Monday, June 29, 2009

Teddy Has a Home

Last Thursday, our foster dog Teddy's home was located. I don't have all the details on who the people are and how they lost Teddy, but they were very happy to have him home. It was sad for me to see him leave. It is strange how quickly one can get attached to a dog, especially a sweet and loving one. He was only with us for a few weeks, but his memory will last forever. I am happy that he found his way home though. One strange coincidence is that I had been calling him Buddy. The rescue agency referred to him as Teddy Stray, but I tried lots of different names with him. I thought he responded best to the name Buddy, so we had been alternating between calling him Buddy and Teddy. Strangely, the owners said that his actual name is "Buddy!" Maybe I truly am in tune with animals and am a true dog whisperer! What are the chances that I guessed his name out of the millions of names out there! Or, maybe I just got lucky! We may never know. Buddy was a wonderful dog and I hope that our rambunctious puppy becomes a dog like Buddy some day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cria Clipping

In the past, all of our crias were born in the late summer/early fall, so we never felt the need to shear them as they would need their soft dense fiber to stay warm during our harsh Michigan winters. This year, our crias are all due in the spring and summer, so we have decided to shear them for several reasons. The first and most important reason is to keep them cool during our hot and humid summer. These little guys can overheat just like the adults, so we want to make sure they stay cool. The second reason is to clip off all the "cria tips," which is the fiber that they are born with and that was exposed to the amniotic fluid in utero. These fiber tips are very light and wispy and pick up lots of debris like poo, sticks, hay, etc. and makes it very difficult to pick out for shows next spring and for processing the fiber. The fiber appears more dense and uniform when the crias are sheared as well, which helps them in the show rings.

We called around looking for someone to shear our little Riphaeus this spring, but had a difficult time find someone who shears in the area. We didn't want to have our regular shearer come down from his home a few hours north just to shear one cria. We decided to try it ourselves as the weather is getting very warm now. We tied Riphaeus down just like we do with the large animals. We first tried human hair clippers, but the blade was not powerful enough to get through the dense fiber. A friend of ours had mentioned that she "shears" her dogs with horse shears/clippers. She let us borrow them and they worked really well. We could use more practice and it took us about a half hour and he looks a little choppy, but all in all, I think we did a great job our first time shearing an alpacas...even if he was only 25 lbs. We also helped another farm shear their cria as well. We are looking into buying our own horse shears to do the rest of the cria, or possibly a pair of large shears to eventually do all our own alpacas. We will see.

Here are some sheared pictures of Riphaeus:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Teddy "Stray"

About 6 months ago, Noah and I were looking into getting another dog to keep our Dane Sephiroth company. Seph was very attached to us and would often become destructive if we left him home alone for too long. When we were home, he constantly wanted to be with us, even sleeping in our small bed. We thought it would be good for him to have another playmate to keep him company. We looked into several options, including adopting a dog from our local humane society, purchasing another dane puppy, raising and training dogs through Paws with a Cause, and fostering dogs through different shelters and organizations. We decided to apply for becoming a foster home for Airedale Terriers through the Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption organization (ATRA). Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption, Inc. is an all volunteer organization rescuing Airedale Terriers in 14 Midwest states and the province of Ontario. They stand ready to help any homeless Airedale and provide them with quality care and love while searching for their perfect forever home. We really liked this program since they seem to really offer their foster homes a lot of support. They also financially support the foster dog by paying all of his/her expenses including vet care, obedience classes, crates/gates, food, and any other supplies that are needed. After filling out an extensive application, a local coordinator contacted us and completed an interview and home visit to make sure we were appropriate. We were approved and she would be contacting us soon for our first foster dog.

I was very excited to get started and help a lost Airedale who was in need of a warm, safe and loving home while they were looking for their forever home. I was also excited to have a playmate for Sephiroth. I have a love of terriers as I always had Scottish Terriers growing up and I love big dogs, so I thought having an Airedale would be a great match as they are often referred to as the King of Terriers.

Well we got our first call for a foster dog several months later, two days after Sephiroth passed away. At that time, we were not emotionally ready to have a dog in our home and they were able to locate another foster home.

Now, 6 months later, we received another call to foster. Our coordinator said he was an approximately 8-year-old, 80 lb male. He is healthy, although is overweight and has some arthritis in his legs. He has been well taken care of and was groomed recently. He was found in the Byron Center area with no collar or microchip on June 9. We took him into our home on June 16. His name through ATRA is currently Teddy "Stray". Notices have been published in the local papers, on mlive, and on craigs list. Local animal shelters and vet offices were also contacted, but so far, no one has come forward to claim Teddy. He is a very sweet dog and I have to imagine someone out there is missing him. If his owners are not located, he will be adopted out through ATRA

Teddy has gotten along well with our 12 week old dane Rozalyn so far. She is about half his size and quite the instigator. She is always slapping and biting him. He is quite patient, but will growl or snap at her if she takes it too far. He loves to be pet and loves to snuggle. He will play with toys when feeling frisky. He also loves to take naps and go for walks. We are hoping he will drop a few pound during his stay on our farm. He is really doing well so far and we are happy to be helping him out. We wonder if he misses his people and wonder what his real name is....we try calling him lots of different names to see if we get a reaction, but I think he responds more to our tone of voice instead of what we are actually saying.

Here are some pictures of Teddy Stray:

Yesterday, we took Roz and Teddy to the dog beach. Although he didn't go out and swim, Teddy really seemed to enjoy himself and loved meeting other dogs and people. Here are some pictures:

Teddy has been a joy to have in our home so far.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Illusive Snapping Turtle

If you have been keeping up with our blog, you will know that we have an evil and devious serial duck attacker on our farm. What we believed to have been an illusive snapping turtle, has already killed one of our ducklings and severely injured another. We have never actually seen the culprit, but the evidence we have found seems to point towards the snapper, although my grandmother has claimed to have seen a snapper about the size of a dinner plate down by our pond.

Well, yesterday morning, I pulled out of our driveway on my way to work and noticed something on the side of the road near our pond. I thought is was just roadkill as our section of the road seems to be a wildlife highway and deer, rabbits, raccoons, and skunks are always getting run down near our home. On closer inspection, I noticed that the animals was not roadkill but a live slimy green snapper about a foot in diameter. It was still wet, it was facing as if it was leaving our pond and our pond has been pretty green and slimy lately, so I am assuming this is our culprit. I immediately called Noah to let him know the suspect had been spotted. While Noah's first reaction was the death sentence for the snapper's heinous crimes against our ducklings, he was more merciful and caught the snapper and released him near the Muskegon River several miles from our home. My hope is that this is the only snapper in our pond and it will be a safe haven for our ducks now.

Upon some further investigation and research, I believe this snapper was a female looking for somewhere to lay her eggs. She seemed to be digging in the dirt on the side of the road. Sources say that the snappers will wander many feet from the water source and deposit their eggs this time of year, especially in dirt areas near roads. Hopefully she did not leave a mate behind to reek further havoc on our ducks.

Here are some pictures of the slimy fellow.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cria Watch for Maree Sol

I recently added a cria countdown on the right side of our blog to keep track of how many days until our next cria's due date. Maree Sol is the next girl due on our farm. She will hit her 11 month mark on July 15...less than a month away now. As we don't have information on how long she went with her previous pregnancies, we have used 335 days as her due date. She is white and was bred to our modern dark silver grey herdsire Smokey, so we are excited to see what the cria looks like. After Maree Sol, we have 2 more crias due in August. When Lady was pregnant, I had a feeling her cria was going to be a white male and it turned out to be correct. I am feeling 3 females for our next three cria. I can't wait to see what we get!

Big Willows Maree Sol


Friday, June 12, 2009

Love is in the Air

Breeding season has come around again for our alpacas. It may not be love in the air...but definitely a strong instinct to procreate. While alpacas are induced ovulators, meaning they can breed and become pregnant year round, we prefer to breed our alpacas between late May and early October. That way, all of our cria are born in the warmer Michigan months. We have already been diligently working on getting our females who are open (not pregnant) bred for spring 2010 crias. Well, when I say we have been really is more like the herdsires have been working very diligently.

There are two methods of breeding alpacas. Pasture breeding, which involves putting one or several open females in with the male for longer periods of time until he breeds them all which is more natural, but can make it difficult to pin point due dates. The other method is hand breeding, which we prefer. We bring a male and a female together in a separate pen or put a halter on the male and bring him in with all the ladies. After he breeds with the female, they are separated. Seven days later we behavior test, which means we bring the male back in to see if the female is interested in breeding. If she did not become pregnant, she will most likely kush (lay down) for the male to breed her again. If she ovulated and is pregnant, she will run, put her ears back, spit, kick and/or scream at the male. Some females show definite signals and are very easy to tell if they are pregnant. In our experience, this has been the older girls who have been through it a few times. The maiden (never had a cria) females will show mixed signals sometimes or kush because they are being submissive, not because they want to breed. If the female shows behaviors that indicate she is pregnant, we continue to behavior test her every 3-7 days. If the females are more experienced, we continue to behavior test them every few days and then get an ultrasound around 90 days. If the female gives mixed signals, we continue to behavior test every few days and then get an ultrasound around 30 days and then again at 90 days to make sure they are maintaining their pregnancies (alpacas have a high absorption rate in the first 90 days, so we always ultrasound them after 90 days to make sure they are still pregnant). I guess it is quite a bit of work for us too.

Here are some pictures from breeding last year. Notice all the females kushed around the breeding and trying to "get in on it" too. When females are open and receptive, they will normally kush near a breeding that is taking place. If they are pregnant, they will either attack the male when he is breeding another female or stay as far away from the breeding as they can. Notice the pregnant females hanging back in the pictures. The open females are all kushed next to the breeding and they like to rub against the male and sniff him while he is doing his business. Very interesting creatures!
What a lucky man to have so many pretty ladies interested in him. The details of the breeding can be a little dirty, so I won't go to much into detail. Luckily, Noah handles this part. He makes sure the the right thing in going in the correct place and then we time how long the breeding takes place. Breedings can go anywhere from 7 to 60 minutes. Our herdsire Smokey tends to keep it around 15-20 minutes, but has gone as little as 9 minutes and 45 minutes at the most. We notice he tends to breed longer with the larger white females. Very strange that he seems to have a preference. Some females only need to breed once to become pregnant and others take a few tries.

So far this year, Smokey has had a few drive by dates (either we drive Smokey to another farm, he breeds with their female, and then we bring him back home or another farm brings their female to our farm, they breed and then she goes home). We have also been breeding him with a few of our boarders, so he has been busy, but has no complaints.

We bred our maiden girl Appalachia to IVF Tribute WSA No Small Change (aka Peso) who is co-owned by Windspun Alpacas and Irish Valley Farm Alpacas. I fell in love with this little macho when he was just a juvenile and knew that I wanted to breed one of our girls to him when he matured. He has the boxy, big boned body type that we love and he is smaller in size. He also has the most amazing coverage and beautiful black, bold crimp. Peso has alpacas such as Acero Marka's Wooly Bully,Panam's Money Maker (deceased) and CPeruvian Silvino in his heritage. Both Apple and Peso have grey sires, so we are excited to see what they produce. The breeding between them went well. Since Apple is a maiden, she has been showing some mixed signals when behavior testing. We feel like she is pregnant, but will be getting an ultrasound around 30 days and then at 90 to confirm. Here are some pictures of Apple and Peso (Apple is doing her flirting prance).
We bred our older girl Lady Liberty to a full Peruvian light fawn, 3/4 Accoyo herdsire, Incan Alchemy of Flying Cloud Alpacas. Alchemy's sire is WLM Camillo who is sired by Caligula. Alchemy's great grandsire is Peruvian Hemmingway. Alchemy's dam is sired by the amazing Royal Fawn, and full sister to Royal Apollo. We look forward to seeing what they will produce. We brought Lady to their farm for a drive by breeding which went well. We bred her over a week ago, and so far, she is spitting off when we behavior test, so we are hopeful she is pregnant. We will probably wait until she is 90 days bred to get an ultrasound since she is easy to read. Here are some pictures of Lady and Alchemy.

We also have a female Bellesa who is currently down in Indiana breeding to the famous Peruvian Macusani. We are hoping for a grey full peruvian cria out of this match. I got an email from Mac's farm this morning saying Bellesa spit off this morning, and she was bred 3 weeks ago, which is a great sign. Here are pictures of Bellesa and Macusani.

We will continue breeding and monitoring our females' pregnancies throughout the summer. A lot of time and effort goes into breeding and behavior testing to make sure our females become pregnant and maintain those pregnancies. We have three more females that are due to give birth in July and August and will be rebreeding them to Smokey after they have their crias if we like what they produce this time. Our goal is to have all 6 of our females pregnant by September this year. It will be very exciting for us to have 6 cria due next year!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another Milestone...

We have reached another milestone in our alpaca adventure. We recently sold our first alpaca, Jolly Roger, along with 3 other alpacas that we were boarding. We are very excited to have reached this important stage in our alpaca business. When we originally put our alpaca business plan together in 2006, we planned to start selling alpacas in 2010, so we are ahead of schedule! Although our herd has grown faster than we originally anticipated as well. Alpacas can be very addicting...I am always on some alpacas can be hard to resist. Anyways, we are very happy with the home that Jolly Roger and the other 3 alpacas have gone to. They are not too far from us...only about 15 minutes or so, and they have a great alpaca set up. I thought I might be sad dropping our little Jolly Roger off, but I was not. They have really done their research and have asked lots of questions which makes me feel that Jolly Roger has gone to a wonderful home and I have nothing to worry about.

I put purchase packets together for the alpacas which included:

- Halters
- Health and breeding records, including all vet and testing records
- Fiber Statistics
- ARI certificates

- CD of pictures
- Ribbons won and show history
- Fiber samples
- Skein of yarn produced from that alpaca (if we had it)
- Copy of the signed contract
- "Meet the Alpaca" brochure and our business card

With purchases, we also include BVD testing, microchipping, breedings to our herdsires, transportation, and lots of post purchase support!

Here is an example of the packet that I put together for Jolly Roger.

I wish Jolly Roger and his new owners good luck and lots of success as they embark on their own alpaca adventure! Thank you for allowing us to help you get started on that adventure!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chickens...A Whole New Learning Experience

In addition to the ducks we added to our farm a few months ago, we have now added chickens as well. I had a few Rhode Island Reds growing up for eggs, but other than that, I have not had a whole lot of experience with chickens. We got 28 chicks this week. I was not sure what kind to get, so decided to get a variety to see what we like for future reference. We got some leghorns for meat (they told us that you butcher them at 8 weeks old....I will definitely be leaving this job up to Noah). For eggs, we got some Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Silver Wyandottes, and Ameraucanas (they are colorful chickens that lay blue, turquoise, green and sometimes pink eggs that they refer to as "Easter Eggs"). We also got 3 white silkies which are smaller chickens with silkie feathers and feathers on their legs. I recently purchased a field guide to raising chickens and learned that the Silkies have blue skin and flesh and black bones that the Chinese believe hold special powers when ground up. We also got 2 random bantams that were thrown in with our order. In addition, we got 7 chicks from a school project. I am not sure what type of chickens these are...there are 3 yellow ones and 4 reddish ones. So, in total, we got 28 chickens....although we have already lost 2....literally. We have them housed in part of our hay barn. We put chicken wire over the top of their coop to prevent cats, raccoons, and opossums from getting to them, but failed to realize the chicks are so small, they could squeeze through the wood slats in the wall. We went out to the barn the morning after getting the chicks and realized there were about a half dozen missing. We recovered all but two of them, a leghorn and a barred Plymouth Rock. We found some of them in the walls and under the barn on the ground level. We tried pulling up some floor boards and wall boards to find the missing 2, but could not see or hear them anywhere. So we are down to 26 now. Here are some pictures of them.

The leghorns are yellow. The Rhode Island Reds are a reddish color. The Ameraucanas are stripped earth tone colors. The Barred Plymouth Rock are black with silver spots. The Silver Wyandottes are a silver/grey/black color. The Silkies are little yellowish-white chicks that look like dandelions. The bigger chicks with some feathers are the school project chicks. There is also a small yellow and a small striped brown/black bantam.

The chick pictured below is my favorite. It is really fluffy and has black eye liner. It reminds me of a panda bear. I am refraining from naming any of the chicks so I don't get too attached, but maybe I will just name this one since it is so darn cute!

Of all the chickens we ordered, we only ordered one rooster, although there may be more in the school project chicks. We will see. We failed to think this chicken thing out completely before ordering. I was so excited to order lots of different kinds and colors, I didn't think about how many potential eggs we would be producing a day. Say we end up with 18 laying hens, potentially...that is 18 eggs per day. We like and eat eggs, but consume about 18 eggs a month, maybe. So, if anyone is interested in eggs, please, please come to us in a few months. We would be happy to share with you.Also, for those of you who follow our blog, here are some updated pictures of our ducks. Of the original six, five of them have survived. One was killed by a snapping turtle (at least that is our theory). Another one was attacked as well, but we were able to keep him alive and he is now doing well. The ducks go down to the pond every morning and come back up to their duck house in the evening.