Tuesday, January 15, 2013
If you own alpacas and you are reading this, you have probably asked yourself this question. In cold or warm weather a clear sky filled with stars seems like an open invitation to the herd to settle somewhere outside for the night. On our farm this means that they seek out the highest hill facing the "view" and under the open sky. Moms, yearling females and this year's cria pick out spots as if this were a family at a drive-in movie. And there they stay - often until daybreak.
I wonder what they are thinking. Does their DNA take them back to the Alta Plano? Are they watching the stars? These gentle creatures do often seem from a different planet. Is it so hard to see them as a gift from God?
Friday, January 11, 2013
Does he look bored> Perhaps lonesome? We have decided that he needs a companion to share the guard duties and to just be his friend! So little Murphy will get on his way across country from Oregon next week and join Sean at Sage Hill Farms. He's 12 weeks old and was born and raised on an alpaca farm so we hope he will fit in easily.
As for Sean, he may not be bored - perhaps just resting. In which case he may complain about his new charge. Time will tell. Stand by for how the introductions go!
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
So not to be outdone, our Great Pyr dug himself our of the boys barn today when noone was home. This is not his first great escape. Thunder storms terrify him and this is the third escape in a month. At least this time we found him wandering not far from the barn. He does not come when called, but when we triangulated around him he allowed me to approach him and capture him.
We're not sure what to do about his ability to escape so for the first time he is in the house. He is not happy about that and is hiding in the small bathroom where he must feel safe. We are considering what to do with him for the night since he is not well behaved in the girls barn. He is too playful and chases the crias around with great joy. That's why he lives with the boys.
And more thunder storms are brewing.... Decisions, decisions......
Monday, June 4, 2012
So we try to be very careful about locking our barn doors that open to unfenced space. But every once in a while we have a breakout and yesterday was one of those days! We were cleaning the girls barn while most of the girls were out in the paddock. A few remained in the barn to try to get first dibs on the grain. That's when it happened. The breeze blew the back door of the barn open and they were off to the races! One llama, 4 adult females and an 8 month old.
They ran with abandon, leaping, stopping for moments to graze and moving on together. They visited the boys barn and made the herdsires drool. Sapphira, a special two year old, snatched three snake plants right out of the ground, dropping one after the other and then sprinting off to better things.
The best part of the whole adventure for my family was watching me slip and fall in the alpaca poo pile. Fortunately we had cleaned only a few hours back so the damage was limited. So glad no one had their cell phone camera on the ready! Just another day on the farm.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
The story of Sage Hill Farms Alpacas began about 30 months ago. If you have been following the story you will recall that my decision to raise alpacas was related to my desire to figure out what I would do NEXT -- at the time turning 60 had me having visions of needing to retire. After all - 60 is old, isn't it?
Sixty Is NOT Old!
What I didn't know then, that I know now is that 60 isn't that old in today's world. While my body may have aches and pains, my brain still is energized by the field of learning and development which is my day job! So the vision of the end of my current career being just around the corner was a bit short sighted. I may even work til I am seventy!
Does this mean that I am sorry that I started Sage Hill Farms, now home to 45 incredible alpacas with 11 more due this summer. Absolutely not! After all, I am a woman and we have always been able to juggle more than one job - right? And I have my talented daughter Jayme to partner with me to keep the business moving along. And my sons and grandson to build barns and pastures!
Raising Alpacas is Hard
Not physically so much. Intellectually! Maybe once I thought about farming as something that did not require much thought - more brawn than brains. Boy was I wrong about that! There is nutrition, genetics, healthcare, birthing and fiber to learn about. There's understanding what show judges are talking about when they place alpacas based on character, density, fineness. And none of it is easy.
Putting all that Gorgeous Fiber to Good Use is Tough
So there are lots of ways to put fiber to use, but they all take some effort and some money. In the early days of alpaca farming, you may be using all your energy take care of the details of the farm = so the "some effort" may be more than you can invest. AND since raw fiber does not sell for lots of money, you really intellectually want to take the fiber to roving or yarn or even to handmade knit products. SO what I know is that having capital to invest in more than the alpacas themselves would have helped.
Alpaca "people" are the Best
One of the great discoveries of joining the alpaca industry is that most of the people you meet are terrific. Although we may compete with one another in shows and for sales, it seems that the well being of the alpacas themselves come first. And this means that people will do everything they can to help out other farms. We have experienced this in a variety of heartwarming ways. And being in the business almost immediately increases your circle of friends.
Facebook is the place to Learn
As a new alpaca farmer I quickly discovered that following facebook posts of other alpaca owners was a great source of information. Although advice and opinions of people differ, you are free to pick and choose from the advice for your own purposes. I lurk in discussions in Paca This which is free of marketing posts and learn something new most days. Sometimes what I learn scares me, but being prepared for what might come our way is wise.
Showing alpacas is fun, but challenging!
From evaluating your alpacas and selecting your "show string" through the halter training in preparation for the show season it is challenging. Being honest with yourself about an alpaca's potential as a competitor can be disappointing or thrilling, but you need to choose wisely to show well. Shows are expensive and you want your best shot at placing. Shows are also a great social opportunity and provide a marketing venue for your farm. Time away from the larger herd gives you time to talk with other alpaca friends. Feedback from a win or loss also helps you to learn more about your animals.
Alpacas are awesome creatures!
I've fallen in love with these curious creatures . Warm weather is finally here and this means alpaca water play. Watching the girls vie for access to the water spray is such fun. Some push others out of the way with a body slam. Others do little dances as you spray their legs and I am reminded of that song we learned as kids " put you right foot in and put your left foot out"! Of course once wet the girls tromp down to their favorite dirt hole and roll until they are covered with dirt! Then they head back to the barn where they lay in front of the fans and cool themselves.
Another fun time is feeding. We chase everyone out of the barn as it is easier to clean and feed without them in the way. Earlier in the spring we made the mistake of allowing a few of our favorites in the barn with us and fed them while we cleaned. Since they began to look too chubby we now shut them out, BUT a few creative creatures have learned how to sneak through the gate into the barn or to knock the gate over and let everyone in!
They make me smile and if I am stressed nothing is better than heading to the barn for some good alpaca snuggling! What I know that I didn't know is that I should have been raising alpacas for years! So now I need to enjoy every day that I have with these awesome animals!