chance to post about it with everything else that went on at our farm this past week. We've always had our cria shorn and while sometimes there can be problems following that (such as their mom rejecting them), that was not the case here. We saw Cheyenne go to her mom right after being shorn and nursing. We've seen her nurse all week long. No problems were noticed until this Saturday, a week after she was shorn.

I'll post the story in case anyone has any additional suggestions we haven't thought of. We know very little of what is going on with her, we have never seen anything like this.

Saturday morning I fed the alpacas like I usually do. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. J later asked me if Cheyenne ate, which I do remember her and her mom sharing their bowl of grain. J had worked overnight so he was sleeping all morning. When he got up in the early afternoon, I went to take a nap because I was not feeling well. It's pretty rare for me to nap, but I took a 2 hour nap. I do remember waking up in the middle of the nap because J walked through the bedroom on his way to sit on our alpaca observation deck. I was so tired I fell back asleep.

When I got up from my nap, J asked me if Cheyenne was ok. I thought he was being paranoid after our loss earlier this week, but explained that I saw her at feeding time this morning and she was fine. He felt like something wasn't right because Cheyenne's mom, Tehya, was out eating hay and Cheyenne wasn't. He had a bad feeling, so he went out to find Cheyenne. He found her alone in the barn, laying strange and breathing very shallow.

We took her temp, it was low, so we put her in a cria coat to warm her up. We tubed her to get fluids into her. J gave her other medications, but I admit, it was all in a flurry of activity and I don't remember everything. We put her in a pen with just her mom, which is when we realized fully that Tehya has rejected Cheyenne. She wouldn't feed her. We milked Tehya and bottle fed Cheyenne (the fact Tehya still had milk gave us hope this rejection hadn't been for long). At one point Cheyenne laid on her belly on the ground and it was as if she was crying, she made this most awful sound. I have never seen anything so heartbreaking. Another time Cheyenne walked over to Tehya and laid next to her, but then seemed to breathe so shallow I thought it was going to be the end. What a powerless feeling to see a baby struggling and have absolutely nothing else we could do.

J went to the store and got more medications (I believe an enema and mineral oil since he suspected a blockage). And he got ingredients so that we can bottle feed her. We couldn't get a vet out due to the fact our vet has an on-call system where other vets that know nothing about alpacas are on duty.

By this point her temp was back up to the normal range. She pooped and peed. And started to walk around. We let her and Tehya join the herd since they seemed to want to. Things were looking up.

As the night went on, Cheyenne looked more and more grim. She laid around, and we found herd mates would sniff her, then walk away. It was as if there was something they could smell that told them she was sick. I noticed that while Tehya would not feed Cheyenne, she kept in view of her. I think Tehya knew something was wrong, but didn't know how to help. At one point J went inside to get a shower, and that was when Cheyenne walked by herself back to the barn, alone. When J came back I knew he wouldn't like that sign, and he went to go get Cheyenne. He said she was again laying alone in the barn breathing very shallow. He brought her back to the herd and shut off the barn. We had fed her, gave her medications and done everything we have heard and read we should do. There was nothing else we could do at this point.

We went to bed with heavy hearts. We both had a horrible feeling Cheyenne wasn't going to make it through the night, we were bracing ourselves (and our kids) for that. We planned to be up every few hours to feed Cheyenne a bottle. I still was not feeling well, and J couldn't sleep due to worry, so he ended up being the one to go out there for the midnight feeding. He said the first time he went to feed her, she kept running off with her mom. He said this was the best sign yet. Cheyenne was healthy enough to run, and she was with her mom. The next time he got up to feed her, he wasn't sure he would find her alive (since by this point she missed a feeding, if Tehya didn't feed her she would be very weak). She was alive, and he was able to feed her. Cheyenne made it through the night.

I'm getting ready to go feed her the next bottle in just a bit. While she is alive yet, she is just laying there, on her side (not the typical cushed position) not playing or eating on her own. She looks like she is in a daze. Her best buddy, Thunder, is cushed near her:

Sunday Mid-afternoon update:

She is still hanging in there. We've gotten her a take a few bottles (though it's taken some coaxing). We've given her two doses of mineral oil (once last night and again today). We believe she has a bowel obstruction, most likely due to sand. If so, the mineral oil should push it out. I've seen her poop and pee, so she is not getting dehydrated. We aren't sure if the poop is actually going through yet or if it was stuff that was left in her system. She has times she looks a bit better, walking and drinking water, but other times she cushes and stares off into space. She won't nurse off her mom (though mom has tried to encourage her), so we are bottle feeding her. She isn't eating any hay, and has no desire to eat. It's still pretty touch and go, but she's better this afternoon than how we found her yesterday afternoon.

Monday mornings update:

Rest in Peace ~ Cheyenne
I'm very sad to report Cheyenne did not make it through the night.

It's all so sad. It doesn't help that little guy passed away only a few days ago. This can go down in the record book as the worst week for our farm. I do want to assure everyone that alpaca farming is not usually like this. I've been reflecting on our blessings, as a friend reminded me, our farm has been greatly blessed. But as with nature, there is the good and the bad. Right now we've been hit hard with the bad, but I know there's more good to come.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cria Shearing

It's pretty common to shear a cria when they are about a month to three months old. We've done it at different times, and have set on about 8 weeks old to be ideal for the best regrowth. When we've done it earlier, some of the tui tips are still there (tui tips = the fiber they are born with). I don't like the tui tips on there when I go to spin their fiber into yarn (so I don't want to leave it there for a year's growth, then their first full shearing is a mess). And, we've found the tui tips sometimes inhibits the fibers ability to organize to form nice bundles. When the tui tips are gone, their fiber is all new growth and will show their true organization.

There are several reasons we cria shear:

* help cool them down (they end up with longer fiber than the older ones because they are born with fiber on them), during a hot summer it doesn't make sense for the youngest to be the most hot
* to get rid of the tui tips (tui tips = the fiber they are born with that was exposed to amniotic fluid)
* As a fiber spinner, I prefer not to have the tui tips on there when I go to spin their fiber into yarn. So if those are shorn off now, by next years shearing there won't be any to deal with. The tui tips are often a different color and different texture, and does not spin up the same as the new fiber growth
* their fiber organizes itself better with bundles if the tui tips are not there

Cheyenne is now 8 weeks old, so we felt it was time. But this meant shearing our first cria (which was a bit nerve wracking).
Here is Cheyenne before shearing:

Cheyenne and Thunder before shearing:

Here is Cheyenne with her dam, Tehya, after shearing:

Friday, July 22, 2011


Part of processing our recent cria death is to think about what and why this may have happened. When we look back, we realize that on some level we knew something wasn't right. For one thing, we never named the little guy. We always talk about names the moment we know the color and sex of the new cria. We didn't. And when we think back to Victoria's behavior, we are pretty sure she knew too. While she fed the little guy, she never clucked to him, or taught him anything (like where the poop/pee pile was). Victoria has never been a hands on mom, but she has always had some bond to her cria.

I relate it back to the story of our cat Fluffy. Fluffy had a couple litters of kittens and they all died before we knew anything was wrong. I believe it was her third litter that we were ready to be hands on to make sure this litter lived. I was at the barn one day when Fluffy pushed two of the kittens out of the box they were all laying in. I was so mad at Fluffy! While I put those kittens back in the box, I lectured her about how they will die if she rejects them like that. All along I had been blaming Fluffy's poor parenting. When I picked up the kittens, I looked at them, and they seemed fine to me, but I knew they needed mamma's milk yet. Within 10 minutes those kittens were dead - it wasn't because she rejected them, they were dying and she pushed them out because she knew it. (I've since read that she may have a genetic defect or infection that would cause her offspring to die). It wasn't obvious to me yet, but nature had a way of telling Fluffy those kittens were dying. In the same way, I think Victoria knew little guy wasn't going to make it.

Even though we have had this intense heat wave, I do not believe that is what lead to the death of our little guy (I've decided to call him "little guy" since we never did name him). I say that because I saw him nurse, and I saw him pee (even the last night that I saw him alive). I also don't believe it was a birthing problem, because we saw the entire delivery and it was all text book. Victoria's bag of water broke in front of my eyes, she labored for a bit, then he presented exactly like he should, the labor was not prolonged or difficult. There was never a time during labor when I thought he could have been deprived of oxygen. And following the birth, he sat sternal and walked in a faster time frame than the text books say he should. When we checked him over briefly, everything looked ok. When we noticed the placenta was abnormal, we were relieved he was born alive.

I believe that during uterine development little guy did not get the necessary oxygen through the placenta. The placenta was not normal, and likely did not bring him the right nutrients. While he managed to develop normally on the outside, his brain did not appear to work as it should. He appeared to have problems seeing (he did not respond to me until I touched him), and did not appear to learn things (like where to poop and pee). I've heard his behavior referred to as a "dummy cria". From what I've been told, typically that is from a difficult birth where they were deprived oxygen. Given the birth was so textbook, but problems were noted with the placenta, I believe the problem was prior to his birth. Since Victoria had has previously had 4 healthy cria with perfectly normal placentas, we believe this was just a fluke thing that happens sometimes.

While difficult, I think we have done a good job of processing this death. Living on a farm we are face to face with nature everyday. Death is part of nature, and we have had several animals die. In discussions with my kids, they were not yet bonded to this little guy, so it hasn't been as hard of a process for them. Last fall we had to put down our beloved family dog, Dottie, and that to them was the ultimate in sadness. Even now, talking about Dottie will bring choked up words and tears (and I admit, I'm just as bad as the kids). Little guy was not yet apart of our lives, and while sad, has been easier for the kids to cope with.

I learned something new about the grieving process. I found how therapeutic it can be to dig a grave. Last fall when we had to put Dottie down, J insisted on digging the grave (even though J had just had surgery and was not supposed to be doing that). I didn't understand then how the act of digging, the physical labor involved, can be part of this whole grieving process. I found little guy on a very hot morning when J wasn't going to be home until late. There was no choice but for me to dig a grave. I admit I didn't want to deal with any of it, but there I was forced to. I cried and dripped sweat while I dug that grave. But by the time I was done, and ready to put little guy in it, it felt like just the right closure. I dug his grave on the edge of the woods that overlooks the pasture. It seemed like the perfect place for him to rest.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This would be the hard part about being a farmer. This morning I went out to do farm chores and found Victoria's newborn cria had passed away during the night.

The alpacas clearly already knew, they were all far away from him as if he was not part of the herd anymore. They weren't mourning, though I suspect they had already done that during the night. I knew before I even got to him that he had passed by their behavior.

This is our first cria loss, but I doubt it ever gets any easier. We have had losses on our farm - several kittens, a few cats, and one older alpaca. My kids, growing up on a farm, have seen the cruel side of nature. These are hard life lessons.

We don't know for sure what the cause of death was. I suspect there was something wrong with him from the start. As I mentioned in the post about his birth, Victoria acted strange throughout the pregnancy. Then when he was born, the placenta was not normal. We checked him over and didn't see any clear signs of a problem, but something internal would not show (such as heart or brain problems). Other causes could be an infection, or even heat exhaustion. He was born during this oppressive heat wave. I thought he was getting enough fluids because I saw him pee several times, even last night, the last time I saw him alive, I saw him go to pee. But I also admit he wasn't acting completely normal. He peed just where he was, he didn't walk to the poop/pee pile (all our other newborns have, though I don't know exactly what's the typical, last night I chalked it up to him being slow to learn). He also seemed, I don't know how to verbalize it, like when you looked in his eyes, he didn't really see you or register that you were there. He could possibly have had something neurological going on.  We believe he was blind, likely because of lack of oxygen due to the placenta not working right. In addition, he may have had issues with his heart that we couldn't outwardly see.  Looking back, he did seem weak.  At the time, last night, I just figured he was a newborn and I shouldn't expect too much from him. But looking back, he was already struggling, I just didn't know these were signs to be alarmed at. Whatever the cause of death, it's hard to lose one so young.

Rest in Peace little guy. We will always remember your short life on our farm.

Monday, July 18, 2011


We've been on cria watch for Victoria for a few weeks now. She was huge with her pregnancy, and given she typically delivers between day 340 and 355, we expected this baby sometime last week or this week. As it was, she delivered on day 348, as would be typical for her.

Like much of the country, we are in the midst of a heat wave. Yesterday was the first of the really hot days, and overnight, the humidity set in. When we got up this morning it was 73* and 98% humidity, and that was first thing in the morning (7 a.m.). Knowing we have worse weather coming, I set out this morning on a short run. I figured this will be my only chance this week to run outside (when it's 90+ degrees and still just as humid, I'll run on the treadmill in our basement). I hadn't decided if I would run 3 or 4 miles until I hit a part of my course that goes through the woods and the deer flies were eating me alive. I decided 3 miles was enough for such a day and headed home. Once home, J was just about to head out and feed the alpacas. He got the grain out for them while I started filling hay buckets.

It just so happened when I stepped out in the pasture that I looked into the poop pile and noticed blood. By the time J walked over to me, the blood disappeared into the ground, which just goes to show if you don't happen to see it happen, you would miss this sign. We noticed it was Victoria who had just peed, so we watched her. I could see continued liquid dripping out of her, after some more observation, it was clear her bag of waters had ruptured - we are having a baby today!!!

After feeding time, J set up a chair in the pasture and knew he wasn't going anywhere until that cria was born. I on the other hand had to shower (given I had gone for that run) and I had to get Emma to her acting class. When I got home, J was camped out in the backyard, watching Victoria progress.

I couldn't help but notice the behavior of the rest of the herd. They all were calm, laying around eating hay, but far away from Victoria:

Victoria was all alone, clearly in labor:

At one point Kateri (Victoria's oldest friend, they are our two original alpacas) came over to check on Victoria. She sniffed her back end, then walked back to where the rest of the herd was hanging out.

Here is the one picture I'll post of the birth (for those who prefer not to see too much, I won't post more graphic ones):

It was as if the second he was born, the entire herd knew, and turned to look at him:

(you can see our chairs in that picture, like true alpaca farmers we watched from our pasture chairs)

J went over to check the newborn cria out. It's a boy, and while during the birth we wondered if it might be black, he's a very dark brown, just like his dam. He reminds me a lot of his older half-sister, Shelby (who was born on our farm in 2008).

By the time J checked out the baby, the rest of the herd came to sniff and welcome him (they almost seem like a mob):

I will say that this entire pregnancy seemed a bit odd. Victoria was huge with this cria, and seemed to carry it strange. In addition, there were times she either seemed to be in pre-term labor, or was very uncomfortable (to the point she would lay on her side and grunt). Several times we were quite concerned about her. While the baby was born fine (no delivery problems), and seems to be completely healthy, the placenta has some oddities. We are thankful for a healthy and strong cria after all that.

Here is our newest herd member:

He tries to follow his mom around (here you can really tell how he's the same color as her):

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hot and Humid

The forecast for the next week includes high temps in the 90's and lows in the 70's. For us in West Michigan, this is really warm weather. We might have a couple nights with lows in the 70's but most nights are much cooler. Those cooler nights in the 60's are nice to open up the windows and let the cool fresh air inside the house. We won't be doing that for the next week.

Alpacas handle cold better than heat. They have that wonderful warm fiber on their bodies that keep them warm. Even though they are shorn, they still tend to be warm and struggle to cool down. So during this heat wave we will be watching them closely. We don't want any problems with overheating.

Some things we do to cool theme down: hose them down, allow plenty of areas with shade, and turn on fans. Alpacas regulate their body temperature through their chest. In the cold, they cush down and make sure that area is warm, then they are warm. In hot weather, if they can get that area cool, they cool down. We can cool them down by hosing them off with cold water (aiming right at their chest), or if they cush on the ground in the shade in front of a fan. I expect in the next few days we will be hosing them down several times a day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Another wonderful product

We completed another hat to add to our sales page on ETSY. This one is a Children's Ear Flap Hat (link goes to the etsy sales page).

Just like all our other hats, it is made from yarn I hand spun from alpaca fiber that came off of alpacas from our own herd. My husband knit this yarn into an ear flap hat.

Alpaca fiber is known to be incredibly soft. It is also warm, but breathes so it is not stuffy or uncomfortable. Alpaca fiber is an incredible material that we made into a one of a kind completely home made product.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


When you visit our farm, you are likely to run into this face:

That is Latte, she is our welcoming committee. She is very good at her job. We were having a bit of difficulty with her being too friendly with us (to the point she thought she could ram into us and get her way). But now that she is bred again, this behavior has disappeared. She is still friendly, but in a good alpaca way.

And this is Jewel:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I posted recently about how we aren't sure if Kateri held her pregnancy or not. Well, we are starting to think that she might be pregnant after all. If so, she is hitting day 350 today.

Her belly is starting to round out (though still not as big as it has been in years past, it is growing):

If she doesn't deliver a cria by the end of this month, we will take her to the vet to confirm if she is pregnant or not. If she isn't pregnant, she believes she is, because she is spit testing as pregnant. (Spit testing is where you put a female alpaca in with a male, if the female runs and spits, usually that means she's pregnant). In the past she has delivered on day 360, 342, 338 and 351. It is possible for an alpaca to suspend their pregnancy. This is when an alpaca is under some stress, the cria stops growing in utero for a short period of time (I've read they can do this for up to a month). If for some reason Kateri did supsend her pregnancy, she could just not be as far along as we thought. Only time will tell.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cria Watch

Waiting for these babies to be born is exciting and scary all at once. It's exciting to see them when they are born - is it a boy or girl? what color? And the majority of the time the delivery goes smoothly, they do it all on their own. But, there is always anxiety about the possible problems. It likely doesn't help that J is a nurse and tends to ponder more problems than the average person would even think of.

Victoria is on day 340 of her pregnancy. According to many alpaca experts, alpaca gestation is until day 335 to whenever the baby comes (over a year). So, as far as the books are concerned, she's already full term. Victoria has had four cria, born on: day 355, day 347, day 354 and day 343. So, it would fit right into her normal for her to have that cria this week.

Victoria is quite pregnant too. Look at how rounded her belly is, and how her sides hang out:

I've been joking for months now that Victoria is going to have twins. I've had people ask if alpacas ever have twins and the answer to that is it is very rare. In fact, it used to be if they had twins they wouldn't make it to term, or if they did make it to term, they would not survive. However, in recent years, there have been several sets of twins that have survived, and even thrived. I only joke about this with Victoria because she looks so very pregnant. But the truth is that she is a smaller alpaca, with limited space in her abdomen. For comparison, Victoria usually weighs around 130 pounds, a smaller size alpaca, when the average is 160 (and for a big comparison, the biggest on our farm is 250 pounds).

I will be sure to update when she has this cria.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Sun

I love the sun. In fact my favorite thing to do on a hot summer day is walk out of an air conditioned building and go sit in the sun. I love the warmth and radiance. Alpacas also seem to love the sun. Even on really hot days, they will sun bath. On those hot days we hose them down with cold water to help cool them down, then they go roll and lay in the warm sunshine - very similar to what I love to do!

Here they are just after being hosed down, standing, sitting and laying in the sunlight:

Snickers often does what I call the "death lay" since she looks like she could be dead. She's not, she just likes to lay with her neck bent:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Herd Health

The first weekend of the month means herd health at our farm. Herd Health is when we take time to get our hands on each of our alpacas. We trim toes nails and check them over for any concerns. Alpacas are very stoic animals, so they could be sick or injured but wouldn't necessarily let on about it. We found this out the hard way with Gabe. I don't know that I've mentioned this on the blog yet, but he has been very sick. He got very thin and had sores down his back. We have been dilligently nursing him back to health. He is acting much better, so we hope he's on the road to recovery.

Herd Health day is also when we weigh our young cria, and give any necessary shots. This weekend it was A & D injections.

I'm happy to say that Cheyenne, who was born on May 17, is now 31 pounds. And Dark Thunder who was born June 8, 2011, is now 30 pounds! I should add that Thunder's dam is a larger girl and always had big babies. He's actually the smallest one from her that we've ever hard. Both cria are thriving and growing well.

We weighed our 2010 cria. Rose is now over 100 pounds, Twilight is about 84 pounds, Chaska 78 pounds and Challenger 72 pounds. They all body scored at a good weight, they appear healthy and growing well.

Since this year was the first year we did our own shearing, we decided on shearing day that we had enough to worry about that we didn't do anything with the alpaca's top knots. We figured we'd tackle those another day. Well, as it happens, we haven't gone back and done that yet. So during herd health this weekend we wanted to address that. Some of them looked pretty ridiculous with clumps of fiber on the back of their head and face.

While we trimmed up everyone, I only took pictures of our 2010 offspring (they are now almost all yearlings):





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