Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ashton Stone Alpacas, LLC

We have finally made it official....our farm is now a limited liability company! This will offer us extra personal protection when it comes to liabilities. It also means we can set up a checking account in our farm name, which will be helpful. We have meant to become an LLC for a few years now, but only got around to getting it done just recently. We are proud to now be called Ashton Stone Alpacas, LLC!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jolie Rouge takes 4th at Nationals

Jolie Rouge has returned from the AOBA National Show and took 4th in a class of 4 dark brown juvie girls. I was surprised to hear how small her class was for being a level V show (2500 alpacas in attendance). The judge commented that he would have been happy to take any of the alpacas in her class home, which is nice to hear. Two of the other alpacas in the class were from large farms (where they normally have more show worthy alpacas to choose from to bring to show) and the third was out one of the most famous grey herdsires in the country, A of O Silver-Celebration (now deceased). We are proud of how little Jolie stood up again the competition. The judge commented on Jolie's great style and architecture, but that she was less dense than the alpacas who placed before her and her crimp fell out towards the outer lengths of her staple (which may have been avoided if we had waited to shear her cria tips off for a few more weeks after she was born). I am sad that we were not able to make it down to Nationals ourselves, but so happy that Jolie came home with a ribbon (although...because we did not go...we were able to greet a newborn baby alpaca at Oak Haven Alpacas while we were farm sitting for them which was exciting). We sheared Jolie today and she looks absolutely adorable. I think she is very happy to have her winter coat off as this week is going to be in the high 80's all week! I will have to get some pictures of her with her pretty pink ribbon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Alpaca Shows

We only got to attend one alpaca show this spring, but luckily some of our animals went to up to 3 shows with our friends at Oak Haven Alpacas. This weekend is the biggest show of the year; AOBA Nationals. This year it is being held in Fort Wayne, IN. This show moves to a different location every year, but this one may be the closest to us that it will come. We were hoping to make down to the show this weekend to check out the vendors and auction, network and to see the 2500 alpacas, but we did have a farm sitter this weekend. We also have a bottle cria right now that is being fed every 3 hours, so it doesn't leave much room for us to venture far from the farm without a sitter. Luckily, we did get to send one of our alpacas, Ashton Stones Jolie Rouge to Nationals with Justin and Cara from Oak Haven. She will show on Saturday morning; I can't wait to hear how she does. She took first at the Best of the US Alpaca Show in Columbus, OH this spring and then took second place at the Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show in Davisburg. At the shows, they have photographers taking pictures and the first place, champion, and reserve champion usually get free pictures. Here is a picture of Jolie from the Columbus show.

We recently just received our professional picture back from the Davisburg show, so I wanted to share that at well. Here are Paisley and I posing. We both look a little messy from walking in the rain unfortunately.
The AOBA Nationals will be the last show our alpacas will be attending this spring. We most likely will not be attending any shows this fall because the Michigan International Alpaca Fest is the same week as my due date and I am sure we will be too busy for shows after that once the baby comes this fall. We may attend the Lama and Alpaca Fest in Lansing Labor Day weekend though if I am feeling up to it. It is supposed to be a larger alpaca show this year than it has been in the past. Stay tuned to hear how Jolie Rouge stands up some of the best alpacas in the nation!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ducks and Chicks

I posted a little over a week ago about sending Noah out in his pj's one night to check on the ducks because they were quacking and running around our front yard in the dark. I had suspected at that time that something was after their nests, but Noah must have scared it off. Unfortunately, whatever it was came back. I am thinking it was a raccoon or maybe an opossum because it cracked all the eggs open in the Indian Runner's nest and ate the contents. We found egg shells and one dead duckling fetus strewn across our front yard. I felt so bad for the mama duck who has diligently sitting on the nest for weeks. Although I think the mama is secretly happy that she can run around with the flock again and swim in the pond. Here are some pictures of the tragedy.
Our Rouen female is still sitting on her nest and she seems a little more protective and defensive over her eggs. I am hoping these ones will hatch as I think ducklings are just about the cutest little things! Here is the mama on her nest.

Last week, Noah called me excited. I thought he was calling to tell me that we had a baby alpaca, but he was calling instead to say we had a baby chicken. Our silkie hen has been sitting on eggs for a few weeks. He said he was in the barn and saw a chick stick it's head out from under the hen. When I got home, I went out to see the chick and lifted the mama hen up (which she did not like and kept pecking at me) and there were NINE baby chicks under her! I can't believe it! I am not sure when they started hatching; it must have been in the few days previous. I ran out and got some chick food. We locked them in one of the stalls in the barn, so nothing can get to them. I love watching the Mama hen teaching them to scratch the ground and find treats! It just amazes me that animals naturally know how to take care of their young! They are so adorable! Here are some pictures of the little fluffy things!

Our niece Evelyn checking out the chicks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ASA Macusani's Happily Ever After

Our second cria of the season was born to our girl Bellesa on Monday, May 17, 2010. Bellesa was 361 days pregnant, which is very long for her. She has had 8 cria in the past and her average gestation has been 335 days. I am not sure why she held onto this cria so long, but I believe that is what caused some complications with this labor. Bellesa is one of the smaller girls on our farm and this baby's birth weight ended up being 19.6 lbs which is huge for such a small mama! But more on that later.

I have been waiting for this cria since 2008 when we first purchased Bellesa from Evergreen Elegant Alpacas in Indiana. She was bred to the famous grey import Macusani in 2008, but aborted the cria over the winter. So she was bred again in May of 2009. Macusani was one of the original grey herdsires imported to the US from the Alianza region in Peru in 1993. He is close to 20-years-old now if not older (import records aren't very accurate when it comes to date of birth) and he is retired from breeding now. Macusani has 121 registered cria on the ground. This is Mac's very last cria which I think makes her special! Bellesa and Mac have had 4 cria together in the past; 3 males and 1 female; 1 light fawn, 1 medium silver grey, and 2 light rose grey. Here is a picture of Mac in his younger days.

For the last 2 months, we have been watching Bellesa very carefully waiting for her to deliver. As I mentioned earlier, we had planned on a much earlier cria. I was starting to get worried once she hit 360 days. Her belly was huge and you could feel the cria by just putting your hand on her side or belly. The cria was large and out of room! Her milk bag has also been huge, almost like a cow udder, for about 2 months. She had also been laying around a lot and moving slowly the last 2 months. We had been watching her closely for signs of distress, like rolling and kicking her stomach which can indicate uterine torsion (when the uterus flips over itself and delivery is impossible). We had also been monitoring to make sure the cria was still moving in there. During shearing last Saturday, Bellesa's back end was bulging and open much like Lady's when she was in the ropes, so we were hopeful that she would deliver soon. Finally on Monday at noon, Noah called me at work and said he just looked out the window and saw that the cria's head was already out. He had just been outside to check on her 30 minutes prior and he said she was showing no signs of labor then. He said the cria looked rose grey tuxedo marked, which you can see in the picture below. This is what I came home to 10 minutes later.


The head and feet were out and the cria was making noises and moving.

We watched for 45 minutes and there was no change in the cria's position. The cria had been like that for at least 45 mins or could have even been up to 75 minutes. Noah and I had taken a Neo-Natal Seminar and Wet Lab a few years ago with camelid reproductive specialist Dr. Cheryl DeWitt and had found it very helpful, but luckily have not needed to use the techniques we learned from the clinic to deal with dystocia (labor and delivery complications where the cria is stuck) on our farm yet. Well that changed on Monday. It was apparent that Bellesa was in a lot of pain and very tired. She stopped pushing and just laid on her side like in the picture below.

We decided it was time to intervene. We first tried pulling the legs downward, but they wouldn't budge and Bellea screeched at us. I took my ring off, put gloves on and put lots and lots of lubricant on my hands. It was apparent that at least one of the cria's elbows if not both were lodged behind her pelvic bone. This is known as elbow lock. Bellesa is a small girl with a small pelvis and that baby was very large with thick bones. I was very nervous and scared, but did my best to stay calm. Noah was a big help and held Bellesa and talked calmly to us both. I slowly reached into her vaginal opening. Bellesa was not happy about this and screeched, but didn't put up too much of a fight. Luckily I have very small hands and was able to follow the cria's legs up to the elbows and try to straighten them out and get them unstuck from the pelvic bone. I remember it being much easier when we did it with the dead cria in the wet lab. Probably because it was not an emergency situation with a real dam and cria. I worked on the legs for a few minutes and was feeling very helpless and scared. I wasn't sure if I had helped or not. I took my hand out and there was some blood on it and I felt like I was going to lose it (I am 5 months pregnant myself, so I think it made the situation a little more emotional), but Noah again calmed me down and had me call the vet. As soon as the vets office picked up the phone, the legs popped out past the elbows and I hung up the phone. Apparently my intervention worked! Noah and I were incredibly relieved. Here is what the legs looked like when they were finally out (we didn't get any pictures of the intervention because it was stressful and our hands were full).

Bellesa laid back down and started pushing really hard again. I was so proud of her. I feel like she was giving it everything she had! With each push, the cria emerged more and more.

At this point Bellesa stopped pushing and took a break. I was encouraging her by telling her she had gotten the largest parts out and now she just needed to give it one more push to get the rest of the body out. The cria was still moving, making noises and looked like it was breathing at this point.
Finally the rest of the cria came out and the placenta came out with the cria's back legs. At this point, Bellesa took a break again and Noah gently slid the rest of the cria's legs out.

Noah dried the cria off and said that it was a girl! By this point, I had completely forgotten to care whether it was a boy or a girl. Poor Bellesa just laid there with the placenta half out. She was very tired and I don't think she even realized that she had the cria.

Noah finally rubbed Bellesa's back end and she stood up, but did not turn around. I still don't think she realized that she acutually had the cria (most moms are instantly sniffing and carrying on over their cria). We encouraged Bellesa to turn around and she instantly perked up when she saw the cria. She acted like a normal mom sniffing and talking to her baby.

Bellesa finished expelling the placenta about 10 minutes after the cria was born. It always makes me nervous when the placenta comes out because I am always worried that it won't be whole and their will be pieces still inside or that the uterus is going to come out too (which is rare but can happen). Everything looked fine with the placenta (interestingly, it was about half the size of Lady's gigantic placenta the day before). I was also worried that Bellesa would bleed because of the placenta separating early and the intervention, but she did not have any bleeding. We had the cria wrapped in a blanket because it was cold and very windy outside. After the placenta was expelled, we moved Bellesa and the cria into the barn to get out of the wind. We put straw down, put the cria on a blanket and worked on blow drying it since its temp was 97 degrees (should be between 99 and 101) and it was shivering. We also gave Bellesa some banamine for pain and once that kicked in, she perked up even more and ate some food and drank a ton of water.

Shortly after getting the cria dry and its temp up, we realized that something was not quite right with the little girl probably due to the stressful labor and lack of oxygen (especially since the placenta separated so early and she probably didn't get much oxygen once it did). She had a difficult time standing up and walking. She would try, but kept falling down. Most cria are able to stand and walk on their own within 30 minutes after birth. At a couple hours old, she was still couldn't stand on her own, was very wobbly on her legs and her back legs were stiff and set wide apart (she kept falling and would do the splits like Bambi). She also had a difficult time finding Bellesa's teats. She was trying to nurse in the corners of the barn (cria's instinctual look for dark places to nurse because it is normally darker and shadowed under their mom's bellies where the teats are located). When she did find Bellesa, she would awkwardly circle around her trying to nurse all over. We kept showing her the teats and helping her latch on and once she would start sucking, she would fall down. Bellesa seemed to be okay with me helping the cria out, but did not appreciate Noah's company. When he would get near, she would spit big green stinky gobs at him. When he was helping the cria latch on once, she kicked him in the head at the same time that she bit his hair on his head and pulled really hard. She is a protective mother. We did milk Bellesa out and gave the baby some colostrum to help get her started and to help her keep her temp up.

Noah did some reading and here is what camelid vet Dr. Evans has to say about cria like our little girl.

The Difficult Cria: A large cria born to a female with a small pelvic canal may result in a prolonged birth or dystocia. The result is a long, stressed birth, causing a cria to be fatigued or without proper oxygenation to the brain. The crias are sometimes called "dummy cria" or neonatal maladjusted crias. The result is a slow-functioning cria. They often have a nurse reflex but little knowledge of finding mom's udder or teats. They try to nurse the wall or stall corners or go in circles around their enclosure. Some cannot lower their heads into the mother's flank. Without correction of the hypoglycemic and dehydrated state that all crias are born with, this cria will likely starve.

Luckily this little girl had us there to help her out. I also don't think it helped that she is so large boned and big in general and was probably very crunched inside of Bellesa. I think that may be why her legs are so stiff.

By Monday night, she was sitting up really well, and finally standing on her own (but was still very shaky and uncoordinated....more so than a normal cria would be at this point). I think it helped that we put her outside in the daylight on hard ground with the rest of the herd (it was darker in the barn and she kept slipping on the cement and straw).

By Tuesday, she was standing and nursing on her own pretty well. She gained 1/2 pound since birth which was a very good sign. Her responses were still slow though and she seemed pretty "spacey." The rest of the herd would go out to the pasture and Bellesa would try and get the cria to follow her, but the cria would just lay there or if I stood it up, it wouldn't really follow Bellesa even though she was calling it and it would just lay down again (most cria seem to have an instinct to follow the herd or any movement). She would also not have a startle response. Most cria will get up and run from us if we walk up to them. She would just lay there and didn't seem to notice that were around.
By this morning, the little girl was doing much better. Her legs are much less stiff and she is able to get up and lay down much more gracefully. Her walking is much better, and I even caught her almost breaking into a run. When I walked up to her this morning, she jumped right up and tried to run from me which was a great sign! I finally saw her poo and pee this evening for the first time which is always a great moment for an alpaca farmer! She is really coming along and I am hopeful that she will completely catch up to her peers. Noah and I do feel like she may end up having a "ditsy" personality though, which will just make her all that much more special.

We are very excited that we got a little girl. She is big boned (our little boy who was born the day before looks small and petite compared to her even though they are about the same weight). She also has a pretty long staple length already, probably because she was cooking so long! We are not yet sure what color she is. She has medium fawn, light fawn, beige, white and black fibers in her. She also seems to have tuxedo markings with a white face and bib which is a grey trait. The top of her head, top of her neck, and top of her back are the darkest and it quickly gets lighter as you move towards her feet. This is a fawn trait, known as a fading fawn. I am wondering if she will be a fading fawn, or turn out rose grey, or may end up as an indefinite light because of the dark fibers throughout her light blanket. Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, she is absolutely adorable and very unique looking.

As for her name, we wanted to honor the fact that she is Macusani's last cria. We threw different names around including "Macusani's Grand Finale," "Macusani's Heiress," and "Macusani's Crowning Glory," but decided on "ASA Macusani's Happily Ever After." We thought it sounded very sweet and whimsical, much like this little girl and honors the beautiful story that Macusani has created over the last 20 years. It also acknowledges the happy ending to her difficult birth. I would have liked to fit "Peruvian" in there somewhere since she is full Peruvian, but there just wasn't enough room. We will probably call her "Happy" for short.

As for Bellesa, she is doing well and seems to have recovered. She is very skinny and underweight though so we have put her and another one of our skinnier girls in their own pasture and are feeding them a special diet to try and plump them up. We don't plan to breed Bellesa again unless we can get her weight up. We will see how she looks this fall or next spring. Stay tuned for updates on our two new little cria. Luckily, we don't have anymore cria due for a month and a half to two months from now, so we can have a little break.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ASA Incan Alchemys Peruvian Panacea

Our first cria of the season was finally born. We were expecting Bellesa to have her cria before Lady because Bellesa traditionally has a shorter gestation and Lady has a longer gestation, but Lady surprised us by going into labor on Sunday afternoon before Bellesa (who ended up delivery on Monday...but that is another post).

Last week, Lady seemed like she was in labor one afternoon. She was pushing over the poo pile a lot and seemed restless, but she did not have the cria. The weather was cold and windy; I sometimes wonder if they can hold the baby in to wait for better weather. Then yesterday at shearing, Lady's back end definitely looked like a cria was ready to come out of it. It was bulging like there was a head sitting right there and her vaginal opening was swollen and open. When they are getting ready to go into labor, their ligaments in their back end get very stretchy and when she was tied down in the ropes, it was very apparent. The stress of shearing may have helped bring labor on as well. I happened to snap a picture at shearing.

We stayed out late Saturday night with friends so slept in very late on Sunday. We of course got up and checked on the girls a few times, but I didn't roll out of bed until noon (which I haven't done in a very long time....I think I was wiped out from shearing, going out and being pregnant). Anyway, I went into the kitchen as soon as I woke up to get something to eat and grabbed the binocular that Noah recently got me for my birthday to spy on the alpacas from the house. I peaked out in the pasture and instantly noticed Lady was in labor and pushing. Noah and I ran outside with our cameras. Here is what we witnessed when we got outside. Lady's tail was up and she was pushing.
It was only a minute and the nose emerged. I told Noah that it looked dark colored.

Then the head was out in no time and we could in fact see that the cria was a darker color.

Soon after the head came out, one leg popped out as well. The cria began moving and making noises at this point which is always exciting to see. Hopefully Bellesa was taking notes!

After the head and first leg came out, Lady seemed to take a break and munch on some grass. Noah and I got a little worried because the second leg hadn't emerged which meant it could he stuck and we would have to go in and retrieve it. While I prayed, Noah ran to grab our Dr. Evan's Field Manual and our neo-natal book. Shortly after he returned, the second leg popped out and we were relieved! The other girls were very interested in what was going on and wouldn't leave Lady alone. We tried to shoo them away, but they kept coming back. Lady was constantly spitting at them all, which I think helped the labor progress.

Now Lady worked on pushing the baby out all the way. Now that I am pregnant, I have a whole new respect for these animals who are essentially the same size and weight of a human and birth 15-20lb babies! It is such a miracle and it makes me a little nervous for when it is my turn.

At this point the cria seemed strong and was trying to sit up right away. Noah checked the sex and reported that it was a boy. We were hoping for a girl, but were both relieved that it at least was not another white boy like last year. It was a warm sunny day, so Noah dried the cria off with a towel and we left him to air dry.
He stood up for the first time about 25 minutes after he was born and was already looking for milk. Unfortunately, we have to bottle feed this guy because his dam has reoccurring mastitis and her teats are enlarged and inverted which we have to treat with antibiotics. I tried to get a picture of her teats. They are normally the size of a woman's pinkie finger...you can see how enlarged hers are. We were prepared though as we have had to do this twice in the past already and started him on frozen cows colostrum (and a little bit of colostrum that we were able to milk out of Lady) right away. I love watching them take those first steps!

About an hour after he was born the placenta was born. We checked it out to make sure it was whole. I thought it was neat that you could see where the umbilical cord attached. It is the largest alpaca placenta I have ever seen! The baby weighed 19.2lbs at birth and the placenta had to weigh several pounds, so I am thinking Lady must feel much lighter!

We decided to name him ASA Incan Alchemys Peruvian Panacea. We have traditionally done mountain themed names for Lady's cria (Smokey, Appalachia, Riphaeus), but decided to do something different this year. For the last 3 years, we have always put "Ashton Stones" in front of each cria's name to denote that they were born on our farm. This year we decided to shorten it to ASA (Ashton Stone Alpacas) so that I could make their actual names longer (you can only have 35 characters including spaces for their registered name). So, we named him "ASA" for our farm. "Incan Alchemys" after his sire, plus I really like the name. "Peruvian" because he is full Peruvian. And "Panacea" to go along with a theme of Alchemy. Alchemy is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold using a universal solvent, investigating the preparation of the "elixir of longevity", and achieving ultimate wisdom. The panacea (pronounced pan-ah-see-uh), named after the Greek goddess of healing, was supposed to be a remedy that would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. It was sought by the alchemists as a connection to the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone, a mythical substance which would enable the transmutation of common metals into gold. A panacea is also a literary term to represent any solution to solve all problems related to a particular issue. We are not sure yet what we will call the little boy for short...maybe Alchemy, Pan, or Panacea. So far, I have been calling him bottle boy and Noah has been calling him red (because he has been wearing a red coat). Here are some pictures of the little guy at 1 day old. He already gained a half a pound in his first day of life and he is very friendly and playful. He has caught onto the bottle very quickly and already knows to come to us when he is hungry. He even had his first visitors (my mom and Tom).