Wednesday 28 December 2011

A Review of 2011

It wasn't the easiest start to 2011...with temperatures as low as minus 17 degrees it meant plentiful supplies of sugar beet for the alpacas, and plentiful layers of thermals for the humans. Velvet (our Jocker...that's a Jack Russell / Cocker Spaniel cross...used to be called a mistake, but is now of course trendy...although she still gets called a mistake round here fairly often!)... got herself plastered in January, after a run in with a post van...this of course was only the start of Velvet's many mishaps in 2011!


We did escape the cold in February with a holiday to Kerala in Southern India...where I celebrated my 50th birthday (50 and don't I know it...never mind crying at sad films...I was crying at Professional Master chef last week!) ...although we didn't visit Delhi on this occasion... I did still manage to acquire the belly...and was more than happy to be back in Cumbria with our alpacas by the end of it.... Especially as we returned home to be greeted by a lovely new farm sign...

A present from Robyn and Craig (the sign not Waradene St Patrick...they are generous but that might just be a bit much!)

Late March and April were unseasonally warm...the grass started growing much earlier than is the norm...and the alpacas were getting fat...(little did we know this was going to be our summer in it rained for most of July and August)...the alpacas were rather warm in their winter fleece...but made the most of the spa facilities...

Cambridge Camilla hogging the foot spa with EP Cambridge Lady Gaga looking peeved!
Spring brought with it field maintenance, more fencing and the building of additional field shelters. Hopefully this will be it for a while at Beck Brow, and we will have a year off from any more alterations in 2012...less expenditure and more income is the plan...and on that subject....

 Paul enjoying playing (boys on tractors...can not be called working!)

Yes... the subject of spending...some things are just too tempting to resist...and Inca Van Dieman Chaska was certainly irresitable...a beautiful dark fawn female; with such coverage, density and strength of bone that she could easily have been mistaken for a macho...if it wasn't for her having one of the prettiest faces and the most doe like eyes you have ever seen...add to that a pregnancy to Neptune of Houghton...Waradene St. Patrick got lucky and another female was added to his harem.

Inca Van Dieman Chaska newly arrived at Beck Brow Alpacas

Beck Brow Explorer (dam: Cambridge Camilla sire: Cambridge Navigator of ACC) has had an incredible year on the show circuit...proving himself to be a little star. He attended four British Alpaca Society (BAS) shows and has managed to decorate our boot room single handedly;

  • Four first places (including The National Show in a class of 22)
  • Res. Champion Junior Male Huacaya
  • Champion Intermediate Huacaya
  • Champion White Male Huacaya
  • Champion White Huacaya
  • Two Supreme Championships!!

Beck Brow Explorer at The National Show .... Yes Explorer you do have to go back in the ring!

 Beck Brow Explorer gets Supreme Champion at Northumberland and Westmorland Shows

In amongst our travels on the BAS show circuit; to local shows; and to The World Sheep Dog Trials...we had of course the birthing season to fit in...not our easiest with a number of cria deciding not to come out legs first. Beck Brow Magellan (dam Chaska above)...was the first of out 2011 cria to be born...not fawn as anticipated...but a little cracker all the same.

Beck Brow Magellan

Of course we were excited about the anticipated arrival of each of our cria...but probably none more so than that of EP Cambridge Lady Gaga...the reason of course was that this was to be our first, and only cria (for 2011) of Waradene St Patrick of EPC. Snooty Boots (as we named her) was supposed to be our last born cria of the year...however Lady Gaga had other ideas and decided to deliver at under ten and a half months gestation. Luckily, Snooty Boots, was a fighter and was up and away after a couple of days.

Part of the excitement was about what colour would she be...we had especially chosen St Patrick based on the strength of colour in his genetics, as well as his presentation...thankfully, we were not to be disappointed...Lady Gaga is beige...but Boots popped out the exact same colour as her sire...and the absolute spit of him too...

Beck Brow Snooty Boots ... a daddy's girl...

 Waradene St Patrick...can't get out of that one Paddy!

So with Lady Gaga passing the finishing post early, and Silverstream Hoity Toity taking her time; Beck Brow Quintos ended our birthing season in early September. Our final tally (unfortunately we lost 2 cria this year including Minnie's Max) is six females and four males (excluding alpacas on livery)

Beck Brow Quintos

 2011 also brought our ideas for our Beck Brow Alpaca Shop closer to reality. It has taken some sweat (nearly tears but not quite...I save them for when watching TV) and a journey on a massive learning curve...but together with the help of some expert craftsmen, we have some beautiful throws and scarves...just the beginning of our range (I just wish fleece sorting was as exciting as the finished product!)

 Our first Beck Brow Alpaca throws

August Bank Holiday was the date for the sale of the prize winning Blueberry Alpaca herd from Cumbria. The auction was packed with breeders from all over the UK present...we again added to our core herd with three females... including the highest priced girl (Best of British Champion 2011 at Northumberland  Show) and the third highest priced female (a black)

The Blueberry all pregnant to our own Waradene St Patrick of EPC

Velvet was back in her sick bed in the autumn...after a spell in doggy Intensive Care post the ingestion of poison (fungi we think) did take a couple of weeks before she was back to normal...thankfully she managed to come down from the house roof the following month unscathed!

Velvet...feeling poorly

Our final additions...and these really are our last alpaca purchases for some time...arrived at Beck Brow ready to face a Cumbrian winter. We decided, after his success on the show circuit, that Beck Brow Explorer deserved a special reward...two in the form of Easter-Wood Metisha with Easter-wood Adelle at foot...these two females have Australian genetics to die for...and super fine fleeces...we will have some time to wait but they have been especially chosen as the icing on Explorer's cake...we will see (that will be 2013!!!)

Easter-Wood Metisha and Easter-Wood Adelle

It has been a jam-packed year here at Beck times exhausting...but mostly exciting. We have had alpacas go to new homes, and others who have new owners but are still at livery here...we also have lots of new additions...all chosen for their individual qualities and what they will add to our herd...who have all settled well...we end the year feeling we have achieved a great deal...but most of all we have fields full of healthy and happy alpacas...and after all that is what it is all about.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Have a Gorgeous Christmas!

It just occurred to me on Monday that Christmas was fast approaching, and I had done very little about it. So, first thing it was a trip to the market gardeners to get a tree; it seemed that I had left it a bit late, no six foot trees left, I had to settle for a five foot one. But on a positive note I got a £10 reduction for my last minute purchase, and I didn't need Paul's help with the fairy (yes even I can reach that high).

On the alpaca front it has been all go. Everyone has been wormed (Cydectin 2%), toe nails trimmed, and the oldest cria have been weaned. We had no dramas on any front. The six cria; Magellan, Annabelle, Crystal, Finesse, Katie and Synergy are coping well. I am often asked about weaning and whether newly weaned cria should be out of sight of their Mums. Well, I really don't think there is a right or wrong approach, we have tried both. This year the cria are only separated by Explorer and his pals. Both Mums and cria seem happy that they can still see each other, and the cria have settled well (just a little whimper now and again from Synergy...the youngest...he also had the sweetest mummy in Galaxy).

I did mean to join in the shelter decoration challenge but forgot to buy any tinsel when I was shopping last night (it was the stress... of not being able to purchase all of the items on my shopping has become a case of life or death importance...I went to a number of stores...but no fresh sage anywhere....where's the wisdom in that!). Anyway, in order to join in I have had to resort to decorating the alpacas.

Explorer was the chosen Amanda so rightly pointed out...he likes wearing red!! If Explorer could put his own halter on he would...he loves showing off...he really does believe that he is Gorgeous...however when he saw the antlers he wasn't sure...I put mine on first...don't think that convinced him...I promised him that it was no loss of dignity and that Waradene St Patrick would be dressing up as a leprechaun come the 1st of March...obviously fearing that he might be out shone...the job was done.

Beck Brow Explorer with some old fool wearing antlers.

Actually what I think did the trick was Quintos prancing about in his antlers...he is another show off and I actually had to take them off him or he he would have gone outside wearing them! We don't have favourites around here...but push Paul...and he chooses Quintos every time...there is something about boys that are particularly endearing...I have a real soft spot for Magellan this year...but of course they are all adorable.

Beck Brow Quintos...a little dear!

As my blogging has been getting less and less frequent and my 'Chrismas things to do' list isn't complete I will take this opportunity to;

Wish you all a Very Merry Christmas!

Many thanks again to those of you who take the time to read this blog, be that as a follower or those who have accidentally clicked on the wrong Google is much appreciated!

P.S found some the garden...just don't tell Paul!

Friday 16 December 2011

Tiger Feet...That's Right!

Mud, Mud, Mud...looking on the bright side it has me reminiscing about the 70's...their music was pretty bad...but can anyone remember the dreadful dance that went with Tiger Feet...and we all thought it was so cool at the time! Well, even worse is the real thing...MUD...give me a bit of snow and ice anyday. It has rained here for days and we have never been so muddy, but as I type the snow is begining to fall, so lets hope we have some reprieve from the rain for a while.

I have been a bit concerned about Boots...our alpacas normally stay inside when the weather is bad but even they get bored after days of rain, so have ended up going out...Boots always looks cold when she gets soaking is the way she hunches her back in the wind and the rain...I tried putting a coat on but it was wet and muddy in no time, and so only added to the misery. She is gaining around a kilo a week now so steady progress, and she does get tucked into the Camelibra, so she is doing okay.

I was concerned that Boots was looking a little stiff a few weeks ago but this seems to have resolved with injectable A,D&E. We have decided to follow the advice given by Karin Mueller and inject at a dose rate of 2000 iu of Vitamin D per kilo bodyweight, rather than all the cria getting the same dose. After all there is a massive difference in weight between our cria born in May and those born in late August. I know we debated paste versus injectable vitamins earlier in the year and we had some interesting comments. Looking back I am pleased that we made the decision to change;

All of the the herd have also had their selenium and Colbalt drench. We are back using Maxigro, it does have to be given more frequently than some supplements, but as it is very well tolerated this isn't a problem. Our next job on the list is winter worming...yes we are later than normal...we have been waiting for a day when the alpacas are dry...we have been waiting a while. Actually we have now decided to leave it until next week...we know we don't have a worm problem as we do our own testing on a regular basis...and it now makes sense to worm the herd when the cria are weaned, and the cria are at their most vunerable.

A rather damp Boots...Amanda always comments that she (Boots that is) is rather cat like in apperance...I can see it in this photo...I think it's the ears!

For all those who wonder how I keep our alpacas so clean...I give you Synergy...we have lost the battle!

Now mud does present a strong argument for breeding brown alpacas...Finesse still looking spotless...if a bit damp!

I have actually finished fleece sorting...I can't tell you how good this feels...I feel like I should be cracking open some champagne...unfortunately having just worked out the cost of processing...I think I had better leave the bubbles in the cellar. Talking of which I decided to give it a clean out yesterday (the cellar)...whilst I nip down there pretty frequently...yes we do have wine stored down there...but it also houses the tumble drier and freezer...I think it might have been a while since it was cleared out...the newspaper lining the shelf was dated 2000...much older than any of the wine I found down there I can tell you!

Monday 12 December 2011

Something New!

There seems to be a common theme on all the alpaca blogs...for once there is no north south weather would appear that we are all up to our ankles in mud. Our alpacas are usually pretty good at keeping clean, but even they are failing to look pristine...

A rather dirty EP Cambridge Lady Gaga

It was more fleece sorting yesterday...did you think that I had finished with the trip to the mill...unfortunately not... but another full day and I will have cracked it...just as well as I am now at the stage where I am starting to grade people's hair as I stand behind them in the supermarket queue.

We are now pretty short of stock for our soon to up and running shop...Paul, who is not usually very observant has noticed that I have a lovely collection of alpaca scarves to wear...Robyn and Craig also have a couple to test drive...all in the name of market research of course...they just get softer the more they are worn, and for the first time ever I can wear a scarf that I don't have to keep taking off because I get irritatingly warm in shops...see I can recommend with confidence.

Taking of which; a plug for The Royal Mail. Last week I posted a parcel to the US containing 6 of our alpaca scarves. The customer had advised that these were to be Xmas presents so it was important that they arrived in plenty of time. Posted from our village post office last Friday using Royal Mail Airsure they arrived at their destination before I had even forwarded the tracking code...door to door 6 days!

From the Beck Brow Collection Craig?

I will keep this is Friday...Paul is in parents get new sofas....2 'old' Laura Ashley sofas are begging for a new home...they look lovely in our snug...the problem?...Paul's favourite recliner has to get moved to the garage (it didn't end up in one piece but that is a longer story)...well I thought that I had got away with it...I had warned him that we had something new...he had a quick glance ...not much was said...

As we were feeding the alpacas...I hear Paul mutter... "I am not here to be your servant you know...behaving like royalty"...oh dear...overstepped the mark?.. thankfully he was only talking to EPC Lady Gaga (she is worse than I am)...Paul reminded me that the last time I warned him that we had got something new whilst he was away in London...he came home to find a dog called Velvet...a sofa could never cause that much trouble he he had been relieved...should I have taken more advantage of the situation!

So not a lot happening in the alpaca world at the moment. I think that we are all looking ahead to next year and our births. I have been taking it one step further and looking into stud services for Cambridge Camilla for next year. We are planning to put our Champion Beck Brow Explorer over our white females, but of course Camilla is his dam so we are looking further a field for her. It would appear that I am not alone in my long term plans as I have noticed that Waradene St Patrick of EPC has been receiving a lot of interest via our website. It is a shame that we spend all of our time from September onwards looking forward to spring...thankfully we have Christmas to distract us!

Friday 9 December 2011

Lovely to see you...

Still a bit blowy today, although nothing compared to yesterday; Amanda came to visit the Beck Brow cria well wrapped up against the cold. Having been a bit under the weather herself, she hadn't been for a couple of weeks, so was looking forward to a warm welcome. Quintos was first in the queue...When he was born Amanda spent 3 hours with a hair drier getting his temperature up to he is a little bit special...

"No definitely not finest alpaca...more Tesco if you don't mind me saying!"

"No hat yourself an alpaca breeder!"

"Look don't tell anyone but you're my favourite"



Moment comes Magellan..."manners please!"

Easter-Wood Adelle with the results of the storm stuck in her fleece

And a welcome from Katie and Finesse (right)

Thankfully we survived the gale force winds without any damage...I was out first thing expecting the worst...but no. The barn looked liked a tornado had whirled through... with hay everywhere...including in all the cria fleeces...and by the amount of poo inside no one had ventured did take 3 hours to do the mucking and sweeping out this morning... but at least we all survived intact!

I have had rather a lazy day do need them sometimes...some socialising...a little bit of copy for the new website...and it's nearly time for a glass of Marlborough Savignon Blanc I feel!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Fine Fleece and a Hairy Journey!

We had already made plans to travel the four hours to Banbury to the Specialist Spinning Company way were we going to be put of by a little wind and rain...okay maybe I am playing it down a was blowing a gale (up to 70 mph) and sheeting with poo picking acquired muscles were put to the test as I tried to keep the van from weaving across the lanes of the M6.

Now I know some of you in the South might be complaining about the weather... having travelled down country the best you can have is "a bit grim" we are taking "horrendous" in Cumbria...and as for over the border...well I can only imagine.

Paul joined me on the journey...I was glad of his company...not for the conversation...he doesn't do 'girl's talk' (or even alpaca chatter for more than 30 minutes)... but because I am obviously not safe to be let out on the roads alone;

Paul; "No...left hand's a you not understand roundabouts...indicate"!!

Paul; "What are you doing"

Me; "Following the satnav"

Paul; "No go right"

Me; "It says left"

Paul; "It's wrong...pass me the map"

Satnav; "Turn around when possible....turn around where possible"

Despite all we arrived in good time with 400 kilos of fleece.

I had decided to make the trip down as I wanted to discuss our needs in person. We require our yarn to be spun very finely, but also fairly tightly in order to be strong enough for weaving. There were a few tuts from the boys when I said we wanted coloured yarn spun so finely...however as I handed them some sacks to dip their hands into...they quickly changed their opinion...obviously they were not expecting the fleece to have the fineness of the white....however we don't want to compromise on the grade of fineness whatever the colour of our fleece...and are very strict with skirting...which was commended. We now just have to wait to see the results...just slightly scary!

The machinery used for plying after spinning

The photo is not very clear but you can hopefully see the tracks...a five foot draw means that the yarn has a finish that is as near that of handspinning as you can get...much more successful for alpaca than short draw equipment I am told.

The alpacas are all tightly tucked into barns and shelters...we obviously still have electricity...with overhead lines I expect we will be lucky if we keep it much longer...torch batteries charged...and candles at the ready!

Saturday 3 December 2011

The results of the experiment...

It has taken a little all good research does...but I believe that I now have enough evidence; I can now reveal that the Paul Poo Picking Experiment has been a success. Some of you may recall that Paul has a very strong aversion to operating the Poover...on the few occasions that he has been persuaded to participate single-handedly...I feel sorry for the alpacas...all that shouting and swearing, the blaming of the tools...they are not used to it.

Well that is all in the past...The Pavlov's dog conditioning is working a treat (you will recall that the dog was conditioned to associate food with the ringing of a bell and eventually the mere ringing of the bell had the dog salivate) this case I had Paul help me with some fleece hour later he decides it would be better if he did some poo picking whilst it was all I have to say is 'fleece sorting' and Paul is the paddock poo picking quicker that Velvet after a rabbit...the paddocks are pristine!!

Talking of all dogs like to sleep like humans...


The reason for the fleece sorting frenzy is because we have managed to negotiate at slot at the Specialist Spinning Company . We have decided to drive down to the mill in Banbury, Oxon so that we can discuss our requirements in person. With a five hour journey to endure I have decided we may as well as much fleece as possible; 350 kilos weighed last night...I wonder what I'll have done by Monday!

Thank you for all your comments on the last blog. Magellan did indeed undo the cycle chain but didn't in fact make it down the pub (I think seat adjustment was just a step to far). He really is very entertaining and soooo smart. Yesterday I was leaning over him to pick something out of his fleece...(he just stood there despite the tangle)...when he carefully pulled down the zip on my fleece...okay not that smart...but then he pulled it up again...very smart! This morning's trick is to weigh himself...he has worked out that if he steps on the scales they light him!

I won't start the whole debate about cria handling again. I think we covered that one  in a blog earlier this year; We continue to handle our cria regularly in an appropriate manner...we have had no behaviour fact quite the reverse our alpacas are confident and don't mind being handled, which results in a stress free environment for all...Explorer the only male we kept from last year's births is very respectful towards me despite plenty of cria attention and medical intervention.

Beck Brow Magellan waiting for his breakfast this morning.

It really hasn't been the weather for photos...well not fluffy photos as some bedraggled alpacas from this morning. There was obviously something interesting happening up the lane (probably Velvet making her escape...she could have starred in the Fenton you tube bother). On the right are the girls from Weight watchers and on the left are the mums with cria.

Weight Watchers Club

The nursing mothers...not bothering to venture out.

Well must be off I have fleeces calling...Paul seems to have disappeared whilst I have been blogging...I can now hear the chain saw in the wood...he obviously has done poo picking... and thinks if he his far enough away he can avoid me...we will see!