Thursday, February 26, 2009

Happy First Birthday Sephiroth!

Tuesday, February 24 was Seph's first Birthday. He is getting to be a big boy...115 lbs and almost 3 feet tall at the shoulders. He will continue to grow for about another 6 months. We had a little party for Seph on Tuesday night.

First, a trip down memory lane....this was Seph was he was a newborn. It is hard to believe that he was ever that small and innocent!

At his party, Seph got a special food mixed with that crazy Beneful savory lamb and rice stew that looks like human food. We put a candle on top...but he seemed to be scared of it.

Of course, Seph's best friends were in attendance at his big birthday bash. They were very excited!
These are his favorite "friends"...the only toys he has never destroyed and loves to play with. The crusty green hedgehog was sent home with him from the breeder and the squeaky creepy monster is his new favorite.Here is Seph with his favorite human in the whole world...his daddy Noah. Although Seph loves his mommy millions...he seems to love his daddy million trillions.

Next, Seph got to open all his presents. He got a rawhide, some stuffed animals, a few squeaky toys and a new bone.
After opening all his gifts, he played with them and his guests for awhile.

Then he was very tuckered from such a great first birthday and he passed out on the bed.

Happy Birthday Sephiroth!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Such is Life...

Noah and I were planning a trip to Palmyra, Indiana to Evergreen Elegant Alpacas to pick up our newest addition to our herd, Bellesa, in March. We purchased her in November of 2008 and she was bred to the famous Peruvian Macusani. She appeared to become pregnant on the first try. An ultrasound was completed approximately 20 days post breeding, but the vet could not confirm whether she was pregnant or not. The breeder said her vet has been wrong before when it came to reading ultrasounds that early. The breeder continued to behavior test Bellesa on a weekly basis and Bellesa continued to want nothing to do with the males. The breeder reported that she would run with her tail up and ears back. We were hopeful that these were signs that she was bred. We did not want to breed her any later into the winter because we did not want to have a baby born in the cold winter months this year. She was due in late October/early November 2009 and that was late enough in the year for us. We decided to leave Bellesa at Evergreen until she was confirmed bred 90 days by ultrasound. We have had quite a few incidents of our alpacas absorbing their fetus' within the first 90 days of pregnancy in the past (almost always in the first 50 days), so did want to take the chance of transporting Bellesa 7-8 hours so early in her pregnancy, then have her lose it, and have to bring her all the way back to Indiana to rebreed. I have read that alpacas have a 25% chance of absorbing/aborting their crias in the first 90 days, so we figured we would rather be safe than sorry. So Evergreen Elegant Alpacas has done an excellent job of giving us weekly updates on Bellesa. They continued to behavior test her over the 90 days and every report came back positive.

Bellesa was schedule to get an ultrasound around her 90 day post breeding mark last Friday. The vet was also going to run a fecal and complete a CVI so we could come pick her up in the next few weeks. On Thursday, I received a call from the breeder. She said that 2 days prior, she had found the remnants of a recent abortion in the field. It looked like it was a female who was bred last fall. She was unsure of who had aborted and kept an eye on her girls. Two days after she found the remains, Bellesa was showing a definite interest in the males. The breeder reports that she was kushing next to the fence and allowing open females to mount her. We decided to have the ultrasound done anyway to confirm and to make sure, if she did abort, everything came out okay.

The ultrasound showed that Bellesa had recently aborted her cria, just shy of 90 days. Her uterine lining was thick and there may have still been fluid in her uterus. Fortunately, it looked like everything came out okay. The breeder reports that she is behaving normal.

This is bitter sweet for us. We were really looking forward to having 5 cria this year. Now we just have 4, although that is considerably better than years past. We had also planned to not breed Bellesa again this year after she would have had the cria in late fall because we didn't want to have a late fall cria in 2010 as well. We had planned to breed her spring of 2010 again, so really, this will not put us back much in our plans. Instead of having 5 cria this year and 5 cria in 2010 as was our plan, we will have 4 cria this year and 6 cria in 2010. Either way, we will still have 10 cria in the next 2 years if all goes as planned. Another positive thing is that Noah and I do not have to make a heated area in our barn this year in anticipation for a cold weather cria. That will be something we can check off our to do list for now and save a little money.

Although this is a sad situation, there is nothing we can do about it. These things happen sometimes and we have to trust nature. We have arranged to rebreed Bellesa in May to Peruvian Macusani for an April 2010 cria. While one was lost, we look forward to the other four cria we have on the way this year. The countdown has started for the arrival of our first, due in less than 2 months. Then one to follow in July and two more cria due in August.

Peruvian Bellesa

Some of its magic...some of it's tragic...such is life on an alpaca farm.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spring Alpaca Shows

Ashton Stones Jolly Roger turns 6 months old next week so he is old enough to start attending shows. Since he is our only alpaca that can be shown at this time, we have arranged with another local alpaca farm, Oak Haven Alpacas, to take him to the shows they are attending and in return we will alpaca sit the alpacas they leave behind. (You can check out Oak Haven's blog at So Jolly Roger will be attending the Best of the Midwest Alpaca Show in Columbus, OH March 13-15, 2009 and the Indiana Alpaca Invitational in Fort Wayne, IN April 3-5, 2009. These are both large shows. If he does well at these shows, Noah and I will also take him and one of Oak Haven's young males to the Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show and Fiber Fest in early May in Davisburg, MI.

Since the first show is now less than a month away, we have been preparing Jolly Roger for his big debut. We have been working on halter training him for the last few weeks. I halter him in the evenings after work and take him for a walk around the yard. While he seems to despise leaving his mommy Snowflake, he walks pretty well on the halter. The first 2 times with the halter on, he refused to follow me and just fought and pulled the whole time, but he seems to have gotten the hang of it now. While we have the halter on him, we also practice going over his body with our hands like the judge will do at the show. We pull his lips back and look at his teeth, we run our hands over his legs and topline, we part his fiber and take a look at it, and we lift his tail and check out what is underneath. He doesn't seem to enjoy this prodding and poking. Sometimes, he will buck up, which is what we don't want him to do to the judge (I was at a show once where I saw an alpaca buck up and hit the judge in her face breaking her glasses...the alpaca was immediately disqualified and sent from the ring). So, we have been getting Jolly Roger used to these routine things. I swear Jolly Roger always has a grin on his face like in the picture below.

Our next goal is to wean Jolly Roger. He and his mom Snowflake are pretty attached, so it may be a heartbreaking separation. The day he turns 6 months old, we are going to start separating him with a few of our other younger alpacas as pals during the day. We will put them back together at night, so we are not cutting him off cold turkey. After a week of that, we will separate him completely with the younger girls again until he goes to show. Snowflake will probably be dried up by the time he returns, so he will probably go back in with the girls until he gets bigger and starts getting interested in breeding, then we will have to separate him for good. This is our first time weaning a cria from his momma. Our first cria was bottle fed (because mom had horrible mastitis) so we slowly weaned her off the bottle. We will see how this new experience goes. He and his mom cry whenever they are separated now. Pictured below is Jolly Roger and his mom Snowflake. She already looks sad.
In order to cross into Ohio and Indiana and attend the shows, Jolly Roger will need to have a microchip, a negative BVD test, and a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) completed. We brought Jolly Roger to the vets office(in the back of our SUV) yesterday to have the microchip inserted and the blood drawn for the BVD test. The CVI will need to be completed within 30 days of the last show, so we will wait to have that completed. In order to show Jolly Roger we also needed to renew our AOBA (Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association) farm membership and show registration. Alpaca shows don't run cheap. After everything is said and done, it will end up costing us about $550 for just Jolly Roger to attend these 2 shows. This does not include the cost of transportation and lodging if we were going. We are also saving money on stall space and vet costs because we are splitting them with Oak Haven Alpacas. Although it is a hefty price to pay to show one animal, we are hoping he will place at the shows. If he places, we will continue to show him and get more ribbons under his belt. The better he does at shows, the more likely he is to be herdsire quality and the more he is worth.

Since these first 2 shows are very large shows, it will be more difficult for Jolly Roger to place in the top 6 of his class because of all the competition. But if he is able to place, it indicates that he is a good quality alpaca and more likely to become a herdsire quality adult. So if he places, we will continue to show him this year and next year as he matures. If he does not place, we will monitor to see how he matures, but he will probably end up as a pet/fiber male and not breeding stock. We want to pass on the best genes possible in order to better the species. So this will be Jolly Roger's big debut. We will see how he measures up to some of the best alpacas in the Midwest. Jolly Roger is striking his show pose in the picture below.

We look forward to showing next year. We have 5 cria due this year, so we should have a decent show string to put together for next year. Check back for updates to see how the shows go.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beware of Rodents!

Most of our alpaca medical supplies, cria kit, halters, and cria coats are kept in an old wooden desk in our barn. Before winter arrived, I brought all of the meds that could freeze into the house for safe keeping, but left the rest behind. A few weeks ago, when removing a towel from one of the drawers, I noticed that it was chewed to shreds. I quickly whipped the cria coats out of the same drawer praying that they would not be harmed. Luckily, they survived the nawing teeth of mice. Last night, Noah and I went to get a needle out of one of the other drawers, and what did you think we found? Well, we found the rest of the towel...all fluffed up in a ball....right inside the needle box. Upon further inspection, we also discovered two little mice and lots of pee and poo! I was really grossed out. We had to dump the needles. The mice escaped into the barn unharmed. My real question is...what does our barn cat do all day and night? She sleeps in a heated cat bed on top of that wooden desk...directly above the mouse condo. I mean...I know she is getting up in there in years, but would it kill her to do her job and keep the mice out of the barn? Oh well, at least nothing else was destroyed by the rascally rodents!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring Cleaning To Do List

I feel like spring is right around the corner. Maybe I only feel that way because the temps are flirting with 60 degrees today and I have seen more sunshine in the last several days than I have seen in months. Despite there being a thunderstorm and then a snowstorm in the forecast for the next week, I am optimistic that the flowers will be blooming soon and the newborn spring crias will be pronking through the pastures in no time. Since spring is on its way, Noah and I have started a Spring Cleaning To Do List. Well, it is actually more like a 2009 To Do List. It includes all kinds of things we would like to clean, organize, renovate and accomplish on our farm and on our house this year. Here is our farm to do list so far:

1. Clean out and organize the alpaca barn
2. Clean out and organize the hay barn
3. Enlarge and cement the stalls in the alpaca barn
4. Finish staining the alpaca barn
5. Split our large pasture into two smaller pastures
6. Replant grass in some areas of some of the pastures
7. Harvest our hay field
8. Plant a veggie garden (using alpaca poo fertilizer) and learn how to can fruits and veggies
9. Plant some trees in our pastures
10.Get some chickens for eggs and meat
11.Get our fiber processed and start marketing and selling our fiber products
12.Continue learning how to spin yarn from fiber
13.Get a Minivan for easier alpaca transport
14.Show Jolly Roger at several shows in the midwest
15.Anxiously await the birth of our 5 cria
16.Create a heated birthing stall for late fall/winter cria
17.We may possibly participate in the National Alpaca Farm Days this fall
18.Visit and network with more alpaca farms in Michigan
19.Pick our newest addition Bellesa up from a farm in Indiana
20.Put up farm sign

Now this list does not include the never ending tasks that need to be completed on our house. But as this is our farm blog, I will not bore you with the details of renovation and maintenance on a 113 year old farmhouse. We have a lot to accomplish this year, but so far we are right on track with our original alpaca business and farm plan...well, so far, we are even a little ahead. So this should be an exciting and busy year.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Tricks of Mother Nature

After enduring several months of below average winter temperatures, we have had a major thaw over the weekend. Noah informed me about a week ago that there were only 6 hours of above freezing temperatures during the entire month of January! We are talking 31 days here...and only 6 hours of temps above 32 degrees Fahrenheit people! With the temps so cold, no sun to be found, and a increasing economic hardship...I wonder if the suicide rates are up in Michigan this year. Something to ponder. It has been a bitterly cold and depressing winter. Now... Mother Nature can be an evil and devious little sprite. The temperatures rose to the high 40's over the weekend and the glorious sun touched the massive snow mounds here in Michigan. When the temps have been in the single digits and low teens for at least a month...45 degrees is like a summer heat wave. I saw people trading their snowmobiles in for motorcycles and parkas in for tee-shirts over the weekend...crazy Michiganders. I guess we take what we can get. I even hear that tomorrow temps are going to reach 50 degrees...time to get out the air conditioners! Well all this thawing and sunshine (which I have been desperate for for months) has caused a soupy, muddy mess of some of our alpaca pens and pastures. The poor alpacas...they were so excited to see the sun and not be locked in the barn at night, they didn't even seem to mind the mess. They were out in the field nibbling on the thawed out stubbles of grass...grass that they would have turned their noses up at last summer when there was longer lush grass available. Maree Sol even decided to roll in the muddy grass...she now looks like a mud pie. Even with the muddy mess, the alpacas and I are happy to see the sun and are enjoying the warm weather... but not so deep down inside, I know it is just a ruse of mother nature...she is a trixie minx after all. I am confident that in a few days time, it will be back to bitter cold, sunless days, and snow galore!