Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Alpacas Fighting Problem Solved


Well, I emailed the vet, but Tessa, who usually looks after our alpacas was going away on holiday.  Lucky for Pedro, because instead of booking her in on her return we are going with Mike's obvious idea!!

The sheep have always liked Pedro and used to follow him around when they were together before, so he is going to live permanently with the sheep.  It might be a bit inconvenient sometimes as we often put the sheep and alpacas in together, but this way Pedro with be useful as a sheep/lamb guard and he will probably be happier in the long run.  It must be very stressful fighting and protecting "his" females all the time.

At the moment they are all out in the pouring, freezing rain, but they have access to shelter all over the place, so I can only assume the rain has not yet got through their thick fleece.  The hens have got more sense.   They have spent most of the day in their shelter.   Unfortunately they do not seem to be laying many eggs at the moment.   We shut them in for a day yesterday to try and check whether they are laying elsewhere but it seems not, as the number of eggs in the shelter were the same as before.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fighting Talk


This time of year our lower land gets very soggy and muddy, so we decided to bring all the males up to the home paddocks before the track becomes impassable.  Apparently we are looking forward to the wettest winter on record.

Two males have been together in the top paddock some time so it was no surprise that when the new arrivals were brought up by Dolly there was some excitement, but they soon settled down and we thought we might  have got away with it.  We had sprayed the two resident  alpacas with vinegar which helps to disguise their smell.  We went indoors for our tea break but were soon disturbed by alpaca screaming.

Pedro, an older stud male, is a known troublemaker and he had attacked Nanook, a young aspiring male.  I rushed out with Jake,Mike's dog, who is ace at keeping alpacas away from gates when we want to drive through and breaking up the (luckily) rare alpaca fights.  He quickly identified Pedro as the aggressor and chased him off whilst I shut Nanook and his companion into a small enclosure and safety.

I noticed that Nanook was bleeding from his mouth and thought be had either bitten Pedro or hit himself against the pen whilst fighting.  I went to the barn to get the antibiotic and Mike came to hold Nanook so that I could check him over.  It turned out to be quite a minor injury to his gums, so nothing to worry about.

I phoned my friend, Pauline, who owns Pedro, to get her to agree to his castration.  He is related to most of the coloured alpacas on the farm, so is unlikely to be needed as a stud any more and it would not really be fair to pass him on to anyone else given his temperament.  Besides, since downsizing the herd last year we need animals to graze the land.  I emailed the vet straight away and in the meantime Pedro and Nanook will have to be housed separately. It will take a while for Pedro's testosterone to work its way out but let's hope he will be more amenable once  it does.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Ram Arrives


Yesterday afternoon Henning III, the Gotland Ram that I am sharing with Jenny, the friend that sold me the four Gotland ewes that are here already.  He seems a very calm ram and Jenny told me that they had had no problems when they had had to handle him.

He seemed very interested in one of the ewes but soon settled down, so presumably they are not in season at the moment.   They have a 17 day cycle so he should mate with all four over the next few weeks.  When I checked on them this morning, the ewes came over as usual, but Henning remained a little aloof.   I am mindful of Nick's advice, that it is not a good idea to get too friendly with the ram as he may then expect attention and if he does not get it will use the ram headbut method!!

The village school held a Christmas Fair in the school hall yesterday evening and I took a selection of products along as I think it is important to try and support such events when possible.  There were lots of lovely stalls and some very ingenious hand made Christmas decorations as well as cakes, artworks and, of course, tombola.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Knitting keeps you fit


Well, who'd have thought it!!  My new interest in knitting includes using a vintage knitting machine to knit scarves.  It is a "chunky" machine which means it is for thicker yarn and therefore it is a bit harder to push the carriage from side to side, particularly as I am knitting 2 x 2 rib which requires two carriages and two sets of needles.

The scarves that I make consist of 280 rows so I have to push the carriage back and forth 280 times, which gives me quite a work out.   After a few days I began to feel my waistline returning from wherever it had disappeared to.   

Yesterday I made a cowl instead of  scarves, meaning a few less rows.  I would have shown you a picture, but it sold in the shop today!  

Monday, 17 November 2014

Colourful Shop


The continuing rain is making the land very soggy and every indentation becomes a mini lake every time we have a downpour.  Mike is busy changing the hen house and run, making use of the old goathouse to give them more perches and removing the current night time shed.  This will mean that the main entrance to the run will be at the side on flat ground instead of the front which is in a slight dip and is now almost ankle deep in mud.

When it is done it will make life more pleasant for us when we clean out the pens and sheds and also make it easier to keep the hens' feet  clean so that they don't make the eggs so dirty in wet weather.   When they have laid an egg they roll it around with their feet and any mud is often then attached to the egg, which makes them look grubby to say the least.

We have decided to bring the male alpacas up to the home paddocks as the bottom paddocks are fairly wet in the winter normally, and they don't seem to have recovered completely from last year's soakings yet.  The only concern is that they will be in a field right next to the female alpacas, and as some of the the females are not pregnant, this might cause some problems with the males.   If it becomes too difficult we may have to think of a different solution whilst still giving them all access to shelter when they need it.

The shop is in need of the TLC.  It needs to be waterproofed and painted. At the moment you can see the rain seeping into the actual wood.  We have decided to give it a bit of a face lift at the same time and use some Cuprinol colour which will brighten it up as well as preserve it.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Work Experience


Today we spent some time with a very young lady who is keen to become a farmer when she leaves school. We do not have enough work to warrant extra help even on a work experience basis but we introduced her to alpacas and she shadowed me for an hour or so.   We did not really need to trim toe nails today but did so to give her some experience of handling and dealing with the alpacas.   She did really well and at least had something else to put on her CV when the time comes.

Apparently as well as attending school she has helped on a farm at lambing time, regularly helps with milking a dairy herd at the weekends and has several pets (including a snake) of her own and she is hoping to adopt a lamb to rear next year!!  She should go far if she carries on as she has started.

We took the opportunity to do a condition check and have decided that the boys definitely need a bit of a boost, although they are still in very good condition, they have become slightly thinner than a few weeks ago.  We will also send of dung samples from the whole herd to see if they need worming.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Mike makes money!!


I went out to an Antiques Fair  with some girlfriends today and Mike was left in charge of the shop - a job that  he says he hates, although I think he over eggs it a bit.

After a quiet start to November today was the the busiest day for a while and Mike said he was up and down to the shop like a yo yo.When I arrived home it was getting dark and the last customers were in the car park getting ready to leave.  It makes a lot of difference when the weather is good.   Cold and bright is best.  We hardly ever get any visitors if it is raining.

 It was good the see the alpacas starting to dry out.   They have free access to the barn and I feed them in there at dusk especially on wet days in an effort to keep them out of the rain, but most of the time they stay in for a while and then wander out again.  Of course if the weather was really severe we could shut them in.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Sheep Shape


We kept the sheep in the barn for a few days to keep them warm after shearing but they were starting to get restless and so today we let them out with the female alpacas for company.   They loved it and the fab four were always in the forefront wherever the alpacas were.  We will probably let them stay together so that the sheep paddock can be rested for a while before the ram, Henning III comes to stay.

I have been busy replanting the strawberry plants into containers.  My friend and neighbour, Pam gave me 30 new plants so with my own runners and the established plants I reckon we will be selling a few strawberries in the shop next year.

Mike is about to start cutting the hedges back and so there will be bean sticks for us and to sell as well as willow whips from our willow trees which we bought back in the summer.   Every little helps, as they say.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

New Stuff

Nearly stocked up for Christmas sales in the farm shop.   We have hand made soap, hand-made candles in vintage containers and luxury hand made candles, all with lovely natural scents.   Coming soon we have hand made Christmas wreaths, made by one of my agility friends.   She is extremely artistic and inventive.  Of course this is in addition to our normal alpaca products, gifts and cards.

Today Mike and Nick are continuing with the installation of a permanent penning and handling area in the barn.   For the last two winters we have had all the alpacas inside for part of the winter and it has involved setting up lots of hurdles, often tied up with the indispensable  baler twine, and taking it all apart again afterwards.   The new system will be adaptable with some parts fixed and others made up of gates that swing to enclose, cut off or release as required.

The Gotland Sheep have just been shorn.  I tried to get a good photo of them but as soon as they see me they think they are going to be fed so they get quite excited and won't stand still.   They are shorn twice a year and of course this time of year they will feel the cold until the fleece grows back a bit so they are testing out the first part of the new penning.   We put a tarpaulin up to prevent the cold wind blowing in on them.   The fleece grows back very quickly and so they will be allowed out in a few days.   They have a shelter in their paddock so they can take cover if they feel the need.