Saturday, 31 July 2010

Chicken and Nutmeg!

Lots of spit offs for Hollywood this morning. Mostly for pregnancy confirmation (with the exception of Hoity Toity and Nancy who were having ovulation spit offs). The poor boy had nine rejections; good news for us, not so much so for him. I heard Paul mutter "hard luck mate" as he led him back to his own paddock. However, Hollywood didn't seem to be overly bothered; I think after trying it on with nine moody females he had had enough!

I forgot to mention that Silverstream Hoity Toity (HT) sat to be mated last weekend. HT is the Czar maiden who lost her pregnancy at 5 months gestation in January. She was due to go back to Anzac Alpacas to be mated with Shalimar, but we decided to put the mating on hold and review things next year. One of the reasons for the decision was that we felt that a 9.5 hour round trip for a drive-by mating with a rather high maintenance girl, would not have given us the best chance of a successful pregnancy. It looks like we probably made the right decision, as she is obviously not going to be the easiest to keep pregnant. She has now been mated with Hollywood. I don't know if anyone has had much experience of drive-by matings involving this kind of distance?

Nutmeg weighed in at 8.5kgs this morning. That is a 1.8kg gain in 8 days. She is such a poppet and very confident. She seemed to like my chicken impersonation anyway:

About to lay an egg?

Nutmeg...not a very tasty looking piece of grass!

Parisien and Finnian have become new best friends. From the photo it is hard to tell, but Parisien usually holds her own very well during the play fights.

It does seem that Finnian's confidence is rubbing off on Parisien, as she is now getting braver and is venturing well away from Katkin. Finnian brought her over to check out my latest pair of new boots this morning:

"A bargain Fin...I got them in the half price sale!"

Thursday, 29 July 2010

When the days and the nights blur into one...

Not having worked night shifts for a few years until very recently, I had forgotten about that euphoric feeling that you get when you have managed to survive 2 or 3 in a row; the excitement aided by sleep deprivation makes you forget that you actually agreed to put yourself through the torture in the first place!

Anyway the reason I mention it is; imagine that feeling and then coming home to be greeted by a cuddle of lovely cria....magic! Guaranteed to always give a warm reception are: Finnian, Noah and Roma (pictured) and Tabitha. Least likely to greet you: Lucie. Never going to greet you: Explorer! Thanks to Blanche's early delivery, we don't have any more cria due for some time now, so I have been able to catch some sleep today.

I have also been catching up on some paperwork this afternoon; completing the BAS movement book (births), filing registration papers (I have been very good this year and registered the cria straight away as requested by BAS) and updating the photo gallery on the website. There are still plenty of inside jobs to do but the weather is far too nice. So it was back to the paddock:

Finnian & out Fin!

Nutmeg ...I'm the leader of the gang I am!

The other good thing about finishing nights is that I can enjoy a glass of wine tonight and know that I deserve it...back to poo picking, injections and toe nail trimming tomorrow...sometimes the nights and the days blur into one!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Beauty and the Beast!

Having just popped out for a cria fix before I head off for a night shift (yes, still covering for sickness); I thought that I would share a photo of Nutmeg with Explorer. She has just started to get adventurous and is going for it big style; although she probably doesn't realise the dangers of going too close to Explorer uninvited. He has been spitting at all the other cria this evening but did decide to give Nutmeg a break!

Still no haymaking here it has been drizzling on and off all day. By the weather forecast it is looking more likely to be next week now before we start. The photo of Tabitha (who loves the camera) shows the very moody sky behind...bit like the very moody Explorer behind Nutmeg I think!


Monday, 26 July 2010

Injections and calculations

Plenty of Sunday jobs on the list as always:

Nancy the young maiden who didn't have the easiest birth, and appeared rather shocked to have produced a cria, is now 3.5 weeks postpartum. We decided that we would give her a little time before remating as she wasn't looking particularly keen when the other girls were with the boys. Most of our girls sit eagerly (ready to be mated) very soon after birthing, but we do make them wait for at least 2 weeks. As a general rule we remate them at 3 weeks (or even 4 weeks post birthing depending on the circumstances of the birth). Nancy did sit for Hollywood, but it was after much consideration. She obviously wasn't sure that she wanted to go through that again. Hopefully it will be easier next time Nancy!

We also had eight spit-offs to do. Nobody sat to be mated so fingers crossed for pregnancies. Camilla and Galaxy would both appear to have ovulated and will be spat off again next weekend. As we now have most of our girls due June and early July next year, it would be great if they could keep our dates tight.

Bev and Andy came to visit us from Yorkshire on Sunday. After a pub lunch it was down to some work...well after a bit of cria inspection! The boys and the maiden girls were all due their annual Lamivac, so it was an ideal opportunity for Bev and Andy to give some injections under supervision, in readiness for when they get their boys. Both are very calm and confident around the alpacas and had no problems with the handling or injecting at all. Top marks!

All the older cria got an oral vitamin and mineral boast which gave us all an excuse to handle them again! I had hoped that they would put on the cria early evening performace for Bev and Andy, but it wasn't to be (Amanda had had a early showing on Friday). However, I did go back out at 8pm to catch the late show!

Andy with the magic makes Galaxy appear out of thin air!

Finnian was dying to get up to mischief but nobody was up to playing with him. When I went out later he was having to settle for chewing Holly's ear; he had already tried Nutmeg's ears without the desired response!

Finnian...only a mother would put up with  it!

Debbie's comment about our average gestation times for our girls this year, prompted me to get out the calculator last night (I obviously need to check my additions as Blanche was only 323 days not 329!). With Camilla's 385-day marathon included our average for the year so far is 343 days. Without Camilla our average stands at 337. So after a slow start nobody else has kept us waiting long. I also had a check on our average birth weight for the year. Little Nutmeg at 6.7kgs is by far our lightest of the year and has brought our average to 8.25kg. So some pretty healthy weights so far. It is only when you see Nutmeg that you realise how quickly they grow:

Front to back: Parisien, Lucie and Tabitha


Saturday, 24 July 2010

A little added spice...

I had a lovely surprise yesterday morning when Blanche produced a gorgeous little girl at 329-days gestation. She was quite a bit lighter than our average birth weight, at 6.7kgs, and was a little slow to get going. However some bottle fed cow's colostrum soon did the trick and she is now feeding well from mum.

As soon as I saw her on the ground, I immediately thought of Jayne (Zanzibar Alpacas), who likes her alpacas to be "Fine and Fancy" and this little one sure is. As Jayne is missing out on any cria of her own this year, I thought that I should give Blanche's girl a name with a Zanzibar connection.

It took a little thinking about, but we have visited the island of Zanzibar on a couple of occasions during our travels, and each time I have brought back some locally grown nutmeg. A bit of a tenuous connection possibly; but Beck Brow Nutmeg she is. Here she is pictured with mum Blanche (who is also technically a fancy as she has dark fawn across both shoulders) and Roma (4 weeks).

We had some rather smartly dressed alpaca visitors this morning. Craig's brother, who is in the RAF, got married today. On the way to the ceremony they decided to call in to see the alpacas and get a few photos. I do hope those gloves were still white; I was a little concerned that the bride knew nothing about the visit!

Stuart, Craig, Jamie and some very nosey alpacas!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Seduction techniques?

Well, I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who thinks that a second-hand tractor is more exciting than a holiday in the Maldives. Unfortunately I think that I might be in for a long wait on the Massey Ferguson front; Last night I heard Paul booking us in with a local farmer for some more grass topping (this was one of my main persuading points...independence of topping!). My challenge now is to have a tractor by next spring (I have a plan!).

I know that you really shouldn't listen in on the telephone conversations of others, but as Paul started to talk alpaca with the 'topping farmer' I couldn't help it. They were obviously talking about Camilla as the conversation at Paul's end went something like this:

 "Yes, she went 385 days in the end"..."no I don't think that you can seduce them...did you mean induce?"...much laughter from both ends of the line!

The mind boggles. Hopefully the thought of being seduced might make Camilla birth on time next year. Maybe a hot curry could be a first option?

I have removed Noah's truss today. I will keep an eye on things but everything looks fine. His umbilical cord has taken ages to drop off but it is just about off now. His regained freedom had him in fighting form this afternoon:

Finnian getting the first move in

Noah gaining ground

Only you really!

The Beck Brow 2010 gang so far...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Is Kenzie heading for an ASBO?...always watch the quiet ones...

I should have known better; isn't it always the quiet ones that catch you out? There was I thinking that Explorer was the naughty one, when Kenzie goes and gets himself a criminal record....for stealing no less!

Yes, I'm afraid so. Paul and I were both witnesses to the act. It was so funny as we both looked away then both took a double take at the same time. There was Galaxy in the barn, with 2 little bottoms, both with tails up in the air, one each side, obviously at the milk supply. Before we had had time to take it in, Kenzie had emerged from beneath, with milky chops and licking his lips. All well and good you might think; but he is Honaria's cria!

We checked Honaria; plenty of milk. We checked Kenzie: gaining plenty of weight. He obviously just fancied a little taste of what Roma is getting! I have watched again today and he is nursing from his mum and not going near Galaxy. Galaxy spent a couple of days in a little dream post her mating. A bit loved up I think; it seems to be wearing it does!

Kenzie with Honaria today.

Kenzie is definitely coming into his own and is gaining confidence daily. He is now giving Explorer a good run for his money in the 'lets be a nusiance' stakes:

Kenzie giving Explorer a taste of his own medicine! sweet and innocent!!

Changing subject slightly; With a big birthday coming up soon, Paul has been enquiring as to how I would like to celebrate. Now in a previous life this would have been much easier. After all when you both work long hours, expensive meals and luxury travel seems like a just reward. Now I can't help but view the options from quite a different perspective:

  1. Weekend at Le Manoir with Raymond Blanc as chef?  I'm thinking 4 top quality alpaca stud services!

  2. Week travelling around Kerala in Southern India? I'm thinking second-hand tractor with loader!

  3. Ten days of luxury relaxing in the Maldives? I'm thinking next years British Alpaca Futurity Elite Auction bid!
The problem is that I don't think that the options in italics are on the list. I think Paul is just fancying a holiday really.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Explorer gets a master class...and puts the theory into practice!

Our weekends have been so busy of late, so much so that I never seem to have the energy to write a Sunday evening blog; So here we are again with a Monday morning report.

I have just realised that I forgot to buy any bread yesterday; so I have had to have left over cherry cheesecake for breakfast! If you notice things getting a little silly as I go along it will be the sugar rush kicking in (at least I've had a portion of fruit with my calories).

We have had a lovely weekend, largely due to our good fortune to own alpacas. When we bought our first girls we anticipated that they would bring us much pleasure. Their inquisitive nature, their calm, and eventual trust, makes them a delight to be around. However, one of the additional bonuses to ownership that we hadn't considered, is that we have met and become friends with some fantastic people along the way. We have had a couple of AA meetings (Alpaca Addicts) this weekend, just to keep the levels topped up. There can never be too much alpaca chatter!

We enjoyed catching up with Michael and Judith from Cockerham Alpacas on Saturday. Michael has made some very good breeding decisions and is continually improving his core herd, so I always appreciate his opinion. I was keen for him to check out Explorer. I think he passed the test (Explorer not Michael that is...although Explorer didn't give any feedback!). I realised that I probably enjoyed one glass of wine more than I ought to have, when we were up early on Sunday morning.

Camilla and Galaxy had a date with Top Account at Fowberry Alpacas on Sunday. Galaxy got the before lunch activity and Camilla the p.m. date. Explorer was taking great interest in TA at work, but was generally on his best behaviour away from his own turf. He did have a little grumble when he got kicked out of the mating pen for being a pest though.

It was lovely to see all the cria at Fowberry and to get a look at some of Top Account's progeny fleeces (fantastic). Jenny and Graham are always both inspirational and encouraging. I always leave feeling so positive. The Silverstream Czar (Galaxy's sire) and EPC Top Account (sire Jolimont Commisario) combination is an exciting prospect. I know; I haven't even got past the first spit off, but it's good to be a glass half full type!

We decided to do some mating when we returned. Both Legacy and Hollywood got an outing. Explorer was back to his old ways when back at Beck Brow and was trying to mate everyone whilst Hollywood was at work. The poor boy is going to have a long wait before he gets any real action. However, we are hoping that both Anzac Almost Illegal and Viracocha Black Sabbath will be working next year.

I have just received some photos of Viracocha Black Sabbath from Dominic at Anzac Alpacas. This is a black male that we co-own. With Cedar House Amar as his sire (g.s.Snowmass Grey Legend) we are hoping that he will add some top quality coloured genetics into our herd. Shame that Dom hadn't given him a dust down before the photo call!

Viracocha Black Sabbath's fleece (click on to enlarge)

Viracocha Black Sabbath (just before shearing)

Now, I am supposed to put these on the website but this appears to be a technical step too far. I will have to admit defeat and seek I.T. husband support!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A new pair of designer Hunters....

Poo picking done; water troughs cleaned; quick blog; then off to bed. Off to bed in the afternoon? Yes; and well deserved too. I have been working a number of night shifts on the Coronary Care Unit lately to help cover sickness and staff shortages, so some zzzzz catch up is well due.

Most nurses do bank work in order to pay for luxury holidays etc, but I do it because it keeps my nursing skills up to date (often useful in alpaca health situations) and I have to say that I also really enjoy the work. However, I did comment as I finished my last shift: "well that's my new cattle trailer paid for!" They obviously all thought that I was joking as someone quipped "she'll be saving up for a tractor next!". I laughed along; but I'm thinking Massey Ferguson or John Deere, what do you think?

It's a bit of a photo blog today as everyone appears to be well and content. Noah is wearing his new truss (keeping the tennis ball in position was not so easy!) Lots of cria playing this morning but all photos were a bit blurred (bit like me today). I decided that a sit down was required and to let them come to me. Great interest was shown in my new designer Hunters as you can see:

Explorer...not sure about the red soles!

Finian thinks that they smell better than the old pair!

Roma...liking the girly wellies

I realised that Lucie has never had her photo on the blog since the day that she was born. She really does not like the camera but apart from that she seems to be either at full speed or sitting down. I did manage to capture her today; not the best photo but at least she is in it:

Lucie with Parisien.

Noah in his new truss.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The alpaca weather forecast...

A wet and windy day in Cumbria. The alpacas have been racing in and out of the barn all morning. As soon as they predict a heavy downpour it's a stampede to the barn doors. Great for knowing when to get the washing in off the line, and reassuring to know that the mums take the youngsters inside out of the wet. It does mean not having to worry about cria coats too much once the little ones are up and running.

Saturday was a better day weather wise, and allowed us to spend lots of time in the paddock befriending the cria (okay, not an essential task but an enjoyable one all the same). Finian is a total poppet and comes up to be tickled quite readily. Most of the cria are quite happy to be handled with the exception of Parisien. She spits away all the time when being checked over. In fact she spat (action no green stuff obviously) whilst being weighed at one day of age. I have never had a cria so young try to spit before, I had to look round to check that it couldn't have been anyone else! Her mum, Katkin used to let the green stuff fly when we handled her first cria, thankfully she now trust us and we don't have any trouble from her. In fact we don't have any over protective mums luckily.

Explorer makes us laugh all the time as he lets himself be caught, even in the paddock, but then mutters away like a grumpy old man for about 10 minutes afterwards. During cria checks yesterday we noticed that Noah had a tiny umbilical hernia (only a couple of centimeters really) so he now has lovely bright green Vetwrap holding the top off a tennis ball (good tip Rosemary...fits well) in place. He is so chilled he wasn't the least bit bothered and just let us catch him to check it wasn't too tight. It always amazes us that you worry about stressing them out, then you let them go and they don't even bother to walk away from you!

Matings and spit offs yesterday; Camilla sat so she will be going back to visit Top Account of Fowberry next weekend, along with Galaxy. I went out and bought a new cattle trailer last week but unfortunately it won't be here in time for the trip, so it will mean borrowing Robyn's horse trailer again. A new trailer probably is a bit of an extravagance, but it is so much easier to load with gates (really Paul!)

Noah sporting his cumberbund ... Finian and Parisien using their mums as a wind break.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Aunty Gaga!

I am pleased to say that Explorer has been on slightly better behaviour today. Although, he did decide to use the poo pile just as I was taking a photo with most of the cria in sight!

Katkin has been playing with all the youngsters today. She does get herself rather excited and starts jumping up in the air and kicking out. I just had to look away and hope all the cria ended up in one piece. They all appeared to be having a good time anyway.

I did get news from Cathy at EPC today; Lady Gaga is well and has now been renamed Aunty Gaga, due to her looking after everyone else's cria. Ahh...hopefully just four weeks until she can be mated with St Patrick.

I had hoped to enter her fleece in the GWR fleece show but it looks like I will be too late. I have another couple of fleeces that I am going to show at some point, but as the animals were purchased from the judge of the GWR show, I thought that I wouldn't put him on the spot..."I thought you said she was a show winner"!!

Talking of fleece I got this year's fleece stats back a couple of weeks ago. I try to guess the results prior to sending them, just so I keep practising what I was taught on the BAS courses. I won't go into loads of figures (we were happy with the results); However what I though was interesting was Camilla's fleece. I didn't actually look at the individual fibre when trying to guess Camilla's stats; she has one of those fleeces that you just want to snuggle into when you handle her. I assumed that it would give similar results to Honaria's, although I would probably just have favoured Camilla if pushed. Result: Camilla's MFD was nearly 4 microns higher than Honaria's, who had actually dropped hers from last year, but Camilla has a CV of 18.1. Confirming the influence of low CV on handle?

The only disappointment of the week so far is Minnie. Minnie the friendliest female ever is obviously pregnant. No need to do spit offs...she resolutely ignores us now that she has been mated! The good news is that her half sister Tabitha looks like a hopeful for taking her place on the sociable front.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Too much garlic?...Explorer is feeling perky!

Look he's my first born and I love him. I try to make excuses; "he just looks like a thug because he has got bits of fleece missing post transfusion". He is a special boy who needs care and attention...Okay, today Explorer has been a menace!

This morning I gave him a dose of 'Jump Start' paste just to give him a little boost as he has a slight eye infection. As you can see from the photo with Kenzie (right), who is only a week younger, he is a delicate little soul.

Well the jump start gave him a bit of a hump start! He has been chasing everybody today and ogling (mating song) at the top of his voice.

Poor Finian was the first target. I know that he looks sweet but he is definitely male. He coped for a little while then ran to tell his mummy (Holly). Holly tried to sort things out; but the next thing I saw was Explorer chasing after Holly ogling (I should have got a photo at this stage put I was rolling about laughing). In the end Katkin, who can be very scary, intervened to send him off. But not for long, he just in turn changed his attentions to Roma, Parisian and Tabitha:

Finian first in line for the ogling attention.

Finian ...Mummy stop that big boy from bullying me!

Roma is next in line.

Explorer being brave ogling at Parisien with Katkin so close!

Setting himself up to Galaxy.

Lets hope that he makes the stud male grade; I don't see him as a very happy wether boy. Must be all that garlic that he eats; he obviously thinks that he is a bit of an Italian stallion!

Monday, 5 July 2010

A weekend of alpaca chatter...

Yet again a very busy weekend. No births this time; but we did have a couple of hundred visitors!

The open garden weekend was a great success with visitors starting off with a 'big breakfast' in the village hall and finishing off with a cream tea in the church hall. Our alpacas generated a lot of interest; so much so that we were a little hoarse by the end of the weekend.

We are fortunate to live in a farming community and therefore no one had any issues about walking over disinfectant mats; even in flip flops! We didn't allow access into the alpaca paddocks but everyone was happy to view from a little distance. I have to say the girls did seem to enjoy all the admiration that they received. There were certainly a lot of cameras at the ready and some willing models.

Whereas most people were doing last minute weeding before the opening, we were doing last minute poo picking, we did however get plenty of compliments about the garden. Worth the hard work. We managed to get all our weighing and cria jobs out of the way early. We have a few sticky eyes this year. I think the flies have been a real nuisance this summer. Most are just requiring a clean with some sterile water but a couple we are treating with antibiotic eye drops.

We even managed to fit in some spit offs. Camilla declined Legacy's affections so it looks like she has ovulated. In fact everyone turned the poor boy down. That's four girls (one Legacy and three Hollywood) who have spat off twice now so are hopefully pregnant.

I had the camera with me whilst poo picking; of course! The photo above is of Parisien. She has the most lovely face but always makes it difficult to capture her on film. The photo below is of Tabitha. She looks so like Legacy and is so sweet. Phoebe still just leaves her all over the place. It is hardly surprising that she is pretty confident around me as I am always having to catch her to reunite her with her mum.

Tabitha...managing to get hay in her fleece already!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Just good news...

Many thanks for all your comments on my previous blog, regarding the ups and downs of caring for animals. I am pleased to report that things have since continued to be on the up.

Yesterday morning Nancy presented us with a lovely Top Account of Fowberry solid white daughter. She really is gorgeous and Nancy is so proud of her. Poor Nancy was in shock after she was born and wasn't quite sure how to go about the feeding part. We did give Lucie a couple of bottle feeds of cows colostrum to give Nancy time to recover. Mum then soon got the hand of things after a rest.

I have decided that the best way to bring on labour is to organise for Paul to be away on drive by  mating duties. We had organised a date for Honaria with Ambersun Baltimore (a Warrior boy) at Townend Alpacas. We were just ready for loading when Nancy decided to birth. Fortunately we were able to delay things until the afternoon so that Paul got to witness Lucie's arrival.

We bred Nancy early (13 months of age) because we felt that she was well grown, very mature for her age, and she was desperate to be mated. Last year we also bred three other girls between 13-16 months of age. On reflection this is not something that we will probably do again. Partly, because Nancy was the only girl who carried her pregnancy; but also I did feel that Nancy seemed rather overwhelmed by the birthing process, and was obviously asking us for guidance.

The problem is that to avoid winter births it does mean that most of our maidens will be nearer two years of age if we leave them, and keeping them from getting a bit porky can be a problem. We have decided that we will separate our girls this winter to allow for more specific feeding.

We have named Phoebe's daughter Tabitha. Phoebe continues to put her tea first and rushes in without her. Fortunately Tabitha has now realised that she just has to run at top speed whenever I shout "come on".

Tabitha...learning the importance of keeping up with mum.

It is the open garden weekend this Saturday and Sunday. We are just about sorted I just hope that nobody asks any horticultural questions. I have got Mum and Dad recruited to help out. Robyn came round this afternoon to see if we needed any help, but just spent the time in the cria paddock. They are all getting a bit braver now and approach in a little gang. It is lovely to watch the dynamics evolving. I have a feeling that Noah, Jenson's brother is going to be another little cuddles.

Robyn getting checked out!

No more births due now until the end of August. Time to relax and enjoy our team of eight so far (four boys and four girls).