Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Alpacas to go

The last week or so has been quite mixed.   We did not seem to get back into our usual routine for quite a while and the jobs we left before we went away caught up with us.

One of the main jobs that Mike had hoped to get done was re-hanging some of the farm gates which had dropped through a combination of rotting posts and the dry summer which changed the position of some of the posts.  The photos show Mike and Nick pondering the problem with Jake supervising whilst guarding the old rotten post which has been replaced.

Mike has also been fixing the brakes on the tractor and the parts he was waiting for arrived today so he is hoping to have it back in use very soon now.

On Saturday I went out for the day, meeting my friend, Pauline, for lunch in Shaftesbury, followed by a spot of retail therapy and a cream tea!! 

On Sunday Mike and I went to Honiton Hill where they have an annual "Rally" which includes tractors, vintage cars, demonstrations such as axing, lots of stalls, old Hurdy Gurdy organs, and an agricultural auction.   We saw one or two things in the auction which Mike made a note of but in the event we did not go back yesterday to bid because we had agreed to take some alpacas along to Hawkchurch Village Fete in the afternoon.

We just took 4 boys who were very co-operative.  They loaded into the trailer without any objection at all and behaved themselves really well all afternoon.   Their pen was constantly surrounded by visitors and I wondered if they would get too worried but after a while they continued to eat their hay, kush down for a rest and generally do normal alpacary things whilst their admirers oohed and aahed.

We took some products from the shop as well as some of our yarn and sales went very well.   We enjoyed sitting in the sun chatting to interested customers and even managed to have a look round the other stalls , visit the beer tent and watch some of the events in the arena all to the jolly sound of the silver band.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Alpacas at Home

We arrived home from our holiday on Saturday evening - a day earlier than planned.  We had a lovely break including two Agility Competitions.  One in Northamptonshire and the other in Suffolk. 

Son, David, and family looked after the farm whilst we were away but as they had only just returned from holiday themselves before taking over, I think they were quite glad to go home, even though they enjoyed their stay.  David had to kill one of the white hens as it was obviously failing.  I had noticed that she was not getting on her perch at night with the others and was looking a bit lack lustre in the field, so I was not surprised.

Maddy, our older lurcher, had stayed on the farm and unfortunately her shoulder was injured in some way.  Jane took her to the vet who thought it was a strained ligament but by the time we got home on Saturday her shoulder and both sides and underneath her chest were very swolen and her left leg was very thick and swolen, so I took her back to the vet on Monday and saw Tessa.  By the time we got there late on Monday afternoon the swelling had subsided a lot but I was still concerned about her panting especially as she has a heart murmur.   Although usually a murmur is nothing to worry about, I though perhaps something had changed.  Tessa seemed to think, as I do, that she had received some sort of trauma to her shoulder - possibly a kick - which was also my feeling especially as Maddy is always poking her nose in where it is not wanted.  Her heart was not a problem so probably the panting was because of pain or worry about her injury.  The lump on her shoulder was firm and was likely to be bleeding under the skin - i.e. a wacking great swolen bruise.  She prescribed some more Metacam (pain killer and anti-inflammatory) as she will need it for quite a while.  Maddy seems pretty bright and happy now and mooches around quite happily so she is obviously making a good recovery.   Let's hope she has learned her lesson and stays clear of the back end of alpacas - or perhaps goat horns!!

It looks as though there had been a lot more rain here than we experienced.  The grass is looking green and inviting and all the alpacas and goats seem in good condition.  There were a few jobs which we did not do before we left - as usual running out of time, so we got on with them almost straight away.  My main job of course was taking care of ten days' worth of washing - the ironing still staring at me!

Several of the cria needed vaccinating and although Tony, our helper, had struggled valiently we felt that we should give him a hand to catch up with paddock cleaning etc: on Monday.  We also have two alpacas with ongoing skin problems despite many attempts by ourselves and the vet, so we applied iodised salve to their ears and legs and checked the eartags of some cria who were tagged last.   All was well and they obviously did not miss us at all!!

Yesterday Nick and I spat off all the females (i.e. presented them to a male alpaca for mating. ( Pregnant females will reject the male  by spitting, kicking and running away.)  Most seemed to think they were pregnant and we mated two who had recently given birth, remated another and today we remated a second one whose pregnancy had not held. 

As the weather forecast was not very promising Nick and Mike replaced a very hefty gate post as both the gates it supported were dragging on the ground and very heavy and difficult to open or close.  Mike used his new digger and he was pleased with the results.  Nick did quite a lot of the digging as he has used the same model before.   It took a long time because the ground is so hard with lack of water and naturally stony.  It was about 7 p.m. by the time they finished and Mike will still have to hang the gates which is apparently quite a big job in itself.

In the meantime I mowed the "lawn" in an effort to beat the incoming weather but as it has turned out it has not been too bad at all so there was no panic.  Famous last words!!  I expect we will pay for it later.

We are waiting for the shearer to come and shear the goats in the next few days.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


We were at a dog agility competition for the first part of the week, coming back in the evening of each day so the animals were only left unattended for a few hours.  Mike stayed at home on the Tuesday to work with Nick and also to have a tooth removed - not by Nick but by a more qualified person in a white coat.

On Thursday we were due to go to the Honiton show with with seven alpacas to show, but the females had been remated and were not far enough into pregnancy to risk driving them around,  two of the males rolled in an old bonfire, getting covered in ash, and as the Judge was wearing cream trousers I had a feeling that he might not appreciate handling them, especially as when we got back from agility we decided to take a chance and leave them out in the paddock over night.   Bad move as the rain was torrential and we ended up taking four very bedraggled animals to the show.  So we only showed the two young males in the end.

Honiton is unusual in that it is a Shorn Fleece show as by this time of the year most herds have been shorn.  This means that the judge cannot make a very good assessment of the fleece given that it is only about an inch long.  He can assess conformation and other traits.

Jose and Pepe did achieve second and third place but the judge remarked that they were lacking in substance for young breeding males, which is OK as they have already been sold as quality pets.  I am not going to put a non breeding restriction on them, though, because their sires are great hefters.  Pepe the younger one was an orphan and so shared an adopted mother which has probably delayed his development a little.

We had quite a lot of interest in the alpacas including an interview with a reporter on one of the local free papers and two enquiries from people who actually have some land already and live fairly near to us.

Monday, 1 August 2011


We checked the does udders and found that they are fine.   They seem quite happy to share a paddock with Alario (the lone male) and the chickens or what is left of them.  Even Number 7 kid has stopped bleating and they just look like a contented herd of small goats.

Because the grass is not as good as we would hope at this time of year we have opened up all the paddocks on the North side of the farm so that the alpacas and their babies can graze a bigger area rather be confined to a small paddock and then moved on to the next small paddock.  They are also grazing in the race which is the lane which runs down the middle of the field dividing the paddocks on either side.  Its main use is for driving the tractor through, herding alpacas from paddock to paddock or up to the barn,  or for us walking around the farm without having to open too many gates on the way.  It also helps to form catch pens when we need to gather animals in a small area to carry out husbandry or check their condition.