Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Good Tuesday

Nick and I cut the toe nails of the main herd and I was absolutely amazed at how little they needed trimming. Some of them did not need any clipping at all. I have always known that walking on concrete helps to keep them down, but it must be walking across our farmyard to get to and from the barn every day that has done the trick for us. It is covered in scalpings. I would say that if they continue to walk over it we can reduce our toe nail trimming to every three months instead of every couple of months as we have been doing up until now.

He also had a look at one of the goats that I was concerned about. They all, unfortunately, soil the fleece at the back end when urinating and it looks quite unsavoury. Apparently this is quite normal with goat. He checked the one which was particularly bad but found nothing of concern. Nevertheless I held her whilst he trimmed her to make it a bit more hygienic. We also checked her toe nails and Nick says they will need trimming shortly.

Javier, the cria with a poorly eye, is looking much better and we are hoping that he will not need much more treatment.

It has been raining most of the day and the wind has been really cold, so not much fun doing the daily chores, but our friends Clive and Elaine came to visit us this afternoon.

We had a light lunch and took the dogs for a walk and introduced our visitors to the new arrivals (the goats). We had a really enjoyable afternoon and it was lovely to see Elaine looking so well and happy. Elaine was pleased to see the alpacas again especially the babies that she looked after when she was staying with us.

Having hosed off the muddy dogs we all went down to the winter paddocks and brought the alpacas up. They were only too pleased to get back into their cosy barn for the night.

More later of the surprise they brought us!!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

All move round

What with the winter weather and the shortage of good grass at this time of year our top paddocks are looking quite sparce and cut up,we decided to move the babies up one paddock to the middle paddock which incorporates the pig pen (named for the pigs which were intended to go into this small linked paddock) and put the main herd back into the winter paddocks which have survived the bad weather surprisingly well.

They have drained with only a few really wet areas. We are still bringing them into the barn at night to give their feet a break from being constantly wet. We went down to collect them at about 4 p.m. this evening and I just shouted my usual "Coomwon" a few times and they headed happily up through the farm to the barn and immediately upon arrival starter to tuck in to the hay and alf alfa awaiting them.

We need to do toe nails for the whole herd (including goats) and they are all due for vaccination shortly. Nick and I will make a start on Tuesday.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Whistling Women

The last of the lovely new hens (Buff orpington x Rhode Island Red) whose sisters were taken by THE FOX began to crow this morning.

Guess she won't be laying any eggs then!!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

New sight for goats

Nick came this morning and helped me trim the goats' fringes. A couple of them looked as though they couldn't see at all and as with alpacas, we thought that being unable to see would make them more easily spooked. They were quite easy to handle although we took the precaution of putting the buck outside the goat house whilst we operated on his does. Luckily his fringe did not need any attention.

According to Nick we might have left it too late to mate them - we were delayed in preparing their quarters because of the unending rain - but we are keeping our fingers crossed that they will come into season in a day or two. Apparently they will start "calling" for the male when they want his attentions. At least they will see him coming (approaching)now.

Maddy, our lurcher, has always been fascinated by the cat but we have never been quite sure if she looked on her as prey or a potential friend. Judging by today's photo, she has decided they are just good friends.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Goats R Us

We collected the Angora Goats this morning and they immediately settled in to their new home. Mike has doubled the size of one of the field shelters and enclosed it entirely so that they are nice and cosy. They tucked into the goat mix and haylage without delay.
The big one at the back is the buck and we are hoping that they will all come into season shortly and be mated ready to have their kids in the spring.
They have to be shorn twice a year and apparently should produce about 3 k of good fleece per animal so from just 6 goats we should be able to go straight to a commercial spinner to get our mohair wool.

Monday, 14 December 2009

I See No Ships

Javier, the last remaining male weanling, has developed an eye infection so we are having to run a line of ointment across his eye daily. Having had a cria a few years ago with an ulcerated eye which eventually had to be removed, we are being very careful about his treatment. The eye does not look effected at all actually but he is producing puss from the corner of his eye.

We are handling the cria more often now that the weather has improved and they are being very much calmer and accepting of our attentions. We really need to start halter training them now.

The shop continues to get busier although the online sales seem to have slowed down.

Our latest edition to the shop is mittens with a string to hold them together. Some of our more mature readers may remember wearing gloves and mittens at school which were held together by a piece of elastic running through the coat sleeves. We supply the mittens with a kit consisting of two buttons and a crocheted string to join them together as an option. The idea is very popular with dog walkers who have a habit of losing gloves when getting their dogs ready to go back on a leash after a good run.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Alpacas in the sun

The alpacas have changed from queuing up to get into the barn at night to get out of the wind and the rain to insisting on staying in the furthest away paddock. We have not made an issue out of it as we feel that being outside is more healthy and natural for them. The ground has drained quite well and at least they are not paddling in mud all the time so their feet should benefit.

We took the opportunity today, however, to give them all a dose of mineral/vitamin supplement to help them through the grey days. We also checked that they were in good condition and no one getting too thin. We gave the two cria who have not yet been weaned an ADE injection and decided that they should be weaned this week as they are not doing quite as well as the weanlings. Sometimes cria flourish more when weaned than whilst they are suckling. Maybe they are a bit lazy when Mum still provides free food, or maybe Mum is running out of steam with the winter weather taking its toll.

Several visitors to the shop. Two people chose quite a few items but have not paid as they did not have enough cash or a cheque book. They are both local so will be back later in the week.
We really have to look into the possibility of taking credit cards. Banks are reported to be going to abolish cheques in due course so I guess it will be impossible to trade without the facility - presumably they will make it more affordable for small businesses if there is no alternative way of accepting non-cash payments.

The goat house is ready for occupation. Mike finished it today so I will be phoning to arrange for them to arrive as soon as possible.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Happy Hen

Well, lucky we did not cull the sick hen. Nick took one look at her and said she is just moulting. Apparently the white powder is just part of the process - presumably from the feathers - and the stubs are new feathers growing not the remains of diseased feathers.

There are very few eggs being laid at the moment but we are hoping that when we collect the shed that Pauline has donated we will be able to get some new chickens. I spent a small fortune at the farm stores on electrice fencing (it looks more like a tennis net) and tonics for the "sick" hens. Nick said it was not wasted money because when moulting the chickens will benefit from
the nutrition boost. We need to get the fencing up quickly for two reasons - the chickens scuff up all the soiled straw in the barn which should be left undisturbed using the deep litter system. Also there is a large vixen on the prowl and she has been seen in our hedges, so she needs to get a swift electric shock to remind her that the hens are ours and not a readimeal for foxes.

It is lovely to have some good weather again. We are hoping the muddy gateways will dry out a bit.

Bono, fingers crossed, seems to be getting better.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Weather Woes

Apart from making life much harder the long spell of wet warm weather has brought other problems to the farm.

Firstly there has not been a dry blade of grass for weeks. All the gateways are churned up and the race between the paddocks is slippery and waterlogged. The alpacas have not seen dry land for a long time which gives us concerns about their feet. Although they do not suffer with foot rot like sheep, their pads start to skin with holes appearing. Their toe nails grow more quickly and we feel that the constant rain makes their lives pretty miserable. When the sun does come out they seem to look more relaxed and of course much less bedraggled.

Usually they stay out all year, but last winter we brought them into the barn at night when the weather was too bad, such as the snow. We have decided to do the same thing again from now on this winter. We are hoping that a few hours a night on dry straw will help to keep their feet in good condition and save us problems later. It is also easier to feed them and keeps the wear and tear off the sodden paddocks.

Obviously as, even after this year's sales, we have 49 alpacas left, we cannot fit them all into our small barn so the males and the weanlings are remaining in their paddocks but we are cleaning them out daily and topping up the straw so that they also have the opportunity to keep their feet dry. The males usually go into their shelter at night anyway and the weanlings have their alf alfa and hay in their shelter which encourages them to spend time inside. Most mornings when we draw the curtains these days there is no sign of an alpaca.

We had sent off a routine dung sample to test for worms but in the meantime were alerted to the extra danger of fluke worm this year by our friends Ian and Lynsey Skinner. We went to their house for dinner on Thursday night and had a lovely meal and a very sociable time with the Skinners and their neighbours who were the other guests.

They have had some alpacas with fluke and so on Friday I checked the husbandry records and although it was only just over ten weeks since the last treatment decided to drench the whole herd straight away. Just as well, as Tim Lawrence, one of the vets, phoned on Saturday afternoon to say that the samples from the males and the weanlings showed some fluke eggs. Strangely the main herd which has been on the wettest pasture were clear. This unlikely scenario - i.e. fluke in the dryer paddocks and no sign in the wetlands, vindicated our decision to worm them without delay.

Bono took a step backwards. He started to look tucked up again and spent some time lying down on his own, so he is back on the Antepsin. We have reduced the dose to twice a day and it seems to have perked him up again. We are still waiting for the results of his blood tests.

The weather improved this afternoon and made everything look rosy again.

When I was putting the hens to bed tonight I noticed that one of them was looking poorly. We had noticed that she had some grey around her head but it seemed to had got a bit better. We are now feeling really guilty that we did not examine her more closely because when I picked her up I found that most of her feathers on her underside had disappeared leaving only stumps and she seems to have a sort of white powder on her - perhaps some sort of skin problem or mite. We are going to check them all first thing in the morning and make sure that the others are not effected. In the meantime I will try and find out what causes the symptons and see if it can be treated or if it is terminal. Not looking forward to having to kill it if that is needed.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Time goes by

Our van, which Mike drives most of the time, broke down recently and he took it up to the garage to replace the fuel pump. Unfortunately when he got home the pump failed again. We got it back to the garage and Mike changed the fuel pump yet once more. It was very late when he phoned me to say that he had fitted the new pump but the engine had failed. He has not talked about it very much (understandably) so I am not sure what the problem was, but the outcome is that he has spent today at the garage fitting a replacement engine.

Chris phoned on Monday to break the bad news that the garage had been burgled on Sunday night (obviously not by Christians) and thieves had taken some valuable hand tools and expensive diagnostic equipment. Chris spent Monday night camping out in the garage armed with a base ball bat but they did not return. They are in the process of repairing the damaged fences,roof and window and putting in metal bars to the window and a steel roof. In between working on the van Mike helped with the new security measures.

Meanwhile back at the ranch the weather was horrible so after checking all the animals I spent most of the morning in the office. There were a couple of orders for hand knits to be parcelled up and sent off and I spent quite a lot of time resizing and uploading photos to the website.

I had a phone call from a local small holder who had seen us in the breeders' directory of Country Smallholding (one of the few places we advertise) and he and his father came over to talk alpacas and have a look around. Despite the weather we had some customers in the shop and we are getting daily visitors now, although it is not as busy as this time last year. Maybe there will be a last minute rush.