Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Shear Joy

Last Tuesday the weather was great and all the damp and dreary animals dried out nicely.    Colin, the shearer, was due on Thursday morning for his annual visit to shear the alpaca herd.  Now that we have a lovely big barn we can get all the females in with plenty of room to spare.   The weather forecast was dire for Thursday, so when they were really dry on Tuesday evening we put them in the barn so they would keep dry for shearing.   They prefer to be outside but we could not risk it given the unsettled weather.

We drove all the males into a double shelter near the barn, although we realised that they might still get a bit wet it they stood near the shelter gate.   At least it would keep the worst off them.

Come Thursday morning it was drizzling and there was a heavy mist.   Although the alpacas had not been out in the rain the dampness in the air had caused condensation and they were almost as bad as if they had stayed outside it seemed.  

Anyway all went well, with Colin's new assistant, Seb, making life a lot easier.   He is on work experience so sadly we cannot guarantee that we will see him again.    He helped me pack the fleeces and sort into grades, at the same time as helping Colin and trimming the alpacas toe nails.

We are experimenting with handling systems in the barn using temporary hurdles until we find the system that suits us best.  We made a large holding area where they can remain all day and night if needs be, leading into a small pen.   The herd went into the large pen and we drove them into the smaller pen in fives and sixes.   This meant that they only had to walk a couple of paces to the shearing floor, which saved them getting too stressed.

I was pleased that they have come through the winter and the bad weather since quite well.  Only two alpacas were in poorer condition than I would have liked.   One, Cordelia, always seems to be quite bony.  It started when she adopted a cria whose Mum had died and spent several months pregnant and feeding two cria.   Although she seems healthy enough she never seems to get back to her former condition.

The other one was Audry and we discovered she had a jaw abcess.   I had not noticed it because of her fleece.  She had lost a lot of weight but the abcess seemed to have drained itself.   There was also a secondary abcess which we bathed and we have given her a course of anti biotics.  It must have been very recent because especially over the winter we frequently check the condition of the alpacas quite frequently.
We use a scoring system from 1 - 5.   1 is near starvation level and 5 is too fat.   She is probably only 2 at the most, but she is eating really well now, so with the summer coming on she has a chance to put on weight before she has to cope with another English winter.

We had two births yesterday.   Both at about 2 p.m. A white female cria to Pamela.   She was one of the last matings to Bono our poor stud male who died  with something very like bloat.  His stomach swelled up and he could not digest his food.   We spent a small fortune with the Vet but finally had to give up.   There was no real explanation but the general opinion was that he had either had an allergic reaction or eaten something poisonous which triggered his problem.   He had had a similar problem the previous year and the vet tried all sorts including siphoning the fluid out of his stomach.   Would have been gross if the Vet got it wrong and swallowed his stomach contents.

The new cria, Rosalind, is really strong.   She was born kicking and wriggling.   By contrast Rosaline (I know but we are using Shakespearean heroines and they are slightly different) who was born to Jacquenetta, a really nice black female, was slow to be born, and I had to give her  feed her from a bottle because her mother was obviously in pain and would not stand up.  After three injections over a period of time, the after birth finally came down at about 7 a.m. this morning.  

We had managed to get her cria to suckle over night and again in the morning and she has been making up for lost time during the day, but she is only half the animal that Rosalind is.  No doubt she will soon catch up.  She is very pretty and a little delicate.

Because the fleece got so damp at shearing I have been waiting for a dry day without too much wind so that I could dry it out.   If it stays in the bags too long when it is damp it starts to rot.  I managed to dry all but two bags of the First Grade fleece today and Mike is going to dry the Seconds whilst I am away for a couple of days staying with the Grandchildren whilst David and Jane visit their house in France.

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