Thursday, December 18, 2008

SSF Silver Belle!

One of the best alpacas we have ever raised is SSF Peruvian Silver and Gold (shown above). Born on Halloween a few years ago, she appeared fawn at birth but had a tinge of silver at the skin which grew into a solid grey. She would become one of the most stunning, rare harlequin greys we've ever seen, and was a top seller at the 2007 National Elite Auction. She was purchased by Always Accoyo, LLC in Michigan, and was a multiple champion in both fleece and halter. She had a darling personality as well, and was a favorite of our daughter and her friend- I love the picture below where she appears to be smiling for the camera! The Wrights at Always Accoyo adore her, and have sent me some great pictures as she has matured.Yesterday we had the privilege of welcoming her full sister, SSF Peruvian Silver Belle! CH Peruvian Sahara Rose is her harlequin-colored dam, and Accoyo Maverick is the sire. Although she doesn't have much silver showing yet, Belle has some hints of grey in her prime fleece and has the telltale spots on her face like her dam.
Sahara (who has now had 4 female crias in 4 years) has had a skin issue with her udder the past few times, and we have had to intervene with the crias for the first week or two to make sure they get their colostrum (first milk) and subsequent nourishment. The cria appeared to be slightly early, and isn't quite able to get ahold of her dam's teats on her own, so Paul and I milked the mom every 4 hours throughout the night and tube-fed the cria. Sahara is generally very laid-back and cooperative, which definitely makes the job more pleasant.

Although Paul and I don't communicate that well on some things (like backing a trailer or herding a group of animals), we have developed what I think is a beautiful unspoken communication when it comes to caring for newborns and their dams. At 1:30 AM, we arose to the alarm, drove to the barn, and got the job done while saying barely a word to each other! We have learned to be very calm and patient with a dam and her newborn cria, as a situation like this can cause great stress to both and develop into secondary issues like ulcers, milk drying up, etc. Over the years, we know from experience that it doesn't pay to try to force a cria to nurse, but rather to encourage them by positioning under the dam and then letting go, and that most dams will respond gently if you treat them with respect and patience as they seem to know we're helping.

We will continue to monitor the cria closely and make sure she's attempting to nurse regularly and getting enough nourishment from us for now as she grows stronger and more sharp. We'll also do an IGG blood test to be sure she received the proper immunity from her dam's milk. We will milk out the dam to keep her milk flowing and keep her from either drying up or becoming engorged, and will supplement what we give the cria with regular Vit. D whole milk. Few dams and crias require this kind of intervention, but our 14 years of experience tell us that all will be fine and it will be SO worth it! (See the photo of Silver and Gold's champion fleece below!)

We are winding down our birthing season on a great note... when I told Paul the name I liked for the new cria, he said, "At least it's not Silver Balls!"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quiet Times

Well, it was a very light turnout for the Open House due to a lack of much advertising- perhaps I was secretly wishing it would be so. My friend Marti always says, "Thoughts become things, always choose the good ones," or something like that, basically be careful what you wish for! Nonetheless, I really enjoyed our visitors and it did get me to organize the barn office a bit better!I hoped to get a lot of spinning and knitting done in "down periods," but what little down time I had was somehow filled up with the kids and chores. I did manage to finish spinning some bright green hand-dyed baby alpaca I'd started earlier in the fall! I also enjoyed a few stolen moments just watching the crias and cats.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Open House Saturday, Dec. 13th


Just a reminder that we will have lots of great alpaca goodies for sale tomorrow in our barn shop from 11 to 3 (originally advertised from 10 to 4). We're having some great discounts, and I'll be glad to show you our new crias, and will be spinning. We'll have hot spiced cider and cookies! Should be fun, feel free to call for directions!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gratitude and Zippy's cria

I finally took some pictures of our newest crias. Zippy had a wonderful, bright-white male by Michelangelo. With two champions for parents, this little guy has wonderful potential! We proudly co-own mom and cria with Donna Christley of Moonlight Meadow Farm.
Here are some updated photos of SSF Accoyo Gratitude! She appears to have as much if not even more potential than her two full siblings, SSF Accoyo Sundancer (owned by Flying Pony Alpacas) and SSF Accoyo Empire Maker (owned by Always Accoyo, LLC). Shown at the bottom are Sundancer and Empire Maker!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Whirlwind Weekend


I'm glad to be finally home from the Carolina Classic Show and Belleau Wood Farm Auction!!! It was GREAT fun, but tiring and there were some stressful moments. It started with a near-fire in the RV the night before we left, and ended with a near-breakdown just outside of Asheville, NC that got us home in one piece but much later than anticipated (see my other blog for details!)

All in all, I was pleased and grateful for the outcome of the weekend- all of our animals sold well and the show went super, too! The auction was festive, and despite the uncertainty of selling animals, I was able to party and have a good time with friends.

SSF Peruvian Pink Pansy sold to our great friends, Mary Beth and Jim Anderson of Alpacas at Booker's Corner in Paris, Kentucky- THANKS and congratulations!

SSF Accoyo Michael AND Eyecatcher and Eye Candy sold to Ron and Cathy Downs of Twisted Lock Alpacas in Shadow Hills, California- THANK YOU so very much!

Although the show was fairly small, competition was stiff and all of our classes were of pretty good size. Runalong took a 1st in the light fawn juvenile females, Gallantry took 1st of 10 in beige juvenile males. Muffin was 2nd in white juvenile females, and Optimist took 3rd in a large white yearling male class! (4 animals, 2 firsts, 1 second and 1 third) Be sure to check back soon for the photos of Gallantry doing tricks!

We had a beautiful white male cria born from Zippy while we were gone, with just a few left for the season. We'll be ready to hunker down for rougher weather and to enjoy the holidays. Tomorrow, I'll write in more detail about our breakdown and give some tips for travelling with the pacas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Consignments to Belleau Wood Auction!

Did you see the alpacas on the CBS Evening News last night? How very cool that alpacas (thanks to AOBA) were featured as one of the alternative investments to which many have turned! I know that we have thoroughly enjoyed our alpaca way of life. There are some excellent tax benefits to be gained by investing in 2008 as well, through the Section 179 Deduction.

This weekend we'll be travelling to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Belleau Wood Auction and Carolina Classic Show. We are featuring three top entries in the auction.
SSF Peruvian Pink Pansy (seen above) is a fawn-roan daughter of the incomparable El Nino's Accoyo Michelangelo! Her dam is our rose-grey Peruvian Savannah. She has incredible fleece length and is fine and dense. Pansy has excellent breed type with great coverage. She is a full sister to SSF Michelangelo's Cupid, a gorgeous and unique grey that we co-own with Tres Amigos Ranch in Colorado. Like Cupid, she has an extremely friendly and curious disposition, as most Michelangelo offspring do! She should be ready to breed by late spring or early summer, and she sells with a free breeding to any of our unrelated sires! Show her and then breed her, you can't go wrong!
SSF Accoyo Michael is an elite-fleeced white, also sired by Michelangelo. His dam is our foundation female, SSF Accoyo Bella Vida (an Avenger daughter). Judge Kevin O'Leary commented on Michael's extreme potential, and he does appear to be getting better and better! His full brother, SSF Accoyo Optimist, always places at the top of his class, and his follicle density was tested at a remarkable 95 follicles sq. mm with an S/P ratio of 15 to 1! I can think of no better way to add full Accoyo genetics to your herd than through the genetics of Michael (he has Michaelangelo, El Nino, Caligula, Avenger, and Royal Fawn in his background)! There may be some bargains at this auction, so position yourself to take advantage and add these SSF Accoyo genetics to your herd!
SSF Eyecatcher and SSF Eye Candy make up a 3-in-one package that includes Eyecatcher herself, her young FEMALE cria by 419 Peruvian Accoyo Maverick, AND a complimentary breed back to ANY of our sires! We will be happy to transport Eyecatcher back home for the buyer and breed her for you. Eyecatcher, a daughter of our black herdsire Ndume, is shown here below with her 2007 black male cria. Eyecatcher's new cria at side (shown below, DOB 11/17/08) is Eye Candy. She looks like definite show material- she is heavy-boned and typey, with excellent fleece character already evident.As always, we are offering financing and our full farm guarantees! If you can't be at the auction, please contact Erin McCarthy with Belleau Wood for arrangements to bid by phone or by proxy. Let us know if you have any questions!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Calendar of Fun Events!

November 27- Happy Thanksgiving!
November 29-30- Farm and Shop Open to Visitors by Appointment- We have great gift items including alpaca socks, felted soaps, luxury yarns in natural and hand-dyed colors, sweaters, blankets, and TEDDY BEARS! Check out our beautiful alpaca items from Red Maple Sportswear! Dec. 4-6- Carolina Classic Show and Belleau Wood Auction in Charlotte, North Carolina- contact us for information. We have 3 beautiful lots consigned, and will have others available at the show!
Dec. 13- Farm and Shop Open from 10-4, Christmas Open House with gift items for sale, crias on display, demonstrations, refreshments- all FREE!

Dec. 20-21- Farm and Shop Open to Visitors by Appointment
Dec. 25- Merry Christmas!

Merchandise from Seldom Scene Farm is available here in our shop (please call first), at Truly Bluegrass in Versailles, and at http://www.alpacalindy.etsy.com/

Gratitude

We had some super nice folks visit yesterday, and the mom that called to schedule said that her daughter was crazy about alpacas but had never met one "in person." Kaylyn and her brother Jake had a great time meeting Maverick and all of the babies, and we were all thrilled to discover a newborn at the new barn, SSF Accoyo Gratitude, daughter of Drama Queen and Michelangelo. Kaylyn and Jake got to help dry off the cria and watch her take her first steps! I'm sure I'll be gushing some more about this cria very soon, as she's likely our best of the entire year! Here's a thank you letter I received this morning-

This is Kaylyn from yesterday. I just wanted to write you and thank you so much for taking time out of your day to show me your alpacas. It was so amazing. That was the best day ever. I learned a lot of new things about alpacas and I thought it was great that we were there when a baby alpaca was born. That made it even better. Everything about your farm was beautiful and serene. I loved it so much. You and your husband and daughter are very lucky. I haven't taken off my scarf or socks yet and I've read that alpaca book/magazine about 4 times already. :) I'm very glad we choose your farm to go see for my first time ever seeing alpacas. I can't even begin to explain how great my day was but I just wanted to thank you so much for letting my mom, my brother, my boyfriend, and I come see your farm. I really appreciate it. Well take care; and take care of the alpacas. Good Luck. -Kaylyn
We are very grateful for the opportunity to share our farm and the magic of alpacas with others- thank you also for coming to see us!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eye Candy

Today I turned out the newer crias on pasture, partly so that they can be free to run fast and stretch their legs and soak up some healthy sunshine, and partly to make room for more expectant moms in the nursery area. I made sure to have my camera ready, as I knew they'd be happy and frisky! Above, Maverick is looking over the fence to see which babes may be coming to see him soon!
Above and below is SSF Eye Candy, Eyecatcher's beautiful new girl. It's always hard to get a still photo of her, as she's so exuberant. Whoever buys Eyecatcher and Eye Candy at the Belleau Wood Auction will be lucky indeed, she is looking awesome!
Below, with the striking grey face, is Fury's little boy, looking quite a bit more pert than when he was first born as seen here.Below is Paris's little girl, also sired by Maverick.

Here's Roana's boy, growing up so fast! He and Shiva's cria at the bottom are both sired by RPeruvian Dakotia Decadence.

We are really pleased with our fall cria crop!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Eyecatcher's Little Girl!

Finally, Eyecatcher presented us with her beautiful brown female cria (sired by Maverick) this morning, all 22.2 pounds of her! Our other fall crias have been averaging around 16 pounds, so she was definitely a whopper and acted bright and mature from the start. She was up and nursing in a record 10 minutes, and Eyecatcher seems to be recovering just fine. Above, she's about 4 hours old and we let her run with the other crias for a while.

I got some pretty neat video of the birth! Before you watch the clips, I would advise making sure to turn down the sound. Eyecatcher is MUCH more vocal than most (many make no sound whatsoever) and was with last year's cria as well. Paul said she sounds like a dieing dinosaur, but he admitted he would, too, if he were having a baby! I don't know how to edit the sound, sorry.

video

We like to leave the dams with their herdmates during the birth if at all possible, (often on clean pasture if it's not too cold) and then will either keep them with the herd or isolate them in a stall to bond. It was cold today, so we quickly got them into the warm stall and partially blow-dried the cria after weighing, which was difficult as she was SO active! They are snug as bugs in the warm stall tonight, with Paris and her new cria to keep them company. Obviously, these are just partial clips of the labor and delivery- this one took about 15 minutes once she was in active labor.

video
Eyecatcher and her cria will be sold in the upcoming Belleau Wood Auction in Charlotte, North Carolina. Would anyone like to suggest a name for the cria?

Easily Amused by Yarn!

Despite having many projects in the works, I was completely entranced by the scarf project that I saw here the other day on The Yarn Harlot's blog. After looking at most of her links and then dozens of versions on Ravelry, I had to cast on immediately and I've had the knitting in my hands nearly every waking minute since. The pattern calls for Noro Silk Garden and I combined it with some of our dark grey alpaca yarn. I had honestly never knit a scarf in the K1, P1 rib stitch, and I adore the way it looks like stockinette but with no front and back sides.
Noro is an incredible yarn which comes in different high-quality fiber blends (Silk Garden has silk, kid mohair, and lamb's wool), but the neatest part is how the yarns change colors in very long, gradual repeats. You can find more photos and the complete instructions here. I can't wait to knit some socks with the pattern that I found here using Noro sock yarn, but I need to do some more scarves first! (Pssttt... they're for Christmas!)
(This is one of my favorite color transitions).

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Little Drama Everyday

My friend Dianne describes farm life with animals as being like a series of mini-dramas going on all the time. That was the case yesterday when I got the call that Fury was in labor in the field at our top barn. We hadn't expected this cria quite yet, so it was an "all hands on deck" sort of event. Maybe I should say, "All feet on deck", because all four of our guardian dogs gathered around to watch, as did the rest of the female herd.

The cria was a little slow to come out due to one elbow being lodged in the tract, (which I corrected) and Fury went on to deliver just fine after that. Our very shy female Maremma guardian dog, Rosa, just couldn't wait to sniff the the little boy but Fury wouldn't have it! She chased off our other Maremmas, Dylan and Crockett, but Rosa just layed there while Fury threatened to stomp her. Oh how I wish I'd had my camera just then, as Rosa displayed perfect guardian dog submission to her, getting closer and closer to the ground, averting her eyes, and then laying on her back completely exposing her belly to Fury to gain her trust. Fury nipped at her ears as if to say, "Hey, I'm watching you", but didn't hurt her as she easily could have!
The Great Pyrenees, Yoda (our very own Head of Ranch Security), just ran in circles barking around the entire group, keeping his eyes on the sky for any buzzards, which he detests even more than tires coming up and down our road. I don't know what we'd do without our great guard dogs!
We got mom and cria to the cozy warm stall at the new barn, but the cria seemed a little bit weak and slow, and he wasn't holding his head up strongly as I would have liked. I was worried that he may have been slightly deprived of oxygen during birth, so we opted to give him a little from the oxygen tank we keep on hand. This is not something we do routinely by any means, but it worked great and the cria really rallied after that and was on his feet nursing in no time! Here he is today, a beautiful Maverick boy (this must mean that Eyecatcher's going to have a girl, right? She is finally isolating herself, so maybe the birth is finally imminent?)
We had some super nice visitors today, Rod, Betty and their darling grandson Ben. Congratulations to them for becoming new alpaca owners with their purchase of two females!

(Here is Ben and Rod with our very sweet Pink Pansy, who will be available in the upcoming Belleau Wood Auction in N. Carolina).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Gentleman Country Vet- Dr. Norm Evans



James Herriot's books, such as All Creatures Great and Small (the tales of a Yorkshire country vet), had a huge impact on my interest in animals and even though I chose to be a teacher rather than a vet, biology has always fascinated me and vets are some of my favorite people. Our local vet and good friend, Dr. Ashley Keith, has been our hero-on-call many times, but the one nearest and dearest to my heart will likely always be Dr. Norman Evans.
Norm (he calls himself "Nearly Normal Norman") has been an integral part of Seldom Scene's success from the start, and has been worth every penny that we have paid him over the years (and there have been lots of pennies!), saving many animal's lives and helping us learn and move on when things haven't turned out so well. Early on, we had the painful experience of losing two beautiful, black female crias within 24 hours. I was inconsolable, and Dr. Evans sent us a very special book, signed by the illustrator (Nancy Noel) called, All God's Creatures Go To Heaven . I have always treasured it, and have read it to both children as they have experienced losses of pets. He has grown attached to several of our alpacas that he's seen over the years (especially our first female, Machuca), and has a remarkable memory for past issues of interest with our animals.

Aside from being such a kind and compassionate person, Norm Evans is a brilliant vet who has helped to formulate the alpaca feeds being used by most breeders in the US, and is one of the more popular seminar speakers and teachers on alpacas anywhere. He has written several editions of the indispensable Alpaca Field Manual (and apparently has a new rewrite coming out soon). In addition, he is on the cutting edge of skin follicle evaluation via skin biopsies, and has helped us identify strengths and weaknesses of the alpacas within our own herd (Our co-owned herdsire, El Nino's Accoyo Michelangelo has one of the highest follicle densities ever tested, and his offspring are testing very high as well!)
I hadn't intended to gush so much about him, but wanted to report on Dr. Evan's visit yesterday to do some ultrasounds, pre-purchase exams for the upcoming Belleau Wood Auction and Carolina Classic Show, and a few other items. Reproductive efficiency has been a vital aspect of growing our herd, so it's important to optimize each and every breeding and he helps us to do that.
There is just so much that Dr. Evans can see via a high-quality ultrasound machine using a rectal probe. Aside from confirming pregnancy, he can often tell if there is infection or scarring within the uterus, inflammation of the cervical rings or the status of the ovaries (Are they there? Are they developed? Is there a follicle that is "ripe" for breeding?). In addition, he can often detect twins (NOT a good thing), or abnormalities within the reproductive tract. It is essential to have a great, strong holder like our farm manager, Jamie, and it keeps things much safer for the alpaca, the people, and the valuable ultrasound machine! Strangely enough, the alpacas object more to being ultrasounded via the outside of their belly than rectally, and the internal probe gives a much clearer picture.
Norm's visit yesterday revealed that some animals need treatment for infection via an intrauterine catheter that he inserts for direct delivery of antibiotics to the uterus, some girls aren't cycling due to having large crias at side which are likely "draining resources", and some are pregnant as we hoped. Although we have detected pregnancies at just a few weeks, here's a shot of one of our best dam's Dulce's cria in utero (skull showing) at about 6 months- she's bred to our newest black herdsire, Snowmass Nova's Private Reserve. We always joke around that it looks like it must be a grey girl with awesome fiber! (Of course not even Norm can make that prediction, nor can he tell the gender).

We are so grateful for the assistance of all of our great vets, but especially to the humble and remarkable Dr. Norman Evans, DVM.