Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
Our first "Alpacas 101" podcast (part one) covers what novice should know before buying their first alpacas.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
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
"Paca Talk #21" discusses the changes we're making to the Paca Talk format. Short-ish and sweet-ish.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
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
Monday, August 17, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
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
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
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 pacatalk.com. 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 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.
That's all for now! Next time I’ll describe how to deal with second cuts.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
This is the first in a series of blog entries about what to do with alpaca fiber originally posted on thealpacaguy.com. These articles are taken from Paca Talk #2 “What to do with Fiber” which can be found on pacatalk.com. 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!
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
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
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
Saturday, July 18, 2009
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.
Monday, July 13, 2009
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
Thursday, July 09, 2009
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
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
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.
- 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)
Saturday, 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. :)
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 looked...off 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.
Friday, 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
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.
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
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
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
I've just opened a shop on Etsy.com, 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
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
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
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 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
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
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
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
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
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
Friday, April 17, 2009
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!
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!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
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 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
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
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
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 ( www.pacatalk.com ) in the near future.