Tuesday, 29 December 2020

My bonnie lies over the ocean...

Apple Vale Jupiter

 

As I write this (Dec 29th) I have the mixed feelings of someone who has just sold two of their best and favourite alpacas - a lump in the throat beckons with the thought of missing two familiar characters each morning, but happiness that they are moving on to become part of a bigger herd across the Irish Sea, where they can find more 'work' and hopefully pass on the best of their genetic traits.

Apple Vale Fortune

I'll return to that subject later, but back to where I left off in April: exceptional warmth and sunshine during April and May helped the grass to recover from the wet winter and early spring, although it actually baked the saturated clay too quickly, so that re-seeding was wasted as the ground hardened.

At the beginning of June the brilliant Colin Ottery sheared the herd plus some for clients, and though the preceeding days had brought showers, the improvements I had made to the main field shelter meant we could go ahead with dry animals, and then house them overnight to prevent chilling.

Two days later Apple Vale Florina gave birth at mid-day, to a black male with pretty white face markings - although quick to sit up and stand, he was down on his pasterns and unable to stand to suckle, so in the early evening we intubated plasma to ensure that he got sufficient anti-bodies to protect against infections, and at 9 in the evening we saw him suckling and could relax.

Marble with Apple Vale Florina behind

Due to the dry spring, by now the paddocks were thin on grass, the ground cracked and prairie-like, but a showery June followed by a burst of heat at the end of month ensured a recovery, though not enough to produce our own hay this year, so we traded hay in return for labour, helping to load 360 bales from our brilliant neighbour Bas' who also helped me to knock-in replacements for a large number of rotten fence posts.

Later in the summer, Florina, her cria Marble, and Kit (potential stud male) were sold to Foxhole Alpacas to help them build and develop their new herd.

At the beginning of August, Apple Vale Gala gave birth to Marianne (sire: Patou Goose), a fabulous-looking 7.4kg white female, just as 'ordered'. Despite a good start with feeding, weight-gain was slow - this was due to feeding from just two teats, and even though I expressed the other two teats on several occasions, she never really used them, and her weight-gain has been half the norm, although always upwards, and she is now over 25kg.

Marianne and Madeleine

Later that week, Blossom of Redingvale Alpacas gave birth to Madeleine (Maddy), a lovely white female sired by our own Apple Vale Jupiter. A strapping 9.45kg, Maddy has thrived.

We've carried out some interesting new matings this summer, and all scanned positive in the autumn, so, fingers are crossed for healthy births next June/July.

Given the absence of halter shows, we entered a couple of fleece shows: at the Cornish Camelid Fleece Show, Apple Vale Jupiter was placed 3rd white huacaya 24-48 months in a class of 9, beaten by the eventual Supreme Champion in 1st place and Best of British Bred in 2nd place, with half a point separation in each case, scoring 84.5 points, and then at the South West Alpaca Group fleece show he came second with 84 points.

Meanwhile, the hens have been locked-down in the polytunnel due to the Avian flu' outbreak - not at all nice for them, being used to free-ranging the paddocks.

It's been a funny old year, though I'm sure you will have your own description of it - the usual calendar markers of agricultural or alpaca shows went missing, but at least as farmers we had the seasonal activities of shearing, hay-making, birthing, mating etc. to keep us slightly in tune, albeit they are all variable.

Finally, we had a sales enquiry at the beginning of December, following-up a previous enquiry, regarding our stud males - could they be delivered to the Republic of Ireland before the UK left the EU on December 31st? As a fellow exporter said to me, "we can, but we'll have to get a shimmy on"! First we had to register as an Exporter with APHA, only then could we make an application to export - meanwhile, we booked the vet for TB and Brucellosis tests - the normal turnaround for the Enferplex test was quoted as 14-21 days, so with a 4-day Christmas break looming, it was going to be tight - and the transport was booked for tuesday 29th. The skin tests and brucella results were negative, and the Enferplex test results came back negative on the 21st - almost there, but you have to have a vet health check within 48 hours of their intended journey on a certificate issued by APHA, and this hadn't arrived by Christmas Eve! At 2.00 I 'phoned APHA and was told it was waiting on a 'SAM' results check - at 4.00 I 'phoned and was told by a different officer that she would do it straight away...the office was due to close at 5.00 for Christmas...so I 'phoned again at 4.45, and was told it would be done...at 5.55 we received an e-mail to say it had been sent to the vet! Credit to the civil servant who was true to her word on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, Covid 19 had played another trick with it's variants, and the possibility of travel to the EU became doubtful...but the ban only applied to visitors not freight. So the vet carried out her pre-travel check on Bank Holiday monday (yes another 'twist') and so it was that at 7.30 this morning the boys were collected, and at 6.30 this evening I heard that they were grazing on Irish pasture, although I did hear that they (and their fellow travellers) had re-decorated the inside of the van green during the journey!

Well, it's weaning and halter-training next, while tackling the winter and hopefully avoiding the virus - Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Brotherly love.

Jupiter and Kit
 With no opportunities for alpaca shows in the next few months, a round-up of progress in the herd, to give a glimpse of some of the show team as they come into their prime, with well-established fleece and growth of the weanlings before shearing begins.

I started the previous post in mid-December with, "... the paddocks becoming muddier...", and as we all now know, they became wetter and muddier for another three months. As we got closer to the date of the National Show at the end of March, it became touch-and-go whether we would have animals clean enough to present at such a prestigious event - but as February ended, occasional dry days occurred, interspersed with wet days, such that the animals began to clean up, and even though the saturated ground became water-logged again and again, we had hopes of the show team being presentable...and then Coronavirus loomed. At first, it seemed possible that it could go ahead with certain safety measures and limitations in place - after all, the industry has well-established protocols for bio-security of our animals at such events, so we could have developed measures for the attendees, but the riska associated with the wider aspects, such as accommodating and feeding the humans became insurmountable.

Saturation of the ground, with water and mud oozing up between the alpacas toes, spoiled the already over-grazed grass, and we found we had to rotate the groups between paddocks much more frequently than before, to try and avoid any paddock becoming beyond easy recovery.


Apple Vale Jupiter 
This had a knock-on effect for weaning and halter training, as the weanlings weren't in the usual paddock which is handy for late-afternoon training as the days lengthened - this, coupled with the constant rain made for haphazard sessions, such that progress with the group is slow.

As a small effort to contribute something interesting for those in our village who are unable to get out and about the countryside at the moment, I started issuing a daily 60-second video from the paddock, on our local Facebook page, usually at morning feed time - they won't be issued on 'general' release, after all, who has a voice good for radio at 7.30 in the morning? !  :-)


Jupiter's fleece
Apple Vale Kitageskee (Kit)
Apple Vale Liberty (Libby)
Libby's fleece
Apple Vale Little Emily
Emily's fleece
Jupiter, Kit and Libby were all sired by Hanley Hall Polaris of Alpha Alpacas, from our dam Apples Helen's Diana (sire: Jaquinton of Alpaca Stud);
Kit, Jupiter and Fortune
Emily was sired by Appledene Commander-in-Chief of CME, dam  Apple Vale Gala grand dam: Apples, as above;


Sunday, 15 December 2019

End of term report.


With short, wet days, and the paddocks becoming muddier, it's time to look back on the last six months or so.



The show team of our white males, Apple Vale Kit (Kitageskee) and Apple Vale Jupiter attended five halter shows from Spring to Autumn, coming away with a very pleasing set of results, being placed either 2nd or 3rd in all classes but one, and generally in classes of between 6 and 11 entries - the sashes proved elusive this year, but they were snapping at the heels of champions.

In the Spring and Summer, I built the 'bandstand', somewhere to sit and watch the cria on a summer's evening:

We are looking forward to next year's shows, and the show team have been enhanced with this year's crop of four female cria.

At the end of July, Blossom gave birth to Lady Alice, sired by CME Florestan (S: Ntherough of CME GS: Dovecote Jaquinto), a light fawn female.

In August, Apples gave birth to Liberty (Libby) sired by Hanley Hall RA Polaris of Alpha Alpacas, a white, full sister to Kit and Jupiter.

The following day, Gala gave birth to Little Emily, sired by Appledene Commander-in-Chief of CME, a dark fawn female.

Finally, early September, Elstar gave birth to Longworth Bryony, sired by Apple Vale Fortune, a fawn and white female.
This abundance of female births balanced previous years of male-dominated births.
All the births went smoothly, although Blossom went into several days of isolation and 'quiet contemplation' in preparation, just before our son's wedding, which kept us on tenterhooks. Two of the mums had some difficulty feeding, with a swollen teat or two, and I was quite chuffed to learn the skill of expressing milk to relieve the pressure, and help the milk to start flowing.

In July, we attended Middlezoy village show with two of the yearling females, and Joy took a table full of products, which generated some sales and interest in felting classes.

Joy has continued processing our fleeces, and making fabulous knitted, felted and woven garments, which have sold well to B and B guests, and recently at local craft fayres.
Finally, we have said goodbye to a few females recently, who we have sold to an established breeder - this has helped to ease the pressure on the paddocks, which is welcome after these continuous wet months.
Not long until the days start lengthening...

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Apple Vale Bryony

The class of 2019

It's a whitewash!  A clean sweep! Any other sporting cliche you choose -  the girls have 'trounced' the boys 4-0!

Apple Vale Elstar was due to give birth on my birthday, 24th August, but she wanted her cria to have it's own birthday, and besides, it was 26 degrees, so she held on for another 12 days, and on 5th September gave birth to Bryony (Apple Vale Longworth Bryony).

Sired by Apple Vale Fortune, she has produced an almost identical sister to Apple Vale Kerry Pippin. Born at 9.15 a.m, she was quick to get to her feet, the placenta was delivered within the hour, and she was searching for milk quickly, and she searched...and searched...and searched. After about four hours, I had a feel of her teats, and managed to express some milk/colostrum, spread it onto the other teats and onto Bryony's lips, but after seven hours she was clearly not spending long enough at the milk bar to be getting much, but visiting frequently, so we decided to give her plasma, to be sure that she had some immunity to infection. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength, feeding properly that same evening, and gaining weight at a good daily rate. Her fleece is beautiful, and she is full of energy. From Elstar's sire, Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, we know that there is a grey gene in there, and Kerry Pippin has a partial Rose Grey saddle, so we tried to 'get it out' again -currently, we can just see it in Bryony's ears.


Sunday, 11 August 2019

Another one bites the dust


Last week's birth of Lady Alice was followed by two births this week.

On wednesday, Apples produced Liberty, a white female, sired by Alpha Polaris. Exactly like last year, with the birth of Kit, Apples went to the rolling pit, and labour began - eventually a white female was launched head first into the dry earth - another one bites the dust - literally, and Liberty had arrived, the dirt immediately sticking to her fleece, still damp with amniotic fluid - her bright white fleece was mottled like an appaloosa, and it will take several days to work out the dirt! However, already, it is showing promise to follow the success of her full brothers, Jupiter and Kit...
Another one bites the dust! Apple Vale Liberty.

Liberty being chased by Alice.

On thursday, Gala produced her first cria, a fawn female, sired by Appledene Commander-in-Chief of Classical Milend. At first, a nose appeared, but with little happening for a while, we decided to break the sack with a gentle poke, so that the cria could start breathing. Being a maiden, Gala seemed a bit surprised by something hanging out of her rear end, and spiralled around like a cat or dog chasing it's tale, screeching at the same time! This went on for a while, before she sat down with the head and front legs protruding - progress had halted for some 10-15 minutes, so while I 'comforted' Gala by holding her head, Joy applied a gradual pull on the cria's legs to ease the shoulders out, we then stood back - she didn't stand, but with a few more contractions, Little Emily was born from Gala in the kush position. We have waited a couple of years for one of our female granddaughters of Jaquinto to produce a cria, and at last we have one, and we shall follow the development of the Commander-in-Chief influence with anticipation.
Apple Vale Little Emily.
Heavy rain and strong winds demanded coats for a couple of days.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Birth of Lady Alice

Last year, once we had confirmed the pregnant females by scanning, we realised that two females were due to birth on the weekend of our son Ross' wedding. So it was the day before the wedding, I noticed that Blossom was sitting away from the rest of the herd, and had begun to look 'thoughtful'. We had arranged for a friend to call in every couple of hours on the day of the wedding, as the venue was half-an-hour away, and I checked my 'phone regularly all day - the wedding went well, and with a houseful of relatives for several days, all were hoping to witness a birth during their stay - Blossom had other ideas - she stayed 'distant' until all the guests had left on tuesday, and I returned to work on wednesday, but was polite enough to give birth at lunchtine, so I could pop home for an hour and see that all was well.
Looking for milk before the placenta has passed;
Most importantly, she delivered a light fawn female, 8.4kg. She was up in 5 minutes, walking within 10 minutes, looking for milk before the placenta was delivered, and sits her driving test on Monday!
The females form a protective corden around the cria.

After 24hours we noticed that Blossom's rear teats were swollen, and Alice had lost more weight than is usual in the first day, so I milked off those teats, to reduce their size, and again the following day - the teats have now reduced to a consistant size, and she has gained a good increase in weight each day, and I have added the skill of milk-maid to my CV!
Regular readers will know that we name our herd after apple varieties, and this year we have reached 'L', hence Lady Alice.
Sire: CME Florestan - Dam: Reddingvale Valentina (Blossom of Apple Vale).