Alpaca & Muscovy

Helen Kendall Smith

Mating induced ovulator Alpaca

well many of you will know that the Alpaca is an induced ovulator. This means that mating has to occur before an egg can be released for fertilisation. Which means in short that there is no “season” for mating as there is in other livestock, for example horses, sheep etc. No “tupping” season. No “cycle”. This means that the boys are always ready and so are the girls so they need to be seperated at all times to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

When the time comes, the Alpaca sings or “orgles” to the female and this can take from ten minutes to 45 minutes depending on the male.

It is not a quick process and the males need time to get everything functioning properly at the start of the season after a year off!.

Rarely will a male get a female to ovulate and this then fertilise resulting in a pregnancy on the first mating of the season.

The male has to be taken back to the female after 7 days to see if she needs remating. Some females can take numerous 7 day cycles of matings and checkings (called spitting off”) before they are pregnant and even then this needs confirmation by scanning.

Getting a whole herd of some 25 plus breeding females pregnant is a lengthy task and the boys need to be fit and keen.

The bad news is that Alpaca can reabsorb at any time in the cycle in the first three months or so and you will be back to the beginning with some females and have to start all over again. in the meantime the grass grows, cria are born and hay needs making!

this is the reason why you need to start mating early and often have to mate late into the season rather than leave a valuable female (asset) empty.

The longer a female is empty – the more it can effect their chances of getting pregnant again.

An occasional year off is okay with a late birthing but two years empty is never usually a good sign.

combine this with the fact that Alpaca gestation is nearly a year (11.2 months) and that they can give birth up to 6 weeks early or late – there is no time to lose and no “birthing season” – ever!

now then – last year the heatwave caused dire issues for all matings as the sperm count was effected by the heat and the animals just do not want to mate… this includes cows etc.

Alpaca struggle to mate in the heat in full fleece and slide off in the rain so… its up with the larks when dry and cool and the sooner the better!

I am to be seen bleary eyed most mornings as the sun comes up …

leading a keen male for a mating whereby the sun rises during…

I guess its romantic for them!

Spraying fields grazon Alpaca husbandry

Spraying is something to be done annually and is a job to keep on top of…

Last year you may recall I had some help….

this year its “shank’s pony”… between other duties and birth watch….

only another ten fields to go!

field preparation Alpaca husbandry

well we have spent the entire week end working flat out as usual.

with toenails, bodyscoring, barn clearing, spraying,

field shelter clearing, mowing the orchard (at last it was dry enough to get on it) and poovering.

I ache in parts of me I did not know even existed – must be that “over 50 feeling hahahaha”

my hands became a little green from removing the wet grass that became stuck in the shafts

BUT I have discovered the most amazing UDDER cream which fixes everything from rough hands to rough Alpaca teats!

some of you know I had a quick trip to A & E with my left hand this week so “my man poover” did some for me.

well – you didnt REALLY expect him to let me catch him on camera did you?

Second time in 6.5 years of Alpaca breeding but I was really grateful for the help and my hand is much better thanks.

soon the fields will be dry enough to top where they are being rested for cria due soon.

some lovely folk came to buy some of the Muscovy and are keen to have Alpaca – off to Hereford some went too.

Have a great week ahead in the sunshine. No more ADE for six months lets hope!

recycling Alpaca straw

well I did say in a previous blog that it was “waste not want not recycling here” and I meant it.

It took a while and a good few bags to get all the straw from the barns bagged up and cable tied- clear for shearing.

then they were loaded onto my ever faithful 17 year old car and taken to the stables to the rescue ponies who are always deep littered.

they were very grateful and its good to see the straw being “reused” rather┬áthan rotting on a muck heap to no ones real benefit!

total cleansing and disinfecting the barns is one of the “to do” jobs.

the ducks watched from the roof finding it all rather too much for 6 am on a Saturday morning!

skirting fleece Alpaca fleece preparation

Well, in between getting ready for shearing and early mating, the skirting does not happen by itself.

some folk do it immediately and send it off to the mills, others store it – it depends on timing and storage facilities.

we were a bit busy last year and in between halter training I am “getting on it” slowly.

here we do it all – hand spinning and off to the mill to be turned into yarn and sell the odd few that are not best fleeces for the other two!

A skirting table is a must so that the dirt and detritus can drop through to the floor –

which of course has to be cleaned up when the second cuts and vegetable matter (VM) fall through.

Fleeces are very large when spread out – mine is seven foot by 3.5 foot

I have looked like a haystack for a good while now and only another 20 fleeces to go with another nearly 40 due shortly.

I cannot seem to get my average for sorting a fleece out properly to less than 2.5 hours per fleece and more than twice that for a cria “haystack” fleece.

The fleece has to be laid shorn side down – in other words the fleece open to the elements is upside.

Then you need to mark on paper which fleece it is which year and what you want from it.

is it going to be hand spun? or off to the mill? or for felting? of for making cushions? or sold as is? or just rubbish for the bin?

To give you a quick basic idea – you need to remove the second cuts – the short pieces where the shearer goes back a second time.

Remove the rough hair from the legs, head, neck, belly etc and any other fleece that is not good. A good shake of the fleece usually throws out the second cuts and the portions you want to remove. helps with the dirt too.

Any fleece on the neck that is as good as the blanket (main body) then put them together.

any other useable fleece is second cut but remove guard hair and detritus too.

no doubt I will be lynched for the above but it is only my opinion and we only use the best here!

necks and legs we do not use – what you put in is what you get out – simples !

down the centre line you need to remove any really stuck in matter and the crows nest at the back of the neck.

then when the fleece is down to size and looking marketable – start removing vegetable matter.

when finished this side – turn over and do the other then do it again!

bag it up, mark it up and keep going.

when you have 20kg of one colour or to be mixed eg browns or grey, you have enough for the bigger mills.

Perhaps I am skirting within an inch of its life and too picky.

this is not how to prepare a show fleece and obviously if you are selling the fleece on its own – sell the lot!

no – one cannot be too picky (excuse the pun) because the mills send the fleeces back if there is too much “rubbish” left in them. onwards and upwards!

Alpaca friends longterm

well we have had many visitors lately… and some old friends too.

good friends are so important don’t you think?

max has been a lifelong friend of our flat coat retriever and many will recall their “first kiss”

well max is a little older now and he walks when she runs… sound familiar?

he’s definitely still handsome though!

Alpaca barns ready for shearing

well we have been manic clearing the barns.

every straw is reused for ponies and ditto all hay.

the floors have to be immaculate when the Alpaca are gently laid down for shearing and

muggins here has to pick out the hay that remains in the shorn fleece –

skirting and clearing of debris takes time. Barns ready first. the before….


ha ha. the third shop is tescos in cirencester with empty shelves. yes, i managed to escape for some essentials this week only to find no one to help – nothing I wanted there and thank goodness for Sainsburys – I mean how difficult is it for Tescos to stock a can opener?

Alpaca cria weanlings doing well

well the weanlings are doing really well and a couple will be released for sale shortly. well – we cannot keep them all – much as we would love to.

wish my bum was as cute!

farmers crisis 2013 floods

well it looks like the situation is set to continue. poor folks really affected by floods rather than just wet ground. Few realise that this means that grass cannot be grazed for months. couch grass and buttercups just does not suffice!

lets get this sorted as best we can please!