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.

Monday, November 10, 2008

OABA Alpacafest Show

It was a great family weekend, one of the few times we all four travelled together to a show without the kids bringing friends. Paul and I were very proud of how much the kids helped this time (Mirian even showed in halter), and we were home and completely unpacked by 8 PM. Thanks to the Ohio Alpaca Breeders for another well-run show!

We did well, and achieved my goal of not missing any classes since it was hectic to get 13 animals into the ring. Nearly all ribboned, and here were the highlights:
Gallantry (above) took a 1st in the beige juvenile male class.

Jolly Mon won 2nd in dark fawn yearling males, the 2nd youngest out of 15 in the class!

Optimist and Triton (two Michelangelo sons), took 2nd and 3rd in a huge white yearling class (Magical's male won the class and went on to Color Champion).

It was certainly not our best showing ever, but it's always tough at a big show in Ohio. We'd like to congratulate Al and Dawn Fox of Chardon Alpaca Ranch, buyers of our SSF Peruvian Starbright, as she took the Res. White Female Championship!
We had such a good time going out to dinner on Saturday night with our Ohio friends, something we don't always get to fit in at a show. That's one of the biggest bonuses of the alpaca business- the great friends we have made all over.
And... we are still waiting on Eyecatcher's cria!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cria Update

My day got too busy to post my show to-do list, so perhaps next week for that. I did get out and take some photos of crias and dams (this is Paris and her Maverick daughter, above), as it was too beautiful to pass up. Enjoy! Also, check out this site to see my latest felting projects. Why is it I always get inspired and creative when there are so many other things I should be doing?
Above is Maisy with her male cria by Sinbad.
And two crias from Cody (Dakotia Decadence)....

Watch for more photos coming soon- Eyecatcher still hasn't had her cria!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Getting ready for OABA AlpacaFest





Today the vet came out to do health certificates for this coming weekend's Ohio Alpaca Breeder's Association (OABA) AlpacaFest Show in Columbus, Ohio. We are taking the most alpacas we ever have to a show (13), so it should be a crazy weekend! We have lots of alpaca friends and clients in Ohio so it's always so fun to reconnect with everyone.

What do we have to do to prepare? Health certificates and generally making sure everyone looks healthy are high on the agenda. Shows are stressful for the alpacas, so we try to be sure they're all in top form so we don't layer multiple stressors on the young ones in particular. This show requires only a vet check within 30 days (a minimum for all AOBA shows) as well as a BVDV test. Some states require additional testing for tuberculosis, brucellosis, or blue tongue.

Because alpacas love to roll and our Kentucky soil leaves a dusty, grimy look and feel on the fleece, we try to bring them to the barn about 4-7 days before the show to stay clean. Because we have been in a drought the past two summers, our pastures are dusty and dry with many "roll holes" that the alpacas have established.

One of the beauties of showing alpacas is that there is NO grooming, bathing, brushing or trimming of any kind to do! Grooming products or sprays are forbidden. The judges require that the animals be in "paddock condition" so that the natural state of their fleece can be evaluated. Again, a clean environment and then we may pick any large bits of hay, straw, or poop off before taking them into the show ring.

Halter training the weanlings so that they'll willingly walk without fear with a halter and lead is a must. We do find that actually going to a show and walking around the facility is awesome "on the job" training but they have to be able to at least walk. We also try to desensitize them to having their fiber and teeth examined (at a minimum).

Later this week I'll talk about compiling necessary supplies and other preparations we make for show. In addition, I'll post pictures of yet another girl we just had today!!!! (Still not Eyecatcher!) Yeah, last time we had a boy streak it was followed by a girl streak, so two in a row just may be the beginning, right?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Waiting...and wondering

Waiting for the much-anticipated birth of a cria can be a little bit like watching paint dry... or waiting for the result of a heated presidential election! As the days tick by, you imagine the best and worst-case scenarios. Will the next president raise taxes, incite more war, help to improve the economy, or move our country forward? Will the cria be an amazing female with the exact color and exquisite fiber you hoped for? Will it be a phenomenal male with herdsire potential, the next Legacy or Michelangelo? Or... will the dam have trouble and lose the baby, or even die herself (a highly unlikely outcome).

Alpaca gestations are normally 347 days on average (around 11.5 months), though at our farm they average longer in the spring and shorter in the fall (closer to 11 months or 335 days). Nobody knows why this happens, and there are exceptions, but I do start watching earlier in the fall. Hot summer gestations tend to be longest, which is one of the reasons why we avoid breeding for late summer crias- we believe it is just asking for problems (weakborn crias, prematurity, lack of milk in the dam).
On the other hand, some females just seem to "bake them" faster! Shiva recently had her cria at just 328 days; he was over 15 pounds and appeared full-term in every way! This has been a trend with her, so we always know to start watching earlier than usual.

Many breeders have stories of watching their pregnant girl non-stop, and finally being desperate enough for something at the store that they take a quick look before leaving with no indication that the dam is going to do anything, then returning to a fully-born cria! I do believe that some females (especially distrustful imports, whose protective instincts can be more fully intact), can somehow "hold back" until they feel the time is right (ie. nobody around). This is one reason why we love the 4 barn cams we had installed at our newest barn- we are often watching via the internet (at the house, wherever) but the alpacas don't know it! We can also replay the video to see if everything looked normal, when/if the cria nursed, etc. which has proven invaluable since we started using them last winter.

So... here I am waiting and watching for Eyecatcher to have her cria (shown above calmly chewing cud, no signs at all), now at Day 344, (as well as anticipating a hotly contested election!) Will it be a winner... or a loser? As with the election, I am most of all hoping for a smooth and healthy process which will ultimately result in a good outcome for all! (Though I can still wish for an awesome grey female cria and ___________ for president!)

Later this week I will share some of the signs we watch for that tell us that a cria is imminent.... NEWSFLASH! I may lose all credibility, as I was just informed by our farmhand that Paris has just had a healthy female cria at Day 332, never showing a sign! Yeah, finally our male streak has ended!