August 2007 Alpaca Days of Summer
We are now waiting for Puella to give birth. She is not due until August 23 but last year she was four days early. Prince William has more than doubled his weight; his fleece is solid dark brown and very bright. During these hot days the girls mostly stay under the barn in front of the fan. I hosed them off one day and at first Dolores was the only one to take advantage of it. Then one by one, they each crept closer to the hose and eventually several were lying down in the puddle being formed. The next time we brought out the hose, Prince William, just like his Mom, decided he loved it and got completely soaked--all the while doing the most amazing athletic cria capers! What fun.
Evie now goes quite nicely on the lead and will be ready for New England Coastal Classic in the fall. NECC filled up before they even publicized that it was open for registration. A little frustrating so my tip for you if you plan to show is to frequently check the website of the shows you plan to attend and register early!
We re-checked Dolores July 4th and this time she bred again. We brought Mystique in too and down she went right away. We had to pull Skye off right away--afterall, he is her half brother!
We figured she was not bred. So we took her back to visit Domingo and she had very strange behavior. She didn't go down until practically forced and then she would lie half on her side. She did this for a few weeks--we really couldn't tell if she was pregnant or not. Laila decided to have her progesterone tested and it came back Not Pregnant. Then bred normally the next day. So I guess she was just not ready. Why she spit off in May I don't know, but being a maiden, it is hard to know exactly what their behavior means.
Skye also went to Mountain Brook Farm to breed one of Cindy and Mingle's girls. It will be very exciting to see what our boys produce.
June was a very busy month! Our eldest daughter was graduating and there were many graduation activities. Our newest cria, Prince William, was born on her graduation day which was also Chuck's birthday. We came home from a graduation party to find him already up and just about nursing--still very wet but looking strong. Dolores is such a good mother; she had already passed the placenta and was up and eating. Chuck decided that since the cria was born on his birthday that he should be named ofter him. His first name is actually William--so hence the name.
I stopped by White Birch Alpacas in Turner after a work picnic. I hadn't seen them in a few years. We talked and I offered for them to breed to Thunder's Best. Martha came over an picked him up. She put them together right away and he bred her female who continued to spit off after that with no doubt. So our lovely Rose-Grey male settled his first female at just shy of two.
We decided to give Skye a chance again and found that he was much more agressive than the previous fall. He is a bit of a late bloomer but certainly knows what to do now. Dolores was receptive the second time we brought her out. Each female is different--she ran away at first and then kushed by the gate (awkward spot!).
We tested a week later and she spit, kicked and ran away.
May brought shearing days again. This is a big job but one that is made quite fun with our shearing partners from Mt. Brook Farm, Dan and Cindy Mingle. We use two tables and at least three handlers. Dan is the master shearer while one handler holds the head. The other handler is assisting with taking the restraints off the legs Dan needs them and assisting with turning. That job usually went to Chuck. Cindy removed the fleece as it comes off the animal and then did toenails and shots. In a very strict shearing environment, we shoudn't be toenails at the same time, practically speaking it is the way to go. We usually wait until the blanket is off. We try to limit the amount of lifting that Dan has to do to prevent fatigue. We need to keep him rested for the shearing--it is by far the hardest job.
We did 40 animals in about 2.5 days. Not as fast as the professionals but we have fun and don't feel the pressure.
May 31 saw us at an Open Farm Day at Long Plains Alpacas. She organized a very nice day with food, a shearing demostration and lots of animals and fleece. The crowd was steady without being overwhelming and we talked to quite a few people who were interested in alpacas.
We tested Mystique with Sugar Ray to see if she was pregnant and she wanted nothing to do with him.
Spring of 2007 brought us to our first North American Alpaca Show. Large classes, lots of alpacas. Friendly folks and two ribbons. The classes at North American are much larger than Coastal Classic. They divide them by color and then age so that each class is around 12 to 14 animals. Early on, the judge picks the top six and excuses the rest. For us, we made the cut in both our classes. Destini's Dahlia, out of Coyo Destini, placed fourth! We were very pleased. The judge had very nice things to see (see our For Sale page). Sugar was a real tiger--her personality is such that I probably should have waited until she was older to see if she settled down. Though she would walk on the halter, she wouldn't stand still for even a second. Jack Dibbs of Sallie's Fenn Alpacas was kind enough to take her in the class for me. He gave her a heck of a time, but she still made the cut and placed sixth. Still a very respectable showing in those large classes.
I had the delightful experience of sharing pen space with Sallie's Fen alpacas and other members of the Alpaca Resource Group. Due to a scheduling mix-up, I ended up without a pen, and Sallie's Fen offered for me to share. Jack was hugely helpful in handling Sugar for me. So if you are going to a show and end up without a pen, I encourage you to put your name out there to let people know. You might have a real good time sharing with someone new!
Halter training for the young ones going to North American. We took Evie, Sugar and Dahlia out the first time and Evie just about died of fright. She threw herself on the ground with heavy breathing and could not be persuaded to join the others on our walk. We decided she just was not ready and we decided she would stay home. Dahlie and Sugar quickly got the hang of it though Sugar refused to stay still.
It has been a very active two months! All the animals are doing well. Sugar is outpacing Evie but both are rambunctious, eating grain and playing . I am so impressed with their fleece.
Despite repeated tries, Skye was not able to get Andromeda pregnant. So we decided, to look for another male to breed to. What we realized though, was that we had a very nice female that we could perhaps use to trade with so we began our quest for a male and a trade. It was an interesting journey and one that I would recommend for everyone to consider when they are starting out. We found some folks who were very interested in trades and some who were not. We had a few criteria that made it more difficult 1) the male had to be proven 2) dense and good crimp. Many people who have upcoming males of good quality and have even been shown, but are not yet prodigy tested. This is the best way to know if a male is able to pass on his qualities to the cria. Some can do very well in the show ring, but their best traits just don't show up in the offspring. At this stage of our breeding program, we did not want to take the chance on someone new.
In our search we came upon Journey's End alpaca's Yupanqui's Kokopelli. Unfortunately, they were not interested in a trade but we are very excited about this male. I do not think I had ever felt what density was really like until I had my hands in this fleece. At even at nine years of age, his crimp was uniform from his tail all the way up his neck. Andromeda's baby Evie, this year, is beautiful out of Evander so I can only imagine what she might produce with "Koko." The world of alpacas is relatively small and one of the reasons that we were willing to breed to Koko was on the testimony of Linda Bat of Delphi Alpacas. I had contacted Linda in 2005 when we were looking for a female and she was so straightforward with me, responsive and just plain pleasant to deal with. Sue Watts of Calidad Alpacas had actually purchased the very female I had asked Linda about and she had the same thing to say about her. Please read her comments on Koko's page.
It was great to meet Peter and Theresa Morin who own him and they were very willing to work with us to pay on time--even though that wasn't advertised. "Don't be afraid to ask" is my tip of the year.
When we took Thunder to Coastal Classic, he was admired by several people there, including Laila Roukounakis of Graceland Alpaca Farm. She is very intersted in developing a dark-colored breeding program and has a lovely male Dalia's Domingo that she was willing to do a trade with. Domingo is a son of Silvio, owned by Magical Farm. So Mystique and Domingo are now "proudly" co-owned. And from all we can tell, Mystique was bred on the first try. She was Non Responsive (NR) to Skye for three weeks post breeding. At this stage, we do not want a cria born in the middle of Nov or December so if she is open, we will not rebreed her until Spring.
November 18 and 19, I attended the Cameron Holt Seminar in Portland sponsored by Maine Alpaca Association. A lot to digest, but what I took away from the experience is that my eye is pretty good and I am getting a better feel for the quality and character of fleee. I still need to work on being able to tell fineness. Several people have said that they have trained their touch to be able to discriminate in microns--I am not there yet!
We had been keeping a close eye on all our animals as winter approached and were concerned about Andromeda. She was quite thin so we took her to our favorite alpaca vet, Barb Perkins. She did a fecal and detected a mild case of worms and recommened a round of Panacur paste in addition to our regular regime of monthly Ivermectrin. She also recommended feeding her up to eight cups a day to of Evans Camelid S/G/L which is formulated for lactating females. We had been using Evans Alpaca Maintenance.
We have been able to segregate her at feeding time and after a few weeks, found that she is indeed putting on weight. She is used to the routine now and waits outside for her "special dish."
Listing our animals on consignment with Marcia McDonald of Long Plains Alpacas has paid off. We have not sold any yet, but we are getting people interested. It works well for both of us to have more animals for people to see. Marcia is great, always flexible and willing to help.
Another year has rolled around and this makes four years of owning alpacas. It is a treat still to go out and see them, clean up around them, feed them and watch them play. Their behaviors change with the seasons. This is the time of year that the crias love to nestle next to their moms in the pasture. And with the fresh snow, they were out playing and chasing the crows. This beats money in the bank!