Friday 30 March 2012


Larry is going to start dismantling the old barn which is to be our new home on Monday so we have been busy emptying out all the things that have been stored in it for the past six or seven years.  Some will eventually go out as rubbish or scrap but Mike will find a use for most of it I am sure.  We are keeping personal effects in the attic over the farm office and all the farm and workshop stuff will go into the new barn.  It is so much bigger that even with the feed bins,  sacks of seeds for re-seeding the paddocks, piles of scaffolding planks and plenty more, there is still room to hold a barn dance.

Larry built a block wall to partition off  Mike's new workshop.  We used some left over blocks and some used thermolight blocks from Mike's garage in Salisbury.   They look a bit odd so maybe in the distant future I will get round to painting the top to match .

Mike has decided to sell his Jaguar XK150 which we bought about 30 years ago and he has never had the time to restore it.  It is a bit sad but will help us along the road to speeding up our build.  There seems to be quite a bit of interest in it, but no firm offers yet.

Nick and I tagged the new kids.  It is the job that I hate most on the farm but it is a Defra requirement that all sheep, cattle and goats have to be tagged for identification purposes.   The new ruling from last year is that sheep and goats have to have a tag in each ear,so the kids look they are wearing huge earings.   I check them every couple of days to make sure that the hole in their ear does not get infected.  So far so good.   Some of them are very brave but one or two really bleat what sounds like really loudly.  The time limit is actually 6 months but the bigger they are the stronger they get and it is no joke trying to tag a wriggling,bleating, horned young goat.

We are keeping a close eye on the alpacas now.   Some of them are nearly due to give birth.  I am checking on them three times a day and next month we will bring them all up to the home paddocks so they will be under close observation.

The boys are still loving their free ranging around the house area and we love seeing them.  They love climbing on the the piles of earth remaining from the earthworks for the new barn.   With the dry weather and the scalpings which form the farm yard and driveway it reminds us of our trip to Chile when we went over to chose our alpacas when we first began our new enterprise.

Friday 23 March 2012

Green green grass of home

With the springlike weather the grass has turned green again after the usual end of winter sad, yellow look.   The haylage we put out is not so popular as it was as like most livestock the alpacas prefer fresh forage.

I have finally finished sorting out the goat fleece from the last three shearings.  I had intended to have it spun and sell the wool but with everything else going on I have not got round to it, so I have decided to sell it back to the breeder from whom we bought our original goats.    Sorting the fleece is very tedious and needs at least a good play to listen to on the radio.   All vegetation and stained fleece needs to be removed.  I am definitely going to try and find a way of feeding them hay without getting it in the fleece as soon as possible.   The fleece feels very different from alpaca fleece in that it is soft, but feels very heavy and greasy, whereas the alpaca fleece does not carry lanolin at all.

The boys are still happy free ranging around the house and home paddocks, and seem very relaxed with  the dogs, chickens and humans whether visitors or residents.

On Tuesday Nick  and I  trimmed all the goats' feet as some of them were  limping.  In many cases it was just mud or grass that had got wedged but they did need doing as well.  It was absolute mahem because we ran all the does down into the barn and of course the kids came too.   They thought they had arrived at a funfair.  They kept running up and down the ramp we use to walk the goats up to the table where we do their feet, then they would escape from the pen and start bleating because they could not find their Mums and then come back in and start jumping on the ramp or walking up it and trying to suckle from whoever was captive at the top.  We laughed a lot but were quite glad when it was all over.    Trimming the bucks feet was a much more sober affair.

The barn is nearly finished apart from electrics and plumbing.  Most of the machinery and manpower has now left the site and we are looking forward to a peaceful time.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Relaxing weekend

Mike did all the farm chores yesterday whilst I took Romie dog training and then rushed home to give the place a quick spruce up and make up a bed for my friend Pauline to spend the weekend with us.

She brought her three dogs, including  Dodger, Dolly's litter brother.  With our six, it was quite a pack,but they all got on very well and were very good with all the animals.   This was especially important because we are free ranging the male alpacas and one of the does with her two kids in the paddocks around the house where some of the fences have been partially dismantled during the building works on the new barn.

So far all the kids are doing well, but it will be another few weeks before I feel really confident.  Just me being cautious.

The adoptee seems to be bonded with his new Mum, but they are the ones free-ranging away from the main herd to make sure that she does not get confused and also to give time for his real mum to forget he is hers.  Nick said to be sure we need to keep them away for three weeks so there is still about  a week to go.

She is now being housed in an ex chicken shed at night, although the chickens seem to think she is just a single mum with 2 kids lodging there.  The kids kept using the feed bucket as a bedroom so now there are two feed buckets- one for haylage and one for the kids.

Pauline helped to halter train the next two young males on the list.  Pauline took Tajo  who is the mid brown son of Pedro and he has stunning fleece, lovely nature, and looks really smart too.   We are not going to any alpaca shows this year, but I am sure he would do well if we did.   As usual, of course, all the weanlings have lovely fleece but it is already too long for showing.  I took Senon, a little white male with attitude,but as I said to Pauline, it seems that the most stroppy end up being easier to train for some reason.  Maybe we just have to put in more effort.  Only two go after that.

I have removed all the stock from the farm shop ready for the building works  to start on the 26 March, and we are now only selling online with a  few outside events lined up.  The future of the alpaca products is still undecided,but I really like having them as it is what the alpaca is really about.  Their fleece is so lovely it  would be sad not to use it.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Colour Coding in alpacas

Here it is in black and white!! I am not the first to notice that alpacas seem to be attracted to others of the same or similar colour.  I am sure there must be a reason and maybe it occurs in all species where there is diversity of colour.

We have had to take some fences down to facilitate the ins and outs connected to the new barn and of course the unfenced paddock is the one with the best grass so we decided to take a chance and separate the male and female weanling and put the males in with the adult males, so effectively we now have a "batchelor" herd - i.e. all the  males (except Alario, who seems to have teamed up with two young bucks who keep escaping from their paddock and into Alario's), and all the females who are still in the winter paddocks.

I herded the weanlings to the top of the race where they had been for the past couple of weeks and put the two females on halters.  Mike opened the gate and the boys mooched into the unfenced paddock where the adult males were grazing.   So far all is going well.   This is as we hoped because it was a new paddock for all them, so no territorial issues, and the weanlings are still quite young and unlikely to challenge the adults. We have put a sign on the gate as they are now free ranging in the paddock and the yard and the drive.

I walked the two girls down to the winter paddocks.  They were reluctant at first but soon cheered up when they caught sight of the rest of  the herd.  The photo is of the adult males and weanlings.

The builders who are supposed to be concreting the new barn failed to turn up this week and Mike has been unable to contact the boss, which is a bit worrying as he is usually quite good at returning calls and although difficult to pin him down to a time, he always sticks to his agreement.   We are worried that he might have had an accident or be ill.

Mike shifted most of a pile of soil which had been left in the door way, but cannot do much else to move the job on as it is quite major work.

I went up to check on the goats this morning at about 5.45a.m. and found another kid had arrived.   He was tucked down in the crevace between the door and the main part of the goathouse but was fine and I made sure that he was suckling before leaving him with his Mum.  I am checking every hour or so during the day and as the sun came out and the wind dropped we let the kids and their Mums out to get some exercise and fresh air.   We had to keep the one with the adopted twin in the stock box we have made their temporary home as she needs more time to bond with the imposter before she goes back with the rest of the herd.

We now have 4 buck kids with two more does looking fit to bust.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

We're kidding

The first kids of 2012 were born today.   Luckily it was quite warm and sunny for March.

The oldest Doe in the herd gave birth to twin bucks at about 10 a.m.this morning.  We were quite surprised when she became pregnant as she has lost all her teeth and is a bit past her sell by date.  Then we hoped that she would have only one kid as last year only one side and teat was working and I had to bottle feed one of her kids.  Both kids were trying to feed from one teat and one was definitely getting the upper hand.   I suddenly remembered my hairdressing appointment and so left Nick (he was here, being a Tuesday) to give the twins some colostrum in case they were not getting enough from the old girl.

When I got back we were all concerned about  the situation and I was afraid I was in for another long stretch of bottle feeding.   Then at  about 2.30 I went up to the goat paddock and had a count up and found there was one missing.  I found her in the goathouse with a very recently born kid.  He was quite big so I guessed he was a singleton.  Nick and I decided to try and get the second twin adopted by the new Mum.

Look away now if you are squeamish!  We fetched the twin and rubbed some of the liquid from the birth over him and then wrapped some of the membrane which had covered  the singleton over him.  Nick tied his feet together so he would not run away but would have to stay by his new Mum and be licked as part of the bonding process.   He slipped his legs out of the loops, but luckily, the singleton lay down on top of him and Nick was able to rub them together to make them smell the same.  Then - and this is really gross - the after birth  started to come away from the Doe and there was a sack of  bodily fluids.  I held the doe whilst Nick put the twin under her and burst the sack so that the liquid immersed him.  Very soon Mum started to nuzzle the twin and her own kid and to lick them.  In fact she acted completely as though they both belonged to her.  

A textbook adoption, according to Nick.   I will be up a few times in the night to check up on them, but fingers crossed all should go well now, although we do have some concerns about the singleton.  He still seems very unsteady on his feet, but he is rather big and long legged so maybe he will grow into himself.

Our  grass seed was delivered this afternoon as we plan to reseed about half of the grazing paddocks.   I hope that I have ordered the right mix.   It contains some deep rooted varieties which should help to pull up minerals from the soil to enhance the alpacas diet.  I checked with my alpaca bible but the nutrition chapter was extremely complicated, although very interesting.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Alpaca Events Group

A few alpaca breeders in the South West have clubbed together to put on workshops and events of interest to new and experienced alpaca breeders.

On April 1st (no it is not an April Fool Joke) it is our turn to host a workshop.    Two leading authorities on organising alpaca shows and fleece, Peter Roisseter and Jean Field are presenting the event and we are  providing alpacas to play with and of course the most important tea, coffee and lunch.

This will christen our new barn so we are hoping that the cementing, pen building, and other variables are all under control by then.