Monday, 30 July 2012

Alpacas and coloured genetics...anyone's guess!

I have definitely discovered the best way to get your dams to give has happened too many times to be just a coincident...what you need to do is to make sure you plan as many things as possible, so that you have absolutely no time to be supervising births...also make sure that you are on your own and with no one to call on for help. Yes, all weekend Paul and I have watched and waited...we even complained that we were bored at one point. Then today, when he is at work and everyone else is busy, I have two births!

The first was reasonably straight forward. Pepsi struggled a little with the head (it is a whopper) but a little lube, and repositioning of legs, and a lovely fawn female (sire Waradene St Patrick) was delivered at 11.30 am. She was soon up on her feet, but her suckling technique is a little strange so I am watching her closely.

Next it was Biba (a black female) she is small and has looked uncomfortable for a couple of days, so I have been a little concerned about her birthing. Her waters broke about 12.45 but she really wasn't progressing as she should. Luckily our farmer friend (David) called by just at this point, his expert hands soon corrected the legs and we eased our another St Patrick female...but here's the shock...she looks black...bay black but a black. Maybe she will look dark brown by tomorrow? If not does that mean St Patrick has a secondary black gene that has been hidden...I am sure alpacas just make it up...just when we think we are getting the hang of alpaca colour genetics...we will see!

 Pepsi with her St Patrick female (she is darker than she appears in the the photo...a double of her daddy in fact)

Pepsi and Biba with their new babes (quite some difference in size! )

Biba's daughter with that typical St Patrick head

Friday, 27 July 2012

Blackberrys and Rice...

On Tuesday morning, during my early morning checks, I found Biba on her own, up the top of the paddock, and lying on her side. She had been looking imminent for days, and I have been getting rather excited as Biba is our only black female who is due this year...and she is pregnant to St Patrick. So I was quick to rush back to the house to get prepared for the birth:
  • Make a cup of coffee
  • Grab a banana
  • Put mobile phone in pocket (useful for playing games on during the wait)
  • Visit to bathroom

Now, I expect you are thinking that's hardly challenging...and I would normally agree...the first two tasks were accomplished without any adverse events...but unfortunately the same cannot be said about the latter. One thing that I can tell you is that Blackberrys don't float! Yes, you are right... I dropped my phone in the loo!

It is incredible how reliant we have become on mobile phones. It has been driving me mad not to have a source of constant communication. Worse still, I hadn't stored any of the telephone numbers any where, so I decided I was going to have persevere with trying to dry it out. The tip I was given was to put the phone in a bag of rice (I used arborio but pilau, long grain or pudding will do) and leave it in the airing cupboard. It has taken 2 days to dry out...and it smells of toilet duck (I know could have been worse)...but I am now back in the land of communication.

Biba didn't birth and still hasn't!

So not a lot happening; no births and no hay. It is not looking good. It seems that everyone has had fine weather bar us. It has even been sunny half an hour away, but we seem to have attracted a black cloud over Beck Brow. Paul isn't a happy chappy, but whenever he starts moaning I tell him to go give Lullaby her bottle and be reminded that we have had a plentiful share of good fortune this certainly does the trick!

Beck Brow Lullaby rushing for her bottle

Beck Brow Shackleton...he has such a dense fleece

It is so nice to see Lullaby is hard to believe how weak she was...although she has the premmie 'poodle' fleece. 

One of the benefits of bottle feeding is visiting the paddock for the 11 pm feed (well on the occasions when it isn't raining). Although the 'red sky at night shepherd's delight' bit doesn't seem to apply here...we still had lots of showers the next day.

Red sky at night

Spooky...Magallen and Alfie

Tyke had a trip to the doggy dentist to get some teeth out yesterday...he obviously enjoyed himself as he has been trying to get in everyone's cars since he came home...strange dog


Monday, 23 July 2012

The Gamble....

We have taken a gamble...when I say we, I really mean Paul, he is the one obsessed with the weather forecast...anyway on Saturday we had Stuart (a local farmer) cut our hay field.

Whilst this was going on Paul was 'busy' doing some paddock sweeping and was tasked with keeping an eye on the birthing paddock. However, when I went out with Lullaby's midday bottle... I found the two of them chatting either side of a five bar gate. Now this is a typical Cumbrian farmer's lean on the gate and you find something to grumble about;

a) The weather...this is the most popular topic...however it was sunny so no luck there.

b) The price of milk...fair enough but not applicable in this case

So I found Paul complaining about alpacas...complaining that they never birth when expected..."take today for example we have three over due, the weather is fine...but no"

I left them to it...glancing in the birthing paddock on my way back to the house...and there was Bonita delivering a healthy brown boy!!

One advantage of having a mum on the small can get a drink before you are even able to stand!

Beck Brow Domingo yesterday

Bozedown Bonita has been rather generous with the amount of boys that she has produced for us, but they make lovely pet boys, always very friendly but gentle too...and very cute of course! We now have 5 boys and 3 girls born with 8 left to birth so time to even up.

Yesterday I was down at Stoneleigh Park in my role as welfare officer for the North West Alpaca Group. Its a long trek (7 hour round trip) but well worth the effort to ensure we are in the loop and are able to give a perspective from all regions. There are a number of things that still need to be clarified but I will share any news as appropriate.

Stuart rang last night to ask Paul if had seen the weather forecast...."do you think that you have done the right thing cutting the hay?"...well a bit late about looking on the bleak side... whatever happened to positive thinking!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

You can't keep 'em all...can you?

 It has been over a week now since we have had a birth. It doesn't matter how hard you try to plan your matings, with an aim to have all the alpaca births grouped never seems to go according to plan. The main reasons being our alpacas go anywhere between just over 10 months gestation to 13 .5 months (that was Explorer and a bit extreme!) and then of course they don't always get pregnant just when you want them to. The way things are going it looks like we will have a four births in April next year and the rest are likely to be July and August...but who knows!

We now have 8 cria born; 4 male and 4 female (although one of the females is on livery). It is a lovely little group and they all love playing together (including Lullaby who is always in the thick of things). I unfortunately missed a great photo opportunity when Shackleton ran at full speed towards Velvet (who was not paying attention) and jumped clean over her! I haven't been spending quite so much time in the cria paddock as in previous years, as I am being conscious not to encourage Lullaby (who is being bottle fed) to come over to us too much. But she is fine, she runs over for a bottle, but once she has been fed she goes off to play with the others...she now really only tolerates being touched in order to be fed...which is good. She is eating hard feed already and is coming on well...a little star.

What I have found interesting is the dynamics between Katkin, Pebbles, Pedro and Bendrago. At first I thought that Pebbles was feeding Bendrago (Katkin's cria...Katkin had mastitis and lost her milk) under duress, especially has she defers to Katkin in the herd. At first Bendrago fed, then went straight back to Katkin, but he is increasingly staying with Pebbles and Pedro. Then sometimes you see Katkin with the two boys and Pebbles asleep. It is as if they are sharing the child care. Yesterday when I weighed Bendrago (he is doing well) Pebbles got anxious and called for him in the same way as she does for Pedro when concerned. It's all rather sweet.

The weather continues to be horrid...and for the first time ever we have had to purchase some hay in addition to our own supplies. The alpacas are in the barns so much we are going through hay as if it were winter...and of course we haven't had any hope of getting this years supplies we have an extra 50 bales to see us on.

It was fine for a few hours yesterday, hence I managed to get some photos of Alfie and Quintos. Alfie belongs to Robyn and Craig  and shall be going up for sale. I have been hanging on to Quintos...he is jam packed with elite genetics - Silverstream Czar, Jolimont Conquistador (dam and sire's side), Jolimont Warrior et al- and I have been undecided as what to do with him. His second fleece is coming through very nicely...but I can't hang on to everyone to see if they are potential stud males...and he has such a beautiful temperament he will make such a lovely I think that he will be joining Alfie as a package. We will be hanging on to Magellan (sire: Neptune of Houghton) and Synergy (sire EPC Top Account of Fowberry) at this stage and so far all of this year's boys are showing real Paul keeps telling me "you can't keep em all"...and why not I ask!!

Young Punk Alfie

Beck Brow Quintos

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Black Blog

When we bought our first alpacas...we were like many new breeders in that we didn't have a plan...we bought a white, a brown and a fawn...largely based on the fact that they had nice eyes! Then I decided to make a plan...we would breed elite alpacas...and we would breed fawn ones!

Well we all know about best laid plans...especially with alpacas...any way the plan was rather flawed. Partly because I kept buying white females and our fawn females kept having white cria (after all they had been mated to white males!). Anyway the focus on fawn was abandoned (although we do still hope to breed plenty with St Patrick) and we are happy to breed a mixture of colours (in other words just be happy with what you get!). And a paddock of mixed colours does look lovely. As Mark (Patou Alpacas) spotted from the last blog we are hoping to have more brown and black cria next year.

So we now own a share in a black male; Anzac Viracocha Black Sabbath, who is now at Beck Brow Alpacas for the rest of the summer. He is a handsome blue black male sired by the very highly regarded Cedar House Amar (grand sire Snowmass Grey Legend) and is out of a superb prize winning blue black dam; Viracoch Witchcraft of Anzac

Viracocha Black Sabbath

First to have the pleasure of meeting the new boy was Burton Constable April. She is a maiden so we were surprised when she dropped like a stone as soon as she set eyes on him...just as well as he didn't look like he would be knocked back very easily...just a bit keen!

Burton Constable April

 He wasn't really up for posing...once the halter was on he knew what was on the agenda...although Paul does look like he has fallen asleep on the job...

Show me the girls...

I'm looking even if you aren't

Viracocha  Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath will be paying a visit to Amanda's girls tomorrow. Waradene St Patrick has a mobile date this afternoon so he will have to go in the trailer, other wise I will have to disinfect the van twice.

Completing the black blog...Beck brow Velvet!!

I will remember this blog when when all of our cria are fawn next year!

Friday, 13 July 2012

More planning ahead...

 It was a rain free day yesterday...and a birth free one...which meant I managed to get some cria photos taken. It was around 6 pm before I got the camera out hence the moody blue sky:


Beck Brow Lexus (sire: Waradene St Patrick of EPC)

 Beck Brow Pedro (sire: Anzac Almost Illegal)

Pedro with Beck Brow Bendrago (sire: St Patrick)

Beck Brow Shackleton (sire: St Patrick)

Shackleton again

And again pestering Beck Brow Advantage (sire: St Patrick)

Wise Alpacas Coco (sire: St Patrick) who wouldn't play ball with her ears!

Missing from the photos are Beck Brow Lula (sire: EPC Top Account of Fowberry) and Beck Brow Lullaby (sire: St Patrick) who were asleep in the fading sunshine. 

The majority of our cria are going to be St Patrick progeny this year; next year we will have a greater variety. We are using our own elite males: Beck Brow Explorer; Virachoca Black Sabbath; and Waradene St Patrick of EPC over most of our girls this year. However, we are conscious that we will need to bring in some new genetics in the future, so we really need to be breeding an unrelated stud male. We are planning well ahead, but if we do have a top quality male born next year it would still be 2015 before he would be working and able to cover our St Patrick / Black Sabbath / Explorer females. Hence we are planning a trip down to EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud, and we will be also using some Inca Alpaca stud services (in the hope of breeding a coloured stud male)...we are bound to get females with such plans in place!!!

P.S we have just heard from Jenny at Fowberry Alpacas in North Yorkshire, they have two lovely Waradene St Patrick additions; Songbird and Scirroco see their latest news for photos of all of their 2012 cria.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Third Time Lucky for Camilla!

I think yesterday must have been our wettest summer day to date. The rain was add a little variety the weather did change every now and again...changing between torrential and plain old cats and dogs kind of rain!

A good day to give birth?...Camilla thought so. Now Cambridge Camilla is one of our best females (quite possibly THE best) so this alone puts us on high alert when she goes in to labour...add to that she has had 2 births; Beck Brow Explorer who needed a plasma transfusion (we will let her off as he has gone on to be a multiple Supreme Champion) and Beck Brow Rumour Has It, who was born unable to lift her head and needed lots of physio (but also a prize winner).

Well, Camilla surprised us in more ways than one. Camilla has read the text book and read it well. Firstly she came in out of the rain and took herself into the area that we have for newly born cria (right under the heat lamp). She had a trouble free birth within half an hour of going in to labour. The cria was up on its feet and drinking within the hour. Placenta passed within the hour too. The other surprise? He is most definitely beige (none of this; is he isn't he this time). Although Waradene St Patrick of EPC ( his sire) is fawn, we thought Camilla (sire Accoyo Remarque) with her pure white pedigree would have produced a white. Good work Camilla and St Patrick!

St Patrick is doing an excellent job for us, producing some great cria in all colours. He is undoubtedly an improver, but he has surpassed our expectations as an enhancer -when put over our elite girls- he has added real brightness and a fabulous handle to their progeny. We have just received a photo of a St Patrick cria born from one of his mobile matings last year. A beautiful light fawn female from a white dam (see bottom photo)...a happy customer!

Cambridge Camilla and Son

 "I am rather wet but definitely beige"

"Hang on Mum it's me she wants in the photo"

Photo showing the colour of female from white dam belonging to client

I did say when we bought the paddock sweeper that I would give some feedback when we had used it for a while. Well, I can say that we are pleased with it's performance. It has saved us hours of work every week. Paul did make a slight modification in lengthening the skirt so poo cannot flick forward, and our paddocks are pretty flat, but is doing the job well for us.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Two Amigos

I realise that my blogging has been a bit hit and miss of late. This is because I like to have fact most of the time the photos do the talking. However, the wet weather has been making photography a bit of a challenge...but not today...there is something up in the sky that is is warm...I can't quite remember what its called...but the alpacas are loving it.

 So the camera has been out....

 Beck Brow Snooty Boots

Despite the lack of sun on their backs, the yearlings have really had a growth spurt since getting clipped. I think that we will be mating most of them this year...

Beck Brow Snooty Boots looking all grown Waradene St Patrickof EPC is her daddy...who shall she be mated to?

The exception will be Easter-Wood Adelle...not because she isn't big enough...but something makes me think that she just might not be mature enough...

Easter-Wood Metisha with Easter-Wood Adelle (she was weaned and Metisha doesn't have milk she just plays about on the teats!)

Pebbles has now fully adopted Bendrago (who was Ben then went to Benjamin and is now Bendrago) The change in name is because I call him and Pedro the Two Amigos...

Pebbles, Pedro and Bendrago



Beck Brow Pedro...doing very well on shared rations!

Paul has had a week off work, but despite having a number of girls due, he hasn't seen a birth. Mind you it has rained all week. He has spent his time putting up new guttering on the barn as the old system wasn't coping with the down pours...what a way to spent your summer hols!

 Biba not due quite yet but bulging at the ready

Cambridge Camilla who has looked like she was going to birth for two weeks now!

The photos would have been better if I had put on the filter lens...but I forgot it and didn't have the energy to walk back. My poor old body aches all over (I haven't felt like this since I used to do aerobics...and when I last did aerobics people wore fluorescent a decade or two ago). I have just completed the Advanced Life Support why am I aching?...days of CPR (I know it looks easy on Holby City, but believe me it's hard work). Well that's it passed and valid for another four years.

Paul is off watching England play Australia at Durham, so I think I will just enjoy the sun and rest the aches and pains!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Tea Leaf!

We are having a few problems with Ben...I haven't mentioned this before because Ben wasn't ours...but now he is I can mention it. Some of you may remember (although I expect not) that we sold Katkin last year. However, we agreed that she could stay on livery here at Beck Brow until after she birthed (the date clashed with a prearranged holiday). Unfortunately Katkin has had a run of bad luck. Firstly she injured her hock and then she got mastitis; because of this we offered Katkin's new owners the opportunity to exchange her, which they accepted. So Nicola went off to her new home on Sunday.

The only problem is Katkin's cria had been named Ben...and he knows he is called Ben. Now, I don't have a problem with the name fact I like it so much I named my son Ben...and this is where the problem lies.When my friend asked after Ben (the alpaca) the other day (Ben the alpaca has lost weight) I got crossed wires:

I say: Oh he's fine thanks. He's in Manchester now

She says: Manchester?!!

Yes, he seems to like it there. More going on than in Carlisle.

Have you sold him?

Sold him is that legal?!!!

You see how it goes. So I have decided Ben the alpaca is now to be called Benjamin...I am sure he will catch on to it...otherwise it is far too confusing.

Anyway back to Benjamin's problems; he weighs 10 kgs, he weighed 10.4 kgs when he was born 4 weeks ago. We have had his poo tested...nothing. He is not ill...just thin. Katkin obviously has very poor milk since getting mastitis so we offer him a bottle every time Lullaby gets hers...he takes it about four times out of every ten times it is offered. However, he has found the solution to his problem...steal...yes poor Pebbles is feeding two cria...she is not too keen but Benjamin is persistent and gets a feed eventually. Pedro (her own cria) is still gaining weight so we will leave them to it.

Pebbles with Pedro


Shackleton (looking rather pink)


Beck Brow Explorer had his first mobile mating we set off to Lancashire with our fingers crossed that he would perform away from started well he skipped into the van...probably thinking that he was going to a show (he likes shows)...but when he discovered it was just to see a female...he didn't appear very impressed. Thankfully, with a little encouragement from hearing the orgling of another male the task was completed. He has girls spitting off here now so very exciting.

I have been able to cross one of my jobs off the list for this week. Unfortunately Skelton Agriculture Show (we had been invited to take the alpacas) has been cancelled due to a waterlogged ground. Call this summer!