Sunday 26 May 2013

Nifty shades, hooray

This weekend the temperature has crept up, despite the north wind - and my rain/sun shades have been welcomed by those still carrying a fleece - very satisfying that they could see the benefit:
Apples and Minnie share the shade.
Apples has left so Minnie makes herself at home.
We let the boys graze the 'avenue' and trailer hardstanding - Camelot poses like a macho on the Altiplano.
Girls graze, while boys laze (bottom corner of paddock beyond the shelter)

Sunday 19 May 2013

Herd reduction(?)

Unfortunately work pressure forced us to withdraw from the Devon County Show, but this weekend we got stuck into shearing, and have done half the herd (6!) We held a pre-shear briefing and procedure check, using the following 'model' for demonstration!:
Equipment ready:
Customer arriving (Camelot):
Camelot produced a whopping 5.7kg of useable fleece (excluding that extra growth of last years 'beard'!)
Camelot leads off having left his coat behind, Discovery disguised himself as a haystack so that we'd not notice him (he has  a show coming up), and Darcy Spice is behind.
Ambrosia sports the summer look.
It says something for our relationship, that Joy and I can do the shearing together - shearing could be stressful for owners and alpacas - it has to be done swiftly but calmly, concentration is essential to avoid harm to shearer or alpaca - the fleece, which is the whole point of breeding alpacas, needs to be removed in such a way as to maximise its use, and considering Joy is my 'customer' who will use it for garments and felting classes, we managed to complete the operation amicably. Last year we had an extra pairs of hands, but so far we've done these six on our own - we may call on sons to help with the bigger, more reluctant girls -

Today we did three generations, Pelachuta, autumn Gold and Golden Delicious:
Golden Delicious: "Suddenly, I'm now half the girl I used to be".
Golden Delicious
Pelachuta, grand-dam of Golden Delicious (note ssimilar colouring)
Autumn Gold, dam of Golden Delicious
We all know how comical it is when alpacas are shorn and the rest of the herd take a while to recogonise the newly-shorn characters - usually our herd have been shorn together, or within sight of each other, but this year they are grazing over the hill, so we brought three at a time over in two seperate groups to be shorn - when the girls were taken back to join the rest, they were given the cold shoulder, and despite Delicious running to her mate Freedom, Freedom ran away! several hours later I looked over at them, and they were in a stand-off of shorn and un-shorn groups, like Skinheads and Rockers from the seventies!

Monday 6 May 2013

Black and tan.

Looking back over a day at the North Somerset Show, refreshed after a 'nice cup of tea' and a shower. It was a day for Factor 30 and big hats for breeders, and gazebos for the alpacas, as a hot sun beat down from beginning to end, though the morning started misty at home at load-up time, so the alpacas were damp, but quickly dried once at the show.

First up in the ring was Discovery in the Junior Male Blacks:
Judge Dominic Lane took a look inside the fleece: and declares after Consulting Ring Steward Garry Naish, "this alpaca is brown!"

So, next up is Discovery.... in the Junior Male Brown class for his second time in the ring: you can see the black in him, compared with the other browns:
Complimented for the softness of his fleece, consistant colour and conformation, he's awarded 5th place.

Likewise Golden Delicious gets 5th, while Darcy Spice gets a 3rd, both with similar compliments.

So what did we learn today?

what seems black may be brown;
Light may be fawn;
and in bright sun, pale skin will become red;
When reversing and turned full lock, the jockey wheel pinch bar will poke a hole in your bumper;
Parking the car in a tight driveway off a tight road will be frustrating after a long show day, but patience and teamwork will get you there;
It doesn't matter how good the genetics, if an alpaca wants to sit down, it will sit down, and will not get up even when a stable mate is sent for...but it can still win first place, and a reserve championship...judges can be very patient!
If you forget your folding chair, your feet will ache!

"what colour are you today?"
We went with realistic expectations, knowing what good characteristics our three contenders had, while knowing their shortcomings, so we were satisfied with their performance - they were all better in the ring than training had indicated, so they didn't disgrace us - 120 alpacas attended, all from smaller breeders but with national champions and stunning fleeces among them. The 'season' is properly underway.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Warming up.

I spent most of yesterday fencing, but found I'd taken 40 photos of the alpacas while doing it, as you do! It's been very warm (out of the wind) today, and the shorts and barbeque have at last been called in to service, much later than usual.
Bramley and Golden Delicious
A passer-by came past the fieldgate with a dog, and I heard the alpacas alarm call, something which you rarely hear, but is amazing - it was like a two-tone alarm and on another occasion recently I heard it, and at first thought it was an unusual bird!
Girls in the foreground, boys in the paddock beyond.
Tomorrow, we have the first of three shows this month, the North Somerset Show, so today has been  a day of preparations, starting with a final halter training could have gone better, but I did clean their ear-tags, and Golden Delicious had all sorts of stuff tangled behind her rear end, which took a good bit of tugging to remove.
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
The water buckets have needed frequent topping-up these last few days.
 I'm really looking forward to the show - the trailer and car are loaded - it will be good to join with other breeders and look at the results of recent breedings.
Eucalyptus leaves - a favourite with our herd.