Saturday, March 30, 2013

Loading the Girls for a Ride

We separated mama Took and her baby, Mango, six days ago and fully expected to hear screeching on Took's part and wailing from Mango because she couldn't nurse occasionally. Took was isolated on the shed side with Firenze;  and Mango and Leezza were on the barn side to provide a little more room for running and pronking. Now that the weather is getting nicer the young ones romp in the pasture every evening. Rich and I have been visiting the pasture frequently and observing from the windows and the girls have adjusted remarkably well. Took even seemed relieved not to have to look after Mango any more. Most of the time when Mango is standing by the fence gazing at her mama, Took is laying serenely in the shed or pasture chewing contentedly. Mango hasn't been pacing along the fence or showing any obsessive behavior that might be associated with stress from forced weaning. I think we got lucky and the separation was timed perfectly.
Checking out mama across the fence.

Took in her new condo!

This afternoon my "saintly" brother-in-law, Danny, came over to lend a hand in our first attempt at loading the girls into the trailer in preparation for shearing time. We plan on taking them over to
Amy J's Homestead Alpacas where we purchased them to be shorn along with their herd on April 22. Rich wanted to be sure that we could load them into the trailer. The plan was to halter them all first and put them on leads and Danny and I would hold them while Rich would backed up the truck to the gate and opened it into the pasture. It went like clockwork. Rich loaded "Queen" Firenze into the trailer first; our reasoning being that since she is the leader the others would willingly follow. They did follow but with some coaxing. Took was next and seemed reluctant to enter. I hopped up into the trailer and gave a tug and she followed. Danny brought Leezza along and she leaped up - no problem! Mango was a bit more reluctant so I gave Rich the lead and got out and gave her a pat on the rump and she jumped in. 

We returned Firenze and Took to their side of the pasture and both settled down to nibbling the stubby grass. Rich and Danny took Leezza and Mango on a "show ring lap" around the yard and outbuildings for practice just like we saw at the alpaca show in Columbus a few weeks ago. Then when they were returned to their pasture they romped around enjoying their freedom. (Of course, I didn't have the camera!)

The whole practice exercise was a terrific confidence builder for all three humans involved!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weaning Mango

This morning, with the help of two brothers-in-law, we managed to corral Mango and hold her steady long enough to trim the longest of her toenails. She does not like to be held down and have her leg lifted. She jerked, kicked and bounced me around something terrible. She tried to kush her back end and leap her front end with Rich holding on for dear life; but we did it.

After a short rest (for the handlers and Mango) Rich and I went back out to the barn to do the dirty work of separating the younger girls from the older. Mango is still nursing a couple of times a day and we were afraid that she might be taking nutrition away from Took's growing baby. Mango seemed to be getting bigger and bigger and Took wasn't. We were prepared for screeching and whining on the part of Took and Mango. Didn't happen! Took seemed unconcerned that her baby was on the other side of the fence. At first Mango walked up and down the fence a few times but within 15 minutes or so, she was nibbling at the short grass in the pasture.

It's been a few hours now and all four of the girls are grazing on their own sides of the fence and don't even seem to be the least bit curious about what's going on across the pasture. We will keep observing until sundown when it's time for them to settle in for the night.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Herd Health Day

After his trip to Amy J's Homestead for training the other day, Rich decided that today was going to be our herd health day. He had herded the girls into the barn before Pressley arrived and we were ready for toenail trimming and Mango's CDT booster shot. Easier said than done. The three of us held Firenze first and while she didn't exactly like having Pressley hold her while Rich lifted a foot to check and clip overgrown toenails, she didn't fight us. The job was relatively easy.

Leezza was the next one to be caught and she was really calm while her nails were checked and trimmed. Rich held Leezza while Pressley lifted each foot and I trimmed.

Took was next on the list. Catching her was relatively easy but lifting those feet was another story. She has had this proceedure done many time before, but for some reason she wanted no part of it this time. We managed to get her fore feet trimmed but she kept kushing every time we tried to lift a rear foot. Ever had a pregnant 175 lb. alpaca sit down on your foot and refuse to budge? That's what she insisted on doing and we had to give up on her back feet. Rich and I will try again later this week when she forgets this experience.

Mango wanted no part of the nail clipping and really fought us, leaping and dodging around, even as Rich held her head and neck. We gave up since we had the shot to administer  and deemed that a more important procedure. We harnessed up she and Leezza and took them for a walk around the pasture and outside and around the woodshop. Both young girls were led easily around the yard and back into the pasture where Mango got her shot. Rich held her, Pressley separated the fleece and I injected the medication.

After this traumatic session, Pressley got a sweet little snuggle from Mango before Rich tried again to cut her nails. At that point she was through and took off with the lead still hooked up. We captured her, removed the lead and let her go. She was mouth breathing at this point and too stressed for any more training. We left them alone. Later in the evening Rich went out to check the girls and every one of them came rushing in for the sweet feed treat that he offered. Trauma forgotten.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Alpaca Show

Rich and I went down to Columbus last night and had a family pizza night with my brother, his wife, my nephew, daughter, Amy, and son-in-law, Steve and assorted grandkids and others. This morning we spent several hours at the Best of the US Alpaca Show at the state fairgrounds. It was a great learning experience and gave us the opportunity to meet and talk with several other alpaca breeders from the state. One of the most impressive sights was to see dozens of alpacas lined up to walk into the show ring.
I took this, not very clear, picture of the beautiful black huacayas in the ring with my cell phone camera. The next time I will remember to bring my good camera!

Rich and I met Joy Mitchell of M-R Alpacas in Wakeman, Ohio which is not far from us. She gave us some important information to consider when we reach the point where we will be selecting sires for breading with our girls. She also kindly put together a packet of four of their very handsome sires for us to consider. Joy answered many of my questions concerning fiber processing and showed us some adorable stuffed animals with felted alpaca costumes. I feel certain that we will be calling on her in the future.

Closer to home we met Patrick Cassese from Glengary Farm Alpacas in Plymouth, Ohio. He and Robin couldn't have been kinder as they patiently answered our questions. Robin and I made a connection since she had substituted in the past at the school where I teach. We both know many of the same teachers well.  They invited us over to visit and we will do so in the near future. They have some beautiful animals.

I had an extended conversation with fiber artist and dyer, Louise Goebel, of Renaissance Farms in McArthur, Ohio which is very near where we spend a family reunion weekend every October. She was a great source of information about processing and dying fibers.  I have already visited her website and we will definitely pay her a visit when we are down in the southern part of the state in
the fall.

The other day, Rich spent a morning at AmyJs Homestead Alpacas where we purchased our girls. Joseph gave him a crash course in toenail clipping and administering shots. The folks at Amy Js have been wonderful and patient mentors to us. Shearing day is scheduled for mid-April and we will transport our girls over there for shearing. We have learned so much from them and look forward to continuing the association.

All-in-all this has been a very productive weekend. Tomorrow when Pressley comes over we will be attempting to trim Took and Mango's toenails for the first time. Look for the report on that endeavor later.