Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Llama Biography #12: AAL Navarro

As I sat down to write this post, I realized that I'm to the point where I can't remember who came next in our herd!  I'm pretty sure AAL Navarro is next, or at least close enough!

Navarro, Spring 2003, after shearing.

In the fall of 2002, I started to realize that we needed our own breeding male if we were going to really get into the breeding end of having llamas.  For a few weeks I emailed various farms in the Midwest, looking for that perfect male.  And then like most people I got impatient, and decided to visit the farm with the best prospect over October Break from school.  That farm happened to be Animal Acres Llamas in Wisconsin, so my dad and I hooked up the trailer and had a very long day...

Spring 2002...the picture that sold me on him!

Navarro was truly a gorgeous male.  He was born in September 2001, but was shown extensively in spring and summer 2002, so he hadn't been shorn when we saw him in October 2002.  His red fleece was absolutely gorgeous, and he had a beautiful face.  He was a bit of a handful, but was 4-H trained so I felt he would be easy enough.  After spending a few hours with him at the farm, we bought him and headed home.

Chrys, Navarro's dam.  Chilean lines.

Nuevo Laredo, Navarro's sire.

Baby Navarro!

Luckily we already had 2 pastures at the old farm, so Navarro got to live with Duque (most importantly, not with the girls!).  Navarro was pretty young so he and Duque got along fine.

Fuzzy face!

Shortly after coming to the farm, fall 2002.

The next spring I started showing Navarro, and continued until fall 2004.  He was by far the best halter llama I'd shown yet, and really helped me improve my showmanship placings.  Navarro placed very well, finishing off his ALSA Recognition of Merit in halter, and peaking with a Grand Champion in Medium Wool Male at the 2003 NAILE.

His first show with me, the 2003 Western Ohio Triple Crown.

The 2003 Indiana State Fair.

3rd at the 2003 Great Lakes Regionals.

Grand Champion Medium Wool Male at the 2003 NAILE.

3rd at the 2004 Western Ohio Triple Crown.

Grand Champion Medium Wool Male at the 2004 Southwest Llama Show.

3rd at the 2004 Great Lakes Regionals.

We started trying to breed Navarro in the fall of 2003, but he wanted nothing to do with the girls!  Thinking it would just take him a bit longer to mature, we let him off the hook and instead used an outside breeding for the one female we chose to breed.  He finally got the hang of things in the spring of 2004, and bred 2 females, Casa Loma's Little Sheba (our herd) and Little Cattessa (back for an outside breeding).  Unfortunately Cattessa's cria died during delivery, and Sheba's cria died at only a few days old (very unrelated issues), but they were both beautiful.

Autumn Hill's Snowflake Obsidian, Sheba and Navarro's cria.

By the fall of 2004 we had acquired a second breeding male, and we chose to use him to breed our females that year.  But in the fall of 2005 Navarro got his chance again.  We bred him to 2 of our best breeding females, SHAG Cattera and Little May Flowers.  Both had gorgeous female crias, Autumn Hill's Cataleya and Autumn Hill's Camissia.  The red genes were obviously very strong in Navarro, as neither dam had thrown any red crias.

Autumn Hill's Cataleya, Cattera and Navarro's cria.

Autumn Hill's Camissia, May and Navarro's cria.

After Cataleya and Camissia were born, we decided that we only needed 1 breeding male after all, and unfortunately Navarro wasn't the best that we had on the farm.  So Navarro was gelded and sold to a fiber farm.  I'm so glad he found a loving home where his beautiful fiber is still appreciated!

While Navarro didn't have a huge impact on our breeding program, he had a wonderful impact on my show career for a year.  He was fun to have around, even if he was a bit of a pain!

Navarro with my sister.  He has the distinction of being the only llama we ever took to the second floor of our house...he was very willing to go up, but did not want to come down!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Winter Weather Prep

After spending a few harrowing days in the past few weeks worrying about how the lamas would deal with the cold, I decided that I would write up some of what I learned.  So here goes…

Duque in his coat.

Back in Indiana, we never seriously worried about the cold.  We did the usual preparations: rubber mats over the cement floors, heated water buckets, extra hay and grain, and coats for those who needed them (mostly April and crias).  It never got terribly cold for more than a day or two, so we didn't have to worry about it too much.

A cold snowy day in Indiana.

Now that the animals are in New York, it is a WHOLE different ball game!  It is only the first week of December, and already it has gotten below 20*F more than 10 nights.  It even got down to 1*F last week!  I was pretty panicked the first few nights it got really cold, but I've since done a lot of research, tweaked a few things about our barn and feeding practices, and now feel much more prepared for the inevitable cold weather.  To make things a bit easier to follow, I will break down the suggestions that I found into a few categories.

Our first big snowfall in New York.


As I mentioned before, there are a few basic things that we already were doing in our barn.  We always have rubbed mats down in our barn, and they do a great job to insulate the animals from the cold concrete.  Heated water buckets are also a must in the winter, even if the weather gets just below freezing.

Heated water bucket.

The first really easy thing to adjust for extreme cold is adding a layer of bedding (straw is preferable, but hay works in areas like ours where straw is really hard to find).  I always hated putting bedding down on the barn floor because it makes a huge mess, but honestly that is inevitable in the winter!  My geldings insist on potty-ing in the barn when it gets cold, but they have been limiting that to one half of the barn, so I spread some stemmy hay on the OTHER half of the barn (where I assume that they are sleeping).  That way I don't have to clean up yucky hay, and I don't waste as much.

Stemmy hay on the floor of the barn.

Another thing that we did back in Indiana (though for a very different reason) was putting a tarp up over the huge door opening.  Our old barn had a very tall door (at least 12-15' tall), so my dad rigged a tarp that covered most of it (it came down to about 6' high).  It was mostly to keep birds out of the barn, but it did help with the wind.  In our new barn, the door is only 8' tall, and is luckily located on the south end of the barn, but some days we were still getting a lot of wind coming in the barn.  So I set up a smaller version of the tarp door, to cover the top 4' of the door.  I folded a 6'x8' tarp in half so it was 4'x6'.  Using screws and large washers, I screwed through the metal rings on the tarp to attach it to the top of the door frame.  I then used bungee cords to keep the bottom corners of the tarp from flapping (I used the bungee cords to attach the tarp to various parts of the barn door), and threw a couple scrap pieces of wood in the fold of the tarp to weigh it down.  It gets a bit annoying to duck every time I walk out the door, but it does seem to help with the wind.

Tarp door.

I've read that a lot of people simply lock their animals inside the barn when it gets cold.  I've really tried to avoid that so far (and will continue to do so), but it is certainly a good option in some circumstances. If it ever gets below 0*F, or if one of the animals is shivering despite my attempts to get them warm, I would definitely lock them in the barn.


Feeding practices can also really help animals deal with the cold.  Since I don't have any breeding animals currently, only April gets a grain supplement on a daily basis.  However, I've decided that whenever the forecast says it will get below 25*F at night, I'm going to feed everyone 1c of llama pellets that afternoon/evening.  If it is going to get below 15*F, I will add 1c beet pulp.  I've also added beet pulp (as much as she will eat) to April's daily ration for the winter.  (Note: Beet pulp should be soaked thoroughly in water to allow for expansion before feeding.)  For really cold nights (below 15*F), I've also been mixing in a bit of alfalfa hay with the regular grass hay.  April won't eat it (I got it to put weight on her), so everyone else might as well benefit!

Beet pulp (brown) and alfalfa pellets (green) before soaking.

Beet pulp and alfalfa pellets after soaking.  I also mixed in a little calf manna to entice April.

A lot of people suggest feeding cracked corn during cold temperatures, but I personally hate feeding corn to my lamas!  I used to feed it as part of a weight gain mixture, but the animals never seemed to digest it, so I stopped.  From what I've heard beet pulp is also good to raise their internal body temperature (as it is digested).

Of course I always stuff the hay feeders whenever it gets cold.  We have one big hay feeder outside and one big one inside, but I've started leaving the big bucket feeders in the barn on cold nights.  I think having more feeders with hay will encourage more of the lamas to stay in the barn, which should keep them warmer.  For 5 lamas, I end up with 4 feeders inside the barn and 1 outside.  When it gets nice during the day I move the bucket feeders outside to encourage them to get some fresh air!

April and one of the bucket feeders.


For some animals (like April), coats are a necessity for getting through any winter.  I've discovered that April starts shivering when it hits about 25*F, so that is my threshold for putting her coat on.  Her coat came from Llama Hardware- it is by far the best one I've ever purchased!  Duque gets his coat when it hits about 20*F- his came from Useful Lama Items.  It isn't nearly as nice (it slides around as he wears it), but it works.  Since moving Ralph has become the next one to shiver, so he got to wear a yearling llama coat (also from Useful Lama Items) one night last week.  He looked so cute!  I know a lot of alpaca people use human vests as coats.  Horse/foal blankets can also work, but they don't fit as well in my opinion.

Ralph and April in their coats.

April in her first coat, a foal blanket.  It didn't fit very well...

It is important to remember that you should never coat a wet llama (dry them first!), and not to leave coats on if it gets too warm (this will also vary by lama).  I also like to take them off if rain is in the forecast, as most are not really waterproof.

For the recent extreme cold temperatures, I went out and bought old wool sweaters at a local thrift shop.  I cut them up and sewed them back together to make coat liners.  Wool blankets (or even fleece blankets) would also work great!

Patchwork wool coat liner.

So there you have it…a few ideas on how to keep your lamas warm this winter!  If you have any other tips that I didn't mention please share them!