Tuesday 25 September 2012

An Update

Just a quick blog, as thank goodness we have had no further drama on the alpaca front. Foxy Sox is fully recovered, and is full of life; if a bit damp. Yes, we have had a month's worth of rain in 24 hours, hence no photos today. We have boggy fields and very soggy alpacas, the beck is like a river, but no damage here.

Rain seems to have been the theme of the summer, and looks like continuing into the autumn. So to get us through the winter months, we have booked a holiday for February 2013. Okay, I know it's a long time away, but I can feel the Mauritian sun on my back already!

Yesterday was a productive day, having finished sorting through fleece, it is now on it's way to the Border Mill. It actually took me longer to sort out the haulage, than it did to skirt the fleece. But I managed to get 89 kilos sent for only £35...not bad eh (first quote was £212!!!). It was a case of more parcels of lighter weights being the cheapest in the end. I do find using Parcels2Go the best company for price comparison.

I also had a visit from two lovely ladies, who had rang to ask if they could purchase a small amount of fleece for spinning. The rain didn't dampen their spirits, and after feeding Sox and Lullaby, they went away having purchased two large throws, and with plans to purchase some males! Sometimes it is only when other people get excited about what you are doing, that it reminds you of how lucky you are!

We have given up all hope of Roma caring for Sox. Sometimes if Roma can't see her, she looks out for her, but then appears to be disappointed when she spots her..."dam still here!". Now, I know that you are going to think that I am making this up...but I swear that I have seen this on more that one occassion...Galaxy (Roma's mum) pushes Roma's head towards Sox when Sox is near to her...and then looks annoyed with Roma when Sox is ignored...but that's alpacas for you...and why we love them.

Everyone got their selenium drench at the weekend. The dark coloured alpacas have had Vit A,D&E, and all of the herd will start on monthly injections from the end of the month. Just a few more spit offs to do, and that feels like the end of the summer. Won't be long before I am mixing sugarbeet!

Saturday 22 September 2012

Cria Colic

Thank you for all your kind comments and suggestions on my last blog. The postmortem results were helpful, not least because they gave us some reassurance that the problem was not something herd wide. However, the lost of an alpaca, especially a cria, does leave you vulnerable to over reaction. So when Sox came in with the rest of the herd yesterday morning, and promptly collapsed in a heap amongst the poo; the scream could be heard through the valleys.

She had appeared absolutely fine when she was fed at 6.00am. Oh no, this had signs of deja vue. I shouted for Paul to call for the vet, but then she came back round and seemed okay. We cancelled the vet, thinking that she had just been knocked on entering the barn, and that I had been over sensistive after the lost of Kitten.

We gave her a good examination, all appeared okay and her temperature was within normal range. However, last week we had been concerned about not seeing her pass faeces for some time. She hadn't been straining, but nor had we seen any poo (granted we are not in the paddock 24/7). So last Friday we had given her a soapy enema, with a good result. Hence we decided to do the same again. But as soon as we had given it to her she collapsed again. The vet was recalled and Soxs had a further 4 episodes of complete collapse before the vet arrived. Watching her it looked to me like colicky pain, but so severe that it was causing her to collapse. We gave her some Finadyne whilst waiting for the vet to arrive, as well as some water with electrolytes.

Buscopan was given intravenously by the vet with good effect, and a Microlax enema was also given. However, Buscopan has a short life and within a couple of hours the pain had returned (although not quite as severe as before, but enough to have a writhing about). A different vet arrived this time, equipped with an ultrasound machine. The good news; no complete obstruction was found, nor any perforation, but lots of faecal matter and gas within the intestines was seen. Sox was given a further I.V dose of Buscopan and 1 litre of Normal Saline. She was also given I.V. Norodine just in case there was some parasitic involvement that wasn't presenting itself as diarrohea yet.

To say I was a little stressed yesterday would be an understatement. It is impossible not to get overly attached to any hand reared cria, and when you are her only mum it is especially so, but in addition to that she is just gorgeous. Even the vet was smitten. But Sox is a fighter and is much better today. She is continuing on oral Norodine and live goats yoghurt. She is taking her bottles well, but we are feeding her small amounts 2 hourly. I have also given her some Lactulose to see if that will help loosen things.

Fortunately for Sox, although she may not have a mum who loves her, all of the other cria certainly do. Lullaby has totally adopted her, and is always watching out for her. But the sweetest thing yesterday was Domingo, he knew she was sick, and spent all his time beside her, letting her sleep with her head on his back.

Beck Brow Domingo caring for Beck Brow Foxy Sox. Ironically that is Beck Brow Roma (Sox's mum) lying asleep behind them without a care in the world!

Beck Brow Domingo taking his duties very seriously - wondering why Marco has stood up (Lullaby foreground)

 Beck Brow Foxy Sox today

A lovely sight - Lullaby and Sox running off together after being fed.

As we are getting late in the year, we decided to spit off all of the females this morning. As Explorer is so well behaved, he always gets the job (but he did get 2 matings in return for his efforts). We have the potential to have 33 births next year if all of our females get pregnant, and retain their pregnancies (unlikely with 20% loses being the average), but on the pregnancy front things are going well. Our only failure is Easter-Wood Metisha. It is a shame as we purchased her with Explorer in mind. Unfortunately, she came to us empty, and she has got rather lardy, increasingly so as time as gone on and we have failed to get her pregnant. We have tried her with St Patrick as well as Explorer, but both boys have failed. She ovulates but doesn't get pregnant. I think that we have left it too late to get her slimmed down now. How annoying when she has been mated since May.

We have mated Roma with Explorer, she was totally loved up, so lets hope that she loves her cria next year. We did decide to mate Lucie (the girl who had the prolapse) a couple of weeks ago, however she seemed a bit fidgity when being mated, so after 7 minutes Explorer was removed. However, she also spat off at her pregnancy spit off! All of the spit offs went very smoothly, we have a great system going where the girls are fed past Explorer...he sniffs...they spit...NEXT! I do however have a rather large bruise. I forgot that we have a new girl. I like to think that my girls like me...it may be more a case of not biting the hand that feeds you...but they don't kick...the new girl Ardo Jet?...Ouch!

Finally; maybe we can excuse Paul this year when he gets his cria identification wrong....Waradene St Patrick of EPC is certainly producing look-a-likes...good job that he is a handsome boy!!

Beck Brow Advantage with Beck Brow Paulo in front.

P.S Fingers crossed that I will have no more cria health blogs for a long time please.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Clostridial Disease in Cria

The bad news that I mentioned in my last blog, is unfortunately bad news indeed. I have been waiting for the results of the postmortem before posting the events.

We received a phone call on Sunday morning from a distraught Robyn..."you are not going to like this" were her words of preparation...which allowed just enough time for all kinds of dreadful scenarios to go through my mind. I have to say that the source of the upset hadn't even crossed my mind...Kitten...lovely little black Kitten...always running around playing...so friendly and so inquisitive...had died suddenly that morning. Poor Robyn, poor Biba, poor Kitten.

Kitten had gone from pronking around on Saturday night, to being okay at 9am Sunday morning when she came in at feed time, to being found near death 2 hours later. All of the signs (or lack of them) pointed to clostridial disease, and this has been confirmed with pulpy kidney present on postmortem.

Clostridial disease is caused by bacteria that occurs widely in soil. Death is usually sudden and animals are usually found dead without any visable signs. Our vet said it was actually unusual to find them alive at all (as Robyn had) but Kitten had gone on to die very quickly.

There are vaccinations against Clostridial disease. We give Lambivac at 4 weeks of age and again at 8 weeks. This is a live vaccine, which means the first dose causes a reaction and thus when the vaccine is introduced again, antibodies are produced that protect the animal for 6-12 months (varies with product and animal species). Kitten was 6 weeks of age meaning that she had had the first vaccination but not the second, so was not protected.

I am keen to hear other breeders protocols for cria vaccination i.e how soon do you give your first and subsequent doses? Our vet agrees with our current practice of vaccinating the dams 6 week before birthing (although this is difficult to predict when gestation periods can go so far over expectations) and the cria at 4 and 8 weeks. He feels that we have just been incredibly unlucky, and will hopefully never see it again. But any other advice welcome.

Biba and Kitten

P.S just remembered reading about vaccinating the dam at 4-6 weeks postpartum to cover the young cria. Maybe this is something we should do, as I believe that very young cria do not have an immune system that is well enough developed to cope with vaccinations at a very young age?

My other thought is if the cria is dependent on some immunity from the dam until they are 8 weeks of age, should plasma donors be vaccinated at 6 weeks prior to donation. I am guessing the answer must be yes.

Sunday 16 September 2012

The Alpaca Classic

We are just back from the the Alpaca Classic, which was held at Bozedown Alpacas. We had a great time it was so well organised by Bozedown and The Alpaca Stud; free food, free alcohol and great speakers...what more could you want...oh yes, I know...an auction lot alpaca!

This really was what alpaca auctions should be about (in my humble opinion); showcasing superior genetics, and offering the very best alpacas up for sale. The animals were calm, the shorn fleeces were there to be seen, and the breeders were on hand for the whole of the two days to offer advice. I think all us breeders felt like a child in a sweety shop, the standard of the auction lots was so high...and consequently so were prices.

I was especially interested in three lots (but only in purchasing one). First of those was Lot 2; Bozedown Magic Charm a fawn female. I dropped out when the bids got to 9,500gs. At this point I was thinking that they might get cheaper as we went along, when people were spent up...wrong...the next one I had my eye on was Lot 4; Bozedown Gracie 11, but when she went to10,000 gs I had to stop for the sake of Paul's health. She has the most stunning fleece and is going to Alpacas of Wales (congratulations Susan).

Was it going to be third time lucky...yes...this was probably my first choice, but I thought that she may be too expensive for me...she is a present for Beck Brow Explorer (he deserves one after Thursday) and is a great match for him, with a SD of only 3.3. Yes, joining us at Beck Brow will be Bozedown Celestrial!

Adding to our excitement was the fact that Debbie and Paul (Barnacre Alpacas) were making telephone bids (I won't spoil the surprise, but Congratulations and well bought).

The speakers were excellent and I felt like I learned so much. It was interesting that more than one lecture suggested that emphasis on extreme fineness was not necessarily a good thing. After all nobody wants to process a 14 micron fleece. Aiming for a fleece that retains a micron of 20-25 over years, and has good density and low guard hair, seems to be the goal. There was also great emphasis on considering factors such as mothering skills and fertility when making breeding decisions. The other point was the ability to improve fleece quality in just one generation is incredibly high with alpacas. Conformation faults are less easy to improve.

We have unfortunately come home to some very bad news, but I won't share this tonight as this is such a positive blog. If anyone had any doubts about the how the alpaca industry is thriving...just check out the prices realised at the auction... and the amount of support the event received.

Friday 14 September 2012

Westmorland County Show 2012

Yesterday we had a very early start (4.15 to be precise) as we were off to Westmorland County Show. We only live an hour away, but as organisers of the alpaca show we have to be early on site. Thankfully, all the exhibitors kindly heeded my advice to arrive in plenty of time, as the alpaca marquee was down a rather muddy lane with no turning point; reversing skills were definitely tested!

We took seven alpacas in total (six of our own and one belonging to Robyn and Craig) and all were placed between 1st and 3rd. The standard was high this year, with a number of the alpacas entered already having proven themselves as rosette winners at the British Alpaca Futurity. We only took white and fawns so were in some of the most competitive classes of the day. Beck Snooty Boots came a very credible second behind the eventual fawn female champion, with judge Cathy Lloyd commenting that there was really nothing between the top two, and that she would be very happy if both of them were in her own herd.

Beck Brow Rumour Had It also came second behind the white female champion, as is always the case she got praised for her prettiness, as well as her fleece characteristics. Beck Brow Quintos and Beck Brow Magellan came second and third in the intermediate white male class (remember Quintos...first fleece like a Suri...beat Magellan!!!). Now, this is where the pattern ends; the boys didn't come second to the eventually white male champion. No, the white male champion was an adult...the white male champion was...Beck Brow Explorer!

Beck Brow Explorer received his third Supreme Championship, having taken a championship as a junior, intermediate and now adult. The judge in her summing up praised him on his fineness, consistency, density, lack of guard hair and conformation...her conclusion..."a really stunning male what more can I say" (see it's not just me!!)

I had a lovely day, it is such a friendly show and it was great to catch up with so many breeders. An added bonus was Craig getting the sales man of the year award, for selling us out of all the adult knitwear that we had taken.

It was a day of reflected glory; firstly for owning Explorer and secondly for my choice of judge. Cathy Lloyd did a fantastic job, which was commented on by so many of  the exhibitors at the end of the show. It all ran very smoothly, and everyone knew exactly why they had been placed where they had. I think that we all came away having gained valuable knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of our alpacas.


Beck Brow Explorer before taking the championship...he was having none of it when it came to posing with his sash on!

Craig with Young Punk Alfie (who took third) listening intently to the judge's summing up

The alpacas pulled in the crowds...Quintos entertaining the girls

Beck Brow Explorer bowing to the President of the Westmorland County Show....Actually I think he might be saying "if you pat me on the head I'll have ya"...he is in fact supposed to be getting his photo taken receiving the trophy but he wasn't playing ball...it was raining though and he doesn't do rain!

Roma is still having nothing to do with the adorable Foxy Sox...thanks go to Amanda, and to Mum and Dad, who shared bottle feeding duties yesterday. Hopefully next year Sox will be joining us at Westmorland as part of our show team!

P.S I missed at Beck Brow Synergy...2nd placed beige intermediate male!

Sunday 9 September 2012

Mixed Blessings

After the excitement of getting our last birth over with, all thoughts of having more freedom to roam from home have been lost. Foxy Sox (I shall call her Sox to avoid traumatising Bev - comments last blog) is one of the best cria to be born here at Beck Brow; certainly the best fawn (Explorer might still reign supreme). She has the densest, fine fleece, full of character and is the sweetest little thing. That is the good news...the bad news...Roma (her dam) has totally rejected her.

She had a fairly difficult birth but nothing too dramatic, however she did seem to be in shock afterwards. We left her and Sox together outside after the birth. Sox tried to drink from her but Roma wasn't having any of it. At first we put it down to Roma not having passed the placenta, but things didn't improve afterwards. We rubbed the placenta under Sox's tail to ensure that Roma hadn't got her smells confused...but no...Roma just looked at Sox as if she were an alien. We have shut them in together, we have tried Lavender oil on Roma's nose and on Sox, but to no avail. Jayne (Zanzibah Alpacas) has given me some homeopathy advice that I am going to try when the treatments arrive tomorrow. She is definitely very confused as she has been mounting females over the past two days?!

It is such a shame. It is one thing being bottle fed, but having your mum still look after you, as in Lullaby's case; but to be so small and all your own, it is so sad. It is also going to be extremely difficult to avoid her becoming too attached to us. She takes a bottle really well and we don't have to handle her to give it, but she still tries to follow us everywhere. I found her completely on her own earlier as she had got her self separated into a different field. To be fair it is me who is upset by it...she is fine and doing well...Testimony seems to have budded up with her. They are like peas in a pod...both having Silverstream Czar and Waradene St Patrick genetics.

 Beck Brow Foxy Sox running for her bottle

 Beck Brow Fine Romance (Roma) not impressed by motherhood

 Beck Brow Testimony

Beck Brow Paulo

Beck Brow Kitten (looking brown she is black!) with Testimony

Paul has decided that he likes the name Testimony; and asked me If I was sure that he was going to make the grade deserved of such a name...what a cheek! I suggested if that was how he felt, then Paulo was almost certainly going to make the stud male grade, and he didn't have a very macho stud name...maybe we should change their names around...that shut him up!! For what its worth, yes I do think Testimony will make the grade but it's early days!

As you can see from the photos the mums and cria have gone on to new pasture. Yesterday I noticed that Lula had what looked like ulcers around her mouth. My first thoughts were Buttercups but there aren't really any in that paddock. I am not sure what it is she has been eating but no one else appears to have any problems. Some Vasoline has been applied (most of lotions and potions wouldn't be very edible!) and I will keep an eye on it.

Our boys have been keeping busy; St Patrick was mobile mating on Friday and Black Sabbath has two lovely girls coming to visit today. We have most of our girls spitting off pregnant now. But we now have a dilemma with Roma (we will try her again and hope she gets it next time), we were going to mate her to Explorer...but now that she has had such a great fawn...I don't know? St Patrick has done so well for us this year poor Explorer hasn't had a chance with a fawn female, as they have all gone back to St Pat.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Foxy Sox..She Rocks!

Having mastered working a night shift and carrying on the next day without any sleep; this week I decided to take it to the next level; two night shifts. Two in a row in fact. Actually, when I agreed to this, I had anticipated that all of our births would be over. But No!

So, on Wednesday, I am sitting in the field trying to stay awake, whilst Roma (Fine Romance our only girl left to birth) snores...she snores for England...it reverberates through the valley...and whilst I am amused by the irony of the situation...Galaxy obviously is not...Now I am fortunate to have a partner who doesn't snore...but Paul tells me that it is a very annoying habit...and Galaxy seems to agree...for she got up...went over to Roma...and booted her...I kid you not!

Anyway, Roma obviously needed the rest, for today she delivered the goods...by the time I arrived home at 8 am she was already showing signs of  labour. Roma is white and was mated to Waradene St Patrick, with Roma having a fawn mum we reckoned this gave her a 50% chance of producing a fawn...could we be lucky enough to get a fawn female for our last cria of the year...YES we could!

Poor Roma had a traumatic time, although the cria wasn't especially large (8.5kgs) she struggled. She also took 6 hours to pass the placenta; adding to her agitation. She has had some Finadyne and a long acting antibiotic (as she had a little help) but isn't overly amused by the experience, hence her daughter (who is provisionally called Foxy Sox...I like it. Paul doesn't) has been given cows colostrum.

Beck Brow Foxy Sox (or it could be ShuShu)

Here she is again at three hours old...looking just a tad like St Patrick I think!

Oh and another...see lack of sleep!

Beck brow Testimony...Such a character...adorable (he has feet)

Testimony welcoming Foxy Sox

Monday 3 September 2012

And Then There Were Six...

 Having just sat down at the computer to do some paperwork earlier, I was disturbed by Paul...could I come out because my *%$%*y boys had escaped again...every time Paul tries to get through the gate to the manure pile...Explorer and his chums beat him through the gate...he then tries to herd them back with the quad bike...it's a good game and the boys enjoy it...Paul doesn't! I have a much easier solution...I just pretend that I have accidentally left another gate open (only I actually want them to go through this one)...off they go at top speed!

Beck Brow Explorer and Beck Brow Quintos spot the open gate

Yes, fooled...that's where I want you to go

Emm...think we are back where we started!

The title of the blog relates to my doves.You may recall that I acquired seven. Well, I now have six plus one very naughty dog.

I received an email from South Africa recently, from the owner of Penny, a Jack Russell x Cocker Spaniel, who is the image of Velvet...see photo below. Penny is just a puppy, and her owner wondered how I had managed to train Velvet...the answer is...I haven't!


I am still waiting for our last birth. Roma looks like she can't go much longer. She spends most of her day snoring. Will it be another boy I wonder? One of our friendliest cria this year is Pedro...and he just loves getting his photo taken.

 Beck Brow Pedro

Whispering sweet nothings to Beck Brow Lula