Sunday, 30 March 2008

First Alpaca Show of the Year

This weekend started off very early. Mike reminded me that the clocks need to be put forward which we did.

We spent some time on Friday preparing for the South West Alpaca Group Show at the Bristol Sales Centre.

I have a check list which we run through prior to shows - we clean the horse box (which we use for transporting our animals) pack the white coats which are compulsory when competing in any livestock show, make sure there is a halter and leading rein for each alpaca, take safety pins, string, knife, advertising leaflets and posters, hay and haynets, water containers, poop scoop etc:

We set the alarm for 3.45 a.m. as I wanted to make a 5 a.m. start! The alpacas have to be in their pens and ready for a vet check between 7.30 a.m. and 9.a.m. but you have to allow for loads of people unloading their animals and manoevering stock boxes everywhere, so it pays to arrive early so you can unload near a door and get your animals settled in to their pens in plenty of time. You have to fill up their water troughs, set up the hay nets, put straw down and generally attend to their well being before collecting your schedule, numbers to go round their necks and a list of the times estimated for the classes (which is usually vastly different to the actual times). As I was showing mainly inexperienced alpacas (plus I had fallen behind in my halter training) I was not sure how long it would take to load them into the horse box. As it happens it was fine.

The vet then checks the alpacas for any signs of ill health, parasites etc: and confirms their identity by checking the microchip. A steward accompanies him or her to verify that the alpaca is entered for the right class in terms of colour, age and sex.

I was surprised that I was one of the first to arrive, and soon found the reason was that we had put our clocks forward a day early. I spoke to Mike later to tell him and he excused himself because he thought Friday was Saturday!!

The weather was apalling all day on Saturday but we had an enjoyable time despite that. I did not win anything with my alpacas until the last class of the day when Laurel's Don Alvara, a small black male was awarded a fourth place rosette in his class.

I now have a lovely group of alpaca people friends and although some people stayed the night at the venue in their vans or brought camper vans, I shared a room at a nearby Travelodge with Lynsey Skinner who breeds alpacas near Honiton. We have become good friends and when not showing, had a good time laughing, talking and sharing information.

The event was very sociable with a well used canteen which served hot food and drinks all day.

Today, Sunday, dawned and was lovely and bright and sunny. Lynsey had set her mobile phone alarm for 7 ensure we had plenty of time to get back to the venue and feed the alpacas, muck out and get to the canteen for breakfast before the morning rush. I thought it seemed quite dark for 7 a.m. even allowing for the clock change. Sure enough when we checked with the television we found that once again we were up an hour early. Lynsey' phone was self adjusting and she had also adjusted it manually!!!

We both had some older alpacas to show but were feeling a little deprived because all the rosettes seemed to be going to the big breeders who have a lot of animals in their herds and so obviously have more chance of producing prize winners.

We soon had smiles on our faces, however, when Lynsey's intermediate male won his class and my intermediate brown male, Laurel's Don Pedro also had a win.

We helped each other to load up and set of home with smiles on our faces. I sang along with the radio all the way home. Luckily noone else could hear!!

The alpaca crew were delighted to see grass and sunlight again, but equally delighted to gallop in to the barn when they heard the feed bin rattle at bedtime followed by the familiar call of "Paca paca pacas" meaning that feeding time has arrived. For more information about shows and alpacas in general

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

All alone today

Mike still goes back to our garage business in Salisbury once a month and today was the day.

We woke up at about 6 a.m. so we still had time for our usual cup of tea in bed!! Can't start the day without that.

Mike set off at about 8.15 a.m. and the rest of the day was mine. Unfortunately that means there is no-one to share the chores with!!

I had quite a list of extras because tomorrow we are taking our dogs to the chiropractor for their pre-season check up. We compete in agility with them and they do a lot of running, jumping, twisting and turning so we like to make sure that they are in good nick at the start of the season. Mike and I are also having a pre-season tweak - followed by lunch - as Zoe, our chiropractor is also a good friend. I groom the dogs several times a week but I think it is only fair to present Zoe with relatively clean dogs, even if not freshly bathed, so grooming six dogs was a priority, but only actually got round to it at about 5 p.m.

Had to do the VAT return today as we are out for most of the day tomorrow and as previously mentioned loads of times, going to an alpaca show for the weekend. This is a task which I tend to ignore as long as possible. I spent most of my working life doing office work so now tend to avoid it as much as I can.

I also made a start on re-organising the barn which has been a dumping ground since we moved from quite a big house in to our temporary home whilst we get the alpaca business going. Mike is putting up shelves in the attic at the top of the barn and I am trying to identify and organise our long lost belongings.

I suddenly realised that I had not entered the North Somerset Show at Wraxall. There is an agricultural show for the alpacas and a dog agility competition for the dogs so 5th May should be a very good day and loads of fun.

The closing date for the alpacas is 28th March so my entry was hurredly completed and put in the first class post today. Fingers crossed that the royal mail is on my side. They usually manage to deliver all the bills on time don't they?

Today's picture is the view from outside my office as I am bringing in the soon to give birth girls and the show alpacas at night and whenever the weather is bad at the moment.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Getting it together

Today has been dry and not too cold for once. We have managed to get plenty of routine jobs done - exciting things like hoovering up poo in the paddocks.

More halter training today which was quite uneventful - which means successful. No-one tried to throw themselves on the ground and no-one seemed very worried when having the halter put on. Nearly all the cria trotted round the catch pen quite happily, so fingers crossed we will have some well behaved animals to show on Saturday and Sunday.

I decided today that Miguel, a pretty little black alpaca is not breeding standard and so I have put him on our website for sale today. See the picture of Mike getting Miguel into a suitable pose for the camera.

Actually managed to get the shop looking as though we are in business again today. Everything is on display and priced and we should be ready to open again next week after a marathon sewing on of labels on to our hand made garments. Not hand made by me, I hasten to add, but by some very clever knitting ladies that work for us and also by the Aymara Indians whom we met when we went to Chile to buy our alpacas.

Must go as I am off to the second bout of halter training of the day and then have to feed everyone including alpacas, dogs and humans. I might get a job in a zoo soon - I am getting plenty of experience!!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Getting ready for the first alpaca show of the year

The bad weather has stopped me getting on with halter training our young alpacas to such an extent that I now find that we are going to our first alpaca show of the season next Saturday and none of them are halter trained yet.

We were away yesterday and Saturday at a dog agility competition at Ardingly, where the weather was less than lovely, but got up this morning to quite tolerable weather. Managed to get the washing started and even blown dry on the line and set out on our crash course in halter training.

I have entered 10 alpacas in the Bristol show but after a final examination today have decided not to enter our Suri (who is actually a huacaya/Suri cross) or Miguel. Miguel is a young black male who is extremely attractive but I have decided he does not meet the high standards required of a potential stud male and he will now be sold as a non-breeding male. This means that I have seven alpacas to train by Friday so they are having two lessons today.

I have already spent several days just catching them, handling them, examining their teeth and ears as a judge would do and they are used to having their halters put on. The trick now is to get them to walk nicely and to stand still and politely whilst being judged. Surprisingly they have moved quickly on and most of them will now at least walk a short distance providing their are other alpacas with them. The final test will be to get them to walk away from the herd, which of course goes against all their natural instincts.

Our stud male, Alario, is the father of most of this year's show alpacas and he has certainly produced some stunning cria (youngsters). Competition is very keen at alpaca shows and some of the bigger breeders with herds in the hundreds and even thousands have a huge selection of animals to chose from, so small breeders like us have a hard time keeping up.

If we get any prizes it will enhance the value of Alario as a stud male.

Mike found a wounded rat in his workshop which he despatched without hesitation. He then found our lurcher, Maddy, bleeding profusely from her nose. Presumably she caught the rat but got bitten. I phoned the vet in case we should do anything special with regard to rat bites but he said as long as she does not become listless or sickly with a couple of hours she should be OK. I dabbed it with iodine and put a pressure pad on her nose and finally it stopped bleeding.

We had just cleared up the blood when she decided her bloody feet needed a lick, which she did at the same time as rubbing her injured nose on the concrete floor, thus making it bleed once again. This happened several times and I took the dogs for a walk with me whilst I fed the alpacas to try and get her mind off it. Finally she seems to be keeping still long enough for the bleeding to stop permanently - fingers crossed.

We are always careful about not spilling dog or alpaca food or leaving anything out to attract rats, but unfortunately in the country there is not much you can do to avoid them completely.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Back to normal

Well I did not realise how long it had been since I updated the blog.

We had a lovely holiday in Fuerteventura. The weather was great and the winter sun was a great boost. Luckily we live only about an hour away from Bristol Airport so the whole journey was very easy.

My son and his family looked after the farm and my mother who lives with us.

We have got back into our normal routine - including dodging the rain.

Bad news today - one of our weanlings died unexpectedly. We are awaiting the results of a post mortem.

I have been halter training all the weanlings and he seemed fine up until yesterday morning when we noticed he was standing on his own and swaying around with a glazed look in his eye.
When we approached him he did not run away as we would expect (alpacas have a very well developed flight reflex). Then he collapsed. The vet came and could find no obvious reason for his condition but gave him several injections to cover all eventualities. We brought him into the barn and covered him with a blanket and put the heat lamp on as he was becoming very cold. he seemed to rally, and I phoned the vet who had treated him - JJ -to report the good news, but an hour or so later it was obvious that he was in pain, so I called the vet back for another emergency visit. JJ was not available but Tessa our favourite vet came. She gave him little hope, although she smelt his breath and felt the smell pointed to kidney problem of some kind. We had a debate and decided she would take him back to the Vet Hospital and put him on a drip and try more treatment over night. He seemed to be holding his own, but unfortunately did not make it through the night.

The post mortem was inconclusive and we are now awaiting the results of lab tests. We need to do this to make certain that there is no problem which might effect the rest of the herd. They are all vaccinated routinely and we put a lot of effort into keeping our paddocks clean. We also circulate them from paddock to paddock so that some are always being rested.

I'll update the blog when we have the results, and hope to have some more happy news next time I write.