Thursday, January 24, 2013

Firenze's New Coat

It's been a while, hasn't it? I had foot surgery last Friday and have not been able to go out to the barn or pasture to visit with the 'paca girls. I have had to be content to view them from the back door or one of the back windows. Not exactly the same as hand feeding them and listening to their calming hum. If the temperature had not dropped from the 40s when I last ventured outside to the current high today of 18 degrees I might be tempted to bundle up and hobble outside on crutches. But last night about 1/2 inch of dry snow fell and Rich has forbidden me to go out.

Two nights ago, when the winds were gusting at 40 mph, Rich locked the herd up inside the barn for the night. Our black beauty, Firenze, does not like to be locked inside and is constantly checking the window in the barn door and making distressing, whiny, little noises. She clearly likes to be free even in the worst weather. Last night she got wise to Rich's strategy of closing the door as they were busily feeding  and she refused to come inside until he had left the pasture. Smart. So he left the door open a crack all night. In the morning he usually finds them all sleeping close to the door in the "barn yard." I guess they are smart enough to know when to come inside.

A couple of weeks ago we purchased a coat for Firenze since she is older and her fleece doesn't get as full as the younger girls. When the weather forecast predicted high winds and low temperatures Rich got his brother, Danny, to help him put the coat on Firenze. Another thing she barely tolerates, but it reassures us that she has an extra measure of protection against the elements. The coat is a bright red and stands out against her true black fleece. If she only realized how attractive she looks I am sure that she would strut her stuff like a model on the catwalk!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mango Makes Progress!

Pressley came out this afternoon to work with the girls again. It was unusually warm for January; 54 degrees. Unfortunately, because it was misty and very wet in the pasture, we had to work in the little barn. Pressley and I grabbed Mango first and haltered her. With very little initial resistance, Mango walked around the barn on the lead with Pressley in control. Mango is only eight months old and is progressing very quickly in her training. Pressley is also moving forward in her training. She is becoming very adept at grabbing and subduing the animals and they are responding positively to her.

Leeza, on the other hand, was being extremely stubborn today. While I held Leeza, Pressley put her halter on and took over from there. A few weeks ago, Leeza, walked around the pasture for Pressley like a champ. Today, not so much. First she put her head down, dug her heels in and would not even take the first step. No amount of coaxing could get Leeza to take a step forward and at one point she even kushed down in the straw and refused to budge. Pressley patiently kept trying to get her to move. No way. I tried to get her to take a step or two just to let her know that we weren't going to let her off the hook that easily. She needs to know that the people who feed and house her are the ones in charge. After one small step we let her go. The next nice day we will try again outside in the pasture. Maybe she feels more secure walking outside.

We also held both Firenze and mama Took to do a body score on each of them. They have both been getting an extra pound of sweet feed hand fed to them each day that it is 40 degrees or less outside to help them keep up their weight during gestation. Took is staying steady at a healthy weight and Firenze has finally put on some weight and feels much less bony. It seems that Firenze's intestinal problems have finally gone away, too.

Tonight I close by wishing my patient, thoughtful and handsome husband a happy anniversary!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lead Training Mango

Yesterday was sunny and calm outside if a bit cold. The alpaca girls just love being outside in the sunshine and were positively basking in it.

This morning Rich decided was going to be a work day. It was, in fact, time to put baby Mango in a halter and hook up a lead and walk her like a big girl! We anticipated some resistance from mama Took because she is still somewhat protective of her baby. The plan was to corral both of them, hook up Took first and then Mango in the hope that Mango would follow her more experienced mama around on the lead. As luck would have it, Mango was the first one in our path when we backed them into the corner. Rich grabbed her around the neck and I snapped on the halter and the lead. After snugging up the halter a bit I took over the lead and held fast. Mango bucked a bit and then just stood there facing me, the lead taut between us. 

As we faced off, the other three ladies just stood by the door and watched. Took was not distressed in any way and they all were more curious than anything else. It was almost like they were wondering how Mango would tolerate being haltered and led. They seemed to stand by humming their encouragement to her. Mango pulled back and resisted a bit at first. I kept telling her what a good girl she was and encouraging her and she took a hesitating step forward. The two of us did the "resist-step" dance around the barn a bit. When Rich opened the barn door, the other three rushed out and Mango started to rush with them until she realized that I was still attached to her at the other end of the lead. We continued our dance, one step at a time, out into the door yard of the barn and a few feet out into the pasture. This continued for about 15 minutes with Mango becoming more cooperative as time went on until she had finally reached the end of her tolerance. She bucked a couple of times and I ended the lesson. It was a very satisfactory lesson and we will continue to practice with her each week until she is walking the show ring like a champion!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year From The Farm!

Tonight Rich and I went outside before our dinner to feed the "girls"  leaving behind a Kong-full of peanut butter to distract Callie who gets a bit jealous when we spend time in the barn without her. I took the camera out to snap a few pictures of the girls in the snow. They are not venturing out too far into the pasture the last couple of days. Our theory is that the snow is more compact and icy and not like the soft, fluffy first snow of Christmas. We think that when the snow is crunchy it is not so comfortable to their padded feet and it has a tendency to cling to their fleecy "leggings," thus they stay in the barn doorway or the small door yard just outside.  Rich tried to herd them out into the snow and then back towards the camera. They just comically circled back around him and stayed as close to the barn as they could without going inside for their feed either. Consequently I never got the "running in the snow" picture that I was aiming for. Rich corralled them into the barn and we gave Firenze her daily pro-biotic dose and fed them and hung around for a while just talking to them.

The girls prefer to stay in the dooryard.

 Baby Mango was tempted by the sweet feed.
On Sunday, Pressley, my student who is a 4-H member and plans to make our alpacas her fair project for next summer, came by with her mom to spend another hour with the girls. That was the first day of Firenze's pro-biotic regimen so Pressley got to help corral her and administer the dose. She also got to help halter Firenze and Leeza and walk them around a bit. Pressley grabbed and held Leeza practically all by herself while I put the halter on her (the alpaca-not Pressley)! Then she took over. Leeza was a bit resistant to being walked in the snow but Pressley was patient and stood her ground and eventually Leeza followed. All-in-all it was a good training session both for the alpacas and Pressley.
Pressley walking Firenze

 Putting the halter on Leeza


Halter training Leeza


Time to remove the halter.
Out here at Buckeye Star Alpaca Farm, Rich and I and all of our four-legged "girls" are optimistic for 2013. We are at the start of a whole new adventure and are having new experiences every day and look forward to learning more and more about these fascinating creatures. So far every day has been a joyous new experience. (even the frustrating ones) We wish for everyone a healthy, happy and joyous new year!