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.