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.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Parasite Fight

We seem to be doing nothing but fighting mites, flies and worms at the moment.

We have three alpacas who have suffered from mites every summer for years and occasionally others show the early symptoms  which we nip in the bud more or less successfully when we see the first signs.  We are currently treating the three with weekly spray of Frontline, pour on of Ivomectic Classic and covering bald areas on the ears and legs with Iodised udder salve to keep the skin soft and make it a poor breeding ground for parasites.  They are definitely not getting worse, but not sure if they are getting better.    This seems to happen every year and despite trying lots of remedies none seem to be the complete answer.

The hot weather has brought with it a huge amount of flies which are particularly worrying when they hang around the crias heads and eyes.

Some of the first cria had their second vaccinations today together with vitamin paste and a shot of wormer.   This is always a good landmark because (although it is not all over til the fat lady sings) it means that they have crossed one hurdle in life.

Some of the hens have mite s o we are going to clean out their houses tomorrow, spray the perches with paraffin and put vaseline on the hens feet in an effort to get rid of them and hopefully improve the egg laying situation.

Isobella (who lost her cria) seems to be doing well.  She is on a course of antibiotics and has to be injected every day for six days.

Three of the dogs were vaccinated today and Jake was much admired in the Vet's surgery and amazingly behaved superbly.   When two other collies growled at him, he merely snuggled up to me as much as to say "I don't do things like that, do I?".    He was his usual over friendly self but in a fairly controlled way.

Another one of the kids is limping.  Will get Nick to look at it tomorrow.

Getting a bit bit behind with spit offs and matings but hope to catch up later in the week.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Good news and very bad news

Good News - website seems to be funtioning normally again.

I went to a Grandparents afternoon at Tara's school yesterday and stayed overnight to look after the children so David and Jane could go out for the evening.  Had a lovely time and left for home at about 9.30 a.m.

In the meantime Mike went to a dog show as arranged and when I got home at about 11 a.m. I fed the goats, chickens and chicks, collected the eggs and took the dogs round the farm for a walk, checking the drinking troughs as we went round as the water goes down quickly in this hot weather.  In the lower winter paddock where the main herd are grazing at the moment I spotted a wet looking dark brown cria which was a surprise as none were due from the girls down there.   As I got closer it became apparent that it was with Sunstone and older female who we have been treating for mites for ages with no success.  

I thought we had decided not to mate her last year to try and give her body more fight against the parasites whilst we continued various treatment.    My computer software for herd records allows me to "close" a mating which, unfortunately makes all records of the mating disappear.  I must have done this mistakenly in Sunstone's case so I am not even sure of the sire, but think it most likely to be Pedro.

Both she and the cria were soaking wet so I think they either both went in the water hole created by our spring or maybe Sunstone had a soak and the cria fell in.   Anyway both seem to be doing well.

I decided I would have to take the dogs back to the house and collect the umbilical spray to treat and  check the cria.  On my return I noticed that Isobella, one of my favourites, a very pretty maiden, was walking around with some afterbirth hanging out.  She is not due to give birth until mid August and would have been brought up to the top paddock this week.  I could find no trace of a foetus or the rest of the afterbirth so I moved the whole herd up to the catch pens, haltered Iso and gave her an internal examination which revealed that there was no cria or it was extremely small, so presume she must have aborted for some reason.  I gave her an injection of oxytocin to bring down the afterbirth and as a precaution called the vet.  JJ came out and agreed with my diagnosis.  He washed her out with some antibiotic and gave her an antibiotic injection which I will have to repeat every day for six days.     

So all my plans for the afternoon have been knocked for six, once again.    There is always something!!

It is my turn to go to the dog show tomorrow, so Mike has probably gone on the right day for him.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Alario Triumphs again

Cordelia, pictured above, gave birth to a beautiful female cria this afternoon.   She was quite tired after entering the world so this picture of her asleep is all I could get without disturbing her.   Cordelia was sold a couple of years ago but returned as probably infertile as she failed to become pregnant despite several attempts by her new owners.  We swapped her for another alpaca and Alario impregnated her at first attempt.  He is a very good stud male and I doubt if we will every get another one so reliable and who throws so many female cria.  Unfortunately he is now related to most of the girls on the farm, and so we are trying to sell him in order to introduce a different bloodline  from another male.

Nick and I carried out my least favourite farm task this morning - tagging and microchipping the new cria.  usually I duck out of this job if I possibly can, but I thought I really should bite the bullet this time and do them all myself.  Actually although I did not enjoy it I felt reasonably competent when I had done a few.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Vinegar boys, kids' mountain, new cria

Apparently there was a problem with our website before the weekend.   David googled to see our standing in the search engine and his firewall went into panic mode as it detected a lot of viruses.

 I contacted  Red Dragon IT who host both our domain names and they promised to look into it. Our website managers also looked into it but could find nothing at their end.  It seems it was something to do with Google and stolen identity.   Anyway, it seems to be OK now.  I really cannot understand why anyone would want to sabotage a small business - must be just some wierd form of fun because there cannot be any money in it.  

We have a book called 1001 uses for Vinegar.  We have just found the 1002nd.   Nick told us that when introducing a new animal to a herd it helps to spray them with vinegar as the other animals do not like it and by the time the smell wears off they have got used to the newcomers.   Yeh Yeh, I thought, another old Farmer's tale.   Well you may remember that we purchased a young in tact male recently and we were concerned that when he came out of quarantine we would have a problem integrating him and his companion (our lovely little Don Javier) into the bachelor herd of stud males. 

We were right.  We moved the two youngsters and the four working males into a new and fairly large paddock together and the stud males attacked the youngsters - or rather tried to dominate/mate them and chase them around in a very aggressive manner.  Pedro is a VERY strong character with other alpacas, although he is a Teddy Bear with humans.  Things were definitely getting very out of hand (3 in a bed comes to mind, although it was a paddock).

We separated them and rescued the littlies and sent the big boys packing.   I remembered Nick's strange advice and decanted some malt vinegar into an empty spray bottle and we sprayed the young boys and put them back in the paddock with the bullies.  Pedro came bounding over like a bull in a china shop skidded to a cartoon halt, took a step back and completely relaxed and sauntered off as if  Javier and Spirit were the least interesting thing on the planet.   The other males took a similar approach apart from Bono who seemed to  fall in love with them, but he is quite a gentleman and caused no trouble at all.

Nina gave birth to a pretty male cria this morning.   The head came out and a long time passed without any sign of movement so we broke the membrane and the cria began to breath, although somewhat messily, and eventually his feet came out and he took the regulation nose dive in to life on earth.  Unusually, however, a large part of the afterbirth came out too and there was more blood than we are used to seeing so as a precaution we called the vet in case there might be a problem.  Jonathan, luckily was at the Ferne Animal Sanctuary, which is only about 5 minutes away.  I got the cria breathing better by holding him upside down and then putting my finger in his mouth until he started sucking which made him choke up the fluid and he stop struggling for breath.  I continued to tap his chest for a time to keep things moving, but he was fine.

Jonathan pulled the remaining afterbirth out and gave Nina an injection of Oxytocin which is used to bring down the milk if a female is not producing any or enough but also causes uterine contractions and can help if cleansing (getting rid of the afterbirth) seems to be slow .  Jonathan said that she was still dilated and so it was a good thing to have the oxytocin to prevent prolapse.

Mike has moved all the earth being dug out around the barn into the goats' paddock to make a mini mountain for them to play on.   At the moment it is just a pile of earth but once the grass grows it will look fine (we hope).