Monday, 28 March 2011

More trouble

This weekend definitely did not go to plan.   We had another set of twin kids born on Friday morning and one of them was very small and just once he had got to his feet did nothing but stand and look lost.  The bigger twin seemed to be quite normal.  Although I kept a close eye on them only one twin suckled from her Mum and  I could not get the weaker one to get interested at all so eventually I milked the mother and we tube fed the kid.  He was very shaky and Tessa, the vet, came at lunch time to check the pre movement TB test which we had on some alpacas we have sold.   She had a look at him and thought he would be OK if we could get him to feed. He had a slight temperature. 

I thought the goathouse seemed quite cosy and so was devasted when I went to check early on Saturday morning and found the bigger kid lying apparently dead from hyperthermia.  I picked her up and found that there was a thread of life and rushed her in to the kitchen and put the oven on to warm her up.   I lay her on the oven door whilst I prepared the cat basket with a towel and switched the gas fire on full.  I rubbed her with a towel and Mike went to get her twin.   We put them both in the bed and I stayed with them whilst Mike set up another pen and heat lamp in the barn and the rest of weekend was spent supporting them.  They seem to be holding their own now, although the boy is tiny and  still has to be encouraged to suckle.

We are now inundated with eggs as the hens have decided to all come back in to lay at once.   Hopefully with the better weather we will start to get a few more customers in the shop to buy them. 

I am a bit worried about Charlie as he has been limping for a week or so now.   I have been lead walking him but every now and again when he is in the garden or in the yard and I don't keep an eye on him he runs and then starts hopping and alternately moving normally.  I cannot see anything wrong with his pads and when I manipulate his leg he shows no  sign of pain so I am at a loss.  I suppose the next step is to take him to the vet but I bet they say lead walk him!! 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Double Trouble

We have had a  busy few days.     I took Dolly for her sheep dog try out on Saturday, which was a bit disappointing in a way.   I did not learn anything that Nick had not already told me, but I was pleased that she ignored all the other dogs except one that came to say hello to me.    The test was to go round and round a pen of sheep.  Dolly took to it straight away as it is what she does most days to the alpacas.   She also changed direction and went the other way round  and dropped on command.  I had wondered if she would behave differently with sheep but apparently if it has 4 legs, herd it, is her motto.  I think I can probably teach her to do what I want her to do now, as I don't need her to be a super sheep dog - just to move on a bit so she will fetch the alpacas to me.

I phoned Mike to say I was on the way home and he told me that he had been on his way to put the goats in when he found 2 kids on the ground.  They were very cold and he was quickly setting up a pen and heat lamp to try and keep them alive.    We had let the expectant goats out to get some exercise and enjoy the sunshine and he had been checking on them regularly but once the sun started to go down it got cold very quickly and they chose that time to arrive!!   When I got home they were still alive but not as they should be and they had not suckled.   I felt that I should give them some colostrum but they were so tiny compared to alpaca cria that I was worried about tube feeding them so I phoned Nick and, bless him, he came over to take a look at them.  I had already checked that the doe had milk and found that only one udder was producing.

He did not think they would make it but showed me a way of tube feeding that I will certainly use again if I have to.   Instead of using the tube with a colostrum feeder he inserted the tube and used a syringe to put the colustrum in in small amounts.   By checking the tube during the feeding I could see when it had gone down which reduces the risk of choking the kid.  

Mike had made a cosy pen by hanging old curtains and blankets round the pen and put out heat lamp in the corner.   I tube fed the kids again during the evening and got up a couple of times in the night to feed and check on them and we were relieved that they got through the night.  Next morning Mike got some goat milk from the supermarket and I continued to bottle feed the kid which was getting less of its mother's milk.  I have been topping her up ever since, but luckily at least she is suckling from her Mum as well so is getting some of her Mother's immunity.

Realising that I would need more goat milk and that we could not milk any of the other does as only one had kidded by then, I phoned Forde Abbey Goat Farm and they kindly agreed to sell me some fresh milk off the farm.  I got 5 litres which I have frozen to use as and when.   Both kids seem to be feeding from their mother now but I am still topping up the weaker one.

On Tuesday Nick went up to feed the goats and found that another doe had given birth to a female kid and yet another had given birth to one kid and  was trying to give birth to another but it had its leg back.  Nick  got the second leg out and delivered the kid, but its mother rejected it and would only feed the first one- presumably because the second one was so late that she did not realise it was hers.  We tried throughout the day to get her to bond with the kid  and it looked like another bottle feeding job.  The only way she would feed it was if we held her.  Before Nick went we took the kids and Mum down to the barn and set up another heat lamp.   The trip from the goathouse to the barn seemed to traumatise the doe but it also made her recognise the kid as hers and both kids fed normally from then on.   Strange!!

We now have six kids in all with one doe still to go.  Four female and 2 male.

The male alpaca weanlings were starting to get feisty with each other and we think it was probably because the female weanlings are getting older and reaching sexual maturity so we have separated them into two paddocks which seems to have settled them down again.  They are only next door to each other so it is not too bad for them.

We are getting a dozen eggs a day now which means that we have a surplus to sell again, which is nice.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Harrowing Experience

All the paddocks have been grazed to oblivion over this long hard winter but now is the time to get them back in order.   Nick and Mike made a start today.  Mike started  harrowing whilst Nick and I dosed the herd with ADE vitamins to help them keep in good condition until the spring and summer sunshine  take over the job.

We also condition checked them all and found that the ones we knew were a little thin have improved a bit and at least there were no more herd members who were of any concern regarding condition.

The harrowing opens up the surface of the paddock to get rid of moss and oxygenate the soil so that when it is warm enough the grass will grow  back to its maximum.They managed to harrow all the empty paddocks.

The nice sunny weather brought out a few shoppers today and obviously the gardeners are getting up to speed as we also had  phone calls for alpaca manure - our polite term for poo.

In preparation for Dolly's herding lessons on Saturday I took her down to the winter paddocks where the Yurt  base provides a big circle and taught her to go round it on her own.    The hope is that she learns the commands and then transfers them to herding. I'll give it another day getting her to go clockwise (cumbye) and then the other way for "away"  for a couple of sessions.   I am just hoping that Adam on Countryfile was right when he said which command is which.  I know it does not really matter what commands you use, but at least I can  sound like a sheep dog handler.  Just hope that Dolly agrees.

The new kid seems to be holding her own, but no more births yet.  It is quite a game getting them all in at night as we separate the older kids from the pregnant mums so that there is no chance of milk bandits stealing the all important colostrum from the new mums before the new kids get their  fix to ensure maximum immunity to the environment they are born into.  The newborn and her Mum were kept indoors all day as although it was fine there was a chilling breeze.

We are topping up with fresh straw quite often to try and keep the goat house as clean as possible for the new arrivals.  Unlike alpacas they need to be kept warm as their fleece is quite thin and they do not have the extra layer of fat that lambs have to protect them against the cold.  Last year the kids were born in May so we did not have to worry so much.

Monday, 14 March 2011

First kid of 2011

The first kid of 2011 arrived about half an hour after I left to visit my friend,Elaine, for a girly afternnon.  Mike, of course, dealt very capably with the event and as he could not get hold of me on my mobile for some reason (no record of missed calls at all on my phone) I did not even know she had been born until I arrived home at tea time.  Mother and baby are doing well and we are hoping that the other does will give birth shortly.  Mike hopes to be off duty when they do!!

I took Romie and Charlie to Elaine's and after a lovely walk over open farmland we did some agility practice in the field where they have their equipment.   I was really pleased with Charlie as despite being very excited he did some good agility and more importantly he came back every time when he was called.  Last year he would not have dreamt of coming back if there were other dogs running around who could be potential playmates.

Chale, one of our white stud males has been scouring and so yesterday we drenched him with Pro Rumen which is a complementary feeding stuff used to assist in the establishment of bacteria in the rumen and we also gave him a long acting anti-biotic.   Last time we used the pro rumen, Nick was here and as we did not have a suitable container available to drench the animal, he said we could use a wine bottle!!  Of course it was highly unlikely that I could find an empty wine bottle but after an extensive search which took nearly a minute, I was able to produce one.   I was worried that the glass might break but apparently it is an old fashioned way of doing it and he has always found it to work safely.   We tried the same method on Chale with equal success.   By this morning there was no sign of scouring in the paddock so either the anti biotic or the Pro Rumen or a combination must have done some good.   We will give him another drench tomorrow just to make sure.

Last week I trimmed the weanlings top knots but noticed afterwards that Pablo, Pepe, Tanya and Miranda were still a bit over fleeced around the eyes, Pablo especially.  After treating Chale this morning, we took the scissors to the weanlings and they look much better and more to the point they can see better.  I used the hand shears before which were less easy to control.  I am hoping that being able to see what is going on will take some of the trauma out of walking with a halter for Pablo.

We are up 11 eggs a day now which means that 50% of the hens are now laying and they should start paying for themselves again.  Even when they are not cost effective it is lovely having them around- makes it seem like a good old fashioned farmyard!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Dressing for Spring

Most of the weanlings have decided that walking on a  halter is actually not such a bad thing after all.  I am most worried about Pablo because he is really not very happy.  I think it is mainly because he has rather a short face and it is thickly covered in fleece so the nose band of the halter is not very comfortable for him.  He has not yet worked out that it helps if he just walks along without pulling or jumping around.  We are going to do a few shows this year-just local ones.  I think several of our boys are in with a chance and Miranda is a really impressive young brown female so it is quite important that they walk elegantly and without causing too much disruption.

No kids yet and I am going to meet my friend, Pauline, for lunch tomorrow so Mike might have to be a reluctant mid-wife.   All the does have kidded before so fingers crossed things will be fairly normal.

Anticipating that the grass will start to grow soon, we are restricting all the alpacas to paddocks on the left hand side of the main field so that we can spread Grasstrak on the right hand side, which is a mineral dressing that should ensure that when alpacas eat the grass they also take in vital minerals which are necessary for their health.  We had the soil tested when we first came here and there are no particular deficiences but we want to keep it that way.  When we move them over to the right in a few weeks time we will give the left side the same treatment. 

The main herd of females needs to come up to the home paddocks too.  There is not much grass left in the winter paddocks, although they really like the space down there  to roam around.  Sometimes when we go into the field they are nowhere to be seen and are right at the bottom of the slope.  If we do not actually want them to come up we have to hide, otherwise they come galloping up, thinking there is something on offer.

We have had quite a few people phoning to find out when we are open, so we have started to open the gates most  afternoons.   It is better than the 11 - 3.30p.m. we used to do as it means that the dogs can have the run of the farm until lunchtime and we have plenty of time to get the jobs done.  It is not very busy yet but if we are here anyway it does not cost anything to open up.

It has been an expensive week because my printer went down and the trouble shooting instructions indicated that it needed a new print head which I bought (not cheap).  When it arrived I changed the print head but the fault did not go away.  We decided that it would be throwing good money after bad to spend any more on spare parts and so have forked out for a new printer.   Installing the printer prompted a complete re-organisation of the office, which now looks more spacious and is much more user friendly.  It also allows me to have an oil radiator under the desk which cuts out the draughts and makes it quite cosy.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Goats in waiting

All the does are looking really fat so we are hoping for some twins this time - or maybe we are just feeding them too much.

The cat is gradually moving out of the house but still pops in at will if her personal comfort is at stake.

I have just been exploring other options within Google blogging and have found comments going back to 2008  - apologies to anyone who thought I was being rude by not responding!!  I will be more aware in future!!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

New Arrivals

At the end of last year I booked 10 black rock hens from a local breeder and last Tuesday he phoned me to say they were ready.   He also had some really lovely Rhode Island Reds,  so I bought one of  them too.   We already have one so now we need a cock and we will be able to breed them!!  Once again we have a surplus of eggs that we can sell and they will be self financing.

The Does are looking really fit to bust.  I will be very surprised if they do not kid this week.  I hope so because we were due to go to a dog show today but decided not to as we were worried about leaving them.  Last year they all gave birth without any help but you can never be certain that intervention will not be necessary.

We were a bit worried that the kids (last year's) might steal colostrum or milk from the does when they give birth and deprive their younger siblings, so Mike has divided the goat house so that they are separated by hurdles but can still see each other.   The young male kid and the buck seem to be getting on very well in their batchelor quarters and have been seen playing together on several occasions.  The female kids are being really naughty and climbing on all sorts of things and have managed to break the inverted half barrel that we put in their paddock and also a wooden divider that Mike left out in the paddock until he had time to return it to the goathouse.   They climbed on it until it broke in the middle and then used it like a slide.   They are also climbing up the pile of earth which we call goat mountain and then leaping off before they get to the bottom.

Three of the Chardstock Six went to their new home guarding 8000 free range chickens on Tuesday.  They were very well behaved and loaded without any trouble at all.  Their owner was here to do the hand over and the new owner invited her to visit at any time, so she feels a lot happier about letting them go.

No more excuses I have gone back to complete the halter training of our weanlings before they get too big!!  They are all looking really well and have lovely fleece.  Tanya, the yearling who was underweight seems to be getting back into condition again so we are hoping to show her this year as she really is very pretty.