Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Herd Health

Yesterday, I had the day off of work and Noah worked a half day, so we headed out to the barn for some long overdue herd health and barn cleaning. We have been so busy with the holidays and traveling recently that we haven't had a whole lot of time for cleaning and herd health. So yesterday, Noah completely mucked out the alpaca stall and we put new straw down for the alpacas to nestle down in now that the cold weather is upon us. We attempted to make a "litter pan" for the alpacas. We cornered off an area with large beams and placed their poo in there to try and encourage them to use one place for pooing as they tend to instinctively poo in piles. It has worked for us in the past when our herd was much smaller, but now with so many alpacas, half of them seem to enjoy making their own poo piles all over the place. Anyway, enough about poo (my dad always comments on how my blogs always revolve around alpaca beans).

In addition to cleaning out the barn and stall, we did some health checks on the alpacas. Every one's toenails were good and did not need trimming. We also did not have to give any shots as we choose to not give them ivomec in the winter. We did however body score everyone. This is where you feel each alpacas' backbone near their shoulder blades. You want to feel a nice up-side-down "V"-like shape. If the "V" is too narrow, they may be too skinny and need extra food. If the "V" is more like an up-side-down "U" or even flat like a table top, they are overweight or obese. For the most part, every one's body scores were good. Bellesa is on the skinny side, probably because she is smaller to begin with, pregnant and an older girl. We feed her extra grain and have a blanket on her at all times (although we have a heck of a time trying to keep it on straight and keep it from riding up). Our other grey girl Silver Sox is a little overweight, but I haven't cut back on her grain since it is winter and a little extra insulation on her is good as she is from Southern Indiana where she hasn't seen as much snow and cold as we get up here is Michigan. Noah and I are so amazed with Maree Sol's body score. Ever since we have had her, she has been overweight. She is a very long and tall girl, but has always been obese as well. Her body score used to feel like a table top and she had a gob of fat and flesh that hung on her chest and between her front legs. She is difficult to get on the scale, but the last time we had her on there, she weighed 236 lbs (and that was NOT pregnant!) Our other girls weigh around 150 lbs or less, so you can imagine how large she was. Anyway, now that she had been nursing d'Artagnan for 5 months (and he is a monster of a cria like his Mama) she has lost a lot of weight and has a normal body score! Imagine going from a table top back to a perfect "V!" Because she has lost so much weight in nursing, her skin hangs off her now, especially on her sides and on her chest where the most fat seemed to collect. Now we don't have to put Maree Sol in fat camp in the spring.

While we were out in the barn, we also behavior tested all the girls as they are all over 90 days bred as of Christmas Eve. All eight of the girls spit, ran with their ears back, kicked, and screeched at Smokey (much to his disappointment). This is a good sign and means that most likely, they are all pregnant and will hold their pregnancies now that they over 90 days. We are contemplating having the vet out to do ultrasounds this month. I am very excited to have so many new little cria on our farm next year. Everyone is due between the end of April and the beginning of September.

While doing herd health, we also weighed each cria and checked out how their fiber is coming in. This is the first year we have had more than one cria born on our farm, so it is fun to not only watch them play and interact with one another, but also fun comparing them to one another.

Our little white guy out of Lady is 7 months old now. He weighed in at 63 lbs. Although he is the oldest cria, he weighs less than all the other crias. This could be due to the fact that he had a rough start at life and was bottle fed. Also, his dam is medium in size and his sire is smaller, so he may just be a smaller alpaca. He is very compact, has nice fiber coverage and has the most density in fiber of any of our cria.

Our next oldest is our little...or should I say monster....d'Artagnan out of Maree Sol. He is 5 months old now and weighed in at a whopping 85 lbs. We will probably start weaning him very soon. d'Artagnan is the friendliest of our cria. He is very easy to work with and very curious. He has the best staple length of any of our cria and decent crimp. It is difficult to tell whether he is going to turn out fawn or rose grey. His base color is fawn, but he definitely has white fiber mixed in all over the place. I am just wondering if the white in his fiber is consistent enough to be considered rose grey in the show ring. From what we are told, his sire Smokey was dark brown when he was born and turned grey with time. I guess time will tell for d'Artagnan.

Our next oldest is Jolie Rouge out of Snowflake. She is 4 1/2 months old and weighed in at 64 lbs. She has nice fiber coverage and decent density and crimp. On the outside, her fiber is faded to a dark golden color, but on the inside she is a rich dark brown or possibly bay black color. It is very difficult to tell. I imagine her sire Smokey looked much like her when he was a cria.

Our youngest cria is Little Miss Rosco out of Cinderella. She is 4 months old and weighed in at 65lbs. She reminds me so much of her mother Cinderella. She seems to be smaller boned and petite like Cindy and her fiber is amazingly soft like Cinderella's. She also has Cinderella's head and face shape. She is her spitting image of her grey mom in black. Rosco is the most high strung and most spunky cria of the bunch. She is always jumping straight up in the air and racing around. Her fiber is a beautiful, non-fading midnight black and very fine.

So that's an update on our herd management. We can't wait to get our 2009 cria in the show ring starting in the spring. We plan to work on weaning and halter training this winter. We also can't wait for all the new cria to arrive in 2010!

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