Saturday, 30 July 2011

New Owners...Same View!

We have been enjoying the sunshine here at Beck Brow...we don't always get our fair we do like to make the most of it. I have managed to get some fleece skirting done. With the sorting table in the orchard, I get a sun tan (T shirt tan), and have much better views than when stuck in the barn. It always takes me ages to sort my own fleeces as I spend so much time analysing and making potential breeding decisions, when I should just be getting on with it.

Anzac Hollywood's Attitude, our light fawn stud male, cut a very heavy fleece again this year (3.2kgs blanket only ). He was mated with Silverstream Hoity Toity last year, who has an incredibly heavy fleece for a female (2.9 kgs blanket only). I am now wondering if we will be getting a big fawn teddy bear some time soon? Hoity is white, but Hollywood has so far only produced mid fawns from white females, so fingers crossed...a fawn female would be good Hoity!

Hollywood's latest cria; Magnum is coming along well. He is so inquisitive and loves the camera. Blanche, his dam is very protective, but he is quite independent...even allowing Velvet to kiss his nose this morning.

Beck Brow Magnum...

.... Independent until feed time
Poor Hollywood hasn't had many matings here this year. I did mean to share out the girls a bit more fairly but the temptation to use St. Patrick just gets too much. Almost Illegal has been allowed a couple of girls to show us what he can do (he has an incredibly fine third fleece...I believe that his sire Cambridge Storm Trooper has remained very fine, and received a Supreme Championship at 10 years of age). He has had matings with Holly, Pebbles and Bonita (oops three isn't a couple). 

Anzac Almost Illegal...strutting his stuff.

The whole herd have received their selenium, colbolt and vitamin drench this afternoon. We were helped by Willow's new owners, who are keeping Willow here on livery. The plan is that she will stay until they build up their herd, and also find the right property. This also gives her new owners the opportunity to learn all about alpaca husbandry, their health and welfare needs, and to get to know Willow before taking her home. I wasn't really sure whether Willow was going to be for sale, but she just seemed to be exactly what they needed. She is very easy to handle, sweet natured, pregnant to St. Patrick, and she gets to stay a bit longer...perfect! 

Beck Brow Sweet Willow...aptly named.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A jam packed day...

It was an alpaca packed day yesterday. We had visitors in the morning and the afternoon. Our morning visitors (whom I forgot to ask if they minded being mentioned on the blog so will keep annonymous) first came to visit us last week, and had left with lots to consider and a selection of our yarn. They returned yesterday with some beautiful knitted garments (how do people knit so quickly!) and what I recognise as the start of an alpaca addiction. It is really encouraging when you meet future breeders who are so interested in learning all that they can about health and welfare, as well as having sound breeding plans.

Our afternoon visit had been planned for a little while. Lynn and her son Jack (who kindly read this blog) were travelling between Scotland and Dorset and had asked if they may pay us a visit. Caramella and Minnie did the usual meet and greet. As Lynn is a Sister working in critical care, the conversation was a mixture of alpaca chatter and the state of the NHS!

It was then spit-off time (yes we are running a day late again). Camilla sat to be re-mated ...which has got me into trouble with Paul...(but on the up side at least St. Patrick didn't try it on with me)... Paul is not best pleased because I strayed from our usual 21-day post birthing schedule. Camilla had been was 15 days and it was too tempting. Our 21 day success rate is very high and I should stick with it. The problem with mating earlier is that the female often spits-off at the ovulation spit-off and then sits the following week (as has Camilla). So instead of gaining a week we lose one!

Holly spat-off at her pregnancy spit-off so it looks like Almost Illegal has his first pregnancy. He had a date with Bonita last night and was a perfect young gentleman...he is quite romantic...Amanda and I watch going ahhhh...strange behaviour I know.

Now you might think that would be enough action for one day...but no...the hay had been baled and was ready for the barn. We only put aside 2 acres this year and managed 230 bales of really good looking hay. We have quite a bit left over from last year so we are planning to donate some to an animal charity...only a little sigh was heard from Paul...good deeds always end up increasing the workload...when can we deliver? After that it was a take away from our local pub...homemade steak and ale pie...yummy.

Waradene St. Patrick of EPC...looking chilled after a date with Camilla

Strolling off to enjoy the rest of the evening...

Lynn and Jack with Minnie and Caramella.

Annoyingly the van is still playing up so is back in the garage. It does sort it's self out by turning the engine on and off, but not ideal on the moterway! Paul had booked a day off work to take the van and trailer down to EP Cambridge in Wiltshire on Thursday, but the trip has now had to be posponed.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Hollywood Remake...

A busy weekend meant that I have been away from the farm for most of it, but Blanche kindly held on until 8.45 am the morning. A straight forward birth of another fawn Hollywood boy.

Beck Brow Magnum

Anzac Hollywood's Attitude has been amazingly consistent in producing mid fawns from white females (although Blanche does have a large fawn patch). Here is little Magnum being checked out by Alfie, who is nearly identical (and exactly the same colour of fawn as Max)

Young Punk Alfie with Magnum.

Sophie did rather break the trend. She is also a Hollywood cria but much darker. I caught her smiling in the sunshine this morning. I am rather excited to see how she turns out...she does look promising. Unfortunately I haven't used Hollywood much this year, as I was waiting to see how things went,  but I will remate Blanche (Magnum's dam) to him and hope for a female from her next year.

Beck Brow Sophie...plenty to smile about (Paul is behind on the topping!)

After a busy day at Penrith Show on Saturday with the alpacas, we were up early on Sunday for mobile matings. The plan was to get away by 6 am. It was in fact nearer 6.30 am. Thirty minutes down the road and Paul realised that the halter had dropped out of his pocket...back home...and take 2...we leave at 7.30 am. A major accident on the M6...and a diversion through the country additional stop to ensure St. Patrick is feed and watered (due to the extra travelling time)...and we arrive for lunch rather than breakfast! Thankfully St. Patrick is very chilled and performed well. Next outing next Sunday...lets see if we can do bettter.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Justifying the call out fee...

Earlier in the week I had arranged for the vet to come out today to have a look at Katkin's abscess. I just didn't feel that it was clearing up properly and wanted a second opinion. So she is now on a course of Excenel to see if that does the trick. The vet has come to the conclusion they Katkin has an allergic reaction to Cydectin, so we will have to rethink what wormer she has next time.

I don't know if Katkin wanted to warrant the vet's call out fee, but she came in this morning on three legs. The vet had a quick look and declared it to be a 'pot hole' sprain. No treatment required (incidentally she was not keen to give an anti-inflammatory (Finadyne) when she has the abscess as this could impair the immune response).

Whilst the vet was here we were discussing Rumour. You may recall that she has born with a very stiff neck from being badly positioned in the womb. She still holds her head to one side at times, which gives her a somewhat quizzical look. However the vet is confident all will come right as she grows and the neck muscles strengthen.

 Beck Brow Rumour Has It...a quizzical look!

Despite Blanche looking the size of a house she was not showing any signs of unpacking, so Craig and I decided to pop along to Penrith Show field to do some preparation for tomorrow. The grass has been cut and the gazebo's have been popped up (pray for no gale force winds!). That will give us at least an extra hour in bed tomorrow morning we reckon. Paul is again staying on farm duty...much more up his street...topping is top of the list. We have had our hay field cut this afternoon, so fingers crossed for fine weather for the next few days.

We have a full day planned for St Patrick on Sunday with mobile matings, so I expect that I will get no blog time over the weekend. Hence I made an effort to get some photos taken today.

Beck Brow Sophie enjoying the sunshine

Young Punk Annabelle and Beck Brow Max

Does everyone secretly have a favourite cria each year? You try to pretend it isn't the case, because of course they are all lovely...but someone just has that something...well if I am honest...I am a little smitten with Magellan. We bought Inca Van Dieman Chaska (medium fawn)  pregnant to Neptune of Houghton (light fawn) and were rather expecting a fawn cria...but we got a white male...he has the sweetest I very bias or is he very cute!

Beck Brow Magellan

Beck Brow Magellan

P.S I promise to try to have some more exciting news for the next blog...but then again...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Never take your eye off the ball...

I am often asked, as are many alpaca breeders I am sure, to explain the term 'spit off'. So for those of you unfamiliar with the term; a brief explanation (alpaca breeders ignore italics).

Alpacas are stimulated ovulators i.e the physical act combined with orgling (the noise that the male makes...sounds a bit like gargling something unpleasant... but the girls seem to enjoy it) should make them ovulalate, usually with 2 days or so. To test if the female has ovulated she is reintroduced to an intact male after 7 days and if she rejects the male (usually by spitting hence the term spit-off but some female just run from the male) she is assumed to have done so. The same procedure is then repeated 7 days later and if the female rejects the male again she is then assumed to be pregnant (pregnancy spit-off). This is not completely accurate and spit-offs continue, and the pregnancy is then confirmed by scanning, but it is a pretty good guide.

Well, last night we had a lot of spit-offs to perform. Some that could have been done on Sunday had been left over as St. Patrick had already worked on mobile matings that day, so this meant that he had 6 in total (some ovulation spit-off and some pregnancy spit-offs). He set off quite calmly, and luckily for us, but unfortunately for St. Patrick, all of the females spat-off.

Now, maybe this was a bit too much rejection for a macho in one day...or maybe he liked a bit of odour-de-poo picking...but as I turned left to speak to Amanda with St. Patrick on his halter in my right hand...something made me was St Patrick up on his back legs about to place his front legs on my shoulders from behind...I will leave the rest to the imagination. Thankfully he is not difficult to handle so I was able to sort things out...this was just as well as Amanda was no help...creased up laughing. Tyke the minature Yorkie did try to come to my aid by biting St. Patrick's ankles!

So there is a lesson here ladies...when you have a rampant male in hand...never take your eye off the ball!

One male did have some success where St. Patrick had failed; Pebbles who had been difficult last year...rejecting all advances even though we knew that she had not been mated...had been doing the same thing this year, She doesn't spit or get stressed, she just will not sit. She even goes over and starts eating hay with the male on her back.  Despite all our efforts she hadn't been interested in St. Patrick so we decided to introduce her to Almost Illegal. It took a while but he eventually had success...she was down....however it was only Almost Illegal's second mating so he was rather over excited. We must have made a strange sight...Amanda keeping Pebbles in position (Almo actually gave Amanda a smooch a one point) and Craig and myself trying to keep Almo in position. We managed a reasonably calm mating of 20 minutes so fingers crossed. I am sure someone could make a TV series about the alpaca mating season!

We had some lovely visitors to the farm today who are considering breeding alpacas in the future. I am terrible when I get an interested audience (well I think that they were) I do rather talk for apologies if you read this folks...hope you haven't got information overload! Bet I have a sore throat tomorrow!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Is all publicity good publicity?

I am always conscious that whenever you put yourself 'out there' i.e promote yourself... you also increase the risk of 'egg on face'. Keep you head omelets...but no business. I had been a little worried about how the article in The Cumberland News would portray us (I didn't get to proof) but it was published on Friday and it was all good stuff. A double page spread with some lovely photos. Ideal publicity the day before the Cumberland Show; where we were taking some of our alpacas. So where does the egg come in?

Robyn, Craig and I set off on Saturday morning in the Beck Brow van. In the village we were being congratulated on the article as people recognised me from the photos and saw our name on the van. Some of you may recall that it is hard to miss the Beck Brow logo and alpacas all over our van...hence it was rather embarrassing when it decided to breakdown on route..not we managed to crawl up hills between 10 and 20 miles per hour...there was a point that we were going so slow that the alpacas obviously thought that we had stopped... as we could feel them stand up in the back! The queue of traffic to the show field was growing. Was I a tad annoyed?...I will let you guess.

However we did have a successful day despite the torrential rain. We were at least inside a Marquee (with Greenside Alpacas) so the the alpacas, us, and the public could keep dry. Amazingly we did manage to leave the show field without being towed...the fact that the turbo had cut out and hence the lack of power to cause wheel spin, worked to our advantage...see always glass half full!

Parisien (fawn)... seen here with Pepsi (brown)... was our star at the Cumberland Show (I think the eyes have it!)

However, the van problem did mean that we had to take the trailer on Sunday when St Patrick was mobile mating. I am now waiting for the garage to sort out getting the van in for repair, as we have another busy weekend ahead. We are atttending Penrith Agricultural Show on Saturday and have more mobile matings on Sunday. We have now decided to hold off taking any more mobile mating bookings in addition to those already booked (unless very local) in order to be able to provide the best service both to the females that we have booked in and to our own girls (we give our boys at least 2 days off prior to mobile matings).

Explorer is still a little down, still missing Lucie, but is getting bettter. It is a shame that the 2 wethers, whom we have introduced as his 'friends' just ignore him. I am not going to tell him that we have decided to mate Lucie with St. Patrick. We are always undecided about when to mate maidens, but Lucie is well grown and very mature, whereas Roma (seen in the photo below) is smaller and still very much acts like a cria at times. So Lucie will get mated at 14 months of age, all the other 2010 females will wait until next spring.

Roma (foreground), Willow and Lucie

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Life is good...

It is very difficult to spend time in the cria field and not feel cheered...the innocence and their love of life is infectious...but there is one little boy who has it in bucket loads...and that is little Max. He really did have a rocky start (probably more so than came across in the blog at the time; for fear of being a constant doom and gloom merchant!). He is always playing...and if nobody else wants to join in...he just pronks away on his own. I think Minnie may have passed on her 'adorable' gene.

Max...just loving it!

Not everyone is quite as happy unfortunately...Explorer is not loving his new field...he is still pining for Lucie. Here he is, a flower between his teeth, pleading that she come over...

Explorer with a flower for Lucie...

But's not working...despair is setting in....

Despair... set in concrete!

Explorer's sister has no such worries...enjoying the can see that she shares her brother's bright white fleece.

Rumour Has It...enjoying the sunshine!

Finesse also enjoying the good life...with Holly as cushion!

Beck Brow Finesse...

I have to admit to having enjoyed the sunshine over the past few days. There is always an outside job to be done in order to take advantage of the good weather. The past couple of days have seen numerous gates and miles of fencing treated with wood preservative.

Actually, I am so done with painting, that I am just about looking forward to fleece skirting. I have just had a call today to say approximately 350 fleece will be ready for us to collect next week, in addition to the 100 I need to collect from Blueberry Alpacas. And I haven't started on my own yet. I can see a visit to the osteopath might be on the cards! I keep buying fleece and still haven't put anything for sale on the website yet...If I don't watch out I am going to become known as the Fleece Squirrel!

The problem is so much to do; so little time...I still haven't got to the hairdressers yet...we are taking some alpacas to The Cumberland Show on Saturday, so an appointment has been made for Friday. Amanda has kindly offered to farm watch whilst I get some time out. I have just worked out that taking Blanche's average gestation period...she should have her cria on Friday...oh least one of them is an old pro!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Cria photos...taken by a strong women!

Thanks for the advice Mark (Patou Alpacas)...I have taken it on board...I have pulled myself together. Explorer has been longer do I hear him more shall he embarrass his poor mother (he was trying to mate Galaxy last night and she was sitting for him!)...he is not happy...but I am strong.

Just to make sure he was alright, I found an excuse to be in the paddock...taking cria photos (not the best I'm afraid, apart from being a gloomy day...I was distracted...I kept looking over into the other poor boy!)

An out of focus Beck Brow Rumour chewing Beck Brow Synergy's ear (both EPC Top Account of Fowberry)

Beck Brow Finesse (Legacy of Purston)

Young Punk Annabelle (Anzac Hollywood's Attitude)

Florens Fendi (Witness) with Beck Brow Sophie behind (Hollywood)

Beck Brow Magellan (Neptune of Houghton) and behind Beck Brow Katie (Legacy)

Beck Brow Crystal (Ambersun Baltimore) and Synergy behind (less than 2 weeks old!)

Our little hero Beck Brow Max (Hollywood)

Florens Satchmo in the foreground with his best mate Annabelle close by.

As you can see from the photos we have far too much grass this year. Paul is constantly topping which seems such a waste. We have one field that we have kept for hay, but are now wishing that we had set aside more land (I know it is a different story in the South where hay is expected to be in short supply). It is raining again now with the bonus of thunder and lightening...some summer!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

I Love Lucie!

It's good news!...Nancy (a female belonging to Robyn and Craig) had a Hollywood cria yesterday morning, and in text book style. 10.30 am, straight forward birth of a male cria weighing 9.5 kg, who was quickly up on his feet and drinking. Nancy is an average sized female and this was her second pregnancy so it was rather a test to see if everything went well. We are so pleased, as Hollywood is producing some lovely cria, really well conformed with plenty of density, and he really is producing colour. We are now starting to blame the early spring grass here and the constant rain; we have never had so much lush grass. Two more Hollywood cria to come, both decent sized females, we will see.

Young Punk Alfie a brother for Annabelle

 I know she has featured for 3 blogs in a row...but just to confirm the colour and confirmation attributes; Beck Brow Sophie...again!

 I did go out to take some photos of  Rumour and Synergy (who even I think like rather alike...both EPC Top Account of Fowberry cria) but didn't get past Magellan (it is impossible to get past Magellan he is so friendly) before it started to rain.

Beck Brow Magellan

 I probably shouldn't put in into print how pathetic I am...but always best to be honest I feel; Last night I decided I really needed to separate Explorer from the girls. Now, he has long ago abandoned his Mum so no problems there. What is the problem is his attachment to Lucie...and visa versa...they adore each other. Lucie still sticks with Nancy her Mum, so now we are a group of four:

Nancy, Alfie, Lucie and Explorer (nearest fence)

Explorer has even been helping protect Alfie (that look on their faces is due to Velvet approaching). So what is the issue?...why the need to move him?....Well for most of the time it is brotherly sisterly love...that is until Explorer hears St. Patrick orgling...then his thoughts turn a little x-rated. So did I move Explorer?...I did for the whole of 30 minutes...he went in with our two wethers...but he was so distraught shouting for Lucie, I couldn't stand it and gave in...PATHETIC! I am going to have a move around and put him in the paddock next to the girls with the wethers. I know it should be out of sight out of mind, but I don't think it was going to work.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

And relax...

Phew!...dangerous I know...dangerous to say phew right in the middle of the birthing season...but this morning it had to be said. Nobody is needing any bottle feeding, and everyone has put on weight (well except me...I am losing weight and gaining grey hairs!) phew it is.

I blame Amanda. Amanda asked if she could keep her 2 pregnant females here on livery until they had birthed. The idea was that not only would she be supported with her own births, but she would also be on call to witness as many of ours as she could. Well, she has certainly acquired some experience, plenty of things signed off in the portfolio of evidence. I think it's going to be a first class honours...that's enough Amanda, lets have the rest straight forward please.

It is hardly surprising that little Bonita had trouble getting Sophie out unaided (yes if we had known that Hollywood was going to be such a big strong boy we may have chosen differently for such a small female). Weighing 9.0 kgs at birth, she is so tall when compared to her dam, it's amazing that she actual fit inside there.

Bozedown Bonita with Beck Brow Sophie.

Anzac Hollywood's Attitude has done a really go job of strengthening the colour of his cria. Sophie is a lovely solid, even, brown despite Hollywood being light fawn

Anzac Hollywood's Attitude...archive photo from the winter...sorry really should have gone out to take a new one...but you can see his colour!

I have been on a new morning regime for a week now. Up early to check on everyone, then a long walk with the dogs; Velvet and Tyke. Velvet (Jack Russell x Cocker Spaniel) has been chewing...chewing her bed...chewing our bed. The plan is to get her tierd out early (when you are also walking a Minature Yorkie this isn't easy, I have to carry Tyke some of the way as his little legs get worn out) and it has seemed to be working...less chewing. Until today that is...I stopped to check an email on my phone...and when I started to walk again I did notice that something didn't seem quite right...I looked behind... and there was Tyke looking very disgruntled...left sitting on the grass with his lead chewed in two...VELVET!!!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Another legless presentation...

Today we had a visit from Sophie (Craig's little sister). Although, Sophie wishes to become a vet in the future, she got rather more experience than we had anticipated. Another head and no legs presentation...what is going on...I managed to get one leg but just couldn't get the second (again). Luckily the vet was only 15 minutes away (and on a Sunday, how fortunate was that!) and helped deliver a lovely brown female (could be dark fawn??) for Bonita. We have of course named the cria Sophie.

Beck Brow born

A helping hand to sit up from Robyn and Sophie, and then we leave them to it.

Anzac Hollywood's Attitude (light fawn) is producing some great coloured cria. Sophie is a very similar colour to Pebbles' cria that we lost. We are not sure if we can blame him now for the legs back, as Rumour also had problems. Our vet is experiencing a lot of similar presentations with calves this year...could it have something to do with the strange weather conditions that we have experienced in the North West...Summer in April; late autumn conditions in May and June?

Rumour is doing well and refused her bottle this morning. She is now a mighty 9.1 kgs...what a relief (although few of us can claim to dislike bottle feeding it is great to be unwanted!)

We had an extremely busy day yesterday at Skelton Village Show. With over 10,000 visitors each year it is the biggest village show in Cumbria, and indeed one of the biggest in the UK. I expect that number will have been well and truly topped this year, as we had brilliant sunshine (rare round these parts of late) and the crowds were continuous. Lucie, Poppet and Parisien were there to represent Beck Brow Alpacas and Parisien especially was a little star, loving all the attention. I think that they must have been posing by the end of the day, they had had so many photographs taken! It was a great day, and we talked to so many lovely people about alpacas, I am however rather hoarse today...I think that it was competing with the brass band nearby that did it!

Friday, 1 July 2011

A little weight gain for Rumour...

Rumour Has It ...that we have been kept on our toes by a special little female. Rumour, born last Saturday, had a leg back and had obviously been in a awkward position in the womb/birthing canal, resulting in her being rather 'squished'. Nursing was extremely difficult for her, but we managed to get some colostrum into her and some plasma. She also got antibiotic cover. We were encouraged when after lots of physio, her neck stiffness and head hanging started to resolve, and she began to nurse from Camilla. However, whenever we have reduced the supplementation bottle feeds, she has lost significant amounts of weight. So we are back giving additional feeds four times per day...and hooray...this morning she is 8.4 kgs (only 400gs above birth weight but progress!)

Her dam, Camilla, also kept us on our toes last year with Explorer. First impressions are that Rumour has got many of the fleece qualities of her brother; crimp from head to toe to belly to brisket!. Camilla is obviously very good at getting the ingredients right, just not very good at serving up the finished dish!

I noticed yesterday that Roma appears to have taken on the role of nursery teacher, and is doing an excellent job:

Today's nature walk: "On the left are things called keep does not want to be fraternising with coarse types"

"Keep together children...ignore that boy behind...he has been known to 'pouffe' occasionally"

"That's it Katie...keep looking forward...we may be on an expedition, but we don't want an additional Explorer"

"Well done...lesson over for today!"

Max has hopes of becoming a Cumbrian farmer when he grows up...he has already got the obligatory piece of straw handing from his mouth (you may have to look closely)

The sun is shining, and Bonita is 349 days gestation today...15 days over her average. We have a stand at Skelton Show tomorrow...looks like one of us will be staying at home again... unless she decides to oblige this afternoon...Whatever, Robyn has been recruited on marketing duties for Beck Brow (I think I may leave Paul at home just for a change...Bonita is an old hand, she will show Paul what to do!)