Friday 29 March 2013

Assessment...definitely some ginger in there!

Well so far this week I have managed to avoid the M6...actually that's not 100% true I did travel on it for one mile on Monday...but that doesn't even register as travel after my previous couple of weeks!

We have been lucky enough to avoid any heavy snow here, but we haven't had to travel far to find some. On Monday Amanda and I set off on the 35 minute journey to High Winder Alpacas in order to provide some husbandry support (Lambivac, toenails, selenium). Richard had warned us that he had spent two days digging himself out...but this obviously hadn't really sank in as I chose to take the back road to the farm...the back road that is very narrow and very winding...a very slippy, snowy, back road...a back road that I had to reverse all the way back down when we ended up in a four foot snow drift...phew it was a relief to get back to the main road in one piece.

Tuesday was a day of visitors. First to arrive were Derek, Tracey and Diana who own Willow and Coco; closely followed by Carole from Prince Bishop Alpacas. Wiseman Sweet Coco is going to be shown by Derek at the NWAG Alpaca Championships next week; so we we decided some training on show etiquette and how to present Coco well in the ring would be useful. She has turned into rather a little sweetie since weaning and behaved like a little star. She will probably just show her own teeth to the judge...say cheese!

Amanda was last to arrive, armed with freshly made soup. The plan had been to go through some alpaca assessment training...but I don't know if it was the cold weather...or the chatter was too good...but we spent more time assessing the ingredients that had gone into the soup than we did any week!

Lots going on with final details for the show. We keep telling ourselves that next year will be easier; a new show, in a new venue, we are trying to factor in every eventuality, but it will no doubt bring up something that we haven't considered. The rosettes and sashes have arrived (tick) the catalogues should also have arrived yesterday (no tick). I am promised that they will be posted on Tuesday...getting neat...will there be stress!

After being away rather a lot of late, it has been lovely to spend time with my own alpacas. I just love watching all their interactions. Lady Gaga had me most amused yesterday...actually she has me amused most days; as she really does think herself a cut above everyone else. She goes about everything in the most regal manner...she could carry off a tiara no problem. Well yesterday I could see that she had her eye on particular food didnt matter that all of the troughs round her had feed in...she wanted the bowl that I had set down. The trouble was that Bonita had got there Gaga doesn't get into fights...spitting and such behaviour is so beneath her. So I watched to see how this was going to be resolved....and all of a sudden we had Gaga the prancing front foot then the other front foot elegantly placed up in the air and back down...then quick as a flash a front foot slipped into the bowl... which was then very nimbly pulled in front of her...voila Gaga has the feed her!

All the girls are looking decidedly pregnant now. Normally at this time of the year we have some is she/ isn't she debates...which tends to mean that they are not...but so far all seems to be going to plan ( we have some due in September so a bit early to be sure about those. We will be spitting some off shortly). I am starting to get very excited...we are anticipating that this will be our best crop of cria so far...the result of lots and lots of research and planning...with lots more planning ahead.

However, no matter how much planning goes into our breeding programe we will always end up with some surprises. Take Inca Van Dieman Chaska for example: a beautiful female with an advanced dense fleece and a phenotype many a macho would be proud of...she is also a fawn, a factor in her far she has produced two white males from two fawn sires! Not to be beaten...for we are sure she is going to produce something special and coloured if we can just get her match right...she was mated to the very impressive Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca... who is black and has density in bucket loads...this has the potential to be exciting...anyone want to put some odds on the colour...

Inca Van Dieman Chaska's fleece

archive photo of Chaska...mated to Jack of Spades (black)...what colour will the cria be?

One of my plans for the Easter weekend is to start on a data base for recording our EBV's (estimated breeding values). This is something that we have been planning since our herd assessment with Jim Watts and Tim Hey (SRS breeding), and after listening to Brett Kaysen at the Alpaca Classic at Bozedown Alpacas last year. The key, I guess, is not just about collecting data (which we already do) but collecting the right data and processing this into useful information, which has impact on breeding decisions. See what happens when you become a trainee get even more obsessed with assessment!

Actually looking out of the window, the sun is trying to shine, maybe inside jobs will have to wait. I even did some poovering last week I was so deperate for some outdoors time. It is going to be a strange weekend saying goodby to two groups of our weanling boys. On Saturday Jean and Stuart will be taking Bendrago and Marco off to snowy Scotland (weather permitting) and on Sunday we will be delivering Dougal and Hamish to Bev and Andy' s in equally snowy Yorkshire (again weather permitting). We are okay here in sunny Cumbria...not often we can say that!

Sunday 24 March 2013

A head full of alpaca...and nothing else!

Well I could start this blog by saying another busy week...but that's just becoming boring...the norm! So here we go...Monday saw me turn round and go all the back down to Toft Alpacas at Dunchurch (near Rugby). Rob and Shirley had kindly offered to have me to stay for a couple of nights, whilst they were hosting a BAS Judges clinic with Amanda VandenBosch. It was an early night for all of us on the Monday ready for a busy day ahead. Well worth the journey (and subsequent exhaustion by Thursday) the course was so informative, and on the back of ring stewarding, I came away with a head bursting with information. Luckily for us Toft Alpacas have fantastic educational facilities and we managed to keep nice and warm (alpacas and humans) during the teaching sessions (the alpacas even had carpet!).

I was still feeling tired on Friday (after a hectic couple of weeks) however, I decided the cupboards were looking rather Mother Hubbard like, and someone really needed to pay a visit to Tesco. So there I was trolley overflowing; and you know how it is when you have so much to load onto the conveyor belt that it starts coming off the packing end before you have unloaded...feeling weary I packed the final item and was thinking about the unloading and putting away at the other end...however, what I should have been thinking was...where is my purse...EMBARASSING!!

Saturday was a full day of alpaca husbandry. Firstly the weanlings were weighed...this cold weather really isn't helping them loses but virtually no weight gain either. Crushed oats has now been added to their mix (Paulo is now eating...but only when fed by hand...Paul taught him that at the Futurity!). The whole herd got a dose of Ovithrive mineral drench, and at the same time the herd all got condition scored. The pregnant females were generally scoring 3 to 3.5/5. Spot on with no overweight females for a change. None the less we have added a sprinkling of oats to their morning feed as we have females coming up to birthing next month, and with no spring grass on the agenda. These females, due within the next six weeks, were given their Lambivac booster.

I think that I have also been wearing myself out thinking about alpaca is this time of the year that I always become obsessed. Thankfully a number of decisions for outside matings (got to keep mixing those genetics!) where decided at the Futurity. Cambridge Stargazer (sire Firedragon) our fabulous super elite female at EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud in Australia, will be mated to EP Cambridge Peruvian Spartacus (we are taking superstar here!). Very exciting but a long wait (we may see her in Oct/Nov). Cambridge Camilla (Beck Brow Explorer's dam) is going back to Cambridge Navigator (his sire and son of Spartacus). It had to be done. Explorer mark 11? Lots more decisions made but I won't bore you with them all at once!!!

I have been out with the camera (mainly because Robyn informed me that there was a pair of swans on our pond...but they were no where to be seen by the time I got there..not even Velvet could eat a swan so hopefully they will be back). So photos of some of our residents:

 Beck Brow Marco (who will be going to his new home on Saturday). He just gets cuter...

I wonder why we have so many gorgeous looking cria...could it be that St Patrick is the daddy!! (okay not the most flattering photo)

A gang of St Patrick cria (from left Shackleton, Sox and Testimony)

Wiseman Sweet Coco (another St Patrick cria with a lovely dense fleece...NWAG Show entrant!)

 and some of our non-alpaca family:

 Jed one of our minature Shetland ponies (just look at that mane!)

Just to prove that we have mud even is our alpacas like to keep clean: Jake having enjoyed a good roll

Inca enjoying herself in our wood on the way back from the pond.

and a hen...who obviously thinks spring may be coming judging by the red comb!

Sunday 17 March 2013

The British Alpaca Futurity 2013

 The British Alpaca Futurity 2013 was another resounding success. Brilliantly organised; everything rang like clockwork (well except when the ring steward stood talking outside the building when she should have been on duty...very nearly got the sack...but managed to escape with just penalty points!). It was amazing to watch the two judges (Amanda VandenBosch and Jill MacLeod) in action. I had the honour of being ring steward for Amanda and I learned so much (thank you Mary-Jo and Iain Smith from Bozedown Alpacas for the opportunity to do this).

Here I am learning about grey Huacayas (I think Karen from Meon Valley took that one)

Both judges were 'blown away' by the quality of the alpacas in the UK, and having both judged here before; they commented on how advanced the quality of the alpacas had become in a relatively short length of time, Getting a rosette of any colour was tough...the competition was so strong...but we brought home two rosettes from our two entries. 

Beck Brow Paulo did well to get 6th in a very tough class where the first placed alpaca took white champion. Beck Brow Explorer was in the Adult White Male Huacaya class...this really is a tough one...these are the boys who are already working stud males...he really was up against the big boys...and got placed 2nd!!! We were so pleased. The judge commented that all of the placed alpacas in his group were world class. Explorer was praised as having the most organised fleece of the line up, the greatest length, equal density to the first placed alpaca, but he was just piped on fineness. And of course she loved Explorer's Phenotype...I may be bias but he is one handsome looking boy! (sorry no photos as I was stewarding in the next ring)

Alpaca Stud Nyetimber took the herd sire award. It was a northern breeder who took the Judge's choice again...well the same northern breeder actually...congratulations to Jenny and Graham for their success with Fowberry Nobility. It was a close thing...the judges were deliberating for quite sometime...between him and... Fowberry Regal Lily his full sister!!! It was fantastic to see so many of our friends do so well, and there are far to many to mention, however I must just say I am loving Cockerham Pagaent (1st placed junior white Huacaya male in the first class). Oh, and an added bonus: our Beck Brow Snooty Boots (sire Waradene St Patrick) is in cria to Fowberry Nobility (and will be returning again this year)

Apart from having a fantastic time (and thank you Cathy Lloyd from EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud for organising the gala dinner...the best food yet at the Futurity) we also managed to do quite a bit of business (not so easy when ring stewarding!). Lots of mating decisions made...for next year as well as this!!! The logistics of it all...well we will manage some how.

                            Rebecca (Kingwell Alpacas) and myself; giving judge Amanda VandenBosch our full attention

Nero Black Rose (we now have her dam Cambridge Scarborough) chilled with her 2nd place rosette! (Paul might be slightly chuffed too)

It is going to be an early night tonight as I am travelling back down to Toft Alpacas for a judges clinic with Amanda VandenBosch (I am going the night before I wouldn't dare be late again!)

Monday 11 March 2013

Shows and Snow!

Sorry my blogging has been spasmodic, but I have been cream it what you want ...but plain all knackered will do. Just in case anyone is interested I will have a run through the past week:

It started off rather leisurely; walking with friends followed by supper at mine. Unfortunately, because it was the day before the closing date for the NWAG Alpaca Championships, I had a number of email questions to answer whilst out and about. Trying not too be too rude, I tried to keep walking, talking, and typing on my phone all at the same time...what I did forget to do was watch where I was going... and tripped up ending up in a heap...something I knew about the next day!

Mid week I went down to Stoneleigh to the BAS Board meeting. A number of members had been invited to sit in on the meeting, in order to see what goes on; and also to see if this might be something that they would possibly be interested in getting involved with at some point. As I could tie the journey in with something else, I accepted the invitation; and I must say found it very worthwhile. My journey then continued down to Dorset (thank goodness for Sat Navs...I have absolutely no sense of direction...If I tell you that I would be lost without  my husband Paul...that is because I only recognise my left hand from my right because of my wedding ring!). Anyway I made good progress down to Inca Alpacas.

No, I know what you are thinking...the journey wasn't in order to seek out any more black alpacas to purchase...although there were paddocks full of stunning blacks...No, the reason for my journey was to receive some training towards my final BAS judging exams. Tim Hey (owner of Inca Alpacas and renown BAS Judge) kindly put me through my paces; having me place and oral reason a number of top notch black classes. It would have been very difficult for me to see this number, and level of black alpacas anywhere else, and I am sure this experience will prove to have been extremely valuable, if I make the grade.

Talking of Sat Navs I think mine will have to be well charged... I am busy trying to arrange judge apprentice opportunities. Understandably, but unfortunately for me, BAS are not having halter class apprentices at their National Show; and as a number of the larger BAS shows are being judged by newly qualified judges (who dont take apprentices)  I am seeking opportunities far and wide. I am apprenticing at the National Fleece Show with Nick Harrington Smith and then staying down to help with ring stewarding for the halter classes (note that they asked me before I have had two days of ring stewarding at the Futurity!) which should all be great experience.

Whatever other spare time I have had has been taken up with the NWAG Alpaca Championships. It really is shaping up well, but what a lot to think about with a brand new event. I have been tied up with getting the catalogue in order. Checking out the latest BAS show rules, reminded me of the changes to the colour classes i.e LIGHTS is now beige and light fawn, and FAWN is now mid and dark fawn only...lots of light fawns in the wrong class...lots of renumbering and catalogue changes...arghhh!!!

On Saturday we met up at Cockerham Alpacas, along with Greenside Alpacas, to check on progress of the show. We have 175 entries for a one day show, so we will have to be slick. Mike and Mary had been to Borderway (our venue) and had made lots of progress with logistics. Pens have now been allocated and we have loads of space available to us. My to do list doesn't seem to grow any smaller, but I am sure it must be...and we managed to sit down to our fillet steaks at 21.30hrs on Saturday night...but it will be worth it!

We also have the British Alpaca Futurity this week...always an exciting event...I am not even going to look at the auction alpacas this year...oh yes...I remember...Morden Hall Honaria...I hadnt looked at her either!! We will be travelling down Thursday, back Sunday then I will be travelling back down again Monday evening for a Judges clinic with Amanda Vanderbosch being held at Toft Alpacas on the Tuesday and Wednesday...then back to NWAG Show preparations...I am not going to think about it yet!

Sorry...I could go on and on...but I have written too much already...and you have probably all fallen asleep by now. So some is snowing here...really snowing.

Dougal, who will be going to his new home soon, wasn't to keen on the snow

No definitely not keen...

Okay I will stay at the back (front left to right; Marco, Advantage and Bendrago)

Beck Brow Paulo is going to the Futurity...I am a little concerned that I still haven't got him eating hard feed

We are weaning Foxy Sox from her bottle...its tough... how do you resist?

Foxy Sox again for Judi

Okay Dougal go back in the shelter

Earlier in the week I went to Amanda's to help with some halter training (we are taking Florens Davinci to the Futurity ...sire Waradene St Patrick...fleece above). I wont tell you about the open field gate and my olympic hurdling efforts to reach the lane gate before them!

Sunday 3 March 2013

All black alpacas look the same...

Don't you just love March...bye bye winter...hello birthing season! and of course we always look forward to the British Alpaca Futurity, where after a long winter the alpaca chatter is in full flow. I am so looking forward to catching up with everyone and of course seeing all the top of the crop alpacas gathered together...Beck Brow Explorer always enjoys himself too!

Today has been rather exciting...I have had no invitations...and I have been nowhere. After 16 days on the trot socialising, I needed a rest, and a day of catching up with the chores...I know that's a contradiction in terms...and actually I haven't got as much done as I should have. Hardly surprisingly, I haven't even managed to get round to ironing our holiday clothes post today I decided that I wouldn't bother...I wont be wearing them again so I have just packed them away creases and all. I know...we might just get some summer this year...but this is stuff that you would only wear where the chance of been seen by someone you know are ziltch!

Any spare time that I have had has been spent with the alpacas, so the house is looking like one of those places where you wipe your feet on the way out. I am walking with friends tomorrow, and then they are coming back for tea. That means I still have to hoover, dust, clean the loo, wash the floor and make a fish pie! Tuesday is to be my last day working as a nurse. It is four years this month since I gave up my job as a full-time nursing Sister working in Critical Care, in order to start up Beck Brow Alpacas of Cumbria. Last year when getting cold feet about losing my registration, I decided to take a contract working 12 hours per week on the Coronary Care Unit. Unfortunately, as much as I love my work and my colleagues, I have handed in my notice to go back to concentrating on my alpacas full time (nothing to do with my social life despite what Paul says).With a growing number of females birthing each year, I really don't want to risk missing a thing.

Right this is meant to be an alpaca blog...and we have been busy with the alpacas too! This morning we did a bit of trimming of top knots...Snooty Boots was not in a very obliging frame of mind, so I decided I would finish it off this evening...before she asks for a refund...see below.

Beck Brow Snooty Boots...notice the chunk out above the right eye...well you should have stood still!

Most of the afternoon has been taken up debating how we will be dividing the fields and where we will be putting shelters. It looks like we will be taking back an additional 20 acres or thereabouts (some of this will be for hay) lots of fencing...and I think we have decided on another barn with a cement floor.

On Friday I went over to Hexham to visit Kathryn from Nero Black Alpacas, who was kind enough to let me rummage through her show team...I am afraid I am not allowed to say anything...but I will be excited to watch them at The Futurity as always. In fact, it will be even more exciting this year as we now own Cambridge Scarborough, who will have two daughters and a grandson in the Nero Black team.

I did take a photo on my ipad whilst I was there but I am afraid I am not exactly sure who is who now...interesting I think that people often say that "all white alpacas look the same" I don't agree as I am always able to tell them apart... but this is often because a group of elite white alpacas do (and should) have similar traits. The same can be said of a group of elite blacks who are consistently of a high sorry Kathryn if you read this...I do know that the adult is Nero Black Rose (daughter of Scarborough)...but I am not sure who is in front...Nero Black Betty? Its because they all look so good!

Nero Black Rose (second in line) and daughter of Cambridge Scarborough

Right best get going...I will have to iron Paul a shirt for work...can't really complain when I am a lady who lunches! Then fish pie...then......