Monday, 29 June 2009

Falling behind

My friend, Pauline, reminded me by email today that I had not updated the blog for ages. I was surprised to see that it is nearly ten days since I last had anything worth writing about.

Mike and I went away for the weekend and our friends, Paul and Sue West looked after the farm for us. They used to have alpacas near here but have moved back to Wiltshire. It was relaxing to know that everything was in good hands and we had a really lovely break, and enjoyed competing with our dogs, even though we did not actually win anything. It was good socialising with old friends too.

All the alpacas are within sight of the house now with the soon- to- give birth ones just outside the kitchen windows. We move them to a paddock with a shelter at nights. We have seven all born within the last fortnight and they look very sweet especially when they pronk around at dusk. They seem to be playing tag and get quite boisterous until one of the Mums gets fed up with them and calms it all down.

Today we made up some tags and tied them round the necks of the above babies. It is easy to identify them at first because they stick with their mothers but once they start mingling and getting more confident it can be more difficult, especially with the white ones who all look similar.

Misty (our Suri) had a lovely boy cria but one of his ears was bent and sort of inside out, so we followed advice and taped it into shape and sure enough today when we took the tape off his ear was quite normal.

We are very happy with this year's off spring and all of them seem to have great conformation and lovely fleece.

We are getting quite a few enquiries for alpacas at the moment and have even made a few sales, which is encouraging given the current financial climate.

At least one of the hens seems to be getting behind the barn again and we are not finding the full complement of eggs every day so once again we expect to find a stash sometime. Mike is trying to think of a way to keep the straying chicken away from the back of the barn which we have identified as a danger zone. A couple are still laying eggs in Alario's hay rack and some lay in the barn.

The remaining cat, Polly, has taken to coming for the morning walk round the fields with the dogs. She keeps up very well and sometimes runs or walks on the grass and sometimes on the fences. She has an amazing sense of balance. She rushes up to visitors when they come into the farm and tries to get their attention by purring or meowing.

Tomorrow we are going to vaccinate the herd and clip their toe nails so we need to get a really early start to avoid the heat which is expected.

Well - I expect there will soon be some more births to report, but for now that's all folks.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Another girl 7 - 3

Nina, who belongs to my friend Pauline, but is at livery here, gave birth to a cracking fawn female cria at 11 a.m. this morning. She seems to be doing very well. Pauline will be very pleased when she picks up her emails because she has been suffering from a surfeit of males - albeit one of them is a Champion dark brown. Pedro's first cria was born this week, as I mentioned, and he seems to passing on some stunning characteristics.

Mike has gone to Golden Valley Dog Show today, taking my dog, Romie with him as well as his dog Jake. I am going to take both of them tomorrow. Mike's sister and her husband were going to look after the farm but Malcolm has been taken ill so they are unable to come. They are as disappointed as us - not only because Malc is sick - because they love staying on the farm and look on it as a holiday more than a chore.

Friday, 19 June 2009


Helena, another first time Mum surprised us by giving birth quite late yesterday afternoon. The other females all crowded round the cria and frightened their Mum away so we put them both in a small pen together. The cria was up and trying to feed quite soon but Helena kept backing away. She had obviously bonded with him because she was nuzzling him and acting like an interested Mum but did not understand what to do.

Eventually she got the idea and so did the cria. We notice now that far from backing off she does not even like him to go off on his own to explore. She runs after him to make sure he is alright.

The cria is male with the softest fleece I have ever handled. Hope he stays that way. He is light fawn.

Now that we have discovered the new hiding place for eggs (Alario's hay rack) we seem to be back to full production of 6 per day. We are thinking of getting another half a dozen hens when Nick has some available.

I seem to have lost the edit facility on the blog. Hence the odd mistake in the last post. Hope this one is OK.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Two at once

We had just sat down for a cup of tea yesterday when Pam noticed something moving in the paddock by the house. We soon realised it was a pair of ears wiggling around.

Citrine had give birth at least a fortnight if not a month early.

The cria was a baby girl but she was obviously not really ready to be born. She was soon up and about, however, and was suckling quite quickly.

After three hours Citrine had not ejected the placenta so I administered an injection of Oxytocin which is often used to bring down the mother's milk when necessary. It also has the effect of increasing contractions. I hoped that this would work, but was prepared to give her another injection an hour later, but luckily it had worked and everything seemed normal again.

Just after Lavinia, as we named her, was born, Hermione, a young maiden alpaca, started to give birth as well. I thought I was going to have to help her because there seemed to be very little progress, but just when I was giving up on her, out popped the cria. Another little girl. The first by Don Pedro, our lovely brown stud male. She is absolutely gorgeous, with a deep brown very soft and curley fleece. She is petite and very pretty, but the pregnancy was full term and she too began to feed quite quickly. Whe has been named Lucetta.

This evening it rained quite hard but we decided that the cria would be OK in the field shelter should their mothers have enough sense to use them. After dinner, however, I looked into the paddock to check on them and noticed that Lavinia was looking a bit shivery and was lying down in the very wet grass not seeming very active.

We rushed around and put all the four mothers and babies in the barn with the heat lamp on - mainly for the benefit of Lavinia. I rubbed the two new ones vigorously with a towel and gave them a couple of shots of Vita Wise booster which is a high energy and colostrum paste which we give to youngsters we feel need a little extra perking up.

Almost immediately the sun came out. We decided to keep them in any way because you never know what the weather will do over night, whatever the forecast. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice and sunny.

Mike and Nick, our friendly shepherd and adviser, spent all morning in the bottom paddocks. Nick is coming for half a day every week to help Mike keep the farm in good shape. They have reclaimed quite a big area from bramble and other unwanted plants which will add about an acre of grazing. They have also been copicing and lopping the trees down there to help the land to drain as it is very wet. I think they both enjoy the work and each other's company. I take down a flask of tea at tea break. I feel like the old fashioned farmer's wife taking the vitals out to the harvest workers. The dogs get an extra run, as of course, they feel that they need to come too.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Life and Death

Sadly my friend, Pam, found Suki's body on the verge near the Tytherleigh Arms which is our local pub and just a couple of minutes walk away. The cat must have been hit by a car, although there was no visible sign of any injury.

Ariel, one of our white alpacas, gave birth to a healthy female cria at 9.15 a.m. this morning. The cria was up and feeding within half an hour which is always re-assuring. She is called Laurels Lady Katharina. Her sire is Fine Bono one of our white stud males.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Given up

Suki (cat) was last seen at breakfast on the 8th June. Her sister, Polly, misses her and so do we. We have searched everywhere, alerted the neighbours and put a poster on our gate but no news.

The two cats were inseparable and always slept most of the day curled up together so that you could not tell which was which. At night they woke up and went hunting or playing which often involved running around noisily on the roof of our house. Polly, the remaining cat, is very subdued and we have not heard her on the roof at all since her sister disappeared.

We are not really cat lovers, but these two were great characters. We are hoping that Polly does not go the same way. Not knowing what happened is the worst thing.

Today Tia is going back to my friend, Ali, who was fostering her originally. She would have gone back three weeks ago but she came into season and we did not think it would be fair to return her until she was over it as Ali has a male dog.

That is probably why I am writing this at 5 a.m. because we are so upset about both animals for different reasons.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Two all

Saphire gave birth to a beautiful brown baby girl this morning.   That's two boys and two girls this year so far in the herd.

The photos are not that good because Saphire was being very protective and did not want me to go too close so I respected her wishes.   

Tia blotted her copy book yesterday by running away again (in the sealed paddock), but we left the dogs for hours yesterday afternoon as we went to David and Jane's for a BBQ.  David showed us his sheep - he now has 76 because most of his ewes produced two or three lambs each this year.   He sheared them himself too.  He said it took him all day to do 20 sheep but for a first time effort with no help, I think he did really well.

When we got home there was no noise going on until we got really close to the house and no sign of any problems so we are assuming that Tia settled down with the others.   She did bark a little when we drove off but had stopped by the time we reached the farm gates, so hopefully that side of her problems is improving.    She rarely stands in the garden barking for ages at nothing as she used to.

Friday, 5 June 2009

It's a miracle

For two days in a row I have managed to play with Tia in the sealed paddock, albeit with a training lead still attached so I could tread on it if she really played up.

Yesterday she kept running over towards the alpacas but came back but today she did not even look at them more than a couple of times.   She brought her ball back and waited for me to throw it again.

Once her dinner (which she has to earn by coming back) had run out I kept a close eye on her and as soon as I noticed she was getting a little bored and starting to glance around looking for mischief I picked up her lead and took her in.

She hardly barks at all now, has not had a fight with the other dogs for ages, and puts herself to bed at night - albeit knowing there will be a bonio in her crate.

Had a scary moment this morning as we have had the doors open in the hot weather and one of the cats wandered in.   She must have forgotten that Tia might be there, or maybe because Tia is much quieter just thought she was somewhere else.   Luckily I noticed and distracted Tia and took her collar just as the cat noticed her.   The cat could not have left faster if she was jet propelled, with Tia desperate to follow.

The cats usually seem to have an uncanny sixth sense and know when it is safe to come into the garden or the house.   As soon as Tia is shut in at night they appear from under the house or in the barn and start mewing for their bedtime treat.    Tia gets very frustrated because when they are under the house she knows they are there but cannot get to them.  

We have five alpacas due to give birth but nothing seems to be happening at the moment.  Mike is going to take Romie and Jake to a dog show on Sunday so it is bound to be that day that one of them decides to go into labour.  Luckily most of the time they don't need any help or medication and are quite casual about the whole affair.  They look quite surprised when the cria pops out on to the ground.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Lazy day

Not much work on the farm today. I went to the Beautician's - she was unable to work the required miracle but I had a lovely relaxing massage courtesy of a voucher my son gave me for Mother's Day (in March)!

The chickens laid six eggs in the barn today - one each - and seem to have got over their annoyance at not being allowed to go and play with the fox behind the barn.

Have started to use my bicycle to go down to the bottom paddocks. It is a free wheel job going down but very hard work coming back. Part of my new keep fit campaign.

Let Tia off lead in the sealed paddock and again she failed to stay with me so the other dogs had her dinner and I took Maddy (our old lurcher) out to play ball. Unfortunately I forgot the hens would be coming in to the paddock (they can get through the stock proof fencing) to put themselves to bed. I tried to shoo them out before Tia noticed and succeeded with all but one. She chased the hen but luckily Mike was by the gate and managed to let her out with only a major case of ruffled feathers.

I had left a long training lead on Tia so when she came and tried to steal Maddy's ball I just picked it up and tied her up. Continued to play with Maddy and then led Tia round the back of the house and left her tied up whilst I put the chickens away and then did some Agility training with Romie and Jake (competing collies).

When we had finished I unhitched her and despite all her attempts to get my attention am currently totally ignoring her in the hope (slight) that she will want to be with me more than trying to get my attention by doing things that she knows we don't want her to do.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Odds and ends

We bought some wire mesh yesterday and Mike spent some time today making the farm yard chicken proof. When the hens tried to go behind the barn this afternoon and were frustrated in their efforts they became quite vocal, but eventually decided to wander elsewhere.

We were hoping to replace our missing chickens but Nick who supplied the original flock, has none available at the moment. We are reluctant to go elsewhere because we have confidence in the health of his hens. We will just have to make do with fewer eggs for a while.

Nick is going to come and work with Mike for a few hours a week to help him with the jobs that need a second pair of hands. Nick is also a fountain of knowledge about farming and country life in general. He always has an opinion and is happy to advise. His advice is usually pretty sound and sensible as well as helpful.

Our main concern at the moment is keeping an eye on the water troughs as in the hot weather the alpacas tend to use them as paddling pools as well as drinking vessels and they are often dirty and quite empty. One of Mike's next jobs is to make all the troughs fill up automatically. Although we will still have to keep an eye on the hygiene levels, at least there will always be water available to drink without out us having to worry.

Still training Tia. She is lovely in most respects now except that she seems to think that coming when called is an option and not a necessity. I took her in the sealed paddock again today and she just ran away when I tried to play ball with her. After ignoring her whilst I got on with some jobs, I decided to go in and play ball with Jake. Of course she then wanted to join in. Jake was not that amused as he is a ball freakhimself and was not happy about sharing his precious toy.

Anyway at least she was then prepared to ignore the alpacas, despite Alario's loud and long alarm calls, in favour of playing with me and Jake. I am a bit offended that I do not have enough carisma to attract her without his help. In the end she was quite worn out and happily came back into the garden with us.

She has definitely learned that off lead she can be in control. I think she has probably been punished when she has been called in the past. She has probably also been chased to try and catch her, which has re-inforced her enjoyment of not coming when called. I certainly cannot blame her previous owners, as she can be absolutely infuriating at times, but these habits are going to be quite hard to break, I think. O n the plus side she is much better in every other way and quick to learn. She is getting on better with the other dogs and with the exception of a long session this evening just when we were going to have half an hour sitting in the garden before dinner, she is not barking so much.

We are all up to date with the mating now and all females who were either not pregnant at the beginning of the season or who have given birth and ready for remating have been covered. Chale has at last worked out what he is supposed to do. Obviously did not get a chat from his Dad before coming over from Chile. Alario, as always, is a real ladies' man and they love him. Pedro is Jack the lad, and fancies himself, although had does not seem to cut the mustard like Alario. Bono is also much more pushy and not such a shrinking violet.

It's amazing what a difference age and practice make!! Fingers crossed we will have some lovely additions to the herd next year as a result.

No more births yet but several are due in June and loads in July.