Is My Alpaca Pregnant?

Pregnant, or not pregnant, that is the question.  Bred just one time on May 14th of last year, to our herdsire Thunderstruck, Lorelei was still refusing to be bred again when behavior tested in August.  To me, that looks like a pregnant belly, and she is eating like there is no tomorrow.  What do you think?  I have been wrong before.

 

There was a time that our males got in with our females, we found them together, and determined they probably had been together the whole night!  Not a good thing.  Alpacas are pregnant nearly a year, so we calculated  approximate due dates, and realized we would be having babies in the winter.  Not an ideal time!  The closer it got, the more I watched, and each day I was sure I saw another baby move inside a pregnant belly, or so I thought.  We prepared for twelve babies, gathered cria coats, borrowed heat lamps, called alpaca friends to be on hand, gathered together towels, and supplies for birthing babies in the cold of the winter.  It turned out we had two babies born that winter.  Our eyes, and imaginations, sure can play tricks on us!

There was a day, that we would have a vet come do an ultrasound to determine alpaca pregnancy.   That is expensive and we haven’t done that in many years, so now we behavior test to determine pregnancy.  Once bred, we periodically put the male and female back together, first on a weekly basis, then monthly.  If the female is not pregnant, she will cush (lay down) and want to be bred.  If she is pregnant, she will either kick or spit at the male.  I always feel a little sorry for the males.  Rejection is tough.  The picture below is a male and female on opposite sides of the fence, cushed.  Sunshine is not being behavior tested, but she is definitely expressing interest in being bred!

As a female approaches her due date, she eats and eats and eats.  After all there is a cria (baby) growing inside that will weigh between 12 and 24 pounds!  Towards the end of her pregnancy, she will do a lot of laying around and resting up for the big day.  When birth is close, she will isolate herself from the rest of the herd, will often do more humming than normal, and make frequent trips to the dung pile.  Sometimes she will do some rolling to get the baby in position.

Alpaca business is full-time for us, so we have been fortunate to see many of our cria be born.  There’s nothing better!  At times nerve wracking, most mothers need no help from us, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking I need to assist.  We try to watch from a distance, so as not to make mother nervous and slow down the process.  Most crias are born early in the day, before 2pm.  This is the case in alpaca’s native country of South America, because in the high altitudes of the Andes mountains, if a cria is not born early in the day before the temperatures drop, it does not survive.

 

It is quite spectacular, though my mother will have nothing to do with it, to watch the miracle of alpaca birth.  Crias know that to survive, they must find food.  To find food, they must figure out how to use the long, lanky legs that have been folded beneath them for the last 11-12 months.  Usually within about an hour, a cria will be nursing his mama, and on its way to meeting the rest of the herd, then watching and learning from the others just how to be an alpaca, almost as if God had planned it that way!

The picture below is Lorelei and her first cria, named Shiya.  Shiya was one of the suspected 12 winter births I had anticipated a few years back.  She was born in January and her name means “ability to survive”.

So if Lorelei is pregnant, she would be due around April 13th.  Stay tuned!  Though we have bred just a few of our alpacas, it won’t be long before Birthing Season is Upon Us!  Next we’ll be Preparing for Shearing Day, or maybe we’ll be doing both at the same time!

Read more about Alpacas here.  Interested in raising alpacas?  See our Alpaca Sales List and schedule a visit to Alpaca Meadows.

Morning Chores

My husband is gone this week, so I’m doing double duty while he’s away, his work and mine. Along with shipping orders and a number of other things that he normally takes care of, I’m doing the morning chores. I should rephrase this … I get to do the morning chores! There are definitely days I’d trade the time I sit in front of the computer a good share of the day, for the stress relieving, sometimes down and dirty, tasks of caring for our animals.

Alpacas Eating

The squeaky wheel gets the grease is a phrase used to convey the idea that the most noticeable (or loudest) problems are the ones most likely to get attention, and that’s true when it comes to our Angora goats. Quieting the bleating of our three goats, Mike, Ike, and Lola comes first. They act like they are starving, and I can hardly get the feed in the tubs as they push each other out of the way. Not very mannerly.

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10 Reasons to Raise Alpacas

Why did we start raising alpacas? We fell in love with them, and the alpaca lifestyle! There are soo many more reasons to choose to start an alpaca farm…here’s just ten of them!

1. Love of the Animals

Like I said, we fell in love with the animals! When we visited that first alpaca farm and saw those intriguing looking animals, it was love at first sight! There is a peacefulness about these gentle animals, with their long elegant necks, large eyes, long lashes, and gentle humming. Alpacas continue to transfix us, making them irresistible for those of us who have taken the “taken the plunge.” 

We raise both suris and huacayas!

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Preparing for Shearing Day

Shearing day is one of the most important days of the year on alpaca farms. It is the day that we harvest the beautiful fiber that our alpacas have grown over the last year. Getting organized for the day ahead of time certainly makes the day less stressful and chaotic. Teamwork and a well thought out plan will make shearing day run like a well oiled machine.

That being said, shearing is one of my least favorite parts of raising alpacas, because though our shearers claim it takes them just eight minutes to shear an alpaca, and though they are not harmed in any way, it still is a scary experience for them. Some tolerate it better than others. All of them feel better when it’s over.

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Crochet and Knitting Patterns for Alpacas and Llamas

We’ve been raising alpacas for quite a few years, and now suddenly they’ve become popular! They seem to be everywhere, and on everything. There are some darling knitting and crochet patterns for alpacas and llamas, as well as purses, backpacks, finger puppets, pillows, hats and mittens, shaped like or adorned with these magical creatures!

Crochet and Knitting Patterns for Alpacas and Llamas

Some still mistake alpacas for llamas, and vice versa. The size difference between alpacas and llamas is obvious, but the other distinct difference is their ears. Alpacas have smaller, spear shaped ears and llamas have larger, banana shaped ears. Find out more by reading 6 Differences Between Llamas and Alpacas by Modern Farmer.

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New Home for Alpacas at Broken Spirit Ranch

Blazen Spirit of Lady Liberty, the first cria born on our farm, has moved to a new farm in Tennessee.

Male Alpacas Establish Pecking Order

It is true that alpacas are quiet and peaceful.  However, when it comes to male alpacas there is a pecking order, and sometimes they fight to determine who’s going to be in charge.  Mostly they disagree over who’s going to stand closest to the girls.  We’ve had two separate groups of males this winter for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. Recently, I nonchalantly opened the gate between the two groups because we are needing the barn space, hoping they all could just get along.  I stood and watched what unfolded next, and found it to be quite interesting.

 

 

Males Forced to Back Pasture

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Thursdays in the Alpaca Barn

Thursday is my day in the alpaca barn, my turn to do farm chores.  Of course chores get done every day, but Thursday is my day, and today I think the alpacas are excited to see me!

When we first had alpacas, I did all the chores.  My husband was busy working a real job.  Years passed, life happened, and Matt found himself with time to do farm chores.  We took turns for awhile but before long, he was doing them every day.  This freed me up to develop and grow our alpaca business, process fiber, run the store, teach classes, work on the website, crochet, knit, spin, felt, weave.   It worked, for awhile.  He found that there just really isn’t much  stress in the barn, and that was very appealing to him.  I found that I missed caring for the alpacas.  So we’ve made some changes and now Thursday is my day … and I am loving it!

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Alpacas in Winter

Alpaca fiber is oh, so, so warm and socks, hats, scarves, gloves, and sweaters made from alpaca, are the best!  Alpacas have their fiber to keep them warm, and honestly they mind the heat much more than the cold. However, there are times and conditions when our alpacas appreciate a little help keeping warm.

Alpacas in Winter

Our rule of thumb is that we close the alpacas in the barn, when we hit single digit temperatures.  Even alpacas appreciate being able to get out of cold, harsh winds and pelting rain or snow.  We line the inside walls of their shelter with bales of straw, stacked three or four high, to cut down on the drafts as well as have handy for layering on top of the manure.  Other than the cold and the snow, alpaca care is actually a little easier in the winter because we don’t clean up the manure in the barn.  Rather we spread straw on top of the manure.  Heat is generated from the lower layers of composting manure and straw.

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This Must Be A First: Alpacas Blessed In Nation’s Capital

Here’s something you don’t see every day in Washington, D.C.

Standing just a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol, a group of Peruvian highlanders, draped in handwoven cloths and ponchos in all the colors of the rainbow, pray to Mother Earth, to the mountains, to the spirit of their ancestors. They offer wine, incense and flowers.
Their wish is that their alpaca “cover the earth like the grains of sand by the ocean.”

Blessing of the Alpacas - Alpaca News

Alpacas, in case you don’t know, are llama-like animals in the camel family. Their wool — called fiber — is prized for its softness and warmth. It’s woven into textiles and garments. So the more alpacas, the better. That’s why Peruvians hold a traditional blessing ceremony, performed since before Columbus discovered the New World and re-created at the national mall last Friday for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

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