Tuesday, 28 December 2010

After Christmas

Christmas went really well.   We managed to get out of the farm easily and had a lovely time with David and Jane and the children.  We did not stay too long just in case but it was like being let out of jail freefor a few hours!!

The weather has changed, the snow has gone and Nick and I made up for the last few weeks by trimming the kids' hooves, drenching the herd with a mineral and vitamin mixture and condition checking.  As it has been several weeks since they have been able to even see grass, we were not surprised to find one or two a little under weight so we have decided to change from hay to haylage for a few weeks to try and give them a  boost.   Most of the half a dozen who are a little out of condition are youngsters and it might be that their teeth are changing and making eating slower - also they are a bit timid and being pushed to the back of the queue by the older more dominant females.

The weather is expected to be mild into the new year now so we should be able to catch up with a lot of jobs.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Getting through

At least now we are both feeling a bit better and hoping that by Christmas we will be full of the Christmas Spirit.  Two of our neighbours have kindly invited us to spend Christmas day with them if we cannot get off the  farm to go to David and Jane's for our Festivities.  As long as we can  get out of the drive we will be fine but as we have to take all seven dogs with us we will have to use the van which does not have 4 wheel drive.  We cannot risk leaving them at home as it is too long and if we got stuck they would be hungry and thirsty and cold on Christmas Day which would be sad even though they don't know it is Christmas.

Mike has gone up to the garage today and has taken the pressies round so that at least the children will get them even if we do get snowed in.   The forecast is quite good so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

The animals are all coping well although I expect they are fed up with living on hay.  We are lucky that we have plenty of shelters and they are certainly making use of them at the moment.   When we look out of the window in the mornings it is like the Marie Celeste - not asign of life on the place apart from the good ole cockerell who continues to crow despite it all!!

The tough outdoors cat who disappears for days at a time in the summer has become a permanent fixture  indoors and has to be thrown out occasionally when we realise she has been in for too many hours.  She favours Mike's chair but when all else fails will deign to use the cat basket. 

The goats and kids stay indoors all the time at the moment although we do let the kids out as their trailer is a bit small for 24 hour occupation.   Mike and Nick have yet to complete their shelter. Actually they havenot started it yet.

Mike just phoned to get me to order some gas cylinders - we cook and heat the log cabin by propane gas.   Apparently there is now a shortage and it was broadcast on TV at lunch time so I have reserved two cylinders for collection tomorrow so we don't run out. 

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Man flu

Mike and I have both had colds but I definitely had man flu - I lost my voice and had a really bad cough which made by bronchial tubes sore.   Unusually I just could not drag myself around the farm and poor Mike has had to do all the farm work himself for a couple of days.   

This afternoon I suddenly felt much better, although I still get fits of coughing when I go out into the cold.

We have started to drench (give orally) some minerals and vitamins to the herd but I had to give up after administering to the females and the males.  Now that I am feeling better we will be able to treat the weanlings and the Chardstock 6.  We are feeding hard feed as well as hay at the moment as some of the herd seem to be getting a little out of condition.  Probably because they had about a week with the grass being covered in snow.

Chale who was scouring seems to be OK now so the treatment has worked.  Don't know what caused it - perhaps just eating frozen grass or eating something out of the hedgerow that disagreed with him.

I had a card from my old friend Allanah this week and she said she liked the blog so I am hoping she reads this so she can confirm that she receives my Christmas card every year as the address I have got is quite old.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Lie In

We had a bit of a lie in this morning.   Mike has had quite a traumatic few days in that he went into hospital for a routine angiogram but had an allergic reaction to the contrast die that they put in to view his arteries.  Instead of a three hour visit he had to stay in overnight.  We shut the dogs in at 11 a.m. and Mike was still waiting for his procedure at 3.30p.m.  It was decided that I would go home (40 minute journey) to let them out and feed them and return to the hospital to pick him up.   Just as I was about to leave home they rang to tell me about his problem so I quickly packed his toothbrush etc: and took them with some reading material back in to the hospital.  I finally brought him home at about 11.15 yesterday morning.  He is still a bit under the weather but becoming more himself as time goes by.In fact we went over the road to our neighbours for dinner last night and he managed to last until about10.30 p.m. before finally giving in.   I think the combination of his scare plus all the toing and froing and some socialising just about finished us off and we became unconscious as soon as we hit the pillow and did not wake up until 8.10 a.m. which is really late for us.

The good news is that they did not find anything of great concern. He has had a faulty mitral valve for years (maybe since birth) and has now developed a faulty aortic valve but neither is serious at the  moment and just requires regular checks.   They still cannot find a cause for his occasional breathlessness but at least it is not his heart apparently.

It was really lovely to wake up to green fields this morning.   The frosty ground is now very muddy of course, but at least the animals can graze again and although there is not much nourishment in the grass at the moment it will bulk them up and save some hay which is all they have been eating whilst there was snow on the ground.

Chale, one of our working males, is scouring (has the runs) so we wormed him and started to dose him with Pro Rumen which is a complimentary feeding stuff used to assist in the establishment of bacteria in the rumen.
I thought it would be a good idea to give him some anti-biotic also so I phoned the vet to find out which of the two I had in stock would be the best to use.  Of course neither was ideal so they put up three syringes of another type which he has now had.   He was very good - even though Mike could not help me for the last two days of treatment I was able to inject him and drench him with the Pro Rumen on my own.

All the weanlings are well established now so this week they will be going on the website for sale.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Hoary day

The snow has gone thanks to  brief spell of rain and some slightly warmer weather.  At least now we do not have to take water round to each paddock, we just have to break the ice so that the water underneath becomes accessable.

We are still feeding the weanlings as we feel that they are most vulnerable.

The fields were white with hoar frost this morning and  it have been misty and cold and damp all day.  Some of the alpacas with particularly hairy ears have bee decorated in white by the frost.

The chick and its mum are going out all day with the other chickens, although at the moment we still put them in a separate hutch at night. The chick is growing quickly but still has its baby yellow feathers.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


We thought we  had got off lightly but when we woke up this morning it had snowed  over night and everywhere was covered. We moved the hay racks nearer to the shelters which has had the desired effect of making the alpacas use the shelters more. Although we don't routinely feed them, we gave everyone some alpacas winter nuts this morning and will continue to do so whilst the snow is with us.  

The dogs seem to enjoy playing in the snow but it gets in between their toes after a while.

It seems that Christmas sales in the shop are fated once again.   In 2008 we had bumper sales in the lead up to Christmas but last year we had to close for long periods due to snow and ice and the same thing is happening this year.  The good news is that online sales seem to be perking up a bit.  Mostly socks!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Well it does not seem to be rising above freezing and the wind is really bitter but we have been quite lucky in that we only had a small amount of snow.

I am taking the opportunity to try and improve the Alpacastuff website.  You would have laughed to see me with a polystyrene model head outside in a high wind trying to take photos of snoods in the hope that they will sell better when people can see how they look.  If they are not on a model they just look like a scarf.

We have just received the first of the Aran Sweaters knitted in  our new Champagne colour which is a mixtureof fleece - mostly white but with a dash of fawn.  They really look stunning and I am hoping that they will sell well.

Mike has drawn the short straw in  that he is feeding the goats and kids and breaking up the ice in the water troughs so that I can get up to the office.  It's a tough job but someone has to do it.  To be fair I gave been doing more than my fair share of paddock cleaning to make up for the present treat of workin g indoors.

The hay is going down rapidly and they are eating a lot more than usual at this time of year.  We would have liked to have let the new chick out into the wide world by now but we are worried that it will die of the cold if it gets lost or gets separated from his Mum, so its release is bei g delayed.

The dogs are still sleeping out in  their kennel but Mike has insulated it with rubber mats on the floor and carpet round the walls and Charlie who is quite thin and with the thinnest coat wears a coat in bed just in case he gets too cold.  The cat manages to sneak indoors most nights.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Frosty farming

Snow, ice, frozen drinking troughs, just the job!! I made an unforced error and decided to break the really thick ice which had formed in the drinking troughs with only my rubber gloves on.  It was not too bad at first but very quickly my hands felt as though they were really freezing.  When I got indoors my fingers were white at the ends graduating through various shades to purple and red.  The really good bit is that we will have to do the whole thing over again tomorrow morning.  I think I'll wear ordinary gloves next time.

It was Dolly's first experience of snow and she loved dashing around in it like a hooligan.

The   alpacas,goats and chickens take it all in their  stride and why not they get food delivered so they do not have to worry when the grass is covered over or stiff with frost and some muggins makes sure they have drinks all day.

We see a lot more of the cat when the weather is cold or wet.  In the summer she sometimes disappears for days at a time.  Now she quite often turns up at a door or window demanding to be let in immediately and then expects to take over the best chair or dog bed whilst being waited on  with milk or dinner and lies on her back expecting to have her tummy tickled.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Busy Tuesday

Mike had to go to the hospital this morning for a check on his heart so Nick and I got on with all the animal tasks.   We finished  condition checking the herd and found that the Chardstock 6 and our boys are in just as good condition as the girls.  The only exception really was poor old Bono who seems to be fairly well now but is still very thin.   As a precaution we gave him a wormer.

We checked the weanlings and they are all as fat as butter so it seems that they have not suffered from leaving their Mums so far.   Cordelia, our lovely brown female, is still quite distressed about losing her cria but the other mums have just got on with their lives.

We have lost three chickens over the last few days.  One had a prolapse presumably due to laying over large eggs, one just died but it was one of the ones we rescued from an intensive "free range" farm so it was probably programmed for a shorter life.   The third must have been locked out of the henhouse when the automatic pop holes shut and seems like a fox or other preditor got her. 

One of the kids was limping yesterday and when I checked her front fore I found she had a big lump of dried mud between her toe but also her hooves needed trimming so I  got Mike to sharpen up the toe nail clippers and Nick and I trimmed  all of the kids' hooves. I need to register them with the Angora Goat society before the end of December.   We have the prefix for the herd of Laurels, like the alpacas, and I am trying to think of a theme to use.   The older goats are all named after places apart from Drake the buck.  Nick suggested trees, but Laurels Oak for example does not sound very romantic.  Maybe birds? They will all be girls names as until we have an entire male (as opposed to a gelding) we will not be registering males.

Mike and Nick have nearly completed a shelter for Alario, who sadly spent all last winter in a paddock with out shelter as he is the one who fights the other males.   He now has three pregnant female companions and little house.  The shelter is "temporary" because it is actually just screwed to the fence and the fence forms most of the structure.   Mike  brought some roofing panels from the garage and used them to fill in the sides and  back and because it is so well weathered it looks just like the wooden shelters from a distance and cost about a tenth of the price.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Where's my mum

Today we separated the cria from their dams.   It has to be done but it is always a bit sad.  As soon as they have had time to get used to their new status I will get them halter trained.  It is quite nice having them in the home paddocks and visitors, especially the children like to see them.

The whole place is a mud bath at the moment and every time it starts to dry up a bit the rains come down.

Mike found one of the chicks dead in its run a few days ago.  He thinks the rain blew in and its mother was not protecting it very well.  The fox got a chicken last night.   We think it was shut out when the automatic
pop hole closed.

We condition checked all the females today and were pleasantly surprised that all except one are in excellent condition.  She should start to improve now that her cria has moved out.   As a precaution we gave her a dose of wormer, but I doubt if she has that problem.

The goats and kids continue to do well, as do the dogs and the cat who has decided to become an indoor cat now that the winter is on the way.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Walking nicely and new arrivals.

We have been busy halter training some of the weanlings.   The oldest four are well on the way to being fully trained and we have been quickly getting 2 ready for delivery tomorrow.    They are only just old enough to go really so have only been training them for a few days.  They are very easy to catch now and although they need more practice have definitely got the idea of walking nicely on a lead rope, even if they get fed up quite quickly.

With days drawing in it is a rush in the afternoon to make sure that the goats get fed and shut in and that any important jobs are finished early as the darkness seems to come in very quickly.

On Wednesday we were going out and I checked on the broody hen just before leaving.   I noticed a broken shell and when I looked closer there was what appeared to be a dead chick in it.  When I picked it up the chick was absolutely cold and there were no signs of life.   I was just about to throw it in the hedge when I noticed that its mouth moved a little.  I thought it was a lost cause but nevertheless took it indoors and plunged it into warm water.  It revived a little and actually pecked at the water as if trying to drink.   I dried it off and put it in the oven at a low temperature!! I held my hand over it to protect it from direct heat (especially as it is a gas oven) and spent about ten minutes with it.  It was definitely alive but I was not sure if it had been starved of oxygen and what its future might be.

Anyway with very little hope I took him back and his mother took him under her wing and I let nature take its course.   The next day I lifted the hen off expecting to find a dead chick but glory glory there were two noisy little yellow chicks.   One was a little less lively and still seemed to stumble around a lot, but by this morning they are both running around, eating, drinking and cheeping their little heads off!!   I am so glad I did not give up on the semi dead one and hope that it will grow into a nice laying hen.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Odds and ends

We have moved the main herd including the yet to be weaned cria down to the winter paddocks as the grass is still very lush and green down there.   There are some wetlands there so we will have to treat them for liver fluke which is a dangerous parasite which thrives in damp or wet conditions and can kill before the animal even shows any sign of sickness.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Stepping out

Everything  has been going to plan although I must say my experience in staying with the grandchildren made me  realise life is  quite hectic for modern Mums with all the comittments that the children have.  Two days involving the school runs and delivering and collecting from after school tutor sounded like a piece of cake but negotiating the heavy traffic first thing in the morning, taking the two dogs I took with me on walks in public places, getting back to school in the afternoons whilst allowing for getting involved in yet more traffic and actually managing to park within walking distance of school were mini challenges I did not forsee.

I was a bit apprehensive about taking the dogs, Charlie and Dolly to public parks where there would be lots of other dog walkers. Not because ours are unfriendly,  but because I thought they might be over friendly and therefore unpopular with other walkers.   They are mostly used to being let out into our 15 acres and rarely meet other dogs except at dog shows.  As it turned out they behaved very well and realised that dog show rules apply - i.e. stay within your own pack and don't run off to other owners and dogs.  I was even congratulated by one of the guides at Old Sarum heritage site for the controlled way in which I unloaded the dogs as apparently most people just open the boot and let their dogs gallop off.  We had several lovely walks  at various venues around the town which was really an enjoyable change.

Since the grandchildren, Zach and Tara have been staying they have taken on goat tending duties - feeding them twice a day, shutting them in at night and letting they out in the mornings.  They have also been feeding the alpaca mothers who are still feeding their cria to keep their strength up.

In return we have been to the cinema to see an animated film (DespicableMe) which were surprised to find extremely enjoyable.   There was a trailer for next week's film about Yogi Bear which we would love to see but would probably be too embarrassed to go without the children as an excuse.    We have also been ten pin bowling and swimming is on the agenda before they go home.

We have been really lucky with the weather although it is forecast to change   tomorrow.   The alpacas have been sunbathing and really enjoying the Indian Summer.  Reality is about to set in for them.

Saturday, 16 October 2010


Wednesday - We got all the farm jobs done early and took Dolly and Jake to the beach again.   We had a lovely pub lunch in the Bridport Arms Hotel which is right on the shore and then went for a walk in the right direction this time.    Although shingle it was much firmer and there were greater stretched of beach for the dogs to run around on.   They had a lovely time and more or less ignored other walkers and their dogs, which was what we wanted to happen.  Dolly has discovered the joys of wave hopping and Jake just loves to swim.   As we said at the time - should have taken the camera.

Next Wednesday I am going up to Salisbury to stay with Zach and Tara whilst David and Jane go to the Maldives for a holiday.  When they break up from school on Thursday the children will be coming down to the farm for the rest of their half term break.

The broody chicken is very bad tempered but when we get her out for her daily constitutional she disappears into the flock with the others, so we have marked her with some spray to make sure the right one goes in to sit on the eggs.  Once there she wants to stay there.

Thursday - We had quite a few visitors including some potential customers.   Our local advertising is working, but time will tell as to whether it is worthwhile in a financial sense.

Friday -  The kids are looking a wreck where they are spending more time in their shelter and eating hay which is getting tangled in their fleece.   I went to do the shopping and at the same time went to Mole Avon (country stores) and bought some haylage for them.   This is somewhere  between silage and hay and so is much more moist and so does not hang in the fleece like hay.   It has to be eaten quite quickly once the bag is opened, though, as it can breed nasties like listeria if exposed to the air for too long.

Saturday - getting all the jobs done early including grooming the dogs so that we can relax a bit this afternoon.  The alpacas are enjoying their hay and between munching they are lying around in the sun which is actually quite warm despite a brisk breeze.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Chicken Makeover

Nick and I finished toe nail trimming today.  Dolly had another go at herding, but although she is brilliant I don't think I tell her to do the right thing at the right time so it got a bit confusing at time.

With the exception of the usual pantomime with Ben, the wether, they all behaved very well.  We haltered Ben and blindfolded him and he allowed me to trim his nails but by toe number 3 we havd to call Mike for assistance - more so that we could restrain him gently rather than create a wrestling match.  He has very curly toe nails and so is difficult to deal with even when he is co-operating.  They annoying thing is that once the treatment is over - without any pain by the way- he just gets up and accepts a handful of feed as if we are best friends.

One of the kids was limping so we had a look at her.  She has strip which is where grass or hay gets into the space between the hoof and makes the skin a little sore or inflamed.   We trimmed the hoof and applied the magical blue spray (terramycine) to prevent infection.   We will be checking all goat and kid feet next week anyway, so as long as the limp stops she will not need any further treatment until then.

The four weanlings who are the oldest cria still on the farm came in for toe nail trimming and were very well behaved considering that they have not been handled very much yet.  We also haltered them and after a while took them back to their paddock on the halter.   Three were very good but the fourth was one of those who throws himself on the ground  with great force and then plays dead.  Luckily he soon got over it and whilst not quite as relaxed as the others, he is at least tolerating the halter.   We left their halters on and caught them again late in the afternoon.  They stood on a loose rein until we released them.   The next trick will be to get them to walk properly on the lead rope.

I pointed out to Mike that one of the hens seemed to be broody.   We decided that an old dog kennel we had in the garden would make an ideal breeding house for her.  The advantage being that she can live within the chicken paddock near their sheds.   The last lot grew up in the barn and kept going back there which eventually led to the disappearance of the well grown chicks. We hope that if they grow up near the main chicken sheds, they will be more likely to stay in the area.

That all seemed simple to me, but no, Mike found that the kennel was rotting and it needed an extra opening so we could get in to clean it out even if there was a cage for the hen and chicks to run around in - i.e. a door at the back and the front.  Hence he embarked on a total rebuild.  New roof, new entrance, new supports here and there - voila a new house for our potential mum. Eventually we decided to call it a day and put the hen and today's eggs in the house for her to nurture.  Tomorrow we will take the mini hen house into the chicken paddock on the hay trailer.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

That Was The Week That Was

Monday - Paddock cleaning as usual - our favourite job!! All the alpacas are now eating lots of hay again so presumably they are either bored with grass or they know it has lost some of its goodness.    The goats and kids always seem to prefer hay to grass, so no change there. 

Tuesday - Nick and Mike moved the old stock trailer which was in the goats' paddock down to the kids' paddock.   We felt that that the old pig arc was not sufficient and over the weekend Mike and I decided that it would be more beneficial to make a shelter for Alario (the lone male) and use the stock trailer as a shelter for the kids.   They love it, especially as it is a climb up for the them.    We intend to shut them in now when the weather is wet as the straw gets very damp if they traipse in and out with wet fleece and feet.  We also renewed the Adult Goat bedding and are planning to shut them in except when weather is really dry and fine.

Nick and I continued with trimming toe nails and now it is only the 8 males waiting for a pedicure.   We are back to doing the husbandry in the barn which means that we are not rained off unless the alpacas are already soaked by the beginning of the day.  We also gave the Mums with cria at foot a dose of ADE vitamins and dosed the cria topo.

Wednesday - I had a day in the office doing the tax return, the VAT, and other exciting tasks.     I must say, I do feel a little more relaxed now that it is not hanging over my head.  If only I could get the ironing done too!!

Thursday - Paddock Cleaning again - the females with cria seem to be producing more fertilizer even than the Chardstock 6.  I think this is because we have moved them to a fresh but fairly small paddock and we are giving them some concentrate feed as some of them are starting to look a bit thin - the weight is being milked off their backs as we old farmers say.

Instead of selling eggs, Pam is now swapping her vegetables for them.    They are laying a  little better now and we do actually have a surplus to sell.  According to Nick they are laying about the right number for this time of year so there is hope that we might be back to normal next year.  Whilst I don't think they are costing us any money,  they are definitely a fun project rather than a money making enterprise.

Friday -   We fed all the animals, had an early lunch and took Dolly (pup) and Jake (Mike's dog) to West Bay for a visit to the seaside.    Dolly is very nervous of strangers visiting the farm and my trusty behaviourist, Pauline, has advised that she is suffering from Big Garden syndrome - i.e. because she only runs about in our Big Garden she is not getting enough life experience.  She is especially nervous of children, but we are hoping she will get over this next week because the grandchildren will be staying for half term.

It was really hot and even with the sea breeze we did not need our coats.   Dolly loved splashing in the sea and virtually ignored anyone we walked past on the promenade.     I am not sure if this was because she was on the lead and felt more confident with me to back her up or if she is only worried when people come on to the farm.    She is already much better on the farm so we are hoping that this combined with a few more outings she will get more confident and we have an excuse to explore the locality.

I had a cream tea (low calorie of course) and Mike had his favourite, fruit cake and a cuppa.

Part of the reason we love this area is because it is so close to the seaside and yet we have only been to the coast a few times.  Yesterday reminded us how lucky we are to be living here and that we must get out more!!

Saturday - We got on with feeding the animals first thing and then I took Charlie and Romie to Agility Training at Stewly which is on the way to Taunton.   Sam, the instructor, is really good and they both did very well.  

Whilst I was out Mike made a start on Alario's new shelter.  He (Alario) is very funny sometimes.    When we filled his hay rack this morning he was facing out the wethers in the paddock opposite (divided by a wide race) but he loves his hay, so he went over to the hay, grabbed a mouthful and rushed back to the fence and went back to facing them out whilst chewing in a gangsterish style.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Health Report

Nina seems to be fine now, although we will be scanning her next week to make sure she is still pregnant.

Her daughter, Luciana, also belonging to Pauline has been scouring (diarrhoea) so we checked the rest of the herd but only she seems to be having a problem so we think it is probably where the recent rain has made the grass grow more lush which has upset her tummy.  As a precaution we wormed her, gave her some Vecoxan which is and anti-coccideal drench (another parasite), and also some pro-rumen which helps to re-balance the gut flora.

Today she appears to be much better but we are going to get the whole herd in later to separate the mums and babies and put them in a separate paddock to feed them  up a bit until the cria are weaned.  We will check Luciana then and decide whether to continue with the Pro Rumen or whether she is entirely over it.

Our website is now being run by Chris Moor at Alpacaseller using his server and low and behold, immediately we are back on page 1 of Alpacas For Sale.   Seems too sudden to be a coincidence!!  My son thinks there must have been something about the server we were on before that Google did not like.  Fingers crossed he is right because we are about to put quite a few animals up for sale so that people have plenty of time to consider them before the spring when most people think of buying.

The Chardstock 6 are going to stay for another six months, which is good news.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Patient recovering

Fingers crossed Nina is looking much better.  She has returned to the main herd as she seems quite unhappy without all her friends and relations.  Her Mum and her daughter are both still on the farm so they remain attached to each other.

Managed to get the VAT return done today with only a day to spare before the dreaded cut off/fine is incurred.

Even though we have not had many visitors it is surprising how much money the shop has actually taken.  The new wool is going very well with about 30 skeins being sold already.  Bearing in mind we dont adertise and the gates are only open two half days at the moment that is not bad going.   We have some adverts coming out pre Christmas so hope they will produce some good sales.

Mike is off the garage tomorrow to work for the day and collect some roofing that is being stored there as he is going to make some more field shelters before the winter sets in.   The kids need a better shelter so they can eat under cover when it rains and some of the home paddocks have no shelter at all.

The Chardstock 6 are grasing the drive for us at the moment.   Gives them some more grub and saves the lawnmower petrol.  Mike has netted off his precious apple and pear trees.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Getting fleeced

This morning we got up extra early as we were expecting Nick at 8 a.m. as usual on a Tuesday.  I was also expecting Lynsey (alpaca friend) to come and help sort fleece as we are combining our fleece to get a big enough quantity to send to the mill.

Our last faecal worm egg count showed that the alpacas were clear of worms, the adult goats were at an acceptable level but the kids needed a wormer, so I wanted Nick to help me with this and also confirm that the kids are otberwise in good condition.  He confirmed that they are still doing well and we gave them each a needle in the bottom much to their bleating indignation.  Mike and Nick have made a start on building a permanent shelter for the kids as the converted pig ark is OK this time of  year but does not allow them to feed indoors if the weather is very bad.

After sorting fleece I took Lynsey down to look at the herd and have a look at this year's cria.  Whilst putting the males back into their paddock I noticed that Nina (a lovely fawn girl who belongs to my friend Pauline) was looking quite unhappy.   She was lying down but not in a good way.   We had to bring the whole herd up again and Nick and I separated and brought Nina and her cria into the barn for observation over night.   We took her temperature which was normal and then gave her some liquid paraffin as she seems to be straining to go to the toilet.  Best case scenario she will dung over night and get things moving.   Another possibility is that she is aborting her cria.  Fingers crossed it is just a bit of constipation and/or colic.

Strange as everyone else in the herd has a tendency to be looser than usual  at the moment as the grass has suddenly improved and is very rich.

The weather has changed again and it is drizzling and looks like it is set in for the evening.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Scanning for 2011

We went to Honiton Agility Show yesterday and Charlie our young collie did his first round of jumping.  I was really worried as at the last show we went to he ran away whilst we were on a walk and ran through all the rings before being enticed to the Secretary's tent with a ball.

I was Managing a Ring and nearly missed my runs in the Collie Jumping but I managed to squeeze in with Romie - who carried out a demolition job on the jumps on the course and when I got there with Charlie there were only a couple of dogs before us so he did not get too excited.  He waited at the start and performed a reasonable imitation of completing the course properly.  He missed a couple of jumps and at the end I sent him straight on rather than risk the tricky right and left which might have given him the opportunity to notice the other rings and run off to investigate.     I think if I had felt more confident I would have handled him better and we would have had a better result, but I am so pleased that he stayed with me which was my major worry.

Today we scanned all our pregnant females so we can make sure that they are all likely to give birth next year.   There were one or two doubtful results which will need revisiting but on the whole we should have a nice crop of cria next year.

At the same time we checked the condition of the females and cria and found that most were coping very well, although a couple with bigger cria were starting to need a boost.   All the cria are very fit and porky and  their fleece is exceptionally good this year.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

SWAG Vet Day

Mike went to a dog show with Jake today and he was very pleased with Jake's work, although he did not achieve a clear round he was much better and we are hoping that tomorrow will be his day.

I went to the South West Alpaca Group Vet day where the speaker was Claire Whitehead a well known Camelid Vet.   

I was most interested in the parasitology which was the subject of the afternoon session but also learnt one or two interesting things about Neonatal care of alpaca cria.

Although our farm management is not far off being most effective there are obviously one or two things which we could improve on, especially the method of internal parasite control.   We do work on the results of faecal counts but have been using pooled samples which our Vet approves.  Today, however, I decided to change to Claire's recommendations which include individual samples of 10% of the herd and rather than relying our local vet to examination the samples they will be sent away to a specialist laboratory.

We have two alpacas with persistent mange/mite problems and we have literally spent hundreds on various treatments.    Today it was confirmed that Frontline is the most effective treatment for the type of mite which I think we have.  We have used Frontline successfully on new cases of mite but the two in question have toughened skin and so we under the new information gleaned today we are going to soak their skin (somehow) in warm water 3 times a week and gradually remove the hardened skin, then bathe it and apply the Frontline which should then work.

We have not yet worked out the logistics of the treatment but will give it a try.

Friday, 24 September 2010


This week seems to have flown by  but we are not sure where it went.

The usual farm jobs need doing every day.

Cleopatra is a female who was junior brown champion at the Bath & West Show when she was a few months old but we have not managed to breed from her yet - in fact she seems to prefer the ladies.   Alario is the male who does not get on with the others, so we thought they probably deserve each other.    They are now sharing a love nest in the chicken field.   It has taken Cleo away from the rest of the herd where she was a disruptive influence and given Alario some company.

We have moved the herd into the last two really lush paddocks in a last ditch attempt to prepare them for the poorer grass and other challenges of winter.

We had a worm egg count carried out today - that is we take dung samples from each group of animals and they are examined under a microscope at the Vet's.  If worm eggs are spotted it is a cue for us to deliver medication to flush the little critters out.

Strangely only the goat kids showed any sign of worm which is even more surprising because they had lice a few weeks ago and the treatment included a wormer.   Good news that there are no other problem areas though.    Poor kids will have the needle on Monday!!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

We hate brambles but......

Photos of the re-organised shop. 

We hate brambles and complain when the alpacas get caught on them but we love blackberries and we have been picking lots.   They are very tasty and I have frozen some to go with the apples we have been given so Mike can have his apple and blackberry pie - one day.

Today Nick fenced off an area at the back of the barn and round the trenches which were dug behind the barn earlier in the year and he also put a fence round my vegetable plot, which at the moment consists of  two small raised beds with about ten cabbage and curly kale plants the leaves of which the slugs have made into a rather fetching lacy pattern.  Nevertheless I am hoeing it and keeping it weed free and have put lots of eggshells round them which are supposed to keep slugs and snails away.   Might have to use slug pellets in the end though.

Anyway this gives us a little more grazing.

Mike fetched his new tractor today.  He is very please with it and it has lots of original features - if you know what I mean!!  

He is returning the trailer to Wilton this evening and delivering a box of wool to our knitters who are based in Trowbridge, so I don't suppose I will see him until late into the evening, but at least it means that tomorrow will be a free day to catch up before the weekend.  I am hoping we can scan all the females in the herd so we can make decisions about remating any who have not carried their pregnancy through.

Monday, 20 September 2010

New Website

Our new website for the alpaca wool and clothing is making progress and I have taken some photos of the shop to go on it.   If I can get all the details entered it should be up and running quite soon.  

It has been a lovely day here today.  Mike is owrking at the garage in Wilton today.  He usually goes up once a month to keep in touch and does a day's work whilst he is there, which helps our budget too.  I  set the alarm for 6 o'clock but apparently it should have been 6.30 a.m. so he got away nice and early - although he did not really appreciate being woken half an hour too early.

We had a discussion about the goat kids as they are becoming a nuisance in the barn as we cannot use it to anything else, such as vehicle maintenance, alpaca husbandry etc:   so we have decided to put them in the small paddock which is always referred to as the pig pen because it was intended for our kune kune pigs who went to a new home before we came down to Devon in the end.    Up to now it has been used for isolating small groups or for Alario our feisty male who fights the other boys.

We have a converted pig ark which can be moved down to the paddock as a shelter and they can get out in the fresh air again and we will have full use of the barn.  This is on the menu for tomorrow when Nick comes, weather permitting.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Day of Rest

Through the summer we spent most weekends at Dog Agility Shows and we still managed to get all the day to day stuff around the farm done so we decided that through the winter we will have Saturdays and Sundays free and do our domestic chores or just chill or go out - like we used to do when we had proper jobs!!

The kennel is lovely and clean, the dogs have been groomed, toe nails clipped, teeth cleaned to within an inch of their lives.  The lawn (a bit of an exaggeration) has been manicured, Mike has run drainage pipes to the back of the barn so the water does not drain into the garden, and we are raring to go tomorrow to tick of the rest of the jobs on th list so we can do the chill out bit.

Now we have sold most of our older girls - just a few more to go on the website this week  - the herd looks really lovely.  Nearly all young, well fleeced alpacas showing the progress we have made since we started out.   Most of them are in the home paddocks so we can have the pleasure of seeing them all the time.

One of our clients phoned to report on the Great Western Fleece Show which took place at Frome Market today.   She said it was a very good event with plenty of trade stands and Dominic Lane the judge gave a very good account of himself apparently.   Ashdale Alpacas showed  a fleece belonging to Chance who was a little alpaca born in quarantine and she arrived here at the age of three weeks.  Mike has never forgiven me for selling her.    Will have a look at the results to see if she got anywhere.   She was in the senior class which is a bit of a reminder of how time flies.


Friday, 17 September 2010

Hay Day

Mike has collected our first bale of hay - luckily only the goats need it at the moment.   We still have enough grass for the alpacas.    The kids are getting really fat so we have extended their pen so that they can get a bit more exercise and also the concrete floor of the barn will help to keep keep their hooves from growing too much.   Not sure if they are hooves or nails, but anyway we have to pare them away from time to time to stop them curling under.   We are also going to cut down on their feed and let them live on hay for a while.

When we ran out of hay we put them on haylage which is richer and has more protein which is probably another reason for the tubbiness.

David and I went to Zeals to put a stone on Mum's grave.   The Vicar at Zeals has been extremely unhelpful all along.   We wanted Mum to be buried at Zeals with Dad but the Vicar was quite funny about it because she did not die in the Parish.  It has taken all this time to get permission to put her gravestone on the same plot as my father and she d

Thursday, 16 September 2010

We love chickens, but.....

We love chickens, but, we left the kitchen door open this morning whilst we were out on the farm.   At lunch time we found that we had had a visit.   Our wine glasses had been knocked over - luckily they were in the kitchen sink waiting to be washed up, there were unmentionable signs of chicken visits on the floor and work tops and a feather or two.     We did not need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out  what had happened and we will certainly make sure the doors are closed in future.   The trouble is they are so used to having a free run of the place - the dogs generally ignore them or at most Millie will try and herd them around - so they are rather confident.

One of Mike's wheels fell off this morning - no off the paddock cleaner (a big hoover).  The washer he needed has disappeared but luckily, with his engineering skills that was no problem - he just found something in his workshop and filed it a bit so it does the job.  Wheel now back on.   He is just off to pick up a large bale of hay as the goats and kids have completely run out now.

I am still putting the stock back in the shop after attending the Chardstock Street Fayre.  It is taking forever because I am revamping the whole thing at the same time as the new Alpacastuff website is nearly ready for launch.

I need photos of the shop and all its stock, so it needs to look good, or at least as good as possible.   This is being done between normal farmy stuff including delivering alpacas to their new homes, which we did yesterday - four females and two cria.  They walked out of the trailer into their new paddock as casually as you like and commenced grazing as if they had been there all their lives.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Kids at Home

The young chickens who were brought up in the barn love to pinch the kid's feed.  Most of the time they put up with it but sometimes they try and head but the chicks out of the way.  They don't have much success because they come straight back.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Busy Day

We had a busy day today, clipping the goats' toenails, preparing some alpacas who are going to their new homes tomorrow, moving alpacas into fresh paddocks, taking photos of alpacas to go on the website as well as normal routine jobs.

Dolly was even more of a star in contolling and moving the alpacas.

I have just seen a rat run under the chicken shed - Mike hates rats so he will want to deal with the problem quickly I imagine.   He took some cute photos of the kids and chickens today.   Will publish later or tomorrow.

Monday, 13 September 2010


As Saturday we went to Gillingham Agility Show but we were managing a ring which meant that we only had time to run our dogs and otherwise were tied to our ring for the day.   We had a very enjoyable day as the show was well run and the weather was good.   Our dogs were very good too despite being shut in all day.

No results to celebrate but our competition dogs performed well and most of the mistakes were of our own making I expect.

On the way home we called to view some male alpacas from a herd dispersal (i.e. closing a business) as we need to bring some new blood into our line.    On the way home we discussed the options and decided that although the prices were very reasonable  they reflected the quality of the alpacas and we decided to keep our eyes open over the next few months for higher quality boys, as we will not need to cover our girls until the spring now.   We also hope that by selling three of our current males (keeping Pedro the really good dark brown male) we can invest quite a bit more.

Today is catching up day and we are tidying the barn which has become a bit of a dumping ground and reorganising the shop ready for the Christmas Rush!!

The new Alpacastuff website is nearly ready for launch so we are hoping to return to our regular online sales which have fallen off since we almalgamated the products with the farm website.

The goats seem to be quite happy without their winter coats but go galloping for shelter if there is the slightest driop of rain.

The dogs have settled into their new kennel very well and, probably because they get a bonio when they are shut in, Charlie and Dolly dash into their crates if we even walk towards it.

On Thursday we are going to Golden Cap Agility Club with a view to joining them if they like us and vice versa.   The members we have met so far seem extremely pleasant and friendly.  Jake and Charlie particularly need to train where there are other dogs around as they both get VERY excited when they see other dogs doing agility.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Woolly news

Colin came as arranged on Thursday and sheared the goats.    Luckily the weather was quite warm so we let them stay out for the rest of the day and just shut them in for the night.    We have been at a dog show today so we shut them in in case the rain got too bad.    Also yesterday Mike found one with her head stuck in the fence so we were worried that she might do the same thing whilst we were away and get pneumonia or hyperthermia.  I wish the blog has spellcheck!!  Anyway they all seem fine and we now have two clips of Angora Fleece to sort and decide what to do with.

Yesterday we went to Coldharbour Mill and collected our Alpaca yarn which they have been spinning.  We were very pleased with it but John Arbon, the spinner was not so happy.  He felt that the scouring (cleaning) was insufficient and left too much oil in the fleece, even though we used the company that he had suggested.    We need to find someone else to scour and card the wool for next time.   If we can get  250 kgs together we could send it  "Up North" to be done more efficiently and cheaper.   We are reviewing the way forward on this.

The wool is in skeins this time as Arbon Textiles do not ball the wool and it would have to be sent elsewhere, adding even more expense.     We also had 10 kgs wound onto cones for our knitting ladies to use.   They are a bit dubious so I hope it works.  I will be contacting them this week.

The shop is still a mess because we have not had time to reorganise and restock since we took everything to the Street Fayre.   Must do it tomorrow morning as we are still having quite a few visitors, especially as we have gone on to winter opening of only two days a week.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Headless Chicken

Sadly one of the chickens which we have had since a chick was a bit too confident round the dog dinner bowls yesterday morning.  I had shooed them away several times but when my back was turned one of them tried to peck from Jake's bowl.   He used dog language to tell her to go away, but unfortunately caught her head with his snap.    She ran off but when I caught her a few minutes later it was obvious that she had lost an eye.   We left her for a while in case by some miracle she could recover and manage with just one eye but she went down hill very quickly - huge shock I expect - and Mike had to put her out of her misery.   He was very upset of course and it spoiled our day, really.

Luckily there have been no further misadventures since so we are hoping that the "rule of three" does not apply in this case.

This year's cria seem to be doing very well indeed.   We have only weaned four so far but they are very robust and I will start to halter train them within the next few days.

Unfortunately we have had a few fertility problems again this year which means that we will not be able to sell too many alpacas, although given the forecast shortage of food and cold winter we might be glad to have a few less mouths to feed.  

Colin is coming to shear the goats this afternoon so that should be noisy!!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Thomas the Tractor

Mike had to go to Salisbury today but on the way he called in to view a second hand tractor to replace the International which is not suitable for some of the jobs he wants to do. He has been looking in Farm Trader and on Ebay and other likely advertising places for quite a while but finally found this one in the Mole Valley magazine.  He phoned to say that it was suitable and that he had bought it so that is another small success story.   Now he has to sell the International!!

Nick and I condition checked the herd again and there are only one or two females who are a little under weight but they are feeding cria so that is to be expected.   As soon as we can wean the cria we will do so and give them a chance to put some weight back on before the winter.

All the cria are now fully up to date with their vaccinations which is always a small milestone on the farm.   Whilst we cannot guard against all harm that might come to them we can do our best to protect them from disease where possible.

The kids are thriving without their Mums and the Does are still underweight from feeding them but gradually improving.

Dolly showed off her herding skills once again.  She really has got a talent.

Mike is going to borrow the garage trailer to collect the trailer and bring down a steel frame for a building which we bought years ago and never used.   He is hoping to use it to make some more field shelters so we can make better use of the home paddocks in the winter.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Swapping round

The weather forecast was really bad so after our usual Monday paddock cleaning with the help of our neighbour, Pam, we tried to get as many of the odd jobs done as possible.    We moved the weanlings into a bigger paddock and moved the females who are supposed to be giving birth shortly into one of the smaller paddocks to make best use of the grass available.   Luciana (the one who had an abcess on her jaw) is in with the pregnant Mums just so we can keep an eye on her and make sure that it has really cleared up this time.   I think she is fine now but will get Nick to double check tomorrow when he comes in.   We think that both the pregnant girls have probably not carried to full term but we are giving it just a few more days before giving up finally and sending them back to the main herd to be remated next year.

We don't normally expect many sales this time of year but today we pre sold two of our little boys who will be going to their new home when they leave their Mums.

At last we have managed to source some hay - but it is going to cost £40 a bale - last year we only paid £20.   Mike is going to look at a tractor tomorrow which has a front loader which will enable him to handle the big bales better.

We have had a bit of a run on the shop and even sold some fleeces today, so maybe now the children have gone back to school, the Mums are free to have a little spend up.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Chardstock Street Fayre

Chardstock Street Fayre has become a sort of annual tradition.  We take about four yearlings along and a selection of stock from the shop.

Last year the weather was awful but today it was really lovely.    The four girls we took were very good.   They hummed a lot but did not seem particularly distressed.    Some of the visitors fed them and they munched away at their hay and lay down from time to time.  No spitting or kicking was in evidence even when one or two young visitors over stepped the mark a bit trying to stroke or poke them.

We are quite well known there now and have regular visitors to our stand.   Everyone loves the soft, attractive alpaca products and there are always volunteers around to help us load and unload if we need help.

There was a really festive air about the street and there were plenty of interesting stalls and displays to look at in our little bit of spare time.

Friday, 3 September 2010

We've disappeared

After being on the first page of the Google search engine for months, I came back from holiday to find that we have completely disappeared.   It seems very strange because nothing has been done to the site and no one seems to have even an inkling of an idea as to why so I don't know what route to go down to retrieve the situation.  

I know that it is possible for outsiders to interfere with websites but I would not have thought ours important enough to bother about.

It costs an absolute fortune to get outside companies to optimize the site (i.e. push it up the rankings) and the last time I spent £1000 the company was absolutely pants.   They changed the content of the site and used bad grammar and mispelt things and even gave wrong facts so I am very disillusioned about the so called experts.

On a brighter note we are getting ready for the street fayre tomorrow which should be quite a pleasant experience, even though our stand is usally immediately below the loudspeakers which are constantly in use.  The only problem is that because we do not usually go to markets or fayres we are not really set up to display the goods to their best advantage.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Day Off

Paddock cleaning as usual this morning but my friend, Pauline, came to visit at about 11 a.m. and stayed until late afternoon.   We went to the Tytherleigh Arms for lunch (just over the road).   It was mainly a friendly visit but she has seven alpacas at livery with us so it was also a catch up visit to see her alpacas.    We decided that Ginger, her oldest girl should be sold to make way for a new young female she is thinking of buying from us.

She brought Dodger - on eof Romie's pups and he and Dolly had a lovely time.    The weather was glorious.

All the weanlings are looking good and we will start halter training them in a few days.

We are doing our annual stint at Chardstock Street Fayre tomorrow so we will have a busy day loading stock and hurdles for the alpaca pens.    We are taking some really pretty young females .  The weather forecast looks good so there should be a good turn out.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Autumn is on the way

Have just set up our Christmas advertising and put a notice on the farm gates to say that we are only open Mondays and Thursdays now instead of every day.

It has been a glorious day here today so it seems a bit strange to be thinking about winter, but for once we are hoping to be well organised.

Next Saturday is Chardstock Street Fayre where we will be selling our wares and taking some yearling alpacas along for the visitors to see and take photos of.    It is a bit worrying that the weather forecast is good up until Friday but unsettled after that.   I don't normally mind the rain really but it is not much fun when you have a stall set up to sell things and everything gets wet and nobody comes along to buy!!    They have had quite a few wet days for this event over the past few years so let's hope this is going to be one of the dry ones.

Hay There!

We have decided to bite the bullet and order the haylage which we buy for the goats and sometimes for the alpacas in the winter.   Haylage is somewhere between grass and hay and the alpacas love it and devour it very quickly.    It is higher in protien and nutrients than hay so it is good for them.    The stuff we buy is usually much more expensive than hay but I think this year it will be the same price and possibly cheaper if we buy enough.

Chris, who I go riding with sometimes says that her husband can get us an unlimited number of pallets from where he works as they will be burned otherwise.   We will use these to keep the baylage off the ground and as it is wrapped in plastic it should be fine in all weathers.

The word is out that we are going to have another really hard winter this year.    I don't know where this has come from - maybe from the hay sellers to make us panic even more!!

The cria that we took away from their mums yesterday are looking quite relaxed and happy.   They cannot see the main herd from their paddock and they are grazing quite strongly so apart from the comfort of suckling I don't think they are missing much.  When I checked the main herd Calpurnia, one of the mums was on her own and looking lost.  I think she was looking for her daughter.   A bit sad but part of farming I guess.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Back to normal

We came home on Sunday 22nd but my pc has been in for repair and so have not been able to update the blog.

Mike's sister and brother in law came to stay on Wednesday and they have been a great help in catching up with paddock cleaning and other odd jobs around the place.   They are like us and like to have something to do.  Yesterday we all went to the Honiton Hill Rally which was originally a tractor rally but which had expanded over the years to include an auction of farm machinery and so on, crafts, demonstrations and the usual catering vans.     The weather was lovely and Mike was particularly happy because it is an event he has wanted to go to ever since we moved here but has usually clashed with other comittments.

Chris, Aew and Josh, Mike's grandson, came down for the afternoon bringing two of Aew's Thai friends to see the alpacas.    They had a great afternoon with Josh being particularly excited by the tractors which are his favourite thing.   Chris took him up into the cab so he could pretend to drive.    They left at teatime and we were on our own for the first time for ages, which seemed strange but pleasantly relaxing.

Nick came today and we separated some cria from their mum's who were getting a bit thin from feeding them.  We also checked the goat does to see that their milk was drying up after weaning the kids, selected four yearlings to take the Chardstock Street Fayre next week and checked that they remembered how to walk on a halter.  Nick commented on how good our stock looks in comparison to some he saw at a local show last week.  He was also extremely impressed with Dolly's natural herding of the alpacas.  It is not surprising that she has "the eye" as her grandmother is a working collie.    She even turned Bourree when the daunting alpaca tried to break away and turn back - no mean feat for a six month old pup.  She needs something to do whilst she is too young to compete in agility so it looks like working alpacas will be her new hobby.   She will like being able to chase them legitimately.

Luciana who had the face abcess is still giving us cause for concern.    Nick opened it up again today and bathed it with salt water and as she was covered in flies I made up a Citronella spray and we spotted neat citronella essential oil around the abcess site to ward of the flies whilst it dries out.   She will need checking daily for fly strike.   She has now had fourd days of daily antibiotic injections and we are hoping that it will now go away permanently.

Everywhere is looking very tidy since Mike put up the shed in the garden.    All the untidy bits an pieces are either in it or behind it.

Hay is impossible to find at the moment so we are rather worried about the coming winter, but Mike is constantly on the case and we hope to find some soon, although it will probably be very expensive.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Peace reigns and rain rains

As we are going to be away for a few days we thought it would be a good idea to move all the alpacas to the home paddocks and also try and get the herd splits to a minimum.   To this end we decided to almalgamate the males.  We used the old vinegar trick but it seems it does not work in the rain as the Laurel Farm old boys were not very nice at all to their new paddock mates even though they have been relieved of their manhood.  This was very disappointing but yesterday we thought we would try again just in case it was the rain that negated the calming effects of the vinegar.   We gave all the males a good spray and moved them to all into the chicken paddock together and so far, fingers crossed, harmony rules OK.

We have removed the electric fencing which we put up to keep the chickens in as we are so short of grass and it seemed a waste to have hens in long grass and alpacas chewing their paddocks down to moss length.  We are hoping that the hens will have enough sense to stay in the field where they are relatively safe and protected by the presence of the alpacas.

Nick and I had a toe nail cutting session in the barn as it was very wet this morning.   We cut the girls' toe nails a week or so ago so only that the boys to do.    Ben, our older gelding is always a nightmare when he has his pedicure but thanks to Nick's trick of putting a towel over his eyes as a blindfold he was a pussy cat.   This is the second time we have used this method and he seems to relax and put himself in our hands.  

You may remember that Nick had a wisdom tooth damaged when one of the Chardstock 6 reared up and caught him under the chin.  This time we put the feisty one on a halter and tied him up so he could not rear.  We also put a towel over his eyes and he seemed to relax and was much nicer.    They are rather tall alpacas and Nick is rather short, so we do find them a little tricky when husbandry is needed, but we always find a way to get round it even if it does mean a bit of dancing around.

Our new shed/ dog kennel arrived a few days ago and is now sitting proudly in the garden looking more like a summer house than a shed.   We are very pleased with it and are using it as a screen for a storage area for the untidy array of troughs, buckets, bins of string etc: which are important and useful but very untidy.  It also makes the lawn (alright the bit of tufty grass that I mow sometimes) much squarer and more in porportion.  The dogs have been using our new van (Peugot Boxer) as a kennel since we moved the old lorry unit so when we come back from holiday they will move into their new suite.

David and Jane and the children are going to be farm sitting whilst we are away so there will be lots of comings and goings as their friends like to come down for BBQs and parties whilst they are here.

As usual our holiday consists of competing at Dog Agility shows and we are going to the Kennel Club International in the midlands and then on to Dogs In Need which is run in aid of various dog charities.   It will be Romie's first competition at Grade 6 whichshe won into a few weeks ago, so I am really looking forward to it.   Jake is being very good at the moment so Mike has high hope of some clear rounds and even rosettes with him.

We suspect that after a long spell of drought when we have been praying for rain, our prayers will be answered with a very wet holiday!!

Probably won't be updating the blog until we get back as we will be packing the caravan and doing all the last minute jobs tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

No Balls today

Tessa, the vet, came today to blood test our herd of Angora Goats so that we can be accredited free of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE).    Whilst taking the samples she pointed out that they all had lice.   I was mortified and will be straight down to Mole Avon Farm Stores for dectomax and spot on tomorrow to get rid of the horrid little creatures.    We had noticed them before but did not observe them long enough to notice their movement and thought it was debris from the straw!!   Still it is a learning curve and we will be much more aware in future.    We were going to worm them anyway so the dectomax will have dual purpose as it is a wormer as well as helping get rid of the lice.

After one of the new males took a dislike to Colin the Shearer and was really quite agressive we thought it would be a good idea to have him and his friend castrated, so this was included in the visit.   We are a bit worried about the number of flies around but can only be vigilant and use some fly repellant in the hope of preventing fly strike or infection.     She gave them some metacam pain killer and they are already frolicking in the paddock with no signs of being traumatised by their recent surgery.

The important thing during the operation was to ensure that the boys did not lie down so Mike adapted a plank of wood so I could hook it over the bar of a gate to prevent this happening.    Kushing (or lying down) is a default behaviour for alpacas if they are stressed or just don't want to do something.  They use this ploy if they are not in a position to resist in any other way such as running away, kicking or spitting.

We have nearly finished mating for this year with only two left for tomorrow, so hopefully all the girls will hold their pregnancies and produce more lovely cria next year.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Day of Rest

Mike is feeling under the weather and so is taking it easy today.   Having said that we have cleaned out the chicken houses and of course the goats have to be fed and watered twice a day.   They all seem to be in good health at the moment.  We are going to worm them tomorrow or Tuesday just to be on the safe side.   When we come back from holiday the kids will be ready to wean.   I am not looking forward to that as they are noisy enough as it is - they will really have something to bleat about when their Mums are not there to feed them!!

It is very humid but still no sign of the desperately needed rain.   We have moved Chris and Caesar (the newest boys) into the race leading from our garden.   There is plenty of grass there and next to the other males so they get used to being near them.  They look a lot more comfortable since Colin sheared them.

The dogs are much calmer now that Jax (David's dog) has gone home.    She is a lovely dog but I think she caused a bit of excitement and jealousy, especially as I was using her sheepdog skills to move the alpacas.   She is absolutely brilliant at her job although she has not really had any formal training.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Kid OK

Well the kid seems to be OK and running around with her friends and her twin sister.    They are enjoying climbing on the pile of earth dug out from behind the barn.

We are still trying to get all the females pregnant so that we do not have any late births next year.   We did spit offs today and some are giving off mixed signals but most seem to be pregnant.

Desperate for rain.  The grass is really looking sad and not very nourishing for the alpacas.

Hens still not laying many eggs.   The new chicks are growing fast and should be in with the main flock in a week or two.    The dogs are great with them and seem to know by instinct that they must not hurt them.  Millie guards them all the time when she is out and about.   She is always missing but we always know that she is wherever the hen and her three chicks are.

We have bought a big shed which will go into the back garden and double as a garden shed and dog kennel.
This week we have been looking after David's dog, Jax so we have had 8 dogs around the place.  I am taking her home tomorrow as I am going to Salisbury to meet up with my friend Pauline for lunch.   

We have been using Chale as a spit off male today which over excites all the other males as they think he is having all the fun, so we sprayed him with vinegar before returning him to the paddock with the other males and instead of mugging him as they would normally they all just sniffed him and walked away in disgust.  I really must get the courage to try it with Alario and Pedro who absolutely hate each other and would fight to the death I think, given half a chance.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Flies strike kid.

We have been away for the weekend and Nick has been looking after things for us.  On Sunday he noticed that one of the kids was scouring (farming term for diarrhoea) and suspected Coccidiosis  which is caused by a parasite found on the ground and which can be fatal if not treated.   He dosed her with some Vecoxan the recognised cure and by the time we arrived home on Sunday night she appeared to be much better.   We washed her off so that we could tell if she scoured again and we thought we were in the clear, although we decided to dose all the kids as a precaution.  This morning, however, the scouring reappeared so it is possible that it was caused by a worm burden, so the poor little thing had an injection of dectomax wormer.   On his arrival Nick checked her over and found that maggots had assembled around her dirty bum and were about to burrow into her skin (fly strike) was imminent,.   We did not have any specific applications for maggots but found an ageing bottle of spot on which is a cattle parasite killer.   This seemed to do the trick and when we checked her this evening the maggots appeared to have left.   We will need to keep a close eye on her, however, as once the maggots get into the flesh they will devour the animal and kill it within a few hours.

We had planned to trim all the goats around the tail area to prevent contamination and also to trim their hooves, so the first part of the morning was dedicated to goats and kids.

We then trimmed the toe nails of all the female alpacas.   Whilst trimming, which was a bit later than normal, I noticed than some nails had broken off and fitted exactly around the pad, which brought up the question of what happens if we don't trim their nails.   We decided to leave the toe nails of the males, whilst checking them from time to time, to see if the nails actually break off naturally when they get too long.   If this was the case it would make alpaca husbandry practically  nil as worming and vaccinations are infrequent and simple events which are not very labour intensive, unlike toe nail clipping with is quite hard work and can be stressful for the animal if they are feeling temperamental.  Apparently in the sheep world foot trimming is very infrequent and no harm seems to come to them.

We also had to do my least favourite job on the farm which is tagging and chipping the young cria.  We did 5 today.  Unfortunately I was applying some button tags to cria belonging to a customer who has not yet collected her animals and must have misloaded the tagger resulting in a pinched ear and the necessity to cut the tag off and contact the customer to admit my error and get her to re order a tag for her favourite little girl!!  I expect she will be understanding as she is very nice, but I shall be very embarrassed.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Looking Good

Nerissa seems to be fairly lively and normal, although still quite tiny. Fingers crossed she will make steady progress.  Heavy rain is forecast overnight tonight so we have brought Nerissa and her mum into the barn for the night, much to their disgust.

Today we brought the herd up from the bottom paddocks as several were to be mated and at the same time we took the opportunity to catch up with vaccinations, vitamins and worming for the older of this year's cria.   They all seem to be doing well and enjoying life together.

When Nick comes next week we will have a busy day as the whole herd is overdue for toe nail trimming and there are 5 more cria to be tagged and microchipped and given their first vaccinations.

We still have not solved the mystery of the non laying hens and the ones we separated to try and see whether they are laying eggs or not keep escaping back into the main pen.   We have now devised a way to cover the pen completely and will be putting two more candidates in tomorrow.

We have been having a good tidy up and rearrangement in the farm yard so everything looks much better and more welcoming for the summer visitors should they start rushing in when the school hols start - almost immediately.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Worrying Times

Luckily we decided that one of us should stay at home on Saturday.   As Mike is having a problem getting Jake to lie down at the start of his agility, he decided it was better if he stayed at home.  I was not too keen on driving the two hours down to Cornwall on my own, but did not want to miss an agility competition.  I was also aware that I had volunteered to help on a ring, so set out at about 6.30 a.m.   I had a good day and helped on the ring for quite a lot  of the day except when running my dogs, which to be fair took quite a while as they had three classes each.    Both dogs went fairly well, with Millie doing her usual noisy silly things that just stop her getting a clear round.   Romie had a couple of poles down in her first two classes but luckily had a clear round in the final class (Grade 5 Agility) and won it, thus getting us into Grade 6 and equal to the other dogs from the same litter, most of whom won out ages ago.

Mike phoned at about 10.45 to say that Constance, pictured above, had given birth to a female cria who was doing well.   She arrived a couple of weeks earlier than we expected but seemed to be fine.   When I was driving home Mike phoned again wanting to know where the Colostrum was as the cria was very poorly.   He noticed that she was flat out in the paddock and when he went to check she hardly responded at all and was very floppy and basically out of it.    The vet found that although she had seemed to be suckling she had not actually taken any milk as the waxy plugs were still in the Mother's teats, so she had not had her vital first dose of colostrum which helps to give the cria immunity to various bugs which they can pick up from the farm.   She gave her an injection of glucose straight into her stomach.

I was only about fifteen minutes from home so as soon as I got in we tube fed her with powdered colostrum made into a milky solution, which revived her slightly.  We tube fed her several times as she did not have the strength to take her mum's milk and in the morning we milked some of the goats and fed her goat's milk.  I could not get much out of them and we assumed that the kids had already had their morning feed, so we shut the kids out of the goat house for an hour and then milked their mums again.   This caused an awful lot of bleating and running around by the kids who did not want to be parted from the does and certainly did not want to share their milk!!

Later in the day she was still not feeding properly and I was concernerned that Constance might have mastitis as her udder was very hard, so Tessa, the vet, came out again.  She did not think that she had mastitis but that the problem was the cria not suckling.   I milked her as best I could, but as anyone who knows alpacas will tell you, it is very difficult to milk them.    It seemed to relieve the pressure a bit and we continued the tube feeding through Saturday evening and gave her a feed at midnight.   We went back at 3 a.m. to feed her again but were encouraged to find that she was finally up and about and suckled whilst we were there.   We checked again at 6 a.m. and she was even livlier and suckled again, and so we let them both into the paddock with the other mums and to our delight, the cria ran all the way down the paddock and seemed tbe really happy to be out.   We have checked them regularly all day today and have seen her feeding several times and instead of being nearly always floppy and down, she is nearly always standing or sitting up or even running around.

We won't be out of the woods for a week or so, but we are hopeful that she will survive.  In the meantime she and her Mum will be sleeping in the barn at night as we do not want to risk the cria, now called Nerissa, getting too cold or wet.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Decisions Decisions

Still enjoying the intermittant rain but it does mean that we have to dash in and out to get the jobs done without getting soaked.   We are well on the way with this years matings although two black females who have been mated to outside studs have failed to hold.   One was due to give birth in a few weeks time but one was only mated recently so that is understandable.   We share a scanner with a fellow alpaca breeder so I am going to have it and scan the girl who is due soon in the hope that she was sitting when tested by the male in error.  Perhaps she has forgotten she is pregnant.  Some hopes.

Chickens are still a mystery.  Another one died yesterday for no apparent reason.  We isolated two in a separate pen as the start of testing to see which ones are laying eggs and they escaped.   We think one is back in the main pen but one is a pile of feathers in the drive -  Fox is back.

We are trying to decide whether to stop selling for the year now as we are worried that we will not have enough youngsters of our own next year if we keep selling pregnant females.   On the other hand maybe we should keep selling this year in case we do not get any interest next year.  Good dilemma but difficult.

I am off to a dog show in Cornwall tomorrow.  Mike is going to stay behind as we still have two girls about to give birth and one is due any time.   As we have some who did not take last year as well as selling pregnant girls and an aborted cria, we cannot afford to take any chances with these two.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Rain at last

We had a reasonable amount of rain over night and some during the day today (usually when we were furthest away from the house).   Mike has managed to source 1 large bale of hay and is hoping to buy some off field if he can get a big enough trailer to collect it.  It is about half price if you purchase in this way.

This will save us quite a lot of money because we have been giving the goats haylage at £6 per bale whilst we could not find hay.   They loved the fresh sweet smelling hay they had today. 

We continued with our mating programme today.   Pedro and Alario were the lucky boys.  Nearly all the previously mated girls spat off, thus confirming that they at least think they are pregnant.  Jacquenetta, a pretty little black girl who was mated by an outside stud male, sat for Pedro so she is obviously not pregnant and will have to return to be remated.  Very inconvenient and time wasting.

All the digging has been finished and we now have to restore everything to normal - fences to replace, grass to sow, find somewhere for the dogs to sleep.  They are in the new van at the moment as the lorry which we used to use as a kennel has been moved.