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Posts Tagged ‘raising alpacas’

It is breeding season at the ranch. As we select the ladies to breed the guys line up at the pen gate hoping they get the opportunity to enhance the herd with their genetics. At Missouri Alpacas we breed for quality grey fiber which means we try to choose a dam and sire that will have the best possible chance of producing grey crias (baby alpacas).

When you introduce a male to a female alpaca she will either cush, letting the male know she is ready to breed, or she will run, kick and spit. The latter is a definite “I don’t want to have anything to do with you!” Depending on the time of day it is, you could see a frustrated male covered in green spit. Not a pretty sight.

We use a blood test to check our females for pregnancy; some ranches use a “spit test”. A pregnant female will “spit off” the male and not allow him to breed her. Not completely accurate but a good indication that a cria is on its way. Spit is a defense mechanism for the alpaca and signals that something is happening they do not agree with.

So when someone asks me “Do alpacas spit?” I say “Yes, but not usually at people.” An alpaca will spit at another alpaca for various reasons other than breeding: you are too close to their feed bucket, in their space or they just have a bad attitude right now. Most of the time if I get spit on it is because I am in the cross fire of the event. Once I opened the side barn door just in time to get the effect of one alpaca mad at another alpaca – wrong place at the wrong time.

Now don’t get me wrong, if I make an alpaca mad, by trying to get it to do something it does not want to do, I could get spit on. I have one alpaca that will wait until I am finished with the chore (usually trimming nails) then will turn around and try to spit at me after I take the halter off. I know the deal so I try to stay out of the way. I have to give her credit for her effort. She definitely tries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We have a sign hanging in the barn, Spit Happens, because sometimes it just does.

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There are so many times when I wish I could talk to and understand the animals around me. This is especially true when one has been injured. Wouldn’t it be great to get an answer to the question “how did this happen?”  It always amazes me when the vet asks me that question. I want to say, “You’re the vet, you ask him.” But I just smile and say, “He wouldn’t tell me”.

Last week I sent 3 of my female alpacas on a road trip. They were purchased by a farm out in California and a transporter stopped by on a Tuesday morning to pick them up. When he opened the trailer I noticed they would be spending part of the trip, if not all, with 2 llamas. Compared to an alpaca a llama is huge. My ladies had never seen a llama and I wondered what they thought of the sight of them. We ushered the alpacas into the pen, shut the door and off they went. The trip to California was by way of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio. I just knew they would have loads of stories to tell when they arrived at their new home. Wouldn’t I love to hear those stories!

Road Trip

Yesterday a cardinal slammed into one of the living room windows and landed on the deck. When I looked out I could see that he was alive but stunned. The temperature was in the teens and I knew the odds were good he would freeze just lying there. I found a hand towel and scooped him up. Taking him into the laundry room I placed him in a basket to see how he would fare. As he looked at me I tried to reassure him I was just trying to help but I knew he didn’t know my language. About 20 minutes later I went in to check on him. He was less stunned and turned his head to see what I was doing. I could tell he may be able to fly so I carried him to the front porch and set him there still nested in the towel. Shortly after I went to see how he was doing. As I approached he flew off. Did he share his adventure with his other feathered friends? What would he have said to me if he could?

Feathered Friends

Maybe animals don’t tell stories. I hope that is not true. I hope they have the ability to share the many things they experience in life as they interact with each other and us humans. So, until we are both in a place where we speak the same language, I will continue to talk to my animals and think about what they may be telling me. I hope they find their crazy shepherd and friend amusing. I hope I add to their list of stories.

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When people come to visit our alpacas, whether they are considering buying or not, I usually hear this question; is it hard to sell them? Meaning, can you really part with them? The answer is “yes” and “no”.

When you go into a business where you are breeding and raising animals, no matter what type they are, you have to decide if you are willing to sell them. Seeing an alpaca being born and watching it grow day by day forms an attachment to them. Each one has its own personality and character and they can often touch your heart in a special way. Those large eyes just draw you into their soul.

In the last 10 years we have only had to help birth one alpaca, Electra. Her head was turned back and she could not come through the birth canal. After working with her for a while she finally arrived and thrived. She gets treated a little gentler than other alpacas. Then there was Jasper who was premature and we had to make sure he was getting enough to eat so he would gain weight. He also survived those times. Even these two we are ready to release to new owners.

The thing that makes the answer to that question “no” is we have always had good, caring people become the owners of our alpacas. Some, I believe, have even gone to a better ranch then ours as they received more attention and had all the grass they could eat. I love it when the new owners have children because children and alpacas react so well with each other. Watching a child’s face light up when an alpaca moves in to say hello is wonderful. It doesn’t matter if the child is 2 or 17 the smile is the same. The alpaca learns to trust the child and the child learns to care for something that needs them.

We want to not only find good homes for our alpacas, but we want to see the alpaca industry grow and continue to expand in the states. There is a large demand for alpaca fiber and we are not currently able to meet that demand. We need more people raising and breeding these wonderful animals so we can continue to expand the product lines. The quality and fiber traits make alpaca ideal for so many items. Alpacas need very little acreage to graze on, a shelter to get out of the elements, fresh water and hay in the winter months. They are gentle and easy to care for and I think they are therapeutic. Introducing people to alpacas and the alpaca industry is one of the most satisfying reasons we raise them.

So, is it hard to sell my alpacas? Not when everything is right.

Providence&Destiny

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