Monday, 28 November 2011

Vitamin injections and retail outlets

I have been a poor blogger of late...partly because it is that time of the year when there is a bit of a lull in activity...and partly because I have been out and about.

On Friday Amanda and I combined work and pleasure... by taking stocks of our scarves and throws to some retail outlets in the South Lakes...we also enjoyed a leisurely lunch out whilst we were there (shame not to). Our products have been very well received, which is very exciting but also rather problematic...I have just found out that the spinner that I was planning to use can't now fit us in for another 16 weeks...we will run out of stock before then...drat...I now need a plan B...for at least 200 kilos...suggestions welcome!

On Saturday and Sunday it was Paul's turn for a trip out to the lakes. This time purely pleasure as we joined a weekend party intent on celebrating Paul's sister's 40th birthday. We stayed in a hotel overlooking Lake Ullswater...beautiful scenery...lovely accommodation...and service that would have made Fawlty Towers look 5 star....but it was very amusing...I am sure the food left the kitchen well presented, but by the time it reached the table few 'beef towers' were still standing...the poor waiter (who had earlier tripped up dropping the drinks that he was carrying...breaking glasses and trowing the contents on to guests)...did apologise... as he put down the plate he politely said; "sorry yours is just a total mess"...full marks for honesty.

It has been back to work today. After last year's debate about the benefits of injectable vitamins (AD&E) versus the vitamin paste; we have now moved on to the injections for the whole herd (the decision was aided by the fact that a number of our herd appear to dislike the new eggs-port banana flavoured paste). So everyone has had their injections today (0.5mls cria 1.5mls adults). We were pretty slick but it still does take rather longer than drenching.

The auction females have now been joined by the maidens...many of whom are still too fat...still just Camellibra and Fibergest for them. Biba the black females seems glad of the company...she was rather left out as the 2 white girls stuck closely together. Our herd do tend to stick in colour groups.

Beck Brow Lucie giving the new girl the cold shoulder

Although winter hasn't even really got going, I am already looking forward to somehow makes the idea of winter more bearable. Checking out The British Alpaca Futurity 2012 site I see that the new venue (NEC) has also brought some new visitor attractions including a craft fair. Another welcome change is that of class size; classes will be limited to a maximum of 12 with rosettes and oral reasoning to sixth place. I think this will be much more enjoyable for spectators; as classes will keep moving as well as the addition of more oral reasoning (much better for feedback for breeders too). Now I just need to wait and see if we have a show team to take...with only 11 cria to choose from...I don't think that we will have many surprises. 

It's a shame that their isn't a prize for the smartest alpaca...Magellan who manages to untie any knot that I can tie...was a bit confused by the cycle chain with combination took him a couple of days...but we found it unlocked yesterday morning...Paul is my witness...I kid you not (I did only change one of the numbers though...obviously too easy!).

Monday, 21 November 2011

Buzzing in November!

Even here in Cumbria, we are experiencing unseasonably mild weather for November, which is very welcome. I was looking through our photo archives for some 'alpacas in snow' photos for our Christmas cards for this year; the ones I have chosen are from last November... when we were under six inches of snow and it was minus 15 degrees! It is amazing to see how much hay there was in our cria fleeces then, when compared to this long will it last I wonder...the alpacas are certainly enjoying some fine weather after all our summer rain...the season have been very confusing this year...although the autumn leaves are a favourite addition to the menu:

Willow and Baheti

After a later than planned finish on Friday night...(I had arranged for a pallet of Camelibra and Fibregest to be delivered on the lorry is to big to come down our lane I had arranged this for when Paul was going to be home, hoping that he could spare my back...unfortunately Paul got delayed at work...Plan B came into action and I had the pallet dropped off at a farm up the road...which meant we ended up moving Camelibra about at 7.30 pm)...toe nail trimming was postponed for another day.

Saturday afternoon we had a visit from our friends and fellow breeders Judith and Michael at Cockerham Alpacas. Michael brought his ultra-sound scanner and kindly scanned some of our late bred females. We were especially doubtful about Lucie and Roma (Roma went to the YAG show) but both were scanned pregnant, so we actually have 15 females pregnant to St. Patrick now.

There was lots of alpaca chatter, lots ideas for the future discussed, plenty of red wine consumed...I guess it was Sunday morning before we ran out of steam...and no toe nail trimming got done on Sunday do have to be in the mood for toe nail trimming don't you!

A bit like fleece sorting really...although as I said in my last blog I have the bug. Rosemary asked about grading, and everyone will do thing differently, but I grade according to what I will be paying; less than 22 microns (baby) and less than 27 microns (fine). I actually only use what I consider to be below 26 microns and offer other fleece to hand spinners. I have had a phone call today from a lady who runs a spinning guild in the North East...they are so pleased with the results of their last purchase...that they are returning for more fleece next week.

We have been fortunate enough to purchase fleece from the elite herd at EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud. As you might expect from the experts, not only do we have some fantastic quality fleeces but the fleece is relatively free of debris (although it is a dusty job!) and have been packed and stored to ensure the quality is maintained...this entailed the bags being left open for a couple of weeks after shearing, thus reducing the risk of moisture being trapped into the bags...this has also meant that I have opened  one or two of the bags and a wasp has flown out...what a shock...last thing you know... you are in Wiltshire and it'sMay... and then you're in Cumbria and it's November (believe it or not)!

Last word...Boots has put on another kilo...she is off...she is roller blading now!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Excuse me whilst I sneeze...

I have been reminiscing this week...back to when my brother and I used to get a bath on a Sunday night...every Sunday without fail, ready for school on Monday... (it used to alternate as to who got the water first hand)...we lived on a farm so weekend activities could be a bit mucky...hence post bath time...we had our ears checked...just to make sure that we had done a good job.

Well I would have failed inspection on numerous occasions this week...I have been fleece sorting like a women possessed...I don't think I have had so much dust in so many crevices... hundreds of beautiful whites fleeces have passed through my it just me or do some fleeces feel cool to just know that they are going to produce the loveliest end products. Hence, I am now getting organised to get the fleece to the spinners in Yorkshire in January...there, I now have a target!

Talking of things possessed...Holly lost her head completely yesterday...the alarm call could be heard ringing through the valley...neighbours (and they are not close) were concerned...not only was she putting out some decibels, she was running around like a headless chicken. I ran out of the barn...leaving a trail of dust behind find...a stray cat...not much more than a kitten...unfortunately it ran off before I could make another addition to the family.

Velvet, who is not supposed to be out unattended since the fungi incident, has been in trouble for running away (not with her bags packed or anything...she is not unhappy...she just likes to play in the wood). Yesterday I decided I would let her play in the garden whilst I was skirting fleece in the adjoining barn. I left Tyke, the Minature Yorkie, in charge...he is a bit of a snitch...he always starts yapping when she is doing something naughty...I kept looking out and she was still there...."good girl Velvet"...she likes praise...then the yapping..."where's Velvet?" I ask Tyke...he looks up...on the roof of the house!!!...I kid you not...She had climbed on a garden table, then jumped onto a wall, then on to the roof of a lean to, then on to the house roof ...(well that is how she came down!)... At least she is never boring.

Boots continues to do well despite efforts to knock her down to size:

Finesse keeping Boots out of the picture

And finally, someone who doesn't get his photo featured very often; Beck Brow Magnum. He is a lovely little fawn male who is never far from Young Punk Alfie. He is our only male from this year's cria who will be sold as a pet...  Magellan, Synergy and Quintos will be kept as potential stud males (early days)...maybe I should just keep him as well?...he is no bother Paul! 

Beck Brow Magnum

Monday, 14 November 2011

Nimrod the Dude!

Earlier in the year we decided to separate our nursing females from the maidens (and those who had been left empty). Last year we found that the amount of feed required to maintain good body scores for the nursing, pregnant mums (especially when we had snow this time last year!) meant that the maidens ended up getting rather obese.

Well it has worked... we have managed to slim down some of our rotund girls... with limited pasture, plus ad lib hay, and hard feed of Camelibra and Fibregest...they are looking much improved. Happy that they are scoring somewhere around 3.5/5 (with the exception of Pebbles (4+) I have moved them on to more grass ready for the winter (still no peas and beans...just the nursing mums get additional rations at present).

Parisien, Bahati and Willow enjoying the fresh grass.

Of the females in the photo; only Bahati still belongs to us...Parisien and Willow are both sold and are on livery at Beck Brow...strange how for someone who wanted to breed fawns...I keep selling them and buying whites...I blame Beck Brow Explorer...he has made me diversify!

Talking of Explorer; Jeff did ask why no photo of him on my last blog...well the reason is...despite him being my favourite alpaca (okay I am like Brucie, I have more than one favourite)...I have to admit he doesn't take the most interesting photo...he doesn't do silly things...he doesn't get over excited...he doesn't like to loose his dignity...he just likes to pose... like he does in the show ring:

Beck Brow Explorer

Most of the time he poses and the rest of the time he eats...very interesting?

Although what is interesting about him is the amount of crimp he has on his is more obvious with his second fleece...and really isn't much different to his blanket...his consistency is amazing (I of course am not the least bit bias!)

You may recall that Nimrod was left with a rather 'floppy' hairstyle after went through the Beatles mop top look, then it went through a Hugh Grant stage...

But just as I was thinking that we really need to get the scissors out ...

...he goes for the James Dean look...Nimrod the Dude!

I am still having problems getting Phoebe's skin sorted, she seems to be allergic to everything...I am making it worse I am sure...I am going to see if it will settle down by it's self (she had a course of antibiotics so I am not worried about secondary infection at the moment).

However I have had real success with Hoity's eyes at least. She has had problems since contacting mites last year...the skin remained swollen and caused her numerous problems...everything has been tried (including Ruggles) with limited success. However I have made a cocktail of Mange Mud available from Everyday Solutions    mixed with Filta Bac (just to make it easier to apply around the eye area)...the difference is amazing...the swelling has completely gone...and the skin is looking so much it predicts on website...within days!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Alpaca Group Dynamics

We seem to be spending a lot of time considering our alpaca group dynamics at the moment...we believe that this is key to a happy, healthy the end of the day some alpacas like each other and some...well...lets just say you don't feel the love. Take our two wethers; Nimrod and Julius, for example. It would be cruel to separate them they adore each they are together...with Beck Brow Explorer. We decided to put Explorer in with the wethers in the hope that it would 'bring him on' rather than have him subservient to the stud males...he is also next to open females...we are really hoping he will be ready for work in the spring...exciting!

The stud males have been moved around a couple of times already since mating finished...once was accidental; due an open gate...but that seems to have worked well. As we suspected it is Anzac Almost Illegal who does not know his place, and hence causes the fighting. Anzac Hollywood's Attitude is behaving impeccably in with Legacy of Purston, and our Suri wether; Prince Snowstorm (better known as Snowdrop...yes Paul's pet name since he got castrated...the alpaca not Paul that know what I mean)

Anzac Hollywood's Attitude...a picture of innocence!

Anzac Almost Illegal...absolutely criminal in fact...and no picture of innocence

So, Warandene St Patrick and Almost Illegal (Almo) have been separated again. I had planned to hold my nerve and let them fight it out...St Patrick is obviously in charge but Almo just gets too cheeky every now and again...when blood was drawn I lost my they now have a fence between them...and guess what?...they obviously miss each other!

Waradene St Patrick of EPC....thinks that he is top dog

Unfortunately Anzac Almost a naughty puppy

Sorry!...missing you x

Another move has been Phoebe (who belongs to Robyn and Craig). She has been moved in with 'Jim's girls' (yes we still call the auction girls Jim's). Phoebe is a bit of a stress head and is very underweight (in addition to still having skin problems despite trying everything known). The idea was that we could control her feeding better in a small group. She is unfortunately usually an 'unpopular alpaca', which ever group that she is put in. However Biba does seem to be rather taken with her (I think the 2 white girls had previously been in the same paddock and were already bonded leaving her as a bit of a Gooseberry).

The other group dynamic we have been analysing is Metisha and Adelle. We put a lot of consideration into where to put the latest arrivals and decided that they definitely needed to go into the Mum and cria group. And as we didn't want to split this formed group, she went in with 12 females with cria at foot.

However Metisha obviously does find our herd behaviour a bit strange...coming into the barn all the time...staying in after breakfast for an hour or so (some even fall asleep...she was glaring at Galaxy this morning asleep with me just wandering around her)...and then Lady Gaga (whom she originally liked) always looking to eat out of hands (she is allowed extra rations)...what is going on. Hence, she does come in for food but likes to go straight out...which has meant that she has upset the equilibrium a little...but they are starting to settle down again. We are trying to keep handling to a minimum until we gain her trust.

All alpacas are so different. We have introduced 29 alpacas (mainly 1 or 2 at a time) into our herd in under 3 years (3 of those are now owned by Robyn and Craig) so we have had a bit of experience!. I was wondering if being a first time Mum was making things a little tense for Metisha, but looking back Katkin, Phoebe, and Baheti were also new mums. Maybe it's just our northern ways...anyway she is getting used to us all.

I was looking through our herd details for similarities, when it occurred to me that we have a really young herd at Beck Brow. We have 42 alpacas registered and only 7 of those have a date of birth before 2007...Legacy (14) must be in his element... Hugh Hefner move over!...however Metisha is in with a mixed age group and is in with Holly who is a very calm and kind matriarch.

I have had to stay home today...I had planned to help at The Scottish Fleece Show...but Paul was getting a hire car delivered (work related) and I needed to be in to sign for it...I rang him to tell him that it had arrived;

What is it? he enquires 

A BMW I report back

Yes but what is it?

Blue I tell him...

Well...four wheels don't interest me...four legs do...what I did notice is; it isn't 4-wheel drive...and it is hired until the end of February...lets hope we don't get any snow...or the air will be blue...I suspect that he won't get very far from home in bad weather!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Appointment filled! last...Beck Brow Snooty Boots has put on some weight...over 2 kgs no less! I have been managing to sneak her extra Camelibra (it has to be sneaky as too much attention puts her off). She gets an extra handful in a bowl which she likes to...well not sure if she likes to...but she shares with Velvet (the dog)...if Velvet's glossy coat is anything to go by...Camelibra must be good for her fleece.!

She is still small, although I don't think that she has noticed and she definitely isn't little in attitude. Here she is looking like something from a 70's cop drama...always chewing a bit of dry grass:

Beck Brow Snooty Boots

However, Young Punk Annabelle thinks that Boots is far too small to be looking for a job with the fact she thinks that she looks more in need of a couple of minders:

Boots gets measured up for size by Young Punk Annabelle

So it was decided; minders required...Beck Brow Finesse and Young Punk Alfie volunteered for the job of minding the rear.... whilst Annabelle took the lead...

Young Punk Alfie (back right) looks the part

As always the Beck Brow herd like to stick together and are all for team fact there seemed to be a bit of competition for the vacancy at Snooty Boots Security...everyone was quick to surround the little star when a couple of raggamuffins came by...

Team work from The Snooty Boots Security Team

Katkin and team take the top watch

Beck Brow Magallen is the chief minder and came to check out the potential appointments...

Beck Brow Magellan

...prompting Adelle to give it her all...unfortunately she is too junior for the role at present...

Easter-Wood Adelle

Magellan wanted to see the team during fitness training...where Annabelle and Alfie were in the top two (those Young Punks are fit)...but has Alfie got the right attitude? (sire Hollywood's Attitude!)

Fitness training

In the end Beck Brow Finesse and Young Punk Annabelle were they are on the left of the photo doing a sterling job

From left; Finesse, Boots and Annabelle with the boys left feeling rejected.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A loo with a view...

After a damp and foggy weekend, we woke up to a beautiful crisp morning today. We did have some light frost overnight, but nothing that that required the gloves to be hunted out (remember we are hard up north!). St Patrick looked very seasonal I though, with the autumn leaves behind him (even if he is a little damp from the frost)

Waradene St. Patrick of girls Patrick...he is always on the look out

The damp foggy weather did rather spoil the fleece rummage on Saturday, but we did have expert rummagers, so they managed to see through the bedraggled look. We had been looking forward to a visit from Jenny and Graham from Fowberry Alpacas in Yorkshire, unfortunately my normally immaculate alpacas were not presented so!

It was non-stop alpaca, with out any apologies for never straying from said topic...just as it should be! We were interested to see what Jenny and Graham though of our EPC Top Account of Fowberry progeny, and were pleased with their assessment. It's all about waiting to see how the cria grow out now...patience... a prerequisite to alpaca breeding!

One such cria is Beck Brow Quintos. He is packed to the brim with elite genetics but has a rather unusual fleece. It is dense, it is consistent, it is the brightest white...and it has the character of a Suri!...very unusual, slightly waxy feel but with the most amazing lustre...just not the crimp style you would expect. My guess is that he will be something special...I do hope so...because he already rates himself highly...just look at him at the poo pile:

Beck Brow Quintos

The cria appeared to have a mass urge to frequent the poo pile at the same time certainly is a loo with a view:

The cria choose a loo with a view

They did all seem to be enjoying the sunshine on their backs after the damp weekend. Here is Bonita looking very chilled out (with Sophie her cria who is nearly the same size)

Bozedown Bonita

Due to a lot of socialising over the weekend I hadn't spent as much time playing (I mean working) with the cria as I usually do, so it was lovely to be greeted with lots of snuggles looks like Boots has forgiven me for the bottle episode!

I have just been proofing the new e commerce website for our Beck Brow Alpaca Wear far so good...I am sure it was my plan to have something ready for last Xmas...will I make it for this one?...if not definitely the next one...I REALLY must do some more fleece sorting or I won't have any stock that's the problem.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Little Boots and Large Wellies...

Little Boots (Beck Brow Snooty Boots) will be three months old next week...she weighs 16kgs...she has weighed 16kgs for 3 weeks in a row now...I wish that she would put on some weight.

Whilst poo-picking today I was keeping a close eye on her. She spends a lot of time muching grass (as seen in the photo) and she plays with the other cria (in fact is one of the more mischevious). However I didn't see her feed from her mum (so not overly hungry as not feeding too frequently?). Lady Gaga (mum) does have some milk but not lots (she is on supplementery rations). Boots really tucks into the hard feed (Camelibra) and fights her corner for her share. She has never been bottle fed and fell out with me for sometime when I  tried to give her some goats milk this way. She has perfect little coffee bean poo (slightly green in colour from the grass rather than milky) and it is parasite free on testing. She has had regular vitamin and mineral supplements. I really can't think of anything else...maybe I should stop weighing she appears perfectly fine!

Whilst I was watching Boots the other cria took the opportunity to check out the quad and poo picker...I can't believe how big some of them are now.

I am afraid the photography isn't great today. I give the following as my excuses;

  • wet alpacas
  • poor light
  • lack of time
  • no Velvet

Okay blaming ones tools is poor show. But I do like some photos to cheer up the blog, so here are some soggy looking cria:

Beck Brow Rumour Has It (the double of her mum Cambridge Camilla ... dam of  Explorer)

Beck Brow Synergy her half brother (starting to look very macho)

Beck Brow Finesse (looking a bit macho too!...sire Legacy of Purston)

 And finally the view from the girl's paddock.  Unfortunately the photo does not do it justice as the colours are beautiful at this time of the year. 

Talking of seasons I have decided as it is the 1st of November it is time for the 'winter wellies' to come out of storage...these are the padded Aigle ones...a bit early...and yes my feet were rather warm today. The reason for the early change over? summer wellies...are 2 sizes too big. Green Hunters size 5 were requested (no need to try them on I have been buying them for years). It was only after I had worn them and walked through the usual poo etc (they did feel a bit loose) that I double checked...I had been sold a size 7 (think this may be US 5?). Well as they cost 50% of my summer clothing allowance I have had to endure them all summer...with thick socks...very annoying!