Saturday, 29 May 2010

Two Headed Goat - Just kidding!!

Well we now have four girls and one boy.  I thought I would go over to the goathouse and catch the kids frolicking around, but typical kids, they were all fast asleep.   It has turned quite chilly today so we kept the goats in all day as the kids do not have an extra layer of fat like lambs so they are not quite as hardy at this age.   Probably because they originate in Turkey which is a bit hotter than England!!  We  are now crossing our fingers that they will be OK for the next few weeks until their vaccinations are finished.  

Nick came in to help me castrate the second boy but he turned out to be a girl.  I mistook his teats for testicles!!   Shame really because I have got an order for 2 male goats.  Will have to see if I can buy one in!!  I think we will keep the girls for breeding.   The Buck, Drake is a prize winning animal and his kids are looking lovely at the moment, so fingers crossed we have the start of a good herd.  We should do well if all the boys turn into girls!!  He did not have a wasted journey as he was also collecting some hurdles we got for him.

I am really loving having the goats.  They are so easy to keep and they all have their babies at the same time so you are not tied so much as with alpacas.   We are working towards getting the alpacas births closer together but we cannot afford to miss a year's matings to achieve it, or the herd will be too small to allow any sales.

Some lovely rain at the moment. Mike is really enjoying it as he is competing with Jake at an agility show.

I am scriming at the same agility show tomorrow so I am hoping that Mike has all the rain and leaves me a nice sunny day.  In the good old days in agility there was a timer who used a hand stop watch to time the dogs' runs and a scribe whose job it was to write down the faults given by the judge and then the time from the timer.   The advent of electronic timing meant that the scribe effectively does both jobs - hence the title "Scrimer".

Monday, 24 May 2010

We Are Kidding

We went to dinner with some friends who live in Broom Lane, just round the corner from us, on Saturday night and had a lovely relaxing time.   Walking home we decided that we would not open the farm gates on Sunday and would just do the minimum to keep things going.  We had a full English breakfast and made a casual start.  Mike sauntered over to the goathouse at about 9.30 a.m. and found that our first kid had arrived. 

He was tiny and, of course, very wobbly.   I joined Mike and he held the doe whilst I quickly checked the kid over and sprayed his belly with anti bacterial spray to preven infection.   We then checked them every half hour and became concerned that we had not seen the kid suckle.    It was possible that he had suckled without us seeing him but he seemed a bit lack lustre, so I gave him a shot of high energy colostrum paste to boost his energy levels.    We then caught the doe and I guided the kid to her teats, having checked that she had milk.   Eventually he got the idea and had a reasonable feed.

Every time I checked on them he went to suckle, which is normal when a mum and baby are disturbed, but he did not seem to be going to the right place and spent most of his time nudging her front end or falling over.
His tummy did not feel full and we were worried about leaving him over night so we made the decision to milk his mum and either bottle or tube it into him.  We are always reluctant to intervene unless really necessary so it was a great relief when we went over to carry out our plan to find the little monkey suckling for England.  I felt his tummy and he felt like a lovely warm puppy with a little round tummy.  No worries in the end.

When I checked on him this morning he seemed bright as a button.

Bono is looking quite good this morning.   Looks like it was the right decision to take him off grass for a while.   We will now gradually reintroduce him to it until he is well enough to go back into the boys' paddock and eat normally.

The weanling with the abcess is definitely getting better but we have called the vet out to have another look at her as we think it might need lancing again.

Romie seems to be recovering very well from her operation and Dolly is starting to look a little less puppy like and more like a miniture dog.   She still acts like a puppy, though, and has taken a great liking to running off with anything that belongs to me.   Usually it is shoes but yesterday I found my shirt was missing from the back of the chair where I had left it.  It turned up in the garden.

Friday, 21 May 2010

New Life on the Farm

We now have 4 new babies 2 girls and 2 boys.  Bad timing - we had sold two of the Mums just prior to the births so the cria go free!!  Still they are going to a good home with a lovely lady.

Romie has made a rapid recovery from her operation and apart from a big shaven patch on her neck where they repaired a wound probably from her rummaging in the hedges, she looks almost back to normal.  She is looking a bit thin but I think that is mostly because she has lost some of her coat.

Bono had yet another visit from another vet and we have now decided that the "bloat" might be helped if he is given just hay and taken off the richer grass, so we have confined him to a patch of poor grass, mainly bare earth, and given him just a hay net and some water in the hope that the restricted diet will get his gut working properly.  Jenny, the vet, said that his gut is working too fast.  You could actually see waves of movement on the outside and she listened with her stethascope and timed the turnover.   She is hoping that a simple poor
diet for a while might settle him down.  We have made a pen near his friends so he does not get stressed by being alone.  We don't want to bring back his original condition.

It has been really hot here today.   Lots of alpacas have spent the day sunbathing on their sides and when Calpurnia gave birth this morning she just did it where she was lying.   She is always a lazy birther but she has now got it down to a fine art.

Mike cleared the barn out once again on the assumption that the weather will be good enough from now on for newborns to stay in the paddocks.   If, heaven forbid, we have any sicklies, we can quickly move out the vehicles and put some more straw down.

Mike has finished sorting the goat pen out ready for kidding.   Drake, the buck, now has his own quarters in a converted pig arc with a small paddock.   This is to stop him harming newborn kids and from now on he will probably have to live either on his own or with other males because apparently the female goats reach sexual maturity quite early and we do not want him to comit incest with his own daughters.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Green Green Grass of Home

Where is it?   Usually at this time of year we are struggling to keep the paddocks grazed and even start topping the grass but because of the lack of rain the grass is looking greener and, therefore, more nourishing, but it is not growing as much as we would like and some of the paddocks have more nettles than grass. 

After shearing we kept the main herd in the barn over night for a few days as it was so cold and the wind was bitter.   They soon got used to not having their big woolly coat and the fleece has started to grow back.  Because of the lack of grass in the home paddocks the main herd has gone back down to the winter paddocks where the grass is better and more plentiful.  The Chardstock 6 - the alpacas from the village who have over wintered with us - have been booked in for a further six months whilst their owners re-seed and drain their own paddock.  Today we set up a make shift catch pen around the shelter in their field because we have to drive the girls from the bottom paddock through theirs when we need to bring them in for husbandry.   We have been shifting them to a paddock, moving the girls and then swapping them all round again when the girls return.  The new pen will mean than we can just pop them in it for a short while whilst we move the others.   This will save us a lot of time and walking.

We bought a young intact male with stud potential,.   Dreamfield Kilawasi Spirit, and he was delivered on Sunday.   We normally quarantine incoming animals but we did not want to stress him by putting him in a paddock on his own and we felt that Ben, our old wether, would be upset if moved from his present companions and would probably cause more stress rather help alleviate it.  In the end we decided to put him with Javier, the young male we are running on in the hope he will be another herd shire when he is older.  In effect they will both be in quarantine but luckily they seem to love each other and move around grazing together and lie down together.  There is no shelter in their paddock but we have opened up the horse box we use for transporting alpacas so that they can use that.   So far they have not done so, but Javier is quite a softy so I am sure he will make use of it if we get any wet and windy weather.

Sadly when we had the girls in for a routine check, we noticed that one of last year's weanlings had a huge swelling on her lower jaw.   She had an abcess which we emptied and a huge amount of puss came out.  I gave her an injection of long acting anti-biotic but having looked up the condition in my alpaca book, I am going to call the vet in to advise.  These things can be quite serious.

Having had a long run of not needing the vet we seem to be due for  a bad run.   Bono is still very thin even though he is eating well and is behaving quite normally.  J J (vet) came out to see him last week because we were concerned that his stomach was bloated.   Bloat  is unheard of in alpacas but this is what it appears to be.  As you know we have been battling his weight loss for some months now.    On the vet's advice we treated him for ulcers with antepsin which is basically a coating for the stomach lining  to decrease the acid.   This certainly worked to a certain degree because he no longer acts like a sick animal but he is not a pretty sight.  He was sheared on the 10th May and did not appear to have a swollen stomach then.

JJ was at a bit of a loss given his history but after a bit of brain storming he came up with suggestion that we give him pro rumen for a few days.   This is a medication that should get his digestion working properly again.
JJ has some with him and I already had some in stock so when I phoned to report that there was only a very slight improvement we decided to continue for a few more days.  It is possible that the Antepsin, whilst reducing acidity which helps the ulcer problem, may have upset the balance of gut flora.  You cannot win, can you?

Apart from the above, we are very pleased with the condition of all the alpacas.  Although we do hands on condition checking on a regular basis throughout the winter you cannot beat seeing a naked alpaca for identifying any problems which may have been hidden by the fleece.

Ginger gave birth to a stunning male cria on Sunday and Moonstone also gave birth to a male on Tuesday just as we were showing a potential customer round.  He is very big compared to Ginger's boy.  That is 1 female and 2 males so far.   We have been very lucky in the past with more girls than boys but it looks as though our luck might have changed this year, although to be fair, Ginger has never had a female cria.  That seems quite strange given that it is said that the male has most influence on the sex of the progeny.  I will be doing the rounds with the camera shortly.

When I took Dolly (the pup) for her second vaccination I discussed Romie's future with Tessa, (the vet) and we decided that we would inject her to prevent her coming into season during the agility competition season and this would give me time to decide whether or not to have her spayed.   Since I don't intend to breed from her again, however, I have decided to go ahead with the operation now.   She is going in tomorrow and I am really worried.  It is classed as "routine" surgery but that does not make me feel any better.  Probably a better option than her eloping and coming home pregnant.

Most of the does are looking very pregnant indeed.   We have not experienced kidding before so we are hoping that there will be no complications this year.  If not we might have to call in the trusty Nick.  He did not come in for his day's work last week because he had 'flu and this week he couldn't come because he had a bad back.  There is lots of work for him so we are hoping he will be fit by next Tuesday when he is due again.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The plan seems to be working

Monday was shearing day and Colin arrived soon after 9 a.m.   He was supposed to start at 8.30 but the ongoing roadworks between here and Axminster delayed him.   My job is to collect the fleece as it is shorn and I sort it into Grade 1 Grade 2 and other and also by colour.   Colin shears continuously and the only break is when he lets one alpaca go and another one is laid out on the shearing mat.   After 48 alpacas I was really tired when Colin left at about 6 p.m. and was still going on to shear some pet sheep in a nearby village.

Mike helped bring alpacas in from various paddocks, tied up the sacks of fleece that I had sorted, and kept us supplied with tea and made us all a lovely lunch with warm bread rolls, pizza, cheeses and tomatoes.   We stopped for about half an hour before returning to the grind stone.

I was really pleased with the results.   There were no second cuts (that is when the shearer does not get it right first time and has to go over the same area twice. which can mean that the staple length of the fleece is then compromised and is too short to spin and for people that show their fleeces the fleece is ruined).  I was also pleased that our breeding programme seems to be working.   There were very few fleeces that I was not proud of and which did not show improvement on the previous generation.

We have moved on quite a few of our older girls this year and so next year's cria should show even more improvement in quality.

Because of the unseasonable cold weather we have made sure that all the shorn animals have shelter and the main herd are being brought into the barn at night until it either gets much warmer or their fleece grows back a bit.

I went to a Tunbridge Wells dog show at the weekend and only managed one clear round with Romie but she got a fourth place in her grade and was less than a second behind the winning time despite having two very wide time wasting turns in the course.   I think there is little doubt that she is very capable of winning if we both get it right on the same day!!

Charlie is a new dog since I have been giving him extra training and since he has been neutered.  He is much more focused and looks like he will make a good agility dog after all.  At one time I thought he would never concentrate enough to get the hang of it all.   He is much more responsive in all areas and the issues he and Jake had seem to be pretty much sorted.  Seems like we made the right decision and pack harmony is restored.

Dolly is still adorable and has yet to  blot her copy book!!   She is very brave and even Sandy (the grumpy terrier) does not phase her.  She loves to play with me although food is a stronger reward than play at the moment.   Just like her Mum there!!

I never thought I would say this but we really need some rain.   The grass is getting greener but it is not nearly as good or as plentiful this year as it normally is.  Rain at night and sunshine during the day would be good.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Day Off

We went to a farm sale yesterday lunchtime as it was only a few miles away in Kilmington and Mike saw that there was a trailer for sale.  We were also hoping that there might be a few miscellaneous items for us.   It was right out in the sticks but was very well attended.  To me it looked like a load of rusty tractors and strange machinery.  In fact there was a pile of scrap which sold for £400.

The trailer was very clean and tidy and Mike thought it would be ideal for what he wanted.   Most of the other equipment was either for cattle which made it far too big for alpacas, or was for arable use.   We did come across three hay racks which I thought would be useful in the winter if we have the animals in the barn.  At the moment we use horses hay nets which are quite small and need filling frequently.

After a traditional auction bacon and egg bap and cuppa tea we followed the auctioneer round the piles of mysterious objects.   To start with the acutioneer was a woman suitably dressed in farmer type tweeds and boots.   She was very fast and seemed to be very efficient so when we got to the hay racks we walked ahead to make sure we were near the front.  We agreed that they were only worth about £18 each to us but, you guessed it, after losing out on the first two we bought one for £22 plus VAT!!  In the meantime Mike decided that the trailer was maybe a bit smaller than ideal so we agreed that it was better to wait for the right one to come along or even look at new.

He went and paid for the rack and we drove over as he was confident that it would fit in the van if we moved Dolly out of her cage into the big boys cages.   It was six inches too big.   The moral of this story is measure before you bid!!  He has just gone off to try and find the farm again and collect it!!   Still they are over £100 new so it will be worth it, even if it is a bit more trouble than we expected.

Whilst we were out we left the boys (alpacas) grazing along the drive and behind the barn.   I was worried about a big hole which Mike dug a few weeks (or is it months now) ago but he thought it would be OK.  I need not have worried about the hole but we had forgotten the remains of a bonfire of hedge trimmings and of course they had all rolled in it.   My lovely white males are now a mucky shade of grey.   They are being shorn next week so I hope they will have cleaned up by then.  Not sure if rain is a good thing or a bad thing!!

To top off the day we had left the van sliding door open in the morning and we caught Romie with her head in a new bag of Vitalin which is a muesli type of dry dog food.   She is really greedy and we have no idea how much she had eaten.   When we got home after the auction we noticed that she was drinking a lot.   I did a bit of agility training with her in the early evening and she was even more out of breath than me.   I felt her tummy and it was a bit tight and I was concerned that she might have a problem so I took her to the vet.    He gave her a a check over but did not think there was a problem so that was a relief.  She was not allowed any dinner last night or breakfast this morning and there are signs on the lawn that she has rid herself of most of the food with no ill effects I hope.

When I got back from the Vet's Mike told me that Romie had obviously rolled in something as she stank.  I do not have a sense of smell so it was rather embarrassing to think that I had sat in the Vet surgery and also subjected the poor young vet to her aroma.

To pay for her sins she had a bath today and whilst I was about it I bathed all seven dogs including the puppy.   We now have a very sweet smelling pack I hope.  I am sure one of them will quickly change that.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Bank Holiday Weekend

Mike is still suffering with his bad leg and the antibiotics don't seem to be helping so he was not up to competing with Jake at the weekend.   I took 4 dogs (Millie, Romie, Charlie and Dolly) to Dordale Show held near Bromsgrove in the Midlands.   The puppy was really good despite having to spend much of the day in the van with just quick walks to stretch her legs.

Unfortunately we were not very successful but both Romie and  Millie performed very well with only minor glitches.  On Bank Holiday Monday we went to the North Somerset Show and Millie got 3rd in Grade 5 Agility.  Romie could easily have won her class if I had not lost the plot half way through.   The good news is that she did not knock a jump down all day.  Again, Mike was not up to competing so stayed at home.

I visited the alpaca show which was being held and chatted with fellow alpaca breeders and even bought a young male from Lynsey Skinner.   We are trying to sell Alario at the moment as he has so many daughters on the farm now that we really need to move him on and get some new blood in the herd.

In the meantime back at  the ranch Mike mowed the lawn, planted all our strawberry plants and partially made a set of new agility jumps.  So much for taking it easy.

On the way home from the show I stopped at Sedgemoor services and when I got back into the van it would not start.  Apparently the battery was flat although it had started easily when I left Wraxall.   The nice RAC man came in much less that the original three hours, and amended hour I was told to expect.   He found that the alternator belt had been thrown and was able to fit a temporary one to get me home.   It made it a very long day but apart from the breakdown it was all very enjoyable.

This morning Mike and Nick dragged out an old pig ark which was left on the farm by a previous owner.   They sawed it in half and renovated some of the rotten wood to make a second shelter for the goats.   The buck needs to have separate quarters whilst the females are kidding to avoid the mums or kids being injured (accidentally I presume).   He will also have a part of the paddock sectioned off.   I expect he will have his nose put out of joint as he is used to living with his harem.

When I fed them this morning the puppy thought she would have a go at chasing them.  Nick says she is a natural herder but I felt she was a bit small for the job and threw a bucket to distract her.    It worked  and she stopped luckily.
We had noticed that he was walking awkwardly and I thought he probably needed his toe nails trimming so I got Nick to have a look.  I caught him by his big horns and he was really good whilst Nick cut his nails and looked much more comfortable afterwards.

Bono is looking sorry for himself again and still has not put on any weight.   I got the vet to give me some more Antepsin which lines the stomach and helps prevent/cure ulcers.  He is going to have 4 doses a day.
I feel that when the grass grows really well (it has improved but is still well behind normal spring growth) he might fatten up a bit.  He seems to be eating all the time but at the moment it is not having the desired results.

Nick and I dosed him up this afternoon and gave him some Total Solutions tonic.   We also gave some TS to the other boys and checked them to make sure they are in good condition.

Tomorrow we are going to a farm sale so apart from a few basic jobs we will have an easy day.