Sunday, May 20, 2012

Curious Adventures

As I was working in the garden this week, I noticed that several of the dams were looking towards the neighbors' 30-acre field: there was an animal in there, just on the other side of the fence, and not a deer. Hmmm, an alpaca... but I couldn't tell which one it was other than brown with no white on her face. (I suspected the precocious Chantica or Aymara.) As I moved quickly in that direction, I considered my options -- maybe not enough time to go up to barn to get a halter, but the herding tape would do.

So I untied the webbing tape from the post where I use it, took it down to the corner area, and found a place to climb through the barbed wire, which is what Ruana must've done since I could see no breaks in the fence. I tied the tape to a fence post and around some trees to box her in. Not quite a year old, she's a bit skittish so a halter wouldn't have worked very well with her anyway.

Ruana was staying near the herd, wanting to get back to them but still exploring the new area. And of course they were all wanting to know how She got over There, could they come, too?

I pried open the very loosest of the barbed wire with some branches and stretched an opening for her; I slowly moved behind her so she would go that way and see it. She had had enough adventure and stepped back through to the safety of her herd. Whew!

I collected the herding tape, climbed back through myself and found several more branches to weave between the wires, taking off the slack. Mike can pound some t-posts in and wire it up better, but that will keep them safe and at bay for awhile.

Killdeer nest on the ground
A friend had called just as this scene was unfolding and she stayed on the line with me while I talked through what I was doing. Afterwards, walking back among the alpacas, I heard a killdeer squawking at them. I had noticed its distinctive call the day before, too. I was close enough to see that the bird was doing her lame-wing routine, so I walked slowly in that vicinity until I spied its ground nest tucked beside a fallen branch.

When Mike called me on his break from running the counting machines at Elections, he asked how my day was going so far...

Two days later I returned to check on the nest. No squawking, and no eggs -- they had hatched, cleaned house, and run away!

Life on the farm!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sheared, Gelded, and Delivered

Shearing Day is one of the busiest and most stressful days on the farm, for both the alpacas and the humans. Being organized and prepared is key, as well as having a great team of helpers. And a great shearer, Steve Bell.

Gryffin, Sorrento and Orion still wearing their coats,
Sundancer, Navarre and Troubadour are freshly shorn.
Steve set up two shearing stations, so we were able to accommodate our herd of 49 all in one day. First we sheared the weanlings, then the pregnant dams, the rest of the females, and finally the males. Volunteers prepped each animal by calming them with essential oils while cleaning the fleece with a 'dusting' wand. Others assisted the shearer, gathered fleece into labeled bags, collected the sample to be sent off for micron testing, trimmed toenails and gave shots, and vacuumed the shearing station after each one. Next! And what's her name?

The day flowed smoothly. We took breaks as needed, lunching in shifts. Each newly sheared alpaca was checked out by the others in their group. They get a bit embarrassed, sometimes they do not recognize each other. Mostly they are quite delighted when the ordeal is over, romping into the field, kicking up their heels.

Shearing slowed a bit when we got to the adult males, checking their fighting teeth and trimming as needed. The best surprise was Troubadour whose fleece weighed in at 12.7 lbs.

We were almost finished as a storm was moving in, and even though it was not in the immediate area, suddenly there was a power outage. Three boys left to shear! Steve returned a few days later to finish.

The Blue-tail gang: Tecumseh, Schubert and Opus
Helping out at RidgeView Alpacas' shearing tipped the scales in my gelding decisions. Aragon co-owns Oso Blanco whose stunning fleece weighed 14.25 lbs! Good news for us, but bad news for two of our males who I was considering gelding. Oso cinched it, so they joined the line-up when Dr Pat came.

Gelding male alpacas (after 18 months old) who are not intended to be used for reproduction helps to keep their temperaments calm and their fleece soft throughout their life. As fleece production animals, they are also useful in the herd in a variety of other ways: companion animals to either males or females, an 'uncle' to the weanlings teach them alpaca manners, and public relations animals who are not distracted by the urgency of breeding.

After their minor surgery, the newly-gelded are kept separate from the others in order to monitor their healing. Long-lasting antibiotic wards off infection, and to minimize swelling, I gave them the homeopathic arnica montana. Their colorful tail wrap is left on for quick visual checks for the first few days.

Regalo (huacaya) and Opus (suri)
lovin' this grass!
Now with shearing and gelding behind them, Regalo and Opus were finally ready to go to their new home, A Peaceful Sanctuary. We loaded the boys into the van and drove them to Pam's where a new shelter and verdant pasture awaited. They watched the chickens who greeted the new arrivals with much chatter, and met the miniature Olivia, a rescue chihuahua. We stood back and observed them settling in as the proud new owner showed us all the things she had ready to care for them. We left knowing they are in very good hands, for we choose the new owners just as they choose their alpacas. And in this case, Opus and Regalo chose Pam, too!