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Friday, October 6, 2017

What they don’t tell you about owning alpacas

Baby Dazel

Baby Dazel

Five years ago we bought our first four alpacas: Nobody (that you believe) tells you why not to buy alpacas. So that is my reflection for today. Mistakes that we have learned from.

Our first three girls were half sisters. The seller wanted to keep them together so offered a buy one this price, two with a discount or three for a bigger discount. Yes, I could understand why she wanted to keep her pride and joys together. They had always been together. And it was a bargain price. What I wasn’t told was that in a small herd, we might have breeding challenges because so many alpacas and their offspring are related.
Our second purchase came at a hefty price. She was a beautiful cria with good bloodlines. The sellers did not budge on price. We wanted her, more than they wanted to sell her. Maybe we could have negotiated harder. We still love her dearly, however, we will never know if we paid too much. They showed her a lot and she won many ribbons and even a trophy. We have many quality alpacas that have never competed. Their bloodlines are excellent and fiber outstanding. Don’t be fooled by the number of ribbons. Some people chose not to incur the expense or time it takes to compete.
When my husband gives me the green light to do something, I jump right in with both feet. No problem, I thought. We were planning to move back to the Midwest. We can board our alpacas until we buy a farm. Did not expect it to take over a year to find and purchase a home for our animals. The good news is we boarded at three different places while we were in transition. We learned a lot and got excellent care. Bad news: we spent a lot of money. I would recommend that you have a place for your animals to live before you buy. We would love to board your animals if you are independently wealthy or while you are fine tuning your farm/ranch.
We read that 97% of the time alpacas do not need assistance with giving birth. Guess what, we had one pregnancy re-absorb and one still born before the alpacas even got to our farm. Our first cria died at four months from a twisted colon. We continued to have two additional still borns on our farm. So sad, when you wait a whole year and don’t have a viable birth. Despite all the phone coaching and vet calls we did not recognize mom was having a distressed labor. Another cria was a month early and caught on the pelvic bone. So sad, these are the realities that I was not expecting. Although, when the mom survives, it is a trade off. Explain to a five year old grandchild about these loses. There are times you wonder what you got yourself in to.
The good news. We now have had six viable births. Glory be! And, when they are textbook perfect, it is amazing. Even when you don’t see the birth, a new life is precious. Despite all the hard lessons. Raising alpacas is a joy. Some days can be heart breaking, but so is life. It takes courage at times. But I know I am in the right place when I see those sweet faces.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fall Reflections on the Alpaca Farm

North Star and Dazel

North Star and Dazel

Gone are the 90 degree days of summer. Our alpacas are enjoying cooler days. There is much more frolicking on the farm. It is expected from our two crias, born this summer. North Star is now three months old and Dazel is two months old today. The babies are constantly running and playing. Occasionally, the big girls get a burst of energy and join in on the fun. It is hard to believe that babies North and Daz need to be separated soon. We will start weaning North in a couple of months. Then he will move in with the males. Our playful babies will be neighbors and maybe be bred in a few years. For now, I embrace the joy of their energy and the quiet moments when they are nursing.

Our children and grandchildren grow so fast. Alpacas and crias grow even faster, Indy, Topaz, and Kingston are penned together. King and Topaz are two years old. My baby Indy is one. Not really “little boys, but they have grown up together, sheltered from the “big boys”. King will be moving in with the two big boys when North moves. Change is constant on the farm. In fact, Chiana, our livestock guard dog, moved in weighing a whopping twelve pounds. Today, she is ninety-seven pounds. Her and Kingston were born about the same time and have enjoyed “romping” together ever since. Their bond is quite special.

It should come as no surprise that alpacas have very different personalities, much like our children and grandchildren. Yes, they are livestock. And change is in the air.
King, Indy, and Topaz

King, Indy, and Topaz

Dazel nursing with Gypsy

Dazel nursing with Gypsy

Chiana at 12# s

Chiana at 12# s

Kingston and Chiana

Kingston and Chiana

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Spring on an Alpaca Farm

Spring on the Alpaca Farm

There are many changing seasons in life. Spring for us on the alpaca farm means: it is time to shear the animals before it gets to hot, it is time to clean the barn and get the fans down; And the anticipation of new life is just around the corner.

At Alpacas of Chambana, we are expecting two new babies. Baby alpacas are called Crias. They range from 15 to 20 pounds when they are born. They look like they are all legs. Within 90 minutes they usually have taken there first steps on wobbly legs. They have learned who mom is, where the milk comes from, and how to run. A lot of change happens in a small window of time. If you are blessed enough to witness it, it is so cool.

Last year on Memorial Day Weekend, my sister was visiting from WI. When I was dressing, I joked with her, "since I am wearing white capris today, we will probably have a birth." We were getting ready to watch the Indy 500, a tradition in my household. As I walked over to turn on the TV, I glanced out the window. Low and behold, Clarity was standing in the sunshine, facing the barn and starting to labor. I yelled with excitement, "We are going to have a baby, it's birthing time! Come quickly!" Out we went to the barn, in a matter of minutes, a cria was on the ground. He didn't stay on the ground long. He stood up on pretzel stick like legs. And started exploring. The female alpacas gathered around, as if to cheer them on. He was off and running. A perfect delivery, a healthy cria, and we saw the whole thing.

We appropriately named him, Indy. This weekend Indy turns one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why do you want to have alpacas anyway?

Grandma Ruth,
Why do you want to have alpacas anyway?

Good question. My first response is because they are so darned cute.
Well there are a lot of cute animals out there so that must not be the
only reason. Puppies are cute, but they bark, come running with their
tail wagging and give you puppy kisses. Alpacas are not like that.
They only have a few sounds they make. Mostly they just hum. If you
listen closely, the hums mean different things. Sometimes they are
saying. I am lonely, where are my friends. Alpacas are social animals.
They want to be with their friends, old or new. If their friends are
playing outside, they want to play outside. If their friends are laying
on the barn floor, they want to lay on the barn floor If their friends
are eating grain, they think they must be eating grain.

Alpacas don't jump on you and bite. They only have two bottom teeth.
If they wanted to bite, it wouldn't hurt. When they are angry, they may
stomp their feet. If they are afraid, they will send out a warning
call to other animals. They put their head up and look in the direction
of the danger. They make a high pitched squeaky noise to tell their
friends to "beware". Then everyone looks in the direction of the danger
until they feel safe.

The other noise alpacas make is a clicking noise. When they have new
babies they will make clicking noise at the nose or tail of the baby, to
say "I love you and want to take care of you"! Alpacas love to make
you happy. They are really good at making you smile. The babies like to
run and play. Most alpacas are good moms.

Beside smiles, alpacas give us their fleece to be made into warm
garments. They have so much soft fleece that keeps growing and growing.
Once a year, before it gets too hot, they get a hair cut. Their
fleece can be made into yarn for making hats, scarves, gloves and socks.
Their fleece is used to make sweaters, shawls, and blankets. The good
news is that alpacas live to be about twenty years old. During that
time, they can give us lots of beautiful yarn to help keep us warm.

Alpacas are easy to care for. They don't need a bath or to wash their
hair. They mostly eat grass, hay, or grain. And they almost always
poop in the same place. This makes it easy clean up after them. Some
people raise them for pets and walk them like a dog.
Some people raise them for their fleece to make things. And some
people raise them to make babies and sell them to good homes. The main
reason, Grandma Ruth has alpacas is to make her smile. And bring smiles
to those who visit.