Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show and Fiber Fair

This weekend we will be attending the Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show and Fiber Fair in Davisburg, MI. We will be bringing 4 of our alpacas and 2 from our friends at Oak Haven Alpacas. We have attended this show several times in the last few years and it is always my favorite. While most alpaca shows are pretty large and located in convention centers and arenas, this one is smaller and located at a fairground. It has a more intimate feel than the larger shows and you really get to know the other breeders there. Also, I enjoy being outside in the open air, which may be why I like this show so much. We have camped in a tent there in the past, but decided to splurge and get a hotel room this year, which I am now glad we did as they are forecasting thunderstorms this weekend.
In addition to the alpaca halter show, there will be lots of fiber vendors selling alpaca products and doing fiber arts demonstrations. This year, MI-ALPACA will be sponsoring the show as well as a raffle. I hope you'll stop by the show to see us! If you can't make it, be sure to check back here for pictures and updates on how everyone did!

For directions and more information about the Michigan Breeders Show, follow this link:

2010 Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show and Fiber Fair

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Spy....

What do you see in this picture?
Look closer......
A little closer.....
I spy a duck!
Our female Indian Runner Duck made a nest in our front bushes about 3-4 weeks ago. We have a male and female Runner Duck and a male and female Rouen Duck on our farm. We have had them for a year now and raised them in the house when they were ducklings. Now they live outside and spend their days waddling around our yard in a little flock and swimming in our pond. A few weeks ago, we noticed that one of the Runners kept disappearing from the flock. At first we thought that she may have been eaten by a predator, but then she would show back up with the flock randomly. Eventually, she stopped showing back up and I got suspicious so I went exploring. I found that she had built a nest right in the center of one of our bushes in front of our house and that it was full of eggs. At first I thought that the eggs would not hatch, because she had not been sitting on them consistently enough to incubate them, but now that she has been sitting on them for a solids 2 weeks, I am thinking that the newer eggs that she layed, if fertilized, may yield some ducklings soon. I am very excited to see some little ducklings that are born right on our farm. I was always amazed watching chicks and ducks hatch in an incubator at my friends house when I was little. I am also really interested to see what these ducklings will look like since they could have 2 possible fathers. Will they be Runners or Rouens or a combination of both? Only time will tell. The poor Momma duck is so dedicated to her nest. I brought her a bowl of duck food and a bucket of water because she refuses to get off the nest. Anytime I get close, she puffs her feathers up, fans her tail feathers out and hisses at me. She will be a good Momma to her little brood. Check back for updates!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meet Jewel of the Nile

We have added a new girl to our herd (I know...every year, I say I will buy no more alpacas....I better give up saying that). Some of our alpaca friends have decided to retire after 11 years of being in the business and we decided to add one of their girls Jewel of the Nile to our herd. Jewel is a full Peruvian, 3/4 accoyo, bay black girl out of Accoyo's Goldsmith. She also has famous herdsires in her pedigree like Peruvian Felix, Peruvian Legacy, Peruvian Royal Fawn, Peruvian Inca, and Accoyo Asante. She is a smaller girl (about the same size of our girl Bellesa) and has nice fiber with white/grey throughout the bay black. She has really cute white/grey tufts coming out of her ears like tassels. Her fiber coverage is amazing...we actually had to trim eye holes for her so she could see (she was really skittish when we first looked at her...I think she had a difficult time seeing us). She is 2 1/2 years old and is ready to breed this spring. We will have to find just the right guy for her! So far, Jewel is doing well on our farm. The other alpacas have been pretty nice to her and she hasn't seemed stressed at all. In fact she has been the first one in for grain/hay time each day! She is pretty scared of our danes and really curious about the chickens and ducks. She follows the chickens around the pasture, much to their dismay. We are so happy to have added Jewel to our farm! Here are some pics I snapped of her.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alpaca Learns to Surf in Peru

I heard about this video a while back, but just recently saw it when my sister-in-law sent it to me. Although the alpaca doesn't look like he is having much fun, it is interesting to watch. I can just imagine trying to get one of our alpacas on a surf board. There would be kicking, screeching and spit galore! Follow the Link:

Alpaca Learns to Surf

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Alpacas Go To Church

I know....it sounds like a title of a children's book, but that's just what our alpacas did today....they attended the Sunday Service at Fountain St. Church downtown Grand Rapids. We were invited to have a booth at their annual Reverence for Life Service and Animal Advocacy Expo. The alpacas were a big hit; everyone loved them. They had over 500 people (and their pets..including dogs, cats, ferrets, rats, and Guinea pigs) attend the service and come through the Expo. We got asked all kinds of questions about the alpacas and even made a few contacts with people interested in getting their own alpacas. The kids had a blast petting the alpacas and we sold a few alpaca items like scarves, hats, and socks. We were already asked by church members and the minister to come back next year! Here are some pictures of the alpacas going to church.

I tried to snap some pictures of the Expo during the actual church service when things died down a little. I think the alpacas were a little overwhelmed after the service when everyone came to see them.
My mom, Tom and Livy stopped by the Expo. My mom is showing off her new alpaca gloves! The event was a lot of fun and we hope to participate again next year with a new crop of cria!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Baby Fever

I am really getting anxious for some newborn cria on our farm. Spring is in the air and that means baby time! Everywhere I look I am reminded of new life. Every day I drive to work, I notice more and more little black calves dotting the field at our neighbors farm. When I stopped at Subway in town for lunch today, the sheep farm behind Subway was filled will little black and white lambs running around. Even one of our Indian Runner ducks is sitting on a nest she made behind a bush in our front yard (although I do not think she is sitting on the eggs consistently enough for them to actually hatch). I have been watching Bellesa like crazy lately, much to her dismay. I don't think she likes me constantly staring at her. I keep telling Noah that we need to get binoculars so I can spy at the pregnant mommas from a distance. When I took an average of Bellesa's 8 gestational periods, it averages out to 335 days which is exactly one week away. Our next girl who is due is Lady and she is scheduled to birth in about a month. Both Bellesa and Lady, along with our other pregnant girls, seem really grumpy and ornery lately. The have been very confrontational with one another and spit fights are happening often. In addition to Lady and Bellesa's bellies get really big, they have been laying around a lot more than normal. Instead of laying with their back legs tucked underneath them, they lay with them either out to the side or in a strange position where their legs fold and stick out at a strange angle behind them. It is difficult to describe, but I think they do it because their bellies are getting so big and it is uncomfortable for them to lay normally. Every morning, I am so anxious to run out to the barn to check on the pregnant ladies and can't wait for the cria to begin arriving. I hope I get to see at least a few of the births this year. Noah has been lucky and has witnessed all but one of the births on our farm since we began in 2006. I am hoping that since we have had such a warm and nice spring, that it would put them a little ahead of schedule. We will see.

In addition to being on constant cria watch, I am trying to figure out who we are going to re-breed everyone to this year for 2011 cria. I have at least 5 huacayas and possibly 1 suri who will be ready to breed this year. I plan to use Smokey and Greyt this year, but would like to get some other outside breedings as well to keep some diversity in our herd. I have been actively searching alpacanation.com and openherd.com for the girls next dates. I have a few leads so far, but nothing set in stone yet. I put so much time and thought into deciding who we will breed each alpaca to. We try to find males that compliment our females and have strong positive characteristics, especially if our female is weak in a certain area like fiber or conformation. I am also always attracted to greys, so am always on the look out for a stellar grey male. So many decisions. It is amazing to me that I have to wait a whole year to see the outcome of any breedings, which is one of the reasons I am so excited for this years cria! Stay tuned for cria pictures!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your Life Calling Today

In the mornings as I get ready for work, I normally have the Today Show on TV. As I was just getting ready to leave this morning, they had an interesting segment on called Your Life Calling Today-Reinventing Yourself about a man who followed his dream to become an alpaca farmer. Noah and I are thinking there must be someone working for the Today Show who loves alpacas as they seem to be on the show a couple times a year....or maybe America is just falling in love with alpacas! The people in the segment are the same alpaca farmers who were recently featured in an American Express commercial. Follow this link to see the commercial:

American Express: How Can I Get Paid Faster?

Follow this link to see the segment from the Today Show:

You Life Calling Today: One Man's Alpaca Farm Dream

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Much Poop Can an Alpaca Herd Poo?

We have spent the last few weeks doing spring cleaning around our farm. We have successfully cleaned up the rubble from the burned up barn and construction materials are on their way to rebuild the barn. We have also cleaned out the main barn and put away all the winter supplies and gotten out all the summer supplies. The last major spring cleaning alpaca chore that we had was alpaca poop. We finally decided to tackle it last weekend.

During the winter, cleaning alpaca poop can be difficult in Michigan. With so much snow and random defrosting and refreezing, things can become messy. Many farms choose to clean their poop many different ways. Some clean, daily, several times a week, monthly...and maybe never. In the winter, we clean out the alpaca stalls in our barn weekly, but do not bother with the catch pen or the pasture because most of the poop gets buried in the snow. Now that all the lovely snow is gone, all the poo piles that have been hidden all winter have surfaced. I think we counted 40-50 piles total in the large pasture where the girls are. They tend to make more piles in the winter because their old piles get buried under the snow so they make new ones. We spent all day last Saturday cleaning the pastures. We have a couple acres fenced in, and of course there was a winter's worth of poo out there, so it was quite the chore. Luckily alpacas have a natural instinct to poo in community piles (except for one of ours who like to poo anywhere and everywhere) so it makes clean up and parasite control easier than most livestock. I went around the pasture with a rake raking the alpaca bean piles into small mountains and Noah followed along with the tractor and front end loader and scooped it up. Luckily, as we were cleaning, a family friend called and wanted to know if she could bring a trailer up and get some poo for her garden and compost pile. Alpaca poop makes an excellent fertilizer. We made a big pile of poo and conveniently loaded it into her trailer when she got there (it filled the entire trailer). We also have a compost pile with more decomposed poo, which she plans to come back for soon (we can't get to it right now, cause the area is too muddy). Here is what the winters worth of alpaca poo from the pastures looks like.
Noah spent Sunday cleaning up the catch pen and alpaca stalls in the barn which had a whole lot of straw and a little poo in it. Luckily, the new tractor made the chore much easier. Now, all the alpaca areas are officially clean for spring! Now its time to split pastures and build the new barn!

Animal Advocacy Expo

Last year, Noah and I were approached by Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids to have our farm participate in their first Animal Advocacy Expo. We were unable to participate last year, but were excited when they contacted us again this year about attending. Every year, they hold a Reverence for Life Service/Blessing of the Beasts Ceremony where people are able to bring their pets to be blessed. They are now holding an Animal Advocacy Expo along with this service. Here is some information from Fountain Street Church's Website:

2nd Annual Animal Advocacy Expo
Sunday, April 18th
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Fountain Street Church

We are proud to announce the 2nd Annual Animal Advocacy Expo here at FSC! Our unique Reverence for Life Sunday Service has been taking place for more than 20 years and is attended by hundreds in the community who come, not only for spiritual nourishment, but for the once a year "Blessing of the Beasts". Last year, we raised the bar by introducing an "Animal Advocacy Expo", a venue for any and all non-profit organizations that advocate for animal rights and health. Come early, stay late, and celebrate the wonder of wildlife and the gift of companionship that pets offer!

You will have the opportunity to adopt a new family pet or simply visit with and/or support some usual and unusual beasts and learn about how to support one or more of the many local organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of animals. You will also find organic, homemade treats for your pets at prices you will never find in a pet store!

Meet dogs, cats, and even Alpacas who are looking for homes. Learn how you can better support the health of your pet without breaking the bank! This will be a wonderful experience for all!

Below is a partial list of exhibitors for this Expo:

* C-Snip
* Vicky's Pet Connection
* 2nd Chance for Greyhounds
* Reuben's Room
* Carol's Ferals
* Crash's Landing
* Humane Society
* Blandford Nature Center

We would also like to invite you to donate dog or cat food to the Kibble Konnection. Kibble Konnection is a program of the Humane Society of Kent County (HSKC) that seeks to help low income pet owners provide food for their pets. There has been high demand for HSKC's pet assistance program and they are in need of food to support this effort. We will have drop-off boxes available before and after the April 18th Service for your convenience. Thank you!

Bring your pet to church this Sunday and come check out the booths at the Expo and say hello!

Friday, April 2, 2010

MI-ALPACA Committee Volunteers Needed

I know I have talked about the Michigan Alpaca Livestock Product and Commerce Association (MI-ALPACA) on the blog before, but just wanted to spread the word again. The mission of the Michigan Alpaca Livestock Product and Commerce Association is to advance the alpaca industry in the State of Michigan through the joint effort of alpaca breeders, fiber processors, and commercial producers/sellers of alpaca finished products, Michigan educational institutions and alpaca research organizations for the benefit of the Alpacas and all those involved with their care and their fiber products.
The goals of the Michigan Alpaca Livestock Products and Commerce Association are to:
  • Promote the continuance of a dynamic, growing and profitable alpaca industry in Michigan.
  • Encourage the breeding of the highest quality alpacas.
  • Provide training and education to its members on alpaca management, health and other alpaca husbandry practices.
  • Provide marketing and growth opportunities for the Michigan alpaca industry through shows, public relations events, youth programs, and collaboration with state and local governments and civic organizations.
  • Promote, conduct and/or sponsor programs to educate and inform the public about alpacas and alpaca products.
  • Promote research of alpacas and alpaca fiber at Michigan Universities.
  • Help establish and support a South American Camelid Department within the School of Agriculture at Michigan State University
  • Promote the development of products made of Alpaca fiber.
  • Encourage social interaction of members.
Noah and I were both elected to the board of directors back in January and are working to help get the association up and running. If you are not already a member, I highly encourage you to sign up! It is only $35.00 to become a voting member and you receive great discounts on the seminars offered. Check out http://www.mialpaca.com/ for more information. While the association is still in its infancy, I believe it will really accomplish some great things for alpaca breeders and the industry in Michigan! Already in 2010, the board has been elected and officers chosen, the annual meeting has been held, the by-laws have been revised per AOBA's requirements, a logo has been created and a Marketing Seminar has been offered. The board is currently in the process of getting a newsletter out the members, is awaiting approval from AOBA on our affiliate status, will be sponsoring the Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show in Davisburg (look for our booth there), updating our website, and forming committees.

I am the Committees Chairman for the association and am currently working to recruit committee members. Committee members would meet regularly (most likely by phone conference since everyone is spread all over Michigan). Once there are enough people sitting on each committee, members would be asked to create a mission statement, vision statement, and 2010 goals for that committee. I know everyone is busy this time of year with spring cleaning, shows and new cria, but we need volunteers to help make the association a success. Not only will volunteering for a committee help progress the alpaca industry in Michigan, it is also a great way to network with other alpaca people across the state! Please let me know if you would be interested in participating in any of the following committees:

COMMITEES

Industry Networking Committee

· Network with AOBA

· Network with other affiliates

· Network with informal alpaca groups

· Network with other Michigan Agricultural Organizations

· Network with other natural fiber industries

· Network with local Universities with textile/fiber/fashion curriculum

Website Committee

· Researches relevant information for the website

· Member email blasts

· IT support

· Maintain website (webmaster)

Membership Committee

· Recruit members

· Maintain membership list

· Be responsible for making sure members pay their membership fees

· Evaluate members needs

· Fundraising

Election Committee

· Election nominations

· Organize and run elections

Education Committee

· Seminars (work with other committees to provide seminars related to each committees topic)

· Create reading resource list

· Create a recommended list of educational websites and other resources

Events Committee

· Shows

· Festivals/Fairs

· Auctions and Pen Sales

· Other Events

Fiber Committee

· Research cost effective ways to process Michigan alpaca fiber

· Processing and new product opportunities

· Network with local fiber mills

· Network with local Universities with textile/fiber/fashion curriculums

· Create a fiber co-op

· Create a directory of local fiber processors

· Create a list of fiber fairs and festivals

· Participate in fiber fairs and festivals

Marketing/Advertising Committee

· Create and sell logoed products (pens, bumper stickers, shirts, hats etc.)

· Press releases

· Organize advertisements online, in magazines and through local television and radio

· Create signage

· Find Michigan events to sponsor or advertise at

· Create and distribute MI-ALPACA literature and brochures

Medical Committee

· Liaison with MSU

· Advocate for more alpaca education at MSU

· Health and preventative maintenance

· Create a directory of veterinarians who work with alpacas in Michigan

Michigan Resource Committee

· Create a directory of hay resources

· Network with feed mills to create cost effective pellet and mineral supplements

· Network with other Michigan Farm Co-Ops

· Network with MSU School of Agriculture

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Second Trimester- Burst of Energy

Happy April 1st everyone! I started my second trimester of pregnancy this week and have already seen a noticeable difference in my energy level which is great because the weather has been awesome and it is time for spring cleaning around the farm. Just a few weeks ago, I felt like a drugged zombie. When I wasn't at work, I was laying by butt on the couch and rarely made it out to the barn for food time, let alone barn cleaning. Luckily, Noah was a good farmer and picked up more of the chores. Now I am really feeling good and energetic and am in the cleaning and organizing mood. Yesterday and today after work, I came home and headed straight out to the barn to get some much needed cleaning done. Noah cleaned up 7 tons of rubble this week from our barn fire (thanks to the handy tractor) which cleared up a lot of space that once was our catch pen. We have had all the alpacas moved around since the fire last November to avoid the fire damage. Now that Noah got the old catch pen area cleaned up, we were able to put up temporary panels to almost create the same size catch pen that we once had, so the girls now have more room to hang out around the barn. We opened up more stall doors leading into the barn that we had nailed shut for the winter to keep drafts out and took down tarps that were also helping to keep it warmer in the barn. It felt nice to have more light in the barn and a warm breeze sailing through. I moved the hay box and water buckets outside and hooked up the good ol' hose. Although we don't have far to haul water as the pump is right in the barn, hauling buckets all winter does get tiresome. I was happy to have the hose out again (although I had to go searching for some hose as most of our hoses burned up in the fire lat year). I scrubbed and washed the summer buckets since they had been sitting all winter and I did the same with the heated winter buckets, which I then put away. I took down the tangle of extension cords we had running all over the barn for heated buckets and put them away. I moved the chickens' and ducks' food and water outside, so they don't need to come in the barn to eat anymore. I had Noah help me rearrange the bales of hay we have left and stack them more neatly since they seemed to be spread all over the place. I cleaned up the kitty's area and bed and dusted off our desk, books and medical supplies (luckily this year, I didn't find any mouse nests in the desk drawers). Lastly, I swept a winters worth of dirt, dust, bugs, hay, and straw out of the barn. The only thing left to do is clean all the straw out of the alpaca stalls and catch pen, which I will leave for Noah to do next week with the tractor. We also have lots of piles of poo out in the pastures to clean up, which I will again leave for Noah. The alpacas watched me clean for a while, then got bored and wandered out to graze. Our grass is starting to grow and they are already munching it down. Our post hole digger attachment should be here in the next week or two. Once it comes in, we plan to split our large pasture, so we will have four pastures to rotate to promote grass growth and to help manage parasites better.

On Wednesday night, we decided to try putting our two young boys Riphaeus (11 months old) and d'Artagnan (9 months old) in with our herdsire Smokey (7 years old). Smokey has lived on his own most of his life, so we weren't sure how he would do with the boys. Last spring, we put two young boys in with him; Jolly Roger who is his son and was born on our farm and Comanche who was boarding here at the time. Jolly was very submissive and Smokey didn't seem to mind him, but Comanche was aggressive towards Smokey even though he was little, so we had to separate them so he wouldn't get hurt. Well, we put the little boys in and all 3 of them started running around, kicking up their heels. They looked like they were all playing together and Smokey was not being aggressive at all towards them. Both little boys put their tails up and their head down in submission. Smokey then started orgling and chasing Dar around trying to mount him. I am not sure if he thought he was a female, or if Smokey was just showing him who was dominant. Eventually, when we were in cleaning, Dar kushed and Smokey attempted to breed with him. Noah quickly put and end to that; he made Smokey get up and Smokey started screeching. After that, he left the little boys alone. Strange that Smokey seemed to take an interest in Dar and ignored Riphaeus. The little boys follow Smokey around. It is so cute because Dar is Smokey's son and Riph is his little brother. So far, the little boys are doing well. Sometimes they will stand with their heads through the gate crying for their mamas (well, its mostly Dar that does this), their mom's just ignore them and they eventually give up and go back to grazing. I am glad that they are all getting along so well.

After two long days of work, I ended each night by sitting out in the pasture, watching the alpacas graze and the chickens and ducks waddle around as the sun set. I am so happy to be feeling energetic again and for spring to finally be here!