Monday 30 January 2012


It has been so nice to have been greeted by Jack Frost the last couple of mornings...a welcome relief from the rain and mud. Unfortunately it did rain on Friday when we had visitors who had arranged sometime ago, to come to the farm to meet the alpacas and get 'hands-on'. We did still manage to do some cria walking in the rain and I don't think the bad weather dampened their enthusiasm for it one bit!

On Sunday we went to visit our friends at Nero Black Alpacas fitting in the NEBAG (North East and Borders Alpaca Group) AGM at the same time. It was a very positive meeting, and a number of both educational and social events are being planned for this year, as well the annual halter and fleece shows. 

However fleece rummaging was obviously the highlight of my day. Now we only have one black alpaca, black is not my speciality, however it didn't take an expert to recognise that a certain black male was looking stunning...he will be at the Futurity...looking very nice Ice...good luck guys!

Taking of the British Alpaca Futurity...we only have 2 weeks left until we have to make some decisions.

Decision 1...made...we are going.

Decision 2 ... made...we are definitely taking some alpacas.

Decision we take the van and the trailer or just the van (just taking the van will cut down the journey time by 30 will be a much more comfortable will be much easier to park)

Decision 4... pending...who to take? This will be influenced by the above.
My other issue is Snooty Boots and Adelle. They will not be weaned until the end of February at the earliest...will they be ready to be weaned?...both are small (Boots had a bit of a blip with her growing for a while) is expensive to make entries and then not take them....maybe I will know better in two weeks time.

I will be so pleased when the entries close and I can't deliberate any more...however almost certains are; Beck Brow Magellan (Neptune of Houghton) and Beck Brow Rumour Has It (EPC Top Account of Fowberry) and a strong possible is Beck Brow Crystal (Ambersun Baltimore of Townend). After our previous experience we will be taking a minimum of three (last year Roma didn't like being left on her own)

Magellan Checking out Velvet

Obviously over stepping the mark!

Rumour Has It (same dam as Explorer)

Crystal Maze (she is so much bigger than Rumour but only 3 weeks older!)

Beck Brow Snooty Boots...still looking diddy

Easter-Wood Adelle also still petite...and very fine.

Bahati is still sitting down more than would be considered normal...but otherwise appears perfectly fine...she is as I type; sitting under the heater in the shelter...looking every inch like one else is allowed near!

We have more alpaca visitors coming tomorrow...fingers crossed for more frost...please no more rain!

Wednesday 25 January 2012

A Bahati update.

Thank you for all the crossed fingers for Bahati (sorry for being a bit slow with the update Bev). She is still sitting more than is normal but rather less than over the weekend (Bahati that is not Bev).

We did have the vet out yesterday as Katkin, who is on livery, was hobbling a little. So we decided to ask the vet to do a bit of a herd health check whilst he was out;

Katkin was examined and declared to have a minor injury to her right hock, no treatment (she is pregnant and it was felt that anti-inflammatories were an unnecessary intervention in this case). She is much improved today.

The vet concurred with our findings on Bahati...definitely sitting too much (she did demonstrate this thankfully. How often do you get the vet out and the alpaca decides to look perfectly well as soon as they arrive!)...but nothing on examination...the thoughts are that it may have been either a Vit D or selenium deficiency, and to wait for the supplements we have given to kick in. But to have a low tolerance before calling them out again if no improvement.

Phoebe who has had skin problem since the summer (no treatment for mites nor any other possible dermatological condition has fully resolved things, but it is improving) has failed to put on any weight despite quadrupling her rations. She is very thin scoring no more than 2/5. We were surprised when we did the spit-offs last week that she is still pregnant (due early April). We arranged blood samples to be taken whilst the vet was on farm and will hopefully get the results tomorrow. We are beginning to wonder if the skin problems are due to an underlying cause rather than being the actual cause of her lack of condition. This is one situation where we wish that she wasn't pregnant for both their sakes.

Finally we had the three 'sit nor spit' girls pregnancy scanned. Unfortunately, as I guessed it was Pepsi Lola who was empty. It took us so long to get her pregnant in the summer it is disappointing. We were anticipating a lovely coloured cria from her mating to our Waradene St Patrick of EPC. On a positive note she should have been nearly 5 months gestation at the time of the miscarriage and the foetus was much smaller that it should have been for that stage, so obviously something wrong.

Pepsi Lola

I know that we spent all last January complaining about the frost and the snow...but how I miss it when compared to all this mud. In addition to all the muddy gate ways, we have too much grass...not a bad complaint you may be thinking...not if you would like to use St Patrick and Explorer as dining tables...yes too fat boys. We are keeping the alpacas (50 including liveries) on 10 acres at the moment, but they are struggling to keep on top of it. As you can see from the photo of Finesse...things are still so green...yes those are our Shetland ponies in the background...they too will have to be on rationed grass very soon.

Beck Brow Finesse

Lady Gaga arrived via parcel post today...her yarn that is...we sent two of her fleeces to The Border Mill to be spun, rather than have them mixed with the rest of the herd. The yarn is the most beautiful bright oyster colour and has a lovely soft handle. The balling and the labelling is also great. Available in our shop sometime soon!

Monday 23 January 2012

Too much sitting...something is wrong with Bahati

There has been no gallivanting this weekend. With an off-colour alpaca to keep an eye on, we haven't strayed far from home over the past couple of days. It was/is Bhahati who has been giving us some cause for concern. We had noticed that she had been sitting a lot but thought that she may have lost her pregnancy, especially as she is often sitting next to the boy's fence line (possibly looking to be mated). However, we spat her off when we were doing the young girls last weekend, and she spat very convincingly. On closer inspection she looks pregnant.

We weren't really too worried, for if she is pregnant then she is entitled to have a bit of a rest. However, on Saturday we felt she really was sitting too much for a female who is not due until May. She was acting so like a female who is nearly much so that I began to doubt myself...I had to really think if there could have been any way that she had been mated accidentally (she has been left open over last winter)...but no definitely not...her first mating was May then she sat again in June.

So should we be worried?

  • Temp 36.2 ...rather cold (although a low temp can also be an indication of infection, we felt that this was most likely to be due to inactivity and the cold weather). We put on the barn heater and laid down some straw, which she promptly sat on (looking every inch like the queen bee!)
  • Respiratory rate 24...on the faster side of normal (possible indicator of pain? However she didn't appear to be in any pain. Chest infection?...I listened to her lungs with a stethoscope...nothing obvious)
  • Heart rate normal range.
  • Body score 4/5 (Still eating but sitting down again straight afterwards)
So possibilities?

  • Possibly a little stiff in back left leg when getting down to cush. No obvious injury (have given Finadyne today and will monitor). Possibly Vitamin D deficient...have given intramuscular A D & E as whole herd were due this week (it would be ironic if this was the case after changing to injectable vitamins from paste...when we had no problems with the paste?)
  • Other deficiencies selenium, vitamin B12? We use a drench containing selenium, cobalt and vit B12 so an additional dose was given to Bahati. However, she did not have obvious symptoms of vit B12 deficiency i.e humped back and weight loss. I checked the inside of her eyes and she had no signs of anaemia (pale) nor jaundice (yellow).
  • Worm burden? She was wormed last month and is up to date with Fasinex (liver fluke) and Lambivac (clostridial disease). However we do not routinely drench for coccidia so we decided to do an egg count. We are fortunate to have our own equipment for testing (we do still do quality control checks with the VLA now and again) and all tests floating and sinking produced nil of note.
  • A stomach ulcer is always worth considering but she was cushed quite comfortably chewing her cud so an unlikely cause of her malaise.
We know that she isn't quite herself, I am sure if anyone else saw her they would be wondering what 'the fuss' was about. Now, the advice should always be if in doubt call the Vet. The only reason that I have not is because I feel that I can monitor her very closely, and I have years of experience as an Intensive Care nurse to guide me. I do feel that she is rather better today but if there had been no improvement or the slightest deterioration I wouldn't have hesitated to call...and may still do so. A blood test might be useful if things are not back to normal very soon.

If I have missed anything, something that anyone else has experienced, please do share.

Since we were stuck at home; we actually got around to making decisions regarding the World Alpaca Conference. We have such a busy April planned it is proving difficult to fit everything in (and expect someone to do all the farm sitting as well). However, we have now made the booking for the Wednesday and Thursday lectures. We have booked a rather nice hotel in the centre of Oxford and plan to combine some wining, dining and exploring, as well as alpaca related stuff. However we have the British Alpaca Futurity to look forward to that will be non-stop is always an exciting time to catch up with everyone after the winter months...that hotel was booked some months ago!

On the subject of farm sitters; Mum and Dad surprised us at Christmas was a lovely painting of some of our alpacas. They had been very good at keeping it a surprise...bringing the artist out to the farm to take photographs in August when they knew that we would be at the Blueberry herd auction. We instantly recognised the cria...

...from left Young Punk Alfie, Beck Brow Quintos (at only a few days old), and Beck Brow Snooty Boots.

P.S Shirley or Robbie...if you read your new blog layout but I don't seem to be able to leave any comments anymore...just to let you know I am still reading!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Map reader required!

It is that time of the year, when lots of us are thinking about the show season ahead of us. Today I attended a meeting with the manager of Westmorland County Show to discuss the arrangements for the 2012 alpaca event. The team are so incredibly well organised I really have it easy as 'the organiser' of the alpaca show. I can reveal that the committee have invited Catherine Lloyd to be our judge for this year's show. Catherine, along with her husband Matthew, own EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud in Wiltshire in addition to the renown Eringa Park herd in Australia. Last year Catherine was in demand not only on the UK show circuit but also in mainland Europe they have obviously decided that it was best to get the invite out early!

Despite deciding that I should keep politics out of my blogging...I do keep stirring up the alpaca meat for sale isn't that I am a vegetarian...I am not over sentimental...I am just passionate about advancing our national well as alpaca welfare. Perry, who now resides in Australia, makes some very valid comments about how the subject of alpaca meat is viewed down under. Thankfully we are no where near having the numbers of alpacas in the UK at the moment that we have to have to make such decisions.

On a lighter note...Yesterday we decided to take advantage of the weather... to have a girls day out walking in the Lake District. Now, there is a bit of theme with our walks...we have a guide proper map...and we get slightly lost. Well, not wanting to deviate from the norm...we got a bit off track...very early on in the walk... To be fair, when we checked the guide book, it had been published in what was then described as 'an ill-defined path' probably now completely overgrown.

Luckily someone had a sense of direction...well maybe not a sense of direction but an iphone with a GPS...and we managed to find civilisation...civilisation with a roaring log fire...civilisation called The George and Dragon. The barman perked up when we entered...5 females, 2 dogs (including Velvet who also answers to 'Where You Been?'), 4 banana muffins and a banana (I am on fat watch hence no muffin!) was obvious that not many folks happened to pop in on a Tuesday afternoon in January...he was very chatty asking where we were from and what we doing...he asked if we wanted his details...just as some of the single girls thought the day was looking up...he produced a business card...Guided Fell Walks in the Lake District!...nothing if not an opportunist... however, I expect that he lost all hope of signing up any clients for anything more strenuous than a stroll... when we ordered the bottle of red wine at the bar!

Finally a couple of photos of the Blueberry girls who have left us spit nor sit...

Renata (Best of British Champion Northumberland Show 2011)


Monday 16 January 2012

None the wiser.

Well, we really are none much the wiser as to which of our females has miscarried. We did use Legacy to spit-off all of the females in the group, and every one spat, with the exception of 3 girls; who neither sat nor spat. The females in question are the two white girls that were purchased at the Blueberry auction; Nicola and Renata; and Beck Brow Pepsi Lola. We really didn't see the point in over stressing the girls (as two are obviously pregnant) so we will just keep an eye on them.

Looking back at our mating records: Nicola sat readily when first mated; Renata took a little more persuading; and Pepsi was never does that point the finger at Pepsi...I do hope not...this will be the first year that our 'home grown' females will be having their own does make it extra special.

For that same reason I was so pleased that it wasn't Beck Brow Lucie. Lucie's mum (Nancy) came to us at foot with one of the first three females that we purchased. We chose to mate Nancy with EPC Top Account of Fowberry and we were delighted when she produced such a beautiful female, who has now joined our core herd. Lucie, who has fawn in her pedigree,  is now pregnant to our own Waradene St Patrick of EPC. The resulting cria really will give us a chance to evaluate our own breeding is a long process even without any mishaps!

Beck Brow Pepsi Lola (full sister to Poppet)

Beck Brow Lucie

We have had another lovely weekend...treating ourselves to the 10 course tasting menu at the Michelin starred Sharrow Bay Hotel, situated on Lake Ullswater. We went with Robyn and Craig having decided to make this a Christmas present to each other this year. We chose the option to have a different wine (half glass) to accompany each course, so as you can imagine we had rather a jolly time! Hence on Sunday we went walking in an attempt to burn off a few calories...unfortunately I don't think we quite managed to negate the previous evenings intake! Anyone looking to celebrate a special occasion I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Sharrow Bay. We have stayed at the Hotel on a number of occasions but this time decided to save some pennies by staying in a lovely B&B nearby, which we will definitely do again.

Lastly, I have had a complaint about my biased blogging...sorry Colin...I know that Velvet gets much more blog space than Tyke...but she is far naughtier...any way here is a photo of Tyke in his winter gear!

Tyke...who was having a few alpaca problems this one recognised him in his tartan coat!

I have just replied to an email asking for our opinion on the BAS magazine article featuring a local breeder who produces alpaca meat. This was the final paragraph of my reply:

I really do feel that we will be doing a massive disservice to those breeders who have done so much to improve the standards of our national herd, and to our alpaca industry on the whole, if we are to start breeding alpacas with an eye on the dinner table rather than an eye on Saville Row.

All those in favour say aye!

Thursday 12 January 2012

A Miscarriage.

After a very positive start to the new year we had a blip yesterday. Unfortunately, whilst doing the poo picking Paul found a foetus in the maiden field. No more than 2.5 inches long (base of neck to tail) we knew by it's size it had to be one of the younger females mated late in the year. We checked everyone; no tell tale signs under the tail, no one showing any obvious change in behaviour.

This morning I decided we should spit off the girls, that way we could give prophylactic antibiotics if we felt this to be necessary. Our young working stud males can all be a bit eager at spit offs, thus wanting to keep disruptions down to a minimum, I decided Explorer, who is not yet working, could have a little venture across the lane to the girls.

He started off well with his 2 favourite girls; Lucie and Roma. Both spat off. Next Renata, he wasn't as keen but did enough to get a rejection. Biba, our black girls was fourth to be he wasn't keen at all...positively turned up his nose in fact...I did my best ogling impersonation...still not interested...then something caught his eye...something white...something gorgeous...he looked back at Biba then back at this thing of beauty...he went closer then stepped back to admire...what was it he saw? was himself in the mirror! Yes, I kid you not...he then lost all interest and started going round all the mirrors...a whole room of gorgeousness! So that was it... I will spit off Nicola and Biba tomorrow using Legacy (old and wise and knows when they are pregnant by the merest whiff...and not quite so vain).

I remember going to a lecture at our first British Alpaca Futurity and being surprised to hear that 20% of alpaca pregnancies do not result in a cria (a live cria at 6 months of age). This seemed to us to be high, although I now believe that this is similar to many mammals. Last year we lost no pregnancies, but have lost 2 cria (one at birth and one at 3 months of age). Hence we did prepare ourselves that we would be very lucky if all the girls actually delivered. At least no one appears to be upset by their loss of pregnancy.

We have actually had a couple of dry days this week so I have been able to have a good look at some of the cria fleeces...what a difference a dry windy day makes...especially when trying to assess the finest fleeces. Hopefully we will have a few juniors making the show team this year. If anyone has any concerns as to whether showing is a stressful experience for juniors...I found a photo from Northumberland Show...that is Explorer asleep with Poppet using him as a don't get more chilled out that that!

Explorer and Poppet asleep at Northumberland Show.

I always find it interesting to see how mums and cria cope at weaning time. It isn't always as predicted; with some of the most protective mums accepting weaning without a backward glance, and others who have appeared a bit indifferent coping less well. This year it is Camilla who is the surprise, last year she was glad to be rid of Explorer (to be fair he was trying to mate everyone...bit of an embarrasment to her) but this year she has been moping around since the adorable Rumour has been weaned. I will be interested to see how Lady Gaga copes...she must be the proudest mum ever...despite Boots being very independent...touch Boots and you get the glare...the Gaga glare has to be cool!

Monday 9 January 2012

Alpaca walking (passed) Dog walking (failed)...must try harder!

Another fairly leisurely weekend...I have declared myself officially back to work today...that is the problem with being self and pleasure do blur in to one at times...especially when work is alpaca related.

On Saturday morning we weaned the second group of cria. This is the first year that we have not weaned all of the cria at the same time. We now have enough cria born to wean them more accurately (thus avoiding over burdening nursing Mums who are struggling to maintain condition feeding large cria). With births stretching from May to September last year, we have decided to split the cria into three groups. The final group of Quintos, Boots and Adelle will be weaned late February, if they are well enough grown of course.

The first six weanlings have now past the halter training test; all having made it to the lane end and back without any trouble. All are pretty good at standing to have their legs lifted too (toe nail trimming practise) Crystal is a sitter for leg lifting (although good at walking) but we will work on that whilst she is still a manageable size.

It is interesting to see how the older weanlings have established their group...I am sure they are looking at the latest four and saying..."just get over it ... Mummy's boy"

Finesse talking about the new kids with Katie (these two are the best of friends...unfortunately Katie is on livery and will be leaving us soon).

We have had a little sunshine today. It will take some time for the mud to dry out, but at least it isn't getting any worse. It is a struggle to find a clean alpaca to photograph;

Parisien (dark fawn) isn't looking too dirty from a distance...Roma would certainly not stand close inspection (look at those knees)

Biba seems to have excelled in the dirty stakes despite being our only black alpaca.

Beck Brow Explorer doesn't do dirty of course!

On Sunday we decided to have a family walk...due to time restrictions (Robyn and Craig had a Sunday dinner invitation)...we chose to go to Bewcastle...a bit bleak at the best of times never mind in January...but the map said that we could complete the walk within 2 hours. Well it started to drizzle, but we decided to go for it was also a bit windy but this made us feel like troopers. We had managed an hour and a half of the walk...when...Velvet caught the whiff of a she went (as Robyn pointed out Velvet's sense of smell seems to be rather stronger than her sense of hearing) and a half hours later...soaking wet...and covered in mud (us not Velvet)...we found about was my fault of course...according to Paul I need to train her there is a challenge I will not be winning!

Paul and Velvet

Saturday night I checked the British Alpaca Futurity website to double check the closing dates for entries now Paul is my witness, all dates were the same; 14th Jan 2012. So on Saturday I decided we didn't have time to make any decisions and get any entries in on time (even if they were just photo entries) only to check again this morning to see that the dates have been changed to the 14th February...that's more like it...far too soon past the festive break to make any decisions yet.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Sharing Advice!!

Happy New Year!!...a little belated...and a bit blowy (with gale force winds blowing, across Cumbria and Scotland especially, we have been without electricity for most of the day)...but wishing you all a happy and successful 2012...I feel it's going to be a good one...positive thinking always does the trick I promise!

We normally start our alpaca halter training during the Christmas break, whilst we have plenty of helpers around, however this year it has been difficult to find a day when it hasn't been raining. In the end we just had to get wet...I am not sure who likes getting wet least...the alpacas or the trainers but it has to be done.

After a couple of times just wearing the halters (ensuring the halters are a correct fit is essential - I do like the Mary Roach cria harnesses with the fully adjustable fastening rather than traditional buckle) the weanlings ventured out. We like to take them out in groups of three if we can. We have sometimes enlisted the help of a 'good walker' to follow (this was going to be Explorer this year as they are all in awe of him...tails flipped over upon the mere sight of him) but we made good progress unaided. It always tends to be the third time out...and they just 'get it'...some more than others it has to be said....

Craig takes the persuasive approach with Annabelle

 ...and makes good plenty of verbal encouragement

 Magellan (with Robyn) and Finesse are also off and away (Paul also has an alpaca but his sweet talking doesn't seem to have the same charm...tell me about it Katie!)

Synergy and Crystal off up the lane despite the rain.

Today was an alpaca chatter day...Magnum and Satchmo are to be relocated to Scotland...and their lovely new owner came to spend some time with us on the farm (thankfully she survived the wind and the lack of electricity unscathed). As they will not be going north until March...when they are fully halter trained!...We (Amanda and myself) can enjoy the boys for a while longer. We are so lucky in always finding lovely new homes for our alpacas...the boys are to have a log cabin with veranda as their new abode...and no one makes it as far as the for sale list either!

Now I know blogs should really be about sharing knowledge and experience and should not be all me drivelling I feel I should share this information girls...Robyn (daughter) gets new car (Volvo) it has some rattles...she takes car back...sorted. Next time she gets in car...the seat belt alarm is sounding constantly...checks fastening all correct...stops car gets in and out, turns off still keeps is driving her crazy...she drives to garage to complain..."Surely a brand new car should not have so many problems"...and this is where the advice comes in...DON'T PUT SO MUCH STUFF IN YOUR HANDBAG THAT IT WEIGHS THE SAME AS A SMALL HUMAN WHEN PLACED ON THE PASSENGER SEAT!...embarrassing or what?