Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Llama Biography #4: SHAG Lakota

Once again I find myself at a loss about what to talk about tonight, so I'll whip out another short llama biography!  This one will be rather short, as Lakota was only on our farm for a few years.  Don't worry, his story has a happy ending!

SHAG Lakota came to our farm with Cattera and Duque, from Shagbark Ridge Llamas in November 1999.  He was a young yearling male, who we later had our vet geld (neuter) so he would play nice with the girls.  He was 4-H trained by a friend of mine as a baby, but never really seemed to enjoy being in the show ring.  He did however have gorgeous tan fiber!

So for a few years, Lakota was just a glorified lawn mower.  Didn't really leave the farm much, but he was a sweetheart and fun to have around.  In 2001 (or somewhere around there) we sold him to a friend of my dad's, along with another female that we had.  A few years later, they decided to get out of llamas and we took Lakota and his two friends back temporarily, and then found them another home.  He then spent several good years as a 4-H llama in Morgan Co., Indiana.

And then I got a call from a man in Florida looking for some bomb-proof pet llamas.  I sold him Cattera, and Lakota's owners sold him to go with her.  So the two buddies that started our farm went together to Florida, and now have a great life!

So...turns out I don't have any pictures of Lakota on my computer because he was "pre"-digital camera!  Sorry for the picture-free post!  Good news is that I'm heading home this weekend, so I'll be able to take lots of pictures, hopefully I remember!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Supplies...What does it take to run a llama farm?

One of the last times I was home I finally remembered to take pictures...  I was just walking around the barn and pasture, so I decided I would take pictures of our supplies (mostly feeding stuff) and write up a post for new owners (or anyone really).  It's amazing what you can learn from other breeders, even if you have been in the business for years!  Most of our ideas have been borrowed from others that we have visited over the years.

First I'll start with our mineral feeders.  It is really important to feed a loose mineral mix to llamas, not just salt blocks.  Llamas technically can't lick, so they can't consume a block like the loose stuff.  There is some debate about whether they need a mix made especially for llamas and alpacas, or if something for goats or sheep will work, but I like to stick with the special mixes.  Stillwater makes many good blends, you can order it online.  So on the left you will see a plastic horse feeder (TSC) that we use for loose minerals.  You should keep these in a covered barn, as water will ruin them long-term.  We also use these feeders for grain, although we used to use wooden troughs that worked much better for preventing choke.  Now I just got through saying you shouldn't use block feeders, but that is what is shown on the right.  One of our llamas, Bluff, has a bad habit of chewing on wood, so I decided to buy her a mineral block to chew on.  Now most of the llamas love it, but she (and now the rest too!) still chews on the wood.  It's fine to use a mineral block as a secondary source, but loose minerals are more important.  This block is a horse block with low copper (llamas are somewhat copper sensitive).

I think I've mentioned it before, but water is the most important thing you can provide your llamas.  Here we have a simple 5 gallon plastic horse bucket (TSC).  Easy to fill and easy to clean.  We have llamas (and alpacas) that like to stick their feet in the buckets, so we use bucket hangers to keep them off the ground.  In the winter, we use heated buckets (also TSC).  I'd love to have automatic waterers, but now that the llamas will be moving soon it doesn't make sense.

Now onto hay feeders.  Over the years we have come up with several hay feeder options.  This is by far my favorite.  It is essentially a wooden box on stilts, with a wire insert to keep the hay from getting wasted.  It holds almost a whole bale.  There are holes in the bottom to let dirt/dust and small pieces fall through (this would be really important if it was used outside, otherwise it would hold water).

A view from the top.  The wire insert is part of a cattle panel, cut to size.  I would preferably use a panel with smaller holes (hog panel?), as we have had crias get this stuck on their neck a few times.

This is our purchased outdoor hay feeder (TSC).  It is nice, but allows for a lot of waste and the llamas can get pretty dirty.  We normally wire tie a blue plastic tarp in the bottom to reduce the waste, but then it tends to hold water.  This winter I bought some plastic-coated 1cm sq. wire (TSC) and wire tied that to the bottom, so water can get out but most of the hay will stay in place.  Hopefully it will hold up.

These are wooden hay feeders my dad built too.  They hang on a fence (or a barn wall).  The top opens up to add hay from either side of the fence.  There are rebar pieces in front to keep most of the hay in place.  If I were to redo these, I would make the widest part at the bottom and use some sort of mesh (either a hog panel or rabbit cage wire) to further eliminate waste.

One more (make-shift) hay feeder.  One of our llamas, April, loves to lay outside in this overhang, so we started putting hay in this big plastic bucket for her to munch on.  It worked so well that we now take it to shows as a hay feeder.  I have seen others use the same set-up, and some even have wire inserts to eliminate waste.  This also shows one of the plastic feeders we use for grain.

On to the non-food supplies.  These are our stall panels (purchased from Klein Himmel Llamas of Goshen, IN).  Regular cattle panels can be purchased from many livestock supply stores, but these are very lightweight.  Lighter panels can be purchased from llama/alpaca supply places, but then shipping becomes an issue.  These panels really come in handy.  I mostly use them to make temporary pens for llamas that I am grooming or washing, but we have used them in our garage for cold llamas in the winter.  They are great for travel too, especially PR events and outdoor shows.

This is our chute, my favorite supply!  This was made by Double Your Pleasure Llamas, but they don't make them anymore.  There are several different models available though, depending on what part of the country you are in (shipping is nearly impossible!).  We use this for everything from routine medical work (shots and toenails) to grooming to emergency care (treating wounds, delivering crias).  It is extremely heavy, but as we learned even a strong llama can make it move!

And last but definitely not least, our scale.  We went way too many years without a scale, but I finally found a nice one for a good deal.  It is especially nice for crias, as they quickly get too big to pick up and the hanging scales never seem to work as well as they should!

Hopefully this helps.  This is by far not everything that we have in the way of supplies, but it covers the important stuff!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Change of Plans...

Well I just spent 45+ minutes writing a big blog post advertising my gorgeous girl (llama), Annie, for sale, and then as I go to add pictures I get an email with someone ready to buy her!  So Annie is sold!  She is going to have a great home, and I can't wait to see what kind of crias she has!

Now this post is going to turn into knitting and spinning stories instead!

I was spinning like crazy over Christmas break (and a bit before, because who really wants to study for finals?), trying to get half a pound of beautiful merino wool roving spun and plied.  I managed to get it all done, ending up with 5 skeins (now balls) of approximately worsted weight 2-ply yarn.

The color really looks like this, just a bit darker.

It's really hard to get the colors right!

I really wanted to finally make something to keep myself warm this winter, so I was planning on a set with a cowl, earband, and mittens.  The cowl was the first on the list.  I found a gorgeous cabled pattern on Ravelry, and knit it up in just a few days!  I finally found the right pewter buttons for it, just need to get around to putting it all together so I can wear it before winter is officially over.  The mittens (convertible) are next, after I finish my current felted bag project (gotta love wool scraps!).  For the earband I'm envisioning a cabled outer layer, with the inner layer knit out of handspun angora.

After the spinning but before the knitting of the cowl, I whipped up an earband for my fiance and a baby hat/bootie set for a good friend.

Cabled earband, knit out of handspun llama/alpaca and handspun angora (held double). 
The baby set.  Knit out of Lion Brand Organic Cotton.

How cute!

I'm definitely addicted to making baby stuff!  Good thing this kid will need lots of handknit stuff!

I also spun up a bunch (~8 ounces, 280 yds!) of mulberry silk.  This ended up about sport weight as a 2-ply.  This was for a custom order on Etsy, first order of the year!  I'm really going to try and advertise my Etsy store more, I'd love to get more happy customers!

Nothing like the shine of 100% silk!

And speaking of happy customers, I'm having a "refer a friend" sale!  Refer a friend to my Etsy store, and when you *both* place an order, you will *both* receive 10% off your order!  You can refer as many friends as you want!  If you don't quite see what you are looking for, I'm more than happy to do custom items!