Saturday, June 30, 2012

Junuary 2012

Cria coats ~ each cria has a specific coat which has their scent
 on it.  Sometimes the moms don't really appreciate these things we
put on their cria and if it doesn't smell right it can't be good~

June wraps up how it began, grey, cloudy, wet and windy.  Felt as much like January as it did June, but regardless of the weather June always seems to be a month full of activity. Our first cria are born, everyone had to have their own coat to wear this month.  Shearing is done, breedings have begun and we've had lots of visitors this month.  Today, in between rain squals, we had a farm visit to see what raising alpacas is all about and Principe had another one of his arranged dates with 2 girls coming by to see him! 

Staar's new cria sporting her purple rain coat~
Last weekend we had cria born on both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday during winds that where swirling through our shelter and rain that came pouring down, Moonshadow's Evening Staar delivered our 3rd female cria of the year!  Big whopping 21 lb cria after 350 days gestation.  No wonder Staar couldn't wait for warmer weather to deliver her. 

Staar's friend MO must have been inspired and delivered her 2012 cria Sunday morning.  We didn't have quite the dramatic weather for the arrival of this little one, but with some needed assistance MO delivered a healthy 18.4 lb female!  Exciting to have girls back to back and now 4 in a row, but also, both these new girls happen to be 100% Moonshadow from home grown Moonshadow Sires and Dams.  Anyone following this blog may remember the MO-line from last year.  This is 3 girls in a row for MO and one of the first 2012 cria to get a name.  Let us introduce Moonshadow's Mohini.

MO grazing away with her new cria Mohini never far from her side~
It is always amazing how every alpaca on the ranch seems to know when there is a new arrival.  It is not at all unusual to see them lined up in any of the other fields trying to get a glimpse of the newest member of the herd.

Is Junuary the new start to summer month?  Let's hope not!  Hopefully our summer will begin in July, I'm sure there are many states east of us that would love and could use all this rain.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shearing 2012

We still love seeing how they look after they've been shorn,
there always seems to be more fluff to them then we remember.

After a beautiful month of May the weather in the PNW turned wet, cold and windy.  So 2012 ended up to be another year of watching the weather, watching the calendar and hoping we'll get a break so we can get the herd sheared.  Our shearer was coming from Idaho and only had 12 days of shearing in this area, which we had already helped her book it full of shearing jobs.  Any rain out days for shearing really can wreak havoc in getting the job done for everyone. 

Here's a good picture of just how long of a staple length is grown.  This is a juvenile male who was shorn last August.  In 8 months his fleece has grown close to 5 inches.  He looks quite a bit smaller then the fluffy guy in the first photo!
Sometimes it takes a minute of getting used to feeling the cool
air after having all that fleece shorn off~

We had 45 to shear this year and scheduled ourselves 2 days of the 12 day schedule.  Generally, this is 2 full days of work, with no time built in for mishaps or bad weather.  As it got closer to our first day of shearing on June 9th it was still raining and it was questionable whether we'd have any break that weekend or not.  Saturday we went for it starting with the alpacas we could lock under cover and they were fairly dry.  This group is our due soon moms, new moms with cria and yearling females.

Final touches in the ropes~
The weather Saturday actually was holding out pretty well, grey cloudy skies with occasional misting of rain.  To add to the excitment of shearing, one of the due soon moms decided to have her cria.  Quite a distraction for everyone, Ann, our shearer, at least kept on shearing the alpaca that was down in the ropes, with Whit staying in his position on the head.  This was Whisper's 5th cria, she is a good proven dam and had a text book delivery.  It was a pretty cool day and with no sun, we needed to get the cria dry and make sure she was up and nursing.  Shortly after the arrival of the new cria we started having guests who arrived to watch the shearing being done.  They were pretty thrilled with the added bonus of seeing a newly born cria! 

Saturday's new arrival, sporting her
cria rain coat~
We managed to get 20 shorn on Saturday and another 17 on Sunday.  Then the weather blew in with some historic Junuary volumes of rain.  Looking ahead at the schedule it did not seem like it was possible to get every herd shorn that was scheduled, let alone finish up our last 8.  In the end, I don't know why I worry so much.  We are in the PNW, we seem to go through this weather drama every year and every year the job somehow manages to get done.  It took us 2 additional afternoons to wrap up those last 8.  
They always have to great each newly shorn one as a completely new alpaca~
Who are you?

A typical annual clip of prime fleece~

Another year of shearing is done.  Always such a relief and sense of accomplishment rolled into 1 annual milestone.  Next steps are preparing and sorting the fiber for processing.  We will be trying a few new mills this year and diversifying what we do with our fiber and end products.  More to come on this when we get our processed fiber back.  In the meantime, it is always a challenge in where to store all the bags of fiber while it is waiting to be sorted and prepared for shipping.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day 2012

Annie with her 2012 Fury kid~

It really just didn't seem right to highlight our alpaca moms on Mother's Day and not mention the dads on Father's Day.  We do know they contribute 50% to the mix and we can't have good cria without good alpaca Sires.  We have worked hard to put the best combination of traits together in building our herd and have always taken pride in bringing in the best genetics, health, temperment and fleece qualities for our breeding program.  To start off 2012, we've now had our first 3 cria of the year from 3 wonderful alpaca dads.

Coming up with names doesn't seem to get much easier the more cria you have, so it's not unusual for new cria to just go by buddy, cutie or punkin for weeks.  If we need a name to actually keep track for any reason, they'll go by the dam's 2012 cria.  Our first cria was introduced last month and still has no name.  Here is Annie's 2012 cria, Sired by CCNF Andean Fury, who has been a wonderful dad for us and really out did himself with this stunning young male.

CCNF Andean Fury


We highlighted Fury in the 2012's 1st Arrival post.  He has definitely been a great Herdsire for us and has sired some of our best colored offspring.  Annie's little guy certainly has the potential to be his best yet!  We like this guy so well we are definitely considering repeating this combination.  Fury did what we were hoping, he brought in color and enhanced the fleece quality both these parents have.  Absolutely a WOW fleece on this little guy from the moment he was dry!

Snowmass Golden Victory

Next up this season was a repeat knock out combination of our Madonna and Snowmass Golden Victory.  On June 4th, Madonna delivered another female cria who appears to be just as nice as her multiple Blue Ribbon winning big sister, Moonshadow's Golden Mist.  Sometimes the names come a little easier, we have wanted all the Victory girls to have Golden in their name.  Getting another female out of this pair seems charmed from the start, so let us introduce Moonshadow's Golden Charm.  

Madonna looks white, but she really is a beige and  has been wonderful at
letting the color of the Sire come through in her cria~
Our 3rd cria of the season so far was born the first day of our shearing on June 9th.  This is also the 3rd time for this pairing and the dad is a home grown Herdsire of ours and another awesome, multiple show winning son of Madonna's, Moonshadow's Gunslinger.  Whisper and Gunslinger have now produced 3 beautiful females in a row.  Maybe we should call her Hat Trick or Triple Crown?  
Moonshadow's Gunslinger

So Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!  Alpaca dads aren't ever involved with their offspring, but we never under value their contribution to their kids!

Whisper & Gunslinger's 3rd girl on the left snuggled next to Golden Charm~

Saturday, June 2, 2012

2012's 1st Arrival...

Dreamboat Annie saying hi to her new cria moments
after he hits the ground~

It always seems like we wait the longest for the first one to arrive to kick off each new year of cria.  Seems like the Spring cria take the longest, maybe it is nature's way of protecting those Spring cria from the cold, wet weather we tend to have in the Pacific NW.  After 355 days of waiting, the first cria was born last week on May 24th.  This Spring we have had some nice stretches of warm, sunny weather that would have been wonderful for a new cria to get their start.  Though we did miss that stretch, we did have some moments of sunshine and break in the rain the day of his arrival.

CCNF Andean Fury
Moonshadow's Dreamboat Annie is a proven mom, this is her 3rd cria.  Annie is a 2nd generation production dam out of one of our original females purchased.  This has been a very dominant white line, but we took a little bit of a chance last year and decided to try to bring out some color and bred her to our dark brown Herdsire, CCNF Andean Fury.  Fury has been our most color dominant Herdsire, and has produced 100% colored offspring.  More impressive when you know he's mainly been bred to white or light colored females.   Adding color to an elite white fleece has not been part of our breeding plans for several years now, but we thought if the cria inherited the best both these parents have to offer in fleece quality we could potentially have a real knock out. 

A few hours old~
Can you always tell with a newborn cria whether you hit a home run or not?  No, not necessarily, lots of things can happen before that cria grows up and matures.  However, it's really hard to ignore those first impressions where you go "Wow!" or "oh hum, didn't expect that?".  By the time this little guy was dry enough to get a good feel and look at his fleece, we were both saying Wow, this is definitely what we were shooting for!  His fleece is super dense, crimpy and blindingly bright.  Beautiful coppery color, with kind of a smokey brown head.  Since this is the 3rd boy in a row Annie has produced for us, it is good to see he appears to have stud potential right from the start.  Annie's first guy, Moonshadow's Bootlegger, is now down in Oregon as a Herdsire for Alpaca Alley, LLC.  Her second son, Moonshadow's Victory's Triumph, will be going to Idaho to be a Herdsire at Eden Criations.  They were both show winners in very competitive white male classes.  We know this new guy comes from 2 show winning parents, both proven to produce show winners too.  He comes from an impressive pedigree with generations of winners on both sides of his family tree.

Day 3, never far from mom~
 We have a couple more moms who are imminent and I thought certainly they would be inspired by Annie's delivery, but no, so far they are keeping us hangin'!  Madonna is now at 352 days, Whisper 345 days.  Every time we have a little break in the rain we are watching and hoping to see nose and toes to get those cria out in the open with some sunshine to help warm them up and dry them off.  Like all babies, we know they come when they are ready.  Cria season 2012 has begun at Moonshadow.  Yesterday we had the vet out to do ultrasounds to confirm a few of the Fall breedings we did and the first Spring breedings and the cycle continues.  Birthings and breedings all bring great hope and anticipation for the future!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Due date schedule, maybe we should post it in the barn for the
mom's to see?
Happy Mother's Day to all our 2 legged and 4 legged friends!  We are on cria watch for our first new alpacas of the season to arrive.  It would be kind of special to have 1 or 2 born today.  We are having another gorgeous NW Spring weekend and could be perfect weather for a new little one to get their start on life.  From this list you can see we are already past our first due dates.  Wind Song was sold and now living at Snowmass Alpacas, we haven't heard whether she's had her cria yet or not.  Annie and Madonna are both looking VERY pregnant, but not so inclined to let go of that bun in the oven.  So it goes for cria watch, we base our due dates on an average of 340 days, but really there can be a 3 week swing before or after.  We have tried to track trends on individual alpaca gestation lengths, but in the end they come when they are ready.  For me, I am really just being selfish and like to be home for the births, which seems to happen less every year.  Deb is here for most of them, it is pretty rare anymore that we are both gone and come home to a newborn.  In our first couple years that was more of the norm and we look back now and realize how lucky we were that everything went so well.

Dreamboat Annie with her last cria on his first day~
Moonshadow's Dreamboat Annie is at 344 days today.  She has had 2 previous cria with an average of 345 days gestation.  Not a lot of data to determine any strong pattern, but we'll see.  Madonna la Boliviana is at 331 days today.  Her average is pretty close to Annie's, but this is her 8th cria and she has delivered her cria from 333 days to 370 gestation.  In her case, more data to just prove there is no predictable pattern.  Both these dams have been great moms, no birthing issues and know how to take car of their cria.  Sometimes I think they don't want us hanging around messing with their newborns and do all they can to wait and deliver when we are gone.   These dams also both had a year break in between cria so we've been waiting 2 years for them to give us another.  Annie comes from a very dominate white maternal line of alpacas, but we think she has some color potential from her Sire.  She is bred to our Herdsire, CCNF Andean Fury, who has done an amazing job of bringing out color from the lightest dams.  Fleece combination from these two parents has the potential to be phenomenal!

Madonna and her last Golden Victory cria,
Moonshadow's Golden Mist
Madonna la Boliviana is one of our first alpacas from the original 5 pregnant females we purchased when we started raising alpacas.  When choosing those first 5, I will admit she was not necessarily one of our first choices.  The things you learn and if only we knew then what we know now, we would have never hesitated and are so glad we did purchase her!  From her very first cria, Madonna has always produced something very special.  After 10 years with us, Madonna has really never failed to disappoint.  Her last cria was born in 2010 and if you are following our blog at all, would recognize the name Moonshadow's Golden Mist, our highly awarded show girl.  Golden Mist was one of the first cria from our Herdsire, Snowmass Golden Victory and we new she was a winner from the day she was born.  There was never any question that we would breed Madonna back to him.  Madonna is now getting up there in years and we are doing all we can to help her maintain, which included giving her a year off from pregnancy.    We are anxiously awaiting her latest Golden Victory cria and are certainly hoping for a repeat of the last one, whether it's a boy or a girl. 

Coming up quickly behind Annie and Madonna is Whisper.  Another mom that had a year break in between cria and bred to our rose grey Herdsire, Moonshadow's Gunslinger for the 3rd time around!  We've done several repeats, but this is the first 3x'r that we done.  This combination has produced such gorgeous fleece in a lavendar grey and a rich dark brown.  Whatever the color, the fleece quality, overall look and style of offspring and personality have been definite ranch favorites.  Oh, and worth mentioning, Gunslinger is one of Madonna's past show winning cria!
The combination of Gunslinger and Whisper has produced 2 show winners so far,
3rd time has to be a charmer also!
Well it doesn't appear any of our due soons are inclined to become new moms on Mother's Day this year.  As always, raising alpacas is a constant reminder in patience and recognizing not all things are in our control.  We are always excited when the new cria do arrive and we get to see the results of decisions and planning from months past.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NW Alpaca Showcase 2012

NW Alpaca Showcase a few years ago...
These 2 were awarded 2nd in Produce of Dam of 13 entries
and then each followed with 1st Place in their Halter classes~
We always love going to the NW Alpaca Showcase in Pasco, WA at the TRAC center, which was this past weekend April 27-29.  It is always a warm, sunny weekend that is so refreshing after too much rain and general unpredictable weather in the NW.  It is a well organized show and we always have fun visiting with other breeders we don't get to see much outside of shows.  There is a great RV park we stay in that is right out the doors from the pavilion where our alpacas are.  What more could you want for a weekend of fun, sun and alpacas?

Okay so on with the results of the show...  It is amazing how competitive classes are now with so many high quality, refined breeders out here in the NW.  Our first class of the weekend was in the Production Class, Bred & Owned Yearling female.  If you have been following our posts, this entry was again Moonshadow's Golden Mist.  There were 9 entries in this class from some of the best breeders around here, and judged by both show judges, Wade Gease and Kathy Merkley.  Golden Mist took 2nd Place in this class behind a beautiful grey female who went on to take Color Champion in greys.  Golden Mist went on to take 1st Place again in her Halter class, followed in 2nd by her Golden Victory sister, Kahlia Dream, owned by our good friend Sherrie Soderquist of Alpacas at Dream Catcher's Farm.

Moonshadow's Golden Mist ~ now with 1 Reserve Color Championship,
4 Blue Ribbons, 3 Red Ribbons, Best Brightness, Best Crimp Fleece awards!

Moonshadow's Victory's Spirit ~
Older sister & brother pictured
above at past NW Showcase

Most of the classes were very large and highly competitive.  When you see breeders you are used to seeing at the top of the class taking the gate you really recognize how competitive the playing field has become.  Moonshadow's Monique took a 3rd in her class behind 2 Patagonia Lennox daughters.  Lennox offspring seemed to dominate the show in whatever class they were entered.  Matrix Principe took a 4th in his class of mature males, many of which were past Color Champions.  Regardless of placing these guys were all worthy Herdsires.  Moonshadow's Golden Treasure took 5th in her class, the judge loving her beautiful phenotype, density, staple and organization of her fleece.  My handsome young Victory's Spirit hung in his huge class of fine young white juvenile males to take a 6th Place.  Considering his walk at the last show, the level of fleece quality and breeders in this class, and the fact he had to lay under the drip line in the barn the entire week before the show and then rolling in everything he could...we were really happy to make it into the top 6!  He was beyond paddock ready, he looked a bit more like he was wearing the paddock and brought it with him!  It is always amazing how bad they can look on the outside and then you open up this blindingly bright white beautiful fleece.

A few good looking young weanlings that were too young to show this year ~
Maybe they'll make it next year?  They are sure lookin' good!
Only 2 shows this year with all we need to do with the big move, but we feel fortunate to have been able to do them and had a great time at both.  We entered our first alpaca show in 2004, nervous and looking back now, fairly clueless.  We had watched a couple shows before so we at least had a sense of how they ran.  I look back now and recognize how much the shows, venues, breeders and alpacas have really all progressed.  Our first show was Alpacapalooza, our first class we showed our beautiful rose grey Beliarosa, who took 1st Place and we were hooked.  It's been a bit of a roller coaster with shows over the years.  We have met so many great people.  I really loved this year feeling a renewed sense of excitement and energy, with a refined focus and determination from everyone we talked to.

Six entries, six ribbons, one in every color.  With the level of competition we are seeing now at the shows we'll take this and be proud!  I won't deny we love to take the Blue and even better, a purple or lavender, but there is always more to the show then just the color of the ribbon.  Standing in the top line up and looking at who you are keeping company with is a great reflection of how far we've come and validation of choices made.  And with that, we keep looking ahead excited for the new cria coming and looking at the great options we have for breeding the next batch.  April officially marked our 10 year anniversary of owning alpacas and we are more excited about the future then ever!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is Spring finally here in the NW?

Just enough sunny days have been scattered here and there this month to believe it might be.  We have had 3 beautiful weekends of sunshine in a row!  For April in the NW this can be rare.  Then we'll have days of rain during the week to remind us where we are.  It's been great to be able to get outside and start to clean up on some of the Winter storm damage and get prepared for what warmer weather means for herd management. 

Herd management this past weekend meant weaning our last four cria who were born in the Fall.  Our minimum age for weaning is generally around 6 months, most of the time it seems to push closer to 8 and we watch for signs of the moms to start doing their own weaning.  Some cria handle this better then others.  Some moms let go easier then others.  This particular group of moms and cria are all pretty tight and none of them took to the separation very well.  As you have read in previous posts, this is never one of our favorite times.  We were hoping with a nice sunny day and new fields of grass for distraction things would go a little smoother.  Eh, this was a pipe dream, we had some unhappy cria who were looking for any way through or around the gates keeping them from their moms. 

Here's Tulio, Black Bart, Trinity and Duke waiting at a gate to follow their
moms and just ignoring the nice big field of pasture they could be in.
To upset routines even further, we had a couple more "due soons" to bring over to the barn.  We bring all our due soons to this area where we are close to supplies in the barn and can monitor from the house with our barn cams.  Alpacas are very herd oriented and really don't always take well to moves, even from one field to another.  We try to move them in pairs at a minimum, the bigger the group often the easier it is to move them.  When you are talking late term pregnant alpacas they are going to let you know they are not happy with any disruption in their routine.  Again, we relied on the distraction of a sunny day and new pasture.  This worked better with the adults then it did the cria!

All the 2011 cria and the first mom's due for 2012.  In front is
Moonshadow's Evening Staar letting her cria from last year, Klondike,
know she is not there for him don't get any funny ideas!
These girls didn't mind getting out on a new field for the day!
Well regardless of the weather, Spring is here and all that goes with it.  We are officially on cria watch with the first of 2012 due any time.  Shearing will be here before we know it and then we'll be full swing into transitioning to our new location in Bellingham.  Got to get in some fun while we can, next weekend we are off to the NW Alpaca Showcase to wrap up show season.  Could we be hopeful enough for a repeat of 'Palooza?