The Latest Scoop
8 October 2010 - I have been working with the yearling girls in preparation for the upcoming fall shows. While in the show ring, the judge will approach each alpaca and examine their teeth, ears, and under the tail in addition to the fleece.
In practicing for this, I train the alpacas to anticipate what will happen by saying “teeth”, “fleece”, “tail”, etc. At our last show, as the judge approached us, he overheard me whisper “teeth” into Briza’s ear. He completed the litany by saying “ears”, “under the tail”, “fleece” as he quickly examined my alpaca. He repeated this with each of the other 2 girls when they appeared before him. Initially, I wasn’t sure how my girls would react but they were very calm---even Belle who has in the past come close to bowling over a judge.
I think this judge’s calm, matter-of-fact approach, along with letting them know what to expect, helped put my alpacas at ease. I have on more than one occasion seen various judges show visible annoyance towards the handler of an unruly alpaca. We are expected as exhibitors to have our animals under control and while I certainly agree with this, I have seen that individual judges do vary in their approach to the animals and some are better than others at approaching the alpaca in an unthreatening manner.
At the next show I am attending there will be a handling seminar the first night after we check in. We will be given tips on how to present ourselves and our alpacas to the judge. I would be curious to know if during a judge's training---which I know is very, very extensive---if they are given any instruction as to how to put the exhibitors and animals at ease in what can be a very threatening situation for a newbie.
5 October 2010 – Last Saturday morning dawned cool and clear with a hint of autumn in the air---a perfect day for a fall festival. That is just where we were off to.
This would be the first time to take my alpacas out as PR animals and I was uncertain as to which ones to take. My boys are friendly enough---but they tend to be rowdy until they adjust to new surroundings and they are only friendly in a typical alpaca way---their “friendliness” is really just curiosity.
Now my yearling girls are really friendly! They love to see visitors. Although Belle hangs back somewhat, Bixa and Briza rush to the fence, offering up their soft velvety noses for kisses. Their whole body language seems to be saying “we are so glad to see you!”
So it was off to the fall festival with the yearling girls and they did not disappoint. I was concerned that the steady crowd around their pen all day long would be too stressful for them, but by the end of the day they were freely allowing visitors to scratch their topknots.
So it was a perfect day in all ways. The park setting was beautiful---we were along a stream and under the dappled shade of giant maple trees. The sales of my knit and woven items were great and we had the opportunity to bring awareness of alpacas----the animals, their fiber, the lifestyle—to many, many people.
27 September 2010 - It is interesting how the crias are so similar to their moms in their personalities. Barbi is very vocal---she hums a lot but also screeches loudly when she is upset with one of the other girls—usually M-O-Lee as China has learned to stay out of Barbi’s way. Barbi’s daughter Briza will constantly hum to me when I am in her stall/paddock area doing chores. Barbi’s son Cosmo seems to have picked up his dam’s more unappealing vocalizations.
Last night the crias were eating their grain in the center aisle of the barn where they are fed by themselves, away from the adults. I was outside filling water buckets when I heard this horrible screeching---it was Cosmo, in some sort of tiff with Cynara. Ordinarily I would leave the crias to work it out by themselves but Cynara is my favorite of the babies. She is very petite and Cosmo is quite a chunk, outweighing her by over 25 pounds. If they were out in the pasture, she would be able to get away from him as she is very quick and agile but I was concerned that in the confined space of the barn center aisle she would get hurt. So I promptly intervened, putting Cosmo back in with the adults. Feeling full of himself, he took on China. Big mistake. China is a sweet, gentle soul, but she has no patience for uppity crias. She took care of him in short order and when I looked out at the herd before leaving the barn, Cosmo was standing off by himself with only Ella the llama for company.
And they all know not to mess with Ella!
23 September 2010 – I have this rose bush at the end of the yearling girls’ porch which has been doing very well these past couple of years . At the end of the day, I dump what remains in the alpacas’ bucket of electrolytes onto this bush and it re-blooms throughout the season.
However, Briza has developed a taste for rose buds. She climbs up on our “no-climb” fence to reach over and snacks on whatever she can get to. The whole side of the bush has been pruned by Briza and is bare of flowers.
I keep telling her that if she would just be patient and leave the rose buds alone, come fall she would have rose hips to munch on. But does an alpaca ever listen??
15 September 2010 – I have been very busy over the past month preparing for my first venture as a vendor for my handknit and handwoven items. This past weekend I attended the Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival in Harford, PA.
It was a great event! My sales more than met my expectations and I met so many nice people---all fiber addicts. There seemed to constantly be fiber-related conversations going on around me and often passers-by, overhearing us, would stop to join in.
I received enough compliments on my work that I can feel assured that I am headed the right direction with my fiber arts.
Now, it’s back to my weaving and knitting as I prepare for my next event.
16 August 2010 - Our 3 crias are being treated for coccidia, a parasite common to alpacas and one which can overwhelm young animals whose immune systems are not fully developed. Coccidia are microscopic one-celled organisms that live and reproduce within the cells that line the intestinal tract . They are parasites not worms. Coccidia are widespread in the environment and affect almost every class of animals to some extent. Healthy animals are able to tolerate a certain number of these parasites without showing signs of illness.
Young alpacas are more at risk for problems developing from coccidia than adults. A healthy alpaca keeps coccidia in check with its own immune system. Young alpacas whose immune system is not fully developed, alpacas with poor nutrition, stressed alpacas, or alpacas that have other diseases can all be susceptible to being overwhelmed by this parasite. When an alpaca’s immune system is unable to keep the coccidia in check, the parasite can reproduce to the point of causing the cells lining the intestine to rupture.
Our crias do not have any symptoms---they appear healthy and are growing well, but when a routine fecal exam showed the presence of coccidia, our vet recommended that we give treatment as this can progress rapidly and be deadly in young animals
The medication they are getting is Albon . It is a sulfa drug and tastes awful. I decided to taste it after the crias reacted so violently to their first dose---gagging , spitting and really carrying on. Now, we have 4 days of treatment behind us and while they clearly do not enjoy the taste, they do not resist as much and more or less tolerate my administering the foul-tasting liquid. I use a syringe, such as used for injections, with a long curved metal tip screwed on to make an oral dosing syringe. They have learned that this is nothing to be frightened of.
So while no one likes to take medicine, they are learning at a young age to tolerate the process---this is a good thing as they will surely have occasions later in life to be given various things by mouth and a cooperative alpaca makes it much easier.
10 August 2010 - And so we continue with the dog days of summer---so named due to the conjunction of the sun with the dog star Sirius at this time of year. As the bright Sirius rises and sets with the sun, the ancients believed that its heat added to the sun’s intensity. I am inclined to believe that!
The alpacas spend almost all of their time in front of their fans, going out to the pasture in the early evening for a few hours of grazing. They appear to be bored and the crabby ones are even crabbier. Barbi and M-O-Lee continue to have almost daily spats over one thing or another. But M-O-Lee continues to do well, is slowing gaining back the weight she lost, and I am glad she feels well enough to engage in her little disagreements with Barbi.
The yearlings are particularly bored. They figured out how to take their buckets off the hooks and were constantly spilling their water. We have the type hooks with a guard at the top to prevent them from easily dislodging but the girls figured it out. Now I have to tie their buckets on with twine which creates more work for me but gives them more entertainment as they try to figure it out.
I couldn’t understand why the big girls buckets are always so dirty---requiring frequent cleaning. Then I saw that China has the disgusting habit of getting a mouth full of cud, then dipping into the bucket to wet it all down. Leads to nasty-looking buckets.
All the pacas look forward to their daily belly hosing. The adults are so funny as they turn this way and that, presenting different sides of their bodies to the water. The crias haven’t figured this out yet---they just jump up and down with the excitement of it all. Except Cosmos---he turns his rear end to me and lifts his tail so his little “jewels” can get cooled off by the water. At his young age, he has figured out what’s important and worth preserving!
28 July 2010 - M-O-Lee has had several good days now and we are hopeful that her gastric upsets are over. Her lab results came back normal but we are concerned about a 12 weight loss in a 3 week time period. This is in addition to the 20-something pounds she lost with delivery of her cria 8 weeks ago. M-O-Lee does not tend to drop weight with a nursing cria.
We are not sure what caused her problem, or what cured it---probably multiple causes in each case.
There has been the stress of the heat---M-O-Lee is the least heat-tolerant of all my alpacas. Plus, in mid-summer, she tends to react to the clover in our pastures by drooling, although she has never in the past shown any discomfort from this. I have always added powered MSE, a probiotic, to their grain, but had run out about a month ago and, not sure if this was really necessary, did not order more. Then we ran out of our alpaca hay and they have been eating the hay we have for our horse, which is a little coarser than what they are used to. So—heat, no probiotic, different hay, clover or something else in the pasture---all possible stressors.
As for the cure?? Hard to say. I noticed that when I would give her either probiotic paste or yogurt, M-O-Lee would feel better after about 30 minutes and begin eagerly eating. So I ordered more MSE and have her back on this. Then she received an ulcer medication, from our vet just in case this was what was brewing. The girls have now rotated into a different pasture, although the pasture she was in while having these stomach upsets has very little clover in it. Perhaps something else in that field?
So---whatever the cause---and whatever the cure---we are happy that our M-O-Lee appears to be back on track and we will be monitoring her very closely and giving her a couple handfuls of alfalfa hay every day to help with her weight.
22 July 2010 – Everyone continues to be tired of this relentlessly hot weather. Barbi plopped herself down in front of the fan this morning and refused to get up, despite Cosmo’s frequent pleadings to nurse. He kept trying to wedge his nose under her rear haunches and she kept snapping at him. She was not about to risk losing her prime location in front of the fan.
M-O-Lee has again been moping about at intervals, refusing to eat. Our vet will be coming out later today to draw blood for lab work. Cynara stays close by her side---she seems to be aware that her mom doesn’t feel right.
On one of my trips to the barn to check on M-O-Lee, I saw that Cosmo had eventually succeeding in getting Barbi to stand so that he could nurse. China was kushed in Barbi’s former spot in front of the fan. China does not appear to mind the heat to the extent that the others do, so I am sure that she will soon give up the prime location and head out to the pasture. Usually when China goes out, all of the crias go out with her.
Jack and the boys have taken to spending most of their time in front of the fans in their stall. There is plenty of shade, and usually a nice breeze, in their pasture but they seem to feel that it’s just too darn hot to make the long trek up the hill to their field.
The yearling girls sleep most of the day in their stall. They will have shade later in the day in their pasture, so they will wait to go out.
And we have at least 6 more weeks of summer to go. I am glad that we live in a location where the nights are relatively cool and pleasant so at least the alpacas get some relief there.
15 July 2010 – Another hot day today after a few cloudy rainy days of reprieve. The heat has been in the high 90’s – low 100’s off and on over the past 10 days. I feel as though these are days to just get through, step by step. Cleaning up poop piles, keeping water buckets full, checking on the alpacas as to their well-being---the normal daily activities become something to endure, rather than enjoy as I usually do. M-O-Lee went off her feed one day and I was concerned as she usually is a real food hog. I gave her some ProBios and kept a close watch on her and she snapped out of it after a few hours. Our vet felt it was due to heat stress and indeed M-O-Lee is the least heat tolerant of all my alpacas. She then wanted to make up for not eating earlier. M-O-Lee and I have this little ritual we do---she looks me in the eye and smacks her lips and I give her a handful of grain. There were a lot of pleading looks and lip smackings going that day but it would not be good for her belly to be overloaded with grain so I had to resist.
The animals usually spend most of the day in the barn in front of the fans, emerging late in the day when they know I will show up to hose their bellies. All of them love the hose and I usually get wet myself as they crowd me and jockey for position closest to the hose. I decided to try a sprinkler---I had heard that the pulsating type sprinkler, set at chest level was good for alpacas. Also, this would allow me to do other things while the pacas were playing in the water.
The older girls did not like the sprinkler so it was back to the hose for them. The yearling girls loved the sprinkler. However Briza kept managing to get thoroughly soaked all over, then she would go and roll in the stone dust in her paddock. I tried locking her out of the paddock and she then would go off and find a dust spot to roll in. All this brushes out easily now when she dries off but as her fleece grows longer this is not going to be good. Plus Briza for some reason likes to hold her head so that the water shoots up her nose. I can’t imagine what is behind all this---but it is back to the hose for all.