Sunday, 29 March 2015


On thursday we left home with film directors from L.A staying in our studio bed-sit, the dog went to friends at one end of the village, the hens and 2-day old chicks in the care of our neighbours, and the remaining alpacas to be checked on by our farm neighbour. Miraculously, everything seemed to work out, with all of the animals and keys in the correct places when we got home late last night. We had a steady journey to the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, for The British Alpaca Futurity 2015, and got unloaded and parked fairly swiftly.

Apple Vale Florina receives some calming words.
For cooling the alpacas in a warm arena, breeders use electric fans, and some time ago I looked into whether re-chargeable battery versions existed. I located a Makita fan at Axminster Tools, on-line, which are quite cheap, but the batteries and charger are considerably dearer - never-the-less, they can be used with other Makita tools, such as drills, and besides, we can use them in agricultural shows, the barn in hot whether, or the trailer even, so I took the plunge, and ordered everything - with the hotel being in the arena complex, re-charging was straight-forward, and the batteries last for 3-4 hours depending on high or low setting. At night we set one running before ten o'clock lock-down, and the alpacas were fine in the morning. So, we were very pleased with the outcome, and many breeders were inquisitive to see the set-up - the two fans suited us for 3 alpacas, and would probably do for 5 or 6 - fan-tastic!

This was our first time of showing at a national show - Day 1 we had two females in the show ring, Apple Vale Florina, Junior Brown, and Apple Vale Empress, Intermediate White - whilst they both have good characteristics, we are realistic and know that there are some aspects they are not the best, so we weren't surprised that they did not get in the rosettes, amongst stiff competition.
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. - presenting the rosettes.

On Day 2, we had Apple Vale Fortune, Junior Male, and White, sired by CCNF Talon of Classical MileEnd, with grand-sire Dovecote Jaquinto of Alpaca Stud. We knew he had many special characteristics, but he was in a class with three groups of nine, all containing progeny of championship-winning sires.
Judge Peter Kennedy from Australia presents the rosette

When the judge placed Fortunes fleece sample on his sleeve, I saw the brightness immediately jump out compared to some others, and allowed myself to think we had a chance, so it was a relief when he beckoned us to the front line, and fantastic when he directed us into third place - the alpaca judging ring (and show) is a serious, professionally operated example of British alpaca breeding - but everyone, including judges, know not to take themselves too seriously - it is fun, and there are light-hearted moments, and we all love our alpacas - so I allowed a smile to spread across my, normally (too) serious face, but with-held the 'fist-pumping' and cry of "yesss" until we got in the car! After all, in over six years of alpaca breeding, I've made the 'walk of shame' (which of course, it isn't) a few times, as we have steadily improved the herd through careful breeding on our compact farm. We'll have a glass of wine tonight.
Listening to the judges summing-up and reasoning.

The fibre, fleece products and crafts were celebrated by the 'P-Lush Show' running alongside the alpaca show, and contained some fabulously exotic garments to demonstrate the possibilities with alpaca fleece.
Apple Vale Fortune with his rosette.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sit-and-ride mower.

Four days until The British Alpaca Futurity at The Ricoh Arena, Coventry - this afternoon I gave the trailer a spring clean, rinsing off the green lichen, so it is gleaming. New banners have been made for the pen, and I have written the list of 'stuff to take'

Thanks to good weather, the show team of three are quite clean (paddock condition). We have continued halter training, and today I enlisted my grand-daughter, Pixie, and daughter, Kerry to introduce some new faces, with the hope that Florina would be happier to walk - as you can see, she was more interested in the lush grass up the avenue, than going for a walk!
Once back in the paddock, Pixie (age two-and-three-quarters) requested a ride on an alpaca, so we nominated Fortune, as he is the biggest, and he was quite happy for her to sit there.
We can only hope that the sense of 'occasion', and the interest in the new sights, sounds and smells of the show ring will sharpen their walk in the 'catwalk' of the show ring....
Meanwhile, on friday, I joined the alpacas for the eclipse, to observe their behaviour as the false dusk fell..
Scrumpy wonders what is going on as the eclipse begins.

The eclipse 'party' is in full swing!
The eclipse is three-qaurters finished.

At the back, Florina is 'disttracted' by Scrumpy our stud male...
See you at The Futurity, hopefully - come and say hello.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Weaning and haltering.

Weanlings and their 'teenage carers' enjoy the rested pasture
The weanlings are being halter-trained, whenever we have the chance - we use our lawn as an enticement as there is plenty of grass. We've kept them in the 'home' paddock where we have a good shelter, and it's easy to take them to the lawn.
Florina and Fortune with their 'carer' Elstar at the front
However there comes a point when the grass is negligible, and with each shower it becomes more muddy, so today we led them over the hill to fresh pasture which had been rested since Christmas. They only have one of my wind-break/sun-shades over there, so we'll give them a couple of weeks, weather permitting, and then bring them back to try and get them clean(-er) for the Futurity, our first show of the year.
The adults gather around the hay-manger, while the young ones enjoy their fresh pasture beyond - Herdsire Scrumpy, minds his own business in the top left paddock.

This winter has been much better for us - the paddocks have held up well - before this recent changeable spell, we had four weeks without rain, and plenty of frosts. I took the mower out this morning to do a bit of scarifying, and was pleased that it started first time since November, no flat battery! The ground was a bit too soft and greasy on the hill, so I didn't continue.
Golden Delicious nursing Flamenco

We have one cria still being nursed, a September birth, so she isn't quite ready.

We have had a steady run of visitors, including a family considering alpacas as a business venture, and a group of ladies for a felting workshop.
We will be attending the Futurity in four weeks time with a finely-tuned show team, and we've just decided on different teams for another three shows, which I must get on with making the entries for, before they fill up - that would be disappointing. Good luck at the National next week.
Dyed fleece, ready for a felting workshop.
Mums look on proudly, to see their weanlings being independent (?!)