Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Very Funny Ad!

You'll notice that I have several new blogs on my blogroll, mostly from alpaca farms around the world. Check out this video, it's a commercial for an insurance company, played in Australia and possible the UK- you're gonna love it!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Woodford Farm Field Day

We were invited to bring alpacas and educate 4th graders about them as one of 15 "stations" at a farm field day held at Life Adventure Center of the Bluegrass. It was a beautiful day and a great venue, just a lot of fun!
It's amazing how far we've come as an industry in exposing the public to our great animals, and I get only infrequent "ignorant" questions and far fewer people ask if they're baby llamas, etc. I like to think that it's partly because of those of use who "get out there" with our animals, to farmer's markets, festivals, libraries, schools, farm events, parades, etc. We have done literally dozens of these sorts of things over the years, and they are still gratifying.
Even though we live in a rural county, there are children growing up in our area who are completely out of touch with farms, their food sources, and exposure to animals. Fourth graders, I believe, are ideally receptive to learning about these things and I was very impressed with some of their great questions and attention.
We talked about the alpaca's use and origins, their habits, and defenses. I demonstrated my spinning wheel and let them all try treadling on it. They got to pet our 4-day-old cria, Ginger Spice. Each child left with a little bit of roving- what a thrill that was for some of them! Hopefully they'll go home and tell their parents about all that they learned and saw today- who knows, some may become alpaca breeders or at least consumers of alpaca products someday!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A night scene in fiber...

It's been really hard for me to find time for fiber lately, and I may be breaking a new personal record for time spent NOT knitting (it's probably been at least 3 weeks since I've even picked up any needles!). I did, at least, make time for a bit of felting a few weeks ago, and put the finishing touches on this little project today (I knew it needed something, the recent full moon gave me the idea!)
I started with a felt sheet, purchased from the Kentucky Alpaca Association and processed by Flaggy Meadow Fiber Works. This was a great surface for needle-felting! I keep a good stash of my own hand-dyed fibers, and needled on the design and stitched in some tiny beeds.
Then I sewed a little border about 1/2 inch from the edge to give it a little more finished look and put a hanger on the back. I look forward to doing more of these quick and easy little projects and plan to sell some in my Etsy store and at Truly Bluegrass in Versailles.

A Mamma AND a Nanny!

Amidst all of the other busy-ness of springtime, we have had a special situation to deal with the past few years with one of our dams, 5Peruvian Aymara. Aymara somehow developed a problem with her udder. (Possibly mastitis after a stillbirth? We just don't know), and starting about 4 years ago we had problems getting her babies "hooked up" and nursing. Her udder gets very large and tender, and ultimately only one teat is functional. To get her to the point where she'll allow the cria to nurse on the one teat has required milking her out (which she HATES), warm compresses, banamine, isolating her with cria, bottle-feeding the cria, and any number of other methods which take almost daily, round-the-clock tweaking for at least a few weeks.
Ultimately, we have been able to make it work and the trouble has been worth it because Aymara is one of our most outstanding dams, having produced multi-champions SSF Peruvian Pablo (above, owned by The Criation Station) and Barbaro (below, co-owned with RobAsia Alpacas) and others. The biggest help to this process has been, without a question, "Nanny." A little over two years ago, we purchased a large group of alpacas from a woman getting out of the business after the death of her husband. She mentioned that one of the females was no longer able to have crias, but that she would "adopt" other's crias and eventually come in to her milk. I was skeptical, but when we were having trouble with Aymara's newborn I asked our farm manager to go pick up Nanny and put her in with Aymara and her cria.

It was and is amazing to watch Nanny as she immediately starts giving the targeted cria all of the signals that she is willing and able to nurse it- sniffing the cria's behind, staying nearby, positioning herself just so. She always defers to the dam and the crias do seem to know who mom really is, but she is right there when the baby needs an extra drink! We tried to use Nanny to help with our last bottle cria, but unfortunately she had started bonding with another cria first and just never attached to the one in need. This time, she seemed to remember that Aymara is a special situation.

Last Monday, "Rachel Alexandra" (one of our first crias from Snowmass Nova's Private Reserve) was born to Aymara and we were super-prepared and excited. We had Nanny already in the maternity ward with the older crias moved out, we had frozen colostrum saved from another dam, plasma ready to give orally within the first 3 hours, etc. The cria, a beautiful dark brown female(!), was born strong and lively and has stayed that way with supplementation with Vit D. milk. She's nursing on both Aymara (with her one good teat) and Nanny (who is just now starting to lactate a little), and we are ready to discontinue bottles since she's gaining about a half a pound a day. The whole process can be challenging and often frustrating, but I think that Aymara and Nanny are learning to trust us and our goodwill toward the cria and we are able to relax and know that this process can work! It is very satisfying, and I'm looking forward to putting the three of them out together in the pasture with the other crias soon. Lest you think that Nanny is an angel, I must say that 99% of the time she's a real pain! She is an older import female from Bolivia who is very set in her ways and fearful, and she responds to any quick moves by spitting profusely, screaching, and peeing! Still, she's absolutely worth her weight in gold....