Wednesday 28 March 2012

Blood Collection for Plasma...Lesson One!

Today I made my annual trip to Manchester (2 hours away) with my cool bag containing the blood bags, donated by our Beck Brow boys, ready to be spun into plasma. We have done this for a number of years. Not only do we feel reassured to have plasma readily available, but we know that the plasma will have antibodies that have been acquired on our farm, which is recommended best practice.

Now I often get asked advice about the process required, and I always stress how important it is to have full bags...if only I heeded my own advice! Paul our vet collected four bags of blood, as if our norm (we only get enough for our own needs) and off I went. Unfortunately after a two hour wait for the blood to be spun, I returned to the practice to be told that two of my bags were not full enough to be used...dam and dash!!

We used 350 ml blood bags and these must contain at least 80% of that volume. The rationale is that the bags contain anti-coagulant and the ratio will be distorted if the bags are not full enough...this could then cause a clotting problem for the recipient cria...we were both sure that we had had bags with similar volumes spun before...but maybe's an expensive lesson, one that I though I would share. We will just have to get some more spun if we need to use the two bags (hopefullt not). At least I had a nice lunch in the sunshine whilst I waited...£70 in fuel...difficult to justify!!

A blood bag that was rejected as under filled.

Earlier in the week Amanda visited to help with the latest group of weanlings' halter training session. Quintos had obviously been reading the manual and required no training at all. We took out Synergy as the trainer, but Quintos just pushed past him and up the lane he went...a little star!

Although, he did rebel at being asked to pose with the daffodils on the way back!

Boots and Adelle were more as you might expect on a first outing...both did well, but we are not heading up the lane just yet!

Whilst the sun was shining and we had plenty of helpers, I decided that it would be a good day to get some shots of Explorer for our stud page, on the website. He set off with 5 red rosettes, 5 sashes, and a scenic backdrop...but I am afraid we do not have that fact we do not have one decent photo...this is Explorer with 3 rosettes and one sash remaining in situ...with a pile of hay as a backdrop...we will try again when we are all feeling rather more patient.

P.S enjoyed my first day back at work...that's one week completed...good decision!

Monday 26 March 2012

Magellan meets a real Explorer!

Maybe it was the sunshine causing me to make rash decisions...but on Saturday I decided Crystal needed a break...Magellan had to be moved. His constant pestering was just too the four male weanlings were moved in with Explorer. Talk about a love fest...Magellan was beside himself.

Magellan loving up to Explorer...

More loving...

It all gets just a bit too intense for Explorer...

...but he is loving being leader of the gang

...although all that reponsibility is a bit tiring...Quintos with Explorer flat out in the background!

Explorer is loving all the attention and is much happier with some 'proper friends'...Nimrod and Julius his 'faux friends' always made him feel like Billy no mates...He has actually been running around and looking excited...I am so pleased for him!

The female weanlings seem quite happy without the boys, and entertained themselves with a game of Chase the Chicken;

Finesse is first to spot the chicken (Boots foreground)

but Finesse is far too cool to join in the silly walk competition.

It has been a busy week here, with amongst other things; a visit to our website designer to agree the final version of our alpaca shop...hopefully opening very soon...although we have limited stock at present. Hopefully this will be soon addressed as we have just received 350 kilos of yarn back from Specialist Spinning. On first inspection the yarn, spun for weaving, looks fantastic and I am so pleased with the different shades.

Paul has been busy chopping down trees in our wood and storing the logs ready for next winter. He is always rather pleased with himself when the tree falls exactly where predicted...I left him to it and went to do a little retail therapy...It is Paul's brothers wedding at the weekend so I felt a new outfit was in order...oh and I start my new job tomorrow!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Post futurity Assessment...

After three nights away at the British Alpaca Futurity, it seems that it has taken me three nights sleep at home to fully's hard to believe that showing alpacas can be so tiring...must be all the talking (no witness accounts of any other possible causes please!).

Anyway despite the tiredness, we took the opportunity to have a good look at our herd on Sunday afternoon whilst we still had the high standards that we had seen at BAF as our yardstick. Luckily, we arrived home to a lovely sunny weather and dry fleeces. As we suspected Beck Brow Crystal stool up to the challenge. I think the main reason for not taking her was the £65 entry fee! So we are now going to the Heart of England Spring Fiesta so that she can be shown before she is mated this year. The only problem might be that I have registered her as beige and they appear not to be having this category at the show?

No dithering this time. We are taking just three juniors. We are not taking Beck Brow Explorer. He has been shown six times; Three times at Northern shows as an Intermediate where he achieved two Supreme Championships (Northumberland and Westmorland) and Champion White Male (Yorkshire). He has also been shown three times at National level and achieved a 1st and Res Jun Champ (National Show) and 3rd and 4th (Futurity 2011, 2012). He has beaten, and been beaten by, the same alpaca under different judges. So I think we can safely say that he is up there amongst the top four white intermediate males on the show circuit at the moment. We will show him next as an adult.

Beck Brow Crystal Maze

We also had a good look at Beck Brow Lucie who has EPC Top Account of Fowberry as her sire. She is such a pretty girl with a great fleece. She is pregnant to Waradene St. Patrick but will be mated to her sweetheart; Beck Brow Explorer this year (hopefully)

Beck Brow Snooty Boots is also looking fantastic. I hope that I don't jinx myself; but her fleece is beginning to look stunning with a very high frequency crimp. However, I don't expect she will be shown yet as her difficult start is obvious midway through her fleece. We will be starting halter training Boots, Quintos and Adelle this week...I predict Boots will be have plenty to say about that!

Beck Brow Snooty Boots (sire Waradene St. Patrick of EPC)...will she be a pussy cat to halter train?

Beck Brow Rumour Has It (sire Top Account)

Beck Brow Lucie (left)

Our other Top account progeny is Beck Brow Synergy (beige) who I expect will make the show team at some point as he he has a lovely fine fleece that is starting develop real character. He and Beck Brow Magellan play fight constantly (well when Magellan isn't pestering Crystal)

Magellan, Synergy and Quintos

But both boys seem to have joined the same fan club...all thoughts of fighting goes out of the window...when Explorer comes near

Synergy and Magellan...we come in peace Explorer!

Sunday 18 March 2012

The British Alpaca Futurity 2012

The British Alpaca Futurity was held at the NEC Birmingham this year, and in our opinion was probably the best Futurity yet. Chas and Rachel from Classical MileEnd Alpacas are key in organising the event and they received a well deserved standing ovation last night. It was amazing with 442 entries from over 60 breeders I didn't witness even one glitch. Having 2 rings running at the same time worked really well and meant that we actually had time to prepare ourselves for the gala dinner this year.

I often hear breeders talk of the British Alpaca Futurity as something for the big breeders "how are us small breeders ever going to get a look in?". Well, I can now say with absolute conviction that this is not the case. Yes, the large breeders are there, and some have 30 plus entries but everyone is in with a chance. We entered 4 alpacas and came away with 4 ribbons (Poppet 6th, Rumour 2nd, Magellan 5th and Explorer 4th). And we were far from alone. In fact all of our friends, with herds of similar sizes and smaller, did very well.

Showing is just one aspect of the Futurity, it is good to see other breeders' alpacas, but it also a great opportunity to network, or just plain old socialise. We did do a lot of the latter, in fact I have lost my voice today...but what fun we had. Thank you to everyone who kept us entertained, we had a great time.

Obviously the main aim of the Futurity is to identify the top herd sire. This is done by adding up the points gained by the nominated herdsires' top performing 9 progeny. We had to wait until the end of the meal for this to be announced...they kept us waiting...but it was certainly worth it. The winning male...there was some impressive whooping from the North...was EPC Top Account of Fowberry, owned by our friends Jenny and Graham MacHarg from Fowberry Alpacas based in Yorkshire. He only actually had 8 progeny entered making it even more of an achievement. We are pleased to say that our Beck Brow Rumour Has It's second placed was included in his tally. We were all just a tad excited!

I think Paul was going for the handler of the year award. He was in the ring rather a lot over the 2 days helping out, which kept him entertained. I think he was just avoiding allowing me the chance to drag him over to see the select auction alpacas! This year the auction was back to hands in the air (or winks) rather than online, and most of the alpacas made well over their reserve. The top price of £9,000 guineas was achieved by a beautiful black female EP Cambridge Chiddy Bang Bang, bred by Matt and Cathy Lloyd from EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud (Paul was sitting on my hands...she isn't coming to Cumbria)

Beck Brow Magellan

Paul with Beck Brow Explorer....this is at the end of the second day...note how he has been in the ring so often he hasn't had time to pull up his trousers!

And finally we won a prize in the charity draw...two executive seats at Manchester United home game during 2012 (courtesy of John Potts of The Alpaca Stud) a fantastic prize... but I suspect Paul won't be taking me!

Monday 12 March 2012

Alpaca deliveries...

Our herd at Beck Brow is reducing on a weekly basis at the moment. After last Saturday's trip to beautiful Ayr to deliver Magnum and Satchmo, today we had a much shorter journey, within Cumbria, to deliver three females. Parisien and family arrived at 10 am prompt to inspect their pacca palace...definitely 5 star...put in a log burner and we could all move in!

Katkin will be joining the girls after she has birthed, but in the meantime Parisien will be in charge. It was very amusing to see her taking her duties so seriously. After inspecting the shelter, she very calmly walked the perimeter of the paddock, checking everything out, stopping to admire the views, before settling to eat some grass.

Beck Brow Parisien arriving at her new home

Lesley and Katie...the start of a new venture.

We have been doing some more halter training with Magellan and Rumour ready for the British Alpaca Futurity. Rumour has stopped sitting. Magellan has always been good at walking but is now starting to try to mate everyone, so that should be fun. Actually with 442 entries, from over 60 breeders...and judging by the schedule 50% must be white...I think that we may be up against it however well they walk!!

P.S. offer turned no more news on that front yet.

Saturday 10 March 2012

A Good Decision.

After all my dithering with decision making last month, I have turned over a new leaf, and I am making important decisions right, left and centre.

The first one needed to be done...I spend far too much time talking to my alpacas...nothing wrong with that you may be thinking...but I provide the answers as well;

"Morning Explorer; Looking gorgeous"

"Why thanks. Any peas and beans going?"

"Sorry Explorer. You're too fat"

"Well pot and kettle I would say"

"Cheeky Boy! It's this big fleece I'm wearing"

"Exactly the same here. Peas and beans?"

I do find him mildly amusing but I think I need to get out more. Thankfully my interview went well and I have now been appointed as a Coronary Care Staff Nurse. The big decision was whether to loose my nurse registration. It is three years since I left full-time employment to look after the alpacas full-time. I have no regrets whats so ever, and the business is doing very well, however I need to do a minimum amount of practise within any three year period if I am to continue being a registered nurse. So I have a contract... for twelve hours (one shift) per ideal situation all round. 

I will share the other decisions that have been made, if and when they come to fruition. I have placed an offer we will have to wait and see.

The latest weanlings are settling at last. Quintos after all his initial bravado was the biggest cry baby. Adelle whom I expected to take it the hardest (her mum was very protective of her) has never looked back after the first 24 hours, and is positively full of herself. Boots and Lady Gaga have just stopped pining  for each other yesterday.

I have had a request for a photo of Beck Brow Sophie, from her namesake (Sophie Craig's little sister)

From left; Finesse, Katie and Sophie

Beck Brow Sophie with ears!

Robyn and I trimmed around Adelle's eyes on Thursday, as she was having difficulty seeing. Judging by the photo Adelle wasn't the only one having trouble seeing...I wasn't wearing my glasses...I think a revisit to the hairdressers may be necessary!

Easter-Wood Adelle

At last I have a photo of Rumour with legs....looking a lot like her half brother Explorer?

Beck Brow Rumour Has It.

Paul has just got back from a week on the Isle Of Man (working I am led to believe). I have taken advantage of the situation to have lots of lunches out and friends to stay (okay I do sometimes see humans as well as alpacas). I have claimed to have also done some poo-picking (it is not a lie I did a couple of hours one day). I can now hear the poo picker...I think that I am about to be found out...must go!

Monday 5 March 2012

Adelle, Boots and Quintos say bye!

There was to be no excuses...the sun was shinning and everyone weighed in on this morning the last of the 2011 cria were weaned. Robyn came to give me a hand and first to be parted from his mum was Quintos. Off he sped into the weanling field...this was followed by a lot of commotion...

Oh no are they picking on Quintos?

No, it is Quintos who is causing the chaos...

Quintos has always rather liked himself...

...he goes straight for Crystal...

...even Explorer, who doesn't usually lose his cool, was not impressed by the antics

...but in the end it was Magellan who put him in his place...timed out Quintos!

Boots isn't quite as sure of herself. She is so cute with her little ears...

Snooty Boots....I wonder where she gets those ears?

Yes, Waradene St Patrick of EPC....same ears...actually looking at the photos she is very like him. She is exactly the same mid fawn and her fleece (when opened)  is every bit as bright and full of character as her sire's

St Patrick today...looking bright in the sunlight.

Snooty Boots checking out the available stud services...umm Explorer I am afraid you will have to wait

Adelle was the third and last cria to be weaned...she appears to be finding it the most difficult.

All three mums: Silverstream Hoity Toity (Quintos); EP Cambridge Lady Gaga (Snooty Boots); and Easter-Wood Metisha (Adelle) were first time mums in 2011. Hoity seems to be the least concerned about losing Quintos, whereas Gaga and Metisha are obviously not too happy. Is it just me or do the females worry less when male cria are does always appear that way?