Monday, October 27, 2008

Macho Monday- THE Maverick!

I've decided to feature one of our herdsires on occasional Mondays, so it seems appropriate with the election and all to start with my favorite boy... 419 Peruvian Accoyo Maverick (ARI #829623). We have owned Maverick since he was about 2-3 months old, having purchased him at his dam's side (he's now 8). We bought him at auction, and I had no intention of purchasing any whites or males at that particular time, but when I put my hands on his 16.9 micron fleece and that of his dam (carrying another Royal Fawn offspring), I knew I absolutely HAD to have him! That decision was pivotal for our breeding program... selection of breeding stock is the most important decision you can make when breeding for the future.
Maverick had a wonderful show career for us, both in fleece and halter (fleece and awards shown above), and helped "put us on the map" as only a great male can do. I very nearly sold him as a juvenile, but it was providential that it didn't work out! Highlights include 1st place at the 2002 AOBA Nationals and Champion at the Kentucky Classic. and his offspring are now winning quite a lot themselves (earning him several Get of Sire blue ribbons)! From what I can tell, at least 16 offspring have been champions or blue-ribbon winners, many multiple times. We were approached by our friends Jennifer and Sean Orr at Copper Ridge Alpacas about selling them half-interest, and made the decision to partner with them. This move helped their breeding program as well! (See us above winning Get of Sire at the 2007 Kentucky Classic). Due to a change in family circumstances, the Orrs recently sold their half-interest to our friends Stuart and Michele Ray at Catalpa Creek Alpacas in Louisville- this makes him a part of our co-owned stable of Thoroughly Bred Herdsires. He continues to reside full-time at Seldom Scene Farm. Maverick's fleece is incredible, and at 7 years it tested at an amazing 20.8 microns! It is most noteworthy VERY bright, with deep, bold crimp and great density that keeps it sparkling all of the time. He has a gorgeous head that he often passes on to his crias, as well as wonderful coverage. He can be led around without a halter, and although he is extremely gentle and jumps easily into my Suburban, he "rules the roost" and the other males don't mess with him! His calm demeanor seems to be passed on to many of his offspring. Maverick has an endearing habit of jumping up on the fence to get a better view or appear taller when there are females around! There are currently Maverick offspring in Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, Vermont, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and of course, Kentucky. Most noteworthy are: SSF Peruvian Pablo (brown), owned by Marcee Stephens of the Criation Station, SSF Per. Silver and Gold (silver grey), owned by Nancy Wright of Always Accoyo, Clayfarm Contessa (white), owned by Cas-Cad-Nac Farm, Destiny's Accoyo Carissa (white), owned by Destiny Alpacas, SSF Peruvian Smoke 'n Mirrors (silver grey) owned by Evergreen Elegant Alpacas, Copper Ridge's Alysheba (brown), owned by Mistletoe Alpacas, and SSF Peruvian Sheena (fawn), owned by Seldom Scene Farm. There are some other excellent Maverick offspring coming up- watch for SSF Runalong to make her debut at the OABA AlpacaFest! A Maverick cria will be sold at the side of his or her dam, SSF Eyecatcher, at the 2008 BelleauWood Auction in December.

Maverick's breeding fee is a bargain at $3,500, which includes 60 days of free board and confirmation of pregnancy. Please inquire for details! We hope you enjoy some additional photos of Maverick's beautiful offspring, the future of huacaya alpacas!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The blob is a .... placenta!

The question on the last post was answered correctly by country-chicken. The previous post's final picture isn't very romantic or appealing, but is one of the realities of having baby alpacas (crias) born at your farm. Without going into a lot of technical detail here, the final stage of labor post-delivery is the expulsion of the afterbirth (placenta). Here's a series of photos showing a female in labor (starting above with another curious cria observing and smelling that something is different). The dam is trying to isolate herself, and has been up and down and sometimes on her side for a while. This stage can last for up to a few hours.

Here, in active delivery, the cria's head and legs are out:

Below, within about 15-60 minutes the placenta is being expelled. I find that by the time the placenta has arrived, the cria is standing and ready to nurse- mother nature seems to have good timing, as the dam is sometimes crampy and restless until this final stage but then is ready to stand calmly for the cria to find her milk.

The other crias are happy for a new playmate!

These photos were taken several years ago when Betty Jane had a cria (I wish our grass were this green right now!). I like it when the dams can deliver in the field on clean grass, like in these photos. Rarely is assistance needed, though we closely monitor those due and now have cameras hooked to the internet for monitoring the dams when we can't be right at the barn. I hope to have some video on here soon of a birth... stay tuned and feel free to pipe up on the comments with questions any time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Virginia Alpaca Expo and Blob on the Blog

We had a great weekend at the VAOBA Alpaca Show in Lexington, Virginia, and especially enjoyed the gorgeous fall leaves while driving through the mountains. (It continues to be very dry here, thus not a lot of fall color). We were greeted at the Virginia Horse Center by a 4-H group that helped us unload, a nice touch! The check-in process was especially cumbersome and long, but the rest of the show was run very smoothly. It was pretty funny watching Mary Beth and I walking 13 alpacas to the check-in all by ourselves- we had to stop and de-tangle leads many times!
Two things really stood out- first, there was wonderful youth involvement at this show, something that other shows need to better emulate. There were some particularly adorable costume participants!
The other thing that really impressed me was VAOBA's store for alpaca items produced by the members. There was great participation and a nicer variety of quality yarns and handmade products than I have seen at any show other than that of the SEAA's Southern Select, which is also excellent.

I can't brag about blue ribbons and championships like last time, but was satisfied overall with how our animals did in this extremely tough competition in which we ended up near the top in several huge classes. The highlights were Decadent Cafe- 2nd (her last show, she's being retired now for breeding), Accoyo Optimist- 3rd of 15, Accoyo Michael- 4th of 15, and Michelangelo-3rd of 8 in Get of Sire. It was so nice to see other breeders I hadn't seen in a long time, and being at a show always takes my mind off of politics and the country's problems, if only for a while.
I needed an extra handler for Get of Sire and desperately asked a group of kids if any of them would be willing to show. One boy eagerly volunteered. He asked the name of the animals he was to show, and I told him, "Michael." Then I asked his name, "Michael!" It was too funny. I learned that he lives on a naval base, has moved 13 times in 13 years, and that his Dad has 2 months to go deploying bombs in Afghanistan... reality set back in for a while, and I told him I'll pray for his Dad to come home safely very soon. Anyway, he was such a nice young man and reminded me of my son, Robert. I only hope that Robert presents himself as well with strangers like us.

Another new cria has arrived... bummer, the wrong sex again! This is 5 males in a row now. Okay, I AM happy for each and every healthy, trouble-free cria and they are all very nice- we are truly blessed and I do mean that. But... a girl would be nice very soon.
Now for the blob on the blog. The 5th person to comment and correctly answer what this rather gross-looking thing is will win one of my hand-felted soaps (check them out on my Etsy site).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Yarn Paradise

With little time these days for handspinning on my wheel and a good demand for premium alpaca yarn, I was thrilled to get a new shipment of yarn this week that I had spun at a US mill for our own use and resale. We are finding that knitters are eager for top quality alpaca, and we certainly have the means to produce it! I love dyeing and handpainting the lighter colors, and got started immediately on some suri:

Having raised alpacas for nearly 14 years and being a knitter myself, I know that people want yarn that is SOFT (fine) and CLEAN (density helps in this regard, as does the farm environment) with very few to no straight fibers (uniformity). Some love natural colors, others like dyed and I personally love working with multi-colored yarns. People are also demanding USA-produced yarn! I didn't used to think that that the market would bear this out, but I was proven wrong when I first offered millspun yarn directly from OUR own Kentucky alpacas and it sold quickly, despite a higher pricetag than imports in the yarn stores.

Many of our current yarns are available for shipping through my site at Etsy (just click here on it), or you can make an appointment to see what we have here at the farm.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The last of Indian Summer?

Yesterday was just gorgeous, and I found some time to take a walk and get some pictures to update our website and sales list. I'm so glad I did, as today is gloomy and raining! No way am I complaining, as we are in a severe drought and every drop is welcome. We will be resuming breedings next week; it's been too hot to breed in 85 degree weather with half-grown fleeces, and we avoid having late-summer crias due to issues with prematurity and other potential problems.

This group of our show females (top) welcomed me. Jitterbug has become a real leader of the herd. I hope she walks better at the show this weekend in Virginia than at Indiana, as her "field presence" is unbeatable.
Big Brown is really growing up nicely. I was heartbroken that his thoroughbred namesake and 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner won't be racing again (in the much-anticipated Breeder's Cup Classic) after a hoof injury this week, but at least he's got a good prognosis for recovery. He'll be standing stud at Three Chimneys Farm, about 15 minutes from here- I'd love to meet him "in person" someday!
Above are some of our young weanlings (right to left- Gallantry, Big Grown, Einstein and Bounce, rear). Despite more males than females, we are having wonderful crias this year!
I have had a lot of recent interest in pet/fiber quality males. We're nearly out, but here's one that will soon be weaned and available. He needs a name, any ideas?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Proud new alpaca owners

Today I had the pleasure of delivering two young "fiber quality" male alpacas to some great folks that I met at Kentucky Alpaca Farm Day at Shaker Village. Fiber males are a perfect introduction to alpaca ownership, as their needs are slightly more basic than that of breeding animals and they bring a comfort level to novice owners.

I had a beautiful drive to the new owner's farm, and was eagerly greeted with enthusiasm as they welcomed Cracker Jack and Sprinkles. Mike and Gina had built a lovely barn that was well-planned and safe, and they had many good questions.

One thing they wanted to know was why these pretty males were being sold as pets. I explained that breeding males should be virtually without fault in both fleece quality and conformation, and that only the top 5% or so make it there (though a higher percentage from our farm achieve that goal, and many of our sales this year have been of young herdsires).

They also questioned the outlook for alpacas in the current economy- I explained that my guess is as good as any but we are finding that a lot of people love the lifestyle and the idea of having an investment they can touch and see (as well as enjoy!) I also told them about the recent Wall Street Journal article (front page of the business section, October 3, 2008) which mentioned that many people are looking to alternative investments like alpacas. Magical Farm's auction this past weekend sold nearly $2 million of alpacas with a sales average of over $22,000 for females and $32,000 for the 16 males sold... pretty shocking but great after last week's stock market performance.

I went over a packet of New Owner Information and records on each male (My big goal this year is improved efficiency and doing better with records which I have been weak on in the past. I'm proud to report that we're now consistently keeping thorough records using AlpacaEase software). We discussed worming, heat stress, shearing and vaccinations and I showed them how to give shots and trim toenails. Mike and Gina were naturals and did a great job with helping each male keep their balance and give up their foot comfortably for trimming.
I am happy to have some new friends and clients, and felt so good that these two boys will have a great home!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Heartland Classic Alpaca Show

Last weekend we attended a great first-time show, the Heartland Classic, sponsored by the Indiana Alpaca Association. Thanks to the organizers for a really fun and well-run show with nearly 600 alpacas!

The judges were Diana Timmerman and Tim Lavan- I rarely comment on judges, as I think they all do their best and most are very good and consistent in their judging... besides I'd sound pretty biased since we did really well, having one of our best shows ever!

With 9 alpacas, we took 3 Res. Championships, 5 firsts and 4 seconds. Decadent Cafe took 1st and Res. Champion Grey. Snowmass Tambourina took 1st and Res. Champion Light and Lunar Light took 2nd and Res. Champion White (second only to a Michelangelo daughter!) In addition, Accoyo Optimist took 2nd in the yearling white males (beaten only the Futurity Champion), Jitterbug was first in juvenile fawn females (shown above), Muffin and Michael took first in shorn classes, and Jolly Mon was 2nd of 15 (youngest in his class) in fawn yearling males.

I don't plan to focus on show results, but couldn't let this great show pass us by without a little bragging! Makes us feel like we're doing something right!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Bit of Farm History

We feel fortunate to be living in such a tranquil and beautiful place, Seldom Scene Farm near Frankfort, Lexington, and Versailles, Kentucky. National Geographic Magazine, in an article about the Bluegrass Region in May, 1974, pictured and quoted former resident Bird Watts as he stood in a tobacco patch along the Kentucky River and shared memories of his relatives fighting Indians in the bottoms. Shown above is a horse-drawn hay rake that was pulled from our pond when we had it drained and enlarged last year. I like to think that Bird Watts used it with some strong mules to plow the fields here.

Seldom Scene Farm was transformed from "The Old Watts Farm" when Paul bought it in 1987 and his employees told him he was "seldom seen any more." Paul became the second owner of the farm, since it was originally deeded to the Watts family in the Virginia Land Grant. The land and 1812 cabin had sat empty in a stale estate for about 15 years, having previously been a cattle and tobacco farm. The first time that Paul mowed the field where our house now stands, the thistles were higher than the tractor! The farm has come a long way in 21 years.

We have raised various a variety of livestock on these hills, but nothing has been so successful and satisfying as alpacas. We started with one pet male, then 3 females and have now grown to over 80 animals with several world-class studs. (Although we no longer breed llamas, we keep a few around as guard animals). Paul's background with showing cattle and Lindy's with horses have given us a good basis for selecting and breeding top stock.

I look forward to sharing our alpaca farm happenings, photos, stories and highlights, and especially to hearing your comments and questions about all things related to alpacas! I will also feature tips on husbandry, showing and fiber. Finally, I will highlight places and events in our surrounding area as Woodford County has so much to offer! Some of the world's top thoroughbred horse farms are within a few miles of us (Ashford Stud and Gainesborough Farm to name a few), and we are a stone's throw from Woodford Reserve Distillery as well. Keeneland race track and the Kentucky Horse Park are other nearby destinations that we also frequently enjoy. If you would like to visit and learn more about alpacas or the area, just give us a call!