Rick and Terry Simpson
HC 79 Box 52-E
Romney, WV 26757
(304) 822-3494

December 7, 2003

Today Greta dug under the fence (we can't electrify it while they're snow on the ground) and went down the hill to a neighbor's house. She killed five of his guineas before he could chase her out of his yard. Tawny was with her, but apparently didn't kill any birds. Greta would have gotten more of them, but they all flew up into the trees and wouldn't come down. Rick was halfway to town when the neighbor called me, so he came back and fetched the dogs and brought them home. Now Greta can't be allowed out even in her own back yard without being on a leash. This will NOT be fun for Rick during the winter. I think we should take her to a no-kill shelter, but Rick seems to be willing to take her out two or three times a day.

Double "O" Good has called us to let us know that we can pick Molly up, but we're going to wait until the snow is off the ground. The hill is just too slick with the packed snow to risk taking the trailer up and down.

The other alpacas are doing well. None of them seem to like the other, although Clovelly and Camella (sisters) get along better together than either of them get along with Sarai. Sarai has taken to spitting air at me when I come into the barn, although she has yet to let go with a gob of real spit. I don't know what caused her to suddenly start doing this - she doesn't do it to Rick!

January 18, 2004

Happy New Year!

We've had record low temperatures this winter, with high winds that have taken the perceived temperature to as much as 10° below zero during the day. The night time lows have been even worse. I have been so worried about our animals, because we don't have any way to provide heated shelter for them. Every morning, I am so relieved to hear the guineas arguing about something, the goats crying for their morning hay, and to see the alpacas wandering around in the fields seeing if there's any little morsel of grass left on the ground. There isn't, but they are the most optimistic of animals, and they keep looking.

We had the vet out to give everyone their rabies shots. He also cut back Sarai's teeth (he had to sedate her first) and gave everyone CD&T shots (although I provided the anti-toxin for this to help keep the price down). You can sure tell Clovelly and Camella are sisters! They both screamed bloody murder from the time they were caught til the time they were released. Sarai runs like crazy to avoid getting caught, but once she is, she'll stand there like a lady and let us do whatever is necessary. We just couldn't see trying to mess around in her mouth without giving her something to keep her calm. She was conscious - we didn't "knock her out" - but was very calm and kushed throughout the whole ordeal.

The vet also examined Buster, our porch cat, and said he thinks the cat has diabetes. He said the cat has the shape of a diabetic cat, anyway. Rick decided that since Buster is a stray, we aren't going to pay for the medication to keep him alive any longer than he will naturally live. We got him neutered, got him a rabies shot and a feline distemper shot, and we make sure he's got food and water, but that's about it. He sleeps on a blanket on the front porch or under the house, depending on the weather and wind, I guess. He loves to be petted, and will wind himself around our feet every time we walk out of the house. The only way to get him to move so we can, for example, bring groceries in the house, is to give him a few morsels of food. I'm sure this doesn't help his condition a bit, but we don't want to just kick him out of the way!

The vet was astonished to find that even though our alpacas run from us, our goats come to the fence and want to be petted. He was able to give both of the goats both their shots without having to go into the goat field. When I told him he could "shoot them" right over the fence, he didn't believe me, and when he was done, he said he had never encountered goats so tame! We don't spend any more time with the goats than we do with the alpacas, but the alpacas are sure a lot easier to deal with!

During the summer, when we're willing to spend more time outside, we can get the alpacas to be a little less wild, but they lose it all during the winter and we have to start all over again in the spring. I think if we had a heated barn we could close them up in so that they'd get more used to having us walking among them, they'd be a bit tamer. If I had it to do all over again, I would make sure to have a good-sized barn that could close on all four sides! I'd also plant our fields at least a year before putting alpacas on them. That would give the grasses time to take root so they wouldn't be pulled up as baby leaves when the alpacas go after them.

We have had a terrible time finding decent hay this winter. We don't have space to store more than about 20 bales at a time, so we can't buy enough for a whole winter at once. The last batch we got was so packed with mud that the alpacas and goats found it almost inedible... it's being used now for bedding in the barn and in the goat shelter. Now we've found another alpaca owner - he also bought his animals from Almost Heaven - and he and Rick went off to Inwood, VA to pick up a few bales to see whether our alpacas would like it or not. It seems like good hay - not too stemmy, not dirty, and it smells like good hay. The first day, the alpacas wouldn't go near it. They're still eating from that old 800 lb roll we bought last spring. Now THAT looks like it is mostly stems, but the 'pacas seem to like it anyway. Anyhow, they do seem to be more interested now in the new hay. The goats took to it right away, of course! *grin*

Anyway, even with the bitter, bone-chilling cold, the alpacas and goats and guineas seem to be doing fine. Some folks have reported that their guineas have been frostbitten on their feet and their wattles, but our two haven't suffered this - yet - thank goodness! And we still haven't brought Molly home. It's been too cold to transport her in an open trailer, so we'll just wait til the temperatures are more temperate.

February 22, 2004

We sold Sarai. Today we took her to her new owners, who are fully aware that she cannot be bred. In fact, when I sent in the registration papers, I asked Lee Ciszewski to send along a note saying that Sarai's breeding status should be changed to non-breeder. That should help keep her new owners from being tempted to breed her, since her crias would not be registered. But I also warned them that if they TRIED to breed her, or even if a gelding tried to breed her and penetrated, she probably would get a uterine infection. They're considering spaying her, if it isn't too cost-prohibitive. Dr. Karen Baum, the person who had to extract Sarai's first cria, will be the vet for that farm, and I know she charges very reasonable prices. I'm glad she'll be Sarai's vet... she understands Sarai's history.

Today we also picked Molly up from Double "O" Good, where she had been taken to be bred to Dark Cloud. She is halter trained now, thank goodness. But the poor thing was so scared when we got her home that she wouldn't stand up in the trailer so we could lead her down to the pastures. After trying everything we could think of short of physically moving her, we left her to sit and think about it for half an hour. When we went back, she still wouldn't get up, so Rick had to physically lift her rear quarters up - at which point she leapt out of the trailer and would have bolted had I not had the lead wrapped several times around my wrist. Once we got her out of the trailer, though, we led her as peaceably as you can imagine down to the pastures. Again she panicked when Rick tried to take the halter off of her, but he finally got it out, called the other alpacas down to greet her, and left her with them. He left the light on in the barn tonight, though, just in case she's a bit spooky. It's good to have her home, and I hope she wasn't so stressed out that she loses her cria!

The last month has been incredible, as far as the weather is concerned. The average temperature for Jan this year was 30 degrees - the normal average is 41 degrees. We had weeks on end where the temperature was no more than 25 during the day and got down into the teens - and occasionally even the single digits - at night. We gave our pacas and goats double sweet feed rations and all the hay they could eat. They strewed enough of it on the floors of their respective shelters that they had several inches of warm hay bedding. But the pacas pooped right in front of the garage, in the area we have to walk through to get in to feed them, change their water, or give them hay. The weather has been so cold that even today, when the temperature has been above 45 for the third day running, the pile is still frozen solid. We'll try moving it tomorrow, though.

September 16, 2004

Well, finally, some really good news! We have a female cria, born sometime today. He mom birthed her in the barn, but we weren't outside at the time. We didn't find her til Rick got back from Cumberland at 4:15pm today. She's kind of brownish-black, not true black or the dark, charcoal gray that I've learned is called "bay black." She's an entirely new color - well, new to us, anyway. It will be interesting to see what color on the AOBA color chart corresponds to the color she is!

She weighed 12.7 lbs at 4:30 today, which I guess is going to have to stand as her birth weight. Her umbilical cord was just fine, not red or inflamed, and her legs are straight and properly formed. She's just beautiful! Here are a couple of pictures of her - click on the image to see a larger version, then click your browser's Back button to return to this page.

unnamed female cria
unnamed female cria

We haven't named her yet, but we have a lot of candidate names, from "First Lady" to "Cleopatra." We've even considered naming her "Dark Storm" - the "Dark" part from her daddy, Double 'O' Good's Dark Cloud, and the "Storm" part from the hurricane we expect to hit here any day now. Her mom's name is Molly, but we didn't think "Black Molly" would be suitable, since that's the name of a fish! How about "Dark Molly?" Naw... We'll figure something out before we have to register her, I'm sure!

Here I am babbling again... we're both so excited we can hardly sit still! So off I go to visit our new little girl!

December 1, 2004

Nothing exciting has happened since First Lady was born. Yup, that's the name we finally chose... because she's the first female alpaca born on our farm.

Getting Lady registered is being a real challenge. First, ARI sent us the wrong FTA cards (I have no idea what FTA stands for, but these are the cards on which we put the blood samples.) The ones we need have bar codes on them, and we need those bar codes in order to register her. But the ones they sent us don't have the bar codes, so I emailed them and requested new ones. They haven't sent them yet, but after all, Lady IS still under 90 days old.

Also haven't received the registration paperwork from Double O Good. They need to sign off on the herdsire section of the form. I sent the papers to them right after Lady was born, and have since emailed them about returning them, and they say they are "in the process" of returning them! My goodness, it takes maybe 3 minutes to complete the form, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and put it in the "outgoing mail" box! I don't know what's keeping them!

But Lady is thriving. She's almost quadrupled her birth weight. Unfortunately, her mother, Molly, is losing weight rapidly. We've checked her stool for worms and haven't found any. We've monitored her diet, and she's getting more than her share of feed and hay. I don't know what else to do. We could call our local vet, but he knows very little about alpacas. We may end up taking her to OSU - a many hour trip from here.

Lady is NOT true black! She is a very dark chocolate brown... darker than the brown of semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Her lower legs and head are black, but her body, tail, apron, and upper legs are a beautiful dark brown. Her fleece isn't the best, however. It looks to me like there is a lot of guard hair mixed in with her fleece, and the fleece isn't particularly soft. I can't say it is better than her mother's fleece, but it is surely no worse.

Rick hasn't said anything further about selling the girls, so maybe he's changing his mind. He's building a hay barn out behind the pastures, and he's contemplating putting a fence down the middle of the larger alpaca pasture. That would allow us to try again to grow grass on one side of the field while keeping the alpacas out of there. IF Rick can force himself to keep the alpacas out for one full season, then we'll have some grass for them for the next season. Not a lot, cause the field isn't that big and it is very hard to grow grass up here, but maybe they'll get SOME grass, which is more than they get now!

Looks like we're headed for another very cold winter. Spring was wetter than usual, and spring, summer, and fall were all colder than usual. It's already down into the 40s on a regular basis, about 8-10 degrees colder than normal. Our 'pacas don't look like they've got enough fleece to survive it, but I suppose they do. Our 'pacas don't build a warm floor for themselves the way the goats do. The goats cover their floor in hay, then poop, then hay, 'til they have a nice warm compost pile to sleep in. It doesn't smell, either - not at all. The alpaca barn can get pretty rank in the winter when the 'pacas urinate in there. PDZ cuts down the smell a bit, for which I am very grateful. I don't know why the goat barn doesn't smell, but I'm not going to argue about it!

Well, time to go feed the animals. The wind is blowing very hard today, and it's cold out there, so I'm off to bundle up and go visit the girls!

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