Yea or nay? The mysteries of breeding

Well I wrote last about attempting to get our 3 girl alpacas bred to our herdsire Hershey.  We have a system in place now, along with the addition of catch pens, that have aided tremendously in having success this year I hope. 

No matter how you look at it, or how you try to deny it, you have to have the right tools to achieve success.  Sometimes you try to do without to save money, but evaluate how well that is working for you.   We did not have catchpens last year and since we acquired one for the girls and one for the boys this year it has improved our processes tremendously.  You have to “catch” them up in the pen to halter them, or groom them, or whatever.    It was just an accidental/unintentional purchase when a nearby farm was retiring and selling everything and when we visited them they had catch pens for sale.  We bought two. 

 

So with spring breeding we have hopefully been successful.  I have my notebook with the girls names on each page and recording the dates they rendezvous with Hershey.  It would appear at this point in time that he was successful in each first time breeding with each girl.  We have done followup rebreeds at one week intervals spaced a couple days apart for each girl  and so far they all are spitting him off (and I mean plastering him with the green stuff, and us as well if we are in spitting distance).  So I will move our “spit tests” now to monthly and see if pregnancies are holding, then have the vet do progesterone tests later on.  I record everything we do for each girl.  We record everything we do for all the animals healthwise, but the breeding requires more detailed notes.  We have been doing breedings in the evenings as it fits better with our schedules.  There have been many conversations about how farms “create” the female cria/baby, and several said time of day made a difference, with evening being high on the list.  We shall see.

After much frustration last year, without catchpens, and trying to get Hershey and a girl together in his fenced in barn space, it just didn’t work well.  There was too much room where she would run away and he would stand in the corner timidly.  We learned the trick is to get them close together (i.e., catch pen) .  The female needs to kush; our guy just will not be aggressive enough to chase.  Some farms I have heard “help” the girl kush to get things going.   We halter both animals and can hook up a lead if needed.  Getting in and holding the girls tail out of the way helped a lot.  We didn’t try wrapping the tail as some recommend.   Hershey also learned what the catch pens were for if there was a girl in there; and was much quicker in getting down to business each time he was taken to the pen. 

I really, really hope we have three successful pregnancies.  I bought all my animals focusing on grey and rose grey and they all have grey, silver or rose grey in their lineage.  The gestation is 11 months to 12 months and I will be very anxious for  successful  deliveries.  I am keeping my fingers crossed we are on the right path this year.

Love is in the air

Spring is our time for breeding the alpacas since they have an 11 to 12 month gestation.  We don’t really want to have any births in the heat of summer.  And if they perchance have a fall birth I worry that a newborn will be caught in an early winter cold snap, so I would prefer a late spring birth. 

We are new to this I admit and so I have been researching what I can to discover what the magic formula is for getting a male and female to breed.  Our lackluster results last spring proved our male is very “polite” and will not chase the females.  He tends to hide in a corner if they spit at him or rebuff him at all.  This year we are going to be more proactive in getting the female to kush, and catch-penned in a more “private” area of the barn so they have no distractions from other curious alpaca eyes.

This week we have had success with our herdsire Hershey Surprise and our female Kona Queen. The key for him is they have to kush, he will not chase. So Sunday was the date night  and,  once Kona  got tired of prancing around the catch pen while Hershey reclined in the corner, she kushed and he was romancing her immediately.  Knowing that it may take another “date” or two for success, we got them together Tuesday and she would absolutely NOT have anything to do with him.  Several times she looked like she was going to kush, but she would take an over the shoulder glance at Hershey once again in the corner reclining and she never would kush.  After about an hour of wandering around the catch pen she looked like she just might kush and he took the cue but it just erupted into a spitting match between the two.  We removed Kona drolling green from her mouth, and Hershey, whose lower lip was slimed and drooping  almost down to his chin, was sent back to his pen and pasture.  Could it be she knows she is pregnant this soon?  I have no clue, but spit testing will be in her future very soon.

Next we have two more girls, a mother/daughter actually.  We dedicated this week in the evenings to breeding and so Hershey will have dates every night.  We will see how this goes.  It should be interesting because these two  girls spit trying to keep others out of their food bowls.  Having a date with Hershey in a catch pen may prove too much for them.

Spring Shearing

Kona and Flash getting a bite to eat after shearing

Kona and Flash getting a bite to eat after shearing

Well, everyone got their annual shearing and just in the nick of time, at least for us humans. Luckily the rain held off until we were done for the day.    The weather turned cold again almost down to freezing and the alpacas were in the barn kushing and shivering.  I tried to get them some relief from the wind by closing some of the overhead doors and cut down on the windflow  through the barn.  This week it warmed up into the 70’s so they enjoyed being outside. We expect another cold snap near freezing to come through beginning of the week.

Dash after shearing; nice and slim

Dash after shearing; nice and slim

 

They do like the fleece taken off; you can tell by seeing them kick their heels up and take a run across the pasture for no particular reason other than they feel “lighter” without the fleece.  They do have to get used to each other again.  As we took each one back into the barn after shearing, the gang would come over to check out the newly sheared from head to toe.  They seem very visually tied to each other; the sense of smell does not appear to play any particular part in identifying each other.  Once they all were together for awhile they appeared to be back to their old personalities.

Our shearer arrived from Tennessee, by way of an alpaca farm north of us who hired him to shear their 60 plus alpacas.  He had time to swing by our place and spend the next day to shear ours.  They are handily secured by a system he invented of securing their back legs and front legs so they are then laying on their sides secured and can be nicely sheared eliminating any kicking and they are much calmer. One side is sheared and the secured alpaca is rotated over onto the other side for shearing.  Our shearer last year just sheared them as they stood up and that turned into a lot of stress for the animal and a lot more manpower on our part to keep the animal in position.   Having legs secured was the way to go.

While they were secured it was a perfect time to include toenail trims and teeth trimming if needed.  Our shearer had all the tools with him to do these extras and taught us as he did so.  It was a great learning experience and we appreciated the time he took to help us newbies.  We now have some valuable tips that will help us keep our animals in tip top shape.  I hope he will be in the area next year to shear for us.  

We now have bags and bags of raw  fleece we must decide what to do with.  I hope to travel south of Dallas to a mini-mill there that hopefully can work with our fleece and make it into various types of yarns that we can sell.  I will report on that as soon as we can arrange a visit.

Alpaca fashion

I have been paying attention to how often I see “alpaca” in the fashion pages and it seems to be increasing.  My daughter worked as store manager for The GAP  and they were bringing more alpaca fibered fashions into the store for sale.  Also, some of the “green” fashion businesses are also using alpaca, like Viva Terra http://www.vivaterra.com/pls/enetrixp/!stmenu_template.main

and Ten Thousand Villages . http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/catalog/search.php

 

Alpaca is such a nice fiber; softer than scratchy wool and no natural oils to interfere with producing fiber and garments.    Some of the big fashion designers are also incorporating alpaca into the materials they use.

Watch the fasion world as they get more into the “natural” fibers and start promoting more alpaca fashions.

Alpacas in Texas

Alpacas are becoming a little more well known in the U.S. I think. With some events and shows, alpacas can be seen and observed and hopefully you will want a couple for yourself. 

They are easy keepers; don’t require a whole lot of maintenance (once a year shearing, occasional nail trims, and vaccinations), and are small enough to be “user friendly”.  I have two gelded guard llamas (one for boy pasture; one for girl pasture).  Our fencing is very secure so far.  We put up a barn, with water lines also, for their comfort in bad weather or hot weather, and to keep the feed dry and have a dry area I can feed and water them and keep extra bales of hay.  It has worked out perfectly.

I have read about some getting so smitten with them that they buy them and bring them home before fully planning out their care and housing.  Most farms can board your alpacas for a short while  until you are ready for them.  This will give you time to set up your fencing (no barbed wire) and get their pastures and housing ready.

We worked out our pasture design over and over, trying to devise the most efficient use of gates and alleys to get them to go where we want them.  Once you have tried herding a group of alpacas in a pasture without any lanes or alleys, you will see why it is important to have them.  To get the most efficient plan, imagine you are all by yourself and there is some kind of emergency requiring you to move the animals from one spot to another.  How would you do it by yourself?  Thinking about it in this way makes you design a most efficient plan.  Your interior fencing can be less fortress like in most cases. However, make sure you have enforced fencing separating the boys from the girls. Make it tall enough they can’t jump it or push it down. The boys tend to rub against the fencing with their body weight several times a week, if not daily. 

Please visit the TXOLAN show in February in Fort Worth and enjoy these beautiful animals.  Any of us would love to have you visit our ranch. Just find us at the link below and give us a call and visit the show in February. 

http://www.txolan.org/

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