Friday, October 14, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eliza and Her Alpaca Friend

Okay....also not really alpaca related, but still fun! Watch Eliza grow in comparison to her Alpaca Friend...

12 Months Old
Happy 1st Birthday Eliza Darcine!

11 Months Old
10 Months Old

9 Months Old

8 Months Old
7 Months Old
6 Months Old
5 Month Old

4 Months Old

3 Months Old

2 Months Old

1 Month Old


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Farm Open House!

Join us for our annual farm open house this Saturday, September 24, 2011 from 9am until 5pm. We invite you to visit our farm, meet the alpacas, learn how to spin fiber, check out our awesome alpaca products and to enjoy some donuts and fresh apple cider! We look forward to seeing you there!

Our address is 2345 W. 112th St., Grant, MI 49327
If you have any questions, feel free to email us at

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rest in Fleece: Woolen Coffins Offer Green Goodbye

Check out this great article about a wool mill in England who has created "green" environmentally friendly caskets out of sheeps' wool to help the shrinking textile industry survive and thrive. Hmmmm......I think there is something to this. I wouldn't mind being buried in a nice snuggly warm alpaca casket some day. Fellow alpaca breeders....a possible new niche for our luxurious fiber! Read the full article by following this link:

Rest in Fleece: Woolen Coffins Offer Green Goodbye

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Halter Training

We have five 2010 cria who are currently being weaned and need to be halter trained. Last weekend, Eliza bundled up and helped me start halter training Alchemy Jr. and Alpacula. Alchemy was a bottle baby and acts more like a dog, so I am pretty sure he would follow us even if he wasn't on halter. Alpacula was very resistant at first, but quickly fell into step with Alchemy. We walked them around the yard for a half hour. The first training lesson went very well!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Herd Health and Farm Chores

Over the weekend before the weather took a turn for the worst, we spent lots of hours in the barn doing herd health and general maintenance. We got a big thaw and of the snow on our farm recently melted. It was also relatively “warm” this weekend, so we brought our 4 ½ month old baby Eliza out to the barn for her first lesson in farm life. We bundled her up in several layers of clothes, blankets, hat and fur boots and snuggled her into her stroller. The first time we went out to the barn was Friday night. We did a blood draw on our suri Otto because I recently realized that he has not had his BVDV test completed yet and needs it in order to go to show in 3 weeks. I called our vet on Friday to see if we could get him in, but we were told that our vet is the only one in the practice that does camelid blood draws. The vet was pretty booked, but was in Ravenna that day (which isn’t far from us). I asked how much it would be to stop at our farm to just draw the blood….well they wanted to charge us $74 for stopping over to our farm, plus $8 for a blood draw, plus $25 for a BVD test. I hate to complain, but I decided we would just draw the blood ourselves for free and then mail it into ARI (the alpaca registry) who will complete the test for $25. I mailed the sample out Saturday and called today. They informed me that it should take 10 days to process, so we should be set before show. Anyway, after drawing blood, we gave all of our 2010 cria and a few of our yearlings Vitamin AD injections and CD&T booster injections. I wanted to keep working, but Noah was tired and had to work early the next day, so we called it quits. Eliza did pretty good. She fussed a little bit when we were drawing the blood and then fell right to sleep for the rest of the time. Below is a picture of Eliza sitting in her carseat in her radio flyer wagon in the house getting ready to go outside. She decided Glowworm (who is her favorite toy) should go outside with us too.
On Sunday, we decided to attempt farm chores again. Noah finally has 2 days off a week now, so we try to get as much as we can done when we are both home on Sundays. As soon as Eliza went down for her first nap, we bundled up and took the video monitor out to the barn. She slept for about 45 minutes and then started fussing, so I went into the house and got her, bundled her up in her stroller again and brought her outside. We got a lot done on Sunday and Eliza seemed to enjoy watching us from her stroller. We weighed body scored the 2010 cria. We moved all the cria into the hay barn for weaning with the exception of Truxton who was limping slightly. We checked out his front leg and there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with it that we could determine from a physical exam. He most likely injured it running out in the pasture on the icy snow. While the alpacas normally stay in the barn all winter, they have been out in the pasture the last few days because most of the snow has finally melted and there were some patches of “green.” Anyway, we decided to leave him with his mommy until his leg improves; I didn’t want to add any extra stress to him. We also body condition scored all of the adults to determine who is fat, skinny and just right. Most of the lactating females were a little on the skinny side so we will up their grain intake and hopefully weaning their cria will help. We also gave all the adult Vitamin ADEB12 paste which is especially important in the winter with the lack of sunshine. We behavior tested the pregnant females and I am happy to report that all 8 of them spit off so we should have 8 little cria (6 of our own and 2 boarders) this year. We also fed and watered all of the alpacas, chickens, ducks and barn kitty. While Noah got hay down from the hay loft and cleaned the poop out of the stalls and put fresh stray down, Eliza and I started halter training the cria, but more on that in another post. After barn chores, Noah brought a bunch of wood into the house for our furnace. Lastly, I updated our herd health book and white board in the barn to reflect all our hard work.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 Farm To Do List

At the beginning of each year, Noah and I usually sit down and make a to do list for our home, farm and life in general for the rest of the year. We also revisit our checklist from the year before and have fun checking everything off that we completed. Of course we never complete everything, but it is nice to feel like we accomplished something. While we got a lot done on our farm last year, our largest project by far was building our new hay barn. It consumed pretty much the whole year since Noah built the entire thing by himself. It is not completely finished yet, but when it is, I plan to add a whole entry devoted to it. I thought I would share our to do list for 2011. I have left off our personal goals and things that need to be done to our house since this is primarily a farm blog. This is the list in no particular order:
  • · Install new driveway gate and gate to hay field
  • · Finish batten in hay barn
  • · Finish running electric outside
  • · Cut, split and stack wood
  • · Finish inside of hay barn including stalls, heated room, medical cove, ladder, and chute
  • · Clean and organize barns
  • · Clean and organize garage and grain loft
  • · Complete Herd Health Monthly
  • · Update Alpaca Nation and Open Herd Websites
  • · Get fiber tested
  • · Add some new chickens and geese to the farm (Noah is not on board with this one yet, but I am working on him)
  • · Watch our cria be born and re-breed females for next year
  • · Continuing learning and practicing how to spin fiber into yarn
  • · Learn and complete some new alpaca fiber craft projects
  • · Build driveway to hay field
  • · Organize 2010 alpaca expenses and mileage and complete taxes
  • · Create alpaca financial spreadsheets
  • · Rake and weed flower beds
  • · Landscape around Alpaca Farm sign
  • · Harvest Hay/Sell Hay/Store Hay
  • · Sell more products created from alpaca fiber
  • · Bring alpacas to 4-6 shows
  • · Advertise more and sell alpacas
  • · Farm Open House
  • · Shearing (including Noah shearing more of our own alpacas)
  • · Build new alpaca hay feeders
  • · Purchase sprayer
  • · Purchase hay elevator
  • · Re-seed pastures
  • · Plant trees in fields
  • · Halter train
  • · Add new pasture and gates
  • · Attend educational seminars
  • · Learn to do our own fecal tests
  • · Continue involvement in MI-ALPACA on the Board of Directors and through Committees
  • · Attend a few SWMAA Meetings
Will all of this get done in 2011??? I sure hope so. Now all we need is for this snow to go away, so we can get started!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The 2011 Groundhog's Day Dump

Last Wednesday which happened to be Groundhogs Day, we had a serious snow storm here in Michigan. Pretty much everything shut down that day, including my agency that I work for. The storm started the night before with high speed winds and major snow. Noah spent the night in Rockford near the ski area where he works so he wouldn't have to drive the hour to work in the storm the next day. I was worried about the alpacas since it was so cold and windy and even thundering and lightening (which I have never experienced in the winter before), so I was bundled up and out in the barn at midnight to move alpacas around and plug up any cracks in the barn with hay and hay bales since it was blowing through even the tiniest cracks. My mom was staying with me that night and was worried I was going to get lost out in the snowstorm (which was not likely since our entire yard is fenced in). We joked about tying a rope from the house to the barn like they did in one of the classic Little House on the Prairie television episodes where they got a nasty snowstorm with white out conditions. They tied a rope from their house to the barn so they could hold onto it when going back and forth without getting lost in the white out. Here is a view of our house from the road.

In our hay barn, we keep all of our boys. I was worried about the direction the wind was blowing because it was coming in at a strange angle, right through their stall doors and the snow was already so deep that I couldn't get their stall doors closed. Therefore I moved the little boys into our fat camp in the large barn (where all our fat girls live) and moved the fat girls in with our nursing/pregnant skinny girls. I am sure glad I did because the inside of the hay barn was covered in several inches of snow the next morning. The only section that stayed clear was half of the large boys stall because it was far enough from the open doors that the snow did not reach that corner. In the picture below, you can just barely see the big boys in the right corner. We are going to have some major cleaning to do in this barn in the spring.

Don't get me wrong, alpacas tend to be pretty hardy animals and do pretty well in the cold and snow. But I always worry about our skinny girls, our older alpacas, our suris and sometime our cria as they are more vulnerable. I can't explain it, but it always seems like the ones who are more susceptible to cold, are the ones who are more likely to be laying right where the draft comes in (maybe because they are at the bottom of the pecking order and all the good spots are taken). When I got into the big barn that night, Bellesa and Paisley, our 2 that seem most affected by the cold, were sitting right where the door kept flapping open and were covered in snow. We have coats on these two girls as I will often catch them shivering. Luckily I was able to get the girls stall doors shut and the alpacas completely out of the elements. I would like to think that they would be smart enough to get out of the elements themselves if they were cold, but I think that their herd instinct is so strong, they will just go along with the alpha herd leaders (who in my experience are often the hardiest of the alpacas) and expose themselves to the elements along with everyone else. The strong herd leaders are able to weather the storm fine, but the weaker animals that follow them like the skinny ones or crias will follow along and don't do as well in the harsh elements. I don't always lock the alpacas in, only when it is extremely cold and windy, and that night it got to negative fourteen degrees on our farm with a major windchill. Also, by locking them in, it locks in all the body heat. With roughly 20 alpacas in that barn, I believe it stays considerably warmer in the winter. In addition, when temps are low, we always make sure to put out lots of hay because alpacas burn more calories to keep themselves warm plus the digesting of hay produces heat and keeps them warm. The colder the temps get, the more hay I put out. We try not to ever let their hay feeders get empty in the winter.

The fat girls and the skinny girls all hanging out together around one of the hay boxes keeping warm.

There were major drifts everywhere on our farm including in the barns where the snow blew through cracks all night. Noah came home Wednesday evening and fired up the tractor and spent a few hours digging our farm out of the snow. Here are some pictures he took the next day after everything was cleared.

The "Girl Barn" is on the left and the "Boy Barn" is on the right. Luckily, Wednesday night, Noah plowed a path out to the barns and dug out the doors. Wednesday morning, I had to jump over fences and sneak in through side doors just to get into the barns.

The snow is piling up outside the barn doors.

Catch pen full of snow. It is hard to see in the picture, but the snow is more than half way up our 5 foot fence and almost completely covering our 4 foot panels. The gates are impossible to open and close.

The inside of the girls barn. Notice the snow drifts at the far end. There is just a tiny crack under those end doors and all that snow came in and piled up overnight!

As much as I tried to block off the cracks, all this snow still managed to come in over night in the stall that the chickens and ducks hang out in in the winter.

The trusty tractor that dug us out. Every time Noah uses it, he says it is the best purchase we ever made for our farm.

Our driveway and entrance to the farm.

Our side yard and hay field beyond. We unfortunately did not get any pictures of our dogs Roz and Lola out in the snow, but you can see some of their tracks here. You know the snow is deep when your 3 1/2 foot high Great Danes have a hard time getting through it and jump through the snow like bunny rabbits.

Snow on what's left of our wood pile. We go through about 2-3 times this much wood to heat our house per year.

Our other side yard full of snow and dog tracks.

Our house buried in pine trees and snow.

The mailbox.

A massive icicle on the outside of our house....this can't be good for our house.

More icicles.

The snow was several feet deep near the road. The snow was piled up so high that it covered the first couple of rungs on our fence in the front yard. I was worried the dogs were going to just jump right over the fence.

The snow day made me wish I was a kid again....or that Eliza was big enough to go outside and play. With all the snow, there were endless possibilities for sledding, climbing snow mountains and building snow forts on our farm.

On one last note, since it is Groundhogs Day (or at least it was when we got the snowstorm), I should report that the famous Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, did not see his shadow so spring will come early this year. I sure hope Phil is right because I am not ready for any more nasty snowstorms like the Groundhog's Day Dump or as it was also referred to, the Snowpocalypse and Snowmageddon of 2011. Unfortunately, Phil only tends to be right 39 % of the time. Happy Groundhogs Day everyone!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Whole Herd Care and Monitoring Seminar

Last weekend, Noah and I attended a Whole Herd Care and Monitoring Seminar put on by MI-ALPACA at the Michigan State School of Veterinary Medicine in East Lansing. The main presenter was Dr. Pam Walker, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Professor at Ohio State University and farm veterinarian for Alpaca Jack’s Suri Farm in Findlay, OH. Dr. Walker’s seminar covered:

Differential Diagnosis of Diarrhea in Camelid Crias Gastrointestinal Parasites in Camelids How to Know When Your Camelid Is Sick Neurologic Problems in Camelids Medications for Camelids Care of Pregnant Dam to Birth Then Taking Care of the Cria! Biosecurity Measures in Shows and Breeding Herds

Also, Dr. Judy Marteniuk, DVM, MS large animal vet and professor for Michigan State University presented a lecture on Generally Accepted Agricultural & Management Practices.

Noah and I really enjoyed Dr. Walker’s lecture and feel as though we took away a lot of useful information. We also received a helpful book with chapters on each of the topics presented which will really come in handy on our farm. While there were some veterinarians and vet students in attendance at the seminar, it was really tailored for alpaca farmers. Dr. Walker was easy to understand and interesting to listen too. In addition to teaching at Michigan State University and Ohio State University, she has worked for Alpaca Jacks, who has a herd size in the hundreds, for the last 8 years. She truly is an alpaca expert! She has pretty much seen everything! While I learned a lot of useful information from the seminar, here are some of the highlights that I found most interesting and helpful.

In the book that we received, there is a whole section on medications and de-wormers and it gives in laymen’s terms what they do, how they should be administered, what their uses are, and what alpacas they should and should not be used on (pregnant females, cria, etc). She also gave us information on pharmacies that only carry certain meds, including ones she has had them make up for her. We also learned where to get good plasma and colostrum.

Dr. Walker did an awesome job on telling us the symptoms of many different parasites, diseases, injuries, and illnesses that affect alpacas so that we can better diagnose our own alpacas when something is wrong. She also gave us information on what tests we should have run and what labs perform those test if we see certain symptoms so that we could pinpoint the cause.

One interesting thing I learned is a slurry recipe that she makes for alpacas who are unable to eat or crias who are unable to nurse. I thought it was very interesting as I recently made up my own slurry recipe for a very thin cria we had and my recipe was very similar to hers. One of the main differences that I learned was that I had put Karo Syrup in my recipe for added sugar and energy (which our vet had recommended to us last year with a sick alpaca). Well according to Dr. Walker, ruminants, like alpacas cannot utilize the sugar found in kayro syrup and molasses. It won’t hurt them, but it doesn’t do any good.

Another thing I learned was that Dr. Walker recommends breeding large maiden females as early as 14 months old before they reach 150 lbs. She said that she first makes sure they are at least 120-130lbs and interested in breeding by kushing in the presence of a male. If they are not kushing, she does not force it. The reason she breeds earlier though is because large females who are more prone to be fat will have fat stored in their mammary tissue when they are maidens and can possibly cause them to be poor milk producers.

She also told us exactly how to best do fecal tests for alpacas. Unfortunately, I suspect our veterinarian is not doing them correctly for alpacas and they are charging us $20 each. Noah and I have decided that we are either going to try to find a fecal test seminar to take or get a parasite book and teach ourselves. We already have the microscope, and we plan to look for a centrifuge on ebay. I think being able to test our own alpacas will really help us to have better overall herd health on our farm. Also, we have been using the fendendazole paste to treat for certain parasites if they show up in our fecals and she recommends using the liquid as it is more affective. We also learned different drugs we can try if our parasites become immune to certain de-wormers.

I also learned that all alpacas have mites, especially the ones that live between their toes. The only time you see mange in alpacas is when alpacas have a sensitivity and allergic reaction to the mites. I have heard of farms treating this with frontline spray, which Dr. Walker said is not effective. She recommends using a lime-sulfur ointment that she has compounded at a certain pharmacy and that our vet can order. We have not had mange on our farm, but this is good to know if we ever do.

Another really interesting thing I learned was that Dr. Walker believes that any probiotic paste…including probios and jumpstart are not effective. She said that because the organisms are dehydrated, they are dead and therefore do nothing in the gut of an alpaca. She recommended using live culture plain yogurt, which is what I normally put in our alpaca’s bottles and slurries. But I have used the paste on adults. In the future, I will use yogurt instead.

Another interesting tidbit I learned is that she does not recommend using Diatomaceous Earth (DE) for parasite control in alpacas. In the last year or two, I have heard a lot of talk about this from other farms and on forums online. I have heard of farms putting it on their poo piles and some feeding it to their alpacas. Dr. Walker said that while it can kill parasites if they ingest it by lacerating their insides, she doesn’t think enough parasites eat it to be that effective. She said it can also be very dangerous for alpacas if they inhale it or get it in their eyes as it can cause the same type of lacerations in their eyes or lungs.

I also learned about some good and safe ways to disinfect the barn which I plan to try this spring.

There was also some good information in the dam and cria section, but we had already learned most of the basics of birth in our neonatal seminar we took a few years ago. But the refresher was nice hear.

I also enjoyed hearing Dr. Walker talk about all the different cases she has encountered. She talked about different treatments that she has tied and perfected or tried and decided are not helpful. It really helped me to normalize illnesses, disease and injury in alpacas and make me realize that you do what you can, but not all alpacas can be saved, and the sad fact is that some need to be euthanized. Also, sometimes the treatment can be more expensive than an alpaca is worth or leave an alpaca with a poor quality of life so it doesn’t always make sense to treat them. Although somewhat depressing, I found this refreshing as I am always worried something tragic might happen to one of our alpacas. I think it is just an anxious response I have after some crappy things happening in life over the last few years, including our first alpaca dying last year. I always expect the worst. Her talk helped me to understand that sometimes bad things happen to our alpacas and we can only do our best and if they don’t make it, it is okay.

Lastly, we learned about Vet-A-Visit Day 2011 at MSU. It is an open house for the Vet School on Saturday, March 19 from 9am-4pm. We probably won’t be attending as Noah has to work and I have something else planned that day already, but it looked like they were offering lots of fun and free events that day for adults and kids. I wanted to mention it in case anyone else was interested in attending.

After the seminar, I talked with Dr. Walker for a little while. I met her over the phone a year ago when we purchased our suri Paisley from Alpaca Jacks so I gave her an update on how Miss Paisley was doing. I also asked her if she has any females that routinely give birth during the night since one of our boarders has given birth to her first 2 cria at night without any problems even though alpacas will almost always give birth before 4:00 in the afternoon. The later you get past 2:00pm, the more likely you are to experience dystocia (birth complications). Dr. Walker said she will occasionally have females who will routinely give birth at night with no problems and they make sure to breed them in the warm months so crias aren’t born outside when it is cold. We also discussed our female Lady’s recurring mastitis. Actually, Dr. Walker suspects that it is not mastitis at all, but that Lady’s produces so much milk and her udder gets so engorged that it breaks blood vessels which is why there is blood in the milk. She said that she has had dams like this, although I don’t think as severe of cases where one of the teats actually ruptured like Lady’s did 2 years ago when her cria was only nursing off 1 of the teats. She said the other teats should have stopped producing milk if he wasn’t nursing off them, but obviously they did not. She suggested stripping milk out of Lady several times a day and forcing the cria onto her teats, but still supplementing with a bottle. We had completely bottle fed cria number 1 and actually tried this method with Lady and cria number 2 and it was a horrible disaster. Not only did Lady fight us tooth and nail….or maybe I should say spitting, bucking and kicking when we had to strip her out, but the cria would refuse the bottle even though he wasn’t getting enough milk because he preferred his mom. Also, Noah and I work full time, so we don’t have the luxury of being on the farm all day and having time to strip her a half dozen times a day. Needless to say with her cria number 3, we went back to completely bottle feeding and letting her dry up even though it can be a little time consuming, but much easier. Most likely, we will do this again this year as this method has worked best for us.

Dr. Walker used to be a vet for Michigan State and I wish that she still was. She would be an awesome vet to have nearby! On the way home, Noah and I daydreamed what it might be like to have such a large alpaca farm that we would be able to employ our own vet. Maybe someday if I win the lottery I suppose! : ) All in all, the seminar was awesome and probably could have been 2 days instead of 8 ½ hours. It was definitely worth the $65 for us both to attend! I would definitely recommend any of her seminars. It was also nice spending the day with Noah and getting back to our “alpaca roots.” We have been so busy over the last year with preparing for our first child, having Eliza and now working (Noah is working 75 hours per week right now) that we haven’t spent hardly any time together, especially doing “alpaca stuff.” The alpacas have really been put on the back burner the last year so I really enjoyed spending a day to focus on them again and make some new plans for our farm this year.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Not Alpacas....but Alpaca Related.... I really have wanted to catch up on our farm blog, but my time is so precious these days. I am back to working full time and spending every extra minute I have with my little girl and taking care of our farm and house of course, so it doesn't leave much time for blogging unfortunately. I wanted to post a few pictures of our little one. Eliza is wearing a hand knit alpaca hat and sweater. The fiber is from one of our alpacas Cafe and was hand spun and then knitted by our friend Cara of Oak Haven Alpacas. Thank you so much! We love the outfit...especially in these cold winter months. The first few pictures are when she was 2 weeks old.

At 3 months old now, she has grown more into the hat and sweater.