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Friday, May 8, 2020

The "Pet" Alpaca (LaCroix Alpacas)

Who can resist those faces?

Who can resist those faces?

ALPACAS ARE WONDERFUL!

Alpacas are very gentle animals, and interactions with alpacas are truly beneficial for both alpacas and their owners. In fact, when gentle handling and alpaca treats are a routine part of alpaca care, a very trusting bond between you and your alpacas can be created, as long as your behavior is gentle yet firm. However, treating an alpaca as if it were a pet can create an spoiled alpaca that is difficult to handle.

THE REASON WHY:

When alpacas reach maturity, they are not only very strong, there is a natural degree of benign aggression amongst them: i.e., males challenging males or testy pregnant females spitting at each other. However, a mature, “spoiled” alpaca, stimulated by hormones, is a strong animal that can potentially cause you harm by pushing you around. It all depends upon what sort of a “pet” your alpaca has become: an alpaca that understands that you are in charge or an alpaca that thinks that it is in charge of you.

TEACHING ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR:

Teaching an alpaca to learn acceptable behavior is relatively easy. If, for instance, there is excessive nibbling or nudging or a tendency to spit at humans, a gentle but firm bop on the nose or a low-pressure squirt of clean water directed at the alpaca’s head is usually quite effective.

HUMAN BEHAVIOR. There is also human behavior to consider when disciplining an alpaca. For instance, never discipline an alpaca when you feel agitated. Instead, step away from the alpaca for a moment before calmly and firmly addressing the behavior issue. Agitated emotions will simply void any lesson that you are trying to teach your alpaca.

HERD MANAGEMENT. Always consider the possibility that your herd management style might be creating stress in the herd. If you suspect that this is the case, seek advice.

THE EXPERTS. Never forget the experts in the field of alpaca training. They provide very instructive training courses, videos, and articles that answer any questions that you may have.

I AM NOT AN EXPERT:

I am simply trying to help the new alpaca owner to understand that an alpaca isn’t a pet on the level of a dog or a cat and that a “pet” alpaca can become a spoiled alpaca. In addition, my advice does not address the berserk behavior that might be seen in an abused or neglected alpaca. However, I do believe that an alpaca with a behavior problem, and there are few alpacas with behavior problems, can be helped and that you are the key…so don’t give up!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

If Alpaca Shrinks or Felts... (LaCroix Alpacas)

Oops!  My alpaca shrank!

Oops! My alpaca shrank!

"Help! My Alpaca Shrank!" or How to Re-Shape Shrunken Alpaca Apparel.

To repair shrunken alpaca apparel, try the following instructions:

In a clean sink or tub, dissolve two [2] times the normal amount of any gentle hair conditioner in room-temperature water [not cold]. Soak the alpaca item in this water for one [1] hour. If too much conditioner has been dissolved, it doesn’t matter.

After one hour, rinse the item gently in room temperature water [not cold]. Rinsing in cold water might shrink the item further so be careful that the water is never cold.

Drain the water from the sink or tub and very gently press the item against the sides of the sink or tub in order to drain excess water. Do not wring the item.

Avoid stretching the item by gently rolling it in a towel before removing it from the sink or tub.

Lay the item out flat on a very thick & very absorbent clean, color-neutral towel: i.e., a towel that won’t bleed its color onto the alpaca item.

Gently blot away excess water with another clean towel. Because alpaca fiber does not retain water, blotting away the water with towels is very effective.

Once the excess water has been blotted away, gently pull the item into its original shape.

Allow the item to air dry on a flat surface, such as a sweater drying rack or on clean towels, periodically turning the item over onto a fresh, dry towel in order to dry the entire item.

But can felted alpaca apparel be un-felted? Maybe. A loose-knit alpaca item that has felted might be un-felted by following the same instructions above for alpaca items that have shrunk. It’s worth a try!
        



Thursday, March 5, 2020

Alpaca Apparel Care. (LaCroix Alpacas)

Tender loving care!

Tender loving care!

How to Wash, Dry, and Store Alpaca Apparel.

With proper care, your alpaca apparel will provide you with years of luxurious warmth and comfort and even become treasured heirlooms! It only requires a little knowledge.

FELTING:
Any animal-fiber garment, including alpaca, can be washed with a regular laundry detergent in a washing machine as long as there is no agitation at all. However, because felting can occur even during the spin cycle, machine washing isn’t recommended for any items larger than SOCKS.
General rules:
The finer the natural fiber and the higher the fiber content, the less handling [i.e., washing & drying] it will tolerate before felting occurs.
Structured coats and jackets and finely woven or intricately detailed garments should be dry cleaned.
Cleaning before storage is recommended because fresh stains that might not yet be visible might oxidize and become fixed during storage. 

SHRINKAGE:
A temperature variation between wash and rinse waters is the most common cause of shrinkage in alpaca apparel so be careful that the wash and rinse temperatures are the same. At 100º to 105º Fahrenheit, lukewarm water is best and hot or cold water are to be avoided.

SOAPS:
Not all soaps are recommended. Mild shampoos [e.g., baby soaps] without fragrances or conditioners are best. These products are designed to gently clean hair fibers, which is exactly what alpaca fiber is!
General rule:
Do not use Woolite®. Even the “gentle” version might be too harsh for fine apparel.

HAND WASHING:
Very, very gently swish the apparel in soapy, lukewarm water in a clean sink and then allow the soapy apparel to rest in the sink for several minutes [2-3]. Leave the apparel in the sink while draining and then close the drain.
Rinse by pouring the same temperature lukewarm water into the sink and then very, very gently swishing the apparel, handling it as little as is possible. Drain the water, leaving the apparel in the sink to drain further for several minutes [5-10]. Repeat the rinsing process, if necessary, and then gently squeeze just enough water out of the apparel so that it doesn’t soak the floor when being transferred to a towel.

DRYING:
Gently spread the apparel out on a fresh, dry towel and gently roll the towel up without squeezing or pressing. Leave the apparel in the towel for several minutes [5-10].
Transfer the apparel to a fresh, dry towel and allow it to air-dry flat, turning the apparel over and placing it on a fresh, dry towel every few hours until dry.
SWEATER DRYING RACK: An alternate to using towels is a sweater drying rack. Sweater drying racks are inexpensive and provide air flow around the entire garment for quicker drying times and much less work!

Storage:
Although not as susceptible to moth infestations as is wool, alpaca apparel should be carefully stored in a sealed cedar container or another moth-protected environment, especially during the summer months.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Advantages of a DIRT Barn Floor. (LaCroix Alpacas)

LaCroix Alpacas farm: 1870 bank barn.

LaCroix Alpacas farm: 1870 bank barn.

LaCroix Alpacas has a large bank barn with a ground-level dirt floor for its alpacas. I like that dirt floor, and the passage of time has convinced me that a dirt barn floor is a pretty nice asset. However, there was a time when I thought that a dirt floor didn’t compare favorably with alternatives, such as concrete floors, stone, gravel, or sand surfaces, mats, or even wood floors. In the end, it’s simply a matter of choice, and my choice is a dirt barn floor.

WHY DIRT?

A dirt barn floor is a dry floor because it absorbs moisture easily. Because desiccation [drying] is the enemy of parasites, the immediate advantage of a dirt floor is that it is an unhealthy [i.e., too dry] environment for parasites.

There are additional advantages:

POOP AREA/POOP HOLE.

Alpacas are more inclined to poop in a specific indoor area if that area is surrounded by a low, immovable barrier, such as discarded barn beams. Over time, a “poop hole” or depression will naturally develop in the dirt of that poop area. It is this hole that freed me from removing poop from the barn on a daily basis by limiting poop removal to whenever the hole was full enough. A true labor-saving/time-saving arrangement! Since alpaca poop isn’t smelly, the accumulation of poop in the hole isn’t a concern. If it is, a thin layer of sawdust or lime sprinkled on top of the poop suffices to eliminate any odor.

Note: When a cria is born, I cover the poop hole until the cria is sure-footed; usually two to three days.

WINTER WARMTH.

A dirt floor is not excessively cold during the winter months and is easy to cover with a warming bed of hay or straw if the weather is extremely cold. In addition, the used hay or straw is easily raked away from the surface of a dirt floor.

ECONOMY.

Because all barn floor surfaces begin with a layer of dirt, there is no need to purchase the dirt that is already there.

There is a disadvantage:

When the atmosphere is very dry, raking a dirt floor will stir up dust. When this occurs, compensate by turning barn fans on at low speed so that the dust is blown away.

Although other barn floors are fine and preferred by some, I encourage alpaca owners to consider the advantages of the old-fashioned dirt barn floor for the reasons written above.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

COLOSTRUM REPLACER Experiences. (LaCroix Alpacas)

Paradiso's MARS de LaCroix, a beneficiary of maternal colostrum replacement.

Paradiso's MARS de LaCroix, a beneficiary of maternal colostrum replacement.

Although I had not needed a colostrum replacer once in a ten-year period, having on hand an excellent source of colostrum in case of an emergency had been a concern of mine; and due to several "colostrum" emergencies, I finally resolved to find a reliable and readily available source of colostrum for my next-year’s crias.

Within a period of 30 days in one year, I found that I needed an emergency colostrum replacer due to the birth of 5-weeks premature twin crias and a cria born a few days early to a maiden whose milk did not come in until 36 hours after his birth. One of the twins was stillborn but the other did receive the necessary colostrum [a frozen source] and a precautionary and expensive plasma transfusion although he was so young and tiny that he survived for only a week. The second event occurred during the Labor Day holiday when, it seemed, EVERYONE was taking a holiday. The “local colostrum” that I was able to obtain proved to be inadequate, and another expensive plasma transfusion was required. Thankfully, the weather was ideal for a cria. Although our cria did rest more than a normal cria would, he always seemed healthy, despite a critically low IgG: only 287! In fact, because he appeared to be healthy and strong, the veterinarian, who administered the plasma transfusion, was quite surprised by his critically low IgG level. Thankfully, the post-transfusion IgG test result was a very respectable 1204 IgG.

BUT THAT DID IT! Unreliable colostrum sources and expensive plasma transfusions had cost too much in money, time, and worry. I became determined to find an excellent-quality, maternal colostrum replacer to have on hand in case of an emergency. In my search, I found helpful information on the internet in an exchange of e-mails between alpaca owners. I contacted the alpaca owner experienced in using a powdered colostrum replacer and, subsequently, contacted the company that manufactures the colostrum replacer and purchased the powdered, plasma-based, maternal colostrum replacer, in anticipation of future cria births.

Amazingly, my next cria did need a colostrum replacer! He was born a few days too early and his maiden dam had no colostrum yet. [No genetic relationship to the previously mentioned experience.] This was quite a surprise since his dam's dam had always had plenty of milk for her crias. Nonetheless, being able to administer a quality, plasma-based, maternal colostrum replacer, that was handily on my shelf for emergencies, was a relief. Our cria didn't miss a beat, and he grew into a very macho little guy with a beautifully fine and carpet-dense fleece!

What did I learn from my experiences?
That there is a complete maternal colostrum replacer in powdered form on the market. Just be careful that you select a COMPLETE and PLASMA-BASED maternal colostrum replacer.
That plasma transfusions are VERY expensive and time-consuming [vet visits & tests].
That a complete maternal colostrum replacer is VERY economical, easy to use, and safe.
That it is wiser to have a maternal colostrum replacer on my shelf for that rare emergency, even if it is not used by its expiration date [two years], than to worry about the availability and quality of fresh or frozen colostrum.

I do realize that some breeders have excellent and readily available sources of fresh or frozen maternal colostrum. However, this blog is written to help those breeders who have not been so fortunate. I welcome any questions or comments that you may have.
MARS with his dam, TEMPEST, at sunset.

MARS with his dam, TEMPEST, at sunset.

Mojito's RAMBEAU with his dam.

Mojito's RAMBEAU with his dam.


Friday, April 29, 2016

ALPACA CARE: Lessons in Economy. (LaCroix Alpacas)

Ah!  Large, rolling, grass pastures!

Ah! Large, rolling, grass pastures!

Over the years, I have learned a few very economical things about raising alpacas that have stood me in good stead.

For example, LARGE GRASS PASTURES present a number of economies for the alpaca breeder. By my definition, "large, grass pastures" are large pastures that have more grass than the alpacas are able to consume. Anything less might look like a "pasture" but is really only a very large paddock. Below are listed a few of the economies derived in having large grass pastures:

#1. Large grass pastures surrounded by electric rope fencing are economical to build and maintain.

#2. Alpacas are generally healthier and are least stressed if they are given daily access to large grass pastures. Healthier and calmer alpacas require much less veterinary care. Because veterinary care can be quite expensive, the savings in health care are quite noticeable!

#3. The terrain of these pastures is also important. Alpacas, especially pregnant dams, crias, and young alpacas, need exercise, and large grass pastures with ROLLING HILLS are perfect for exercising alpacas. Most importantly, the benefit to pregnant dams grazing on these rolling hills is in the development of strong muscle tone in preparation for birthing. My alpaca dams almost always give birth standing up and without assistance, and their labors are relatively quick. In fact, with the exception of dystocia, the few dams that have had longer labors have been heavy and/or have not gotten enough exercise prior to birthing.

For those alpaca owners and breeders who have enough acreage for large grass pastures with adequate shade, I encourage you to get you alpacas out there!
Ah!  THE BARN!

Ah! THE BARN!

Plenty of grass for baby and me! [PATRISSE & PATIENCE]

Plenty of grass for baby and me! [PATRISSE & PATIENCE]


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Barn "WINDOWS". (LaCroix Alpacas)

Window openings [opened and closed] covered with chain link.

Window openings [opened and closed] covered with chain link.

When my barn was resided in 2010, I knew that I needed barn windows but was uncertain about my options. Ready-made windows with shatter-proof glass seemed to be the most logical choice but those windows also had limitations. Not only were they expensive windows, but all of the ready-made, barn windows that I located could only be opened half-way, thereby limiting air circulation. I was also concerned about the reliability of the window washer: me! I only have so much time and am not enamored with the task of washing barn windows. Before my barn was resided, there had been simple, old-fashioned windows, and so I knew how awful dirty windows look, how they restrict the light coming into the barn when they are dirty, and, most importantly, how much work is involved in washing dirty barn windows.

I finally decided that my best option was a “window opening”: i.e., window-sized openings cut into the siding of the barn. If you're interested in this option, here is basically what you will need.
1. 9.5 gauge chain link.
2. 3/4" HG staples [u-shaped exterior nails].
3. 2x4's.
4. Hinges and screws.
5. Circular saw.
6. Tape measure.
7. Barn nails.
8. Cleat hooks and screws.
9. Rope.
10. Pulleys.
11. Eye screws.
12. Window latches.

2x4's are nailed inside the barn along the top and bottom dimensions of the desired opening. Hinges are attached to the top 2x4. The barn siding boards are cut along the dimensions of each opening; usually 3 boards wide. To open a "window", pull the hinged barn siding boards into the barn, and out of sight, using a rope-pulley-cleat hook combination. When closed, the barn boards are lowered and latched in their original positions along the exterior of the barn. The sizes of the openings vary a little, depending upon the varying widths of the barn siding boards.

The advantages of window openings:
The cost is minimal.
You decide exactly how large the openings will be.
The amount of air coming through the openings is maximized during warm weather.
Because the grey color of chain link fades into the grey color of the exterior barn siding, the
barn looks neat in the winter when the window openings are closed. [Note: These photos were
taken when the siding was relatively new and had yet not faded to grey.]
And, most importantly, there are no windows to clean!

However, the window openings do have a limitations.

1. During the winter months, I must close some or all of the openings, depending upon the weather. Since alpacas need to be able to see outdoors, I limit the number of windows and doors that are closed as much as possible. Except during most severe conditions, I am usually able to keep a door partially open, as well as at least two windows so that the alpacas are able to walk outdoors and/or see outdoors.

2. There is no barrier in the opening, such as glass, to stop a predator from jumping into the barn. Although, my barn is surrounded by protective fencing and security inside of the barn is a minor concern, I decided that I still ought to have a barrier in the openings for peace of mind and anything unforeseen. My barrier solution is as unconventional as my window solution but it works and is reasonably attractive.

Borrowing from my experience with chain link fencing, I knew that heavy gauge [at least 9.5 gauge] chain link would not be damaged by alpacas and that it would remain in excellent condition for many, many years. And so appropriately-sized sections of chain link were nailed over the window openings with 3/4" HG staples [u-shaped exterior nails]. The resulting chain link barrier is very secure. [Note: The heavier gauge chain link is important. Alpacas are able to damage a lighter gauge.]

The advantages of chain link barriers:
Maximum ventilation for your alpacas.
Minimal cost.
Barn security.
The barriers will remain in excellent condition for many years.
At a distance, the chain link begins to “disappear”.

I hope that this information helps someone in the alpaca world!
Window opening covered with chain link and secured with coaxial wood staples.

Window opening covered with chain link and secured with coaxial wood staples.

View of barn window opening from the barn interior.

View of barn window opening from the barn interior.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

A WELL-VENTILATED BARN. (LaCroix Alpacas)

A well-ventilated barn.

A well-ventilated barn.

I want to share something that we've done to increase natural air movement in the animal area downstairs in the barn. Large, ground-floor window openings [no glass] are cut in the hemlock siding [pictured]. They open to the inside of the barn. There are also large window openings at each end of the roof. With the bank barn doors also opened, the air flowing up the stairs from the ground level is greatly enhanced, increasing the natural breeze that flows through the animal area below.

The construction of the openings is simple and inexpensive. In addition, there is no glass to clean so the alpacas have a healthy view of the outdoors all year, even during the winter months, when we often open either a few or all of the windows during the day. The openings have also been covered with 9-guage galvanized chain link [not yet pictured] for protection of the animals.

If you have questions [e.g., How do you close the gable openings easily?], just contact me, Patti LaCroix.

Note:
There is an awning extending over the large bank barn doors that helps to keep rain out of the barn upstairs during warm weather.
Simple bank barn awning designed to keep rain out of the barn.

Simple bank barn awning designed to keep rain out of the barn.