Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Paca Talk Episode-- "Problem Child"

We've posted a new Paca Talk Episode about our "Problem Child" Little Margie. We had to bottle-feed her for a few days, and it took her a long time to gain weight at a reasonable rate.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Big Cat


I saw a cougar on the private drive leading up to our ranch tonight! It ran in front of me along the road for a bit until it crossed the creek and could run down the other bank, so I got a good long look at it. Unmistakeable 4-foot long tail.

This is the second time the cat has been seen near our ranch. The last time was six weeks ago, a little closer to the house. Our neighbor and her children saw it in the daytime as they drove home. They watched it "play" for several minutes, also confirming the long tail and tawny coat. My neighbor also said that the cat seemed "young," and I'll have to second the impression. There was something rangy and half-grown puppy-like about the way the cat its feet were too big or something.

Well, exciting as that is, what it points out again, some more, is that though our female and baby alpacas enjoy the safety of a barn, our adult male alpacas sleep outside, unprotected. We don't worry too much about them for a couple reasons: 1) cougars are ambush hunters and tend to like to pounce on prey from underbrush or drop on them out of trees. We keep our pastures free of underbrush and keep branches from overhanging the fences. The New Zealand fence we have has no hope of stopping a cougar, but then, no fence really does. 2) Big male alpacas (especially a group of them) are formidable prey. If there are easier eats out there, the cougar will go there first.

We are planning on building the boys a barn this fall, but it will be for weather protection, not cat protection.

I am considering getting a Livestock Guard Dog (LGD). More than one of my alpaca friends has one, and have had good results. Of course, they may actually have a banana in their ear (as in, "it keeps the elephants away...what? you don't see any elephants, do you?"), but I'm thinking that a large, barking deterrent might help me sleep easier at night.

Do any of you, dear readers, have opinions about LGDs? I'd love to hear them! Suggestions for breeds and ways to keep them on my property and not the neighbor's would be appreciated, too.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paca Talk #20 -- Listener Survey

This Paca Talk is a plea to please fill out our Paca Talk Yearly Listener Survey. We want to improve the show, so we need your imput!

Thank you all in advance!

maren and charles

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Alpacas in the News for 8/21 posted

In this week's "Alpacas in the News," we talk about what people in LA think an alpaca is (video) and an opening on the AOBA Fiber Committee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Alpacas in the News for 8/7/09 posted

Paca Talk #17, Alpacas in the News for August 8, 2009 is posted (late). Included are Bill the Alpaca Breeder and Tansy Ragwort pictures.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Surprise! Cria a week early!

Sophie had her baby a week early! He's a surprise, not only because he's a hair early, but also because he's a darling little brown boy: his mama's black and his daddy's grey. It really is like Christmas with alpaca colors. 

Name suggestions so far include: Stampy, Moe, and Troy McClure (you may remember him from such movies as "cry hard!").

Do you have a suggestion for a name for this little guy? Drop me a comment or send me an email if you do!


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What to do with Alpaca Fiber: Skirt it! Part 2/4

This is the second in a series of blog entries about what to do with alpaca fiber. These articles are taken from Paca Talk #2 “What to do with Fiber” which can be found on I’ve taken the time to expand each section a little more in these blog posts than we had time for in the podcast. These first four entries will focus on skirting a raw fleece.

In my previous post, I described how to make a skirting table. 

Once you have your skirting table, how do you skirt a fleece? Honestly, I can’t really TELL you how, but I’ll give you the basics. If you want to learn to do it, go find people who know how and watch them. I suggest asking to help them skirt fleeces for a day in exchange for a lesson. Certainly get help from someone if you are skirting a show fleece. Many show fleeces are marked down for improper skirting. 

To skirt a fleece, you must first decide what the fleece is for because skirting a show fleece is very different from skirting either a fleece for hand spinners or commercial applications. However, for all these applications your general purposes are the same: 

  • remove dirt (some at least)
  • remove poop
  • remove big vegetation
  • remove second cuts
  • remove hair
  • check for "tenderness"

Today, we'll talk about the first three since the others are a little more involved. 

To remove dirt, you can just spread out the fleece and bang the table a few times. This knocks out a surprising amount of dirt. You won’t find a lot of dirt in the fleeces if you used your shop vac (on “blow”) to remove the dirt just before shearing. Doing this just before shearing a show fleece isn’t recommended because it can compromise the structure of a fleece. You can do it a few days before shearing so the fiber can "reorganize" and get good results. 

Poop should be a no-brainer. Find a bean? Pick it out. Find a "smear?" Throw out the affected fiber.

"Big" VM should be removed

Big vegetable matter (VM) should be easy, too, except for that “big” qualification. My alpacas like to roll around in hay. Some places on them, especially the base of their necks, are just filled with tiny bits of hay, etc. How much work you put in to removing these bits is determined partly by the ultimate use of the fleece. If you are working on a show fleece, throw out any hunk of fleece that is badly contaminated by bits of vegetation. If the fleece is headed toward a small mill or hand spinner, do your best to get out the bits. Mills can remove a lot of VM, but remember that any VM left may end up in the yarn. 

A small amount of VM can be left in a fleece.
A small amount of VM can be left in a fleece.

That's all for now! Next time I’ll describe how to deal with second cuts. 

Monday, August 03, 2009

New Items on Etsy!

I've posted some new bags of fleece on These are some of my nicest fleeces, and they come in 2 ounce bags. Perfect for someone who wants to play with alpaca fiber, but doesn't want to commit to a whole bag!


Friday, July 31, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What to do with Alpaca Fiber: Skirt it! Part 1 of 4

This is the first in a series of blog entries about what to do with alpaca fiber originally posted on These articles are taken from Paca Talk #2 “What to do with Fiber” which can be found on I’ve taken the time to expand each section a little more in these blog posts than we had time for in the podcast. These first four entries will focus on skirting a raw fleece.

So, let’s begin!

You’ve had a big day shearing (that was Paca Talk # 1 and #14 ), and now you have a room full of plastic bags filled with alpaca fleece. Now what?

Unfortunately, there are only a couple ways to make money from a raw, unpicked fleece in a bag: 1) sell it at a discount to a hand spinner, and 2) well, I can’t think of another way.

The point is that you need to pick your fleeces clean of debris and of second cuts before you can sell it. The first thing you’ll need is a skirting table.

Here’s a picture of my El Cheapo brand skirting table:


(I’ve since moved the whole operation to the garage). It is made of PVC pipe and 1/2 inch hardware cloth and duct tape. I have lost the “plans” but basically, you need a frame of about 3’ by 5’ of either wood or pipe. Then you need to attach the 1/2 hardware cloth to it. Hardware cloth is wire mesh, and 1/2 inch holes will allow dirt, poop and some second cuts to fall through. Then you need to set it up on legs or sawhorses. Over the years, I’ve added duct tape to the edges of the cloth to keep it from snagging fiber and an anti-fatigue mat so I don’t get so worn out standing on the concrete garage floor.

That’s all for now. Next time, we’ll talk about how to skirt a fleece!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Paca Talk #15- Alpacas in the News for 7/24/09 posted 

This week, we have some VERY cute pictures of 4-Hers and their llamas and alpacas. Plus, lots of communiques from AOBA. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paca Talk #14 Posted! "The Normal Delivery"

That's right! A real, full-length Paca Talk has been posted! We cover the normal alpaca birth, what to do with placentas, and revisit shearing day 2009.



Monday, July 20, 2009

Cute nick-name

"Canyonera" is a mouthful, and it doesn't fit the cute little baby girl out in the barn. Charles suggested we call her "Can Can."

And so it was. :)


My first contribution to The Alpaca Guy!

I'm now a contributor on



Saturday, July 18, 2009

Welcome Canyonera!

Dawn's cria was born on July 15, 2009. She appeared in the pasture about 12:30 in the afternoon, a nice surprise.

She's a little one: born at about 12 pounds. She's quite a personality, however. She's what you would call "vigorous."

Let me explain the grandiose name. Her daddy is Escalade, which is the name of a very large SUV. There was an episode of the Simpsons that was about another very large SUV: the Canyonero.
This little one is a girl, so we just feminized it to Canyonera.

Here is a group shot of Canyonera (a few days), Margie (22 days)and Apu (almost 4 months).

Margie is now over 18 pounds, which isn't bad. The vet looked at her when he came to give Canyonera the once-over and decided to try a couple things: creep feeding, more vitiamin B and one more round of antibiotics because he heard a tiny rumble in her lungs.

I'll post more about the creep feeder I built in a later post. For now, just enjoy the baby cuteness.


Alpacas in the news for 7/17/09 posted

This week, a TB scare in the UK, and the results of the alpaca kissing contest! Enjoy!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Lil' Margie's gain rate

Margie is gaining about 4 ounces a day. That's half of what I'd like to see her gain. But she's bright and active, which are good signs.

Because Margie seems so sensitive to stimuli, I would hate to put her and her mama in a trailer and leave them on a strange farm for breeding. Thank fully, the person who owns the stud we want to breed Lisa to has offered to bring him to our farm so we can hand-breed them. We're close enough neighbors that this isn't too much of a problem, but there's enough distance between us that he'd rather not be driving back and forth multiple times if the first breeding doesn't take.

In other updates, Dawn will be pregnant a whole year come tomorrow. You'd think a 13 year-old dam wouldn't hold a cria this long. I have heard that one llama vet has changed his due dates this year by assuming a year plus two weeks. That would be close for all our alpacas except Cabernet, who had her baby at around 335 days this year (she's always a week or more early).

In still other news, I've picked through four or five bags of light-colored fiber. Man, I have a lot of fiber. A start is a start, though. Here's a reminder of what my fleece table looks like, though I've moved the whole operation to the garage.

That's all for now!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Alpacas in the news for 7/10/09 posted

This week's Alpacas in the News has items about a TB outbreak in alpacas in the UK, poachers killing vicunas in Peru and a cute baby seal.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Margie gaining weight!

Li'l Margie has put on 11 ounces since the vet visit. She's FINALLY over her birth weight of 14# 13oz. She's 13 days old now. A normal cria would have put on 5-6 lbs. by now.

Here's a chart of her weight in ounces (240 ounces is 15 pounds). "a" is am and "p" is pm weights:Click on the chart to get a bigger view of it.

You can see that we really had some trouble there. The biggest dip happened the day we saw Margie nursing and turned her and her mom out with the herd, like we have with every other baby we've had. That was a mistake that took a week to recover from.

I'm going to err on the side of caution and keep them confined to the barn for at least another day, then perhaps we'll let them out into the 50-foot run for a day and see if she keeps gaining weight.

She's going to make it. I wonder how long it will take for her to "catch up," though.

In other news, Dawn is now approaching the 360-days pregnant mark. She was bred on 7/14/08. Her baby is doing jumping jacks inside her and she looks alternately profoundly uncomfortable and in zen-like peace. Please, Lord of Alpaca Births, let this one be a girl.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Little Margie update

Lisa's cria is healthy, but not gaining weight.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@marenster) have been getting periodic updates on Lisa's cria, whom we have named Marge Simpson (Little Margie until she outgrows it). To those of you who rely on my blog entries for updates, I apologize for the lag in information.

The good news is that Margie is a bright, happy, vigorous little girl. The bad news is that she is 10 days old, and is not gaining weight. She even weighs 4 ounces less than she did when she was born!

As a reminder, Lisa is a first-time mom, and it took her and Margie about two days to figure out the whole nursing thing. We bottle-fed Margie for several days while they figured this out. We have been trying to bottle feed her for the past few days, but she has been refusing it. Yet, she hardly gained any weight at all.

We finally had the vet out today. He has declared that Margie is healthy, but isn't eating enough. This would sound dumb, but my own little human child had trouble eating enough when she was a week old, so there. The vet gave Margie a shot of B-vitamins to stimulate her appetite and some antibiotics just to be safe.

So, we're not going to harass her with a bottle anymore, and she and mom are confined to the barn until Margie gains some weight steadily. She is a cute little fighter, and I think she'll be fine, but man, she's absorbed a huge amount of time.

It's worth it.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bottle-feeding update

We won't have to bottle-feed Lisa's cria until she's weaned! Hooray!

We may, however, need to supplement her with a bottle during the day.

The little girl began nursing on her own on Sunday night. Light bulbs were flashing that whole day, but that evening was the first time we saw Lisa stand still as the baby connected with the teat. We heard satisfying slurping sounds, and afterward, the baby refused the bottle.

We watched her nurse again on Monday morning, she refused the bottle, and she maintained her weight overnight, so we let them out into the beautiful June sunshine. Lisa hadn't quite figured out how to defend her baby from the larger cria, and sometimes wandered off to graze, leaving the little one alone, but she is a teen-aged mother. She is much better about this today (Tuesday).

The long day outside must have been quite exhausting for the little baby, though, because we discovered when we weighed her that night that she had lost 1/2 pound since breakfast! Oops. Tuesday morning, she had maintained her weight overnight, and had a marathon nursing breakfast, and refused the bottle again. We let them back out into the fields with the herd with a little trepidation.

If she loses weight again today, I will give her a bottle (if she'll take it), and call the vet in the morning for advice. She is very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and bouncy, just as a cria should be, so I am not too concerned.

Here are some things we tried to get Lisa to let the baby nurse:
  • Kept an older dam in the stall with them
  • Moved a nursing dam into the stall next to them
  • Milked the dam to stimulate Oxytocin and so we could include mother's milk in the bottle feedings.
  • Held the dam while letting the cria walk beneath her (some new dams are afraid of things under them or near their backends)
  • Held the dam while directing the cria towards the udder/nipples.
  • Expressed some of the milk from the nipples and rubbed it on the baby's nose/let her lick it off our fingers.
  • Bottle-fed only after we tried the above.
Some things that were suggested to us, but that we couldn't or didn't try:
  • put the placenta back into the stall (it was already in the freezer at this point)
  • put the dam of the new mama in the stall with them (Grandma was on another farm being bred)
This whole experience will be part of a future Paca Talk episode, to be sure. We have learned a lot since Friday night!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lisa's Cria update

Lisa's Cria, June 27, 2009

The vet says everything is great, except mom is being a dummy about nursing. He showed us a couple techniques to try to get the light bulb to turn on, but until then, we're doing hourly feedings. Our goal is to get the baby girl strong enough that she can follow her mother around and finally nurse on her own.

The timing couldn't be better for this. I shudder to think what would have happened if the baby had been born while I was teaching, for example.

Well, anyway, I'm going to supervise my human baby. Maybe I'll go to bed when she does and make DH do the night feedings? THAT will be popular. :)


Worth the Wait

Lisa has finally had her baby! Hooray!

9:55 PM
14 lbs., 13 oz.

I checked on Lisa and Dawn just before we went out to dinner in the late afternoon yesterday. I noticed that Lisa finally had a milk bag and her vulva was longer than usual, and jiggly. But she didn't seem to be in any discomfort, just grazing away.

When we put the animals away last night (the girls and babies sleep in the barn), Lisa to me. I decided to come back and check on her in an hour, and I'm so glad I did. When I got back out there at a quarter to ten, Lisa's baby was already head and feet out! The birth was uneventful except for the time. (Nearly all alpaca births happen during daylight hours. New moms don't always read that memo).

There is a caveat, of course. Lisa is a new mom, and she is a bit clueless. She won't stand still so that the baby can nurse. I was out in the barn with them until 11:30 last night, and then went out at 2:30 a.m. to see if the baby had nursed. The cria was moving around very well, but so was Lisa.

At 6:30 a.m. it was still apparent that the baby hadn't nursed. She was going to the corners of the barn and licking the walls. Cria seem to try to nurse off of the darkest place they can find. In a field during the day, this would be under momma. In a barn, there are lots of dark places.

We made up some colostrum mix, and I've been feeding it to the baby, though I haven't been able to get much down her. The vet is coming late this afternoon to help us out. This is a strong baby, so I'm not too worried, but I wish Consuella, Lisa's mom, were here to give her some guidance.

Pictures soon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Paca Talk #10 -- Alpacas in the News for 6/26/09

Paca Talk #10 is "Alpacas in the News" for June 26, 2009.

We cover a study on endophytes in ryegrass, the new AOBA Veterinarian Forum on the AOBA website, a fungus that makes alpacas go blind in Australia, and the Grass Mud Horse makes another appearance. Plus, Farm Shout-Outs coast to coast!



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shearing Day recap

That went a lot better than we expected.

Those of you who listen to Paca Talk, our podcast, might remember Episode #2, when we talked about what a mess Shearing Day 2008 was. We didn't have a babysitter for our 7-month-old, and had to put her in a playpen in the garage with us after she woke from her nap. She wasn't happy about that and hollered for a long time as we worked. Not a good time.

Manjula, June 22, 2009

Manjula, June 25, 2009

This year, we put a lot of work into organizing the workflow. This was partly because we added three steps to the routine: we wanted to get weights on all the animals because we now have a livestock scale, we needed to give everyone worm medication, and we needed to trim toenails. These things needed to be done on shearing day because a few of the animals (the "Big Boys" as we call them) are not easily caught in their big, open feild. Whenever we DO get a hold of them, we need to perform some maintenence on them.

Anyway, besides our workflow plan, we also recruited three people to help out: my mother to babysit, a friend to pick up fleece, and another friend who is thinking of buying alpacas. (By the way, volunteering on an alpaca farm during shearing, vet trips, training days, etc. is an excellent way to learn the ropes. I've never heard of a farm refusing this kind of help). The shearer also brought two helpers instead of only one. While this cost us more money, it was worth it because it saved our backs.

Here's a picture to confirm that this is dirty, dirty work:

Here is a picture of the shearers at work:

So, in short, if you have enough people, you can get through shearing day without a whole lot of hassle.

Now I just have to figure out exactly what I'm going to do with 52 pounds of fiber.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shearing day

Gaw, I'm tired. I'll fill in the details later, but here are the vital stats:

Total clip: 52 pounds of fiber
Most fiber off an animal was Milhouse with 7.8 pounds.
We had three ladies show up to help, which was great!

Everything went really smoothly, especially when compared to last year. Maybe we CAN learn from experience!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paca Talk's Alpacas in the News! #1 Posted

Alpacas in the News is our new weekly segment of Paca Talk. We simply cannot do Paca Talk any more frequently than our current 4-6 week schedule, but I wanted to put more material into the feed. One day as I stood in the barn wishing an alpaca would just give birth already, I came up with the idea of doing a weekly, five-minute alpaca news cast.

This first cast is 10 minutes long, but that's because I explained the new cast and I went back a month for material. For the rest of the summer, I'll be posting weekly updates to the Alpacas in the News. We will also be posting Paca Talk during its regular-ish schedule. We'll see how the new cast is faring in September and decide then whether to continue it in the fall.


p.s. Lisa STILL hasn't given birth, and Dawn is due now, too. *Garh* I wish they would just read the schedule already.

Monday, June 15, 2009

We're on Etsy!

I've just opened a shop on, a mraketplace for handmade products or materials for said handmade products. I've only got one item listed so far (a beautiful fleece of Milhouse's), but over the next few days, I'll post a few more fleeces and what yarn I have. I'd love to move some of the fleece especially, since shearing day is almost upon us, and I'll just have more to store or pick and ship off to the spinnery.

Please check out the store in the next week or so. As I say on the page, I'll ship any amount of fleece, so don't let the price of a whole fleece keep you from trying us out!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

I can't believe it, but...

Lisa is STILL pregnant.

My informal poll of my alpaca friends shows that many alpacas are holding on to their spring babies for an extra 3-4 weeks! Since we pasture-bred El Barto and Lisa, I cannot pinpoint her conception date, but it was no later than June 1, 2008. That puts her at 379 days.


Alpacas are normally pregnant for 11 1/2 months, or around 340-350 days.

She is so late, that she may have her baby around the same time as Dawn, who is due June 19. I don't really expect any surprises from Dawn, who is 14 and drops her cria within a day or two of her due date.

You just never know in this business.

The other big question mark is what color the cria will be. By my guesstimate, there's a 75% chance we'll have a white baby, since both Barto an Lisa are white. However ,this is the daughter of the dam who just had a black baby from Barto, so we could get a brown or white, too.

This is like Christmas, except you have no idea when Santa will decide to slide down your chimney...only that he will.


Monday, June 01, 2009

It's alive!

Lisa is still holding on to her baby, but I know for a fact that it is in there.

A couple nights ago, I had Charles grab her and I palpated her belly. Not only did I feel bony baby parts in there, I think I felt its little nose. It felt like the baby was nibbling on my hand through Lisa's belly!

I can't decide if that was creepy or awesome.

It wasn't so hot today, so Lisa was much perkier than she has been since the heat wave began a week and a half ago. She did not spend the day following the tree shade as it moved around the tree, as she has the last week. She'll be so relieved when we shear on June 24.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lisa's late

Lisa's at day 378 of her pregnancy, based on the one pasture breeding I observed May 15, 2008. I think if I had been pregnant that long, I would have done something desperate.

When I took these pictures, Lisa was chowing down. When I was about to leave, though, she cushed down and began panting. She pants with her whole body, so she was either just cooling off, or in labor. She's been doing this off and on for the last few days, so I think she was just hot. It did hit about 85 degrees outside today. A few minutes later, she was in the field, grazing contentedly.

Here's the best shot of Lisa that I could get today. She is a big alpaca with lots of fleece, but you can see that she's also heavily pregnant.

Here is Lisa the chow hound. She's the one who overturns the hay bins and eats the bottom hay.

Apu is home!

Here's a picture of Apu from today. He and Cabernet are back on the farm after Cabernet's "date." He's probably about 35 lbs. now. He looks almost exactly like his older brothers did at his age. His brother G. K. Willie will make his breeding debut later this year.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pre-schoolers visit!

The woman who runs the daycare our daughter goes to also runs a little pre-school. She and a couple other women brought nine kids under the age of six to our farm on Thursday. The weather was perfect, and the kids had on closed-toed shoes, so we were good to go.

First, they had brought bread to feed the chickens. They thought it was magic when I produced an egg from the hen-house. In reality, we had checked in the morning for eggs and left one there just so we could "find" it for the kids. 

Then we took them into the barn, and sat them in a row on the hay bales (I should have told them to smile in the picture). Then I called the alpacas in for treats. They have learned that anytime there are people in the barn, it's a good bet that pellets are to be had, so they all come in at a run. I gave them pellets and closed the stall doors so the kids could take a long look at baby Doc (almost 3 weeks old). Then I grabbed a yearling (Manjula) and held her against the stall gate so that the kids (one at a time), could reach through and pet her. 

Of course, the alpacas were upstaged by the barn swallows who are building a nest above one of the stalls. They swooped in several times with mud in their beaks. The kids just went ga-ga for them. 

After that, we went inside. I passed around fleece, yarn and a knitted hat for them to touch. They got a kick out of the before/after shearing pictures I showed them, too. 

As luck would have it, it was someone's birthday, so there were cupcakes to eat, too. Everyone went home with a fleece sample and a coloring sheet with alpacas on it. 

My cost: $0. It was fun, too. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Preparing for preschoolers

I like this shot, though we've fixed Julius's ear.

On Thursday, we'll have eight preschoolers come to the farm for a little field trip. The daycare our daughter goes to also has a preschool some mornings, and they are studying farm animals this month.

They are so excited to see baby Julius. I'll make sure to get lots of pictures of adorable little kids with adorable baby alpacas.

I'm also going to dig out the little alpaca display I made for such occasions and give them each a little baggie of fleece to take home.

First, though, I have to clean our house. That's the big job.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Meet Dr. Julius Hibbert!

Here he is!

Check out his namesake.

I wish we didn't have to tape up his cute flippy ear, but as Alpaca Farm Girl said, I wouldn't want a herdsire with inside-out ears. That would just be too hard to explain.

He's up to 17 lbs. and 14 oz. at four days old. And he's so soft! Yummy fiber.

All that cuteness makes me smile.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Alpaca Color Genetics

Kelly Kissane, a colleague at WOU, brought her biology class on a spider-hunting trip to our ranch last week. My theory is that they used the spiders as an excuse to pet the alpacas (as if you need an excuse!)

I sent Kelly the link to Consuella's baby here on the blog, and she sent me this email to help me understand why brown + white = black.

She agreed to let me post her response here. Enjoy!


I teach genetics, and do behavioral genetics research. I have a guess as to the genetics of the little guy so far, which matches genetics in other animals (horses and cattle are a bit different), based on the information you gave:

Dominant non-albino white is epistatic to all other colors (same in cats).

W- is white, ww = non-white B- = black, bb = brown

Sire (white) = Ww Bb
Dam (brown) ww bb
newborn(black) - wwBb

If I'm right, then 1/2 of the time you will get white, 1/4 will be black, 1/4 will be brown with this cross.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Consuella's Cria

Here he is!

He's 16 lbs, 6oz and black as can be.

Yes, his ear is kinda curly. If it doesn't straighten out on its own, we may have to tape it. But it's cute right now.

His birth was a highly anticipated, but only a little stressful. Once we realized Consuella was in labor, we called a neighbor, Kelly, who said she had "never seen anything born." She was excited to come over and watch.

The first thing I saw come out, though, was a little nose. I called the vet who told me to feel around for feet and call him back if I couldn't find any. Fortunately, his feet were out by his nose by the time I got back to the pasture. I pulled the legs out so that he wouldn't get "elbow lock" in the birth canal.

Then we waited. Consuella was tired, and the cria hadn't moved in 10-15 minutes, so I got Charles to hold Consuella while I gently pulled on the baby's feet. When that didn't work, I pulled a little harder, more leaning into it than anything, and got those wide shoulders out.

I'm still flabbergasted that he's black. I was hoping for a brown, but I was expecting a white. This is a bit of a coup for El Barto our white herdsire.

For names, we're thinking Carl Carlson or Dr. Hibbert.

Cast your vote as a comment!


Sunday, May 03, 2009


Consuella finally had her cria after 364 days!

16 lbs., 6 oz.
black as night!

I am truly amazed by the color. By my understanding of alpaca color genetics, I figured we'd have a white or brown. He also has one ear that's turned inside-out. It's cute.

Anyway, more pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

day 354

Nothing from Consuella as of 10:30 this morning.

I did get a picture that proves she's pregnant, though. Look at that belly!

She likes sunning her tummy when the weather's nice. It's just that there normally isn't so much of it!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Consuella's late

For those who are counting, as I am, Consuella is on day 350 gestation. She's usually good for 345.

I thought FOR SURE she was in labor on Easter. I even called a neighbor who wanted to see the birth. Thank goodness I told her to wait to come over until I saw feet. I never saw feet.

The phrase "any day now" gets old. Now, I'm almost not expecting her to have a baby, but it will happen. I've seen the little critter try to escape a couple times already.

It looks like Consuella is smuggling a blimp. ha!


Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban buy four alpacas

The article linked above reads, in part:

"NICOLE Kidman and Keith Urban have fallen in love with their new mansion in the NSW Southern Highlands, and have added to their livestock with the purchase of four young alpacas."

Wow! There's an untapped market: celebrities! Could alpacas be the new Shar Peis?

Seriously, I think it's a great idea. If any of you know any celebrities, convince them that Alpacas are the new hot thing. If the "Kurbans" own them, you know it's gotta be hot!


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Meet Apu!

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is the newest member of the Evergreen Terrace family. So it took us two weeks to settle on a name. We're lame and we know it.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Paca Talk #7 is posted!

In this episode, we talk about taking a down alpaca to the veterinary hospital for an emergency.

Also, bits on the Chinese "Grass-mud horse," a brand-name candy commercial and a punk band...and yes, they all relate to alpacas.


We Need a name

Actually, we'll need 5 names this summer if all goes well.

We name our alpacas after characters in the TV show "The Simpsons." Most of you had already figured that out (El Barto, Milhouse, Manjula, etc.).

Anyone have some awesome suggestions for names for this year's batch of crias? Comment them below!


Monday, March 23, 2009

New Cria!

Cabernet had a baby this morning. He weighs in at about 15 1/2 lbs. He is about six days early, which accounts for his unsteadiness, but the vet checked him out and says everything is okey-dokey.

As of now, he doesn't have a name, but I'll be sure to post it once we settle on one.

Consuella is due April 4, and Lisa is due April 20, so we'll soon have a pack of babies playing together. Yippee!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Any minute now...

Cabernet, our big 1/2 Accoyo girl, is due any day now with a cria from Thomas of Alpaca Junction. She has a habit of delivering about two weeks early, so we are on cria watch now. We've got our cria kit ready, we watch her from the house while she's in the field. I even have Charles trained to peek at her udder to see if it's filling (a sign she's getting close).

Plus, she's as big as a whale and obviously uncomfortable. She's gone stiff-legged in her back end from the extra weight.

After she's done, Consuella and Lisa are both due in April with El Barto babies. His first baby, Majula, was born last year, and is a beauty.

Back to the window for a Cabernet check!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Alpaca Blanket Project

Alpaca News Item:

Peter and Carol Lundberg are alpaca friends of ours. This article is a little old, but the story keeps being picked up by the papers, so I thought I'd share:

We hope to interview them about the blanket project on the Paca Talk podcast ( ) in the near future.