Friday, 30 September 2011

100% British Alpaca Throws and Scarves...Beck Brow Alpacas self promotion (apologies!)

Enjoying some refound freedom now that all the alpaca births are over for the year, Claire and I had a trip out in the Scottish Borders yesterday. Claire treat herself to a some cashmere gloves, but I was very well behaved on the shopping front. We did however manage to fit in a rather nice lunch at the Damascus Drum...rather a surprise to find a Turkish cafe in the middle of Hawick...before calling in at our weavers to collect the latest Beck Brow Alpaca range.

I took the camera along to the mill to try to get a few shots for the on line store (I really must get on with providing the content for the web designers...but and it isn't often I have been able to say this this year...the weather is far too nice for indoor jobs). The traditional old looms really are a sight to admire and provided a great photo opportunity. With much of the equipment used having been in the family run business for generations, there is a real pride in the work done within the mill, and it is always a pleasure to visit...hence not bothering with a courier. I also wanted to visit to discuss our next orders of wraps and cushions...the problem is it seems I need more yarn...and that means more fleece sorting...I will whip myself into action next week...I promise Paul!

The traditional looms

Carrying on the photography theme I have also been trying to get some product shots for the shop. As a live model was not available a mannequin was assigned to the job...not much personality...but the rates are good! First off I really wanted to demonstrate their generous size (180 x 30 cms) but as it was rather windy I ended up having to tie them in knots! The other glaring error was taking them straight out of the box and not even bothering to smooth out any wrinkles, but here are some of my attempts:

Although our first batch of throws were fantastic in both quality and style, we did decide to make some modifications for our second order. The very generous size of 230cms x 185 cms (plus fringes) made the blanket size throws very luxurious but also very heavy at 1.2 kgs. This weight of yarn obviously adds considerably to the cost and consequently the retail price. So our second batch of throws measure a still generous 145 x 180 cms (plus fringes) and weigh in at 750 gs...again still a very good weight of yarn...but means that we offer different options and prices. We opted for 3 colour ways in the latest collection; grey, brown and fawn herringbone all on a white warp. The wooden looms give the throws a fabulous finish along the edges (hopefully shown in the photos) that a large scale production just does not have. all things that add to the uniqueness of the product we hope.

100% British...brown/white and fawn/white herringbone alpaca throws

100% British Alpaca Throws...grey/white

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The auction girls...settled at last.

Thank you for all the compliments regarding the photos on the last blog. In answer to Judi's question we do have the benefit of a decent camera, although I do have to then crop the pixels from the high resolution version of the photos as they would take forever to up load, especially with our broadband speed. However, if Paul were to answer the question... he would say that the real reason that I manage to capture so many images of the alpacas is due to the amount of time I spend in the paddock cria watching! I swear some of them actually love being photographed... I can't help it!

Now that all the births are over for the year, it is nice just to be able to watch all the interactions. I especially love watching how first time mums behave with their cria. We have some really lovely mums this year. Lady Gaga is clearly very proud of her achievement in producing Boots, although it would be difficult for her to have an even higher opinion of herself than she already had, I think that she has just about managed it. Hoity Toity, who has the most mischevious cria ever born here (Quintos), just lets him get on with it (some mothers might be embarrased but not Hoity). Today he has been tearing aroung the paddock orgling and jumping on every female in sight (he is four weeks old). He just does his own thing then goes to his mother to be fed now and again...should have be called Delinquent!

The 'auction girls' continue to spit off. They are actually starting to look like they are relaxed and settled now. I have to say that I am not sure that alpacas are best suited to being sold via cattle markets. Apart from the obvious concerns about how they will be cared for after they have been sold, alpacas do not cope well with stress. And unfortunately (well in this case it is unfortunate) they are far too intelligent to easily forget about any trauma. Our three girls have eventually lost the 'startled rabbit' expression and now spend lots of time in the shelter with out being on high alert, but it has taken some time for them to build up some trust. I do think that it would be a shame if auction marts became a routine option for the sale of excess stock, but as many breeders want the support that is given with an individual alpaca sale, I expect this will not be the case.

Nicola (front) and Renata...watching Velvet behind me

Biba (looking a little rounder on Beck Brow grass!)

Juliet and John from The Border Mill popped in to visit this morning. They are producing some fantastic products from their mini mill, and are so enthusiastic about all things fleece and fibre. Although I am going to need to use a larger mill for some of the large scale stuff, I have sent some individual fleeces for processing. I especially like the idea of wearing Lady Gaga!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Best Buddies...

I had planned to go to the BAS fleece and fibre meeting at Stoneleigh today, but it seems such a long time since we have had a full weekend at home, so I have sent my apologies, and we have started work on the job list. Poo picking first off. Paul was nominated as pooverer and I opted for the driving position. Well that was the plan. However taking the camera along did mean that the driving duties got a little neglected...causing much tutting from the foreman.

Quintos and Snooty Boots, our two youngest cria, are inseparable and irresistible...

"Not sure, might be rain heading over from the East coast...what do ye think?"

"Look out there's someone over there on your left...keep cool and  I'll sneak a peak...yeah it's okay, just a camera"


One for Vogue

Quintos with a cool pose

That's it off we go...tea time!

Quintos's sire Hollywood's Attitude...he certainly has passed on his attitude... in spades!

The NFU Countryside magazine arrived in the post this morning, along with the BAS magazine; Alpaca. It was good to see that we got a mention in the former and a photo of our throws was featured promoting the use of natural products (although it does rather look like they are in the mohair section). I had expected that we might have also had a mention in Alpaca after Beck Brow Explorer's Supreme Championship win at Northumberland County Show, but it does appear to have missed being reported on. I'm sure that he won't notice!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Beck Brow Team Training 2011!

It was with true British spirit that The World Sheep Dog Trials went ahead at the weekend. The rain was indescribable...torrential does not do it justice. On friday it was non-stop...the poor dogs could hardly hear the commands...and the Country File team (including the lovely Matt Baker) were looking more than a little soggy. By Saturday morning our marquee was under eight inches of water in places...wood chippings were sailing away with the tide. However the team, lead by Clare Savins, were amazing. Large bales of staw appeared and layers of straw were laid half a bale high in places. There was lots of interest in the alpacas, especially from the spectators who had travelled from Norway and Sweden (obviously very into sheep dogs?), who didn't seem in the least bit bothered by the Cumbrian weather. Most successful trader at the event?...the guy selling wellies...dustbins were full of discarded wellington boots...ones that obviously hadn't be tested at over ankle deep before...and were found to be wanting!

Yesterday it was a long trip to Stoneleigh to the BAS National Show Committee meeting. I travelled down with Michael from Cockerham Alpacas in Lancashire, so you can imagine the topic of conversation for the whole of the six and a half hours that we travelled definitely not Strictly!

Some interesting ideas were put forward about the future of the BAS National Show, which will now go to the committee for discussion. And Di Davies got us all very excited about the alpaca show organised for the weekend after The Alpaca World Conference 2012 (14th and 15th April). With judges wearing cameras, and with large screens planted around the venue, it promises to be a great opportunity for spectators to really get involved.

I felt like I hadn't seen our alpacas all weekend, so I have enjoyed catching up on some jobs this morning. All the girls got their Maxigro selenium and colbolt drench. It was all pretty slick, I even managed to complete the task single handedly when Paul got called out to work. Lady Gaga and Hoity Toity both spat-off thankfully. After cancelling our Yorkshire Show entry because Roma had spat twice, she sat this morning. Decision now made, so I mated her again. But next week will be our cut off date for matings I think...we are going to be busy next August...whatever happened to our June birthing plan?

The cria racing season is now in full swing. Despite Quintos being the youngest cria, he is most often the one who calls the team for training. Whereas Lucie was a clear winner last year, it seem to be more of an even playing field this year, with all contenders in with a chance of passing the finish line in poll position.

Crystal in the lead, Quintos coming up on the outside, but Alfie is looking very determined in second place.

A loss of concentration and Finesse takes the poll position

Boots seems to have lost all sense of direction...either that or she is cheating...

...and they all head back to the starting pen ready for the next race...

...and off they go again...this time with Annabelle taking the lead...Rumour, in third place, is not the most competitive and rarely makes the prizes

That's it...time out to watch some dog racing

Difficult to capture on camera, but I kid you not, it was a lap round the paddock then back to the catching pen, where they waited for everyone before setting off again...aren't alpacas just wonder I am always behind with the chores!

Friday, 16 September 2011

bTB Test Results, Futurity Hotels and Photos.

As most alpaca breeders will be aware; The British Alpaca Society (BAS), along with The British Camelid Society and The Veterinary Laboratory Agency, have been working on the development of a reliable blood test for the testing of bTB in camelids. The problem being that the skin test used on other species is just too unreliable as a camelid test.

Last year there was a call for the donation of 300 alpacas (from 3 and 4-year parish testing areas only) and we were all asked to give our support. Now I have to admit that I was pleased when the quota was met and we could give a financial donation rather than a living one. Why?...well the test is after all being tested for its reliability...this means in order to test this a small number of alpacas showing a false positive will be slaughtered. The reason for this was explained to me thus; there have been no false negatives found (i.e all alpacas know to have bTB have tested positive) however it is finding the lower level of sensitivity that they are testing. At what point can they safely say that it is a certain negative...hence the small number classed as false positive.

Well for various reasons the promise of 300 donations fell short by 50 alpacas. Should we stand back and expect others to find a reliable test from which we could all benefit?...we decided not...but to cut this long winded tale a bit shorter...we have the results...and no further tests are required...thank goodness (I will not give the names of our brave volunteers).

On my last blog I mentioned that we had booked our hotel for The British Alpaca Futurity 2012. Now this appears to be less straight forward that when it was held at Stoneleigh where there was only one hotel on site. We had booked into the Holiday Inn Express on the NEC site (functional rather that luxury, but does the job) then to be told that The Futurity site was recommending The Hilton...right, best change then...hotel checked out on line...umm maybe not...Holiday Inn Express £230 for 3 night B&B...Hilton prices starting at £630 for 3 nights. Now, I can take luxury...I like a bit of 5 star on holiday...but this is an alpaca show...last year we got to bed at 2 am and were up by 6 am (okay we were a bit jaded by the last night and went to bed at 1 am and got up at 7am)...hardly worth the extra expense for four hours in bed I think! Maybe we will save the expense towards The World Conference in Oxford.

Talking of The Futurity...could this be one for the photo competition...well it's cute anyway...Velvet giving Quintos a kiss on the nose...suggested titles welcome:

Can you see the tongue(click to enlarge)...Velvet and Quintos.

Other photos taken yesterday with no theme at all:

The lovely EP Cambridge Lady Gaga

Could he possibly be even lovelier...Beck Brow Magellan

He has a lovely face too...but I do like that butt...Beck Brow Synergy

Beck Brow Finesse...looking awfully dense...


...but is far from stupid...just get the milk bar to come to that is 5 star treatment!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Blown Away

It is back to calm today after some amazing storms. Not the weather for a hat...not with with gale force winds...if fact not the weather for opening the mail box without paying full attention...I think that I caught it all eventually...after chasing it around the alpaca fields! Think the lottery cheque might be missing though!

We were booked in to have an alpaca presence at The World Sheep Dog Trials from Thursday until Sunday this week. Unfortunately the dreadful weather has meant that they have had to cancel the Thursday and Friday of the Country Fair side of the event. Can't imagine that there was any chance of erecting a marquee in the past two days...such a shame...Clare Savins, the alpaca breed Secretary, is in charge of the event and I know that she has put so much work into it...lets hope the weekend is sunny and draws the crowds. 

We have had some good news and bad news with regard to spit-offs. Being later in the year we decided to give a number of the maidens one mating...if they took they took...if not they would be left over. Well the good news is that they have all taken...the bad news is that we no longer have a show team to take to Yorkshire! Lady Gaga sat again (third week in a row) so has lost the time that she made up with having an early birth. Although, I do believe that she sat last year when she must have been already pregnant (she obviously likes St. Patrick!) St. Patrick now has pregnancies with white, fawn, brown and black females, so we should have a good idea of what he can do over colours by next year.

We have booked our hotel for The Futurity today. Three nights are booked, in anticipation of taking a show team. It is at the NEC this year (16th and 17th March) so it will be interesting to see how it compares with Stoneleigh. I have to say that we have always enjoyed The Futurity, especially the social side of the event! One of the contenders for the Beck Brow team this year will be Easter-Wood Adelle (sire Cambridge The Chairman of ACC). Jeff from Easter-Wood Alpaca Stud kindly sent us this photo of her this is going to be a very exciting day next month when she finally arrives at Beck Brow with her mum. This will be one occasion when I will hopefully be happy to be blown away!

Easter-Wood Adelle

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Off to pastures new...

I suspect that someone might have been a little excited this morning...It is over nine months since Amanda's two females; Cambridge Caramella and Cambridge Stansted arrived at Beck Brow on livery. The plan was that Amanda would do a season as apprentice midwife before taking them home (10 minutes away). Two had turned into four over the summer with the births of Fendi and Satchmo, and Amanda was excited about having her cria at home. So doses of Selenium for Mums and injections of vitamins for the cria (they had already been wormed with Cydectin) and they were off. Bye girls!

Our new girls from the auction have settled in their own little group still looks strange having a black one! The written results from the poo samples sent to the laboratory came in the post on Friday. We had been told that no treatment was needed, however, when we saw the results we decided otherwise. The samples had been split into groups and all of our herd had levels of <10 in all tests. Whereas the new girls who were generally clear, had a result of 360 for coccidia (not E. Mac that was <10). Although this is considered acceptable we felt that we did not want to risk introducing cria, who had not been previously exposed to coccidia, to these higher levels. So the three of them have had Vecoxan.

We are moving some of our herd around this afternoon. We are having such problems with our alpacas getting overweight this year (Liz Barlow did quietly mention that Explorer was far from slim!). I think that we may have to put some sheep on some on the land normally set aside for the alpacas to get it eaten down. At present we have 40 alpacas on approximately 4 acres and the rest is empty. The trouble is keeping the alpacas on small plots means lots of poo picking to keep the grazing clean.

I actually had time to enjoy some cria socialising yesterday. Both Snooty Boots and Quintos, our two youngest, are a delight:

Beck Brow Snooty Boots...I wonder who her Daddy is??

Waradene St. Patrick of EPC...proud's the nose I think!

 Quintos is hilarious...he struts about the paddock like he owns the place. He has absolutely no fear of anything and is amazingly friendly (he and Boots are best friends and run to greet you)

Quintos strutting his stuff (Poppet aka Paige Turner in the foreground...yes bit porky too!)

Quintos checking out the carrier bag..."I hear that she's spent all the housekeeping on some more alpacas...had to go to Aldi!)

See ya....

Friday, 9 September 2011

Westmorland County Show...The Alpaca Supreme Champion.

Wednesday was spent setting up for the alpaca show at Westmorland County Agricultural Show. The weather wasn't looking fact the forecast was grim. By 5.30 pm we had made the decision that we were going to have to make a ring inside the marquee. We would then have to get to the show ground very early on the show day and change to the outside ring if a miracle happened and the sun decided to didn't!

Liz Barlow, our judge, did an excellent job, in what turned into a rather muddy show ring but thankfully everyone 'mucked in' and things were pretty slick...we even managed to meet the dead line for the grand parade...phew!

We had a good turn out with 20 breeders entered and the rosettes were well shared out amongst them. We took three alpacas. Paige Turner (aka as Poppet...this caused great amusement when Criag had the inspection stewards looking for Poppet on the list of entries!) was our first out and got first placed junior fawn female. She is very dark fawn (verging on light brown the colour card was brought out again) so we were pleasantly surprised when she very nearly took the fawn championship...Liz was back and forward between the two...but eventually chose the older male, who went on to get reserve champion...very close indeed well done Poppet!

Next up was Fine Romance who was undoubtedly in the most closely contested class of the day...Intermediate White Female...and she got a very commendable third placed rosette.

And was the boy himself...Beck Brow Explorer...Supreme Champion at Northumberland County Show...could he do it again?...of course he could....Beck Brow Explorer....Multiple Supreme Champion!!! Could I love him anymore...I think not...I am just a little proud!

Now I could tell you about all the wonderful things that Liz said about him...well, I could if Paul ever remembered...when asked his reply was "she liked him"...I guessed that... she gave him Supreme!! Seriously, I did manage to get a chat with Liz and Shirley Bettinson (apprentice judge) afterwards and they were very impressed....he really does have amazing coverage and consistency...offically gorgeous Explorer!

Did he 'pouffe'? Only once...he really was on his best behaviour. I think he has now got an association going on...trip out in the van...get something red...then everyone asks to look at your fleece! Although he did stamp in a muddy puddle when standing next to Debbie...resulting in a rather muddy white coat...but brown is better than green Debbie!

Paul with Beck Brow Explorer...Supreme Champion Westmorland County Show

I arrived home very organiser; chief steward; and had taken it's down the pub it was for supper and a celebratory drink...or two! Cheers to all those who helped (with special thanks to fellow bloggers Andy and Bev. Hope the bruise isn't too bad Andy...the scars of the ring steward!) and and those who competed...hopefully everyone enjoyed the day.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Introducing our latest girls...yes more!

I feel this blog should start with an alert: WARNING; reading blogs can seriously damage your bank balance!!!

Explanation: I have been following the Easter-Wood Alpaca Stud blog from some time and have seen how Jeff and Sheila have been introducing some amazing genetics into an already impressive elite herd. With an elite foundation herd made up of some stunning EP Cambridge females, they have capitalised on their assets with the use of some of the very best males available.

I had read last year that Jeff and Sheila had been smart enough to secure the stud services of  Eringa Park Lawbreaker of EPC and Cambridge The Chairman of ACC, before EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud decided to keep these two stunning males for in house use only. So when I saw that Easter Wood Metisha was up for sale, a stunning EP Cambridge Neptune daughter herself, but also that she was being sold pregnant to The Chairman, my interest was piqued!

However I dithered, not because I didn't want her, but because I was going to the Blueberry auction and wanted to see what happened there. Whilst I dithered Metisha gave birth to a fabulous looking female (Easter Wood Adelle)...would Jeff and Sheila still want to sell her?...I know it was a tough decision for them and needed sleeping on...but the sale was confirmed yesterday...and we are very excited!

Metisha and Adelle (new born)... photo stolen from the Easter-Wood blog!

Adelle's genetics read like Australian alpaca royalty:

Joilmont Commisario
NWA Ltd Ruffo
Cambridge Show Stopper
EP Cambridge Peruvian Caesar
Jolimont Encantador
EP Cambridge Neptune

But with a grand dam named Eringa Park Artistry of EPC... I would say that she was bound to be pretty as a picture:

Easter-Wood Adelle (Day 1 I think!)

We have decided to leave the girls for a couple of months. It is a long journey with precious cargo and as there is no rush we thought it would be good to leave Adelle until she is a little older. We are going to leave Metisha open until the Spring....when another decision will have to be made!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Starting young!

Well after having two days off on sick leave, and Paul having had a jolly off at the cricket on Saturday, it was catch up time on Sunday. I was in trouble again, unable to resist I mated Lady Gaga at 17 days last week...and yes she sat again this week...when will I learn...21 DAYS! Parisien spat for the second week so good news for her new owners. St Patrick and that should be a good looking cria!

The new girls are settling in well. They are in isolation at present, and have the barn with the mirrors as their shelter. The mirrors always do the trick tempting them in to look at themselves. It is a bit like the hall of mirrors at the fun fair as some of the mirrors have twisted slightly. I like the one that gives you really long legs! We bought acrylic mirrors, but having passed the tip on to someone else (who has had success getting her alpacas to use a dark shelter with mirrors) I can now recommend mirror on a roll from eBay, stuck on to board it is a fraction of the price. Clever thinking Kathryn! The girls got their dose of trouble at all...they are very sweet (I think Jim has been cuddling!)

The tests have came back from the VLA on Friday. All egg counts are <10. You may recall that the laboratory were getting tested on a new method of screening camelid faeces and had asked for some samples to test. They have adopted a more sensitive method due to 'reports from experienced camelid clinicians of severe disease particularly in young crias at low egg counts and variability of shedding eggs'. So it is worth checking that your lab is not using the <50 count as their standard.

The sashes arrived for Westmorland Show today...phew...that was getting  a bit close. Paul has been doing all the hard work planning how the tent will be set out, and making contingency plans in case of rain (please no). I am more the office girl. I haven't even seen the least I have someone to blame if it all falls apart!

 In amongst this, I am trying to make arrangements for The World Sheep Dog Trials. We are to feature alpacas over the four days, with a display in the ring on the Friday and Sunday (next week). I am coordinating the alpacas, but we don't actually have any boys to take along. Hence I am indebted to Greenside, Little Eskrigg and WhyNot Alpacas for their help. With over 30,000 visitors expected it should be a really good show case for the alpacas, fleece and knitwear.

Yesterday we actually had some sunshine, in amongst all the work I had a little lie out in the cria paddock. I like the way the cria investigate when they think that you are sleeping. I was however in for a bit of a shock...someone sat on my head...knees gripped tight...orgling as loud as St. Patrick...I kid you was Quintos...10 days old...that boy is going to be trouble!

I am afraid it is a bit of a slow news day, but Craig tells me I am slacking with my blogging...not even a photo!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Sat, Sat and Sat!

Yesterday I spent the day reminiscing about our holiday that we spent in India earlier in the year...what prompted this?...was it beautiful sunshine?...wonderful indian food?...lazing by our infinity pool?? food poisining!! Probably a bug to be precise. Thankfully I had no urgent tasks to do, as I didn't manage to drag myself out to feed the alpacas until 10.45, and then it was only the girls who got checked and fed (I could have called in some help but decided...a bit like myself ...that the boys would hardly starve without food for the day).

So back a couple of days to Wednesday when we spat off the new girls. Biba, the black girl was sold as empty, so we had no doubts there. She was mated with St Patrick. The plan is to  mate her with Black Sabbath next year (he is at Anzac Alpacas at present) but decided that we had nothing to loose by trying her with St. Pat this year. Both have some brown in their pedigree so we will see.

We had already decided at the auction that Renata (the top priced female) wasn't pregnant. Someone we know has a rather impressive orgling impersonation, and with a swift move behind her she dropped to the floor...I think it is those sunglasses that does it Lawrence!...anyway we thought that she was open...and she was. This was a bonus as we could put St. Patrick over her this year, and hopefully Explorer will be working by the time she is due next year. She was purchased with Explorer in mind. She has a very similiar fleece style with impressive uniformity. Only a couple of years before we find out what they produce!

The surprise was the third girl...Nicola who had been scanned pregnant and was supposed to be due the beginning of October... I say surprise, but once we got her home we did question the fact that she didn't look at all pregnant...and you guessed...dropped like a brick on the mere sight of St. Patrick. He was equally impressed; I don't think I have seen him be so affectionate whilst mating before. Initially rather disappointing, as a cria had been factored into the purchase...but actually I wasn't looking forward to a late born cria, and then we would have left her open until the spring... when Explorer would not yet have been ready (and we are realising the problems of leaving girls open too long...fat females! So waiting for him would have been difficult. Also this way it is not two novices together!) So  hopefully we get a St. Pat cria before she gets mated with Explorer in the autumn next probably overall for the better.  

It is pouring down yet again today. Paul has shown great concern over my illness, and has left me whilst he has gone to Durham to watch the England v India one day test match...but will it be rained off?!

Some photos from Thursday;

Camilla, who is very gentile and elegant, was not at all impressed to have her dignity tested by a pile of rowdy boys.

Who are quickly brought back in line!

Magellan (front) Alfie in the firing line, Rumour behind her mum (and innocent), and Magum (rear)

Finally little Boots, who never stops posing and is an absolute little charmer...getting top of everyone's favourite list! 

Beck Brow Snooty Boots