Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The nursery is now empty

As mentioned in Saturday's blog, Pepsi Lola (our youngest cria at just over six months of age) was due to be weaned.

Before the deed was to be done, I managed to get a photograph of her this morning in her usual state of 'scarecrow' dress (she always sleeps under the hay racks and eats the hay as it drops!). She is pictured here with her sister Pebbles (on the left) and Minnie who is in the centre, as is usual.

The two sisters have such a strong family bond and are very similiar in their behaviour as well as in their appearance. It has been very endearing to observe how Pebbles has taken care of her sibling and how this has resulted in Pepsi displaying a gentle confidence about her position within the herd. From a very young age Pepsi has eaten from the troughs with the adults and has always been left out of any food squabbles by the rest of the herd.

Bahati (the mother of the two girls) had already decided that the time had come to think about this year's cria and was encouraging Pepsi's independence from her. Bahati has been an excellent mother, especially as both Pebbles and Pepsi were September births. Winter births are not always ideal and the timing might have been of concern for us. However during this year's dreadful winter Bahati always made sure that Pepsi was tucked up in the barn at night or during any bad weather, positioning herself in a way that physically sheltered her cria from the cold and the wind. The alpaca's mothering instinct never fails to amaze me, however that said; mothers of Bahati's calibar are to be prized and she most certainly is (in the show ring and off!).

Pepsi has now joined Willow and the other male weanlings, or weedlings as Paul likes to call them. I feel like the baby of the family has now gone off to big school...good luck Pepsi!

Saturday, 27 March 2010


This is Pepsi-lola, one of last years cria who is soon to be weaned. She perfectly represents this time of year and all that is exciting and new. I know that everyone at Beck Brow is full of anticipation for the new births.

The preparation adds to the excitement, the more you think about and plan, the greater the expectation becomes. I wonder if the girls themselves have such feelings? They certainly know they are pregnant and assume slightly different persona's to cope with this change. We are very aware of how well Mother Nature provides for the alpaca when it comes to producing and caring for their young.

Whilst watching the herd today I thought I could detect a subtle change in the girls who seemed busier as a group. It may just be the start of the spring grass or could it be they are beginning to feel changes as they get nearer to becoming Mums?

The answer may lie not so much in my musings but in Pauls hard work chain harrowing the paddocks on the quad bike! He successfully spread the pony poo and cut some hedges whilst I became absorbed by the herd!

The alpaca's evoke such feelings of peace that it is not at all surprising that as humans we enjoy being around them so much.


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

How very dare you?

The last of Hoity Toity's results came back this evening. There was nil of note from any of the parasite tests...the VLA are probably asking why I didn't believe the previous two tests! However, as suspected her blood results did reveal her to be anaemic. Her Hb (haemoglobin) was on the low side with a raised MCV, indicative of a vitamin B12 deficiency. I was already convinced that this was a likely problem, as she had visibly perked up after having the B12 injection. No other abnormalities were found. She is now on a course of vitamin B12 injections. Lets hope this will see her on the up from now.
I did try the Ballottment maneuver on Camilla last night (see comments 21/03). I did manage to get into position without too much fuss and no bruises. I can't say exactly what I felt but if she is not pregnant then she has seriously eaten too many pies! I did the same action on Nina, whom we know not to be pregnant and the difference was pretty obvious. As you can imagine Camilla was very unimpressed. She manages to to do an indignant look like no other alpaca that I know. It is a case of' 'how very, very dare you!'

Camilla left in photo with Hoity Toity right.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Husbandry and Husband Tasks

It has been a day for husbandry tasks today with some drenching, routine injections and toe nail trimming. Everyone has been well behaved. Camilla had her pre-birthing Lambivac (we are still treating her as pregnant...time will tell!) and was angelic. Even Katkin has decided that it is easier to be compliant. Katkin is one of our foundation girls and was a horror when she first arrived. She decided to appoint herself as leader of the pack and was rather zealous on the protection front. Paul got covered in the green stuff on numerous occasions in the early days. She is now rather sweet, but still keeps an eagle eye on things as you can see in the photo (front centre).

Feeling in a mood for getting organised, I have been getting rather ahead of myself and have booked our on site accommodation for next year's British Alpaca Futurity. March 2011; I will have forgotten about it it by then! Talking of alpaca shows I see that the BAS National Show has a light fawn class this year. Even more alpacas to be entered in the wrong class I expect!

I am now going to iron Paul's shirts, polish his shoes, pour him a glass of wine, to have with his beautifully cooked tea....I am off to Spain for a few days next week with Sue and Lesley...I really need him to do some paddock cleaning whilst I am away. Wish me luck!!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Spring grass behaviour?

I have had to endure some very adolescent behaviour from the young boys this week. It has however kept me very entertained. Last weekend I moved Hollywood and chums into a new paddock (behind them in the photo) as it had more grass for them. However, on Monday, whilst I was trying to get through the gate with the quad they managed to escape back in to their old paddock. I did manage to get them chased back fairly easily but despite a number of distraction tactics they escaped again on my exit. This had obviously been preplanned (I saw them heads together in the shelter) as before I had even managed to get off the bike they had pronked around their old paddock then rushed back to their new one! The same behaviour was repeated on Wednesday. Not to beaten I have managed to get the better of them today. They are now back in their old paddock looking forlornly at the lovely grass on the other side of the fence! That will teach them. In the meantime, Paul is putting a gate on the field shelter in the new paddock so that I can lock them in their rooms when they are naughty! Do you think that spring is in the grass?

On a serious note we have had the vet out today to see Hoity Toity. She is the girl who aborted at five months gestation in January. Despite extensive tests we never found any probable cause and put it down to stress (she was new to us at this point). However, we have struggled with her weight despite extra rations of : Carrs mix, sugar beet and oats, Fast Track, as well as Camelibra. She has also had vitamin and mineral supplements and some Jump Start. We have tested for every parasite we know of. All negative. She has a good appetite, no teeth issues and we feed her seperately. She has no diarrohea and is apyrexial. The vet gave her a Vit B12 shot in case of anaemia and is doing some more blood tests. Her heart and lungs passed the MOT test so it is a bit of a mystery. A gastric ulcer may be a possibility I suppose but the vet was not keen to treat this undiagnoised. We will have to wait until Monday to see if anything shows up in the blood results. In the meantime she has had peas and beans added to her rations for extra protein. I hope that I am worrying for nothing but I would rather play safe.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Enjoying the quiet

Things are pretty quiet here on the alpaca front. Although I am a little envious of all the new spring cria being born, our summer births mean that I still have a little longer to enjoy my free time away from the farm. Today a walk was planned so it was an early start on daily tasks. Everyone was fed, watered and the barns were all cleaned by 8.30am.
As you can see in the photo the girls are very used to visitors and always come up to greet everybody. Corrine, Jane and Cath got a warm welcome before we headed off for a six mile circular walk starting from Askham (near Penrith) and across the moors.
Paul and I have been having some discussions as to when to start the mating season for our maidens this year. Although we can see the advantage of having cria born early ready for the spring grass, it is still pretty cold up north. I think that we have agreed that May (late April births) is soon enough for around here, but watch this space we have been known to change our minds! In the meantime I will enjoy this short period of inactivity.

Cath, Jane, Corrine & George (the dog...he has been taking lessons from the alpacas on how to pose for camera!)

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Photo shoot failure and a visit from Bailey

Robyn arrived yesterday morning accompanied by Oscar (dog) and Bailey (cat). It sometimes feels surreal living here! Having decided to take the 20 minute walk from her house through the fields (in order to give Oscar a run out) she hadn't expected the cat to follow...a cat in need of therapy I feel!
Robyn had come to lend a hand as we were collecting blood for plasma spinning (this should have happened a couple of weeks ago but the vet forgot the bags!). All the alpaca doners were very well behaved. It was all very slick and the blood was in Manchester by lunchtime.
As I had picked Ben up from Salford on the way home, we decided that we would try taking some fleece shots using different lenses. Unfortunately even with three of us we failed. In fact it was even worse as we managed to get too many hands in the shots! It has nothing to do with the camera (the quality is good) it is just the ability to hold the alpaca, open the fleece and take the shot at the right moment, that is beyond us. Could this be a seminar for next year's futurity?
We had chosen Hoity Toity (HT) to practice on as she is not pregnant and is usually quite obliging... not today! HT is a girl that I nearly dismissed on phenotype without even looking at her fleece. She hasn't got that 'ideal alpaca' look and has a longer face than I would have chosen (I was also looking for a fawn). However after closer inspection I had to do a rethink. Her genetics certainly came through in her fleece. The brightness just about shows in the shot below although her fleece is very dirty.

Hoity Toity

Fleece shot just visible between all the hands!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Apprentice Training

One of my favourite things about getting up in the morning is opening the landing curtains and seeing the alpacas out in the fields. It's a warm fuzzy thing all owners recognise. However, this morning something just wasn't quite right. It did take a moment or two to realise that Legacy (summer pic) and Snowdrop (AKA Prince Snowstorm) had somehow escaped from their paddock. On closer inspection it appears that there may have been some operator error with my gate fastening! Luckily they had only got into an empty field rather than in with the girls. Lesson one; more vigilance required. Lesson two; I must get those non breeding males (including Snowdrop) castrated.

Despite failing stage one training on how to close gate on exit, I have been doing some apprentice training today. My friend Claire donned her wellies and came to give me a hand. Halter training went well (well, wellish in some cases). Fidel is the star, being a show off always helps. His first time out was with Almo who loves being lead, this is obviously where he has got the 'look at me' attitude from.

Claire with Fidel

Quad bike training was next on the agenda. Again this was passed with flying colours. However, for some reason the poo picking machine was beyond her! Seriously, thanks Claire you were a great help.
Claire on quad training...what's with Hollywood pulling the funny face? Jealousy!
It's the last episode of Lambing Live tonight. I am really going to miss having my evenings spent on the sheep farm. Do you think that Kate Bevan has a fan club? That woman is absolutely amazing. She certainly puts me to shame anyway.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Oscar Performance

After yesterday's dismal results in the photography department I decided that a different approach was being called for. Mark obviously had the right idea with his new trailer, but it's a lot of work to go to in order to get a good photo!
As you can see by the picture of Hollywood (head straight out of the water trough) the means to get their attention actually arrived at my door early this morning. I actually managed to get all four boys in the photo at the same time and all facing the same direction. Okay maybe the legs could have been better positioned and Hollywood isn't looking quite so macho, but hey!
See below:

From left: Nimrod, Almo, Hollywood and Julius.

What was this tool? Meet Oscar! A young working cocker spaniel. I have been on dog sitting duty today whilst Robyn is working. Oscar is more like Houdini but he keeps the alpacas entertained. As for Tyke, the cats, the chickens and myself ? We're pretty worn out. Bye Oscar!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Never be accused of posing!

I've been back on dottle duty again today. Paul was as good as his word and didn't do any paddock cleaning whilst I was away. Although, he did mend the punctured tyre on my wheelbarrow... he is such a gentleman! I hadn't realised that the term dottle was Cumbrian until Dave pointed it out. I am now rather attached to it. I have a young brown girl called Pebbles... I was thinking that maybe I should call her first offspring Dottles?
As the weather was glorious today, I decided that blog photos were in order. I know it never works like that. Alpacas never pose on demand. In fact they were particularly non compliant today continually turning their bottoms towards me, as I kept walking around so did they. I think we were all dizzy by the time I gave up. Anyway here are some of the efforts:

Almo...he really should have smelt that before he rolled in it...horse manure!

Galaxy...looking a little bedraggled but she has a lovely fawn fleece in there.

Pepsi Lola....born Sept 2009 and soon to be weaned.

Okay I give up...bottoms it is!

Friday, 5 March 2010


It's hard to believe that a week has passed since we were at The Futurity. I don't seem to have stopped, yet I can't quite recall what I have actually done! The vet called today to report that the swab from Willow's foot was positive for a number of bacteria rather than a fungal infection as thought. It is too early for exact sensitivities so we will carry on as planned. Amoxycillin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic so it should do the trick. It was looking slightly better this morning.
I have spent hours paddock cleaning today. I am going walking tomorrow with friends followed by a sleep over. Paul is looking after everything at home. Although he likes me to be grateful I know that he loves being in charge of everything. Well most things. He has recently declared that he positively HATES poo picking and refuses to do it. Hence all the hard work today. I know it isn't a glamorous job but I actually quite enjoy it. Lots of time day dreaming, watching the alpacas and poo assessment. I am always happy to see nice healthy formed dottles. I know that really is very sad! Anyway he has lovely clean paddocks and control of the remote to look forward to. I on the other hand will have some very sore muscles on the agenda.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Felix keeps on walking!

We have been persevering with the halter training of the three young boys this week. Jenson (black), named after a certain Mr Button (because he sped around from the minute he was born) was a natural. Fidel (fawn) likes to show off so he soon started enjoying himself and was prancing up and down the lane. However, Felix (white) was a different matter. When Amanda came to help on Monday, we failed miserably. Felix went in to coma mode, eyes glazed and we didn't get passed the starting line. However, today Robyn managed to get him up and down the lane without even a pit stop. We have now renamed him Scumacher...lets hope he remembers what to do tomorrow. Once the boys have perfected their halter skills they will be going on the for sale list as a package. They absolutely adore each other and I wouldn't want to separate them. Plus they look rather cute together being black, fawn and white...will I be able to do it?

I had the vet out today to take a look at Willow's foot. She took a swab and gave a shot of amoxycillin, with another dose to be given in 3 days. In the meantime we are to carry on with the daily cleaning and an antibiotic spray. Lets hope it heals soon.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A day for getting the jobs done

It has been a beautifully sunny day today here at Beck Brow. We did start off with quite a covering of snow which quickly melted, then the sun decided to show it's face for a change (photo of Nimrod and Almo taken at 13.00hrs). It really has felt like spring. Well maybe not quite, but we did some spring cleaning anyway. The barns have been thoroughly cleaned, feed bins polished and drawers tided...that will last for a couple of days!

We also did some drenching with a vitamin and trace element supplement this morning. We had our soil tested last year (I have since learned that it is better to have the grass tested) and know that our land is low in zinc and selenium. We have decided to try a product supplied by JB Animal Health which is created specifically for alpacas. The only down side is that it necessitates a 30ml dose whereas the product that we have previously used only required a 5 ml dose. We have decided to stop using the DE powder (as discussed in a previous blog) and have resorted to Dectomax as a method of mite prevention. A couple of the girls were showing signs around their ankles so the whole herd have been treated. Everyone was very well behaved except Minnie, who is normally very sweet but decided on this occasion, that I would suit green hair!