A slightly more timely post. Here is what we did today:
Chilling out back home, after weeding the garden:
The “festive season” saw a great deal of camelid-related activities.
We took the opportunity to take animals walkies on two occasions, once to Battle Hill Farm Forest Park on Boxing Day (the park is about 20 minutes from here- and a good choice as troublesome dogs are forbidden- and shot on site by the ranger!), and on New Year’s Day along the beach at QE Park at Mackay’s Crossing.
For the Boxing Day trip the extra excitement came form the fact that we tried on Hob’s saddle and bags- he did quite well, only occasionally forgetting he was extra-wide and scraping them on bushes and gates. Tam decided to experiment and hooked Opa’s lead to the back of Hob’s saddle, and he followed in train with narry a complaint (well, at the very end they got a bit stroppy when they were tired, could see the trailer, and wanted to eat grass and/or go home).
On New Years day we took 5 of our boys, including the llamas, and met up with a bunch of other camelid owner/breeders at the beach. Two other llamas were there, as were two baby (4 and 6 month) old Suris. Very cute little lads, and so tiny next to the llamas! It seems everyone enjoyed the beach walk very much. Next time I willl give more than 24 hours notice, and hopefully we will have plenty more people along. My goal is 20 camelids for the next beach walk.
We have also had our final two cria for the “first wave.” Jasmine dropped a nice little fawn boy (Copperplate) on December 30th, and then Concetta gave us another boy (5 in a row!) on January 4th (Bookman). We now have about 6 weeks until our second wave of cria is due. If I weren’t still bottle-feeding Marlett, I could relax a bit…
We also sent off three more boys as pets. Jasper, Gungnir and Clarent will now be living in the home-paddock of a 1200 acre S&B farm up in Taihape. I look forward to visiting them at some point in the future.
A lot can happen in a short period. Trust your instincts. Mind your peripheral vision.
I was preparing to head into town this morning, getting into the ute, when I looked up and saw Tessa on the ridge, about 100 meters away. My instincts immediately said something was up. It is not unusual for heavily pregnant females to “act funny” in their last month or so. They groan. They stand in strange postures. They lie down- often in weird positions. They get that “this enormous parasite inside me is squishing my organs and kicking my bladder” look. In this case there was just something different about Tessa, so I went up and checked. Sure enough, she was in labour.
So I call Maggie, as her oldest daughter Maria (age 10) wants to grow up and be a vet, and this is a great time to see something “agricultural” and learn lots.
I go back up to check on Tessa, and while I am staring at her, Evita walks by, with a head sticking out! Seems she is in labour, too!
The two gave birth 10 minutes apart. Though Evita had a head start, Tessa managed to get her baby on the ground first. Maggie and kids arrived a few minutes later- so the kids got to see freshly born alpaca, see a placenta drop, and generally learn lots about newborns. (And they loved it, as far as I can tell.)
Two girls! In ten minutes! Woot!
And I think Tessa’s new cria, Raavi, is probably the cutest cria we have ever had. Her little white boots, they slay me.
But that’s not all. It has been a busy couple of weeks. On Friday the 11th, Sugar (one of Bruce’s animals) dropped a lovely white boy, with the temporary name of “Saccharine”.
Then on Sunday the 13th , Cindy went into labour just as we were finishing up the matings and preparing to shear. It was very endearing, she wanted us there for the birth. She followed us around, and if we both tried to leave, she would hummmm most insistently! She gave birth to a lovely little light fawn girl! A Pinocchio cria of our own!
Then on Wednesday the 16th Boo gave us a brown girl! (Another Fred cria this time.) I ended up having to help pull the little girl out, as Boo didn’t seem to be trying that hard, and the labour had gone on long enough. After losing Yale 18 months ago, I decided to take no chances and began feeding little Marlett plenty of colostrum. In the days that followed, I switched her over to milk, and continue to provide plenty of supplemental nutrition. This will be Boo’s last cria, it’s off to the retirement paddock for her.
And finally, this evening we delivered 3 pet boys to a couple up the coast! Pointer is off to a new life, along with Kusunagi and Ridill. While the place is smaller (only about an acre of paddock for the ‘paca), I hope that the new owners will get in the habit of taking them walkies around the neighborhood. I expect everyone, human and camelid, would find that entertaining!
So, the crazy-time is upon us. Cria are dropping. Dams are being re-mated. And shearing! Yes, we are doing some of our own shearing, so when the weather is fine (which seems a rare occurrence these last few weeks) we try to shear a couple of animals.
On top of this we are also selling animals- using Trade Me once again. You can definitely see that the market has slowed considerably since last year. When we put the advert up last time, we had multiple calls within 24 hours. This time it is days or weeks before calls, and we are getting many more tire-kickers.
That being said, we have sold 3 boys to a couple up the road in Pukerua bay. Contract has been signed, and delivery is just waiting for them to do a bit more work on their place (removing a few ornamental plants that are known to be or might be toxic). We also sold our first female! We delivered Topsy to a lovely woman over in Mangaroa on Tuesday night. And then yesterday Topsy dropped a beautiful little brown girl. Lucky purchaser! She instantly gets a female cria- and a Pinocchio offspring to boot! (His first one! We have 5 more due to him this year, hopefully we will get a few girls, too.)
We also sold some stud services (with Hyouki) to the woman who purchased Topsy. This is also nice new business.
Once we finish shearing our own animals we will probably do some hearing around the district. There used to be 3 local alpaca-shearers. One moved away. Another is not shearing this year, as she is super-busy launching a new business. That leaves Brent, and he is booked solid. Shearing might be a great way to get to know other local breeders, and maybe sell a few stud services, females, or more pet-boys along the way.
It’s currently raining boys.
Courier, born last Friday:
Courier, whose mother’s name means “Travels by night”, has the distinction of being the first ever cria from two “Rampant” parents — Isra and Hyouki. He looks just like his dad !
Baskerville, born two days ago:
Baskerville (Sharon inadvertently picked the name of this one) was born at 10.25 kilos — 6-7 is more usual for us. He’s a *big* baby. Stephen had to give Minnie a bit of help getting him out, and is helping out with the feeding a bit as well, since that’s a bit much for a new mum to keep up with. I swear, he makes me think of those fairy tales where the child “reached the age of twenty years/ when others aged but two”. At 24 hours old, he was already bigger than Wingding and running and playing with the other boys. He’s got a really… odd face for a cria, too. Like, he has smallish ears, and smallish eyes, and this little narrow muzzle with a little black nose — all on his big bullum head (though maybe that’s just because his fleece has started out so long?). I’m not sure what he looks like, but it’s not quite a cria.
Finally, Cotton On (actual name pending), born today:
Cute wee thing, from one of the agisted girls.
First, we’ve started shearing. No matter how long we’ve been doing this, it always seems to be a surprise how skinny they are under all that fluff. Especially the little ones, who are now all ears and necks and legs:
Second, Joy has finally given us a girl ! Meet Tahoma:
It cracks us up, but the little girls like to play dollies with the new baby. This is Gandiva, as far as we can tell, pretending to be Tahoma’s mommy. She came up to Tahoma, sniffed her, sat down next to her, then carefully defended her from the other little girls if they got too close, just like Joy does.
It is very important that ins and outs are kept separate.
On Tuesday the 15th California Girl, one of the agisted animals, dropped a stillborn cria about 10 weeks early. I might not have noticed with the girls on the back hill, but she was separated from the herd, and staying in one spot. When I climbed up to investigate, I found the dead premie. I did my own PM, and the cause was pretty conclusive. There was a 2 cm hole in the right side of the abdominal cavity with intestines poking out. Poor wee girl probably died in the womb a few weeks earlier, then the mum finally aborted. Nothing could be done, congenital defect.
Today Victoria had her cria at 326 days- a little grey boy. But it was immediately apparent there was something seriously wrong. At first glance it looked like a serious hernia out his umbilicus, with what looked like a little sack full of guts. He was otherwise good sized and quite vigorous. I rushed him to Julia (the vet). There we determined he had large and small intestine, plus a pancreas, which had all developed externally. There were adhesions, and signs that there were probably serious mis-connections internally. Congenital defect, nothing that could be done (barring radical surgery).
He was euthanized, and died almost exactly an hour after he had been born. Poor wee bub. At least he did not suffer.
Hopefully we have now front-end-loaded all our bad luck before the birthing season really commences. And I really hope from here on out everyone keeps there insides and outsides in the right places. (And if anyone is morbidly curious, I do have photos of both cases.)
Five and a half years ago we bought our first three alpaca; Oak, Chris and Pointer. Chris died of liver failure only 8 months later, a sad and somewhat traumatic introduction to owning camelids! But we had lots of fun with Oak and Pointer, taking them on walks all over the place (up and down the valley, beach walks, forest walks, into town).
But for the last few years we have not done much with them. As numbers grew we found that all our time was taken up taking other alpaca (and now llamas) out for walks. Oak and pointer were consigned to living on the back hill with the main boy-mob, and while I saw/checked them daily, interaction was minimal. We were actually thinking of selling them along with the next batch of pet boys. It would be wonderful to see them go to people who would have a small herd, and have the time to put into them- taking them out for walks again.
Then Oak started to have joint problems. We first noticed in January, but thought it was just a sprain. Then it started getting worse. I noticed he was spending more time kushed than any other ember of his mob. When we brought them in a month ago it was heartbreaking. He could barely walk (jumping the stream coming off the back hill made him collapse). He had lost 10 kg in just a month, probably due to the pain and the inability to stand and graze enough. We kept him and Pointer in the paddock next to the house. He got his AD&E jab along with everyone else. I started talking to the vet, as in that state we would probably have to have him put down soon.
But the vet is always flat-out busy, so she did not get a chance to come out and see him immediately (as this was a progressive disorder, it was not an emergency). And over those weeks, he stopped getting worse, and maybe, just maybe, he was a bit better.
Talking about this on various forums, a vet & alpaca breeder in Australia suggested it might be Rickets (hypophosphatemia). We wondered how this could be, as he first started showing symptoms in summer after he had been shorn- the time when he should be getting the most VitD from the UV of our powerful southern sun. Her thought was that his massive obesity might be playing a role- all the fat-soluble VitD is partitioning into his adipose tissue, leaving the serum level too low. So we started treating him- more VitD (being careful not to overdose, we are giving low-dose weekly injections), plus some phosphate supplement injections.
He is still not right, but he is not as bad as he was. I donâ€™t know if he will make a full recovery or not, but it is nice to see him up and grazing more (and hopefully not is so much pain anymore, with camelids being so damn stoic, it is really hard to tell). We will weigh him again this weekend.
But having Oak and Pointer down by the house, and interacting with them every day, has been a joy. Pointer is an amazingly groovy dude. Sure, he is really pugnacious to other alpaca (as neighbors who hear his frequent “fight! Fight! FIGHT!” screaming can attest), but he will let me walk right up to him in the paddock, rub his neck, and give him a hug. He doesn’t step away if you rub his neck from across the fence. That is really quite rare/unusual in a camelid. I am hoping Oak’s legs improve to the point where we can take them on fun walks again. They both enjoy the adventures, and it is fun to rediscover old friends that have been neglected too long.
Back in Boston, the standard “winter mix” — in the context of weather, that is — is a meteorological salad of rain, snow and sleet. Yum. Except in Boston, it doesn’t usually come screaming in sideways at gale force.
The first Monday in June is celebrated as “Queen’s Birthday” here, and you get the day off (unless you work in certain retail establishments of course) — a nice mini-holiday. Well, except for the weather. We spent our weekend making sure the alpacas were situated for the exceptionally crummy weather Sunday and Monday (especially Sunday). Basically, that meant making sure everyone was in a paddock with a suitably sheltered gully to keep out of the wind, and making sure they all had plenty of hay to eat to keep warm (digesting hay warms them up). We didn’t stuff everyone in the shed this year, because the shed is full of hay.
There was enough room in there, however, for the two new mothers that we’re looking after for our suri breeder friend while she’s in the US.
Becky dropped a little brown girl on Tuesday — we’d had pretty much two weeks straight of horrible weather, and Tuesday was ever-so-slightly-less-sucky, so she decided it would have to do. Both the little girl’s ears were folded back over her head when she was born (kind like Nabaztag’s, only both of them), and although they’ve straightened out a little bit, they still curl in like horns, so we’ve been referring to her as “Devil Girl” until she gets a proper name:
Pebbles, the giraffe-spotted suri female we looked after last year is back again. She held out until Saturday to drop a wee little 6.5 kilo boy, right before the nasty nasty storm, naturally.
Even in the shed, with two covers on and two-hourly warm bottles, he was having trouble with the cold, so we built an alpaca hovel in the back corner of the shed, so we could have a space small enough to heat with the oil column heater from the guest room. It looks like a homeless shelter, if the homeless had access to a pile of horse covers (thanks, Yvonne !).
It did the trick, though. We had all four of them in there all day Monday and overnight, and 24 hours not having to fight the cold with his limited resources really let little Pip (actual name pending) get his feet under him. Literally as well as figuratively. When we build the barn, we’re planning to have a special heatable pen/stall for just this sort of situation. Until then, they’re stuck with the shanty.