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.

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