Friday, 25 May 2012

Growing population

Two of the buck kids have gone to a new home this week.    One is our very first goat kid and the other is number 10.    Steve, who lives in Chardstock,  which is our parish even though we are in Tytherleigh, wanted some help keeping a small paddock down.  He is also going to get a couple of sheep so the boys will have plenty of company.  We took them over in the horse box and had to park a little way down the road.   The magic food bucket was produced and they just trotted behind me up the road and into the paddock and the small enclosure that they are going to be in to start with.  As you can see from the photos they were not phased at all.  I think the third buck kid who was living with them is feeling their loss a little and he is the only littly in with the big bucks now.

We had a slightly premature birth yesterday with a pretty mid brown male cria born to Katharina, a white female.   We wanted to get back to having more coloured alpacas again and so covered several of the whites with fawn and brown males.  It seems to be working because so far out of six births we have only had one white, and she had a white sire too, so not surprising.  He started off being rather floppy and we were a little concerned but thanks to some glucose booster, lovely sunshine and a good Mum he seems to be doing well now.    This morning we had the first cria sired by Anchor, a new stud male we bought last year.    Another female and a lovely dark brown.    She had already arrived when I sent to check on the potential Mums and again, because of the lovely warm weather she dried off without needing to be rubbed with a towel and was very soon on her feet and suckling.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

That sinking feeling

Mike has just gone down to the winter paddocks so I am not sure when I will see him again.   Yesterday he went down there to do some topping (mowing) and I was surprised when after an hour or so I saw him tramping up towards the house.   He suggested we had an early lunch so that I could go back down with him in the landrover afterwards and operate the winch to pull him out of the mud in which he was stuck.

He had tested the ground and thought it would be Ok but unfortunately the tractor had sunk down quite deep on the offside rear and he could not move.    The old landrover is in a terrible state really but it is one of the most useful vehicles you could have on the farm.   It is virutally an all terraine vehicle and because it is not licenced to go on the road only requires the most basic of maintenance.    The seats inside are torn and covered in mud as all the dogs love a trip in it if only a few yards.   I have been known to have four dogs on the front seat and Jake is always ready to jump in beside Mike.

Anyway there is a very meaty winch on the front of the landrover and my job was to sit in and operated the winch whilst Mike started up the tractor  ready to move as soon as he had traction.   I had to put my foot hard on the foot brake to prevent the landrover being dragged forward.  If it was a film we would have been flipped up in the air and over the tractor, but in real life it worked well with only a little movement.

No more births to report but so far all the cria are looking good.

Nick is not coming in today because he has a migraine.   I know how awful he feels as I used to get them.  Luckily I seem to have aged out of them.  Maybe because I don't do so much socialising as I used to.  Oh no that's a hangover isn't it?

The weather at last has improved and we can catch up with all the jobs that have to be left because of the rain.  The pregnant females no longer need to go into the barn overnight although we are leaving them access in case they want to go in.  

We are only going to mate the females who have recently given birth this year as we want to reduce the birthing season so they all give birth in the same month, like goats and sheep do.   This means that we will not have many cria next year, but it is probably not a bad thing for the girls to rest anyway.

Not much progess on the building front but we are hoping to get everything underway again shortly.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Shear Joy

Last Tuesday the weather was great and all the damp and dreary animals dried out nicely.    Colin, the shearer, was due on Thursday morning for his annual visit to shear the alpaca herd.  Now that we have a lovely big barn we can get all the females in with plenty of room to spare.   The weather forecast was dire for Thursday, so when they were really dry on Tuesday evening we put them in the barn so they would keep dry for shearing.   They prefer to be outside but we could not risk it given the unsettled weather.

We drove all the males into a double shelter near the barn, although we realised that they might still get a bit wet it they stood near the shelter gate.   At least it would keep the worst off them.

Come Thursday morning it was drizzling and there was a heavy mist.   Although the alpacas had not been out in the rain the dampness in the air had caused condensation and they were almost as bad as if they had stayed outside it seemed.  

Anyway all went well, with Colin's new assistant, Seb, making life a lot easier.   He is on work experience so sadly we cannot guarantee that we will see him again.    He helped me pack the fleeces and sort into grades, at the same time as helping Colin and trimming the alpacas toe nails.

We are experimenting with handling systems in the barn using temporary hurdles until we find the system that suits us best.  We made a large holding area where they can remain all day and night if needs be, leading into a small pen.   The herd went into the large pen and we drove them into the smaller pen in fives and sixes.   This meant that they only had to walk a couple of paces to the shearing floor, which saved them getting too stressed.

I was pleased that they have come through the winter and the bad weather since quite well.  Only two alpacas were in poorer condition than I would have liked.   One, Cordelia, always seems to be quite bony.  It started when she adopted a cria whose Mum had died and spent several months pregnant and feeding two cria.   Although she seems healthy enough she never seems to get back to her former condition.

The other one was Audry and we discovered she had a jaw abcess.   I had not noticed it because of her fleece.  She had lost a lot of weight but the abcess seemed to have drained itself.   There was also a secondary abcess which we bathed and we have given her a course of anti biotics.  It must have been very recent because especially over the winter we frequently check the condition of the alpacas quite frequently.
We use a scoring system from 1 - 5.   1 is near starvation level and 5 is too fat.   She is probably only 2 at the most, but she is eating really well now, so with the summer coming on she has a chance to put on weight before she has to cope with another English winter.

We had two births yesterday.   Both at about 2 p.m. A white female cria to Pamela.   She was one of the last matings to Bono our poor stud male who died  with something very like bloat.  His stomach swelled up and he could not digest his food.   We spent a small fortune with the Vet but finally had to give up.   There was no real explanation but the general opinion was that he had either had an allergic reaction or eaten something poisonous which triggered his problem.   He had had a similar problem the previous year and the vet tried all sorts including siphoning the fluid out of his stomach.   Would have been gross if the Vet got it wrong and swallowed his stomach contents.

The new cria, Rosalind, is really strong.   She was born kicking and wriggling.   By contrast Rosaline (I know but we are using Shakespearean heroines and they are slightly different) who was born to Jacquenetta, a really nice black female, was slow to be born, and I had to give her  feed her from a bottle because her mother was obviously in pain and would not stand up.  After three injections over a period of time, the after birth finally came down at about 7 a.m. this morning.  

We had managed to get her cria to suckle over night and again in the morning and she has been making up for lost time during the day, but she is only half the animal that Rosalind is.  No doubt she will soon catch up.  She is very pretty and a little delicate.

Because the fleece got so damp at shearing I have been waiting for a dry day without too much wind so that I could dry it out.   If it stays in the bags too long when it is damp it starts to rot.  I managed to dry all but two bags of the First Grade fleece today and Mike is going to dry the Seconds whilst I am away for a couple of days staying with the Grandchildren whilst David and Jane visit their house in France.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

We have been bringing the pregnant females into the barn during the recent bad weather following the loss of a cria due to hypothermia ( we think) when her mother gave birth really early in the morning in a bad rain storm.   Some days they have been kept in all day but mainly just at night.

With a better weather forecast we have left them out over night for the last couple of days as they really do not like being kept in and also there is the risk of pneumonia with animals housed for too long in damp conditions.   When I went to check on them first thing this morning I had a nice surprise.   Aemelia, a really lovely young alpaca had given birth to her first cria, Regan.   Once again the birth must have been really early in the morning because the afterbirth had already come down and the cria was suckling nicely. 

In the past most births have been sometime between 9 a.m. and 3 or 4 p.m. but this seems to have changed this year.   Maybe it is something to do with the weather or just coincidence.

The kids are all really well grown now.   Tilly the Kid, as we call the bottle fed kid, has really caught up with the others after a shaky start and the other female kid who would not take a bottle but was being rejected by her Mum in favour of her twin brother, seems to have perfected her milk banditing  and is also doing well.

Adrian Campbell, a reporter from BBC Spotlight,  phoned yesterday and arranged to come and find out about alpacas this morning.  The were here for about an hour and a half doing a piece in connection with the Devon County Show.  If it goes out at all it will be at the time of the show which starts 17th May.  They really fell in love with the alpacas and the goats so I hope they got some usable material.  If not, it was still a fun experience and something to add to my CV as they say.