Thursday, 28 October 2010 babies!

Following Sunday's lecture on alpaca sire selection there has been lots of discussions in our house surrounding the desired qualities within stud males, both ours and others available.

Ideally we would all love that finest, densest male with perfect confirmation who is totally free of guard hair...unfortunately he hasn't yet been born and if he had most of us mere mortals could not afford to buy him!

In the meantime most of us try to use the best stud males that we can to suit each individual female in the hope that we might just breed perfection.

Now this brings us to Finian (pictured in the summer). Finian is the friendliest little fella with a lovely fawn fleece. A fleece that has been deemed good enough for him to be of stud quality. Great news?...Yes, but Finian has already been sold as a pet.

 Finian is lovely and is a very good male, but for us he is not an elite male which is where we want to be. Therefore we feel much happier for him to be going to a new home (non-breeders) where he will be loved dearly and his fleece will be appreciated and used, than he be sold as a potential stud male and possibly only work for a couple of years. We have however bred his mum (Holly) to Legacy of Purston again in the hope of achieving a female version of Finian. Fingers crossed. Holly is due a girl after having three boys in a row!

The lucky boys; Finian, Kenzie and Noah will be going to North Yorkshire once they are weaned and halter trained. Bev and Andy (who just missed out on our boys sold earlier this year) had pre-ordered three boys from this seasons crop. It is strange knowing from such a young age that they are going and I still have got far too would be impossible not to with Finian who follows me about...but it has been lovely getting to know Bev and Andy well and to know that they are going to have plenty of hands on experience before the boys are delivered. Hopefully they will help with the halter training's easy Bev!

Kenzie (left) and Noah

I had a knitting lesson yesterday. I did master casting on, stocking stitch, rib and moss stitch to a reasonable standard. Mum decided that it was much easier to teach me now than it had been when I was a child. I think the difference might be that she tried to  force me to learn as a child. A willing pupil is always better! Now I need to learn how to correct the mistakes. But do you know what?...I actually enjoyed another obsession about to take hold?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Visitors...some of the herd put in more effort than others!

As I said in my last blog we have the pleasure of having Cameron Holt, one of the world's most highly respected experts on fleece evaluation, staying for a few days. Cameron kindly had a look through our herd yesterday and gave his honest opinion. Not all of our decisions have been perfect (has anyone got it right every time? I guess that person doesn't exist!). We had already recognised a number of things that we want to add or improve within the herd, so we had no real negative surprises.

It would be wrong to use Cameron's opinion for the promotion of individual animals - but suffice to say I could hardly sleep due to excitement. I have to say getting someone impartial, who has the level of skills required, to evaluate your herd is great, as it so easy to get blinkered. I am sure some of his recommendations will become apparent in our herd overtime!

I did have a little chat to the herd to prepare them for the VIP visit. Some took this more seriously than others I have to say:

Hollywood's Attitude had kept himself pretty clean and was looking like the elite stud male that he is. Nimrod was also making a very good effort. I don't know if he has understood what the term wether means? Sorry Nimrod. Looking good....but not good enough!


Roma on the other hand really could not be bothered with visitors and was rather chilled about the whole thing:

Who's this Cameron Holt then?

Sparko!...or very trusting to let me so close!

Luckily I did get some photos yesterday as today is pretty grim. We are getting Jayne's problem with muddy winter gates. The cows will be gone by the end of the week (we do some seasonal grass letting) so that will help. The alpacas are pretty good at not messing up the land thankfully. Now, ponies... they are another thing all together...yes Paul!

Some team photos:
Poppet gets the coat off for good...she is now a month old and well grown with a lovely dense fleece to keep her warm. Lets see if I manage to stick with that decision!

Explorer...getting such a big boy that Camilla is starting to wean him herself. The boy got a good looking over yesterday. Obviously too much so for Mum... as Camilla didn't come in for breakfast with him this morning...something unheard of!

Lucie is really coming along. All of a sudden she appears to be looking much older. A Top Account of Fowberry daughter...she is showing real promise...a true example of an improved female when compared to her dam.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A master class with homework!

It has been an alpaca filled weekend for both Paul and myself. We have just returned from a two day course on; identifying and measuring superior fibre traits in alpacas; and sire selection. The event, hosted at Northumbrian Alpacas, was taught by senior consultant alpaca specialist Cameron Holt who is visiting from Australia. This man really is alpaca royalty.

Although we only live just over an hour away, we decided to stay over and make a weekend of it. We made the most of enjoying the food and wine at the local hostelry and enjoyed plenty of alpaca chatter (to the wee hours in Paul's case!) We also caught up with Debbie. Debbie and I always seemed to come up with the same answers... whether right or wrong!

We did manage to get home this afternoon whilst it was still light enough to have a really good inspection of our cria. I have to admit that we are more than happy with our little herd although it is really too early to tell. We will however get the real verdict next week. Yes...I have been brave enough to have Cameron and his wife Joy to stay for a few days whilst they explore the lakes. I am told that a little alpaca evaluation will be included. Cameron has already warned us that he will be nothing but honest ...good or bad! If I don't blog for a few days it will be due to severe depression.

It will be interesting to see what Cameron thinks of our head types. I have to admit that I do like well covered faces, thought Cameron was suggesting that medium coverage was ideal to avoid 'fleece blindness' (facial fleece growth which interferes with vision). Tabitha (pictured) would appear to fit with his aim. I guess some things will always be down to personal preference. Anyway. I got a lovely welcome home from the gang...they are such a friendly bunch... and that will always be my preference.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A visit to the knitting plaice!

Yesterday was a day out with my friend Claire. We like to do a bit of walking in the fells and lakes. However yesterday's outing did end up being a bit of a bus man's holiday. A quick visit to The Woolclip -  a gallery owned by a co-op of very talented ladies specialising in all things woollen (organisers of The Woolfest) - ended up lasting longer than expected and we only managed a short walk.

Now Claire is not a knitter nor a farmer but she does show a polite interest in all that I do. So after pointing out the alpaca garments on display she did the; Oooh how soft and lovely, as expected. She then picked up another scarf and deemed it not to be as soft and lovely. On the label was printed: Blue Faced Leicester. Whats is a BFL she asks...I was incredulous, but kept it well could she not know what a Blue Faced Leicester was? ...So with complete conviction and in all seriousness I turn and tell her... that it is a fish...A FISH!!...where did that come head said sheep but out of my mouth came fish! I think I may be becoming a lady of a certain age. Anyway we laughed so much and for so long we could have been an advert for Tena Lady!

Something was obviously in the air because I now own some knitting needles...I should add that I also own a spinning wheel so best not read too much into the purchase. I do feel a bit flu like today I have to say!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Spot the dog!

Today I have been busy sorting more fleece. With the bulk of the prime fibre off to the mill I have been sorting through the seconds i.e the neck, belly and any fleece of 27 microns or greater. The plan? blankets amongst other things. I am still being vigilant with my quality control and discard any particularly coarse fibre...after all these blankets will be for posh pooches.

Tyke, as always came out  to the barn to keep me and Ken company whilst fleece sorting (that will be Ken Bruce for non radio 2 listeners). However I lost him this morning....where was he?...only asleep in the discarded fleece...that deemed too coarse for dog bed blankets...might there be some irony here!

Tyke...maybe I should use him for quality control!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Letting others do all the work!

It was operation barn floor this weekend. All the preparations had been completed and the required equipment had been delivered. The gang; Craig Phil and Stuart arrived early Saturday morning and Paul joined them as 'the boy'. I had opted to help out the staffing situation on the Intensive Care Unit (good move I thought!) so Robyn and Michelle were on sausage and bacon duties.

All went according to plan. The next job will be putting back the handling system, gates etc and a tidy up for winter. Good job lads. Cheers! (it was the usual form of payment).

The barn just about ready to be reassembled post concreting.

We are having some lovely autumn weather here, resulting in a lot of 'dead' looking alpacas lying about the paddocks. The herd do look very healthy and happy; enjoying a late burst of grass. The whole herd got their mineral and vitamin drench on Friday (we are back using is so much easier when they don't dislike the taste!) in readiness for the winter months.

Hollywood leading the boys fitness regime.

Almost Illegal...keeping pace ready for the girls next spring!

Kenzie (who hasn't had a photo for a while)

Aah.... Explorer loves his mummy!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Happy that she's a diva!

Good news...Hoity-Toity kicked me today...just for the fun of it...just because I happened to be passing. I was going to spit her off again...but no need. She is obviously still pregnant. It is so easy to read her pre and post pregnancy behaviour. Hormones certainly bring out the diva in her!

I hope that I am not tempting fate by saying this, but things are looking hopeful for her holding her early pregnancy this time. Many thanks to Rob and Les at Wellground Alpacas who kindly offered to share their own experiences in this field. Fingers crossed their advice has worked.

Not much has been happening here over the past couple of days. The girls have settled in to their new field, the cria are enjoying the mirrors in their new barn, and everyone appears content. So photos it is:

Coming up to their new barn for tea; Galaxy and Roma lead the way. Finian in profile.

A mound of hard core (used for winter gate ways) makes a great view point. On watch: Nina and Lucie.

Unfortunately some 'sticky things' (what are they called?) have been left around the edges of the hay field and Minnie seems to have found then; judging by the hair do (above).

Nina on Velvet look out duties.

Oh...there she is!

Explorer was having none of this posing earlier. It was ears back or bottom. I thought that the bottom was probably better than the grumpy face. But with perseverance, I did get a photo of him front on and ears pricked. Okay messy chops, and I have missed his toes off, but it's the best I could manage (below)

Explorer...definitely growing into his personality!

Excuse the poor quality but rather cute I thought; Willow and Velvet bonding!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

When the anticipation is everything....

 Despite the lovely Indian summer that we are having, I have held my resolve and we are leaving Bahati open (not pregnant) until next spring. We have decided not to push our luck. Next autumn may not be so kind. So that will leave us with 16 pregnant girls (14 Beck Brow females and 2 belonging to Amanda) all due to give birth next summer (May-August).

 At this stage last year we had 14 girls confirmed pregnant, resulting in 10 live cria. The 4 failed pregnancies were all young maidens who had been mated at between 12 and16 months of age. From this experience we have decided, as a general rule, not to breed very young females. Based on this, our maidens this year were all 22 months of age or older at the time of mating. We will see if this improves our outcomes. I am hoping that patience pays off in the end!

Friday saw us off on a 5 hour round trip to the spinning mill in Yorkshire. Paul had taken a day off work so he came along (he had expected to have a hang over, but more on that later). With 235 kilos to deliver some extra muscle was useful.

We have managed to purchase some amazing fleeces this year resulting in some fabulous yarn. I am very excited at what we are achieving. However, I also took along to the mill some very fine but very messy cria fleece and some less fine fleece with some guard hair. Paul is amazed at how much fleece I discard during skirting and sorting and I wanted to test a point. For me there is no sense in sending anything but the very best to the mill, processing is expensive, and why risk not achieving the very best quality that you can.

Paul (mill owner) had agreed to run some of my discarded fleece through processing in order to check the end result. Undoubtedly an awful lot of the debris does come out of the cria fleece but a tiny bit of seed could just be found here and there. And as for coarser fibre; dehaired or not it will bring down the standard. I will find another use for it, it will not be completely wasted, but rigorous quality control continues!

Back to Paul's reason for a planned day off work. A birthday night out had been planned. A table was booked at a lakeside country house hotel; it was a birthday treat from the family. Robyn and Craig were to join us. Lots of deciding what to wear...I don't really do it ended up being old faithful - 6 years old. Still I made an effort. We deliberated over what to have and what wines would accompany what. Our mouths were watering. We had our starters (hand dived scallops for me) and then ....blackness...we waited...still blackness...we waited it is now after 9 pm...blackness. A power cut and a failed generator... An Indian take away it was then!

Still plenty of grass thanks to continued warm weather. Some of the girls including: Camilla in the foreground with Hoity-Toity behind.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Breaking my own rules....Almost illegal?

Firstly I apologise if this becomes rambling. I am suffering from serious sleep deprivation. Not through dreaming about sheep shearers and skirting fleece. No; It is the fault of one small black thing!

I worked a night shift on Intensive Care last night...this always happens; I go in for one shift. It then becomes difficult to say no face to face. I then end up helping out until I have a concrete reason to say no!...anyway I though I would try to get some sleep this morning.

Paul had already left for work so I had a lovely six foot wide bed all to myself. Well so I thought. But no. In the bed with me was:
  • One Yorkshire terrier (Tyke)
  • One black puppy (Velvet)
  • One stuffed Andrex puppy (no nose left)
  • One stuffed toy chicken (no squawk left)
  • One plastic bacon chop (with squawk)
  • And a bone (possibly left from Paul's Lamb Henry)

I gave up when, just as I thought I could possibly dose off someone padded across my head to get a drink from my water glass on the bedside table! Bad idea. No dogs in bed. Paul's rules rule.

I have managed to get some paperwork done (aka as paying bills) and have been out to see the girls in their fresh paddock. The new grass in going down well and Hoity's eyes are healing nicely (the vet rang to check on her yesterday...good follow-up I thought).

The sun has come out after a wet start. So I managed to get some photos of some rather soggy looking alpacas:

Sisterly love. From left: Pepsi Lola (2009), Poppet (2010), Pebbles (2008).

I am really having to discipline myself and not remate Bahati. She has given us three gorgeous autumn born females (above) who have all been around 10 kgs at birth and gone on to do really well. I did say at the beginning of the year that I was going to leave her over until next spring. It makes sense. I must have control...the problem is Anzac Almost Illegal is looking lovely to get his first cria next year!

Some of the contestants in the Beck Brow cria sweet stakes 2010:



The gorgeous one: Explorer looking a bit damp!

Lastly...Happy birthday Paul!

P.S. Can you believe it...what are Tyke and Velvet up to now?...asleep. I feel like Victor Meldrew in drag...aghhh

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Ready for the move...

Another non-stop but enjoyable week at Beck Brow. I managed to skirt, grade and weight 145 kilos of fleece ready for the mill (feels like it should be more!); I met up with our designer and talked through some ideas; and we even managed a family lunch at The Pheasant near Bassenthwaite Lake yesterday (would highly recommend...yummy); that was after getting an early start on the poo picking.

This morning we have been preparing for the move over to the winter paddocks now that all the births are over for this year. The winter barn floor has been disinfected along with brushes, shovels and troughs etc, ready for a clean start. Mirrors have been polished and whiteboards cleaned.

In addition everyone has had their injection of Cydectin 2% for internal and external parasites and a spray of Eprinex between the toes -  as belt and braces just in case any mites are lingering, we don't want to take them into the clean barn. It was all very slick (it is so much easier with Cydectin rather than Ivomectin which stings) Paul's one way handling system does work really well. No having to remember who has had their injections. If they are on the other side they are done. Records can then be completed later.

The summer barn is to get a new concrete base. This will be much easier to clean than the rubber mats placed on top of a hardcore base that we have at present. The plan is to quarrantine Lady Gaga and Amanda's 2 females over there, away from the main herd, for at least 6 months. All being well with pregnancy scanning I hope that they will be with us in a few weeks time.

I can't believe how quickly the cria are growing. Even Poppet, who is now a very healthy 15 kg and has acquired today's pet name of Chunky Monkey! Noah has become very attached to Poppet. Although he is normally a Mummy's boy, Noah followed Bahati into a different paddock (some distance from the main herd) as she prepared to give birth...very strange!  He then watched closely and with great interest as Bahati went into labour - and even more bizarely Bahati let him - he now seems to think that he has some special bond with Poppet. Who knows what goes on inside the heads' of alpacas but it sure makes interesting viewing!

Noah (far left) with Poppet at 1-day old.

I just realised yesterday, whilst updating my records ( well!) that Poppet shares the same birthday as Pepsi, her full sister born in 2009. They are however quite different. Both are very fine but first impressions of Poppet are that she is going to have a much crimpier fleece type.

I am now giving myself the afternoon off to attend a friend's big 0 birthday party. Talking of which I have opted for Kerala (Southern India) for my birthday... I have a feeling that the tractor is more likely to appear if I feign disinterest!