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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Keeping Cool

During these long hot days of summer we often do amost anything to keep ourselves cool. I grew up on a farm in northern Indiana during a decade when air conditioning was not even an option. As kids, we often cooled off in the lawn sprinkler or sat in front of a fan. But my favorite place to cool off was down by the creek where a field tile poured out cold, refreshing water several feet above the stream. There, I would sit under that delightful shower until I was shivering cold and then go dry off in the sun until I was ready for my next adventure.

Our alpacas are smart animals that will also do what ever it takes to keep cool. The difference is that they can only apply the resources that we as their caretakers provide for them. So, we need to be aware of the most effective methods of providing relief from the heat of summer and implement the appropriate ones. Check out our articles about heat stress and keeping your alpacas cool.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tomorrow's Agricultural Leaders

Beth 4-H Princess

Beth 4-H Princess

The month of July means 4-H fairs to many midwest families. Tensions rise as kids hustle to finish 4-H projects they should have completed months ago! But once the projects are checked in and the fair begins, 4-H kids always seem to have a great time.

The Sheets family has been involved in 4-H for many years. Beth was a 10-year 4-H member and 4-H princess at the Howard County Fair a few years ago (I won't say how many!). More recently, she has served as a 4-H leader. Both our kids, Jennifer and Michael were 10-year 4-H members and have fond memories of 4-H and the Carroll County Fair. I served on the fair board for 6 years, two years as president.

So, you can see that 4-H has been a valuable part of our lives. Most of all, we appreciate the values it teaches to the youth and the way it prepares them for successful careers, in agriculture and many other areas as well.

The past few years, we have been advisors to the Llama and Alpaca club for our county. We work at getting kids interested in camelids and give them an opportunity to lease an alpaca for the summer which they work with and show at the fair. This has been a lot of fun and gives the community exposure to the joys of alpacas and llamas. Our enjoyment comes from seeing the 4-H'ers having a great time while learning lifetime skills and values.

The youth of today are the future leaders of the Alpaca industry. Now more than ever, Alpaca breeders have many opportunities to get 4-H clubs and FFA organizations involved with alpacas. Many counties now have 4-H alpaca and llama clubs where the kids halter train their animals and exhibit them at the county fair. Some counties don't even require them to own their camelid. They can lease them from a farm during the 4-H season. This provide opportunities to kids that normally would not be able to participate because of lack of funds or space to house their animal. If your county fair does not have a Llama/Alpaca program, why not approach the 4-H office and volunteer to help establish one?

Another initiative to encourage youth involvement with alpacas is the newly established Suri Network Youth Program (SNYP). This program assists students wanting to learn about and work with suri alpacas by offering scholarships to get them started. By participating in the Suri Network Youth Program, students can receive a scholarship of one free suri alpaca to use throughout their 4-H or FFA program. Upon completion of the program that participant will become the new owner of the suri alpaca.

The challenge and future of our industry depends on getting our youth interested and involved in the alpaca business. We challenge you to participate in helping make this happen.
Constructive comments from judge

Constructive comments from judge

Young Champion

Young Champion

Triplet Sisters showing suris

Triplet Sisters showing suris

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2011 AOBA National Show

Gaby and us with the Judges Choice banner

Gaby and us with the Judges Choice banner

Last week was the last and biggest show of the spring season. The AOBA National Show was held in Denver and the Great Western Livestock center, one of the most famous livestock expo centers in the world. We took our three best show animals - Gaby, Palomar and Talisman. We have had some success with these 3, namely Palomar who we co-own with Ron & Sandy Hendricks and Kristina Flegel. Palomar had already won three championships this year and he didn't disappoint us at Nationals, winning yet another! He is a stunning multi-colored male with beautiful ropy locks and a graceful style. Needless to say, we are very pleased with him and look forward to breeding him to some of our females.

The biggest surprise was Gabriella. We had just shown her last week at the Buckeye show in Ohio and she got 5th place in a class of very tough competition. We thought we had a chance of placing fairly high at this show when we saw how Dr. Julio Sumar was judging. He likes the long, ropy, independent locks with fineness and luster -- all traits that Gaby exhibits nicely. He placed her first in her class of nine!
Judges Choice

Judges Choice

Kristina accepting the Color Championship banner from judge Sumar

Kristina accepting the Color Championship banner from judge Sumar

Palomar wins Championship!

Palomar wins Championship!

Four Color Championships!

Four Color Championships!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shearing Day

Our annual shearing day was Saturday, April 30th this year. We opened the day to visitors and had 40-50 interested guests attend throughout the day. We had two shearing stations open and for the first time, our son and friend Darrin helped shear along with professional Kathy Kowal. Below is a slide show highlight of the day:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our Heritage Cornerstones - Our Soldiers

Heritage Cornerstones is a selection of powerful quotes centered around a theme appropriate for the season. This issue focuses on...


"Freedom isn't free."

"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."

"Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have every made a difference in the world, but the Marines don't have that problem."

"Soldiers, when committed to a task, can't compromise. It's unrelenting devotion to the standards of duty and courage, absolute loyalty to others, not letting the task go until it's been done."

"As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us."

"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong"

"This conflict in one thing I've been waiting for. I'm well and strong and young -- young enough to go the the front. If I can't be a soldier, I'll help soldiers."

"A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Farming Challenges

Winter always presents special challenges to life on the farm. Whether it's navigating icy roads on the way back from the Co-op with a load of feed (thankful for the extra weight in back!) or overcoming the shell-shock from a more- than-doubled electric bill (due to bucket and cria heaters being on nonstop), challenges are as common and unique as the snowflakes that fall this time of year.

Challenges make this venture rewarding and are a natural part of navigating this lifestyle change called raising alpacas. Whether its learning a new skill, trying to effectively market, or making good breeding decisions; I always feel good when I figure something out and actually become proficient at it.

I have published an article on this site on a challenge that many non-medical people have -- calculating drug dosages. I have the advantage of being educated as a pharmacist, so I learned how to do this proficiently early in my education. In the article below, I share an easy formula for calculating prescribed or recommended doses based on your alpaca's weight. By understanding the concept and practicing several times you will become comfortable doing this, and feel good about it too.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Autumn Open House

Flora IN, Saturday October 30 -
Over 175 people visited Heritage Farm on a blustery autumn afternoon for our annual "Fall 4 Alpacas" open house. Families and kids of all ages enjoyed the following:

Farm tours
Fiber spinning and weaving demonstrations
Alpaca obstacle course
Alpaca Q & A
Kettle Corn & Apple Cider
Hay Rides
Fiber crafts for the kids

Be sure to check out the music video below. Our friend Tony took the pictures which have been set to music provided by Sharon McKnight and the Vagaband which provided the musical entertainment for the day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Barn Raising

Wow! What a weekend. We got considerably more done than I was hoping for. Our barn crew of 12 family members and friends started to arrived at 8:00 a.m. Son Michael, daughter Jennifer and Son-in-law Taylor (along with grandaughter Kylie) came from Indy and Flora. My dad and his brother-in-law, John along with my two brothers Todd and Trent and my sister Tammy came from Nappanee. Friend and fellow suri owners Brianne and Darin Haupert along with Darrin’s dad Noel came from Rossville and Wabash. Good friend Phil Hutchinson came from Carmel. Last but not least, mother-in-law Nelda came from next door to help with food and drink.

I was really amazed on how everyone pitched in and found a job to do. They all worked more like a well-seasoned barn crew than a bunch of rookies! It was really a fun day. There is something special about accomplishing a task with people you love that is very satisfying. My heartfelt thanks to everyone that helped! We all felt great (although a little sore) at the end of the day.

The video below chronicles the day’s activity:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our Heritage Cornerstones - Barns

Post & Beam Barn

Post & Beam Barn

Heritage Cornerstones is a selection of noteworthy quotes centered around a theme appropriate for the season. This post focuses on...

~ Barns ~

"Just as no worthy building can be erected on a weak foundation, so not lasting reputation worthy of respect can be built on a weak character."

"Vermont's a place where barns come painted / Red as a strong man's heart / Where stout carts and stout boys in freckles / Are highest forms of art."

"Behold the fowls of the air: For they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet the heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"

"The old barn embodied practices which had suffered no mutilation at the hands of time. Here at least the spirit of the ancient builders was at one with the spirit of the modern beholder."

"How the cold creeps as the fire dies at lenght / How drifts are piled / Dooryard and road ungraded / Till even the comforting barn grows far away."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring is in the Air!

Firecracker checking out the pansies

Firecracker checking out the pansies

Spring is in the air! If you are anything like us, you are
ready for it. It seems like this time of year, it just can't
get here fast enough. In January, we were teased by
extraordinarily weather. That got us to thinking that
maybe winter would be kind to us this year. Well,
January was followed by a cold and cloudy February and
March treated us to a late season snow storm. So much
for an early spring! But now, as we are into April, there
are signs that spring is finally here.

One sure sign is that show season has begun. Crias everywhere are being halter broke and fleeces are picked of winter debris. Farm displays are getting spruced up with those cute pictures of last season's crias. As we rush off to the show, we worry about what we've forgotten or how well our youngsters will do against the tough competition.

But for us, important as it is, showing alpacas is just a part of our Alpaca Lifestyle. The things we love most are the everyday joys of watching a newborn cria stand for the first time on wobbly legs or seeing a band of
youngsters chasing each other around the pasture. It's the simple things that draw us to the farm and this lifestyle that provides us with recreation from our fast-paced and stressful city jobs. Boy are we glad we discovered it!