Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Latest Arrival

Laurels Don Senon is the latest arrival this year.   He was born at 2 p.m. on Sunday and his mum, a maiden alpaca is very laid back and has taken to motherhood like a duck to water.   He seems a little small and arrived slightly earlier than expected but nevertheless is coping well and is already starting to play with the other cria.  So far we have only had one girl and four boys which is spoiling our hitherto enviable record of breeding mostly females.   

Today we caught up with ADE vitamins for the alpacas and wormed the goats and kids.  I have also updated the website with some more stock for sale and am just off to take some photos of the latest additions.

Mike was busy topping the paddocks between showers but something has broken and so he has been doing some of the smaller paddocks with the ride on motor mower.     They look as good as lawn.

We also vaccinated all the cria apart fron Senon who is too young and Salvador who was born first and therefore vaccinated earlier.  We will give them a second jab in four weeks and about two weeks afterwards they should be protected from coccideal diseases.

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Monday, 20 June 2011


Well apart from the welcome rain - which would be even more welcome if it came at night - nothing much is happening at the moment.  All the cria and kids seem to be OK and have been updated with their vaccinations.  

We  are really looking forward to the rest of the cria for this year being born and it has made us realise how far we have come in a short time and how our herd has improved and changed.

Whilst sorting the filing cabinet, a long overdue job which is not yet complete, I came across the details of our buying trip to Chile which emphasised the point even more.  I expect I sent it to some of you at the time, but it might still be of interest.  This is the story of our most expensive holiday ever.

"Well we actually did it!!!

As usual our timing was poor.   We moved house the week before flying to Chile.  Managed to get more or less straight and even wash and iron enough clothes to take with us.

Luckily I looked at the e-ticket and found out that we were flying on Tuesday and not Wednesday.  Bit of a rush to the outdoor shop for hiking boots and warm jackets.

We left home (in Somerset) at about 9 a.m. delivered mother and six dogs to their holiday destinations, had a pub lunch on the way to Heathrow and arrived far too early for our flight.  Probably better than the usual Geraldine-time where you have to run to get to the boarding gate just as it is closing.

Departed Heathrow at 17.35 Tuesday and arrived Santiago (via connecting flight from Madrid) at 7.40 a.m. local time on Wednesday -  they are five hours behind us.

Our agent met us at the airport and we went back to his apartment for a shower and rest prior to flying to Arica in the north of Chile - a 3 hour flight.   We then picked up a 4 x 4 - actually I think we should have had a tracked vehicle, given the terrain we had to cover driving on the Alti Plano, where roads were mainly dirt tracks.  You could see another vehicle coming miles away by its dust storm.  That, however, was a rare sight as there were not many other drivers.

Geoff, our agent, had arranged to see alpacas owned by three Indian farmers and during the day we called on others to arrange to see their animals the next day.   The drill was that we arrive, meet and greet, and the Aymaras disappear for about an hour and mooch back with 50 - 100 alpacas.   They herd them into enclosures of dry stone walls and we select the ones we want to buy.   This was a bit scary, but Geoff was very helpful and we soon gained more confidence.   There were a lot of frogs, but I think we selected mostly princes.   We would point to the one we wanted to see and the farmer would either catch or lassoo the animal.  If we decided to buy and Geoff agreed we had selected well, he would eartag, microchip and photgraph the chosen animal.

 The Indians only speak Spanish or their native tongue, so conversation was a bit limited but they appreciated our efforts I think.   We were invited for coffee in one Indian home and I offered to help Carmen, but apparently I asked to go to the toilet.   This caused a lot of amusement.

Over three days we selected 15 alpacas  including what I hope will be an excellent Light Brown stud.   I saw a fabulous white Macho as they call the males, but could not afford him.  Maybe next time!!

Geoff was also selecting for other clients and as his normal assistant was not able to come, we helped as much as we could.   Unfortunately on the last day Mike woke up with a bad nose bleed and had another one later so he had to stay in the vehicle.   We drove to Arica after the day's work and he had the worst nose bleed I have ever seen just as we arrived at the hotel. It was a lucky day for the porter, though.   I was busy trying to cope with registering at the hotel, which involves passports and form filling, worried about Mike and wondering if I should try and get a doctor.   the porter was quite concerned, but also hovering for his tip.  In my haste and without my glasses, I selected a $20 bill.   Normal tip would be 500 pesos - about 0.50$ - still I am sure he enjoyed spending it.

Luckily after a rest and a bath Mike was back to normal and we went out for a meal with Geoff at about 11 p.m.  It was a fabulous restaurant overlooking the crashing waves of the ocean which were dramatically visible through the huge windows.  We finished our meal feeling human again at 1.20 a.m. when we finally took the hints of the restaurant staff and left.

Next day we flew back to Santiago where Geoff took us to an excellent hotel and we parted company.   We agreed to meet up later in the week so that we could receive a CD with pictures of the alpacas we had selected.

We had a private tour of Santiago the next day.  Our guide, Carlos, was great and even made a special trip back to the hotel to return my phone which I had managed to leave in the taxi.   The following day we went shopping (clothes are very cheap) and spent time relaxing in the main square.   Had to have pasta for lunch as I could not understand the menu - even with my phrase book.  I am pretty sure that Conger Eel stew was being offered.   We sat outside, but the clientele inside were watching a bull fight on the TV.

In the evening Geoff and his wife took us to a great seafood restaurant.   They were both charming and it made a lovely end to our stay. 

We had a long and uncomfortable flight and were relieved to arrive at Heathrow finally.   We were ready for another pub lunch on the way home as our last meal was breakfast on the plane from Santiago to Madrid.

The trip was definitely not for the faint hearted, but it was a great experience.   The Chilean people are really friendly and helpful, and we felt very safe all the time we were there."

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Missing out

We were at an agility competition last weekend when my mobile phone rang.  It was my sister in law, Pam, who together with her husband Malcolm, were farm sitting for us.  She was in the goat paddock and had slipped, breaking her ankle, she thought.  I phoned my neighbour who kindly went round to stay with her whilst waiting for the ambulance, as Malcolm has health problems and we were worried that he would overstretch himself if he tried to do too much.  

We were in Wales and we did the fastest de-camp we have ever done and were on the road home within about 15 minutes of the call.  We made good time and Mike  and Malc went to Exeter Hospital to collect Pam.   They spent another night with us before heading off home and after a further operation Pam now has the long wait for her ankle to heal.  Needless to say they will not be farm sitting again this year, which means that Mike and I will be taking it in turn to go to shows until our holiday in August when David and family are farm sitting.

As I could not go to the show today, I have taken the opportunity to do some agility practice at home. It is not the same,but the dogs still enjoy it!!

Ginger gave birth to her first ever baby girl at lunchtime today.   She has previously had 4 boys!   The cria is very sweet but  at the moment her fleece is a very pretty colour and is very soft but it is not as good as the boys have been.   This may change over the next few weeks or months as I have made this sort of judgement prematurely before.  The photo is not the best one of Ginger (the dark female) but I thought her expression was very amusing!!

It was really strange because whilst I was watching the cria to make sure she suckled, the other females would not leave her alone.   Usually after a birth they all gather round to welcome the newcomer and have a good sniff and then lose interest after five or ten minutes but for some reason with this one two or three of them just continued to follow her around for ages.  I was a bit concerned that they were distracting her from feeding and so decided to put her and her mother in the shelter, but Ginger  became so distressed that I felt it was counter productive and let them out again.  I shooed the others away but they kept coming back so in the end I let them all wander down to the day paddock and Mum and cria went too.  I kept checking on them and finally saw the cria suckling quite professionally, so I felt reassured that nature was taking its course. That is the first hurdle of her little life.

Although the weather looks good I brought them all back to the night paddock at about 4p.m. so that they are near a shelter.  If it rains I hope that Ginger will follow the lead of the other Mums who, unusually, have had the sense to go into the shelter with their cria when it has rained heavily, which it has done a few times over the last few days.

My vegetable patch is doing very well.  I have Pak choi, cabbages, and little gem lettuces all ready or nearly ready and mange touts, broccolli and tomatoes with quite a way to go.   I also have loads of strawberries and Mike's gooseberry bush is laden even though it is only a couple of feet tall at the moment.  We planted runner beans in the winter paddocks as it stays damp in what we call the wetlands, but they are not thriving, so maybe it is too damp or they are not getting enough light.  I also planted what was left of a sack of potatoes and they are shooting through - probably not as good as seed potatoes but even if we get a few it will be useful.

The goats are all looking a bit overweight which is surprising because they are not having any extra feed apart from a bit of hay.  The bucks were free ranging but we have shut them back in their small paddock to try and restrict their diet abit.    It is surprising really because with the lack of rain I would have thought the grass would be quite poor nutritionally but apparently not - unless it is wind!!  On that note I'll sign off.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Wow again!!

Yesterday we had all the female alpacas in a catch pen while we condition checked them when we noticed that Bourree, a big black female from our original herd, started to look very uncomfortable, lay on the ground groaning and generally showing signs that she was about to give birth.   We gently shooed her into the nearest paddock so she could give birth in a less stressful situation.

About twenty minutes later Don Santos appeared.   He arrived with his feet over his head but we have often seen perfectly good births resulting from this presentation so we did not interfere and sure enough he popped out and Mike prepared to fend off Bourree, his mother who is renowned for her defence of her offspring - even when they are grown up.

She has obviously mellowed with age because apart from clucking which is a noise that Mums use to communicate with their cria-presumably saying I am here for you, and working up a potential spit, she was quite easy to keep away whilst I quickly dried him off and applied iodine to his umbilicus thus preventing infection through the remains of the cord.  I noticed that he was snuffling and not breathing very well so I turned him upside down which was not successful, I checked that his airway was clear and as a last resort tickled his nostrils with a piece of grass.  This provoked something between a cough and a sneeze and the snuffles seemed to clear up, so fingers crossed it did the trick.  He now seems to be running around and full of beans and as you can see from the pictures he is at least as nice as Santiago,the boy who was born on Sunday and his fleece seems to be more organised but I have not so far felt it was fair to upset Bourree by taking him away to examine.