Jen Pietsch
Orcas Island, WA

I love spending time outdoors, gardening, running and raising my fleeced friends!
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

postheadericon Our First Cria!

Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva arrived at 10:30 am last Sunday morning! I’ll start at the beginning.

I went for a run at first light, came back home and fed the herd, then headed back inside to see if I could wrangle a breakfast date at the ferry dock with my husband. While he was getting ready to go, I went to check the girls one more time before leaving (mama Carmen's due-date was the following day).

My oldest son, Garett, came with me and he noticed immediately that something was up -- Carmen wasn’t eating and was humming loudly while cushing in her stall. The not eating part is VERY uncharacteristic of her. I am not implying that Carmen is a glutton, but she never really misses a meal! The humming part well, she is from a very vocal family… no joke her whole family is a bunch of hummers.

We both looked at each other and thought "this is it…!" I was excited and terrified at the same time. Get the book; get the cria kit; cameras; cell phone; husband and the rest of the family. The children were truly over the moon -- no pun intended! Not only was there to be a new baby cria, but it was a Sunday morning: no Church!!!

Carmen must have read "the book," because it really couldn’t have been more textbook perfect. Carmen was in active labor for less than an hour. The baby was up and walking around in less than an hour after that and nursing shortly thereafter. What an amazing day!

We have included a slideshow link below to better tell the whole story of the little Autumn's birth, enjoy.

[Click Here for Slideshow!]

Oh her name...! Well she was born on the eve of the autumnal equinox, and - of course - her mother Carmen is an opera star!

postheadericon Orcas Moon's Autumn Diva

For Immediate Release:

Orcas Moon Alpacas heralded in the fall with its own new addition – “Orcas Moon’s Autumn Diva.” The entire farm helped “Carmen,” the newborn’s mother, welcome the beautiful, 15-pound, brown baby girl alpaca (known as a “cria”) early last Sunday morning, September 21, 2008. Within an hour of birth, little Autumn was up on all fours to meet the rest of the herd, now 16 strong.

Autumn is the farm’s first cria since the Pietsch family assumed operations earlier this year. Orcas Moon Alpacas is located on Dolphin Bay Road between the ferry and Eastsound. They specialize in breeding Huacaya-type alpaca for their warm, hypoallergenic and lightweight fleece.

Mother “Carmen” with Cria “Autumn Diva”

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Contact Information:
Jennifer Pietsch
Orcas Moon Alpacas
329 Dolphin Bay Road
Eastsound, WA 98245
(must dial 360)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

postheadericon Unique Considerations: Pasture Planning 2

With my girls return home and the arrival of Triton, I have had to rearrange many of our animals. Good pasture layout promotes efficient grazing and simplified herd management. It requires a good deal of planning: it doesn’t just happen. Every piece of land is unique and will create its own demands when it comes to laying out your pasture. Here are some considerations:

  • Terrain - Is your location hilly or flat? Do you have water features, ponds or other natural features that will require special attention? Is part of your pasture low-lying such that it may collect water during the wet times of the year?
  • Vegetation - Is there brush or forest?
  • Climate - How might your local weather patterns impact pasture regrowth?
  • Irrigation- Are you able to irrigate your pasture to lengthen your forage growing season?

Upon moving to our farm, much of the fencing and layout was already completed for us. The preexisting fencing is diagrammed below in blue. For our purposes this layout was fantastic. We essentially had three pastures available to use with a center runway and catch pen for medical exams and the like.

The red outlines represent "run-in" shelters. The run-ins are three-sided shelters with an open front for severe weather protection. The upper and lower pasture on the left of the diagram use a shared run-in with a center divider, which is situated to avoid the brunt of the winter weather here in the pacific northwest. The smaller old pasture has its own run-in, and was the farm's original pasture.

All three of the pastures connect to a center "runway." This allows for easy herding into the catch pen below. The gates allow us to easily restrict and control animal movements when needed.

The area in green is the pasture we added this summer. We spent months trying to figure out the most practical and cost effective way to fence our new pastures. We wanted to be able to provide the herd with more pasture and a greater area to roam and graze while maintaining the ease of animal management designed into the original pasture plan. The new fields would also allow rotation, giving the flexibility to permit fields to regrow and heal from communal "bathroom" staining.

The red area in the diagram above represents our barn. It has two stalls serving as run-ins that connect into our new pasture. This eliminated the need to build additional run-ins (at added expense) and allowed us to have the animals closer to our home (better supervision and increased enjoyment), and lastly saved the work of hauling the food, hay and supplies to a different location on a daily basis (time and energy savings).

We have set up an additional catch pen in one of the small fenced in areas adjoining the barn. The animals and I are still getting used to using this one and still find it easier to use the old catch pen for medical exams, haltering, toenail trimming etc... We will all adjust.

One shortcoming of the new pasture is the lack of a center runway. Ideally the runway would continue from the old pasture directly into the new pasture. This is a feature that was left out as a budgetary constraint. We will in the future to add this runway and have planned it into our new pastures. Note the aligned gates continuing through the new pastures.

To summarize, good layout design maximizes your existing pasture space. This is particularly important with small farms that one does not want overgrazed. The use of interior fence lines, multiple gates and runways facilitates the easy movement of animals from barn to pasture, and from pasture to pasture.

Next Steps

We were lucky that our original pasture was laid out so efficiently for us from the get go. It gave us a great jumping off point to continue new pasture development. If you are starting from scratch I suggest taking time to do some homework, look at other farms, and ask questions about how they decided to arrange their pastures, what has worked for them, and what has not worked as well.

There are alpaca farms nationwide ( that welcome visitors and would be more than happy to share their insights on this important part of the business.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

postheadericon Home Coming

Welcome home Manhattan, Brooklyn and Tinkerbelle!

Three of my girls are back from breeding at Krystal Acres' farm on San Juan Island… and they brought a friend with them, beautiful Triton! Triton is a breeding male who will be spending a little time here with some of our other girls. I am so happy to have everyone home again, pregnant and grazing where I can see them and enjoy their quiet ways.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

postheadericon Happy Girl