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On the end of birthing/breeding season, semi-empty nests, and Hurricane Irma.

Greetings from the far side of birthing season! Seems like just yesterday that Jen and I were coming up with breeding assignments — which Herdsires would breed with which females  — for the 2017 season and that she and our herd manager, Kim Duprey, were staring down a list of some 75+ due females for this year as well. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess?

CCNF Aria’s little Mo girl just a few days after getting cria shorn.

I have come to realize over the years that one of the reasons I often dread the start of the summer here is the inevitable stable of maiden females and rookie Herdsires that often give your friendly neighborhood alpaca pimp a bit of a run around. There are few things as trying from a husbandry point of view as a breeding match where no one has a friggin’ clue. I’m sure that it of course also triggers traumatic memories of the emotional war zone that was my adolescence!  As of this writing though, I am happy to report that the breeding end of things has at least worked out fine. Not only are all of the maidens now either confirmed pregnant or waiting to be so but the one rookie male on whom we leaned the most this season, CCNF Dreadnought, turned out to be a super-quick study. Good thing too, seeing as how he had a breeding list that was almost 20 females long.

In a related sigh of relief, there was also considerable rejoicing over a month ago when the final 1st-time mom of the season (AKA 2016’s maiden females) both birthed out and then enthusiastically suckled her new baby. Maybe in the future that day should be recognized as a floating holiday around here henceforth known as Proven Momma Day? Yes, it is true that good alpaca moms usually produce daughters who go on to make good moms as well but as any alpaca breeder of experience could tell you, it’s called a truism and not a truth for a reason.

We now find ourselves in mid-September with only 4 females left to deliver their crias and an almost identical number that are scheduled to be re-bred. We are drawing a distinct line in the sand this fall: if you are a female alpaca in our breeding program and you are not pregnant as of October 1st, you will be held open until the following year. This is in fact the second year in a row that we have made a concerted effort to condense our birthing season and we will do so again next year too, with an aim to have the final 2018 breedings take place no later than September 1st. The thinking is twofold. 1). If we’re going to be doing baby checks for new arrivals in the early morning and again a final time before bed, we might as well be checking on multiple females at once instead of just a few if they’re all going to be having crias at some point anyway. Also, to paraphrase an old adage I’ve always loved about the number of human kids people have, once one gets passed anything more than 2 or 3 crias being born on a daily basis, you’re already playing zone defense vs. man-to-man anyway so a little more crazy added to the equation doesn’t really rate. 2). From a completely selfish point of view – in two years time we are going to be an empty human nest here at CCNF and with both of our boys most likely off at school then, we’d kind of like September free for some travel shenanigans. It’s known as “shoulder season” in Europe (look it up) and we intend to take its full measure.

Speaking of that empty nest, we are now officially at least part way there, having dodged the extensive traffic and mania — much of it deserved I will admit — related to the great solar eclipse of 2017 in order to deliver our kid to school in Daytona Beach, FL where he is studying Aeronautical Science (that’s Embry-Riddle speak for a 4-year-degree in becoming a professional pilot). Of course just 10 or so days after dropping Sammy off and saying what was (for his father anyway) a pretty hard goodbye, we got to bring our kid back home again to get him and his friend out of Dodge before Hurricane Irma could do her worst. Though it meant a drive to and from Atlanta with his buddy, we are happy to report that both young men are now happily back at school again after a 5 day sojourn here in the Northeast.

As it turned out, Daytona fared quite well, all things Irma (and Harvey!) considered, certainly better than many other parts of Florida and a far cry from any number of locales in the Caribbean close to this family’s heart, several of which were left quite literally looking like an atomic bomb had been detonated. The simple truth (not a truism) is that there just aren’t many man-made structures that are engineered to survive 185 MPH winds. Though the destruction visited upon the Virgin Islands in particular means that our annual family strip to the BVI will be put off for at least a calendar year, we are of course the first to acknowledge that the spoiling of our would-be vacation — the ultimate 1st-World problem — obviously pales when compared to the hardships faced by the good people of those communities right now, including much of it that that will continue on for months and maybe even years – long after Irma’s toll has stopped being a front-line news story here in the US. So while we may well be country bumpkin alpaca breeders from Vermont, our hearts right now are with the many folks we have met and friends we have made over the past two and half decades in that part of the world whose real challenges are only just beginning.

Follow me on Twitter @CCNFalpacas

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