Alpacas!

Greetings from Laughing Goat Fiber Farm! My name is Maya, and I am another one of the interns here for the summer. I came into this internship with some prior knowledge of and experience with goats that I acquired during my time at Rutgers University. But I had never seen an alpaca up close… until now!

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Isn’t he photogenic?

I certainly love the goats and their individual personalities. They are, after all, the reason I was drawn to this internship! But the alpacas keep me curious with their elusive behavior. They do not typically come up to people as the goats do and they are far more skittish.

Alpacas are part of the camelid family, and they very much resemble their camel cousins. So you may be wondering, Do alpacas spit like camels? Yes, they do! Maya, have you been spit on by an alpaca? Yes, I have! But it wasn’t too bad, and it was an accident. The “spit” is more of a spray of air that an alpaca emits to tell another alpaca to back off. It happened during feeding time, and I was simply in the line of fire, and I do not take it personally.

The alpacas have what is called a “kush pool” in their habitat on the farm. “Kush”, also spelled “cush”, is the upright resting position for alpacas, with their legs tucked under their body:
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The kush pool is a pool of water for them to lay in on those hot summer days to cool off quickly. They will even form lines behind the kush pool as they wait their turn for a dip.
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I was surprised to learn that despite their long necks, the alpacas actually prefer to eat short grass, unlike the goats that will eat grass tall enough for them to get lost in!

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The gang’s all here! These are all 8 of the alpacas at LGF. Their different colors make up a beautiful alpaca rainbow with shades of brown, grey, black, and white.

Thanks for checking out my post. I hope you learned something, as I am learning something new here every day!

 

Maya

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Feeding Bacon

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My name is Melissa Pistor and I am one of the interns at Laughing Goat Fiber Farm. I have been at the farm for 3 weeks and am enjoying my time here. I live in Otego, NY but I am originally from Colorado. I go to school at SUNY Cobleskill and I am majoring in Agricultural Business Management. My dream after college is to work with fiber, so this internship is giving me hands on experience with fiber and also the animals. I am so excited to see what the next couple of weeks bring! My favorite part so far has been giving the immunizations to the does but also bottle feeding Bacon.Bacon-Melissa0Bacon is the sweetest goat ever! When I go out to the pasture to feed him, I call his name and he comes running to get fed. We feed him out of a Coke bottle, but instead of soda it is filled with 1 cup of goat formula and 1 cup of goat milk.Bacon-Melissa1Bacon lives in the big pasture behind the house. In the pasture there is his mom, his brother, and other baby goats and their moms. Bacon is one of the friendliest goats out there. Since Bacon is so friendly, his brother Barley is also friendly because he follows Bacon’s lead. He loves to get held and pet. He is definitely my favorite!

Bacon-Melissa2Even though he does like getting held, he is getting too big as you can see! One of the reasons why we bottle feed Bacon because his mom’s udder is too big so Bacon can’t find the teat. We only give him a bottle in the morning and he drinks most of it. As I mentioned earlier, I have been here for 3 weeks and he has grown so much since the first time I met him. I am so proud of Bacon!

Fiber Work Has Begun

I’ve been doing a lot work with fiber during the last couple weeks of my internship. Everything has come full circle. I started off the summer with shearing, and now I’ve finished with many pairs of beautifully dyed socks. It was so much fun going through the different processes to reach the end goal, but my favorite part was experimenting with different colored dyes to discover the perfect shade.

The first step was to do some skirting of the sheared fiber. This entailed taking out the larger debris caught in the fiber, as well as tearing the fiber into smaller workable strands. As you can imagine, this part took the longest. The fiber was then washed to get rid of the remaining dirt.

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The next major step was carding, which brushes and untangles the washed fibers into a homogeneous blend. I used a drum carder machine to do this instead of hand carders.

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Next, I tried spinning with a drop spindle, as well as with an electric spinner. I concluded spinning was the hardest step after trying in vain to make a decent looking yarn. I quickly moved on to the dying process using finished knitted socks. The socks were washed and put into pots of boiling water. Once the perfect color was concocted, it was then added to the pots and soaked up by the fiber. The finished dyed socks were then washed again and dried. My personal favorite was the light raspberry.  🙂

Helping with dyeing cooking socks washing socks sock rack

 

I presented at the Royal Veterinary College Pre-Vet Summer School Conference in London!

August started off with a journey to London, England. I was accepted to attend the Pre-Vet Summer School at the Royal Veterinary College, and so I took some time off from my internship here to gain veterinary experience in their animal hospitals and research facilities. I worked with small animals, as well as horses, sheep, and cows. My favorite placement was helping in the neurology department at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals.

I’m happy to say that I was able to share my experience at Laughing Goat Fiber Farm during my presentation at their conference. I talked about the importance of preventive health care and the role of a farm veterinarian. The veterinarians present were intrigued by my unique experience (and for some reason they were especially impressed that I knew about the FAMACHA body scoring – thanks Lisa for teaching me that bit)!

I had an amazing time, and would highly recommend the program to anyone interested in veterinary medicine!

(Stay tuned for a post about my current work at the farm – I’m finally starting to work with the fiber!)

— Alaina

Castration Day for the Bucks and Alpaca!

Hi again, it’s Alaina! I’ve been working hard at the farm. Yesterday I had the pleasure of photographing, observing, and helping several veterinarians and residents castrate the alpacas and bucks (including Edgar). It was a learning experience for the interns that joined us, as well as for me!

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Lisa and I set up a “prep table” for the vets after we gathered the alpaca together. The Alpaca have to have their eyes covered to keep them calm during the procedure.

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We gave them Meloxicam pills after their procedure to help with pain management. We mashed the pills in grain with a syrupy drench to coax the alpaca to eat them. We originally tried feeding the alpaca grapes with the pills because I discovered that this method works wonderfully with Rocky, but alas this did not work well for the rest of them.

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The goats were up next! Some were banded and others had the surgical procedure.

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Multiple goat castrations occurred at once. Don’t be fooled by the shade; it was humid and hot, even in the barn! We doused the goats’ heads with water to keep them cool afterwards.

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Edgar was affected by the drugs a bit more than the others; he was mumbling and “seeing pink elephants.” Don’t worry, he made a full recovery! Don’t forget to check out the additional photos of the day in the gallery below!

 

Hello!

I’m Alaina McGinley, the new intern this summer! I’m excited to start posting about my adventures here on the farm. Just a bit about me first: I’m from Syracuse, NY, and I’m majoring in biological sciences with a pre-vet track at Mount Holyoke College. I have worked at small-animal veterinary hospitals in the past, but this will be my first experience working with goats and alpaca!

I have been here one week and I’ve already started repairing pasture fences (sometimes in the pouring rain, but it must be done!), providing medical treatment (CDT injections, and mineral supplements), trimming hooves, and shearing. I’ve helped catch a few mischievous goats to bring to the barn after noticing symptoms of coccidia. Thankfully they’ve been getting better since the Cornell University veterinarian came to check them over. It’s been a busy week; stay tuned for more updates on what I’m doing!

Marius

Marius, tag #1063, is a sweet goat. He was a bottle baby with a determined streak. Marius would lead a parade of baby goats from the barn to the back porch of the house when it was feeding time. He knew the people with the bottles were in there. He’d put his front hooves on the window sill and holler at the kitchen window. “Baaa! Maaaa!”  See?  Doesn’t he look like a rascal? But a NICE rascal!

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He grew into from a rascal into a handful.  He’s impossible to keep inside a fence.  He jumps or climbs out of every enclosure I put him into.  But he’s very talkative and fond of people, which makes him impossible to dislike. Here’s his Spring 2014 photos – Isn’t he handsome?

 

Recently he ran into a pretty awful problem.  I have been pasturing the bucks and whethers in the hedgerow, where they have been happily munching on brush and weeds, and lounging in the shade.  They’re quite effective too!  Here’s a shot of the hedgerow after they’d been there a few days.  Before, this spot was so dense you couldn’t see the trees in the middle, never mind the pasture on the other side.

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Once they finish this spot I moved them down the hedgerow to fresh forage.  It looks like the green stuff at the end where all the mesh fencing is:

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One day when I went to check on the boys, I saw Marius standing alone in the distance.  “That’s weird” I thought.  Then I noticed he wasn’t moving at all.  Gulp.  When I got to him, I saw why.  He was caught between the trunks of a multitrunk shrub.  He couldn’t get his hind legs out.  I lifted him gently, but his back legs weren’t working.  When I got him back to the barn area he was very weak and clearly in a lot of pain.  We made him as comfortable as possible and called the vet.

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With some steroids and pain meds he got a little better, and his personality returned.  But it’s been a long haul already. First he got some movement back, then a sling helped him get up on all fours.  Still, progress was slow and I worried that he needed more TLC.

My friends, Debbie and John, came to the rescue.  They took Marius to their place and did massage, and physical therapy. They take Marius on walks and he keeps them amused.  He’s looking much better now.  One leg still wants to lag behind and the hoof sometimes folds under, but we think he’ll make a full recovery in time.  Yay Deb and John!  And yay to Marius!