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.