Friday, 31 July 2015

Before and After...

We have had our website changed on to Wordpress. The content is the same but the platform much simpler. However, it does require accessing the blog either directly from our website or by following the link below:


Barbara x

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Alpaca Crack from the North...

We are still waiting for the heatwave here in shortage of grass for fact topping grass could be a full time job. We did however have a couple of hot days last week, and some of the cria really didn't do well (rather a shock for them after the wind and rain), in fact we had a number of them who really slowed on their weight gain.

Sonata's cria (agisted and yet to be named) was obviously not enjoying either the heat nor the accompanying flies. She developed an eye infection  (treated with Opticlox) and really just seemed to be off. With further observation it was apparent she had some colic. She was brought into the cool barn with mum, and was given Buscopan, an anti-inflammatory, and some re-hydration fluid. After a snooze for an hour, she was comfortable enough to nurse and was up and away. 


Sonata's cria (right) who has a very dense fleece and suffered with the heat (sire: Waradene St Patrick of EPC)

Beck Brow The Strategist (sire: Beck Brow Explorer) also not enjoying the sun.

Beck Brow Match Point (sire: Timbertop CTGoldmine ) may just have the densest fleece we have had here...he will have to fight that point out with Strat (above).

We split our pregnant females (due 2015) into two groups this year; those who were due May and June, and those due July and August. This allows us to monitor feeding needs closely, and to keep those due, and those with the youngest cria, closest to the farm. Below are some of the older cria enjoying the sand pit....

The sand pit proving popular

We have five cria in the July/August group so far (10 more to go). The last to be born, to one of the agisted females, is being partially bottle fed and sticks close to mum...

The other four, who were born closely together, are inseparable...


A couple of cria photos caught in passing...

Beck Brow On The Money (sire: Timbertop CT Goldmine)...Sweet Secret has nabbed the sand pit!

Beck Brow Tutu (sire: Timbertop CT Goldmine)

This time of the year is all about birthing and mating (with next year's births in mind!). With sixty two females who reside on the farm to be mated (approximately 50% females who are managed here for clients) as well as drive-by, mobile, and on farm visiting females; our record keeping and management of the males' health and workload is vital. 

This includes monitoring the strike rate of our males. Last year St Patrick had a strike rate on farm of 100% success on first mating, and has so far continued that record this year. His son, Beck Brow Crafter (owned by Fangdale Alpacas) has had success with his very first mating now confirmed pregnant. We have  noticed that his daughters are very receptive too. A great quality in a male.

However, we had noted that Explorer had taken a couple of matings to get success with some of his first covers of this year, but when analysing the records we realised that he had a high percentage of maidens, and females left open over winter. So not really unexpected. All the stud boys had their mineral and selenium drench this morning, just to ensure they stay in tip top condition to maximise fertility.

We had Beck Brow First Edition (sire: Beck Brow Explorer) watching his paddock mate (Beck Brow Boxster) at work this morning. He has grown into a big strong male, but isn't looking like mating just yet. He has a sniff at the female..then he sits!! We will keep trying...I have Bozedown Celestrial in mind for him (late August). I cant wait to see his progeny, his adult fleece is coming back as well organised as his previous two and very fine...come on Eddie!

Beck Brow first Edition looking very like his sire.

We have had to give Explorer a paddock change today...I made the mistake of changing the dynamics within the group of stud males during the mating season. We gave Quintos (who was in with Explorer and Goldmine) to a client to use as a spit off male, as they are based over 3 hours away. Quintos must have played his part as peacemaker, for since his departure, Goldmine has been bullying Explorer (who is a softy). Explorer is now leader of the yearling group!!!

The male yearling joined by Explorer

We have nine boys in group who have been retained as potential stud males; five white, one beige and three black. This is giving me a bit of a headache regarding choosing a show team for Westmorland Show...I cant take them all...and how do you choose when they only have an inch of fleece!

Beck Brow Bond (only Goldmine cria of 2014) was born in October so can go in the junior class.


Beck Brow Jimmy Choos (sire: Black Sabbath) has grown out really well

Beck Brow Mr Darcy (sire: Explorer) possibly my favourite. I love to see the organisation at the skin on shorn alpacas.

I have a vet student coming for a week's placement on Monday. I think we will be able to keep him busy; with the thirty one cria born so far (fifteen are ours - nine boys and six girls) to weigh and microchip tomorrow, forty five spit-offs to do and matings as required, all females to drench with mineral and vitamins, births expected, visting females to mate and their cria to weigh, as well as all the routine farm work...we should have a good week...looking forward to a captive audience to talk alpaca to!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Failure of Passive Transfer and Plasma Transfusion in Cria

So many acute problems in the newborn cria, that I see and hear about, appear to be down to the lack of understanding of failure of passive transfer. It is easy for the inexperienced breeder to wait to a cria has 'crashed' due to sepsis before intervening, without the required knowledge. The provision of plasma as a preventative measure, rather than a treatment, can save much stress and cria lives.

We have stored our on farm plasma for seven years now. We were fortunate to have gained our knowledge early and Beck Brow Explorer was given a plasma transfusion after 24 hours (despite no signs of sepsis). We knew that he hadnt received his colostrum and tests showed his levels at less than one 100 mg/dl. The chances are without the plasma he may not now be with us...perish the thought.

Something I would add; from our experience very premature or dysmature cria often do not have the ability to create the required antibiodies despite taking colostrum. These cria often require plasma. 

Below is some information I put together which may be of interest. However, please do consult your vet. I often hear about inexperienced vets, but all large animal vets should understand about the basics of any neonatal needs whatever the species.

Failure of Passive Transfer and Plasma Transfusion in Camelid Neonates

The information provided below is for guidance only, and is not in any way intended to be prescriptive. Advice should be sought from your vet should you have any concerns about failure of passive transfer ( PFT ) and are unsure about it's treatment.

Passive Transfer

A crucial component in the survival of the neonate is the concentration of serum immunoglobulin (igG) . This specific immunoglobulin is the main source of antibodies against infection for the neonate. Camelid cria are born without igG and must acquire this from the colostrum (first milk produced by the dam).

Ensuring adequate colostrum intake (10 -20% of body weight in the first 24 hours - 5 % of this in the first 6 hours) is vital to protect cria in the first few months of life. Failure to ingest enough colostrum in the first 24 hours of life is probably the most important predisposing cause of cria mortality. However, the window of opportunity is narrow; after about eight hours the cria gut begins to lose the ability to absorb antibodies from the colostrum and after twenty four hours virtually nothing will be absorbed.

If a cria has failed to nurse by six hours then an attempt should be made to feed colostrum. Ideally this will be milked from the dam (although in practice this is not always possible and it may even be that the lack of colostrum production by the dam is the actual problem). Frozen camelid colostrum is also ideal. Alternatively goat’s colostrum is considered to be the closest in composition to camelid colostrum, but if unavailable then cows colostrum may be used. N.B. the source of the colostrum must be scrutinized , it is important to determine that the herd is free of disease and that the colostrum is collected and stored under sanitary conditions.

Ideally the colostrum should be administered via bottle feeding. If this is not possible then the colostrum may be given via an orogastric tube in to the stomach. N.B. colostrum should not be given to a hypothermic cria, the cria must be warmed and be normothermic if the colostrum is to be absorbed.

N.B. it is advisable to weigh new born cria on a daily basis; weight loss may be the earliest sign that a cria is in trouble.

Failure of Passive Transfer.

In the event of the cria failing to receive adequate colostrum within the first 24 hours, the cria will be said to have a failure of passive transfer (PFT). This may be complete or partial i.e some colostrum has been received but below the recommended amount.  Levels are checked at 24 -48  hours. A basic serum total protein test will give an indication of FPT. A camelid specific igG test will be more accurate but will take longer to get results. A result less than 600 mg/ dl is considered to be a FPT and greater than 800 mg / dl adequate. Anything In between may be considered a partial FPT. N.B if using a camelid specific measurement goat and cow colostrum will not be measured.

Once FPT has been diagnosed (or if there is certainty that inadequate colostrum has been received) the only way to remedy the situation is by plasma transfusion. If we are certain that colostrum has not been taken we would transfuse on that basis rather than wait for results.

Plasma Administration

Ideally all alpaca breeders should have a supply of plasma in their freezer;  this will have been collected from their own herd. In this case the plasma donors will have been exposed to the same antigens present on the farm, and will have produced the required antibodies. Blood can also be collected from the dam and spun if time and facilities available.

A plasma donor should be a healthy, fully grown alpaca (ideally aged at least 3 years old and not pregnant). It is advisable that the donor is fully up to date with all vaccinations (e.g. Lambivac) at the point of collection.

Plasma may be administered via the intravenous or intraperitoneal routes (the jury is out as to the effectiveness of oral administration, but this would need to be given within the first six hours). We do not give oral plasma and always give intravenously.
The recommended dose is 15 -25 mls/ kg by either route, although the intravenous route does have the advantage of the vet being able to stop the transfusion if any complications present themselves

IgG levels can be rechecked 48 hours after the plasma is given.

Plasma should be gently defrosted in warm water and administered at body temperature. Over heating will destroy the proteins (IgGs).

Frozen plasma must not be stored in a self defrosting freezer.


Anderson David, Cotton Toni, Whitehead Claire. Neonatal Care for Camelids Breeding to Birthing to Weaning.

Hoffman Eric. The Complete Alpaca Book

Evans Norman. Alpaca Field Manual.

Fowler Murray. Medicine and Surgery of South American Camelids.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Does anyone know the time????

Boy oh boy...its been a busy old week.

Let's start with last Wednesday, when Inca Havannah was showing all the signs of wishing to unpack her cria. Straight out after breakfast, chattering away to her unborn cria, and heading for the sandpit (this is the favourite place for the first stages of labour). By 11 am I had decided that something just wasn't going as it should. A quick call and Amanda and Graham (Florens) came over to hold her whilst I investigated. 

Well I would have investigated if I could have got my hand in. She was so tight. We tried lubrication and gentle stretching but to no avail. A nose was evident...but there was no way the cria was coming out. The vet was called and a C-section anticipated. In the meantime the contractions were coming more frequently and Havannah was pushing hard.

The vet arrived and decisions were needed...and the end it was agreed that an episiotomy should be tried as the first intervention. With local injected, the cut was made, and the problem was found to be the the vaginal sphincter had not opened, rather than ring womb (cervix) as expected. To cut to the chase...after much manoeuvring...out she came...a beautiful brown female, who was full of beans and quickly on to her feet. 

Despite being quite torn inside, as well as cut, Havannah loved her cria immediately and was kissing her whilst the vet was stitching her up. Lots of pain relief, a week of broad spectrum antibiotics, and care of the external wound, and all seems well. We have named the cria Tutu. She is such a pretty girl who has has gained weight at a great rate, and as a bonus has a gorgeous fleece too.

Inca Havannah with Beck Brow Tutu (sire: Timbertop CT Goldmine)

On Thursday we caught up on some of our spit -offs (own and agisted). Ep Cambridge Gunsmith now has seven females rejecting him at pregnancy spit-offs. Then on Friday the boys had five females arrive for romance.

Saturday I took Dixie Chick, After Eight and Seventh Heaven to Skelton Agricultural show. Dixie, especially, was an absolute star. I don't think we have ever had such crowds before. Plenty of scarves sold despite the warm weather, and lots of animal enquires.

Sunday was another busy day with a visit from a lovely couple (holidaying in the Lakes, but based in the South) who are new to alpacas. They have females who will be having a date with Explorer later this month and were interested in seeing his progeny. This coincided with the collection of four pet boys we had recently sold. The boys have gone to Scotland to act as guards to chickens and geese as well as being family pets. This also coincided with a drive by our visitors got to see Explorer in action!

On Monday the boys had three females visit on drive-by. After that I thought I might just have a quiet evening. Paul was away...a bottle of white and some M&S treats were on the agenda...Just the evening feeds to do...and a cria being born at 5.30pm!!!! Pandora produced a beautiful mid fawn daughter (sire; Waradene St Patrick). 

Pandora's adult daughter (Kingwell Athena) was especially interested in the much so she decided now was the time to go in to labour. I am not quite sure how it came as a shock to her...but it did...she turned saw the head and legs and freaked out. Eventually birthing and running for the hills, leaving the cria on the ground. A beige female born at 8pm!!

A call to Robyn for assistance and all the girls from the due paddock were brought in to the barn. By this time the heavens had opened. Pandora's cria hadn't drank and was looking in corners, rather than under mum. She was given vitamin B1, some cows colostrum and penned with mum, and also with Athena and her cria. 

Athena did decide she rather liked her daughter after a while, but wasn't keen to feed her. So her cria was also given cows colostrum. Pandora's cria (who has been named Slinkee Minx) soon got the hang of nursing and Athena's was given adequate colostrum to cover passive transfer needs, then left to look for mum. I got my glass of wine, smoked salmon, calamari, marinated artichokes 11pm!

By morning all was resolved; Athena was feeding her cria (although I did have to keep reuniting them for the first few hours, as Athena wandered off and forgot about her)

Beck Brow Slinkee Minx (sire: Waradene St Patrick)

The off the shoulder look for Athena's cria (owned by Kingwell Alpacas) sired by Timbertop CT Goldmine of Beck Brow

Tuesday and I was due a quiet day surely. One drive-by mating arranged and no one looking like birthing??

Pearl who is the mother of Pandora and grandmother of Athena was doing a lot of talking. Was she wasn't she? In the end I decided that she was just talking to her off-spring as nothing else was happening. Whereas Roma (fine Romance) was being very vocal...she got out of the sand pit and threw herself on the ground. We brought her in and couldn't find a problem, but she continued to groan. We called the vet...Roma is more ways than one (a bit of a drama queen to say the least, but also one of our early home bred girls). Roma rejected her first born and tried to do the same with the second. If it were possible Roma would have her cria by elected C-section and would definitely bottle feed rather than breast. Anyway the vet decided she was indeed being dramatic and her cria wasn't ready to be born

Wednesday (today) I go to the barn for the usual checks at 6am (every one is in...they have free access to come and go). I spot Roma straight away...moaning and groaning still. Then I see a is obviously not is is sitting next to Pearl! 

Pearl has had a beige St Patrick boy. The placenta is in the paddock, so she must have birthed some time ago and he has been strong enough to follow her in. Pearl is one of the females who came to us on agistment. She is 10 years of age and was extremely thin when she came. I purchased her and her daughter at foot...bought for reasons of heart not business...I felt so touched that she had come in with her cria so new born...she trusts us:))

Roma is now making such a fuss and is pushing, but nothing is happening. Paul checks internally...he cant feel anything close...we speak to the vet, he thinks the cria is low in the pelvis, as it was last night. The vet comes to visit... just as Roma gives birth!!!!! Two unnecessary call outs Roma ...its a few years since that has happpened...Yep, if Roma was a human she would certainly be classed as high her!

Roma's cria: Beck Brow Chocks Away (he was up and off the minute he was out) sired by Timbertop CT Goldmine

Pearl's cria; Beck Brow Piper sired by Waradene St Patrick)

No further births today, but two before 7am is enough. Explorer and Goldmine have three mobile matings late afternoon and I have stacks of paperwork to catch up on. If I have the energy!

Some cria photos:

Beck Brow Applause smiling (Goldmine)

Beck Brow Byker also smiling (Goldmine...must be the Goldmine grin)

Beck Brow Game on spots his targets...

Run boys!!

Beck Brow The Strategist (sire: Beck Brow Explorer)

And again looking less grumpy!

Someone who might have cause to be grumpy is Beck Brow On The Money (Goldmine) with Beck Brow Evoque (Black Sabbath...standing)

There she goes straight over the top of him...

And he doesn't bother moving...

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Random stuff....

The week seems to have gone by in a blur of orgling - for those of you without alpacas; this is the noise males make whilst mating. It obviously does something for the females who are induced to ovulate, but it does nothing for me. Think of someone yodelling whilst riding a moped, and you will get the idea.

Yesterday Paul went off on a seven hour round trip mobile mating with Explorer and Goldmine, and Gunsmith had two drive-by matings at home. Whilst the older boys are true pros (so much so that if Explorer could drive, he could do his own mobiles), Gunsmith wasn't as keen on his second mating despite a good rest in between. Then he cried longingly after the females had left. He has yet to learn that you have to take your opportunities whilst available!

Matings at home have been rather random. Paul and I sat down and compiled a list of who should be mated to whom and I have totally ignored it! One reason for the change is that Explorer is producing colour. Two very happy clients have had lovely apricot coloured light fawn females from white dams (I want one!). Thus Explorer has taken some of our best fawn females (yes I will get some white I know - just hopefully some colour too) Most of the black girls will go to Gunsmith as are most of the dark browns, but will we get any greys? I expect a couple of my randoms may just produce a multi...i think I was bored at the time!

One or two of the yearling females are sitting next to the pen whilst matings are taking place. I always debate about when is the right age for maidens, but we have had problems with excessive weight gain when larger girls are left until two years. We will weigh those sitting at the end of July, and make some decisions then if they are over 45kgs (I know some are 50kgs already!)

Another debate has always cria shear or not to cria shear...well this year we are going to. I have been skirting fleece and some of our finest cria fleece are beyond saving, they are so full of hay seeds, moss and dirt. I am also finding some very small pieces of cardboard (only a couple of millimetre wide and 5mm long) this must be from either the National Show or Futurity. We do our best to keep the fleeces clean, the barn is swept every day, but it is an impossible task. It isn't helped by the fact our alpacas love the barn. I get up somewhere between 5.30 and 6am each morning to check the girls, and no matter what the weather, I find 75 of them in the barn munching hay and pooing (I suppose it has to be picked up inside or out!)

I have to say it is handy, as we usually do any husbandry tasks in the morning when they are already in. Cria are weighed every day for the first week, and then if they are thriving they go on to weekly weighing. Lambivac injections are given around 5 weeks before birthing, and cria are given theirs at 4 weeks and 8 weeks of age. Having them in the barn means that the girls and cria are very relaxed around us, and this is when I pick up any abnormalities such as jaw abscesses (we are treating two with Florfenicol at present). We also do our matings and spit offs when everyone is in, which often means you don't have to spit-off as the open girls sit next to the pen, letting us know.

On the subject of weighing...not only are we getting really good birth weights overall (lots between 9kgs and 11 kgs) they are maintaining their birth weight and gaining from day one. Healthy happy dams! We now have 23 cria on the farm. Eleven of those belong to Beck Brow. We have four girls and seven boys so far. Two more boys born for us this week...

Beck Brow Jeepster (sire; Waradene St Patrick. dam; Anzac Sweet Secret)

Just born today and only one hour old in the photo...Beck Brow Wasabi (sire; Beck Brow Explorer. dam; Ep Cambridge Courtesse). He is definitely beige.

After some drive-by matings and a birth this morning, I have managed to get sometime in the mother and cria paddock this afternoon. I love cria racing...the fawn cria far right looks like she is going to hit the post...

but manages to swerve...

Some cria photos...

Bozedown Magic Charm and Beck Brow Match Point (sire; Timbertop CT Goldmine)

Beck Brow Bedazzle (sire; Beck Brow Explorer)

Enjoying a chill by the trough

with the viaduct in the background

I do enjoy male cria (just as well) Beck Brow Game On (sire; Waradene St Patrick) is the mischief. In the space of half an hour he had started play fights with three other cria...

Beck Brow Game On (with the trade mark St Patrick ears)

Beck Brow Roma (fine Romance) is looking like she may be getting ready for birthing soon. Roma rejected her first cria (Foxy Sox) who was bottle fed. She tried to do the same again last year but with the help of Sepia (homoeopathic remedy) she did eventually bond with Asterisk...will she remember that she loved being a mum when she tried it!

Despite talk of a is still windy up north...enough to blow a small dog over!

Milly (a Cotton de Telear bred by Julia Smith)