Sunday, 28 February 2010

Lady Gaga comes to Cumbria

We arrived home from the British Alpaca Futurity this afternoon very tired but well impressed. The organisers of the event are to be congratulated on what we thought was an extremely well ran couple of days. The lectures that we attended regarding birthing and pregnancy loss were all very informative and represented excellent value for money. The biosecurity measures that were in place worked well and created a much more open feel in the exhibition hall. The fleece show, new for 2010, I thought was a great addition to the event. Getting the chance to examine EP Cambridge Navigator's fleece up close was definitely a bonus.
We are also very excited to announce that Beck Brow Alpacas of Cumbria were the successful bidders for EP Cambridge Lady Gaga at the Futurity silent auction. The auction closed at 21.30 hours during the evening celebration dinner, so we were kept in suspense to the very last minute. We did have some serious competition for her, which resulted in her fetching a higher price then we originally anticipated but she represents exactly what we are trying to achieve in our fawn herd and will join the elite team. Lady Gaga has been mated to Eringa Park The Commandante creating some very exciting prospects for a top quality fawn cria. Lets just keep our fingers crossed though, no tempting fate!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Predator Alert

A dashing around day today, getting ready to leave for the Futurity tonight. Paul is still in Scotland so it will be a quick turn around for him. Robyn checked out Willow's foot today, had a sniff and decided it was definitely a fungal problem...being a community nurse has it's advantages! We have commenced with an anti-fungal spray and will keep monitoring. If there isn't any improvement by Monday I think that we will take a swab for culture and sensitivity. It isn't causing her any lameness, nor is it getting any worse, but we do need to get it cleared up.

I decided to move some of the ponies into a new field this morning. The shortest route (I was in a hurry) took me through the paddock belonging to the young males. I did wonder how I would manage the gates and hold on to a pony if the alpacas decided to run for it. I needn't have worried. The boys went in to prey mode and watched from a huddle in the corner. I'm not sure if there is a recorded incident of a Shetland pony eating an alpaca...a case of better to be safe than sorry I guess!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A New Fawn Girl?

This weekend has been one of pregnancy related ups and downs. Just as we were allowing ourselves to believe that Camilla is actually pregnant, we found out that a female that we were about to take delivery of, has scanned empty. We have been looking to purchase an additional fawn girl for sometime now and have had a number of potential purchases not materialise due to failed pregnancies. We now have to decide if we want to go ahead with the purchase anyway (she is only a maiden) and re-mate her in the late spring. This needs some consideration as elite fawn girls don't seem to come up for sale too often.

Still on the pregnancy subject. I have been tidying out the birthing box ready for this year's births. We have organised our supplies of plasma, colostrum and Jump Start (from Eggs-Port at Hexham), the heat lamp is in good working order and we have a good stock of equipment for most eventualities. I have also ordered some more cria coats from Homestead Farm Supplies (as modelled by Pepsi Lola). I have found this design to be by far the best, providing warmth around the tummy area as well as the back. Of equal importance, so far nobody has actually managed to remove one despite some admirable efforts, especially by other cria.

Paul and I are looking forward to attending Claire Whitehead's birthing seminar and workshop at the British Alpaca Futurity this weekend. Hopefully I will feel more comfortable about donning the elbow length gloves afterwards (although lets not wish for that one!). There are so many interesting seminars this year it is going to be difficult to fit in watching the halter classes, though, as a fellow fan of coloureds, I will be making an effort to catch Mark (Patou) in the ring. Luckily the relief team are still up to speed and ready to move in whilst we are away.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Sit or Spit?

It has been a beautiful sunny day here at Beck Brow, which always adds to the feelgood factor. However, I think the bright mood may have more to do with the fact that Camilla spat off very convincingly, suggesting that she is pregnant after all. Thankfully, It looks like Rob was right and the vet wrong. I also owe Camilla an apology as she was very well behaved. Spitting off using Legacy is always stress free, he is such a wise old man, he knows when there is no chance and just takes it on the chin! We have had a very busy day today moving everyone into new paddocks. Hollywood's Attitude, who was two last month, has been put next to the girls, hopefully this will get him in the mood to start working in the summer

Hollywood looking out for the girls

Friday, 19 February 2010

Tyke's Big Day Out!

I had to put my 'nasty hat' on again today and wean little Willow. Not only will she miss her mum, I suspect that she will also miss her good friend Minnie. It had to be done. Her mum, Blanche is an excellent mother but was looking like she needed a break.

On close inspection, I noticed that Willow had a sore between her toes. She wasn't lame so it wasn't very easy to spot. I have managed to get it nice and clean using sterile water pushed through a syringe (irrigation in nursing terms!) and have given it a good spray with Chlorhexadine. I will keep a good eye on it to see how it goes.

We are going to spit Camilla off tomorrow so fingers crossed. I decided that I need Paul at home to assist, whilst Legacy is very easy to handle, Camilla is not! Ben (son) is home from university for a few days and does lend a hand if needed, although, you do have to question his love of the countryside sometimes. Today he decided to take the dog for a walk (Tyke is a tiny miniature terrier, he has lots of attitude, but very short legs!). After walking the 30 minutes to the village, Tyke: has enjoyed a pub lunch in the Dukes Head with friends; then caught the train to Carlisle; stopped for an alfresco Costa's coffee; done a bit of window shopping in the city; then caught the train home some four hours later. Only Ben would leave the beautifully scenic Eden Valley on a dog walk! I guess that you really have to know Ben and Tyke to appreciate just how funny this was.

" Let me go to sleep" Tyke worn out after a trip to the city.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Pregnancy Scanning

For some reason that I can't quite recall. I arranged for the vet to come and do some pregnancy scanning today.......on my birthday! (just getting too old to bother). It is always a day that can go either way and unfortunately it was a rather disappointing result. Cambridge Camilla who was mated to E P Cambridge Navigator (now owned by Houghton Hall Alpacas) scanned empty. Her last mating date was May 2009 so we had hoped that she would have produced our first cria of the year. It is always more difficult with females who are new to the herd as I have no base line for 'normal behaviour'. However, if she is this temperamental when empty, then we are going to be in for trouble when we have hormones to cope with as well (just to confirm the fact that she has attitude, she refused to pose for the camera, hence the poor quality). I think I need to spit her off again just to convince myself, but I think that it is probably wishful thinking. Minnie was also empty but that was no surprise and we are happy to be able to start her on a early spring cycle, rather than the autumn one she would have been on. Legacy of Purston (13 years ) had all his pregnancies confirmed. His outside matings have also been successful. Typically, it's just the girls who have a long return journey for re-mating who have not carried their pregnancies. On a positive note we do have 10 females confirmed. Exciting times ahead!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Nimrod Earns His Keep

Nimrod, a lovely mid fawn male with beautiful eyes (and no crimp) managed to avoid the sales list last year despite some serious interest. I managed to justify this to myself by the following means: 1. He played a crucial part in the field dynamics! 2. He could be a blood donor for our plasma bank. Well the time has come for him to earn his keep. The vet has been booked, health checks have been made and vaccinations are up to date. Nimrod and 3 friends will be donating tomorrow. The nearest centrifuge is in Manchester so it will mean a 2 hour journey with the blood bags on ice. Last year I was unfortunate enough to be the innocent party in a traffic accident. I had to do a dramatic " details please. Sorry must dash, I have a boot full of blood!" performance. Lets hope for an uneventful trip this time. Although I hope that it is a wasted journey in the sense that we won't be needing to use any plasma, it is good to know that we will have supplies from our own herd (with the antibodies acquired on our farm) on site just in case.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Trying to be creative

Fleece decisions were definitely on the top of the action list. In a moment of madness I had bought 35kgs of fine white fleece last year. This was before I realised that: 1. I don't do sorting 2. I have no artistic or creative skills what so ever! I had sent some raw white fleece up to the Highlands to be dyed using a natural process. This arrived back this week so decisions had to be made.

I have decided on a deep shade of heather which I am blending with white to give a very individual finish. I actually had the carders out working on the exact blend before sending it off to the mill. I am not sure how cost effective this will be. I guess it all depends on the net weight of the finished product. I still haven't decided whether or not to sell my raw fleece next year or to only process my own herd. Which ever, it is good to know that there are plenty of buyers out there and a number of options are available. The BAS national fibre committee are putting together some really useful information that should help new and established owners through all the stages, from getting the fleece off the alpaca to having the finished article on the shelf.

I only have one fleece left now and that belongs to Anzac Almost Illegal (Almo). His fawn cria fleece (in photo) shorn at 6.5 months is too full of debris to be used, but it remains as a reminder of why we have taken a gamble on him.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What on earth....mite this work?

I know the M word causes even more discussions than the weather, but it's back to talking about mites. We have been fairly fortunate not to have had any excessive reactions to mites within the herd, however the tell tale evidence of hair loss and dry skin around the feet of one or two of the herd, means that they are there alright. We have tried all the usual systemic and topical treatments in the past. Most work to a varying extent but they are both time consuming and expensive. Not to be beaten I have decided to give Diatomaceous Earth (DE) a trial. DE is an organic product consisting of fossilized remains of diatoms. The mites are killed by ingesting the fine powder. Now getting it on to the alpacas is very entertaining......sprinkle on the floor and watch the queue to roll in it! I have been putting it in the barns and shelters for a couple of weeks now and it does appear to be working (it is important to reapply regularly to catch the hatching eggs). I still use Ruggles on any bald areas to encourage regrowth. Unfortunately I haven't taken a very scientific approach i.e kept a control group etc, so my evidence is low grade but I'm going to continue using it for now. As you can see from the photo of Pebbles you wouldn't want to use on your show team!

I have had visitors today and lunch out again (as Paul would say "it's a good life for some") Claire is keen to join the relief team and came for some training. She is a natural and always gets a warm welcome. The girls (the alpacas ones) even managed to demonstrate some good manners for Claire at feeding time

Claire (fair hair) and Chris with Minnie and Willow.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Black Monday

Amanda and I have had a lovely day today visiting our friend Kathryn at Nero Black Alpacas. After coffee we headed off to Corbridge for some serious alpaca chatter over a very nice lunch at The Angel. Amanda shares Kathryn's passion for all things black (including cats, dogs and vehicles in Kathryn's case). Personally I have fawns down as my favourites and browns a close second. However, we have just bought a share in a black boy (Anzac Viracocha Black Sabbath) so we should be seeing some black in the herd soon. After lunch we had a good look at some of the Nero Black herd. I spotted a fantastic little dark brown female cria (Galaxy). Surely she had no place in a black herd? Unfortunately Kathryn had seen the fleece quality and was not persuaded by any of my tactics to tempt her to sell! Kathryn is inspirational in what she is doing with her alpaca clothing range.......making me feel a little guilty for my lack of progress in that's on tomorrow's action list!

I have just set the Sky Plus to record Monty Don 20.00hrs Thursday on Channel 4. This weeks challenge is to help some new alpaca breeders with their business...should be interesting.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Just in Time

It has been a busy weekend here trying to catch up on all the jobs delayed by the weather. Paul managed to get the roof on the latest field shelter, a project started a couple of months ago. We were lucky enough to receive a 50% grant against the cost of the materials for the shelter from the North West Development Agency, however the dead line for completion is upon us......just in time! We also received a 50% grant against some penning and the creation of the website through the 'European Agricultural Fund for Rural development'. I guess it's always worth checking what is available locally through Business Link. It is a lot of paperwork (both the application and the process....hopefully I have it all correct) but worth the effort. I went out to get a photo of Paul hard at work but Minnie and Willow got in the way! I think that you can just see his head poking through the roof. Willow was born mid August and is due to be weaned anytime soon, as you can see she is as big as Minnie.
Jobs all done ....... it's Sunday evening......some pasta and a glass of red I think!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Time For Reflection

I had a night out with the girls last night...20 intensive care nurses in was never going to be a quite one! It did however prompt some reflection this morning. It is a year ago this month since I took the decision to leave my job, as a Lead Sister in critical care, in order to pursue the alpaca dream full time. My concerns at the time were: How would we manage without my salary? Would I become isolated (as so many of my good friends were also colleagues) and would breeding alpacas actually generate any income?
Well, one year on I can say without any doubt that we have no regrets. Okay last year's winter wardrobe is still in use and possibly will be again next year, but the lifestyle we now lead more than makes up for such things. Fortunately, my good friends are still such (alpacas do make you popular!) and I have been lucky enough to have made many new friends through the alpaca community. It is too early to answer the last concern...... time will tell!
I am sure that there will be some lows as well as the highs along the way but I am so glad that I had the courage to follow my heart. Just in case you think that I am living in a little dream world, I have been doing accounts this morning and spent hours cleaning up poo yesterday and I still love it!

Photo of Holly who was one of our foundation girls.........also looking somewhat reflective!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

It's all about poo!

Robyn came to visit this morning and got roped in to help with some poo picking. I though she was due a pic. on the blog after all her efforts on the relief team. Here she is looking very coordinated, if a little equestrian in style!

The clean up took hours to complete today. I think it was actually easier cleaning the barns out during the bad weather. We are now back to whole paddock cleaning!

Talking of poo...... well fecal testing to be precise......Paul has taken a serious interest in such matters. It has generally been agreed in our house that when it comes to alpacas I am the more knowledgable (farmers daughter, horse owner and swot!). However, Paul purchased a microscope (with a digital camera etc) last year and has become our resident expert on egg counts (with help from Brian from Bonnie Alpacas). This has led to a debate on whether to treat the alpacas routinely for liver fluke etc or based upon results (we do randomly send samples to the VLA to confirm our findings). After much consideration (as we tested negative for fluke eggs) I decided to drench the herd with Tricobandazole. My decision was based on the fact that we have had a very wet time in Cumbria and knowledge of how devastating liver fluke can be if missed. Paul was over ruled on this occasion but I do appreciate his interest and he may be right of course (he doesn't read this blog!).

We have just got back from helping Amanda and Graham with some husbandry tasks, toe nail trimming etc. All of their herd appeared in tip top condition (they do get 5 star treatment) it was great to get my hands on them and I returned with a bag of homemade ginger biscuits as well.

Early blog as I am having a girls night out tonight to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday. It will be good to catch up on some chat......I do try not to talk alpaca non stop!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

No more the mummy's boy!

Felix, Fidel and Jenson are coping very well going solo. We left the 3 boys in their paddock and moved the mums to a new field. This seems to have worked well as the youngsters are familiar with their surroundings and are next to other young boys. The mums are also very happy as they have moved on to fresh grass. One sweet moment was when I heard Felix cry over the lane to the girls, not at his mum, but at his sister Minnie. I love the way alpacas keep their family groups. Pebbles and Pepsi (sisters) also have a very strong bond. I did go out with the camera to capture the 3 boys but they weren't being very cooperative regarding a group photo. Jenson was the only one who appeared to understand the 'say cheese' bit.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Farewell Sri Lanka

Despite leaving the Sri Lankan sunshine (33 degrees) to return to the cold Cumbrian weather (minus 3 degrees!). It is good to be home. I received a very touching welcome back from the herd....a tear to the eye moment. I did once read that alpacas "learn to tolerate human contact" . Ours obviously haven't read the book if judging by the bidding for attention is anything to go by (and not a feed bucket in sight!)
The team (Robyn, Craig, Amanda, Mum & Dad) have done a fantastic job. Not only were all the animals looking extremely well and the paddocks poo free, the house was actually cleaner than when I left! We arrived home seriously jet lagged after a eleven and a half hour flight on a plane filled with coughing and sneezing passengers. It did cross my mind to ask, "would any owner subject their alpacas to such conditions" (a rhetorical question I think). Whilst Paul was reading James Patterson to fill in the time, I had managed to sneak Alpaca World, which had just arrived as we were leaving, in to my ruck sack. Well we were on our way home!
It was back to work straight away on Sunday, weaning 3 of the boys. Felix, Fidel and Jenson were due to be weaned late December but due to the bad weather we gave them an extra month. I did feel a bit mean, but nobody seems to be complaining too much. In fact I think the mums are actually relieved. We also did some trimming around the eyes of a couple of the boys. Almost Illegal, aka Almo (pictured) just stood enjoying the attention. He has such long eyelashes I was having trouble avoiding them. He now looks very cute again and in addition he has the bonus of being able to see when Hollywood is on the prowl for trouble!
It was good to get away and I have returned full of enthusiasm for all the tasks on the ever increasing list. According to Robyn, Hoity Toity has been acting like a 'normal alpaca' whilst I have been away. Eating out of the trough like everyone else. I was obviously being taken for a soft touch, but I knew that already!
Thanks again relief team. Glad you enjoyed.