Thursday, 29 April 2010


Well, when I posted my last blog on Monday, I had hoped that the next one would be a baby announcement. Unfortunately not. Camilla is absolutely refusing to produce the goods despite a very active cria putting in some impressive kicks. Camilla just looks around at her stomach wondering what on earth is going on. She even jumps occasionally as if she has got a shock that there is something in there. I wonder what kind of mother she will be; One that forgets that she has had a cria? I wonder. Anyway we are just glad that she is actually pregnant. We will wait patiently Camilla!

Discussions around pregnancy announcements always cause some mirth around here when we reminisce about one of our ponies: Gypsy was lame and somewhat over weight so we were concerned about laminitis. However as it was possible that she was pregnant we wanted to ensure she received the appropriate nutrition. The young vet did an internal examination, announced that she could feel a hoof and that the pony was only about 8 weeks from due. So it was special rations for Gypsy and great anticipation; Friends with mobiles by their sides waiting for news. Two years later still no foal! Goodness knows what it was that the vet had hold of ?

We did however get a foal that year from Bramble. Rosie was born during a very cold night and was sadly rejected by her mum. We found her very flat and thought that we would loose her. Fortunately, she responded well under a heat lamp and we managed to get her to take a bottle. IgG tests showed that she had had her mums colostrum so she had a chance. Paul and I took turns at getting up through the night (every six hours) until she was a month old. She then managed to go for longer periods until she was eventually weaned at four months of age. As you can imagine Rosie is very special around here and even beats the alpacas in the popularity stakes where visiting children are concerned.

         Rosie (as a foal) looking pretty good despite being bottle fed

Monday, 26 April 2010

Diet Time Girls!

The three young boys: Jenson, Felix and Fidel were delivered to their new home at the weekend. Although they appeared totally unfazed by the move, I have noticed a definite lack of cuddles around here today. Almost Illegal (pictured) has now gone back to being the baby boy of Beck Brow until this year's cria arrive. He is rather a cutie, but not quite as lovey as little Jenson.

It has been all change here since the boys have gone. Today I have been rearranging the groups within the herd as we now have enough females to keep the non pregnant girls on their own . This means that feeding will be much easier. The young girls generally require less supplementary feed than the pregnant and nursing mothers, so it can be difficult to stop them getting a little overweight when in one group.

Dividing the groups went surprisingly well. For once everyone was paying attention. Minnie (left) and Holly (right) were nominated as the leaders of each group. It was only when the young girls realised that they were going back into the well grazed paddock that Pebbles wasn't quite so happy (below)

The boys have been put into the paddock next to the young girls in an attempt to generate some interest in mating. Willow (nine months) has so far been the only one doing any flirting!

Camilla, looks like she is bagging up at last. She has spent most of the day sitting about. So much so I managed to get a photograph of all of her, rather than just the usual passing head shot. She really could not be bothered to move which is not like her.

I am pleased to report that the little chicks are doing well. Mrs Hen is doing a very good job at keeping them safe from Mr Fox. She has been squeezing under a pallet of hay at night so should be okay. She has had then out and about all over today. Even taking them into the alpaca paddocks. As you can imagine they received plenty of attention from some very curious girls.

                   The chicks being taught to catch grubs by Mum.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

A boy and a girl........but who's the daddy?

What excitement this morning. Paul nearly fell down the stairs rushing to see what I was shouting about. Had we been burgled? The house was on fire? No. But it was rather a shock first thing in the morning!

Sorry I need to set the scene: Last year we went to purchase some bantams from a local breeder and whilst we were there he persuaded us to buy a couple of American Game Birds. "Bit flighty lass but they will settle down". Well they didn't and ended up sleeping in the hay barn. Unfortunately their wild ways meant that one of them disappeared just over a year ago (a nasty fox I guess). The remaining bird comes out to feed and spends her days with the hens. She just doesn't want to sleep with them.

This morning she came in to the yard to feed, followed by two little chicks. Hardly the surprise of the year you might be thinking. Well it is when you don't have a cockerel!! Where has she been? A neighbour two fields away has hens but I have never heard a cockle-doodle-doo. Can an American Game Bird mate with a pheasant? A cock pheasant does come to be fed every day.

Hopefully they will survive Mr Fox and we will see how they turn out. One is much lighter than the other so I am guessing that we have a girl and a boy. I might try and catch her tonight to put her indoors but I expect it will be futile. Lets hope the alpacas frighten off any predators.

I just need some alpaca babies now. Come on girls.

Friday, 23 April 2010

A Grand National Performance!

We had a fun day today, with a visit from the boys' new owners. After going through the handover package and a bit of theory, it was outside for some hands on training. The fun bit.

We used the intermediate boys as demonstrators; How to trim toe nails; to fit head collars correctly; possible injection sites; teeth and jaw assessment. All the boys were on their best behaviour.

Next it was leading on the Halter: Almo and Hollywood were used and gave a suitably impressive demonstration; A perfect show ring standard.

So far so good?....Ummm...well not quite. As we were prancing up the lane, we became aware of a thundering noise from behind... Nimrod! ..He had obviously jumped the small section (six feet wide max) of sandstone wall next to the gate. Talk about not wanting to be left out of the attention! He had left poor Julius on his own looking bewildered.

 Nimrod is obviously taking the unicorn role too seriously! Luckily he just trotted back to the field behind the other boys. More fencing Paul!

The young boys behaved impeccably. Fidel (pictured) led the way on the halter and all three boys picked up their feet like pros. I am pleased to say that they are going to a lovely home, which makes parting with them slightly less difficult.

I had hoped that Camilla might have produced for our visitors today. She is now 344 days and is waddling. Last into feed when she normally barges in first. So hopefully not too much longer! Or is she really not pregnant after all!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A Golden Unicorn!

As all alpaca owners know; The power of the alpaca to understand us; the calm that they bring us and the peace that they create, is ever amazing.

I have been busy today doing some freelance work as a legal nurse, interesting but heavy going at times. I find that there is nothing better to focus the mind, when getting bogged down, than a little stroll into the alpaca paddock.

Nimrod is always a joy to behold; a lovely mid fawn boy who has a air of mystery about him; Some what mystical at times; or is that mythical? This is the picture that greeted me this afternoon. A lovely golden unicorn!

Nimrod doing a lovely impersonation of a unicorn!

Sunday, 18 April 2010


I really couldn't watch. I knew it was coming; But just not yet. I wasn't psychologically prepared! It was a beast of thing leaving a trail of destruction behind it.

I accept that my paddock cleaning may be bordering on obsessive compulsive disorder. I know that I am not alone in thinking that there is nothing better than a pristine paddock. This is of course about diligent parasite control; It has nothing to do with pretty alpacas in pretty paddocks!

Any way I knew it was for the best. Today the farmer from up the road arrived with a large tractor and muck spreader. The alpaca poo that I have been beavering away collecting and piling on the midden all winter has been spread back on to the hay field. It makes sense to recycle the manure and put all the nutrients from the feed back on to the land. At least we can be assured it has been left below freezing over winter. Minus 15 to be exact.

Thankfully it is looking like rain so it should get washed in fairly quickly. In the meantime I will just focus on the lovely clean birthing paddock.


Saturday, 17 April 2010

Kisses for Jenson

The young girls; Willow and Pepsi have obviously heard that the boys have found a new home.

Jenson was being a reluctant heart throb today when he was caught on camera receiving kisses from the girls. Felix was having none of it and was seen making a sharp exit when photographed.

I have to say that it has not only been the alpaca girls who have been giving the young boys lots of loves today.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Leaving but not going far!

I managed to get Paul to come clothes shopping in Keswick yesterday afternoon. Thankfully we had a successful outing, managing to find some outdoor clothing suitable for embroidering with our business logo.

I wasn’t really expecting to find anything as I had a definite colour in mind but it ended up being a relatively easy task. So, I have been to Lakeland Embroidery today and look forward to seeing the results in a couple of weeks. I wonder if we will ever see Paul in anything other than the T shirt!

Hoity Toity had her third vit B12 injection today. It is amazing how she has progressed in the six weeks since diagnoses. She is back up to normal weight and is skipping around annoying all the heavily pregnant girls. It is lovely to see. Having read more about vitamin B12 deficiency she was a text book case; Weight loss despite eating well and no parasitic involvement; Presenting with a hunched back and signs of depression.

Unfortunately we had only had HT three weeks when she miscarried so we really had no yardstick from which to measure her norm and assumed her disinterest was secondary to the loss of her pregnancy. I will now recognise the symptoms if we have any further problems. It is possible that we have cobalt deficiency on our land. However we have had no problems in the past and we routinely dose our entire herd with a cobalt and selenium drench so hopefully HT was a one off.

Today we had a visit from a lovely couple and their daughter, who had come to see the gorgeous: Jenson, Felix and Fidel. I am pleased to say that the boys will be going to live with (and I am sure be well loved by) a family who already own a number of animals and obviously take animal welfare very seriously. Even better they will be staying in Cumbria. I have to say that the boy’s halter leading demonstration left a lot to be desired. Alpacas will be alpacas! The three boys will be such a miss as they all enjoy a cuddle. Oh well at least Minnie still likes a hug.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Mating Plans

Camilla, who scanned empty, is now huge and is spending a lot of time lying around rather arkwardly. Getting up and down is now done very tentatively and she really isn't in the mood for anything; So we will assume that she is most definitely pregnant (might I regret that certainty?). She is now 338 days so we are keeping a close eye on her.

Thoughts of pregnant alpacas has got me planning our matings for the spring and summer. This year we have 11 females due to 7 different males and I had envisaged that this might be a record for us, for a while anyway. However, if everything goes to plan it looks like we may be using 7 males again this season. This is partly due to a couple of failed matings that have been carried forward to this year. Final decisions will be based on what the girls produce this year but I have pencilled in my plans for them.

We are banking on Hollywood being ready to work very soon although he is still acting like an adolescent for much of the time. Sam, our rescued stray cat, still likes to spend most of his time outdoors and has taken to adopting the shelter belonging to Hollwood and chums. As you can see by the photo: Hollywood has been sent in first to check things out but isn't sure he wants to be the big boy after all!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Burning Ambitions!

I was up and about before 6am this morning. The plan was to have a lovely day walking with friends in the Lake District National Park. The alpaca girls were all fed by 6.30 and were looking very bemused; “She’s too early” I could hear them say!

By 8am I was just about ready, so a quick check of my e mails. That’s when the plans went downhill. A message from UPS: IgG testing kit on route and needs refrigerating on receipt. Oh well at least it did arrive at 1.30pm.

I had obviously confused the girls because when I went back out again they all came back in for their morning feed. Smart enough to recognise that I was too early, but not clever enough to remember that they had already eaten!

As I had had such an early start I decided to do some spring cleaning. All the loose old hay from the barn was the start of a bonfire that lasted most of the day. I just love lighting fires. I think it is in my genes as I remember my Gran always having a bonfire on the go. Some of the old intact bales I have kept, as they make good windbreaks for any cria needing to be under the heat lamp.

All the water troughs have been cleaned. I have noticed a lot of feet in them in the warm weather so they won’t be clean for long. I have also been doing quite a bit of alpaca watching in the sunshine. The birthing paddock has some garden benches in there, so it is just too tempting

From left: Honario, Camilla and Holly checking out the clean water trough.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Horsing Around!

It has been another gloriously sunny day here at Beck Brow. It really does perk everyone up. So much so we have managed to cross quite a few jobs off the to do list.

The halter training went reasonably well this morning. Willow is rapidly improving (why are the boys so much better at this?). As you can see by the photo she is very good at standing still; It is the moving bit we need to improve upon.

Willow is the daughter of Bozedown Blanche (one of the foundation girls discussed in an earlier blog). As you can see from the fleece shot, Willow is a lovely solid dark fawn and was a rather nice surprise as Blanche had had a white girl the previous year (Blanche is white with a large dark fawn patch travelling down both shoulders). I intend to mate Willow with Hollywood's Attitude next year, this will hopefully add some density to the mix. I am constantly making long term plans; It's just some patience that I now need!

Willow's fleece (not a stray off colour fibre to be found)

Everyone has been moved today. Alpacas to fresh grass (the girl's paddock will now be left for this year's hay) and the ponies to no grass. It is a case of being cruel to be kind I'm afraid. The fertiliser was spread on the land last week and the ponies only have to look at too much spring grass before they get laminitis. I have to admit things did not go too smoothly with the pony moving. The stallions managed to escape back to their old field twice. As you can imagine Paul was not impressed with "my ponies"! The castrated alpaca boys have also been moved back in with their chums. Poor Snowstorm had to endure 30 minutes of Legacy's screeching. Some friend he is!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

NWAG Fleece Day

Following on from last years successful event; Today was the North West Alpaca Group's fleece day. Liz Barlow put us through our paces at judging both halter and fleece classes. I did feel under a little pressure having been taught by Liz on the BAS Foundation and 1st Stage Judging courses, but she was kind enough not to pick on me. Liz is such a mine of information it is difficult not to over burden her with constant questions.

It was a fantastic day with a great turn out from the group. The weather was also very good to us, providing us with a lovely sunny day. The best part is having the opportunity to chat to so many fellow alpaca owners and knowing that when someone asks you an alpaca question they really do want to know the answer! Amanda gave me a lift so it was alpaca chatter from door to door.

Paul claimed to have lots of jobs to catch up on today so I had left him at home. He had obviously been doing some planning as by the time I returned he had installed a fab new handling system inside the barn for me. It is our wedding anniversary today; No flowers so this is obviously my surprise present! It isn't often that I don't have anyone on hand to hold the alpacas, but it is good to know that I can now give an injection unaided if necessary.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Nice wether for it boys!

The girls have been enjoying the sunshine today, with some serious sunbathing. I did have to go and check them out on a couple of occasions as I had forgotten how strange a field full of flat out alpacas can look.

I’m afraid it wasn’t such a good day for some of the boys. Snowstorm (AKA Snowdrop), Nimrod and Julius had a visit from the vet. Today was the day that they ceased to remain intact. We did deliberate about castrating the three boys. Nimrod and Julius are no bother and are submissive to their elder males. However, Snowstorm, although he has never worked, is a bit more of a problem and gets quite competitive if any females are around. Snowstorm (pictured) our only Suri, came to us as a companion male for Legacy; Unfortunately Legacy doesn't seem to rate him too highly. I am not holding out too much hope for a change in behaviour, as you can see from the post castration photo, he does have a high opinion of himself. Well I suppose in another world a confidence swagger might have done the trick!

Robyn and Oscar came around this morning to lend a hand. Oscar I noticed was looking rather dapper in a very nice cria coat. So that’s where it went. It is lovely having The Borrowers living in the same village as us . Well most of the time!

Oscar: modelling cria coat from Homesteads Farm Supplies!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

An Interesting Easter Visitor

We have had rather a lazy Easter weekend here. Largely because we are both feeling a little off par. Paul has Shingles and has been started on a course of anti-viral treatment. Understandably he is not on top form. For anyone not familiar with the condition; Shingles is caused by “the stress of living with me!!” I think he was joking. He has however gone back to work today…maybe not!

We did manage to get some fencing finished on Saturday. We are pretty slick at getting the rails on the posts these days. It has taken us two years of practising before managing to do this without any major disagreements. The arguments were usually due to the fact that if I dared to venture an opinion Paul used to constantly remind me that it was HE who was the engineer. I have now learned just to follow instructions and keep my hands off his tools…if it gets the job done!

We did have a very interesting visitor yesterday; Nicola, a fashion designer, who is originally from Cumbria but is now living and working in London called in to meet her clients (I think that was Minnie and the weedlings!) Nicola graduated from Manchester and has recently completed a post graduation course specialising in knitwear design. She has come up with some very exciting ideas for our alpaca fleece that I hadn’t even thought about. When we had spoken earlier, I had explained to her what I didn’t want but had left Nicola free to bring in her own ideas, which has worked really well. All very exciting stuff.

We gave Hoity Toity her second Vitamin B12 injection at the weekend. I am pleased to report that she is much improved. I have the bruise on my shin to prove it. One impromptu hands on condition scoring too many…fair enough, but it did feel like biting the hand that feeds you!

I did catch up on some reading at the weekend. Having finished Ideal Alpacas and Synthesis of a Miracle (Michael Safley) I started reading Alpaca and Llama Health Management (David Anderson & Claire Whitehead). This is a fantastic reference book but hardly one for reading from front to back. Paul found me asleep with the dog on my knee and the book on the floor!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

My Apologies to Blanche & Bonita!

Whilst looking through my small archive of blogs today, I realised that I have been a little bias with my inclusions. Whereas, Silverstream Hoity Toity and EPC Lady Gaga have made headlines; Two of our founding members of Beck Brow Alpacas have not even been given a mention.

Bozedown Blanche and Bozedown Bonita, along with Two Ways Holly, were our foundation girls (by that I simply mean they were our initial purchases rather than our building blocks). These three girls bought with cria at foot were to be an addition to our interest in breeding miniature ponies. A hobby! I had read a lot about the health and welfare needs of alpacas (as would befit an animal loving nurse) but knew nothing about what constituted a good fleece (or indeed that this was actually important!).

I had read the BAS section on confirmation faults and knew not to buy an alpaca with two heads and three legs; Or was than two teats and three toes? Either way we purchased our girls (from the first breeder that we visited) based on a very strict inclusion criteria: 1.They had nice eyes. 2.They were for sale. 3.They had a very cute cria at foot. 4. It was best to buy them before Paul changed his mind.

On a serious point we did deliberately choose dams with cria at foot and who were not first time mums. Maybe we were slightly lucky in our choices, considering our previous lack of knowledge, as we managed to select three very sound girls. They are not prize winners but are reliable mothers, who produce strong cria who thrive well. All became pregnant on their first mating and have remained so. Blanche who is registered as white, but has a fawn patch running across both shoulders, has produced two much improved solid coloured females. These three girls have given us the confidence to go on to purchase the elite females (and males) that we now have in our herd. They have also turned a hobby into a business.

Are these girls on the for sale list? No! They will be mated with Hollwood’s Attitude this year and will hopefully again produce an improved cria (a good test to see how Hollywood passes on his traits). Known reliable breeders are not to be sniffed at and of course we adore them.

Pictured on the day that they arrived at Beck Brow: Holly (left); Bonita (back right); Blanche (front right) and their cria. The grass had obviously been growing for sometime in anticipation of their arrival! Also pictured is Katkin who arrived on the same day although had been purchased a month later than the initial girls (and given a little more thought!).

Thursday, 1 April 2010

IgG testing.

The cost of this prolonged cold wet winter continues; Not only do I have extra feed rations of oats to cope with; It also allows me to justify my time spent on the Internet. Spent is the problem here. This morning’s purchase is an IgG testing kit and centrifuge ordered from America. This is something that we have been looking in to after the sad loss of a cria last year. I thought that I would share this story as it taught us many lessons.

Just a brief explanation of terms for the non- nursing and non-farming folks: IgG is a type of immunoglobulin (antibody) required to fight infection. Generally healthy adults acquire resistance to infection by contact with foreign antigens which results in the production of IgG. However cria (as with lambs) are reliant on the passive transfer of antibodies from their mother (dam) via the colostrum (first milk). It is vital that the cria receives the colostrum within the first 12 hours (ideally 6 hours) of life for the antibodies to be effective. After this time it is considered that there has been a failure of passive transfer (FPT). If this is recognised then the cria can be given plasma. Blood is taken from a healthy alpaca and spun to separate the red blood cells from the plasma. The plasma containing the antibodies can then be given to the cria (how this is given is too lengthy to debate here).

Nakita was our second cria to be born in 2009. Katkin, who had been a fantastic first time mum to Nimrod, had a text book birth at 11am on a lovely sunny day. Mum had plenty of milk and Nikita was seen on the nipple within the hour, with lovely milky chops observed. She weighed in at a healthy 8.5kg.

Nakita with Katkin (latched on to the milk supply)

As is our usual practice we weighed her again the next morning and she had lost a little (not so unusual for day 2) however on day 3 she had lost a further 0.5kg. We tried to bottle feed goats milk without success. We also telephoned the vet who was not especially concerned at this point. As you can see form the photo of her with Jenson on day 3 there was no reason to suspect anything was wrong and this could have been missed if it had not been for the fact that we were weighing her.

Nakita at 3 days old playing with Jenson.
To shorten a sad story we started to tube feed Nakita as she was refusing to be bottle fed (she was still strong at this point). Blood was taken on the morning of day 3 to measure IgG levels. On day 4 we were so concerned that we took Nakita to the surgery as it opened. She was given a glucose infusion and commenced on a Saline infusion and allowed home. Blood results that morning (24 hours since taken) revealed a low IgG and a frantic search for plasma began. We did manage to find some supplies and Mike and Mary from Greenside Alpacas kindly offered to set off on the hour and a half journey to our farm, but sadly were too late.

There have been some tears just in retelling this story but I share it in the hope that it might help. It may have been that nothing could have been done to save this particular cria as it has been suggested that Nakita may have lacked a swallowing reflex and therefore was not viable (offical results septicaemia secondary to FPT). However in future I want to be sure that we have done all that we can; Whereas on this occassion I was left doubting. We now have our own plasma supplies in the freezer; obviously sick cria will be given this without delay. It is also our intention to test the IgG levels on all cria at 48 hours so that we can pre-empt any potential problems. This is something suggested by our vet and is also recommended by Claire Whitehead in her neonatal text book.

Katkin, Nakita and Jenson.

Apologies for a rather serious blog today. I am even more depressing than the weather. Maybe I should do some retail pursuits that include shoes and handbags next time.