Happy Hills Alpaca Farm

  (Monroe, North Carolina)
Paca Days
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JANUARY ... NEW BEGINNINGS

January is always a time for new beginnings. I re evaluate everything, throw out all the old stuff, the piles of magazines that I hadn't gotten to all year, the old bills go in a big folder marked for that year. Hooray, the bill pile is smaller, the bookeeping easier, the hopes renewed again for a great and prosperous year.
   Reflecting on last year we did have a great year, considering.
Four beautiful new crias (alpaca babies) were born and no losses.  All are beautiful, big and fluffy and mostly weaned from the mom's now. We could have had a disasterous year and lost two of them.  We didn't! Thank God. One had a distotia birth and I was fortunate enough to have had the ability to save him. One of his front legs was totally back inside mom and she couldn't birth him right. After taking a seminar on how to reach in and retrieve the folded back limbs I did this!! I was amazed myselt that it worked. Fear gripped me, panic took hold as I realized Mopsey was having trouble.  She was out in the field and standing with the little crias nose out and one leg but nothing else would come. So I went up to her and tried to pull out the cria. She moaned with pain.
So now what?  OK, I said, I know what to do. Put the fear aside, I have to. Do what they told you to do, I said. So...I put on a glove and reach inside Mopsey on the side where the missing leg would be.  Ha, I felt it, Reach down and follow along the leg and find the foot. ...I did. Ha,..so now gently pull. Hooray, the cria came slipping out like water out of a broken water balloon. But oh no,...now it happened too fast. The cria was breathing but was gurgling. Crias need to hang after their head comes out to drain the fluids from the lungs. ..OK, so I can swing him.  (I've done this with our cats when they had the same thing when they were born.) So gathering up the little wet crias' limbs, two in each hand, I swung the baby. About 3 times around in a circle with his head hanging down.  Mopsey mama hollered at me!! She didn't like this one little bit!  Ok mama, now he's down, now he's breathing just fine. But, its horrible cold. This is May but its the coldest May we have ever seen in NC where we are.  Out comes the extention chord and the blow dryer!  Blowing, blowing, blowing, the baby is still shivering. Finally his coat is dry and he's still shivering very badly.  OK, take his tempurature.  OK,... OMG!!! Its only 97 degrees.
He's supposed to be 101 or 102.  OMG!!! now what do I do. I have never encountered this before.  I put him in a cria coat to keep him somewhat colder, get on the cell phone and call my friend in Vermont!!! Can't afford the vet this year and anyway, if I don't solve this asap, by the time the vet does come he will be dead!! She would be over an hour at least away.
   Thank God, my friend answers. She says put a heating pad on him asap.or else!! OMG!! I don't have one!  She chastises me for this and says then I need to get large storage bags and fill them with the hottest water possible. OK, so of course I call my husband from work. Come home immediately and buy heating pad. He answers and is on his way.
We have to save this baby. Mopsey lost her beautiful baby girl last year because she was born premature. We had spent over $2,000. trying to save her by calling in the vet, giving a plasma transfusion, bottle feeding, the whole works. 4 days later, little "Tootsie" died. We were all devasted. Particularly Mopsey, who is the most adoring mother alpaca I have ever seen!  She wouldn't eat for days, she cried and cried. Litterally. We could see her head sobbing with silent tears, bobing up and down. The whole heard was devastated at the loss.
   So you see, it was imperative that we save this baby. We were'nt going through this again for poor Mopsey.
     The hot water seemed to help. Soon my husband was here with the heating pad and we plugged that in, put it around the tiny cria and then the cria coat over that.  He was starting to respond. He stopped shivering and started to try to stand up.  Time elapsed since birth has now been about 45 minutes to an hour.  Crias should be up and walking within 30 min. at the outside.  He struggled, its so hard to watch them fall down. But we can't make him do it. The crias have to do this on their own. Finally the little guy makes it up! But, OMG! he's walking with his pasterns terriby down!! He's walking like a duck!! He's totally flat footed!! OMG!! What now?...nothing.  We move him to Mopsey and she patiently waits for him to start suckling.  Also another agonizing thing to watch.  Fumble, fumble, little one. He's too weak to try any more. We hold him up to momma for the precious colostrum that he needs in life to fight off disease. He succeeds.!! Hooray, we have him hooked up to mom.  Now he knows where the goods are, we hope! 
  So, ok, we have an electrified alpaca baby, walking flat footed like a duck , draging the orange electrical extention chord all over. My or my! He and mama are in the triangle catch pen now so that they can bond and have peace and quiet.  He's light fawn, my favorite color, crimpy fleece that bundles (really good for the show ring) and has a beautiful series of white spots on his forhead that look like stars.  Wow. too cute. Now darling, just make it!! The next few hours are sooooo critical. 
  Oh, did I tell you that this all happened while I had a group of 6 ladies overlooking the field on my deck?  Yes, of course, I was having a basket making class with a friend of mine teaching us. She's a wonderful basket maker and getting her to teach the class too me about 2 months of scheduling, rescheduling, etc.  Yes, all the ladies watched me, cheering when I got the cria to come out. Gasping when I swung him around three times and praying for him to make it, thank God.  I was not in the entertaining mood once I realized Mopsey was going to have baby there in then, standing with legs apart giving birth right in front of all of us!!
   I think it was a good thing. I was forced to stay calm with an audience.
I had a tea party scheduled as well after class. The dining room table was all laid out, china, crystal, good silver...oh well. I was on the red clay and working like a vet that I never thought I could be.
   So I look back on this adventure in alpaca birthing, reflecting on the year 2009 and thank God! 
    We named him "Ursa Major" for the constelation of little white spots on his forhead.  Also because he looked like a little bear.
    You should see him now. He's huge, he's cuddly, he's absolutly the best cria I have seen! But no kidding, He's fantastic, big boned, beautiful bundlely fleece and the loveliest shade of light fawn I have ever seen!
Our little electric, duck footed cria who looked so pathetic has become a star !  rather a constelation!  He's so beautiful and we thank God for this.
Ursa is the first to give kisses too. Especially to children. Email me and I'll send you pictures of this. In fact, I'll put it up on this site.
   The bible says, "Do not despise small beginnings."  We all start out small, but Ursa really did look pathetic for a few weeks even.  Not now.
A show is coming up, but I really think he's too small yet to go to the show. He's 6.5 months old and just weaned, we hope. (Mopsey moma still wants to feed him, though.)  We'll not take a chance with our beautiful Ursa and just wait a few more months or maybe next year for him to go to the show.  I know he will win lots of ribbons.  But that's not really so important. He's the special cria that I was able to help give life to.
What a treasure that is.  Guess that makes 2009 a fantastic year!!
    Next blog, I'll tell you about our other crias birth, Zadie. OMG!!!

 
 

HARVEST TIME

WHAT IS HARVEST TIME LIKE ON AN ALPACA FARM?

 We don't havest apples,corn, vegies or fruit on our farm but we do have a wonderful harvest here!  The spring brought us four beautiful babies, two boys and two girls. All adorable of course. So what is our fall havest?

   Well its seeing our crias thriving for one. They are nearly all 5 months now and strong and healthy! The mothers are beginning to wean them off and they are chewing the hay and muching the grain.  Mother's kicking them slightly away from their teats, avoiding their humming bleats seem a little cruel perhaps but so necessary. The crias are learning the hard way that the hay and grain will sustain them. New babies are in the making and the mom's sense this and know they have to nourish the new life.

  Havest time on the farm is also a spinning project of very long duration. I have started spinning the cria shearing from the last years babies (Sambucca, Max and Inca) and I feel like I'm spinning gold in the form of soft clouds.  The fiber is wonderful and spins so perfectly. Great crimp and handle that makes this the best fleece that I have ever spun. Its my first time in actually hand carding my fleece and spinning directly from the raw, shorn fleece. No mill necessary. I'm able to spin it very fine and after putting into skeins I will wash it and hang out to dry.  This is like harvesting grapes and putting into wine . Truely it is a bountiful harvest. The fine charachter of the fleece is proving to us our nutrition and breeding program is working. We don't skimp on the type of hay or grain, they are getting the best. And we give fiber nutrients to boost their fleece. I hope to win several spin off contests this year with the harvest of the fleece.

 
 

July... Paca Days. Rich with abundance. Beautiful Babies.

 

April and May were the proverbial calm before the storm. Waiting for babies and they came one , two, three upon us. Two of the births were

a bit difficult , one baby being born at 11 pm at night. We had so much rain then that I believe the females wait until a dry period to have the birth.

So it proved with our mom’s. Then they came quickly. So far we have had two beautiful girls and one handsome boy. Two are fawn in color (light tan)

and one girl is a dark brown. All are healthy and running around playing.

What a delight it is to see the crias run and jump and play with each other.

Some very funny antics are going on.

We had considerable time to think of the names. One wants to have a proper "show name" and then a nick name that we can use at the farm.

With that in mind, we named our boy "Ursa major" because he is fawn with a white spot, like a sprinkling of stars on his forhead. We call him "Ursa" for short which also means Bear. He is like a big bear, growing strong and he has very large boned legs which is great. He’s a good bit taller then the others. Then we have our little girl, also light fawn, who was born at night.

I had this name picked out and it really fits her..if you research the name.

"Scheherazade"...so we call her Zadie.

And we have our lovely dark brown girl that we have named "Nefertiti",

which means, "the beautiful one has come"...we waited actually 2 yrs for her.

We had thought her mother was pregnant last year when she came to us from Arkansas, however the pregnancy didn’t take. So after 2 long years of waiting for her mother, Abby (our best female) to have a cria, she has finally arrived. And lovely and healthy she is.

Sapphire is due as I right this blog, This will be the last cria of the year for us. She is a super mother and all of her crias have been fantastic. So soon within days she will deliver. I have both a boy and girl name picked out.

Will keep you posted. But again, I am anxiously awaiting.

New birth is always so wonderful.

 
 

WAITING FOR SHEARING...WAITING FOR BABIES

Waiting for Shearing; waiting for birthing:

Beautiful spring is upon us now, most of the leaves have budded out on the trees. We are still awaiting our oak trees to bud out and make wonderful shade for our alpacas.  They are loving this cold weather  this spring and we hope it holds out at least another week.  We have not yet sheared our alpacas.  Very late this year ! We rescheduled our shearing due to the cold temperatures and wet weather. Soaking wet alpacas are not condusive to nice fleece processing. And so we wait. Shearing the boys on April 30th. We are also waiting for the birthing of three alpacas. May will bring to us  three new "crias" to bless our herd with. These are long anticipated as gestation is 11.5 months or even longer.  All of the mothers in waiting have given birth before and we have midwifed before so my nerves are not as bad as last year's birthing season. The mothers will be sheared May 31st.

   Two of the mom's: Bella and Abby have been bred to our newest herdsire, Ivanhoe. I'm so anxious to see how the babies come out. The mom's are now bulging and heavy with cria.  Ivanhoe is a six time national ribbon winner so I have high hopes for the crias. He is also true black , which is the hot color right now and he is gorgous! So, Ivanhoe, we are anxiously awaiting your babies.

  Monte, our other herdsire is waiting as well. It will be his chance to breed to some of the girls soon. He makes wonderful babies and our little Max proves this. He won a ribbon the last show and everybody loves his fleece. Long, long staple length, super bold crimp and crimpy througout his body. We just love our Max (Maximus) and he's so cuddly and laid back one thinks of him like a teddy bear. 

  So, we are waiting. Waiting for the oak leaves, waiting for shearing and waiting for the births. Thus is lovely springtime.

 
 
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