Saturday, November 28, 2015

2016 Outlook

Every year when things start to come to a close, all I can think about is starting everything up again the next year!  That's pretty much the place I'm in right now...planning mode!  Or should I say dreaming mode!

I have a lot of big plans for 2016.  Sure, not all of them will come true, but I can hope!

First and foremost, getting Lily some real exposure in the show ring!  She has huge footsteps to follow in (her full brother was Grand Champion Medium Wool Male at the ILR Gathering and her half sister has won numerous Grand Champions and Best of Shows in 2015), and I know she will succeed.  I'm really hoping to make it to a few of the big out of state shows (March Llama Madness, the Virginia Classic, the ILR Gathering/LFA), as well as some of the closer ones (the NY State Fair, the Big E, etc.).  Our main focus will be halter, but I may show her fleece as well.  We'll do performance at some of them, and I might even make her wear a costume!

Lily at the 2015 NY State Fair.

Second, starting plans for building a new barn!  This is the one that will probably not amount to much, other than the planning, but oh well.  In order for me to become a full-time llama farmer I need to build up my herd, and in order to do that I need a new barn!  We have a nice barn now, but there is very little pasture attached to it (less than an acre), so it is pretty useless.  I hope to build a new barn next to a 6-8 acre field on the other side of the property.

My dream barn!

Last but not least, I think I'm going to get a breeding male next year!  I'm going to need one by spring 2017 if I want to breed Kara and May again (I could even breed Lily at that point, but I will probably wait); outside breedings are just too expensive!  Going along with my overall vision for my ideal llama, I'm going to be looking for a male with awesome conformation, thick bone structure, dense fine fleece, and a nice personality.  It's going to be hard to find though...the thick bone and dense fiber and harder to come by than you might think.  I'm going to try to find a part Argentine, as it will help with those traits.  I'm pretty sure I've narrowed down a few farms to look at when the time comes...  If I can make it to the ILR Gathering/LFA Sale this summer, I would like to bring home a male from the show.  That way I can save a bit on transport and be able to show him at the local shows in the late summer/fall.  I've even figured out where to build a new pen!

I'd love to have a male that looked like this guy!  (Argentine Poltergeist)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Llama Biography #22: Autumn Hill's Khatadyn

The last of our fall 2005 crias was Autumn Hill's Khatadyn.  He's also one of my biggest success stories!

Autumn Hill's Khatadyn.

In 2003 we tried breeding April to the very famous Tuna Catcher at Mark Smith Farms, but for some reason she didn't take.  So the next year we decided to use the breeding with one of our maiden females, Autumn Hill's Catanna.

Autumn Hill's Catanna, June 2005.

Tuna Catcher.

In late October 2005 I came home early from school one day (gotta love fall break!) to find Catanna out in the field with a new baby.  He was doing great, already up and nursing.  However as the day went on, Catanna still hadn't passed the placenta.  It appeared that she or another llama had stepped on it and drained it, so it wasn't heavy enough to pass on its own.  We called the vet, who said to gently pull on it until it came out.  **BIG MISTAKE!  NEVER PULL ON THE PLACENTA!**  My sister and I loaded Catanna in the chute, and my sister started gently pulling.  The placenta seemed to be coming out...and then Catanna's uterus came out with it.  She had prolapsed her uterus.  We made another frantic call to the vet, who said to wrap the uterus in a plastic bag to keep it clean.  We sat like that for a couple hours waiting for the vet to get there.  Eventually he showed up and stuffed Catanna's uterus back inside.  Luckily she recovered nicely, but she did prolapse again with her next cria, so she was retired from breeding.

Khatadyn at a few weeks of age.

Back to Khatadyn...  It was evident early on that he was something special.  I advertised him and our other male cria at our stalls at the North American show a few weeks later, and a man from Tennessee  took interest.  He decided that Khatadyn was the one for him, and we delivered him shortly after he was weaned.  I never even got to show him!

Khatadyn at 3 months.

Khatadyn at 6 months.

But his new owner showed him, and Khatadyn did amazing!  He earned several Champions in the few years he was shown, and got his ALSA ROM and Halter Champion awards.

Khatadyn is one of the  many llamas I'd like to get back, but I've lost touch with his owner.  Hopefully he is still loved!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New York State Fair!

Well it has been a whole MONTH since the NY State Fair, and I'm just now posting pictures!  I'm a terrible blogger when I'm working full time...

Overall, the animals did pretty well.  They all placed respectably well in halter, and Ralph even managed a performance class placing!  Lily was not at all happy whenever Kara left the pen, but by the end she managed to refrain from trying to jump out!  They weren't very happy about all the people though, even Kara.  They spent a lot of time in the middle of the stalls, just out of reach.

Chilling in the stalls.

As with most shows, there were highs and lows.

First off, it was just plain awesome being in the ring with May again.  She was the second llama that I showed as a kid, and it was so much fun to be back at it with her.  And she was amazing!  The judge loved her fiber (even though she was body shorn!) when we were in halter, and he seemed pretty impressed when I told him she was 15 years old!  She managed a respectable 4th place in light wool adult female, despite being the oldest in the class.  And even without any performance work in 13 years, she did amazing for me in obstacle and public relations.  She placed 20th out of 49 in novice obstacle, and if she hadn't refused a very steep and narrow stair obstacle in novice public relations she would have placed pretty well...she got an 8 or 9 (out of 10) on all the other obstacles!  I can't wait to see how she does next fall after some training!

Still looks good for 15 years old and 4 crias!

Ralph was his good old steady self.  Always nervous, but I've learned how to deal with it most of the time.  He placed 7th out of 49 in novice obstacle, and if I hadn't forgotten an obstacle (the easiest one too!) and gone "off course" he would've done well in novice pack.  I think he was 21st out of 48 or so in novice public relations.

Kara...well Kara was mostly my fault.  She got pretty heavy this summer on all our gorgeous green grass, and thus didn't do so hot in halter.  She placed 3rd, right behind the Grand and Reserve Champion winners.  She also placed 3rd in bred and owned female, behind the Grand Champion Heavy wool and Suri winners.  She was great in showmanship though, except for not letting the judge touch her.  We still got 2nd though, which I thought was pretty good.  And she got to meet her "little" half-sister, Sunny.  They placed 1st in produce of dam, and the judge loved them and their size!

Chubby girl...

Sunny and Kara.

And last but not least, Lily (aka MSF Regal Princess).  To be honest, Lily was my disappointment.  She was very very nervous being at the show, and it came out in the ring.  She was a mess in the performance classes, although she did try some new obstacles which I was proud of.  She wanted nothing to do with halter either, and thus didn't walk very well.  She got 2nd out of 3, behind the Grand Champion heavy wool female.  The judge seemed to like her, he just couldn't evaluate her movement very well.  I'm hoping that I can get her over some of her fears this winter, and get her to more shows this spring to help as well.

Little miss ears!

Such a gorgeous girl!

It was still a great show with lots of great people, and May got to go to home with Dakota Ridge Farm from Albany to be bred to their gorgeous male (and Best of Show at the NY State Fair!), Joey!  Very excited for this baby!!

Autumn Hill Llamas & Fiber's future breeding females!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Another Garden Update!

I finally got some recent garden pictures, and wanted to make sure I posted them before they weren't so recent anymore!

The squash and pumpkins have been having a pretty good year.  The powdery mildew is taking over now, but frost isn't too far away so I'm not too concerned.  

So excited to pick my big carving pumpkins tomorrow!

I harvested all of the carrots over the weekend, and we got a good amount.  Raised rows is definitely the way to go with carrots, they are huge!

The cucumbers are shot, and have been for awhile.  I think they got cucumber mosaic virus...

The tomatoes are doing pretty well.  I've been proactively applying a copper fungicide to keep them healthy, and it seems to be working somewhat.  They're still diseased, but going strong.  We've harvested a ton of tomatoes, too!  (Each picture shows a different variety of tomato.)



Old Brooks.

Iron Lady.


Oregon Spring.

Yellow Perfection.

Matt's Wild Cherry.
I finally ripped out the broccoli and made two new root vegetable rows.  I'll probably cover them with something once it starts to frost, but root veggies can handle a bit of cold.  I planted radishes, spinach, beets, and carrots.

And no garden update post is complete without a picture of the harvest!  This was just one day.  We now have twice as many tomatoes and at least 10x as many potatoes!  And I still need to dig the rest of the potatoes!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Garden Update

I finally got around to taking pictures of the garden, and now that I uploaded them I realize how old they are!  

These are the 4 squash and pumpkin mounds.  I was trying out a few different trellises for the squash, but I think they are too much trouble.  The squash are producing wonderfully, but are now coming down with a fungus.

The flower edging has turned out quite well.  Needs to be weeded a bit, but flowered nicely.

This is one of the root vegetable mixed rows.  Onions at the top, radishes at the bottom.  There are now carrots and beets growing in between.

The cucumbers started out very strong, producing 20-30 every few days.  Unfortunately they came down with mildew and are all but dead now.

The tomatoes still appear to be doing well.  There is a bit of fungus, and for some reason they've gotten blossom end rot.  I just ordered some calcium, hopefully that will help.

This is the first of the mixed root vegetable rows.  It has now been completely picked, even the carrots turned out well.

The broccoli produced well enough, but got eaten pretty quick by something (I suspect groundhogs again).

Last but not least, the potatoes.  They are mostly dead on top now, and my husband has harvested a few plants already.

I'll take more updated pics after the state fair!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Quarantine...The Why and How

I'm happy to announce that May has finally made it home!  It has been 8.5 years since I've seen her, and it is almost surreal that she is back with me.  And of course she is the inspiration for this post!

I'll admit, for the first several years that we had llamas (ok, almost the whole time we've had llamas), we were terrible about quarantining new arrivals!  We always had a small herd, and not a lot of extra space, so any newcomer or someone returning from a show went right in with the herd.  The thought of that makes me cringe now!  Luckily when I set up the new farm I made sure to set up a quarantine area.  Any time a new llama comes to the farm they will go in there for at least 3 weeks.  My show string also goes in the quarantine pen for 3 weeks after each show.  When we build a new barn I plan on building yet another quarantine pen so that I have a place to put females when they come for outside breedings.

The edge between the quarantine pen and the main pasture (with the gate open).

For the past few years, it has seemed like parasites are on the rise.  I believe that is due to reporting bias...with the advent of online forums more people are discussing the issues they are having in their herds.  But the good news is that owners are becoming more proactive when it comes to preventing parasite issues on their farms.  And one of the easiest ways to do that is quarantine!

By quarantining a new llama (or one coming back from a show or other farm), you lessen the risk of spreading internal and external parasites to the rest of your herd.  Parasites are easily picked up at shows and other farms, and even during transport!  And of course the stress of being at the show/other farm/transport is enough to make an insignificant parasite load bloom into something dangerous!

Ralph and Kara at a show.

Quarantining is pretty simple...pick a well-behaved companion from your herd (if you only have one newcomer) and stick them in a secluded pen for a specified period of time.

Ralph and Duque make great quarantine companions!

I like my quarantine pen to be relatively small.  I want it to be a dry lot (aka no grass) so that parasites are more easily contained.  And of course I don't want to risk contaminating a large pasture!  My main quarantine pen is about 40' x 50', with a 10' x 20' pen in the barn.  It is big enough for my entire herd (now a whopping 6 animals!) to live in during the winter/early spring.  April and May are in this area now.  The new quarantine pen I finished building today is much smaller, but still usable.  The outside area is about 15' x 30', with a 10' x 10' pen in the barn.  I probably wouldn't use it for more than 3 animals at a time (Kara and Ralph are in there now).

The herd in the quarantine area.

The length of time that you quarantine is a bit of a grey area.  For me, it comes down to how bad I perceive the risk to be.  If I suspected that the animal would come in with a huge parasite load, I might quarantine for a month or two (and run lots of fecals during that time).  If I had a healthy animal coming from a reputable farm, I might quarantine for just a few weeks.  I quarantined Lily for 3 weeks this past spring, and plan to do the same with May.

While the animal is in quarantine, it is important to monitor their progress.  It is a good idea to run an initial fecal (I wish I had done this with Lily), so that you have an idea of what you are working with. It takes parasites awhile to increase (if they picked something up from the transport or stress caused a bloom), so you should run another fecal in 1-3 weeks.  When you run the follow-up fecal, don't forget to test the companion animal as well...they could have picked something up from the newcomer.  If you need to treat for parasites, don't forget to run another fecal 10-14 days after treatment.  Yes this will prolong the quarantine period, but you need to make sure that the treatment worked (and not introduce resistant parasites to the rest of your herd!).

A fecal slide as viewed through the microscope.

During quarantine, be sure to offer the best nutrition possible.  Nice leafy second cut hay is good, and I like to add electrolytes to their water.  You can add grain/pellets if they aren't overweight, just be sure to introduce them slowly (mixing with the feed they got at their previous farm is best).  And don't forget the minerals!  May has been snarfing them down today!  Something new that I tried with Lily was an immune booster herbal supplement.  Being a young, recently weaned cria, I wanted to help her immune system deal with the stress as much as I could.  I bought an herbal supplement from Smart Pak Equine online.  I also plan on using this supplement when we go to shows.  I think for May I'm going to offer specific herbs instead of the supplement, since she is older and can deal with the stress better.

Beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, and calf-manna are great supplements if you need to put weight on your newcomer.

Once the newcomer has been in quarantine for a few weeks, and has a clean fecal (and no external parasites), they are free to join the herd!  It is always fun to see how the rest of the herd reacts to a new animal!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's Almost Farmer's Market Time!

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over...seems like the year is flying by!  Now that I'm out of school, the end of summer isn't such a letdown.  Now that I'm a "big girl", it means cooler weather, llama shows, and of course the beginning of *my* farmer's market season!  (I specify *my* farmer's market season, because the market has actually been running since May, but I only sign up for the second half, since I figure it would be hard to sell wool hats in 80* weather!)

I've really begun to enjoy going to the farmer's market.  I wake up nice and early every Saturday, drive to Hamilton (a college town about 30 minutes north of where I live), set up, and then spin and talk to people (and hopefully sell a few things!) for 5-6 hours!  What fiber enthusiast could wish for much more?  Of course on the days when the weather is iffy it is a bit less fun, but the gorgeous fall days make up for it.

All winter my mom and I have slowly been building up my inventory of knit items to sell at the market.  I take other things like handspun yarn and insoles, but the knit accessories really steal the show.  I think I've got a great selection this year, and hopefully my future customers agree!

The market starts for me in just under 2 weeks...August 8!  Hopefully I'll have my new llama by then.  (Long story short, the original transporter changed her route so she couldn't pick up May.  I'm still searching for a new one, but I do have a promising lead!)  Can't wait!