Sunday 21 December 2014

Driving home for Christmas.

We save the home paddock for mid-winter, so that with short daylight hours and poor weather, we don't have so far to trek, to feed and water the herd. Yesterday we brought them over, and they LOVE a change of grazing:
Out of the paddock and into the avenue - Golden Delicious neck-and-neck with Empress;
Round the first bend and up the track, Golden Delicious takes a commanding lead, leaving her baby, Flamenco in 7th place;
Congestion at the paddock entrance as the stragglers arrive, but they are just as eager;
They all head for the rolling pit, as if they've missed it for two months!
It's first come, first served, room for 3 rolling at a time, so the others get down to the new grazing;
Wait for me!
Grazing next to their shelter, beside the garden;
We planted some conifers that had out grown their pots, and the alpacas love to straddle them, to scratch their bellies and rub their coats against them;
We gave them all a shot of vitamin ADE, and checked faecal worm counts for a couple, part of our periodical health monitoring.
Wishing you all, whether breeders, potential alpaca owners, or just interested in alpacas, a very Happy Christmas, and thank you for your involvement and comments over the last 12 months! All the best for 2015.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Smoking jacket.

I lit a bonfire near the paddock, and, although the smoke wasn't drifting across, the alpacas all lay down and had a roll, - I've seen this before, it's as if they believe the smoke is cleansing, like dust in their fleece.
I trimmed a Hazel bush, and took the trimmings over for the alpacas, as they love Hazel leaves, but they are turning brown and falling, so there's not many left.
With the damp ground, the herd are getting grubby now, but you can't wrap them up, they 're better off with fresh air and sunshine, and their own space, rather than confined in the barn, and with it being so mild, they are still out at night.
Flamenco continues to gain weight steadily at the same rate as before 500g/week. I registered this years cria this afternoon, a good feeling for a proud breeder.
Bramley feeding Florina, as the sun sets behind.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Weighting game.

Apple Vale Florina (s: Van Diemen Qjori of Patou)
The herd are starting to look a little dirty now, as the rain falling is outweighing the moisture evaporating, and the paddocks get squelchy. It's still very warm, so the herd are staying out in the far paddocks with their mobile shelters while there's still some grazing. We're saving the home paddocks for the depth of winter when the days are really short, and they'll have some good grass and a good solid shelter from cold winds.
Apple Vale Fortune (s: CCNF Talon of Classical Milend)
We weighed all of the babies today - only the youngest, Flamenco is being weighed weekly, as she is only 8 weeks old - we had been concerned as the weekly increase had slowed to around 500g, but after checking faecals, trying a top--up with goats milk (which gave her the squits, so counterproductive), we concluded that being a September birth, the quality of grass and length of daylight slows the rate of growth - her mum has milk, and we see her nursing and grazing, and it is a steady increase - what do other breeders think?
We took the opportunity for a fleece check and we are very pleased with all of the cria, especially Florina (super soft) and Fortune (bright, organized and nice crimp).
Apple Vale Fiesta
Apple Vale Flamenco (I like the impression of a very long-necked alpaca behind!)
And finally a new take, on a 'selfie':

Sunday 12 October 2014

Autumn almanac

As we settle in to Autumn and a wet  night/day ahead, a little look back at the herd in finer Autumn days. They all had their Lambivac vaccinations yesterday, and a couple of weeks ago we had a teeth trimming, ear tagging, micro-chipping session with Colin Ottery. The cria are all growing steadily, and their fleeces are developing nicely in character.
Caton Freedom of Apple Vale amongst the cobwebs.
Flamenco is growing steadily. s:EPC Columbus of Patou
Apple Vale Fortune s: CCNF Talon of CME (Fiesta in background)
Apple Vale Florina s: Van Diemen Qjori of Patou
Add caption
web-site (!)

Rising mist.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Cria nursing, risk assessment needed.

With the weather being settled, I sprinkled diatomaceous earth into the rolling pits yesterday, and within minutes the herds had gathered in their various pits, and were falling over each other to roll:
Rockin' and a rollin'...

Diatomaceous earth can be useful for preventing or reducing parasite attack in many livestock species.Our faecal testing has not shown any significant levels of parasite, but it is a good non-chemical way of treatment and prevention.
Collisions can happen, in a crowded pit!
Finish with a little shake.
Finally, I couldn't resist these shots of Flamenco, our new cria, finding a short cut to the milk bar can carry serious risks...
Flamenco, that isn't a good way to reach for a drink...
Now, it's beginning to look decidely risky...
Quick! run!
I want you to own up, if youve been in the rolling pit - I have ways of finding out!

Thursday 11 September 2014

Apple Vale Flamenco arrives.

Yesterday morning, during this warm September spell, Golden Delicious went into labour, and I was able to 'race' home from work to witness/assist in the birth. I arrived to find a little nose-shaped swelling from the rear - Delicious had spent a lot of time rolling, and her waters had broken before Joy 'phoned me - within minutes, a black nose poked through, and then several minutes later, a head appeared, and a mouth gasped as the membranes cleared away. Around ten minutes passed, and the head descended, and occasionally flicked, splaying its ears out, so we knew the cria was lively, showing more neck...but no feet...moments later one foot came out but not the other, and it was immediately apparent we could have a problem. I 'phoned the vet, knowing it would take some time for them to reach us, and Joy donned the gloves and lubed up, we approached Delicious and she was happy for me to hold her - alpacas often know when they need your help - Joy located the front leg, and felt around to find the back leg, just to be sure she had located the correct one. Contractions began squeezing against Joys' arm, and it became apparent that the leg could not be straightened to come out, without pushing the neck and head back, but she was too far out - Delicious had laid down by now, and the change in position allowed Joy to keep the leg pressed close to the body as the cria was delivered - it was a light brown or fawn female, and 11.45, and Apple Vale Flamenco had arrived. (tonight, Joys thighs and knees are aching from the strain!)
 We drew back to allow mother and cria to bond. Delicious continued to sit for a while, and the cria made efforts to sit, succeeding quite quickly - then she started struggling to stand, but the leg which had been kept back would not open, so she lost balance, rolled a few times, and eventually began to shuffle around on her front knees - we decided we couldn't let her carry this on for long, as she wouldn't be able to feed, and she might just get used to it - so we lifted her, and held her steady to eases the lower leg joint into use (a bit like when you've slept in an awkward position, it takes a while). Gradually, she staggered about as the leg began to work. She clearly had lots of energy, as she continued to walk, then run about. We sat for three and a half hours anxiously hoping for the first feed, while she went around and around, sucking mothers fleece, disappearing into her front groin, coming out of the back - we started thawing plasma, made enquiries to try and locate bovine colostrum, and Joy went and bought goats milk - we didn't want to be caught out late in the day. Fifteen minutes after Joy left, her heaad disappeared high up into the udder region, and my heart lifted - she spent at least ten minutes up there. She had two more feeds an hour and a half later. We breathed sighs of relief.
She weighed in at 6.4kg. As a cria, Golden Delicious had to be bottle fed, to supplement her mums supply, after a plasma transfusion, when we realised from IGG tests that she hadn't had much Passive Transfer of Immunity. So, Flamenco is a third generation to be born here, and her sire is EPC Columbus of Patou, now owned by us here, and he's done a great job! She has his'smile', viewed from the side.
The class of 2014: Florina, Flamenco, Fortune & Fiesta

Sunday 17 August 2014

Chasing cria.

The cria are developing well. We thought that the yearling sisters of two of them were distracting them from feeding, as they're weight gain had slowed, and on occasion caught one of them stealing a sneaky drink, so we seperated the mums, cria, and an expectant one, to fresh grazing, and they have increased their rate of weight gain.

We entered a couple of fleeces into the North Devon Show, as a new challenge, and were pleased for both to get rosettes, in particular because I had shorn them, so they wouldn't have been maximum weight, as I haven't quite mastered getting all of the good leg and base of neck fibre in the first cut with the saddle.

We had a visit from Mark Steele, editor of the South West Alpaca Group newsletter (SWAGMAG) recently, who was writing an article for a new feature called Farm Focus - when dealing with the 'press' you can be putting your neck into the mouth of a lion, but I think on this occasion the lion was tame, and we are pleased with the outcome, even though I felt faintly ridiculous modelling one of Joys felted ladies hats! The main purpose was to get a little publicity, and to help the 'Ed' fill another issue.

One of the greatest pleasures (and there are many), is when the cria play chase, and they are mesmerising - the move to a new paddock gave them a larger 'circuit', so here are a few photos of one particular evening:
Apple Vale Fiesta

Fortune - Florina - Fiesta

Sunday 27 July 2014

Apple Vale Fiesta

On friday afternoon, Pelachuta started final stages, and I came home from work and settled down on a bench to watch, only to go back to work for the afternoon as she appeared to calm down, but at 5 o'clock Fiesta eventually dived into this world, being a 7.2kg male and a lovely caramel colour.
This was Pelachutas fourth cria - she is a sound mother, who takes close interest in her cria, and keeps away from the throng for a couple of days, preferring to take her morning feed away from the rest of the herd. It had been sweltering for several days, and, if they have any ability to choose when to birth, it seemed she waited until late afternoon for a cooling breeze to spring up, and went to the top of the hill to deliver.
He was sired by EP Cambridge Columbus (Scrumpy), our herdsire, who has done a good job with this one, and we await one or two more from him - one is now over 12 months, who had scanned negative, and who was overweight, but had shown well-defined physical characteristics once we had shorn her and could see her true body shape - a well-respected breeder who was visitng recently and took a look at her, has offered to eat his hat if she doesn't produce a cria.
On wednesday evening we got the hay baled and stored without thunderstorms - 140 bales compared with last years 80, a fabulous feeling when its all in and the barn is stuffed full.

While Joy and I were re-positioning the shelters, Bramley began wretching and gyrating her jaw sideways, she clearly had something stuck - she trotted over to us, and we feel she clearly thought we could help - we had a watering can with us to soften the soil for the ground anchors, so I put the handle of a lump hammer across her mouth to keep it open, while Joy fired a stream of water into her, and that sorted her out!

Sunday 20 July 2014

Apple Vale Fortune

Tuesday saw the arrival of a male from 'Apples' (Helenia Diana) whose sire is Dovecote Jaquinto. He was a whopping 9.5kg, bright crimpy solid white, and sired by CCNF Talon of Classical Milend.
He and our other new arrival, Florina, have been gaining weight steadily, although 'Flo'' has not made the gains we would usually see - we think that is because her yearling sister Elstar has been getting in the way, and Flo' seems to stay closer to her than her dam, Bramley - as a result, we have seperated the new mums and their cria, as when we did some trial seperations, she gained more weight - we then brought the herd back together when the thunderstorms threatened, as we could provide better shelter. We've just had the hay cut today, so fingers crossed for the mid-week weather.

Apple Vale Fortune
Apple Vale Florina