Tuesday 25 October 2011

High Winds and Deep holes

Last night was very windy and wet and although we did not notice it at first,  one of the fences dividing the paddocks had actually blown down.  16 out of 20 posts in that line had rotted at ground level.  Mike and Nick had to abandon their plans for the day and set to demolishing the remaining fence and clearing away the wire to make the area safe for the grazing alpacas.

We were particularly upset because when we first cleared the farm we paid out thousands for supposedly good quality fencing which you would expect to last.   Apparently around the time we had our fencing done there was a problem with the tanalising (preservative) of much of the fencing timber supplied.   There have been reports of problems in Farmers Weekly, even, according to Nick.

We are not alone and I have found out that several other alpaca breeders are having similar problems.   Now Mike will have to check all the fencing and put in extra supports to any posts which are suspect.   Not only that but the post holding up the farm gate has rotted and the wind pushed both the fence and the gate out of place.    They have replaced the gate temporarily with a spare steel gate.  Eventually they will fit a new wooden gate.

Mike skillfully fitted his mini digger under the full size digger which was used to do the ground works for the new barn.    He thought it would make a good photo and he was right!!

The other photo is of the mini digger in the hole behind the existing barn where they excavated earth to level the site for the new barn.   At first it was a big shock but we quickly saw lots of possibilities for it.   In effect we have been given a lovely big flat area surrounded by high sides giving complete privacy.   Mike is going to shore up the sides with railway sleepers which should give the area a pleasant rustic appearance and it can become a sunken garden, patio, or something similar.

Thursday 20 October 2011

It is starting

Mike received a telephone call yesterday evening to say that the digger was on its way, so we quickly called all the dogs indoors and Mike opened the farm gates to admit a huge lorry and trailer carrying an equally huge digger.  At 7.30 a.m. this morning Danny, the digger driver, arrived and commenced work.  By lunchtime he had completed the footprint of our new barn and started the levelling process which includes bringing in extra earth from other parts of the farm to form a level base.   The goat mountain and the big bank inside the farm gates have been removed and used as infill.  He is also going to take some earth away from the back of the existing barn and level that site whilst using the earth to continue the levelling process for the new barn.  Trevor, has now arrived with a big tractor and trailer to ferry the earth around.

It is absolutely amazing how he handles the machinery - he even scrapes off excess earth from the grass just as we would rake it off the edge of a lawn.

Dolly went training again yesterday.    She was promoted to another field with a flock of 80 ewe lambs.  She made a very good job of rounding them up and holding them and Freddie, our trainer, was impressed and pleased that Dolly was calm and the sheep were not stressed by her.  We spent most of the hour teaching her to "walk on" behind the sheep.  Some of the time she was on a long line in front of us and whenever she started to go too fast which might upset the ewes, Freddie would pull her back on the line whilst I told her to lie down.  This was to teach her the speed needed to make the sheep advance without stressing them out.  She really enjoyed her trip in the landrover which took us to the new field, especially as it was an excuse to sit on my lap.

Luckily I was wearing my farm overalls because I had had "normal" clothes on underneath as I was going to collect Zach and Tara who are spending a few days of their half term holiday with us.

We have set up a catchment area in the winter paddocks so that I can start to handle the cria on a more regular basis which helps to make them more cooperative when they are bigger.   Already after just a few sessions they have cease struggling and resign themselves to being held gently until released.
They all seem to be thriving quite well except one of the two cria that we weaned and he has lost a little weight so we are keeping a close eye on him.

Thursday 13 October 2011

First Weaning

 After many trials with my laptop I phoned PC Doctor in Chard who usually help me out with anything to do with IT.  They suggested I take it in to the shop to test it and of course found that everything worked perfectly well.  There was only one thing that the young child/computer genius in the shop did differently so I thought it might be a eurika moment, but no, when I got home all was as before, so I had to call them for a home visit.

The owner of the shop came out himself - probably felt like a break and an opportunity to see what we keep behind the big wooden gates at Laurel Farm.  He was really pleasant and within a few minutes identified the problem.  I had keyed in the BT Fusion wireless key instead of the Home Hub wireless key.  What is BT Fusion, I asked.  Well I still don't know, but it sounds very useful.  This was an extended case of not reading everything on the label. In this case, both key  numbers were clearly displayed on the back of hub, but I fixated on one of them and did not try the other.   Seems really daft now, but still  I have no excuse now for not blogging.

I had the same problem trying to book tickets for a train journey to Whitstable.  I am going to visit my father's brother and my friend, Pauline is coming too.  I kept inputting the information and the ticket price kept coming up as £106+ but I finally realised that it was the price for two tickets and not the individual price.  I felt somewhat vindicated, however, when I was watching breakfast TV this morning and Vincent Duggleby from Moneybox Live was talking about simplifying the tarrifs for energy.   It was mentioned that booking rail tickets had been simplified, but he said that he had recently tried to book  and had still found it quite tricky, so I am in good company.

We dosed the alpacas against fluke (a nasty parasite that thrives in wetlands and causes fatal liver damage if it takes hold) and also condition checked as usual.  Some of the females suckling cria could do with a little more weight but two in particular were cause for concern and as their cria were the eldest we moved the adult females down to the winter paddocks but left the two thinner Mums behind.

Their cria were a little lost looking for a while but they are now staying with the herd and getting over their loss.  Both are males, so, sadly, they will probably not get near their Mums again.   Females tend to stay longer and eventually, once weaned, can rejoin the main herd and bond again.

Mike has sold the great big JCB which he bought when we first moved on to the farm.  It has certainly saved us a lot of money but has had its day and is now going to a new home.   He now has a smaller digger which will come into its own around the farm and especially when we need trenches for services etc: for the barn conversion.

He is having one more go at teaching Jake to sit at the start of his Agility runs.   All going well so far and he hopes to try it out next time he goes training.  As always what works at home often goes pearshaped at a different venue.

Dolly missed her sheepdog training because of poor weather on Wednesday but is going tomorrow instead.   Will report on how she gets on when let loose in the field with the sheep instead of in the training pen where I have more control.

Friday 7 October 2011

Time Flies

Quite a few people have mentioned that I have been lax in my literary duties with the blog!! I must admit I did not know it was quite such a long time since I updated it.  My internet connection on the laptop was very slow and my son, David, took it away and diagnosed a fault with the wireless card.  He supplied and installed a dongle to replace it, but I have fallen at the last hurdle with an apparent inability to connect with my home hub.   That means that blogging has to take place on the farm computer in the barn.  Not very appealing in the evenings.  I will have another go at the laptop shortly.

Another excuse is that our TV died, and although we do not watch all that much TV in the summer, we thought it would be a good idea to replace it so we have bought a modern TV with LCD screen LED back light etc:  Not a huge one, but 32" is about as big as we could stand in our little log cabin.  The thing is it is really riveting.    Everything is bigger and better.  Mike can actually work out which car is which when watching Formula 1 and the scenery looks great in Escape to the Country, Sheepdog trials etc:

Since the 13th September when I last blogged, I went to the annual Veterinary Issues Day run by the South West Alpaca Group and found the speaker quite interesting but the second speaker was unwell and so another alpaca breeder who is studying for a PHD gave a very interesting talk on parasitology.   We have FECs (Faecal egg count) done by our vet to avoid long term use of wormers which can encourage resistance to the treatment in the worm community.  We worm when there is a significat presence of worm eggs in the dung.  The talk highlighted the importance of taking individual samples as opposed to pooled samples, which I have been doing, and she had also been doing some interesting research into the effects of wormers on cria when weaned.   Stressed livestock are more likely to seccumb to disease, parasites etc: and of course having your mum taken away is stressful for the cria.

I decided to have some individual samples tested and the results were very interesting and although I knew that each alpaca would have a different level, if any, of infestation, I was surprised at how big the difference was.  As a result we have changed the wormer we use, as a once off, as two of the alpacas had a presence of tape worm.   This is usually not particularly harmful, but we decided we would try and get rid of it anyway.   After  24 hours we moved the females down to the winter paddocks which have not been grazed for several months, hoping that they will have shed the eggs before moving.

Tessa, the vet, came to carry out pre-movement TB testing on some alpacas which were about to go to their new home and whilst she was here I asked her to look at Maddy's shoulder again to see if she thought I should take her into the surgery.   She agreed that the swelling was increasing and thought they should withdraw some fluid and send it away for testing, so I took her in and after a few days the results came back showing that the swelling did indeed contain blood but the suggestion was there could be an underlying tumour.   I was not surprised, but obviously worried.    We decided to let nature take its course and keep her on metacam to control the pain and see how it went.  

The swelling continued to increase and she spent most of the time stading up and panting and so last Monday Tessa came and euthenased her.   I held her leg to make the vein stand out and her heart stopped before the entire dose had left the syringe so she must have been ready to go.  Mike buried her next to my dear Tilly Tonkers behind the barn.

On a more cheerful note, Dolly is going great guns with her sheepdog training.   She absolutely loves it and she is going out into the big field next week, which is apparently much sooner that expected with a novice dog.  Her agility is also improving.  It was mainly her weaving which was holding her back but she has found out that it is more fun if you go fast.   She does a bit of a Diesel scream as she goes through them.  I hope it is a good omen because Diesel Designer Blue to give him his full title is a very successful agility dog and he is her grandsire.

We have ordered our new barn so that we can start converting the old barn into a dwelling in the new year.  It should be arriving in about a month and in the meantime we are hoping that the groundwork will take place so that it can be erected as soon as it arrives.  Robbie, our architect, came along on Thursday to finalise a few points to enable him to alert the Building Regulations Department and get various reports which strange initials which you have to have to comply.   We have arranged for gas to be piped to the new build at a very reasonable price because the pipeline runs through our property anyway so there are no complications with having to dig up the main road or anything.

Seven, the sickly kid, is in remission at the moment but she is not right.  Her twin sister, Eight, is always with her, which is sweet.   The other five kids are together most of the time but Seven and Eight are often to be seen cuddling up or in the shelter munching at the hay when the others are out and about.

Chickens are not laying much, but still enough to keep us in eggs for domestic use.  No surplus for the neighbours, though.

We put the male alpacas in with the does and the buck for a short time whilst we were clipping toe nails and worming the females.    Pedro and Charlie climbed goat mountain.