On March 10, we went over to the Ciszewskis to learn how to halter train our
animals. The alpacas were so scared! I felt sorry for them, but I know they
have to be taught to walk and stand while on a lead. If we can teach them well
enough, we'll take them to the MAPACA 2001 Jubilee alpaca show in Harrisburg at
the end of April.
The bank is still giving us the runaround, so we went to Farm Credit to see if
they'll loan us the money. They wanted to put a lien against our house, so we
referred them to the Farm Service Administration, who guarantees up to 90% of
agricultural loans. Meanwhile, we went ahead and cashed in some bonds so we
could at least make a partial payment on the animals. We're ask them to take a
note - essentially loaning us part of the money themselves - so we can buy the
animals outright. They'll stay on the breeder's farm until we pay for them in
full, but at least we'll have ownership. It will cost us more in vet bills and
whatever other charges the breeder has, but it will be worth it.
We're getting a lot of advice that says we shouldn't get a male animal now
because we're on too tight a budget. The two bred females, the yearling
female, and the weanling female seem to be an "approved" combination, though.
We'll ask our breeders if they are willing to NOT sell us Shiloh, although it
breaks my heart to do that. He is a beautiful animal and will be a great
herdsire. Our advisors tell us we can get lots of breeding done for the cost
of a herdsire, and diversify our bloodlines at the same time. It makes sense,
both in terms of finances and herd development, but it's still heartbreaking!
Here are pictures of the land as it looks five weeks after we started clearing.
Click on the image to see a larger version of the same thing.
Today, April 17, 2001, we signed the sales contract, and now we own two bred
female alpacas (Sobata and Sarai) . We are financing the purchase of two
maidens, one of whom is a yearling (Rebekah) and the other of whom is a
weanling (Sheba). Getting signed up for the insurance and the alpaca registry
and all that seems to be a lot of paperwork. From what I understand, though,
all the paper and photos and so on are intended to protect the national herd,
so I suppose it's all worthwhile.
There's a question in my mind about how we are supposed to know what we're
breeding for if there are no breed standards, but apparently everyone else
knows exactly what we're breeding for, so we'll just have to figure it out, I
So that's where we are today, April 17, 2001. As we progress toward building
our farm and our herd, we'll post our adventures here, in the hope that someone
else will learn from us how to raise alpacas "on a shoestring" budget. We seem
to be one of the first few alpaca owners to be doing so.
April 23-24: We started shearing the alpacas at Almost Heaven today. We got
Katahdin and Sobata (Katahdin is the Ciszewski's herdsire, and Sobata is one of
our alpacas), Zachary, the Ciszewski's gelding. and half of our Sarai all
sheared. Sarai panicked, so we sedated her, and then she couldn't stand on her
own two feet. We couldn't hold her up, so we had to quit and we'll finish her
up after the MAPACA show.
April 26-29 was the big MAPACA (Mid-Atlantic 'PACA Association) Jubilee 2001
alpaca show in Harrisburg, PA. It was held in a huge barn, part of the Farm
and Agriculture complex, and "huge" is a real understatement! We went with two
of our new animals, Sheba and Rebekah. Our "sponsor," Bob Ciszewski, brought
two of his animals, Solomon and Elijah. All the alpacas traveled in Bob's
alpaca trailer, and when we got to the show, we put Rebekah, Sheba, and Elijah
in one pen because they're still little 'pacas, and put Solomon in a pen by
himself. He wasn't really alone, though, because right across the fence from
him were a few more alpacas brought by someone else.
It was a great show. There were 210 farms represented, with over 940 animals,
from 4-week-old crias to 2+ year-old adults. Sheba took a third place in her
class, and Solomon took a fourth, but neither of the other two placed. It was
lots of fun, and we had a chance to get closer to the animals because we had to
walk them twice a day for about 20 minutes at a time. As soon as they came
out of the show-ring, we had them sheared, so we took home bags of fleece and
considerably less bulky alpacas!
Here are a few images taken at MAPACA. As usual, click on the thumbnail to see
a larger image.
The Obstacle Course
The MAPACA Barn
More MAPACA Barn
Elijah and Rebekah
Bob and Solomon
Rick and Eli
Terry and Sheba
Taking Third Place
On April 30, we finished up the rest of the shearing at Almost Heaven.
Actually, we still have Camilla and the two llamas to shear, but Camilla is due
to "criate" any moment now, and we don't want to stress her out with the
shearing process. The llamas are going to wait until the Ciszewski sons can do
the shearing, because they're both big guys (and so are the llamas!)
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