Today, we welcomed the first ever cria sired by our rose grey stud, AML El Duro's Vivanno. Despite being a top-tier male, Vivanno wasn't bred by his previous owners because they weren't really breeding for grey. So, at age seven, this is his very first cria.
This guy was worth the wait.
Mom is nice, but I'd describe her as just that -- nice. She is not at all outstanding. She has an okay head. She's square and correct, but her bone and coverage (the fleece on the legs) is pretty average. She has very poor density and almost no crimp.
Vivanno improved on all of these things, and then some. Our next cria due by him are out of some seriously high quality dams, so these should be pretty exciting.
I mean, check out that head.
The Howling Hill Farm sheep program is finally starting to come together.
In my last sheep-related blog post, I mentioned how I wasn't really sure whether we were going to breed Harlequin Sheep only, or Harlequins and spotted Babydolls. At this point, I am still not sure ... And more importantly, I am really not sure that it matters.
We will be breeding cute, friendly, correctly conformed, solidly-built, miniature sheep with beautiful, soft (20 microns or less), uniform fleece with a high-frequency crimp and medium staple length -- with spots and other fun patterns. They may be registered as Harlequins, or they may be registered as Babydolls (Olde English Miniature Babydoll Southdowns), depending on the breeding that produced them.
Here are two new additions to help further our goal of these sheep. The first is a new ram, Cheever. Cheever is a registered Babydoll who had a spotted sire and who has a few black spots on his rump. He is the tankiest, puppy-doggiest ram you ever will meet -- totally perfect for our farm.
... And this is Lily. Lily is a registered Harlequin, as both of her parents were dramatically spotted registered Harlequins. She is white, but my guess is that she is, genetically, spotted -- a white with white spots, if you will. She is also compact and lovely, and her wool is amazing. Fleece shots of this one forthcoming. Lily is half-sister to Noah, so she will be bred to Cheever.
I am so looking forward to next spring.
... And a possible first (as well as a definite first) ...
The possible first is that this is possibly the first ever harlequin cria born on our farm. The definite first is that this is definitely the first ever possible harlequin born on our farm!
Why is that even a thing? Well, it has occurred to me for some time now that it might be a little bit challenging to focus on a color that transforms anywhere from a few weeks to a year of age -- particularly when my absolute favorite form of harlequin, the solid silver, undergoes a complete transformation from fawn to silver grey.
So, this little one might be our very first harlequin!
Regardless of "what" she is, color-wise, she is a big, strong, vigorous girl with great bone and a killer head. She looks like she's going to have a really nice fleece, too. So, harlequin or not, we're happy with this one!
This is one of my favorites. It looks like it should be the cover of the Cuppin' and Summer Adventure Comic.
More kissing! (This is another of my favorites.)
Summer: "Psst ... I got a crush on you. Don't tell anybody."
Thunder: "Get away from me! Girls have cooties!"
Oh, boys. Very soon, I expect three-way cria races. For now, Thunder is still discovering how his legs are supposed to work. He is getting a lot better at having legs! It took him a little while, but he's catching up.
... This one took some effort -- my effort and his mom's. Mom (Glacier Rock's Allison) is a seven year-old first-timer. Because of this, her lady-bits* were not particularly stretchy, and she needed a little bit of assistance to bring the baby into the world. (*This is the technical term for "vulva.") I found her at 3:30 PM with a nose and two silver grey legs sticking out of her nether regions (also a technical term). I was thrilled at the coloring, but a little bit nervous, because 1. It was late in the day, and late afternoon births are often a bad sign in alpacas, and 2. I had just checked on said vulva in the morning, and it didn't look nearly big enough to pass a baby alpaca through.
But, out he came, with a little bit of help. He then needed time to stand ... A lot of time. Most cria should stand within 45 minutes. This one took about three hours, and a lot of human help. During this time, a thunderstorm erupted, so he was whisked away to a barn along with mom, where we sat, waiting for him to figure out the standing thing. Once he did stand, he needed another hour, plus a lot more human help, to figure out what nursing was all about. Luckily, by then the rain had stopped, so I was able to escort mom and baby outside. Alpaca cria instinctively seek dark corners (that's where the milk is!), so in a dark barn, a baby like this one, who isn't quite all there, is going to try to nurse on the wall. That wall looks really appealing to a slightly out-of-it newborn cria.
Oh, also, mom's placenta broke open while she was trying to pass it about 20 minutes after birth -- the usual time for alpacas, in my experience thus far -- so I was really afraid we were going to have a retained placenta on our hands. She tried to pass it at 7:30, after an oxytocin shot, and failed. I went out to check on them at around 8:30 PM, and I have never been so happy to see a placenta as I was at that moment.
I won't say we are entirely out of the woods yet -- cria from births such as this should always be considered high-risk. However, I'm a lot more optimistic now -- enough so to post pictures of the little dude. Yes, he is a dude, but I am not sad about this. Did I mention that he's grey? I think I did, but I don't think I mentioned that I believe he shall grow up to be freaking awesome. Yeah. Glad he's a dude.
Here he is with Summer. Summer was born about three weeks ago. They grow fast! The other cria aren't sure what to think of him. They seem to know he's a cria, but they can't seem to figure out why he doesn't want to play yet.
Last but not least, of course, with his mom. Even though it is her first time, Allison has been the most fantastic, patient, caring mother. Also, although she is one of my least people-centric alpacas, she instinctively knew that I was there to help, and tolerated all of my ministrations, including milking her out to get things started for baby. It's amazing how they know!
K writes this stuff, for some reason that has yet to become apparent.