Friday, 28 January 2011

Blow the winds Easterly

Well the last few days have given a new meaning to the song!!   Still at least it is not raining or snowing, although that may still come. (Or is it Blow the winds Westerley?)

Tanya, the skinny young alpaca, seems to love living with the weanlings.    She is eating heartily and almost looks as though she could be a mini herd leader.   She still feels really thin, but I think there is a ray of hope.  Tuesday will be the end of her second week away from the main herd so I will get Nick to see what he thinks.    He should be more objective as he does not see her every day.

I really should be halter training the weanlings that are up for sale but just cannot get motivated to get out there.

Mike has nearly finished converting the old pig ark for the bucks.  It looks like a mini gypsey caravan now.   It is certainly cosy in there.   When Colin comes to shear them we are going to separate the does and bucks and bring the doe kids back up with their Mums.   This will make better use of the space as the does will all fit in the goat paddock and the small paddock will be ideal for the bucks.  We will have to re-sort at the end of the year when the young does are ready to be mated, but hopefully we will have a new buck by then.

We are in the process of getting our planning application ready.   We have had temporary planning to live in a mobile home on site for five years but time is now up and we have got to apply for permanent.   We have definitely met all the criteria laid down in the government guidelines but the council acts in mysterious ways and they are all powerful.   Luckily all our neighbours are keen for us to stay as are the Parish Council.

As some of you may remember the place was an absolute tip when we bought it and we have spent lots of hard work and loads of money bringing it up to good quality grazing, with hand layed hedges and coppiced trees. We have got rid of most of the ragwort and other dangerous weeds.  We have erected good quality shelters and fencing and restored the barn which was in a terrible state of repair.   Unfortunately the barn is very narrow and so not ideal for storage and impossible to turn a tractor inside, but it has been useful if not really fit for purpose.  We are hoping to convert some of the existing barn into living accommodation whilst keeping the farm office etc: as it is.  It will then be a house with barn attached as they say on Escape to the Country. 

Luckily we have an agricultural agent who does all the dealings with the council. I cannot be trusted to keep my cool when dealing with officialdom.

Mike has been wanting a proper barn ever since we bought the farm as he is the one that loads and unloads, repairs the farm machinery, drives the tractor etc:    It is even more important now that we are having such hard winters.   We have to buy hay and feed in small quantities because we do not have room to store much.   That means we have to pay top price for forage and when it is in short supply we cannot stock pile enough.    We have been getting two or three big bales and a horsebox full of small bales at regular intervals this winter and there have been times when we were worried that we would run out altogether.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Hi Speed Husbandry

Nick and I vaccinated all 50 alpacas by tea break this morning.  We now have a really good set up in the barn which allows us to feed the animals through quickly and in small lots.  They are quite used to it now and seem quite comfortable and happy to wait their turn for treatment.   Of course there is always the odd grumpy one.  Bourree (a big black female from our original herd) and Ben the wether are usually quite stroppy but they both behaved as if butter would not melt in their mouths this morning.

The very last alpaca to be vaccinated was Citrine and she decided to object and spat at me, so as Mike confirmed that I was not very nice to know I had to shower and change.

We have given a 28 day prior notice to build a new barn behind the existing one.   Because we have sufficient land we are allowed to build a new agricultural building every two years  (not that you would want to) but we have to notify the council and they can have some input on the design, colours, siting etc:  The present barn is not really fit for purpose as it is long and narrow which means that it is not possible to get farm machinery in without leaving the doors open.   The new barn will be the same length  but twice as wide
and so should be evenmore useful.

The land is absolutely sodden at the moment and very muddy and slippery in places.   The dogs have to be hosed off several times a day if they are allowed to run free.  The forecast is for a few days of dry frosty weather so we are hoping that will help.

We have got a very thin female called Tanya.   She is absolutely gorgeous but she is very underweight at the moment so we have moved her up to live with the weanlings for a while.   They have access to some better grass and we are hoping that she will benefit from it.   She has already been wormed, treated for fluke and been dosed with vitamins,so we are running out of ideas.   She is eating alright, but we wonder whether she was being bullied off the feed when she  was with the main herd, although she appeared to be tucking in .   She also seems quite lively.   I was expecting her to be upset at being separated from her Mum and the rest of the females but actually far from pacing up and down the fence as they sometimes do when stressed and wanting to return to their friends, she seems very relaxed and has been seen munching away all day without a care in the world.  I do hope it is simply that she was unhappy for some reason and that taking her out of that situation will help her gain condition.    She is one of my favourites so I do hope she recovers soon.

We have decided to remove  buck from does and house him and the wethered male kid in together.   To this end Mike and Nick spent this afternoon starting to adapt the old pig ark that is in the kid's paddock.  It will be raised up so we can get in to clean it out and the doe kids will go and live with their Mums.    They had to measure the Buck's  horns to make sure the door is wide enough.   They measure 25" tip to tip!!  He is a real gentle giant.

The Goathouse where the does and the buck live at the moment is much bigger than the trailer where the kids live so there will be plenty of room for them all  when we change them around.   When the does are ready to give birth we will move them into the barn so that we can set up the heat lamp if necessary and the kids can stay in the goathouse until their mums return with their new brothers and sisters.

Monday, 10 January 2011

All going well

Since the snow has gone we have found everything much easier and although it is still wintery, the odd sunny hour and the fact that we can move around the farm easily makes life a lot more pleasant.   The weanlings are only in their own paddock with the shelter when the weather is really bad, the rest of the time they are in one of the bigger paddocks where there is at least some better grass, but they never object to returning to their home paddock in the evenings.

The dogs have been much better behaved in the evenings because they have been out more in the day so are ready to settle and watch  their  favourite TV programmes.

Dolly, the puppy, now eleven months old, has started to do some agility training and she is doing really well, although she is more interested in the ball on a rope that is her reward than the agility sometimes.  Charlie, my other young dog is coming on in leaps and bounds and I am hoping that he will be competing by Easter.

I went on a training day recently and have changed my handling and training of the dogs slightly as a result and it looks like the tweaks are producing the desired results.   I passed the information on to Mike and Jake has also improved greatly because of the new ideas.   Small changes can make big differences.

Still no eggs from the hens.  Lucky for them that they are hobby hens and it is not a commercial enterprise or they would be chicken kiev by now.  We have ordered ten more black rock hens for the spring so we will be virtually starting again!!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

New Year

Rain has taken over from snow but at least that means that the animals can get to the grass now and we are hoping that the ones who lost a bit of weight will make it up over the next few weeks.  It is certainly  easier getting around the farm.

Nick and I have made a start on trimming toe nails and have done all the small groups - males, weanlings, alpacas at livery and next week will finish off the main herd who are grazing the winter paddocks.   With only a couple of exceptions they were all very well behaved and easy to handle. We also took the opportunity to trim topknots as sometimes the fleece on the alpacas' heads (the bonnet) grows too long and interferes with their sight.   This can make them easily "spooked" and even make eating more difficult for them.  I don't think I will get a job as a hairdresser but at least they look neater.

The annual vaccinations are also coming up soon, and the girls in the winter paddocks will be drenched with Fasinex at the end of March to make sure they have not picked up fluke.

Mike has managed to source a few more small bales of hay so it looks like we will be alright for the rest of winter as long as we don't get another prolonged period of snow covered grass.   His new tractor came into its own as he was able to lift the  bales into the hay loft with it very quickly.  In the past we have either hand balled them or used a manual hoist both of which were quite time consuming.

The chickens are not doing very well at the moment.   They have very good appetites but are only laying one or two eggs a day.   Definitely a hobby and not an earner!!   Still it is nice to see them wandering around and they are very amusing sometimes, especially if we put some bread or something out for them.   They all waddle over noisily and at speed.

I put all the 2010 weanlings up for sale on the website this week.   Unusually for us we had mostly boys and although a couple are good enough the show, most of them will be sold as pets/fibre producers/guards.   One boy with a really lovely fleece has a big black spot right in the middle of his back, which is a real disappointment as otherwise he has a lot going for him.