Sunday, August 29, 2010

Herd Health

On Friday night, Noah and I both came home from work, took long naps and then went out to the barn at 8pm to do herd health since we were feeling rested and it had cooled off outside. We gave everyone their ivomec shot (to protect against meningeal worm and other parasites) and checked every one's body score. We currently have a normal/fat girl pen and a skinny girl pen. Because many of our females are nursing their cria right now, they can lose weight dramatically and it is important to monitor their body scores to make sure they don't get too skinny. We have a livestock scale, but tend to only use it for our younger alpacas since it is stressful on both us and the larger alpacas to actually get them to stand on the scale. We ended up moving some alpacas out of the skinny pen and putting others in depending on their body score. The alpacas in the skinny pen get pasture, free choice alfalfa/grass mix hay and extra grain, while the other pen just gets pasture and a little grain. The majority of our alpacas are right on with their body score or slightly overweight. We also checked every one's toenails, but no one needed trimming at this time. Lastly, we behavior tested the girls who have been bred or who need to be bred to see if they are receptive. We brought Sequoia in with these girls and fortunately all the girls who have been bred and should be spitting off were.

After doing all the big alpacas, we weighed each of the 7 cria. They are all gaining weight well which means they are eating well and getting enough nutrients. We checked out their umbilical stumps to see how they are healing. Everyone but Noir's is healing well. She has a umbilical hernia, so we have been treating that. We gave the cria their appropriate shots, including ivomec for the older ones, and BOSE, Vitamin AD, and CD/T for the younger ones. We also checked out each one's fiber and conformation. While their fiber and conformation can change and improve (or get worse) as they mature, there are 3 that I am really keeping an eye on to show next year....Alchemy, Alpacacula, and the new Sol cria (who still needs a name). But we will keep a close eye on them all as they grow to see how they mature.

After all this, we did our normal nightly barn chores, but it was of course dark by this time. Luckily we have lights on the barn. We fed the pacas grain and hay, rinsed out and filled water buckets, and cleaned up the poo in the barn and catch pen. We of course fed and watered the ducks, chickens, and barn kitty too.

It took us about 2 hours to do all of this. Despite me almost being 9 months pregnant, I am still a pretty good alpaca wrangler....although a little more cautious now. There was a beautiful huge deep orange moon coming up on the horizon while bats flitted through the air as we headed in from the barn. I love the farm life!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


We finally got our alpaca mobile last week! I took last Friday off of work so we could shop for mini vans all day. We looked in Hudsonville, Grandville, Grand Rapids, Cascade, and Kalamazoo. We narrowed it down to 2 vans but finally decided on this one which we found at Galesburg Ford near Kalamazoo (the salesmen who worked there were really nice and not shiesty like a lot of the other salesmen we had talked to that day).

I love this van! It is perfect for our growing family, great danes and for transporting alpacas. My favorites are the leather seats, stow and go seating, seat warmers, DVD player, 6 disk CD player, moon roof, power doors and windows, and built in navigation system! The stow and go seating will really come in handy for transporting alpacas. This is the perfect alpaca mobile!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Maree Sol's Cria

We had a really busy week this week. On Thursday, Noah and I worked all day and then we had an ultrasound and prenatal appointment at 6pm. After that, we went to the south side of Grand Rapids to pick our new mini van up. We didn't end up getting home until close to 9pm. Noah headed out to the barn to take care of the pacas and I went into the house to prepare for an hour long presentation I had the next day for a training for work. I told Noah to make sure to check on Sol since she was getting close to her due date; last year she had her cria at 347 days and she was on 341 days today. As soon as I got into the house, Noah called my cell and said that Sol had her cria. I went out to the barn to check him out. Yes....another boy! He is a solid dark fawn out of Sol who is white and Smokey who is modern dark silver grey. The cria was already up, dry and moving around. She probably gave birth to him early that afternoon. The birth appears to have gone well. The cria weighed in at 15 lbs and the placenta was surprisingly small for Maree Sol being such a huge girl. The cria was already nursing well and Maree Sol is a great and attentive mom....even confronting our great danes when they tried to sniff the new baby. The cria is smaller in size and looks to be stocky like his sire. He has a cute short little face. We are also impressed with this little boys fiber so far. Smokey is known for having very soft cria, but they aren't usually very dense. This little guys is the most dense Smokey cria I have ever seen and the most dense baby born on our farm this year. Noah is still coming up for a name for the little guy. While he is the same color as his full brother d'Artagnan who was born last year, his fiber and body type look much different. Here are a few pictures of him:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Second Cut of Hay

We harvested our second cut of hay this week. We got 175 bales....we were hoping for a little more, but is has been so dry lately. I felt really bad that I could do nothing more than drive the truck and trailer while the boys picked up the bales. Especially when Noah carried each and every bale up the ladder to our hay loft while I stood by watching. On top of that, Noah is very allergic to hay, which is not a good for a farmer. Luckily it is all stored and we are ready for winter. Here are some pictures.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Capitola's Montpelier Noir

Cinderella is a beautiful grey female that we sold to a farm in Florida last year. She is boarding at our farm though and we have anxiously been waiting for her cria. Last year, she had a beautiful true black little girl named Ashton Stones Little Miss Rosco who now lives at Oak Haven Alpacas. Rosco was the first cria we had missed being born on our farm as of last year. Cinderella decided to have her very early in the morning, probably around 4am or 5am on a dreary morning after a rainstorm. Rosco was wet and cold when we found her at 7:30am and we had to blow dry her to warm her up. Needless to say, I was determined to see Cinderella give birth this year.

Yesterday morning, Noah and I were rushing around packing our car up because we had planned to spend the whole day with family out of town. My brother and sister-in-law were in town for 2 days from North Carolina for my baby shower and Noah's brother and sister-in-law were in town from Indiana for my baby shower and our nieces second birthday. Anyway, we had a full day planned. I went out to check on the alpacas and Cinderella at 9:30am before leaving and thought she looked just like Silver Sox had a few days earlier when she was in early labor. Also, there was a thunderstorm the night before, just like last year. Cinderella was laying with her legs to the side, breathing heavily, nostrils flaring, not chewing cud, and her belly seemed to tighten every so often and her tail/back end was pulsating. I told Noah that I was positive she was in labor. Noah came out to the barn to see for himself and Cinderella instantly tensed up and sat up straight, not showing any signs. I sent Noah out of the barn and stood on a bucket peeking over the stall so Cinderella could not see me. She relaxed again and showed more labor signs. I could even see that her back end was open. I told Noah again that I was positive that she was in labor, so we decided to stick around to see what happened instead of going to visit family. I checked on her every hour by standing on the bucket and by 3 o'clock, Cinderella seemed the same. Her labor had not progressed and every time we were out in the barn, she would sit back up like nothing was going on. We went in and lifted her tail and she clenched up her back end. I was so sure she was in labor earlier, but now we saw nothing. Since 99% of alpacas will have their cria between 6am and 4pm (for reasons based on their daily movement in the Andes Mountains in South America), we decided to give up and go visit family. We were still playing cards at my mom's house (40 mins from our house) at 12am when I decided it was time to go home and check on Cinderella. Noah and I were both very tired, and Noah wanted to spend the night at my mom's and go back and check on her early the next morning, but I insisted we go home. I know I would be up all night worrying about Cinderella if we didn't go home.

I drove us home and at 1am, pulled the truck right up to the barn so I could flash the headlights into our catch pen to see the pacas. As I did this, Noah and I immediately saw Cinderella standing next to a newborn cria. We jumped out of the truck to go check on the little thing. It was a true black female. She was standing up, but still wet and felt cold (it got pretty cold that night so I am so happy we went home....the cria may have not survived the night being wet when it was cold and windy out). We took her temp and it was 96 degrees, so we blow dried her until her temp came back up to 100. We also put a cria coat on her and put our foam pads down for her to lay on in the barn. We locked her and Cinderella in the barn and left some lights on so the cria could see to nurse. Normally, they have all day to work on nursing in the daylight, so I wasn't sure how this little one was going to do in the dark. We milked Cinderella out and gave the cria a few oz of colostrum to give her a headstart. Then we made sure she could latch on before leaving them alone. I left a bunch of food and water for Cinderella, which was gone by the next morning....she must have been famished. After taking care of the cria, we got the tractor out and turned the headlights on and went looking for the placenta out in the field. Luckily we found it whole, so I didn't need to worry. We finally got into the house at close to 3:00am. We figure the cria was born sometime between 9-11pm because she was still pretty wet, yet was able to stand up and walk to the barn from the field. Also, Cinderella had already passed the placenta which was cold to the touch. It was a very crazy night. I wish I would have gotten to see the birth, but I know that if I were home, I probably would have been extremely nervous because when an alpaca has a cria outside of the hours 6am to 4pm, there is usually something wrong with the labor and delivery. I should have just known that Cinderella is an odd duck who has her cria at night. I think she really likes her privacy when giving I said, she would visibly tense up and her labor would stall when she knew we were watching. This is something interesting for me to think about since I will giving birth myself in a few weeks. It makes sense that if an animal thinks a predator or threat is watching, it will not give birth to a vulnerable baby. Anyway, it was a very long night to say the least and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I was right after all.....Cinderella was in labor. Not sure if it is my mothering instincts kicking in or if I am just really observant, but I am getting good at knowing when the alpacas are in labor.

This morning the new cria and Cinderella are doing very well. The cria looks like a carbon copy of her full sister Rosco. We called Cinderella's owner and let her know the good news. She decided to name the new little girl Capitola's Montpelier Noir. Here are a few pictures of little Noir.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Things have been absolutely hectic around here lately. Noah has started back to work at Cannonsburg Ski Area, which has made us adjust our whole farm routine. There is just so much to do and with us both working full time, things have been crazy. We have been scrambling to get ready for the arrival of our new baby....including completely gutting and refinishing a nursery, baby showers, prenatal appointments, reading books, birth classes, buying a mini van, and keeping a baby blog (which I am simultaneously downloading pictures onto as I write for the farm blog). We have been busy trying to get things done on the farm, including finishing building our barn, putting up a fence around our yard for the dogs, herd health, birthing baby alpacas, cria shearing our own cria and cria at other farms, breeding alpacas, harvesting hay, keeping up with the farm blog, sitting on the board and committees for MI-ALPACA and all the day to day farm chores. Somehow, I feel like my 3 months of maternity leave is going to feel like a vacation....maybe a sleepless vacation....but a vacation nonetheless.

Because we have been so busy and have been spending so much money this year on our farm and baby, we decided to simplify things for this fall. Normally fall is a busy and expensive time of the year for us. We usually attend alpaca shows, are busy breeding alpacas before winter comes, have alpaca booths at local events and fairs, and have a farm open house for National Alpaca Farm Days. This year we have decided to simplify and skip most of these things. We will still be visiting one alpaca show for a day, LlamaFest and Alpaca Showcase, but will not be showing any animals. If we feel up to it, we may try to visit the Michigan International AlpacaFest, but I am not counting on it. We will also be breeding most of our females, but do not plan to purchase any breedings this year. Any outside breedings we get, we are trading for to save some money. We also do not plan to travel far for breedings this year and are looking locally to save time and money. I am also not quite as determined as I was last year to make sure every single one of our females is bred by winter. We will not be participating in any fiber fairs, including the First Annual Alpaca Showcase at the Harvest Fest in Calhoun County (it is the week following our due date) and we will definitely not be having a farm open house since National Alpaca Farm Days is the weekend before my due date.

I am a little sad to not be participating as much as we have in the past in all these alpaca events, but at the same time I am relieved because I feel like my plate is overflowing right now. Right now, a little simplifying is what we need. We plan to get involved again next year.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicken and Duck Update

This is our second year of having chickens and ducks. I wanted to give you an update on how it's going. Our chickens and ducks are free run, so we don't pen them up at all. This has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantages being....better quality of life for the bird, no messy pen clean up, and they do a better job at parasite and bug patrol. Disadvantages....they can be more easily preyed upon by predators or become roadkill. We have gained and lost many ducks and chickens this year.

We started out this spring with 4 ducks....a male and female Rouen and a male and female Indian Runner. The Rouen and Runner females each hatched a clutch of eggs. The Rouen hatched 12 Rouen ducklings. Seven of them eventually disappeared, probably due to predators. We gave 4 male ducklings to a neighbor and kept one female duckling. Unfortunately, that female duckling got hit by a car this week. The chickens and ducks have always been good about staying out of the road until recently. The Runner hatched 17 rouen/runner cross ducklings. A week after hatching her ducklings, she was attached by a predator and we had to put her down. Then a neighbor gave us another male Runner that we had given them last year, because a raccoon had killed all their other ducks and he was the only one left. So we were back to having 2 grown runners. Then one of the male runners got hit by a car a few weeks ago. Of the 17 ducklings....only 2 disappeared, possibly due to a predator. We gave 13 away to a few different people, because we had close to 30 ducks...and that was way too many to feed and swim in our little pond. So, now we are down to 7 ducks...2 grown Rouens, 1 grown Runner and 4 Rouen/Runner ducklings. Here are some pictures.

As for the chickens, we started this spring with 3 silkies....1 hen and 2 rooster. The hen hatched 9 chicks. All but one survived (no thanks to Rozalyn who stepped on one of them with her horse-a-saurus paw). Of the 8, 4 were males and 4 were females. We decided to keep all the females, giving us 5 hens and gave away the 6 roosters. Now the original hen is sitting on eggs again (in our alpaca hay feeder bin), so we may have more chicks soon. While I gave the 6 white roosters away, I bought 2 new roosters. One is a blue calico and the other is a red buff. They should make some interesting colored chicks with our white hens next year. So we have 7 chickens now...5 hens and 2 roosters. Here are some pictures of the white hens and new colored roosters.

So that is a quick update to bring you up to speed on all the comings and goings of our crazy birds on our alpaca farm this year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cerberus the 3 Headed Alpaca?'s not really a 3 headed alpaca, but we have had 3 solid black males born on our farm in the last few weeks and thought we would try to snap some pictures of them together. They are so cute playing out in the field the 3 Musketeers!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rest in Peace Peruvian Macusani

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the farm we bought Silver Sox and Bellesa from saying that the famous Macusani was not doing well. He is around 20 years old and his health has been failing. This morning we received this email from the same breeder.

It is with a heavy heart that we inform you of the passing of Macusani. As you knew he was failing fast, the vet was out earlier to help him along his way. He is buried overlooking the girl's field where he can keep an eye on "his herd". He will be deeply missed. I am so thankful his last cria is Happy!

We feel so lucky to have Mac's very last cria....ASH Macusani's Happily Ever After. I am confident that she will spend many years on our farm passing on her Daddy's genes and legacy.

Rest in Peace Macusani

Thank you for your tremendous impact on the alpaca industry in the United States. You hold a special place in our hearts! May the pastures be greener on the other side!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Baby Shower and Alpacas

Last weekend was my first baby shower. Noah and I got some amazing gifts, but my favorite gift was a hand made alpaca sweater and hat from Cara Stray at Oak Haven Alpacas. Not only did she spin the fiber into yarn and knit the outfit herself, but it is out of one of our very own alpacas Cafe who used to be owned by them. I love it so much! I can't wait to see our little one sporting it this fall and winter! Thank you so much Cara! Here are some pictures of the garments and Cafe.


Also, here are a few pictures from the shower. My cake had a cria on top of it and my cousin thought it would be interesting to integrate it into a few other pictures at the shower! It's like playing Where's Waldo? I joked that I am going to put this alpaca on our child's birthday cake every year until they turn 18 years old!

Thanks to all my wonderful Aunt's, Grandma and cousins for hosting such a wonderful shower!