Friday, 31 July 2009

Dry day

A dry day at last, so we took the opportunity to give all the alpacas their vitamins. We don't normally do the whole herd in summer but as there has not been much sun we extended the normal dose of vitamins ADE to everyone instead of just the cria. We also took the opportunity to bring all the cria up to date with their vaccinations. Only the very youngest are now left to do when they are due, and of course the unborns.

We kept the farm gates closed all day as it makes it easier to deal with working with the animals if we have no interruptions.

After a visit to Tim Hey of Inca Alpacas (his stud Jack of Spades has covered a young black female of ours) we have decided that we want to re-jig the barn lay out to make it more user-friendly for husbandry etc: Tim has a brand new barn but Mike thinks he can adapt our high roofed Belgium barn to a similar design inside, albeit on a smaller scale.

We cleaned out all the shelters so that Mike could take the straw down to the bonfire in one go and release the trailer to move our dog agility equipment. We have decided to utilise about the only really flat paddock on the farm which is further away from the house (thus preventing the dogs inside getting over-excited when other dogs are running around) but it is not as far as the bottom paddock where we used to train. It also releases the paddock nearest to the house exclusively for alpacas who need special attention.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

New Resolution

Well it won't last long but at least I have something to put on the blog for two days in a row!!

Today we eartagged all the cria microchipped the cria and then this afternoon took one of our black girls, Adriana, to Inca Alpacas to be mated to Jack of Spades who is a fantastic big black alpaca with lots of presence and all the other attributes you would expect from a stud male. We are hoping that his genes will improve our stock of blacks.

Having arrived home quite late we are now off to the pub for a meal. That means that the chickens and alpacas will not want to go to their night quarters without a fight. Any other night they trot in as if butter would not melt in their mouths.

Monday, 27 July 2009


With the start of the school holidays we are already seeing quite a few more visitors than usual. Most just want to look at the alpacas but some buy in the shop and others remove our "Free Alpaca Manure" for their gardens. Apparently alpaca manure has been recommended on one of the gardening programmes so it is now even more popular than ever. It's a shame we cannot rig up a bag under each tale to collect this valuable commodity. Picking it up whether by hand with a scoop and scraper or with the paddock cleaner (hoover) is a really boring job.

We have been catching up on the spit offs and matings today and most of our alpacas are now pregnant for next year's births. There are a few going to other breeders for outside matings and one or two who have not taken and had to be mated again. The rest are waiting to be scanned with our new scanner when they are 60 days pregnant.

We are nearly up to date with vaccinating all the cria. Just a few late babies waiting for their second jabs and one or two unborns who will start the process all over again.

The new ear tags and microchips have arrived and we now have no excuse, we will have to bite the bullet and get on with this task this week. We are not looking forward to it at all, although I must say that they don't seem to find the eartagging particularly painful. Still I fainted when I had my ears pierced so I am no judge.

I went to South Devon Dog show on Sunday and Romie finally got a clear round after months of nearlies. We had a big glitch because I was not in the right place but she still came second - so there is plenty of room for improvement.

Weather is still very variable so we have to fit in jobs as and when we can. I don't think the alpacas have had dry fleece for about a week.

The can has succeeded in training me to produce yoghurt or milk on demand and the demand is becoming greater all the time. She has also taken up residence on my pretty victorian dining chair which is covered in velvet. I will have to be careful that she does not get spoilt!!!

All quiet on the hen front - nearly always six a day at the moment. Nesting places vary from the barn to field shelters to a gully behind the fence in the yard.

Nothing much else to report.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Defeat of the Queen

Because of the bad weather our mating schedule has been disrupted and it was only today that we were back to normal. We introduced Emilia to Chale and he was less than gallant in telling her what he wanted. She tried her previous behaviour and gave him a very hard time but I guess her heart wasn't in it quite as much as before. She finally stuck her head under the fence which allowed him to do the business.

The first time she lay down she suddenly realised that Chale was going to take advantage and jumped up unexpectedly. Somehow she went between my legs and got up too soon, throwing me against the gate. It would have been hilarious but unfortunately she slammed my elbow against the sharp upright on the gate using her whole body weight (she is a big girl) and I nearly fainted with the pain. I was unable to do anything except lean against the fence for quite a while and as soon as I could I went indoors and made sweet tea for me and normal stuff for Mike. I took some ibrufen and put an ice pack on the damaged limb. After about half an hour I began to feel better and decided that I would live without a visit to A & E. I am amazed at how little discomfort is left. I probably won't even have a respectable bruise to boast of.

On a more mundane note - the hens have decided to lay five eggs in the barn and one on the bank outside - result. One of the eggs was tiny - literally about three quarters of an inch high - more like a Robins egg size. We are thinking that maybe one has just not been laying for a while and this is her starting to produce again. All that time wasted looking for the missing eggs!!!

As I am writing this I can look out of the office window and see the hills bathed in sunshine and all our alpacas looking really relaxed and happy. Poor things have been soaked for days.

We have a few who are a bit thin and one or two who have yet to birth so we have put them in a separate paddock which is nice and lush and given them extra hay and feed to fatten them up. Some of them lose weight when they are feeding their cria and judging by the weight of the cria when we have had to catch them or lift them up, they are being very well fed - no wonder Mums are suffering.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Queen of Alpacas

Well Tessa was due to give Emilia her injection at 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon. It was with some trepidation that we caught her and put her on a halter. Mike was standing by in case of a repeat of her prima donna behaviour of recent times.

I walked her across the yard and she looked like a race horse on its way to the race. She held her body taught and proud and her nostrils were flaring and everything about her said"Come on boy - make my day". Dirty Harry had nothing on her.

She has not been on a halter since she was shown at the Devon Show in 2007 but she had not forgotten her training. She looked absolutely stunning.

We put her in a temporary pen to await Tessa's arrival and Mike left me to keep an eye on her. She was very restless but did not actually try to jump out.

Fortunately Tessa was very much on time and I held Emilia whilst she Estrumated her - a very quick injection. It was a real anti-climax as the alpaca behaved perfectly. I walked her back to the herd and now we have to wait about three days before trying to mate her again.

I have alerted A & E to my impending arrival!! The Animal Psychologist is on call to counsel the rejected and battered male.

Mike is away at a dog show today with Millie and Jake so I am left to my own devices. I am planning to reorganise the paddocks and barn to make handling the alpacas easier, as we have been discussing lately. We have many reasons to separate certain groups for others and it is quite difficult to decide which to prioritise.

I am hoping the weather will stay dry as there are lots of outdoor jobs which are getting behind.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A rainy day in Devon

The weather is really miserable. Mike has gone to do his monthly day at the garage and I was hoping to get lots of odd jobs done. Can't dry the washing. Can't mow the lawn. I am down to making cakes and cushion covers and grooming the dogs. Even the hens have only laid 4 eggs. They laid one each at the weekend when I was away. Is it something I said?

We are well into our 2009 mating programme for the alpacas. We are planning to stop mating by the end of this month to try and condense the birthing season to spring and early summer next year. This allows us more freedom and more importantly means that the cria have all summer to build themselves up ready for the winter. Also they will be ready to wean earlier which takes the strain off their mothers in the winter months.

My favourite female (isn't it always the way) did not give birth this year as expected so we assumed she needed remating.

She was mated 5 times in 2008. She first spat off in May 2008 after three attempts.

She was remated in June 2008 and spat off four times, appearing to be certain she was pregnant. Cria was due in May 2009 and she did appear to gain weight and look possibly pregnant. We did not have the females scanned this year as usual because we had quite a lot of births expected and felt that the odd missed one was acceptable. In the past we have found the spit offs quite an accurate way of diagnosing pregnancy.

Her due date has long past and she will not accept a male at any costs. She rears, spits, kicks, attacks us if we try to hold her, and as her grand finale yesterday she jumped out of the mating pen whilst spraying all and sundry including passing alpacas with spit - luckily without hurting herself.

We have tried putting her near the male paddocks to stimulate ovulation or at least interest, I have injected her with 2ml receptal prior to mating attempt.

If she was not such a good female I would write her off but I would like to breed from her.

As she is quite big I wonder if it is hormonal or if she needs estrumating. I emailed all of this to the Vet and Tessa phoned me back. Apparently my email had caused some hilarity and some of the girls at the vet thought we probably had a lesbian alpaca. Others just sympathised with Emilia (the alpaca) saying that they know just how she feels.

The serious outcome, however, is that Tessa is coming to estrumate her tomorrow. This is an injection which causes to body to reject anything that might be blocking the tubes such as the corpus luteum.

Once the egg has been released from the follicle, the cells re-arrange and over a 3 to 6 day period continue to grow into a solid mass called the corpus luteum (CL), the producer of progesterone.

I am hoping that Emilia will behave nicely for Tessa - I think it is only the attentions of males that upset her.

Next time you feel upset with your male try spitting, kicking and rearing up. He might get the message - although the alpaca males just seem to find the whole thing very exciting and challenging.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Not a lot

Not much going on at the moment. No births this week.

One of the alpacas who looked fit to bust a couple of weeks ago now does not look pregnant. I am hoping it is just that the cria has shifted position ready to arrive in the world. The weather has not been great this week but the grass is looking lovely and green because it has been fairly warm and wet. The Mums seem to be having enough sense to take the really young cria into the shelter at night when it is very wet.

At last the chickens are back to laying six eggs a day. Mike has done a lot of strimming so if there was a stash anywhere he would probably have uncovered it by now, so maybe they were just having a rest. After all they laid every day throughout the winter. We will never know.

Everything else is just going on as normal.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Good, Not So Good, Worse and Worst

Well to be fair we have had a very good run of things going well - more girls than boys - mostly straight forward births and of course, good weather.

The good news is that when I went to move the alpacas from their night paddock (which has a shelter in case of bad weather) to their day paddock so we can watch them more closely, there was an extra cria (see photo). Although it was only about 9.30 a.m. he was already dry and walking around so he must have been a real early bird.

Not so good is that two maiden females that we took for mating do not seem to be pregnant so we will have to take them back to Wellground Alpacas for remating. It is not unusual that females who have not been pregnant before do not fall straight away.

Worse is that Celia, a black female that we have had difficulty in getting pregnant until this year has given birth to a male multi - two tone - alpaca. This is particularly disappointing as she was mated to a renowned black stud male, so as far as improving our herd goes it is wasted money. Her first cria was solid black but because of the many colours of the alpaca they do revert back to earlier generations and pick up unexpected colours. It might be her ancester or the male's ancester's genes.

Worst is that the third birth of the day was a breach. Unfortunately with Mike being away it took me a while to catch her so that I could see what was wrong. I could only locate one leg and the placenta came out without the cria. I called the vet but we could not save the cria. The mother seems OK and has just been given a long acting antibiotic as both me and the vet had been rummaging inside her, poor girl. She seems to be relaxed and comfortable now and as it was her first cria she probably does not realise what should have happened. I was very pleased that Tessa came out as she is a really lovely vet - down to earth and caring at the same time. Luckily for me she was just going home for lunch when I rang the surgery.

Saturday, 4 July 2009


This is a picture of most of the herd. We have Mums with small cria and Mums about to be in the top paddock, Non pregnant females or females due later and Mums with older cria in the next paddock and the boys in the distance. The grass is staying nice and green this summer as we have had plenty of sunshine but also enough rain to keep the grass growing well.
Still trying to find out where the hens are laying eggs. We are only finding three a day at the moment. I noticed one of them was wandering up the drive this morning and then she went behind the barn. I tried to chase her back into the yard but could not, so ended up just observing her. I watched for about an hour and she went nowhere. I was bored to start with but became quite fascinated by the different things she did. She nibbled unripe blackberries, scratched around presumably for insects and worms, pecked at grass seeds and rummaged under the trailer and landrover looking for interesting food. Eventually I felt I could spare no more time and left her. A complete waste of time.
Mike is at a dog show today so I have had time to catch up on the paperwork today. The ironing looms, and I have a pile of sewing too. It will be my turn to go to the dog show next weekend.
The cat still comes for a walk with us every morning. She comes to the door and meows for us to hurry up if we are late. When we get back she waits outside whilst breakfast is being prepared for the dogs and her. I think she might be having an identity crisis - thinks she is a dog. Yesterday she started to climb up a tree in the bottom paddock. I am sure she is quite capable of getting down if she goes up but given our poor track record of losing animals lately, I caught her and carried her away, much to her disgust. If the grass is too long and wet she meows to be picked up and carried to shorter grass. I am so gullible!
We have started to have quite a few farm visitors now that the holiday period has started. It is surprising how far people come to visit Devon. Yesterday we had a couple from Norfolk. We often have visitors from London and the Midlands.