Monday, 29 July 2013

Lots of comings and goings...and more comings soon!

It seems that I only manage to get around to writing a weekly blog these days...I must do much has been happening I find it hard to get the time (considering that uploading photos with a snail pace broadband is a bit of a long chore) and then all of a sudden it is Monday again!

Yesterday was an early start...4.45am to be precise...I was woken by a torrential downpour and with a newborn cria, I felt that I had to get up and check if his mum had brought him inside the barn...a  good decision as he was soaked through his 'waterproof coat'... and I ended up soaked to my underwear. So no point going back to I was wide awake! After waiting to ensure that we weren't likely to have any births (although Robyn came to farm watch) we headed off to County Durham, with the van and the trailer.

First stop was to visit Carole, Clyde and Rachael at Prince Bishop Alpacas, where Beck Brow Explorer had a date with two females. I will just say that a good time was had by all and leave it at that!

The Prince Bishop herd with Crystal unimpressed at having her dignity compromised!

Apologies about the quality of the photo taken on my iPad...but this is Prince Bishop Summer Rose. Another pea from the pod of Beck Brow Explorer. Her dam has a date with Explorer in a couple of weeks...another one just the same?...yes please! Behind her is Prince Bishop Horace a lovely Waradene St Patrick cria...a right little looker with a lovely fleece. Carole has taken to alpaca farming like a duck to water...a natural.

After leaving two males for spit-offs, we then headed off to Teesdale Alpacas  to make our next delivery of the day. Beck Brow Testimony will be joining the Teesdale herd as a future herd sire. With Waradene St Patrick of EPC as his sire and Silverstream Hoity Toity as his dam, this beige male is packed with top notch genetics including; Highlander, Czar, Inti, Conquistador, and  El Dorado, to name just a few. Congratulations to Sam and Doug, a very wise investment and we wish you well with him in the future.

We have also had to new additions...both males...hey ho so long as they are fit and well...and a few of them look like future stud males!!!

First up Bozedown Bonita, a fawn female produced a blue black male (sire: Virachocha Black Sabbath). Black Sabbath's cria are so recognizable (Amanda has some too) with a great head shape and such bright fleeces...very pleasing. He has a number of bookings so it will be interesting to see more cria on the ground next year.

Beck Brow Otis

Then on Saturday, one of our favourites; Beck Brow Snooty Boots (dam; EP Cambridge Lady Gaga. Sire: Waradene St patrick of EPC) had her Fowberry Nobility cria. He is beige, so not maybe quite as dark as anticipated, but what a handsome boy...and doesn't he know it! I keep trying to think of a name that links Snooty Boots and Nobility but nothing is coming...I must give him a name by the end of the present he is Bootee!

Beck Brow Snooty Boots with her cria

What shall we call Bootee?

We are repeating the match that produced Summer Haze and are expecting Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca up for a date with Chaska this week.

Inca Van Dieman Chaska with Beck Brow Summer Haze

Well, lots to do as always, but especially so this week... as we have 28 alpacas arriving on Thursday...yes 28...but more on that another day.

Monday, 22 July 2013

EP Cambridge Courtesse

I have had a very sociable week this last week...well when I say sociable... I don't mean that I have actually left the farm or put on my glad rags (or even managed to get to the hairdressers. I am beginning to think that I suit grey hair!) nothing like that...but I have had lots of fellow alpaca breeders visiting the farm (mainly for drive-by matings) and have enjoyed catching up.

Then yesterday we welcomed our latest arrival (yes, another one since I swore that was it!). I have now realised that I am addicted to whites...not just any old whites...but elite whites with the finest genetics...I just cannot resist them. EP Cambridge Courtesse is such a pretty female (she is actually 7 years old and looks so young) and has Jolimont Commisario as her sire. Commisario is one of  EP Cambridge Alpaca Stud's (Aust) leading males, and is renown within the industry (sire of EP Cambridge Top Account of Fowberry). She is a proven female having produced four prize winning progeny so far and is pregnant to Sanjo Shalimar.

EP Cambridge Courtesse

We now have a definite importation date for our new male: Timbertops CT Goldmine ET. He will be arriving mid October, which means we have had to change some of our mating plans as this is too late in the season for us to use him this year. So the lovely Inca Garland (sire Popham Thunder and from a Lilllyfield Jack of Spades dam) has had a date with Waradene St Patrick. This was really who I had in mind for her, with both of them having such a depth of colour we should get something very nice indeed.

Inca Garland...mind that fly buzzing round your left eye

Told you!

After my last blog about a tragic end to an over long gestation, I have been getting rather concerned about Pebbles, who is 369 days gestation. I have discussed with our vet about induction and it was planned for this morning...but I have changed my seems that there is no consensus on induction in alpacas and I just feel uneasy about it.

I am starting to look forward to the Alpaca Classic in September. The hotel is booked and the date is in the diary. I have also got the date for the BAS judge certification...not looking forward to that quite so much!

So not really a lot happening...its far to hot for manual work...and no more babies. We still have 4 girls and 11 boys and 12 to go. I am really looking forward to see what Beck Brow Snooty Boots produces with Fowberry Nobility...shouldn't have to wait too much longer... she is looking ready...a female PLEASE!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Rumour Has It...

We have had good news and bad since I last blogged. Thankfully the good out weighs the bad, so I will sandwich the sad in the middle.

Firstly an update from the weekend's drama; Camilla's little daughter has never looked back, she is full of energy and has gained weight at a steady pace. She is so adorable, even Paul is smitten...he doesn't go as far as saying that she is 'the cutest thing ever' as is my description... but he did say 'she is a little character, I'll give her that' those who know Paul will be aware that he doesn't do compliments... so that is pretty good!

I did say that I was thinking of naming her Cotton Bud, this was because she was white and fluffy...well I have had a change of mind...not just because Robyn didn't like the association with ear wax...but because she is beige...more used cotton bud colour! She has now been named Sugar Babe...just because she is...

Beck Brow Sugar sweet

It is also good news on Summer Haze , who had the plasma transfusion. It did take her 24 hours before she really got going, but she too has been steadily gaining weight. She is suffering a bit with the very hot weather having an extremely dense fleece. She does seem to favour the long grass where she can get some shade.

Beck Brow Summer Haze (left) Beck Brow Cats Pyjamas (right)

Summer Haze getting some shade from the long grass

I will put the sad news in italics, for you may want to skip this bit.

It is another case of an over long gestation unfortunately. Nina who belongs to Amanda was 377-days gestation yesterday, and as nothing was happening here I decided to pop over when Amanda made the call to say that she had action. All seemed fine initially, then when she pushed something emerged that looked like the placenta. On further investigation I could feel the head and legs inside the balloon. I have seen strong membranes before but nothing like this. It was red (unable to see through) and tough as leather. It was actually difficult to cut with scissors. But we managed and released the embryonic fluid. Nina eventually, with some help during her contractions, delivered the biggest cria that I have ever seen. Even when the shoulders were out the body still took a lot of pushing out. He was very obviously a dummy cria.

The male cria looked like he should have been six weeks old with an extremely long fleece, however he couldn't stand on his own, being down on his pasterns and having general muscle weakness. We gave him an intramuscular vitamin B1 injection and tube fed him colostrum. He did eventually take some colostrum from a bottle and Amanda and Graham battled on all night. When I went this morning he hadn't really made any progress, in fact the opposite. His chest was rattling and he seemed to have some colic. I gave him antibiotics and an anti-inflamatory. We also gave him a soapy enema with a good result. We also got the vet just in case we had missed anything. She gave some selenium (for muscle weakness) and some buscopan (for colic) as well as ventolin (to vasodilate the airways). She was hopeful he would eventually pull through, but unfortunately he lost his battle at lunchtime. My guess would be that he had been too deprived of oxygen during or prior to birth resulting in multi-organ failure. Poor little man.

I arrived home from Amanda's just before 10am (feeding time for Blue) to find Rumour Has It in labour. She is a lovely little maiden who shares her dam with Explorer. Thankfully it all went like clockwork and she delivered a healthy beige male...11 v 4 to the boys...I thought we had turned the corner but no!

Rumour's boy (sire: St Patrick) with aunties Celestrial and Gaga (right)

Whilst all this was going on I had a call from Carole at Prince Bishop Alpacas to say that Crystal had gone into labour and no legs had appeared. Thankfully Carole managed to tease the feet out and Crystal has produced the first female Explorer cria...a whopper for a maiden at 9.1kgs...and from the photo a very exciting prospect.

We also had good news from High Winder Alpacas last week when Katie (mid fawn) produced a brown St Patrick female...well at least some folks are getting girls!

On the boys front all the boys from 2012 have now been sold (with the exception of Advantage - Explorer's brother-  who we wish to retain). Testimony, Shackleton and Paulo are all going to their new homes as potential stud males. It is going to be tough to let them go, I always get too attached to the yearling males that we hang onto until we see their second fleeces.

Well best go and check on Rumour's wee fella. I never seem to get out of one field or another and look like I have been abroad...oh how I wish I had been lying around!

A couple of photos to finish with; Beck Brow Eddie initially admired for his bright white fleece has decided he likes the sand pit and is no longer white...he is looking and acting more like his sire Explorer everyday!

Beck Brow Eddie (first Edition)

and just because he looks cute Young Punk Penfold (belonging to Robyn and Craig)

Young Punk Penfold

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The problem with an over long gestation period...

We have been keeping our vet busy this weekend with call outs two days in a row. If only I had listened to my instincts, I could have dealt with today's problem yesterday...but easy said with hindsight.

Today's call was for Summer Haze. As told in my last blog, Summer was born at 382 days gestation and was already kushed when we found her at 6am. Our experience of gestation periods of this length have never been good (Explorer 385 days needed a plasma transfusion) so we were concerned about her even before she was born. Typical of such cases, she was a bit of a dummy cria and didn't even try to drink from her dam until that evening. She also showed signs of dysmaturity with floppy ears and was slightly down on her pasterns. So the decision was made to give her cows colostrum.

However, I have had a niggling worry about the fact we didn't know how long she had been born before we found her. Had we got the colostrum in within 6 hours? On day 1 she kept her birth weight. On day 2 she lost 300gs. As neither of us had seen her pass her merconium (and the ones that don't get their mums colostrum seem more prone to constipation) we gave her a soapy we gave her a Fleet enema...she had definitely been constipated. This is when I falsely hoped the problem was solved.

Wrong...this morning Summer had lost a further 500gs. She wouldn't take milk from a bottle (which she had done on day one) and Chaska had plenty of milk. Thus, concerns about failure of passive transfer were now more than a niggling worry. Her temp was 39.4 and her respiratory rate was 35. So I gave her antibiotics and an anti- inflammatory, then called the vet to give her a plasma transfusion.

It was interesting when discussing the case with our vet that in his experience it is the same with cattle and horses; an overly long gestation results in the presentation of calves and foals that are somewhat dysmature and dummy. He has also found that even if they do drink that they have a reduced ability to absorb the colostrum and produce anti-bodies. He has suggested that if we have any more extremely long gestations then we should just give the cria plasma as a matter of course.

Beck Brow Summer Haze (sire: Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca)

So as I said in hindsight we should have given the plasma yesterday when the vet was already here to Camilla (Explorer's dam and thus very special). Camilla rather caught us out. Explorer and St Patrick both had lady friends to visit on Saturday morning, but we had been keeping a good eye on the paddock and Kathryn and Paul (Crimdon Alpacas) had been looking at the cria just a short time before. However, when I went out to the paddock as they left, there was Camilla being chased by Crafter...and there was a cria head chasing Camilla...a head and no legs. As I ran to the barn to get Robyn and the birthing box Camilla ran after me ( how amazing are alpacas?). Unfortunately neither Robyn (who is very good with lamb reposition but claims that to be doodle in comparison to alpacas) could find room to get the legs forward (both completely extended back). We had tried pushing the head back to make more room but to no avail.

What we learnt from the vet was to push the shoulders back (this takes a great deal of pressure) then hold the head back with the outside hand. The hand inside then pushed the shoulder away to the side and then slides down to cup the feet. Repeat both sides! It is just making enough room. Camilla was a star throughout. The cria...a female...was given IV bicarbonate which was repeated 15 minutes later and she was up and away. Weighing in at 6.8kgs luckily she was on the smaller side. Her sire is EP Cambridge Fortitude. I was going to call her Cotton Bud but as Robyn says that it makes you think of ear wax I may have to reconsider!

Cambridge Camilla with cria (sire: EP Cambridge Fortitude)

Camilla's cria again

So two girls in a row that makes it 10 boys and 4 girls of our own. Still we have some lovely males so we are not really complaining...and we still have another 14 to birth (including one belonging to Robyn and Craig)

Beck Brow Idris (sire: Jack of Spades)

Beck Brow Boxster (sire; Bozedown Omen)

Friday, 12 July 2013

Well that was a surprise!

I have to admit sometimes during the birthing season things can feel a little repetitive...every morning we get up at 6am...the females are always all in the of us gives Blue his bottle, whilst the other nips round through the paddock to close the barn door (so no one escapes before they have been weighed)...every morning there is nothing to report... and you get the feeling that the girls are saying "for goodness sake do we never get a lie in".

Well, that was the case until yesterday morning...a very foggy morning...a morning where I was the one closing the gate...and there was Chaska (382 days gestation) sitting just outside the door..."what are you doing out here Chaska?"..."and whose is that cria that you have?"..."OMG it's yours!!" Yes sitting kushed and looking like it was at least a week old, was a dark fawn female. Yipee Chaska...a change from the two white males (from fawn sires) we have had so far.

Now I had a bit of a dilemma as I didn't actually know when the cria had been born, so I guessed by the fact that she was partially dry but not completely, that it would have been around 5am. Why this was an issue was because she didn't drink...she didn't even try to suckle...she ran around...but didn't go anyway near the udder. So decision made, she was given cows colostrum which she took readily from a bottle. It wasn't until 6pm that she actually figured out where the milk bar was. In my experience the crias who have had an extra long gestation period are often rather dopey (technical term) and I think this combined with the fact that Chaska was tired and kept sitting down meant that we were right to intervene earlier rather than later to ensure adequate passive transfer.

As she was born in the fog and at the start of a scorching day, we have named her Summer Haze 

Even this morning she was getting confused as to which end supplied the milk

Okay got it!

We are enjoying continuous sunshine...there might even have been a grumble or two about being too hot...but we have got all our hay in and enjoyed a BBQ and a few glasses of Pimm's and real ale at the end of the day.

It was already scorching when I was out with the camera at 9am this morning. The cria are all finding their individual ways of keeping cool...

Jetson...the rocker style to keep the under carriage aired

Boxster takes a more stylish approach to prevention of sweaty armpits

whereas Barnaby has no concerns about modesty and bares his all

Inkster takes the tail up approach to provide some air to the necessary regions

and First Edition (Eddie)...well he is just plain cool.

Eddie looks so like Explorer as a cria it is spooky. In fact I keep calling him Explorer by mistake. Not only is he the image of him he has turned into a sex pest just like his dad...he spends his time orgling on the back of anyone he can catch. We have a number of Explorer progeny still to be born...if they all look like peas from the pod I might just have to consider ear tags!!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Taking the Silver!

Well another week has gone by and I still haven't got to the hairdressers... and Chaska still hasn't got round to give birth (379 days gestation today)...actually there is a direct correlation between the two, but as a number of other females are now within their due dates it looks like I am going to be grey until September, even if she does have it tomorrow!

The weather is glorious and like most farmers up and down the country haymaking is in full swing. All being well we will have 15 acres baled up tomorrow afternoon. Some of the pregnant females are finding the heat a bit much, depending on their colour. The herd was split into three groups this afternoon; blacks and dark browns in the shelter, fawns by the water troughs and whites sunbathing in the middle of the paddock!

Beck Brow fawns!

Below is a photo of Beck Brow Inkster, a beautiful blue black who has decided he rather fancies being grey! Inkster is our only Viracocha Black Sabbath progeny born so far...Pebbles is 356 days gestation today so hopefully not too much longer to wait. Black Sabbath will be coming up to Cumbria on the 21st of July and we are very pleased to announce that he will be staying permanently at Beck Brow Alpacas, as we, along with Florens Alpacas (Amanda) have bought the share previously owned by Anzac Alpacas. Having access to him all season, and not having to isolate him each visit is going to be much easier for us. He will have some traveling companions for his journey up north (I wonder if I got hypnotised...must be worth a shot to cure this addiction)

Beck Brow Inkster after a good roll

Bozedown Magic Charm and Beck Brow Boxster...I am thinking that the brown boy might actually be dark fawn!

Although we havent had any cria ourselves we were delighted to hear that High Winder Alpacas have had a St Patrick brown female from a fawn dam. St Patrick is proving to be very popular for stud services, especially with those wanting to increase depth of colour.

On Saturday we took three of the boys to Skelton Show along with some products. We had a great day with lots of interest in the alpacas (Kate Humble has done a lot for the alpaca industry!). Two of the boys are now sold and the third we are keeping (Explorer's half brother). We were rather surprised when we heard that we had been awarded the best medium sized trade stand and were given a plaque to display. However, we were even more delighted to hear that we had won the Championship Cup for the best stand in I have just had to return Explorers Supreme Champion trophy to Westmorland it is great to have some silver wear to replace it!

Robyn and Craig at the end of the day at Skelton Agricultural Show (10,000 visitors)

The lovely EP Cambridge Lady Gaga and Beck Brow Snooty Boots have had a modelling assignment... some archive images of Gaga with Boots as a cria, have been used by Master Sculptor Ray Ayres to construct a model of a dam with cria at foot. Ray works for Border Fine Arts who will be charting the progress of the model on their Facebook page (Border Fine Arts Classics).

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

First Edition Hicups.

I have yet again let a week go by without blogging...I think that I have been unconsciously waiting until I could share some exciting news with you...but more about that later.

Things haven't been quite as straight forward with First Edition (Eddie) as we might have hoped. He is the third cria for Morden Hall Honaria, who has always been a very good mother with an ample milk supply. Every year she bags up early (3 - 4 weeks before birthing) but this year she had been bursting with milk for at least 6 weeks before she gave birth. After birthing we removed the waxy plugs from the teats and found the colostrum to be so thick in the back 2 quarters, that she was very difficult to milk. To shorten a long story; As Eddie wasn't taking the colostrum from mum despite being on the teat, he was given cows colostrum to ensure that he received the required antibodies in time.

It would appear that Honaria had been starting with mastitis. We have bathed her udder each morning with warm cloths and milked out the thick milk, in the meantime supplementing Eddie with goats milk. Eddie is now gaining weight, and he took his bottle with less gusto this morning, so it looks like we are getting there.

Beck Brow First Edition (Eddie)

Strong enough to have his coat off...look at those curls across his chest just like his sire Beck Brow Explorer

 Beck Brow First Edition's fleece at the shoulder...long and curly!

One of the things I enjoy most about owning alpacas is watching their behaviour and the dynamics within the herd. Explorer has declared himself top dog since he has some females on farm visiting him. The girls (pictured below) are in an isolation paddock which looks down on to the main farm. We have been taking Explorer up there for the matings. Now normally 10-12 mins is all that Explorer spends on his lady friends, but put him on the top of a hill and he puts in 20 mins plus of top rate orgling! Its interesting that mating environments are so influential. I guess this position above the level of the main herd is similar to what would happen in the wild.

Beck Brow Explorer's visiting ladies (gorgeous girls)

Now, the news that I have been waiting to tell you?...Chaska has had a fawn female...yes that is what I was waiting for...but it hasn't happened! Chaska who is mid fawn (below) has had two white males from two fawn mated to a black this year (Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca) we are hoping we just might get some colour...and a female. Our herd average gestation is around 340 days...Chaska is now 373 days!!

Inca Van Dieman Chaska

So I have had to settle with taking photos of our existing cria...

Beck Brow Inkster (sire Virococha Black Sabbath) has a lovely dense fleece.

Beck Brow Cats Pyjamas with Beck Brow Crafter (sire of both is Waradene St Patrick).

Beck Brow Cats Pyjamas' fleece...still very curly.

Beck Brow Bespoke (sire Bozedown Patriot) also has a very dense and curly fleece

Beck Brow Bespoke (slightly out of focus photo!)

Beck Brow Idris (sire Lillyfield Jack of Spades). That is his dam the otherside of the fence. Sorry Idris you are going to have to walk around, you will not get a drink like that.

We had a sociable end to last week with visits and visitors. On Friday Doug and Sam from Teesdale Alpacas popped in on their way back from Woolfest. Then on Saturday we had a visit from Mabel and Imants from Highland Alpacas. Finishing off a busy week on Sunday, St Patrick and I paid a visit to Debbie and Paul at Barnacre Alpacas. I really enjoyed the ride out to theirs, with such a scenic route between us. Who is the cutest... alpaca crias or Angora kids?...its a close one!