Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Barn Dance imminent

They started cladding the barn today and expect to have it finished next week.   The builders are only able to come about 2 days a week at the moment as they are also working elsewhere.  Once they are finished the floor will have to be concreted and some internal walls built.

The bucks seem to be having foot trouble at the moment.  We keep having to clean out their hooves and spray with blue spray. It is probably Strip caused by the warm damp weather.  It is a bacterial infection which seems to cause pain outof all proportion to its appearance.

Seven seems to be doing quite well and is holding her own in the eating competitions.  She was scouring again a couple of days ago so I dosed her against worms again which seems to have done the trick.  

Today we re-scanned a few females whose pregnancy was iffy.  Most of them appear to be pregnant so we should have a good haul of cria next year.  We are hoping to redress the balance of the last two years where we have had far too many boys.

Dolly came to fetch both batches and did most of it herself without stressing the alpacas at all.   They hardly broke out of a walk.  Mariana, a young pregnant female tries to argue with her and it will be interesting to  see if Dolly wins the war.

We have just bought  a loom.  It is only small but we are hoping that if we get on with it OK we will be able to progress to a bigger one and make throws.   When we used to import them from Peru they sold well, so we hope we can make them pay using our own wool.  Mike is quite keen to have a go,and I am really glad because the loom looks very complicated so needs his engineering skills.  It has inspired me to have another go at the knitting machine, especially as there is now a group of alpaca owners in Devon pooling resources to enable us to pay an affordable price for trade stands at agricultural shows in the area.  If that idea develops it will be a new outlet for our alpaca products.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

What Headache?

We decided to introduce Emperor and Drake a couple of days ago.   They circled each other to start with and this was followed with a prolonged session of head butting, including taking a run up to each other to give the headbut more force, mixed with hind leg balancing acts.  Luckily their horns grow backwards so there was no locking of horns.  After what seemed forever, they finally settled and it seems they have decided their pecking order.  I think Drake won, but it is hard to tell as they seem to be best buddies now.
The young bucks just ignored the whole thing - unlike young male alpacas who would have become very excited and probably started to tussle with each other.   Emperor is limping a little and I cannot find anything wrong with his feet so I am thinking he might have done a little damage when battling with Drake.  Perhaps when he was balancing on his hind legs dancing around like a boxer.  It does not seem to be getting any worse so we hope he will be sound in a day or two.  I am surprised they have not got headaches.   Maybe they have - it is hard to tell as I don't speak goat.

The barn builders returned on Monday and by the end of Tuesday they had erected the framework.   They have left to finish off another job but should be back next week to clad the outside and concrete the floor - or maybe they will disappear again for a while between cladding and concreting.   Mike is going to get Larry, who has done work  for us before, to build some blockwork internal walls so we can have the farm office, somewhere to make a cup of tea and a toilet in the new barn.  It seems quite big so there should be plenty of room for hay storage, feed and animal handling.   We will also use it at kidding so we can keep an eye on the does when they give birth and also to keep the kids warm so we don't have the issues we had this year with a couple of the kids becoming hyperthermic.

Dolly's sheepdog training is going well.   We have done a course of six lessons and with Christmas coming up followed by lambing, we will not be doing any more until the spring.  In the meantime I am hoping that we can build on what we have done so far.  All being well I shall probably be helping our instructor with lambing. She has 600 sheep (not sure how many pregnant ewes) so it will be a good experience to give me confidence if I need to start rummaging in alpacas.  In my experience they rarely need help, so I  have not had to intervene very much.  I attended a lambing course a couple of years ago, but pulling a dead lamb out of an old oil drum does not compare with the real thing.

The chickens don't seem to be laying at all at the moment.   We think they must have a stash somewhere as most of them look healthy and it seem unlikely that none of the eight  are producing.   We will probably buy some more point of lay hens shortly.   I actually had to buy eggs this week for the first time in years.

We will be opening the farm shop on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (afternoons)from now until Christmas and bringing up the alpaca cria as an added attraction.  We have also bought a small loom which will be arriving shortly.   The last batch of wool which we had spun did not live up to expections but should make nice soft throws.   Mike says he would be quite interested in trying weaving.  Something to do in the long winter evenings.  Watch this space, but don't hold your breath.

Monday, 14 November 2011

New Blood

Emperor is our latest aquisition.  He is an awesome addition to our little goat herd.  As you can see he has a lovely long straight back, a really handsome face, well proportioned limbs and (as you cannot see) an excellent temperament.    He is in quarantine at the moment and has a little whethered kid as company.   The kid is also in quarantine until Emperor's thirty days are up.  They are the best of friends and Andy (the kid) is actually looking at  one of our dogs,not trying to escape!!

We have had a nasty shock with 7 and 9, one of her half brothers.   Both were scouring badly and I medicated them for coccidia and took  faecal samples to the vet to see if there was any other cause for the problem.   We were particularly concerned for 7 who has probably had her immune system compromised by her recent illness.   She has recovered from the swelling but seemed to be going downhill again.

The samples went in on Friday but I was concerned when I had not received the results by Tuesday morning, especially as both kids seemed to be detiorating and 7 kept falling down and could not get up again.  I phoned up and expressed my concerns quite forceably.  Tessa phoned me back and I  was horrified to hear that 9 had a Faecal Egg Count of 5000 and 7 had 1000.  No wonder they were going down hill.

We had wormed all the goats at the end of June and took a 20% sample from individual members of the herd  in late September which was reported to be completely clear so we did  not worm at that time.   Somehow in less than two months the egg count has gone up from zero to the above.  Seems unlikely, although the weather has been very mild.  More likely there was something wrong with the samples or with the testing.

Needless to say all goats have now been wormed and after a couple of days of being under par, both 7 and 9 seem to be perking up. 

I spent the weekend at Earls Court helping Pauline on the APDT stand at Discover Dogs.  Seems that dogs still need their new toys, beds, equipment and bling despite the economic problems of the country.  As usual I went intending to spend nothing but soon found some must have items, such as an additive of seaweed which breaks down plaque on their teeth.   Sandy has awful teeth but she will be 18 in April - more worrying is that Romie  (6)has always had plaque which bones and teeth cleaning keep at bay but never get rid of it totally.  I also bought new nail clippers, a year's supply of wormer for dogs, 5 balls on a rope which were only £1 each but could not buy the pink head collar that I wanted for Dolly because luckily the colour was out of stock in her size.

We have two females alpacas who have skin problems which we have never been able to clear.   They breed every year and their cria do not seem to have inherited the condition.   They have been treated with everything under the sun over the past few years.  We are now trying zinc added to some alpaca nuts each day in the hope that it may be a zinc responsive condition.

Bad weather is holding up the start on the new barn.  If it is fine on Friday we are expecting the builder to come and lay concrete pads for the main supports, which will be good.  Once the concrete has set they should be able to proceed with the erection.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Hunt the Egg

Well - we do not have many hens at the moment - some died of old age presumably, the fox got some, but we were getting two or three eggs a day until recently when it went down to only one.  We resigned ourselves to chosing eggs for cakes or frying but not both on the same day until either the spring or until some more start laying again.  Nick and Mike discovered the nest of 18 eggs pictured above when they were going around checking the fence posts on Tuesday!!   Mystery solved.  They were in a hay rack in one of the shelters.  One of the down sides of free-ranging hens!!  Still I love seeing them wandering around the place.

Over the past few weeks we have been worming, drenching with ADE, and giving the herd a preventative dose of Fasinex which eliminates liver fluke which can be a killer.   We weighed all the cria again and the photo shows some of them looking rather bedraggled and fed up in the catch pen, and looking forward to going back to their six acre paddock where most of the herd spend the winter months.

We were pleased that one cria (recently weaned) had maintained the same weight but all the others had made significant gains.

We kept two mums back when we sent the herd back down as their cria were ready to wean.

Mike and I went to an Anthony Clarke training session yesterday.  The Sunday was fully booked, but Kim, the organiser fitted us in for a session at her training venue which is outside.  We were very lucky with the weather.

It was only about half an hour away and we really enjoyed it and found it very useful.   Mike's new attempt at making Jake wait was very successful.  He was able to leave him for more than two jump's distance until the very last exercise when we thought he was starting look as though he might revert to his bad old ways, so instead of allowing this, I held him at the start.

Dolly, as always was very good and caught on to what she was asked to do very quickly.