Thursday 30 September 2010

A question of I need help!

I am obsessed. Maybe even possessed. Whatever it is; It is all very strange. I would never have believed it could happen...I have gone mad...I just can't stop skirting fleece! And what's more I am excited by it. I get up and start delving in alpaca fleece whilst still in my PJs. Six thirty a.m. I am out in the barn. Nine thirty p.m. Paul drags me away. Last night I even dreamt that I ran away with an Australian sheep shearer...I need help!

I even persuaded Mum and Dad to come and give me a helping hand yesterday. Despite the fact that Mum claims that Dad is colour blind - I think it has something to do with the way he dresses himself if left to his own devices - he proved to be a dab hand at grading (well he was a sheep farmer) and sorting out shades (this was a surprise). Okay maybe my latte was his coffee; my apricot his peach; and my nutmeg became his ginger; but he was spot on at getting the blends right. At this rate I might even meet my deadline for the mill.

In amongst all the fleece sorting, Hoity Toity had a visit from the vet on Tuesday. When we had an outbreak of mites earlier in the year HT was our only alpaca to have any signs and symptoms of mites on her face. This left her with thickened skin around her eyes. Scar tissue has since formed and this has caused her eyelashes to grow inwards. I noticed on Tuesday a slight ulceration on her eyeball so the vet was called.

Small cuts were made to the skin under each eye (under local anaesthetic) and the skin stapled back from the eyes. She was so well behaved. I think that she just wanted to be helped. You could see the relief instantly. Poor HT but hopefully no more irritated eyes. Daily eye drops now for 7 days.

I did manage to grab the camera whilst taking Tyke and Velvet out for a run in the fields. Velvet still doesn't understand the danger associated with trying to sneak in with the cria whilst alpaca mums are on guard:

Something of interest happening ?....Lucie, Roma and Explorer...

...that will be Velvet trying to squeeze through the fence...quick check; left; right; all clear...

Oops maybe not all clear then...looking guilty Velvet!


I also managed to sneak up on Poppet, who is looking very curly indeed. Not sure why I chose a formal pet name for her as this seems to keep changing daily. Today's favourite...chocolate cake!,

Monday 27 September 2010

The new trailer gets an outing...but did they all fit in?

Yesterday our new trailer had it's first outing. Now some of you may recall the size debate. I chose the trailer because it was compact and would suit my needs. Paul hates the trailer because it is compact and does not suit his or our alpaca needs (his opinion). Well we agreed to disagree and let time tell...

First off we were both in agreement. It towed like a dream...smooth as smooth...didn't feel too heavy...we were making good time. So far so good. We arrived exactly as planned. Our new trailer was admired. Now the test...would they all fit alpacas...just 350+ fleeces. To cut to the chase...the answer is No. We pushed, we squashed, we sat on them...but no! I was so determined not to be beaten Paul drove home with an open bag pushed up against the back of his head...I did see the spider crawl out and down the back of his T-shirt but it did take him a while to notice! I guess about 40 fleece were left behind...not a bad effort.

Packed to the rafters...trailer and car!

Poppet is doing well...even if I am not!. She is gaining approximately 500gs per day. I registered her with the British Alpacas Society (BAS) today. I have been on my best behaviour this year and placed my registrations within 6 days of birth as recommended.

I have to admit to being a fan of large scale data collection; so much can be learned and improvements made if the information gathered is analysed correctly. I think the danger is that when cria are not registered early those that do not survive to adulthood fail to be recorded. This means that accurate cria survival rates are likely to be unknown by BAS.

We visited a large breeder recently who has enough alpacas to really look at trends such as age of the female at mating, time of mating, and how this influences survival rates. They are working closely with a veterinary practitioner to analyse the data that has been collected over a long period. Right up my street. I have some theories. I can't wait to hear the findings.

On a lighter note some photos of Poppet taken on Saturday: She is so friendly that she keeps coming to sit beside me. Not easy to get a photograph when she is so close!

On the approach...

Another fan of Hunter wellies!

Friday 24 September 2010

Poppet, Munchkin, Noodle, Cutie Pie?

I have decided to follow Dave's example (comments 23/9). Cria pet names are really cute...however silly they may sound to normal grown up people...though Noodle may be taking it a bit far Dave!

So acknowledging that I may be a case for ridicule; our new cria will be called Poppet (registered as Paige Turner in case of future stardom).

Born weighing 10.1 kgs she is already big and strong and has been running around with the other cria this afternoon. She was even brave enough to mess around with Explorer (photo - Poppet, Nutmeg, Tabitha & Explorer).

She is extremely friendly. Just as well as I have been constantly checking to ensure that she is keeping warm. The weather has been grim for most of the day but she has felt cosy in her cria coat. I have not decided on the plan for this evening; in or out? one coat or two?

Barbara and Philip (Jenson Fidel and Felix's new owners) paid us a visit today and kindly took me for a very nice lunch in the village. I really have been working far too hard this week...poo picking is not up to my usual standards! I am working on the Intensive Care Unit tomorrow and have suggested that Paul he might do some poovering for me. No ... that was never going to happen was it.

Thursday 23 September 2010

A lovely brown cria from Bahati....No surprises!

After a couple of days of lovely September sunshine...Bahati decided to give birth...just as the heavens decided to open! So it was a quick dash to the barn for mum and cria.

Here she is pictured at just 20 minutes-old. A beautiful dark brown as predicted....and another girl. Well done Bahati that's three daughters in a row. I really did think that it would be a boy this time.

Bahati, pictured below, is a brown girl with a strong black pedigree who has so far always produced only dark brown girls, all from black sires. Blueberry Sinbad Holly is the daddy on this occasion.

I had thought that I might name her Beck Brow Paige Turner although I do keep referring to her as Poppet. Paul has yet to see her so may have other ideas...somehow I don't see him shouting Poppet up the field!

Blueberry Samurai Bahati

Despite a poor weather decision Bahati did choose a convenient 10.30 am slot to deliver. This gave me just enough time to ensure both mum and cria were okay and that the teat had been found, before getting the boys in.

Hollywood had a visit booked in with two lovely fawn girls, who arrived this afternoon. As we have finished our own matings for this year this was a bonus outing for Hollywood. We gave him an hour and a half in between matings so fingers crossed that he has performed well. One of the females has produced prize winning progeny in the past (the other a maiden) so it will be interesting to see what he produces. It is a gamble with an unproven male but we hope that his elite genetics will give the desired results. The waiting game has commenced.

Yesterday I drove to Yorkshire with a load of fleece (75 kgs) to hand over to Paul at the Halifax Spinning Company. Some of you may be wondering what I am going to do with all this wool...well that makes two of us... I am meeting with our designer in a couple of weeks hopefully she will know! In the mean time I tried to get some photos of the latest shades. I though if I photographed it in the window the light behind would help...No. I will try again when it is not raining.

You will have to take my word for looks and feels great!

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Passport photos!

After giving myself the day off yesterday to have a day out with friends - morning coffee at the farm shop before a walk in the lake district followed by an evening meal in the local - I really needed to catch up on some work today. However, I did manage to make time to take some photos. I know this is an activity which is not always classified as work by some but I was poo picking as well!.

Finnian and Nutmeg are inseparable at the moment. Both take after their sire Legacy of Purston and are very friendly. In fact it is difficult to do anything without them tagging along.

Finnian and Nutmeg....ahhh

Finnian isn't too sure about all this kissing from his sister...

Things start to get a bit less lovey...

Typical sister behaviour...Nutmeg takes the hump!

And some passport photos:





Now I admit it does rather look like I was lying down in the sunshine when these photos were taken...a little rest that's all!

Sunday 19 September 2010

A lovely surprise?

They do say that there is no rest for the wicked....If this is so then I have obviously been pretty bad at some point. You see, I did think that the sore neck might have got me some reprieve from fleece skirting. At least for a while. However Paul obviously had other ideas. Generous to a fault he gave up a couple of hours of his time today to help me out...fleece sorting?..No... He has made me a fleece skirting table with longer legs so that I don't have to lean over!! Lovely surprise Paul.

That isn't a smile it's a grimace!

We have been trimming toe nails this morning which hasn't helped the aches and pains at all. I can never decide if being the handler or the chiropodist is the better option. As all the alpacas were soaking wet neither job was especially pleasant today.

However, everyone behaved very well. With only one exception. One enormous, almighty, very very naughty exception...Hoity  Toity! Obviously still pregnant. I am guessing that 2008 was a H year at Silverstream Alpacas...if only they had named her Harmony...I wonder?

On the other end of the behaviour scale was Bozedown Blanche. I am so proud of the relationship I have managed to achieve with her. Blanche, who is eight, used to be a mean green spitting machine. And a very good aim to boot. I have to admit that I did used to call her the 'old goat' as she was so bad tempered. However, some face and ear massage and she is now one transformed alpaca.

Velvet our Jack Russell, Cocker Spaniel cross puppy has been causing us some amusement. Is it just us or does she look like a 'cut and shunt': Spaniel paws at the front; terrier paws on the back?

A little late in the year for shearing I know but Tyke has been for a cut and blow dry. Normally I just give him a quick trim with some old kitchen scissors...a rather scruffy but cute look I thought...obviously not. Mum and Dad presented me with a card for a dog grooming service. A man at the bowling club seemingly had a Yorkshire Terrier who looked much smarter than Tyke!

Tyke...short back and sides.

Velvet...looking cute? On closer inspection I think that might be something dead between those paws...not so cute!

Thursday 16 September 2010

A visit to the boys...

Thank you for all your nice comments on my last blog. However I did note that some (i.e Jayne and Mark) think that sitting in the cria field with a camera is not to be classified as work; Well I can say with absolute conviction it is in my job description...I know...I wrote it!

Today I had a trip out to visit Felix, Fidel and Jenson, the 3 boys that we sold back in May. Their new owners were rather concerned about an injury that Fidel had sustained to his back leg, so I went along with treatment for all eventualities. He had obviously had a knock and had an small open sore. A shot of Finadyne, some antiseptic spray and a long acting antibiotic will hopefully do the trick. Whilst I was there the boys got their Lambivac and are now up to date with everything.

The boys looked great and I managed a lovely cuddle with all three. They remembered me I am sure. I did get reprimanded by Robyn for not taking her along; and I am sure that I will receive the same from Amanda when she reads this. Sorry rushing as always!

Jenson, Felix and Fidel (hiding)

I had actually been to the osteopath on route. The cause of the severe neck pain?...diagnosis: fleece skirting. A good reason to stop?...unfortunately not...I have 250 fleeces awaiting collection!!

Talking of fleece and fibre; I went to Stoneleigh Park on Sunday to attend a meeting of the BAS National Fibre Committee. Amongst the many things discussed was a research project into the large scale use of fleece graded as thirds. Anthony Turner ( is collecting lower grade fleece donations (he needs tonnes to make this viable) and is experimenting with creating industrial grade, fire resistant felt which has possible wide scale application. I also got tasked with writing a page for the BAS website on fibre. That's what happens when you go to meetings!

Lady Gaga's fleece arrived in the post today. Obviously far to late for the GWR fleece show so she has been entered in the Scottish National. Her fleece is as stunning as I remembered, thankfully.

We are still waiting for Bahati to deliver. I don't think that she will go much longer she is looking pretty close and is 339 days. Odds are on for a dark brown but will it be male or female?

Bahati...not much longer to wait?

Friends coming to stay. Arriving tomorrow lunch time...still so much to do!

Saturday 11 September 2010

Gorgeous at play....Cria fun & games!

In alpaca terms: nothing and I do mean absolutely nothing; beats watching your own cria; the cria that you have helped nurture; play together and generally enjoy being alive. For me this is especially true when it includes my little man Explorer. I managed to capture him on film this time (if a little blurred):

Kenzie starts the fun and games with some Explorer wrestling.

Explorer is more interested in playing peek-a boo than wrestling today!

Lucie starts a new game of  'here we go around the electric pole'!!

Same game with more voltage!

Things are hotting you see the foreground

Lucie in the lead but Explorer overtakes Nutmeg

Look at that effort...In order: Lucie; Tabitha; Explorer; Kenzie; Nutmeg....

Yes....Explorer takes the lead...I declare the boy's a winner!

Nonchalant in his victory....Explorer & team head back.

Friday 10 September 2010

Westmorland County Show

It was an early start yesterday morning; 5.00 am to be precise. Looking on the positive side it felt like suitable revenge to wake Velvet up for a change rather than the other way around. However as Tyke had already had me up at 2.30 am I don't think that I am winning the war of the dogs. Pack leader I obviously am not!

The reason for the early rise was the 7.00 am line up for stewarding duties at Westmorland County Show. Paul was complimented on his self control during ring stewarding duties. Despite the white coat looking a little green in places all was calm. My role as second inspection steward was also stress free; no missing microchips or colour disputes this year.

Indeed the whole alpaca event was so well organised (Chris Truelove & Brain Raine) everything went like clockwork. Strict British Alpaca Society (BAS) biosecurity guidelines were enforced at all times and were adhered to without complaint. A large and airy tent was a real bonus.

All entries in the show were local to Cumbria, Northumberland, Lancashire and North Yorkshire giving a very northern feel to the event. Entries were down from that of previous years but quality was extremely high. The judge, Nick Harrington-Smith appeared suitably impressed and remarked on numerous occasions about the quality of the alpacas now being breed in the North of England. Please note the lack of bias in the reporting!!

Overall the boys stole the show (as is usually the case) There were very few female entries. However the star for the girls was undoubtedly Nero Black Galaxy. A brown (yes...brown!) Lillyfield Jack of Spades daughter who took the brown colour championship. Nero Black Jack (same sire) also took the black colour championships, so well done folks! These are 2 cria that I first saw at just a few weeks of age so I was nearly as excited as their owners. Townend Asterix, a fantastic Bozedown Viscount boy took the Supreme Championship (note to Jayne!)

Paul and I had a stroll around the tractor stands with Bev and Andy (chaperoning to avoid disputes). No purchases surprises there. Bev and Andy were showing a lot of interest in field what can that be about?

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Alpaca pregnacy scanning, fungus and chips....

It was vet check day today. Paul from Paragon Veterinary Group arrived this afternoon to undertake a list of general alpaca health tasks. First off was pregnancy scanning:

We decided to scan early this year .Most of our girls were mated June, July and early August so just long enough to be detected using a rectal scanning device. This meant that any girls found not to be pregnant could be re-mated before our cut off point. We really would prefer mid September to be our latest matings for the year. That said Willow (born late Aug) and Pepsi (born late October) our autumn births of 2009, have both done very well:

Willow with Pepsi behind.

Pepsi ... checking out Tyke (off camera).

Anyhow as all of the girls scanned pregnant we don't have to make any decisions as yet. Hoity Toity of course has just been re-mated. The vet agreed that she appeared well in herself and was in good condition. It was decided that our drenching regime was adequate without any further supplements. As Paragon is a member of the XL Group: Sharing Excellence in Practice; they are to seek advice regarding any possible hormone treatment that may be required. Hopefully some other veterinary practice within the group will have had experience with recurring loss of pregnancy in alpacas that they can share.

Hoity Toity (she never looks at the camera!)

All the cria had their microchips inserted (I really don't like the idea of doing this myself) and Blanche's skin complaint was diagnosed as dermatitis with some fungal secondary infection. She is to have an anti-fungal scrub applied (what fun!).

 Paul is working hard on his 'week off'. Thursday we are stewarding at Westmorland Show. We thought that it would be good to be involved even though we are not showing. I am getting some experience as assistant inspection steward (I completed the BAS stage 1 course which allows me to act as inspection steward so I though I may as well get in some practice). Paul is going to be ring steward. I just hope that he doesn't get kicked because his usual response when this happens is not for publication *$^£"^*"!!.

Paul completing one of many tasks on the list!

Velvet, lovely as she is; is wakening us up between 5.30 & 6.00 am every morning. Paul was just debating whether the pleasure of pets outweighed the hard work when I looked out of the bedroom window and saw that the girl ponies had escaped. Luckily they had decided to go in the open garage rather than down the lane!


Sunday 5 September 2010

Colour testing!

Another weekend of fantastic weather, after all the rain we had in in August it is a welcome relief. We have had a pottering weekend. Paul is off from his paid employment next week so nothing seems tooo urgent...bad move I know.. we are bound to run out of time for all the tasks. I even had time to mess about with the blog template so I though that I would try it out. Apologies for the lack of content!

I have been indulging myself with a little bonfire therapy today. Burning bales of hay...I know that sounds like madness...£5 a bale! It is however last year's hay that didn't pass quality control. It had been used as seats, cria wind breaks, serving stations (for Hoity) and various other uses and was now falling apart. We have a few sub standard bales from this year's crop to replace them. Although whenever we have the 'rejects' in reach of the alpacas they always eat away at them leaving the 'class A' in the manger. Maybe it is our standard assessment that is at fault!

We have had a weekend of visitors and visiting. Saturday and Sunday brought: family; friends; neighbours; and prospective owners to see the alpacas. We had a surprise visit this morning from friends Charlotte and Adam with baby Suzie. It was Nutmeg who decided to be the star of the show on this occasion:

Charlotte, Suzie and Nutmeg.

Last night we paid a visit to our friends Michael & Judith Henderson at Cockerham Alpacas in Lanchasire. They have some outstanding cria from both last year and this. I could easily have chosen a trailer load to bring home given the chance; but it was a fabulous dark fawn Silverstream Czar boy born June 2010 who really was the star for me. I will be watching with interest. 

Saturday 4 September 2010

Not Hoity Toity enough...

I had my suspicions. I even got a little nuzzle without asking yesterday. Miss Hoity Toity was being far too friendly for a girl with pregnancy hormones circulating through her system. In fact not hoity toity in the least. Unfortunately I was right and she sat again for Hollywood this morning.

This will be the third mating for Hoity. We started off way back in May. She sits readily to mate then spits off the male (suggesting that she is pregnant) for 6 or 7 weeks then sits again to be re-mated. I felt pretty sure as this week went on that she had slipped her pregnancy again as her behaviour began to change.

The vet is coming to do some scanning on Tuesday so I will seek his opinion on what may be the cause. I will also give some injectable vitamin B12 just in case she is deficient again. However she does look well; is pretty perky; and has been having a vitamin and mineral drench regularly (Hoity miscarried at 5-months gestation in January and was found to be anaemic).

On a positive point, if she can keep pregnant now at least EPC Lady Gaga will have a birthing partner as she will also be due in late August next year all being well.

I had a magic moment last night in the paddock. Unfortunately no camera in hand but just enough time to call Paul to witness the event. Nine cria pronking around the paddock. In one barn door and out the other around the paddock and back again. Now pronking is always magical but why so excited?....It was the first time I have ever seen Explorer pronk!

Explorer has never been one to join in the dancing. He enjoys the biology and is excellent at drama but never ever does pronking. We just thought it wasn't his scene; not macho enough for him; might involve looking like he was enjoying himself; might even give the impression that he was less than superior???...we didn't know. Anyway it was less ballerina and more bulldozer but all the same I felt quite emotional. It was so lovely to see him joining in at last. I did say that I had been teaching him some loving ways!

I have been slacking with the photography over the last couple of days. When I did take out the camera today everyone was more interested in the dogs playing in the ajoining paddock!

Better than Coronation Street...

Thursday 2 September 2010

Is this the first Silverstream Czar grand-daughter born in the UK?

Despite it being a bright sunny day here in Cumbria; I decided to take a little time out of the sun to do a bit of alpaca research. Well to troll trough the British Alpaca Society (BAS) registry to be precise. It is always interesting to see what breeding decisions are being made out there.

Now I didn't spend hours on this but it does appear that Beck Brow Fine Romance (Roma) is the first Silverstream Czar gran daughter to be registered in the UK. Silverstream Galaxy ET (dam) was an imported girl so we did get a head start.

Czar had quite a few sons born in 2008 but only has 2 other daughters registered; One who has produced a male (an EPC Navigator boy...we are thinking along the same lines here!) and Silverstream Hoity Toity our girl who miscarried.

The reason that I checked this out, other than having nerdy tendencies, was that I can really see Roma's resemblance to Czar as she is growing. She has his head and presence and I wondered if he was passing this on to his grandchildren consistently. I guess more time will be needed to tell...

The sun was far too bright when I was out at lunchtime but hopefully you can get an idea of how she looks (above and below):

Beck Brow Fine Romance.

Technically a dreadfully over exposed picture but I had to share Explorer's attempt to look cute today:

Explorer with Kenzie...look I can do cute!

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Fine fencing rather than fine art at Beck Brow...

Although we didn't exert ourselves with too much manual work over the bank holiday weekend; we did put some thought into what jobs are next on the agenda. Mental work is just as tiring as physical they tell me. However, in this case it was possible to complete the task sitting in the garden with a glass of crisp white in hand!

How much land do our alpacas need next year...this is the question. At present we seasonal grass let 35 acres between April and December. This works very well for us. The same farming family has rented the land for years, they fertilize the land for us, they are extremely friendly and helpful, the grass gets kept under control, and we get some additional income. However we will need to take a few acres back as our herd  keeps growing.

One of the deciding factors as to how much land is enough is: how much alpaca fencing do we want to undertake? A lot of our land is divided by beautiful cumbrian dry stone walling. At present there is a breast of barbed wire in front of the walling to prevent the cows from knocking it down....obviously no good for alpacas. Nor is the wall high enough to be alpaca proof as it is... after much consideration... unfortunately it looks like the expensive option is going to be the best one. Posts and rails in addition to the sandstone wall.

Kenzie, Noah, Nutmeg and Roma (back to front) with some dry stone walling in the background.

That will be a job for the winter months. Next on the agenda is cementing the barn floor once the girls move on to what was the hay field. Craig, a civil engineer is coming for a BBQ tonight with tape measure in hand.

Not alpaca related, other than it came addressed to Beck Brow Alpacas of Cumbria which made me look more closely; In the post this morning we received a brochure for a fine arts sale in Wiltshire. Now I am not reknown for my collection of fine art, so I did nearly throw it straight in to the recycling but something made me take a look. Inside was a note: I thought that you may be interested in lot 229.

Intriguing...did they have 18th century oil paintings of alpacas? No. But the potrait of Isabella Hodgson and her dog is interesting. It is inscribed with some background details including the fact that the her grandmother was born at Beck Brow, Ainstable. Adding to the interest; her mother's maiden name was Hetherington! .

How bizare that it should turn up in Wiltshire! It isn't really to my taste and it has guide price of £200-300...what to do? Yep, that pays for a good few yards of post and rails!