Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Cock Sure

Nick, who comes in for half a day a week to help us out on the farm brought three pullets this morning. They are Rhode Island Reds crossed with Buff Orpingtons. Apparently one breed lays loads of eggs and the other is larger so we get the best of both worlds. They are a very pretty reddish fawn. I will photograph them tomorrow but today they are shut in the chicken house getting used to their new surroundings. He also brought a bonus Cockerell who will be ready to go in a few months time so we can breed our own hens!! He is going to teach me how to sex them etc: and hopefully he will despatch the males - I am not sure I would have the heart for it.

We had a busy husbandry schedule. We checked all the cria who have been tagged as we had some problems with some of them becoming manky and one was quite infected and the tag had to be cut out altogether. When we removed the tag we also gave her an injection of a long acting antibiotic which has stopped any further problems and today her ear is fine.

We are going to have some of the cria shorn tomorrow because their fleece is getting long and by the time we come to show them next year it will be past its sell by date. Others still need microchipping because they were too much for Mike to hold with his arthritic elbow. He had an operation years ago but has never been able to straighten it since - so you can imagine how painful it is if he is holding an animal which decides to rear or suddenly turns round in a way that tries to straighten it. The cria are much harder than adults to hold because they are smaller and very squirmy.

Colin, the shearer, will have no problem holding them. They will either be hobbled for shearing or he will be able to hold them whilst I microchip them.

To ensure that the cria are dry for the morning to be sheared, we brought them into the barn this afternoon and because they have not been weaned yet, their mothers had to come too.

Tanya, Bourree's little black and white cria was due to have her stitches removed after her recent hernia operation. I thought I would hold her whilst Nick removed the stitches, but he thought it would be a good idea if I did it. I have never done it before but have often seen Vets and Doctors do it, so it was no big deal and all went well. I will check on her again in a few days just to make sure.

Lastly we trimmed the bonnets (top knots) of most of the female alpacas. They look really smart now and are less likely to be spooked because they can see better without the fleece growing over their eyes.

We also tested three young alpacas to see if they are pregnant. They all rejected the attentions of the male, which is good news for us, but disappointing for the male .

Dee and Rich, who are old friends have come to stay for a few days and they arrived just as Nick and I had finished working with the alpacas.

It was perfect timing for lunch and after a leisurely hour or so Mike and I put the alpacas in the barn - just before it started to rain, and Mike and our visitors took the dogs for a walk around the farm.

I am signing off now to become a domestic goddess for an hour or so - or maybe I'll just get dinner ready!!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Tour of Britain

Yesterday I had a girlie day out with my friend, Pauline Wise. Pauline is a dog trainer/behaviourist and to start the day we visited another friend who needed help with her dog. As we were in Honiton we decided to have lunch there. I was also looking for a "Victorian" painting for our sitting room, so it was a good excuse to tour the antique shops for which Honiton is famous. The bad news is that they were all too expensive and the good news is that I did not find one that I liked anyway.

Then we went on the all important hunt for a good lunch. We found a delightful wine bar and partook of an excellent lunch (with wine of course) and spent a happy hour or so catching up on our news. The wine was very good so Pauline asked the waitress what it was and she told us as well as pointing us in the direction of the wine shop two doors away who supplied it. It was a no brainer to pop in and buy half a dozen bottles each.
I took Romie (the bitch we are hoping to breed from) to the vet for blood samples for DNA testing to be taken this morning. As usual the cat hopped into the van as I was getting ready to go. I knew I could spend ages chasing her around to get her to get out and stay out, so I grabbed her and put her in one of the dog cages. She squealed all the way to the vet and all the way back!! When I got home I packaged up the blood samples and took them round to the post office but there were police no waiting signs everywhere in advance of the cycle race coming through, so I went home and will take the samples round this afternoon.

The wine came in very handy today as the Tour of Britain cycle race was due to pass the farm at about 1 p.m. and I gave my friend, Pam a ring. She came round and we sat at the farm gates on our BNP deck chairs (that's what we call the white ones with the big red cross on them) and tested the new wine whilst waiting for the cyclists to come by.

I am not a follower of cycle racing but it was very exciting. There were loads of motor cycle police who went ahead to clear the way - obviously loving the opportunity to sweep along the empty roads - then came the cyclists who were past in just a couple of minutes - followed by an entourage of back up cars with spare bikes on the rooves and presumably other kit inside. A motor bike parked just where we were and as the cyclists came into view they rode off with camera at the ready. We are thinking they must have been TV or newspaper photographers.
Pam and I had a pleasant chat and obviously enjoyed our wine whilst we were waiting to see the boys go by, but the actual even was over very quickly.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Moving Around

We frequently move the alpacas from paddock to paddock to give them fresh grazing. We chose to do this job this morning and the pictures show them on their fresh green grazing. Alario - our first herd sire has to live on his own because he fights with the other males but we like to keep him near the rest of the herd as they do not thrive if alone, so we brought him down to be next to the other alpacas and he is obviously very relaxed about it all and enjoying the sunshine.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Late Summer

What a lovely change of weather - blue skies, light breeze and yes, sunshine!! The alpacas love lying in the sun soaking up the rays, topping up the Vitamin D and just chilling out.

Today we checked our cria to see if them are likely to be show quality for next season's showing. We found six or seven potentials who we have listed, so we are hopeful that they will retain their lovely bright crimpy fleece into the spring of 2010 when the shows start. We have some lovely older girls (yearlings plus) but since they are now pregnant we will not be able to show them.

Mike is currently topping the agility paddock as the warm wet weather which we have had for a while has really encouraged the grass which is bright green and very long. Once topped we will graze it as well which will help to keep the area up to scratch.

The cat is well on the road to recovery after suffering a broken hip whilst we were away on holiday. She still has a dose of metacam every night and we are keeping her caged at night to stop her going out hunting and playing with cars, especially as she cannot run very fast at the moment. During the day she still manages to do silly things like climb up into the hay loft on the ladder and hop down on three legs. We are trying to think of the best way to keep her under cover at night. I think we will put a door on one of the dog compartments in the kennel (a converted lorry unit). The theory is that the road is quiet at night so she might get taken by surprise if a vehicle comes along and not get out of the way quickly enough, but in the daytime with constant traffic perhaps she will be less likely to even go near the road.

We have not had a present of a mutilated vole or headless mouse for ages, but she has started to come for the morning walk with the dogs again so she is nearly back to normal. She meows a lot when she is caged for the night as she really wants to get outside and saucers of milk, bits of chicken and other inducements really do not do it for her when there is the call of the wild - well semi-wild anyway.

Chickens are still acting in mysterious ways regarding egg laying. Hoping to have a couple more soon to replace the kidnapped/murdered ones. I expect as soon as the new ones arrive we will find a huge stash of eggs somewhere.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Ministry Check

Mike took one of our females to be covered by an outside stud male yesterday. He got just down the road and was stopped by "The Ministry" checking his vehicle, the trailer and his documents. All went well and the alpaca on board was in a kush and did not even bother to stand up when they looked inside. They were happy with the roadworthinesss of the vehicle and trailer and the cleanliness of the interior. We have an SVA Authorisation document allowing us to transport animals up to 8 hours but the female checker told Mike we should have a Certificate of Competence too for journeys over 20 miles. This was a bit worrying but when I contacted BAS (British Alpaca Society) they told me that it does not apply to alpacas as they are not classed as livestock and BAS have a letter from a Defra official confirming this.

Tanya, the cria with the hernia, had her operation yesterday. We took her in to the vet's in the van. I sat in the back with her. We put her mother and another alpaca in the barn so that she had company whilst she waited for her baby to return. Bourree was not at all amused when we took Tanya away and left her in the barn and did a lot of kicking and stamping. The cria struggled when Mike carried her to the van but was very calm during the journey and caused quite a stir and lots of "ahhs" when Mike carried her through the reception area to the hospital. We dropped her off at 3.30 p.m. and she back on the farm by about 5.30 p.m. all seems to be well. One of the farm vets will call to check her tomorrow and then we will just have to wait for a couple of weeks to take out the stitches.

She spent one night in the barn and is now back with the herd looking as good as ever.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Another day on the farm

Today I decided to walk to the little village shop/post office in Chardstock (Tytherleigh is in the parish of Chardstock). Mike had taken one of our young alpacas to be mated on another farm and so I took the opportunity to catch up on exciting things like the ironing before setting off.

Maddy is our ten year old lurcher. She used to compete in agility but her heart was not in it and we retired her last year. We felt that she was being left out of things and needed a little bit of attention of her own. Sandy our little terrier is quite old now and seems content to rule the roost and get fed and not much more and the three border collies all compete in agility and get training sessions so they have a fairly interesting time. I thought it would be nice for Maddy to come to the shop and she agreed. We met one of our neighbours walking her little Scotty dog. He and Maddy seemed to like each other. She trotted along quite happily and was very good when I tied her up outside the shop whilst I went in to get my milk, which was the main reason for the trip. I also bought more than planned so had a heavier shopping bag that I was expecting.

I was surprised at how much more exercise the walk on the roads seemed than all the walking we do on the farm. I should probably do it every day, but that is not likely to happen although I think it would be an idea to do it a few times a week to give the dogs experience in walking on a lead and behaving well in public. It is also nice to meet the villagers and get away from our hermit habits.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Busy Busy

We seem to have been busy ever since we got back from holiday with both pleasure and work.

We took delivery of 90 bales of hay which had to be hefted up into the hay loft, later took three of our boys out to do outside matings, today we tested the whole herd to find out who is pregnant before we go into autumn and winter and we split off some of our females who seem to be underweight and put them into a separate paddock to feed them up and give them extra supplements.

We have also been to our regular agility training session, visited Mike's garage at Wilton, unfortunately missed combining it with seeing Josh our latest grandchild as he was at nursery.

We checked all the cria and sadly found that our latest edition, Tanya, has a hernia. She is going to have her operation on Wednesday. The vet thinks it will be OK as it is still very small and soft, but the sooner it is fixed the better.

We have also been preparing for the Chardstock Street Fayre. We usually take a few alpacas along and sell our jumpers and socks etc: We are hoping for better weather this year as last year it was a wash out.

The cat, Polly, seems to be recovering from her broken hip. She is getting depressed with cage rest so we are allowing her some freedom during the day and the plan is (ours not Polly's) that we will keep her in over night. This will be the hard bit as she loves to roam and hunt at night and sleeps most of the day.

Still having varying results with eggs. 6 one day and 3 or 4 another. The latest laying place is in the hay trailer which makes it difficult as we need the trailer to take hay to the paddocks. The hens get shirty when we drive off when they are laying!!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Dogs on Hols and Bourree Baby

Ahh - they are so cute but they are just looking at Mike dishing up their dinner on the other side of the wind breaks outside our caravan when we were on holiday.
The sweet little cria is the result of a misguided experiment. We put Chale our best white male to Bourree an older black female hoping to improve the black fleece but although Tanya (the cria) does have a lovely soft fleece she has also inherited a white face and feet which were not planned. She is lovely, though.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

We're Back

We had a lovely holiday starting off with the KC International Dog Agility Show, then two days at Dogs In Need followed by a week at Dashing Dogs and finishing off with a weekend at Dordale Dog Agility Show.

We were very lucky with the weather and only had one day where there was any significant rainfall and that was conveniently not when we were competing. The electrics on the caravan played up and the portable TV would not work so we had to be careful about saving the battery but otherwise everything went very well. Mike has decided to give up trying to get Jake to wait at the start of his agility runs. It had turned into a battle and was spoiling their fun, so at least for the last week or so they had some good rounds, and one was nearly a clear.

Romie had a seventh place at the KC, 2 firsts two thirds at Dashing dogs and a second at Dordale so she has definitely come good. Unfortunately I seem to get a slight hesitation in the middle of each course and this is enough for her to go the wrong way, so I need to do some serious memory training exercises I think. She seems to have overcome her tendency to knock jumps down which makes it more likely that she will get a clear round and hence a place.

She also met her future soul mate at the Dogs in Need Show and we are hoping she will be covered next time she comes into season. I am hoping for a Romie clone.

The alpacas were all in good form on our return and a new black baby had been born to Bourree.

She was overdue and the day before we went on holiday Tess (the vet) came over and induced her labour. She was born the following morning.

David and Jane manicured the whole herd whilst we were away so apart from some routine stuff there is no backlog of work to be done.

It was a lovely holiday but nice to get home too.