Sunday, 21 February 2010

Wooly Jumpers OK

The goats seem to be fine since we put up some tarpaulin to help keep their shelter cosy.  It is only a subtle change but I can just feel that they are more relaxed.  The little one (number 765) who seemed off colour responded well to the anti-biotic and I gave her some twin lamb drench which is usually used to support ewes who have twins.  I think the glucose in it picked her up quite quickly and I am definitely going to keep a bottle in stock for any animal that needs a quick pick-me-up.

I joined Lynsey Skinner from Dreamfield Alpacas, Jean Field (the fleece witch) and Lynsey's friend Sue to attend  a talk by Gina Bromage, who is a respected camelid vet.   It was in Exeter and about TB in alpacas.  Out of a herd of 20,000 there were 68 cases last year which was an increase over the previous year.  It seems that, like cattle farmers, alpaca owners will have to live with the threat, but with sensible precautions we can keep the numbers low - unlike the something like 50,000 cases of TB in cattle each year.

The main message seemed to be that we all need to pay even more attention to bio-security.  As luck would have it, we have accidentally complied with many of the recommendations.  When we first moved here the farm was so overgrown that we could not put stock fences right up to the hedges, so we have pretty much got a 10ft minimum barrier all round the farm so that our stock cannot mix with the neighbours.  Obviously this does not stop wild life from entering the farm, but we are already in the habit of picking up feeding troughs immediately after use and keeping them clean because we don't want to encourage vermin.   We (that would be the royal "we", i.e. Mike) have already made stands for the water troughs so that they are well off the ground.

Another source is stagnent water.   Last year Mike ran water to every paddock so it is really easy to change the drinking water.   We also have small churn brushes on a hook next to every drinking trough which makes it easier and thus more likely that we clean the troughs out regularly and fill with clean water.  The winter paddocks where most of the herd is at present has a spring fed stream.  Gina felt that water courses on a farm were a risk because wild life use them to drink at but I feel that a fast running freshly fed stream must be a healthy source of water.

Intimate contact seems to be the main way that the disease is passed from alpaca to alpaca, so movement between herds needs to be strictly monitered.   We have long kept careful movement records and now, rather late in the day, the BAS have issued a movement book based on the one that Defra use for sheep and goats for members.  We will probably use it for visiting alpacas (if any) and continue with our computer records for other movements.

The TB bacteria can remain active on the ground in faeces, urine, etc: for weeks but is killed by heat.  It thrives in cold and dark, so let's hope for the B-B-Q summer we were promised last year!!  The rise in numbers this year could well be due to the wet winters and summers we have experienced for the last few years.

I walk the dogs around the perimetre of the farm most mornings which might deter some wild life and also alllows me to check that the bounderies are secure.   The dogs  take great pleasure in chasing deer who might have strayed inside.   This always seemed a shame but as they are potentially carriers of TB I will not try to stop the dogs. When being chased the deer can clear our 4ft fences as if they are not there.

Some people are having badger proof fences built round their farms but this does not take into account birds who can also drop infected food - e.g.maize which has had badgers amongst it, and only addresses one of the issues Gina highlighted.

All the inhabitants of Laurel Farm seem to be doing well at the moment.    A couple of alpacas are due to give birth next month, although at the moment only one looks pregnant.   I scanned them both in September and the result was positive, so I am hoping that they have both carried the cria through the winter.  The Goats (woolly jumpers as Colin, the shearer calls them) are looking pregnant but this might be just because their bellies show up more now that they have been sheared.  I will scan them in March to confirm.

This evening we weighed Romie's puppies.   We weighed them on the 12th Feb when they were a day old and now nine days later they have all more than doubled their weight having put on an average of 416 g .  The lowest weight gain was 378g and the largest 466g.  They seem lively and are moving around quite well, although they have not opened their eyes yet.  Romie is still being very patient and protective but leaves them on their own more often and for longer now.  She still jumps out of the whelping box if she thinks she is missing something completely regardless of what the puppies are doing.   If they are suckling or she stands on them there is a terrific hulabaloo when she leaves.  Unlike human mothers she seems quite happy to ignore their screams if she feels like it.

Today I think I finally managed to get all the stock in the shop priced up.  It really looks lovely.   Since cutting down the hedge next to the gate we seem to be getting more people in who just want to look at the alpacas.    I suppose it must look more welcoming or something.

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