Back in 2015, as we were in the planning stages of our alpaca journey, we knew we would need some type of livestock guardian. There are many possibilities, i.e. guard dogs, donkeys, llamas. Based on the area we lived in and the potential predators in our area, we decided on llamas. They eat the same feed and get shorn at the same time, don’t make a lot of noise and wouldn’t upset the neighbors. Our first llamas added to the herd were boys. It wasn’t until we started adding girls that we introduced Ebony.
Ebony was born 8/22/2001. She was a good guardian but was always a little standoffish. Our first meeting with her, she had just been shorn. It was an incredibly bad haircut and we were told that she was pretty uncooperative with shearing. That information gave us quite a bit of anxiety as the next shearing rolled around, especially since llamas are considerably larger than alpacas. Ebony surprised us all as she walked like a champ to the shearing mat, got her haircut and never made a peep. It was then that we realized Ebony was a regal lady. She just didn’t have time for shenanigans.
Ebony’s job initially was overseeing the maternity ward. When we have bred females and new cria, we have them in a separate pen and pasture. It didn’t take us long to realize this was not the right environment for Ebony. We caught her on several occasions chasing the babies out of the feed troughs! We swapped her to the adult female pen and there she presided the rest of her days. Ebony kept things orderly. She had her own special trough that she always ran to and waited for supper. As Ebony began to slow down, we added another female llama guardian so that Ebony could spend more time resting. She was the head of the morning ladies breakfast club. All the older females know that if the hang around in the morning; they can talk Marcus into giving them a light breakfast. What a lovely, stalwart addition she always was to our herd. Ebony passed away after a brief illness on March 31,2023. It is always such a sad time on the farm when we lose an animal… Especially a longtime friend. RIP Ebony, you are already missed!
Happy 2023 and welcome February and welcome back to the MTA blog! As we have moved into the new year, my mind has turned to new beginnings specifically new life. Baby alpaca are called cria and they are always a joy to have around.
When we began our research into raising alpacas, we visited many farms and asked lots of questions. We got varied answers to most of our questions but answers about birthing cria was one of the most consistent. Alpacas prefer to give birth alone, require little assistance. Our job is to observe, step in if there are issues and assess the cria once it is born. We were told that alpacas give birth between 9am and 3pm. Births outside these parameters usually mean trouble. For most instances this rule of thumb has held true.
Since moving to Tennessee in 2019, we have held back on our breeding program while we settled in. In 2020, our beautiful Crepe Suzette was bred for a late spring 2021 birth. As we were doing afternoon chores, we noticed Crepe Suzette wasn’t inside. It was after 3pm so we went looking for her and found her in the pasture getting ready to give birth. We pulled up lawn chairs and prepared for the wait. The cria was born at 6pm signaling to us that there may be potential issues with either cria or dam. We assessed the cria and settled back in. The cria was doing all the right things but after an hour was still unable to rise. It was time for us to step in. We moved dam and cria to a holding pen inside and began rigorous assessing, milked the dam to get some colostrum in the cria. We suspected sepsis right from the start. We spent the night in the barn, milking Crepe Suzette and assessing the cria. After 18 hours with no improvement and some frantic calls to Mississippi State University Vet Hospital, we made the decision to transport the cria for in hospital care.
After a week of IV antibiotics and vet care, Crepe Suzette and baby Chicha returned home. Despite a very shaky start, Chicha has developed into an amazing alpaca. Almost two years later, she is usually the center of all tours, visiting and amazing all with her friendly demeanor and outgoing personality.
Breeding alpacas has added so much joy to our farm. Even though there are occasional birthing emergencies, the original information holds true. Alpacas don’t need much birthing assistance but we sure are glad we are prepared. And even after all this time, when a cria is born, we all pause to enjoy new life.
Things have been pretty busy lately as we start making plans for shearing, the show circuit is in full swing and we welcomed a new member to the herd this week. After missing a week, it's time to meet another member of our herd.
This lovely lady is Bon-Bon. Bonnie is 14 years old and came to us from Pleasant Journey Alpacas in Colorado with her little guy Duesenberg at her side as well as a baby on board. The baby on board is Barbosa who we introduced previously. Bob-bon is a wonderful mother and can pass on her grey traits so hopefully we can convince a grey baby from her soon. She is a wonderful rose-grey color, has an engaging personality and LOVES sneaking breakfast as often as possible when no-one else is around!
We are so blessed to have Bon Bon in our herd. Thank you , Bonnie for being a wonderful mother and wonderful addition to the family!
Things have been very relaxed on the farm this week. The temperature is on the rise, the sun is shining, birds are singing... Spring is almost here! That made the alpacas very happy because ,at least for a few days , they got to go out on pasture again!
So we are back in order this week and next up is Bert. He is 8 years old and was one of the first alpacas we purchased. Bert is a little bity guy but what he lacks in stature he makes up in attitude. Bert has something none of the other guys has... Bert is a talker. If you hear noise in the boys pen, it is usually Bert. The only problem is he isn't a very good listener...
Every morning I say "Good morning, Bert". Bert says "Hum?" I repeat "Good morning, Bert!". He says "Hum?". I tell him we could do this all day.
Bert is a very low key kind of guy. Doesn't cause trouble, pretty easy to handle. If it weren't for all the talking, you would never know he was around. His fiber is beige to very light fawn. It is super soft and lends itself very well to dyeing. Currently in the works is a dusty mauve hat destined for the store.
Thank you Bert for the lively conversation and the comedy routine we have perfected over the years! Thank you for being such a sweet addition to our herd for all these years!
There are days on the farm where everything comes to a grinding halt. Spring births take precedence... as do illness, injury and death. It is never good to open the barn in the morning to find an animal down, even if it is expected. Yesterday was one of those days.
Jack-jack, his given name was Commanche Jack, was 12 years old and had been battling cancer for 3 years. As long as his quality of life remained good, we were just waiting. We knew through daily assessment that his time was drawing to a close. He ended his days as he had lived many of those days, in my arms.
Jack came to us in the early days of our alpaca journey. We needed guardians for our herd but knew that the area we lived in guard dogs would not be welcome. Llamas were the perfect solution so Jack and Lorenzo came to live with us. They both were introduced to our adult male herd first. As the boys tend to do, they chased and sniffed and tried to mount both the llamas. Lorenzo didn't put up with their behavior and put an end to it rather quickly. But sweet little Jack just couldn't hold his own... We decided he needed a different herd. As I walked into the pen the next day Jack ran up beside me, I stepped in front of him to redirect the alpacas. He rested his head on my shoulder and leaned into me as if to say "I'm so tired. Thank you for intervening...". We moved him in with the junior boys and after a day of rest, Jack surveyed his charges and his territory and decided he could handle this. And he loved his little boys... Took his job very seriously. And that is where he stayed for his time with us.
Yesterday, Jack held on long enough to say goodbye. We all took turns sitting with him and holding him as he quietly slipped away. I have had many offers to buy him because he was so sweet and so beautiful. The answer was always no, he is not for sale. Jack was my special boy and he will be sorely missed. We love you so much, Jack!
Well, it has been a rather exciting week here in Tennessee. There are currently about 6 inches of snow on the ground with negative temperatures off and on all week. Not that we didn't learn to deal with that in Wisconsin, it just makes things interesting on the farm.
We made it through all the A's ...So the first of the B's is Barbosa. He is almost 2 1/2 years old. Barbosa was born at Mesa Trail Alpacas and I think he hit the ground running. Full of energy and attitude, I remember him climbing the guard llama like a little goat. He has always been up for shenanigans. Starting with his color.. Barbosa had a brother that was classic grey. We anticipated that the same pairing would give us grey again, but Barbosa does his own thing. The lovely black accents on his face and legs are deceptive since his fiber really is a dark espresso brown.
Since the weather has been so cold and snowy, we decided to go with another hat, this time from Barbosa's fiber. It will be available in the store along with what's left of his yarn (not much- we are still processing fiber from 2020 shearing).
Thank you Barbosa for the silly attitude and all the laughter it brings us!
I know moms aren't supposed to have favorites but Avalanche has been one of my favorite boys from the start of our alpaca journey. He has such a commanding presence. Tons of snow white fiber tops off this total package!
Unfortunately, Avalanche did not handle our move to Tennessee well. Abrupt change in environment coupled with his heavy coat took him down quick. Avalanche had a heat stroke!
We spent 6 weeks with intensive rehab to get him back on his feet. But once he was on his feet, he wanted to run of course. He hated being separated from the rest of the herd so whenever he had the opportunity, he tried to go back. His stubbornness is one of the many things that helped him recover.
Avalanche is as fully recovered as he is going to get with very little residual effects from his stroke. His lovely fiber contributed to to our recent Alpaca Bay blankets. After all the medical issues, Avalanche really has a lovely attitude and is so easy to handle. Thank you, Avalanche, for all your hard work and for teaching us so much!
Greetings from chilly Tennessee. As other parts of the country are getting slammed with frigid temperatures and loads of snow- here, not so much.
Next up on our Meet the Herd list is Amp. His full name is Volt's Amped Up. He is 3 1/2 years old. Amp came to us from Colorado. He was born at Pleasant Journey Alpacas with Glenn and Susan Kasch.
Marcus was at an alpaca show and Susan had Amp there. Marcus sent pictures home asking if I wanted him to bring him home. My response... Why do I want another brown alpaca? (I know- He's awful cute though)...
The next picture was the real winner... Amp is grey! Actually, more of a rose grey, but has a lovely pewter color with amazing sheen. He is a sweet tempered soft fluffy boy.
These fingerless gloves are hand knit from Amp's fiber. His yarn remains a store favorite . These hand warmers are as squishy as Amp looks. Thank you Amp for your beautiful fiber and your charm! You are a great addition to our herd!
Things have settled down a little at the moment...An update on Sienna- It seems like we are looking at some arthritis making her a little slow but she is still holding on. What a strong little lady she is!
So back to our regularly scheduled herd rotation. Next on the list is
This little guy holds a special place in my heart based solely on his fiber. He is 6 years old and his name Akab is Lakota for spare, meaning small. He is quite small in stature but he makes up for that! His fiber is super soft and shiny. The staple length is amazing. I had to spin some by hand it is so lovely. And apparently in demand as I have absolutely none on the shelf in the store. This hat was made from a skein in my personal stash and is now available in the store. It is just as soft and shiny as it looks! I guess I need to make his fiber a priority on the processing list! Thank you, Akab, for your lovely, soft, warm, squishy contribution to the farm!
I know, I know... I said we were going in alphabetical order but sometimes circumstances dictate change. Today's herd member is Sienna. She has been quite frail for the 5 years she has lived with us. Due to current health problems, she got moved to the front of the line .So...
Sienna is almost 18 years old. She has been a handful from the start. What a lovely, sweet girl she is! Sienna doesn't mind people but she really LOVES children. A couple boys were visiting the farm. When they walked into the girls pen, Sienna gravitated to the younger one. He wrapped his arms around her neck and squeezed her in a hug. Sienna leaned down to "kiss" him on top of the head. So he hugged her again and told her "I love you!".
Sienna has a lovely red colored fiber. It is extremely soft despite her age. Length has always been a problem so instead of traditional yarn, we opt for a corespun yarn from her fiber. This wonderful lightweight infinity scarf was made from about 30 yards of Sienna corespun yarn. Thanks for the years, Sienna!
Stacey Skildum is a nurse turned farmer, a yarn snob, gardener and fiber artist.