Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Bits and pieces

We have six new visitors on the farm.   A lovely lady in the village "rescued" them from a farmer who wanted to get rid of them.  Unfortunately their grazing ran out  at home and because of the unusually bad weather the entrance and feeding area of the field they were borrowing also became mud bound so  we are looking after them here indefinitely at the moment.

On Friday they asked Tessa, the vet, to visit their field and assure them that the alpacas were in good health, and on the same afternoon we took our horsebox along to collect them.   Tessa   confirmed my assessment that they were all fine and being well cared for and the main problems were cosmetic, in that the paddock looked very sad and muddy.  She was a good sport and stayed on to help us load them.

It was quite a comedy with the entrance to the field being mud bound.  I lost a welly at one point and then nearly fell backwards into the mud whilst trying to balance.  Mike managed to get a bloody ear from a branch but although it bled a bit it was a very minor injury. The alpacas were reluctant to leave and we could hardly stand up whilst we were loading them.   The main problem was that we had to concentrate more on keeping upright than moving the alpacas.  Eventually with 4 of us herding them and Nicki (their owner) in the trailer with food, we managed to get one of them in and the rest followed like lambs. 

We have been trying to find a stock trailer which is in good condition to replace our horsebox.   When we are at home it is fine because we can just back into a catch pen to load, but at shows or as in the above situation a stock box would be a lot better as they have side rails on the loading ramp and the interior can usually be divided to allow animals to be loaded in installments and contained whilst the next batch is loaded.
I think in the end we might have to buy a new one as second hand ones are in short supply.

Shortly after we had settled the Chardstock 6, as we call them, we had a visitor to the farm shop.   She lives in Ilminster and whilst chatting mentioned that there was a farm there which had some alpacas.  From her description I realised that they were the very same boys that we had just collected.

The next day we had a visit from a couple who had acquired two alpacas and were having some handling problems with them.    They sound like a couple of rather large wethers (geldings).   We introduced them to our stud males and hopefully gave them a few helpful tips.  During our conversation they mentioned the herd name and they turn out to be from the same  breeder as the Chardstock 6.   Another co-incidence.

On Sunday we went to Bath to visit some clients who had some alpacas from us back in October.  The three boys they bought from us needed their vaccinations and they wanted us to reassure them that they were in good condition. They have a really lovely cottage with beautiful views and the boys are doing very well.  On the way home we stopped for Sunday lunch at a pub, so no cooking for me!!

The lone cockrell is getting a hard time with the hens.   I think he might be pestering them and they are telling him to go away, but not politely.  Two of them are looking really awful.   They are in full moult and it is not a pretty sight.   Mike is hoping to collect the new chicken shed tomorrow and then we can get on and order some more chickens for the spring.

Romie now weighs 17.5kg - she is usually about 16kg - and is looking quite plump.   She also looks a bit uncomfortable at times and stands looking at me with a forlorn, puzzled expression.   I have ordered a whelping box online as well as a puppy feeding bowl so that the pups can feed without too much competition.  I was going to use an old drawer, but in the end could not resist the posh option. I am, as I do, starting to feel quite anxious that everything will be OK for my little Yummy Mummy and that all the puppies will find lovely homes.

Charlie is still a little angel, and has started to do a bit of agility.  I think he is one of those dogs that likes to get thing right and so takes a while to be confident in what he is asked to do.  He certainly enjoys his life on the farm, though.

The cat rules OK but has decided that jumping on the cupboard in the bathroom to play with my feathery plant is her latest game so if she is in the house we have to dash into the bathroom and shut the door quickly before she notices.  She also tries to eat it, which is probably not a good thing.

Goats are doing well and we are going to arrange for them to be sheared.  It seems harsh to take their nice warm fleece off at this time of year but I suppose as they should be done twice a year there is no option.

The main herd is now back down in the winter paddocks and we have just kept a few in the barn for various remedial reasons. 

Bono is still very thin but seems to be behaving quite normally otherwise.  We are going to separate him out from the other boys every day to give hime some extra feed.   We cannot feed him in with the others as they are all very well covered. We don't think he is being bullied off his food because we when we take their hay or haylage into the shelter we usually stay around for a while to clean the shelter and he seems to hold his own quite well against the others. Fingers crossed he will be fully fit by the spring.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Reorganisation of Alpacas

Nick came today and we started off by trimming the goats' nails.   They were really easy to handle (once someone took hold of the horns) although being much lower than an alpaca was a bit of a strain on the back!! 

We then condition checked the alpaca herd as we have two females going to a new home in a week or two and we felt that one of them could do with being a little fatter.   We selected half a dozen or so females including two who were still feeding cria and are going to keep them in the barn for a while.

Tanya and Pamela have stayed with their Mums for a bit longer than planned because of the bad weather.   We felt it would be too stressful to part them when the weather was so cold and snowy, but having had some days of normal weather we felt their time had come as they were "milking off the Mothers' backs"  and compromising their condition.

Having weeded out the ones who were to stay in the barn we sent the rest of the herd down to the winter paddocks and Mike took down straw and hay.   There is a big shelter down there which can be used in the event of more bad weather.  It is not big enough for the whole herd so splitting them makes it easy to accommodate them all, although it makes more work in that one of us (usually Mike) has to take the feed down which is not quite as convenient as just delivering it to the top paddocks and the barn.

We brought the weanlings up to the top catch pen and put halters on them, picking up where we left off weeks ago.   They were all very good and we left the halters on for about an hour whilst they went back to grazing.   We'll be taking every opportunity now to get them used to walking on a halter to live up to our intentions that all alpacas bred on the farm are halter trained before leaving.

At the same time we separated Tanya and Pamela from their dams and they went in with the  weanlings.   They showed very little sign of stress although I noticed this evening that they were looking over the fence -  probably missing their evening session at the milk bar.  They are both very fit so hopefully they will cope well.

Charlie, the latest dog, had his first agility lesson today.   He did very well and seemed to understand the concept of jumping away from me almost straight away.  I will have do some work on his starts so that he realises that sit means stay until told to go, instead of his present rather loose interpretation.   This can quickly escalate into a problem so he will not be doing any more agility until I have fully explained the importance of obeying the sit command against all temptations to the contrary.

As Romie is pregnant I have decided to remind the other dogs how to behave and they are all, with the exception of Maddy and Sandy who never pull anyway, walking on a lead daily.   They are also being reminded about leaving and entering the house quietly and if I can get any volunteers they will be behaving much better when visitors arrive.    This is so that the new puppies will only observe well behaved dogs and be imprinted with this behaviour rather than the tendency to hooliganism which has been allowed to appear since we have lived on the farm.  Well that's the theory anyway!!

The hens are looking awful.   They are all moulting and the hen house is constantly full of feathers.  Worse still none of them are laying any eggs. 

I think we are looking well and definitely not moulting at the moment. Mike and Nick are still busy tidying up the hedges and cutting down some trees along the front of the farm.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Away from Alpacas

My son, David, came to visit us today.  We went out to lunch at the Masons Arms which is a lovely pub in Branscombe (where the ship went down a couple of years ago).  It is very popular and was nearly full even on a Friday in mid January.

Afterwards David suggested that we took his dog Jax for a walk along the beach.  Mike stayed in the car as he has hurt his hip.

It was a very pleasant half mile country walk to the beach and of course the beach was nearly empty apart from two hardy walking couples we passed.    The sea was dramatic and I was pleasantly surprised at how much flat sand there was when the tide was out.  I had always thought it was only shingle.

We had a bracing walk and a good catch up chat before Mike drove us home and back to the reality of feeding the goats and getting all the animals in for the night.  It was a really nice change and we have vowed that we must get out more and enjoy the local amenities and not just take the easy option to walk across the road to the pub or nip into Axminster or Chard to the shops.

There is definitely still a world out there. 

Having said that I am off to Salisbury tomorrow to look after the grandchildren whilst David and Jane have a night away to celebrate Jane's birthday.   I am meeting up with my friend, Pauline, for lunch  on the way.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Alpacas See grass

For the first time for a couple of weeks we can see some grass albeit dotted with puddles of melted snow (water that is!).  The paddocks are looking populated right up until the end of the day instead of alpacas disappearing into their shelters to stock up on hay or haylage.

We managed to get out to clean the paddocks this morning for the first time in 11 days.   Our good neighbour, Pam, came to help as usual.  She, like us, was starting to get fed up with the restrictions of the wintery weather.  Although it has been foggy and damp, at least we can stand up and vehicles can drive up and down the track again.

Nick did not come this week as he had a fall in the snow and hurt his back.   We are hoping he will be able to make it next Tuesday as the goats need their nails trimmed, the alpacas are due for vaccination and Mike and Nick have an ongoing job clearing and laying the last of the hedges at the top of the farm.   They are also going to remove quite a few trees which are taking up valuable grazing space and also seem to be getting dangerously big. 

I have been making marmalade this afternoon and catching up on a few office jobs whilst the pot is boiling.   Unfortunately because I only do it once a year it does not come  naturally and I managed to miscalculate the amount of water so most of the time was  taken boiling off the excess.   It looks OK and Mike says it smells good, so let's hope it tastes alright despite my new cooking tecnique.

I am waiting for our website lady to get home from holiday so that our new online shop can go live.   At the moment I cannot load up the photos.   We will be selling from the Alpaca site instead of from our separate Alpacastuff site which I took over from my daughter-in-law, Jane.  Although the hand knits etc: will still be sold under the AlpacaStuff name, we will not be  keeping the separate domain name on the internet.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Alpaca Train

We are reminded daily that alpacas are camelids.   They just have that lollopy walk and when moving up towards the barn as it is getting late or sometimes if the weather turns sour, they form a line just like a camel train.

Charlie, our new dog, has just been to the vet for his first vaccination.  We are not sure if he has had one before so are treating him like a puppy.  He will have to have his second one in 3 - 4 weeks and then he will just have annual vaccinations like the other dogs.

Exciting news!! Romie also went to the vet and it is official, she is pregnant.   4/5 puppies at least.   We have never bred puppies before so I will have to get some books and google for information.  Tessa, the vet, says we should start to feed her a bit more and a lot when she is lactating.    That will not be hard as Romie's main fixation in life (apart from Agility) is food.  She eats for England and is often to be seen inside an empty feed bag finishing off alpaca, goat or chicken feed that might have been left behind.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Alpaca Madness

I see that someone has just paid  Mathew Lloyd of E P Cambridge $150000 Australian for an alpaca.   According to my converter that's about £96000!!   How big can the bubble get?

Flaming Dog!!   I have a Halogen heater under the desk in my office.   As it is upstairs in the barn we have not put in a proper heating system.   The dogs often accompany me when I have to spend some time at the desk.   Many years ago I lost my sense of smell and much of my taste (some say) as the result of quite a serious riding accident.

Our little old sixteen year old terrier feels the cold these day and crept under the desk without my noticing her.  Luckily Mike came up to speak to me and alerted me to the smell of burning and we rescued Sandy  just in time with only a burned/semi melted coat.   See picture.   She also singed her fur but luckily did not actually go up in flames.

The cat keeps pinching the dogs' beds and Mike's arm chair so we splashed out and bought her a really cosy bed.   She still prefers the dogs' beds but at least now we have somewhere definite to locate her.

The alpacas seem to be coping very well with the snow and ice.   Although they originate from South America and live on the Altiplano where it gets extremely cold, they do not usually experience so much dampness.   We no longer have to go and round the girls up.   We let them out in the mornings and they wander down to the winter paddocks where we have a couple of hay racks.   They seem to browse round the edges and devour any greenery that dares to stick its head above the snow and at about 3.20 p.m. the "camel train" sets off and they all drift into the barn and start some serious eating.  When twilight comes we shut them in, try and persuade the chickens to go to bed, shut the goats in  and then batton down the hatches for the night.,

Monday, 4 January 2010

Happy New Year

Well the weather is freezing but a great improvement on all the rain we had earlier in the winter.

The girls still come into the barn every night and look forward to tucking into their hay, haylage and alf alfa.

The website has been revamped and I am trying in between other jobs to update all the information. The product page is all that is left to do and I hope to get that done on Wednesday when Mike is at the garage for the day.

We managed to clear the paddocks today despite the frost. In fact in the paddocks which had been recently used it was easier than usual. We had to give up on one paddock which had not been used for a few days and everything was set in ice.

I am hoping the Romie is pregnant although she does not seem to be putting on any weight yet. I want one of her puppies to compete in agility but even if she is successfully mated this time it will be about 2 years before the puppy will be ready , so I was thinking of getting another young dog to fill the gap. Millie my older dog, although very puppyish, is actually 10 years old.

After four false starts in finding a dog - two where the present owners decided to keep their dogs - one where I was pipped to the post by another buyer - and another who came to stay briefly but was an alpaca chaser and too risky to keep - my friend, Elaine, brought a really lovely dog to stay. His owner, Elaine's foster daughter, could no longer keep him.

We have had him since last Tuesday and he is perfect. He has tried to chase the cat and the alpacas but has quickly learned that is it not acceptable and we feel confident that he will soon be quite reliable in these areas. See today's photo.

Goats, hens, cockrell, alpacas, dogs and cat all doing well.