Friday, 29 April 2011

The Young Punks are in business...

A quick blog before the wedding...I'm getting excited!

I have just been doing some paperwork before I get the rollers in. First on the list was to transfer some females to some new owners. The new owners? A very keen young couple who will be keeping their alpacas at Beck Brow; They are Robyn and Craig Kerr (daughter and son-in law). Robyn and Craig have been interested from the start and have decided to take the plunge and start their own herd.

This was decided sometime ago, but it has taken an age for them to come up with a herd name. Make it memorable I say (I admit Beck Brow Alpacas is not especially!)...easy to should mean something to you both...So what have they decided?...Young Punk Alpacas. Yes it's true. Named after their favourite wine label; Some Young Punks!

They are starting with: Nina, a fawn maiden pregnant to Hollywood; Nancy, who had a lovely Top Account daughter last year, who is also pregnant to Hollywood; and Phoebe, a white female and mother of Minnie, who we think is not pregnant at the moment. The bug has bitten!!

Archive photo from last Aug.; Nancy and Lucie left, Tabitha (Phoebe's daughter) front centre.

Yesterday I split the females into two groups depending upon their due date. We now have a group of 9 females in the birthing paddock who are all due in May. This is the first time that the group have been split where they are not in adjoining fields, and it has been interesting to watch the dynamics. Holly who is normally the group leader, and makes no fuss at all when her cria are weaned, has been calling to the main herd and is generally unsettled, even though she has Katkin (her deputy) with her.

The main group appear to be pretty relaxed without Holly and Katkin bossing them about. But who has taken on the role of leader in the new group? Well it was put to the test yesterday when a stray cat entered their paddock. Normally Holly would take care of the situation...who was going to take on the mantle of was a surprise to me...Lady Gaga...I thought she would have preferred to let others do the work but she is loving it!

Right, we are off to The Heather Glen for a hog roast and to watch the wedding of course (Paul is joining us later for the food...he doesn't get what all the fuss is about. Bah humbug!)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Fawn Favourite?

We are still keeping Waradene St. Patrick of EPC waiting poor boy; I have decided late April is the earliest that we would like our births for next year. I sure that it isn't much consolation to him at present, but he has a lovely new fawn to add to his harem.

Van Dieman Chaska of Inca really is a lovely looking female and as an added bonus she has a very sweet disposition (especially for a pregnant female) and is brilliant on the halter. Might this be one of my favourite fawns? She is in isolation at present but will be joining some girls who are due at the same time as her sometime soon. Chaska is pregnant to Neptune of Houghton and due late May.

Van Dieman Chaska of Inca.

Paul has been busy converting the interior of our van (aka alpaca-mobile). I have resisted the temptation to interfere and I have to admit he is doing a really good job. I even have room for a change of clothes! Hopefully it will be ready for mobile matings soon. I have posted some introductory offers for mobile matings on our website With a mileage rate offer of only 25p/mile we really need to use the van and not the trailer! It is looking like the offer is going to be limited by our availability, as well as to his first progeny, as we seem to be so busy at present.

We had a request recently for a photo of Paul and myself with our alpacas. Despite having hundreds of photos we did not have one of us together. We now have a very smiley photo...remember that Maxwell House advert "we just want to be together!"... Seriously thanks Mike if you read this.

Together and smiling (well not Explorer (L)...with Roma)

Today we paid a visit to Lane House Alpacas to catch up with Bev and Andy and to see the boys. Finian, Kenzie and Noah were looking great, they really have fallen on their feet...I could sleep in that shelter no problem. It was lovely to see them so happy and settled.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A day off sometime soon?

Click to least the herd get to relax!

There's been lots of talk about extended Easter breaks leading into Royal weddings and generally lots of rest and relaxation. Well, it doesn't seem to be happening around here. The people living and working in the countryside are obviously taking advantage of the good weather and work continues.

First we had an early visit from the farmer who rents some of our land. He arrived with a couple of trailer loads of ewes and lambs; very sweet. Then it was a call from the contractor that we use to bale our hay. Did we want some alpaca poo spread on this year's hay field...yes did seem a little ironic that I was picking up poo in the ajoining field!

This morning the females, after having their vitamin and mineral drench, got moved on to fresh grass next to the boys. Lady Gaga was being her usual flirty self. Only Anzac Almost Illegal (Almo) fell for it and got a firm rejection when he decided to shows some interest...not working yet...Almo still has a lot to learn.

Silverstream Galaxy starting to look swell...enjoying the new grass

Lady Gaga watching Stanstead teasing Almost Illegal...but not quite!

I am staying strong and still haven't let Waradene St Patrick start work on our own herd. The decision is getting more difficult as he have outside matings booked; If we don't give in soon we won't have his first cria of 2012! Blueberry Samauri Baheti is getting very bored waiting, especially so since Poppet has been weaned. Maybe sometime soon?

Blueberry Samurai Baheti...dreaming that her man will come soon!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Alpaca plasma collection.

It was blood donor day today at Beck Brow. Four of the boys; Hollywood, Almost Illegal (Almo), Nimrod and Julius each provided a unit of blood. This was to be spun down to provide plasma for this years birthing season. All the boys behaved impecably, something which was remarked upon by the vet "if only everyone had such well handled animals life would be so much easier" Hey it's a pleasure!

Almo getting some local anaesthetic inserted

That's it...donation complete...just the needle to remove.

The warm weather meant that the blood vessels were easy to locate and filling the bags took hardly anytime at all. Hence, I was on the road to Manchester with my cool bag before 11am. This year I decided to get one of the bags stored in 50ml syringes ideal for giving orally. There is a lot of debate about the success of oral plasma, however we have heard a lot of success stories. I think the key is to give early, ideally before 6 hours, we know from experience with Explorer that giving it at 10 hours old was too late. We do have the IgG testing equipment to test levels at 48 hours. Thus, we can then give intravenous plasma if necessary at this point. Obviously a very sick cria would be given I.V initially rather than waiting. Lets just hope that we don't need to use it.

Nearly forgot. I got what I thought was a good tip today. If freezing plasma it is essential that it does not defrost then get frozen again (careful not to store it in a self defrosting freezer). The tip was to freeze it with an elastic band around the bag, then remove the band once frozen. If, when you come to use the plasma from the freezer, it is not in the same shape as when the band was around it, then it has been defrosted at some point (power failure or whatever). If it is stored correctly the plasma should keep for at least a year I am told. Useful I thought? Hope I have explained that in English!

Below is a fleece shot of Anzac Viracocha Black Sabbath for Rosemary (click on to enlarge). Sorry it is not a new one as he won't be with us until early June. He is going to The BAS National show so we will get to see him then. I have just had an email about the show entries; 350 alpacas from 66 breeders. Wow how things have changed from last year. It is going to be a tough one...what are we doing!

Anzac Viracocha Black Sabbath's fleece

Monday, 18 April 2011

Exploring Predictions

I am writing an early blog this morning as I am going to be on domestic duties for the rest of the day. Paul, who was up at 6am for work this morning, was unable to find a clean ironed shirt to wear. I suggested putting the light on. But no, still no work shirts to be found. Look, I have been busy. Anyway, he looked very smart wearing his 'wedding shirt' on a Monday morning.

Saturday morning was spent trying to solve a Chinese puzzle. I have decided not to take Poppet to The BAS National Show. She is still rather imature and I don't want to push her into halter training too soon. This now means that we can fit all of the team into the van without having to tow the trailer. But here's the problem. If we fill the back with alpacas where do we store all their kit? Okay, we solved that one, but where do we put our suit case...No case... Probably not even a ruck sack. So, if anyone sees me at The National and thinks that I am wearing the same clothes for the whole of the weekend; The chances are that they will probably be correct. But don't worry... I will have changed my underwear and socks (room in the door pocket)! Paul's job for next weekend; building in some more storage (for alpaca stuff of course).

I am going to make a prediction about The National Show. A prediction about Beck Brow Explorer. A bit brave I know...I am going to direct hit and two near misses. We have been trying to get Explorer used to having his fleece examined without 'pouffing'. But we are on a losing battle. It is like a trigger reaction. On one occasion we avoided an immediate 'pouffe' and I foolishly bent down to hug him, only to find it was just a slightly delayed response...bulls eye or my eye to be precise. I think that it may have become a Pavlov's dog situation. Fleece...pouffe...laughter. And from the belly laugh response from Paul when I got it in the eye, it is not going to stop anytime soon. So I predict one for the ring steward!

Yesterday it was down to Stoneleigh again for a meeting of the BAS fibre committee. There was a very good attendance at a very informative workshop. Well worth the long journey. There really is some fantastic work out there (my favourite was the rabbit...thinking outside the box). Jean Field updated the group on the British company (unsure if I should be naming names here) wishing to trial the use of UK alpaca. The initial request for fibre has been quickly met and, impressed by the quality, the company is now requesting to purchase as much of this years clip as possible and in all colours (except grey I believe) up to 30 microns (the higher micron fibre is to be blended with other products). Good news if this can bring processing prices down and also create a demand for the end product.

On the last blog Judi requested a photo of Anzac Viracocha Black Sabbath our shared black male. Sorry it is just the website version as he is not with us at the moment. We will get to see him at The National Show and he will be with us in the summer. Isolation paddock all prepared.

Anzac Viracocha Black Sabbath (sire Cedar House Amar)

We have had a lots of interest in the alpacas, both calls and visits, recently. I just love the opportunity to talk about alpacas to people who are really interested, and great to see that their appeal just keeps growing.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Getting soft...that's just fine!

I know... I have been a bit blokey of late with all this talk about tractors, stud males and stud mobiles; so I thought I would show my more feminine side today and start with something soft and gentle. So here they are, some photos of the end not cria...not yet...if's knitting yarn of course!

Beck Brow Yarn: blended brown and soft mid-fawn.

Beck Brow Yarn: Silver grey and Ivory.

We have had a lot of enquires about knitting yarn of late, even though we have not quite got the shop up and running.  I did get only a relatively small amount of yarn balled as 4 ply, in the 4 different colour ways, the rest has been spun as 1, 2 and 3 ply ready for the creation of our own end products. Actually, it's a bit like I am with the alpacas; I know I must sell some, after all it is a business, but I do rather like having it!

Back to boys stuff. I was going to keep a photo of the van for a reveal after the sign writer had had his way with it. However, as Mark has requested a photo, I will do the before and after approach:

The van before sign writing...part 2 next week!

I am still undecided about how far to go with the art work. It needs to be classy but also draw attention...a difficult one to pull off. Thirty years ago this would have been about what to wear on a night out, not about sign writing. Mind you, that was back in the 80's; dressing then was all about attention (think Boy George) and no class, well that's as I remember!

I have just been doing some work our the website and Alpacaseller ready for our mobile mating service. We are planning some fantastic deals, available for for a very limited period, but more on that on another day. Just in case I change my mind!

P.S just found out that our shared male Anzac Viracocha Black Sabbath got 1st placed Adult Male at the SWAG Show...great to get a red ribbon without any angst of knowing he was entered!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

White Van Woman

Who needs a man?...well that's what Robyn and I decided... our new van was ready for collection (post modifications i.e roof fans, window and tow bar) and Paul was at work. I knew that Paul thought that I couldn't  manage without my parking sensors and a rear view mirror...but hey I needed to get it to the sign writer for some photos. No need to worry about what you don't know about Paul. So Robyn and I went off to collect it.

Well it was fine. Just like driving a car but a bit longer and wider... I even had to reverse into a drive at the sign writer's to turn it around. A few miles of gadding about and we were congratulating ourselves on the fact that men just underestimate women's ability...vans are not just for boys...all was going well until we decided to refuel...where did the diesel go...round and round the van we clues...surely it couldn't be so difficult. Oh no... were we going to have to ask a man...who to ask...not Paul. Then a piece of luck; a man in a van pulled up to refuel...we observed...well... how were we meant to know that you needed to open the passenger door and then open a flap...must have been designed by a man I bet!

The sign writer has taken some photographs and will work out some designs for work to start next week. The window is much larger than anticipated; this is because I wanted an opening in it just in case we got stuck in traffic. It is so tinted that you can't actually see in...not quite what I had expected...but at least the alpacas won't get too hot from the sun, and they will have a lovely view out whilst travelling down the M6. If I'm honest I think I just wanted a window so that it wasn't too dark for them! Something to consider for anyone thinking of doing a conversion: A window (especially an opening one even though it a slit type opening) increased the insurance premium considerably.

This afternoon I have been sorting out the birthing box ready for this year. Just the plasma to get now. The vet is booked in for next Tuesday and then it will be a trip down to Manchester to have the blood spun into plasma. I think I might need to get up to speed again with the IgG testing but here's hoping that we don't need to give any transfusions this year. I am loving watching all the bulges moving about now that they are getting closer to birthing. This is just the most exciting time...the anticipation!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Filling the photography obligations

It has been a beautiful sunny weekend here in Cumbia, as it has been throughout the UK. With some photo obligations to fill we really couldn't make any excuses about the weather; the wind or the rain; any issues were going to be down to the handler and/or the photographer.

Firstly we thought it was high time we got that photo of St. Patrick in his ribbons, as promised for Sharon at Waradene Alpacas in Australia. We didn't quite manage a one with all four legs on the ground, but a much better attempt than last time:

Waradene St. Patrick of EPC.

On the subject of ribbons; many congratulations to the mighty Patou Alpacas on a fantastic SWAG show.  Glad I didn't set any challenges there Mark!

The second photography challenge was to get a photo of the new sign with some alpacas in the background, for the blacksmith who created it. We did actually manage to get one of the sign with head shots and no Craig, but I rather liked this one.

Craig, the sign, St. Patrick and Almost Illegal.

The final challenge was to try to get a photograph for the side of our new van (if we decide to use a photo...jury still out). This one of St. Patrick with Anzac Almost Illegal (Almo) is definitely one of the contenders.

Waradene St. Patrick with Anzac Almost Illegal on best behaviour...two posers together.

Short blog as it really is BBQ weather...can't believe this is April...maybe we should consider early matings after all!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Happiness is...

Tips for a happy life:

1. Firstly get the sun to shine.

2. Get your man a new toy (well second-hand will do) with various attachments...hours of fun...smiley faces...and a quite life:

Paul doing a bit a rolling...check out that smile!

3. Spend an afternoon at the spa with your girl friends...just make sure your friends like to share...and don't nod off during treatments.:

Camilla hogs the foot spa with Lady Gaga waiting patiently...Pepsi has a lie down!

4. Explore new might surprise yourself how quickly you get over your lost love...even more surprising you may be attracted to a 'pouffing' boy:

Poppet and Explorer getting along just fine!

It has been a lovely sunny day today. Unfortunately I have had inside jobs to catch up on (legal work) but everybody else has been making the most of it. Baheti does seem to have accepted that Poppet is old enough to go solo, so a lot less stress this time around; helped by the fact that Explorer has taken a shine to Poppet...he even lets her share his trough...honestly no 'pouffing'!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

When to mate...and being late!

I have broken a promise...I feel bad...but it had to be done. I had promised Baheti that she could keep her cria (Poppet) until she had been remated (we have kept her open over winter). However, now that we have decided to take Poppet to The National show, she needs to be weaned and halter trained...I know that I am mean... but what to do?

We have been umming and ahhing about how soon to start matings this year (sorry Baheti early April is just too soon for us). Last year we ended up being a little bit later than planned when we started our first matings of the year in late May. This resulted in many June matings as we hadn't really accounted for the fact that we were mating maidens with a male - Anzac Hollywood's Attitude - who was also new to the game. Consequently some of the girls took a few attempts to get pregnant. But with the vast majority of our females due to give birth in May and June we are quite happy overall.

However I do think that we will probably start late April /early May this year (Paul's brother has just announced his wedding date for the 1st of April 2012 so we need to avoid any births at that time) this should result in some earlier births for 2012. Although Camilla, who was due in April last year managed a 385-days gestation period (average here 337 days) who knows!

Our first due date for this year is the 12th May (using an average 340-day gestation period for a maiden). All being well Hollywood should have 4 births in May. I believe (from Facebook!) that Hollywood's sire, Jolimont Attitude, has just taken the Supreme Championship (at 12 years of age) at the Salbris Alpaca Show in France. Lets see if  our boy can pass on some of his attributes. Hollywood has an amazing weight of fleece; a combination of great length and density...lets hope he shares!

Anzac Hollywood's Attitude...first cria due in May

Anzac Almost Illegal...due to start work this year.

Poppet at the back of the photo...still not sure which gang she wants to be in!

I actually started writing this blog at 10 am this morning...the plan was to write a short blog then have a relaxing day... after all of the decision making that I have been doing of late I felt that I deserved it. I don't really do pampering, but as a special treat (using some birthday vouchers) I booked myself in for a Reiki chill and clear the mind.

As is usually the case; I allowed myself the whole of 15 minutes to shower and change. Just as I remove the first sock; Robyn arrives (too nice to be rude to...7 minutes gone); then a phone call (this will put money in my bank account...too important to miss...another 5 minutes gone). Second sock removed; another phone call (Cameron Holt specialist in all things alpaca...too interesting to miss...another 15 minutes gone). Another call (this time from Amanda regarding injections) and I am now seriously late. I have a shower but don't have enough time to remove all the paint splatters (what made me spray the stain on the bedroom ceiling this morning). So I arrive at the spa late, stressed, and covered in paint! 

Still I managed to relax...I soon realised how exhausted I actually was...I think it was when I fell asleep...I vaguely knew than someone was snoring...obviously that had been me...just a tad embarrassing!

Monday, 4 April 2011

So many decisions....

It seems to have been another weekend of decision making...most of our options seem to require either more time and/or more money than we would like to give...hence the shall we shan't we bit.

Decision 1:

Who to take to The BAS National Show. I have already entered Explorer, Roma and Poppet (Poppet really only so Roma won't be left on her own when Explorer is in the ring...she wasn't too keen at The Futurity)

Indecision: The closing date has been extended and we are now contemplating whether or not to take Waradene St. Patrick.

Why the indecision:

1. He was shorn at the very end of September; So will his fleece re-growth (only 6 months) put him at a disadvantage?
2. Some fool bought a cattle trailer that is not big enough to take him and 3 juniors on such a long trip!!

Decision 2:

Do we invest in a van (Transit type thing) to be converted (by Paul!) to transport the alpacas?

Indecision: Can we justify the expensive. Is there really a difference between want and need. How often will it be easy will it be to find a space big enough in Tesco's car park.

If we do want/need one; what size, how many roof vents, windows fixed or opening, what model; long or extra long wheel base. Ford; VW; or Mercedes? I'm feeling tense.

Why the indecision:

The bank balance!

Decision 3:

Designers, products, new websites.

Indecision: I am now at the point of making some final decisions on products, designers and marketing of our potential alpaca wear. Small local shows and an online store; or try to do something on a bigger scale. How much fleece do I invest in this year? Headaches...

Why the indecision:

I am totally out of my comfort zone. Animals and health care I can do. Manufacturing, processing and design is a massive learning curve and a very expensive one!

Anyway Saturday saw us looking at vans; we are now waiting for some final prices for tow bars fitted etc. Of course we ended up liking the VW the most expensive of those available! I await the phone call.

Sunday saw me off to Harrogate in Yorkshire to the British Craft Trade Fair. I had kindly been  invited along by Bev. This is Bev, Mummy to Finian and co, who also owns a fabulous gallery in Saltaire; opposite Salt's Mill (re Sir Titus Salt who was famous for processing alpaca in the 1800s)

It soon became apparent that one of us is stylish, knowledgeable, can spot new talent, has an eye for quality and what is on trend... and the other one looks best in wellies...but it was interesting and I have hopefully gained a couple of contacts.

Right, outside to get some work done. The tractor has arrived so time to see if I can drive it! Some Lambivac injections are also due for the girls who are 6 weeks from their due date.

P.S I am loving AlpacaEASE. Lamivac due dates now flash up at decision made at least!

P.P.S Call received: Van ordered; VW Crafter, medium wheel base (better for Tesco's!), 2 roof vents, I large opening tinted window (tinted?...treated like royalty they are...I tell you!), 1 tow bar...what are wing mirrors for again?...two decisions made... which probably means three as we now have room for St. P!