Sunday 22 May 2016

Devon County Show 2016

At 4.45a.m on thursday morning, the alarm went off - I'd been awake for a while, fuelled by a cocktail of anticipation, excitement and apprehension that our preparations for this show would pay off: we would arrive on time (7.00), we would have all the equipment required for showing alpacas (mineral feed, hay, water buckets, Apple Vale pen banners and leaflets, poop scoop and bucket, white coat, wet weather clothes, dry weather clothes, cold weather clothes, warm weather clothes, folding chairs (though we never get time to sit in them!), fans to keep the 'pacas cool), and finally, that our alpacas would be judged highly against good competition.

We arrived to find that 'The Devon Eye' had been erected next to our usual show area, and I thought that would be a great opportunity for an aerial photograph of the show ring:
The day had begun with clear skies, sunrise as we drove across the Levels beyond our village, but slowly cloud gathered.
As I waited with our brown female, Apple Vale Florina, (dam: Apple Vale Bramley, sire: Van Diemen Qjori of Patou)we could see the band of rain coming from Dartmoor, and spots of rain began, so the judge decided to move to the showring in one of the marquees. Florina was placed fourth out of four, but the judge began her summing-up by saying that 'all of this class had a fine, soft-handling, 'buttery' fleece', which was a positive comment, and we know that she needs to add density and character to her fleece by mating to a male with these characteristics, so we weren't disappointed.
Friday morning came, and having left the alpacas in the marqee overnight, we could have an extra half an hour in bed, not having to round them up, and not having the trailer to tow. first in th ring was Apple Vale Gala, a junior female (dam: Helens Diana of Apple Vale, sire: CCNF Talon of CME). She wasn't placed at the National Show, but in a class of twelve here, I was relieved when she was called forward into the front row, being the best seven out of the twelve. Then followed a bit of alpaca 'hokey cokey', as the judge juggled us around...we went from fourth to third, back to fourth, and finally to fifth, which we were satisfied with from a class of twelve, with good genetic ancestry.
There was a bit of excitement at one point in the day, when an alpaca that had been in an outside pen for a bit of drying sun and breeze, got spooked by a dog, and leapt out of the pen - I saw this happen, and shouted something like, "alpaca loose!", as it darted off behind a one side there is an off-road buggy track, to another side through a hedge, the fun fair, and to another side, the entire showground stretches out...the thought of an alpaca loose amongst thousands of show-goers and dogs must cross all of our minds...anyway, I saw alpaca owners in the marquee rushing towards the outside rear of the marquee, having heard my shout or the clatter of hurdles, so I headed down the side, and as I reached the rear corner, the alpaca started heading back towards me at full speed...I launched myself at it, got a grip, but it was an intermediate or adult, and so at least as heavy as me, and as it dragged me around guy ropes, a pulley to raise the marquee, and power cables, I realised one of us might be garotted and let go, landing in a then realised it was better off with it's owner, and walked back into the arms of 'mummy'...panic over.
Next, it was time for the Intermediate White Males (age 12-24 months) - Apple Vale Fortune (dam: Helens Diana, Sire: CCNF Talon of CME), was in a class of seven. Having gained second in his group at The National Show, and first in a smaller group at The North Somerset Show, we had high hopes...we weren't disappointed...
Fortune was awarded first place, the judge commenting on his fine, dense fleece, being consistant from his head to his legs, and the character being consistant from the skin to the tips of the fibre, and mounted on a good frame and chest. I often wonder what other breeders think about when the judge is coming to their have an idea of your alpacas good points and not-so-good points, so you guess your position, but you haven't examined the competition, so then you allow yourself to consider first place, but then you try not to set yourself up for disappointment by considering a low placing or, 'the walk of shame'....and then comes the decision...or do other breeders just look at the sky, the audience, and enter a state of otherworldliness?
It's the Royal Bath & West Show, in less than two weeks - Joy will be demonstrating fibre felting on wednesday and thursday in the marquee along with other demonstrations of fleece processing, and we will have three of our alpacas in the halter show on friday and saturday - do come along and say hello, and don't be intimidated, all the alpaca breeders love to talk to the public and answer questions.

Sunday 15 May 2016

North Somerset Show and more.

The Show was held on May2nd. A band of rain was forecast to arrive around 11.00 and to leave around 3.00. We all arrived in dry weather, but a few spots of rain had us urgently erecting gazebos, only for it to fizzle out. The show started, with judge Liz Barlow assisted by apprentice Viv Darcy. Rain arrived 'on time', during the blacks and browns, making judging very difficult. We gained a third place for Apple Vale Florina, sired by Van Diemen Qjori of Patou.Intermediate Brown Female.
The rain passed and the sun came out around 3.00 as forecast, and after being chilled by the seeping rain, we slowly warmed up. Then we had Apple Vale Gala (sire: CCNF Talon of Classical MileEnd) in the Junior White Female class, and were delighted to gain second place in a class of six.
Finally, Apple Vale Fortune (sire: CCNF Talon of CME) was awarded a "well deserved" (judges quote) first in the Intermediate White Male class. The ground dried up, and all was pleasant for packing up. A lovely show, always.

Meanwhile back at the farm I have begun constructing a shelter for our farthest paddock - it will be a simple, two-sided open shelter in the corner, but I wanted to create something individual, sculpted to the land which has a gentle slope, but is exposed to a long open fetch of levels, so I designed it to have low sloping eaves to minimise the wind resistance, with a hipped roof for some 'elegance', and a cantilevered canopy for extra cover. That's my theory - so it's not an off-the-shelf rectangular box, but something I am crafting and enjoying, saving in cost, but spending a lot of time building in fine weather with the alpacas observing.
The wall stud frames laid out.
Walls erected and temporary hip prop in place.
Hip rafter and verge rafters in place.
Truss assembled.
Jack rafters and purlins in place.
 We are just about to enter our birthing window with the first due, Caton Freedom, and she is rather susceptable to mites, so noticing some patches on her legs we gave her Eprinex in pig oil down the back line, (she is also prone to abscess at injection sites) and Udder Salve on the legs - I tried to check the condition of her teats, and she is quite a placid girl, but being pregnant she's a little guarded, and while on my hands and knees peering under her belly, she gave me a kick on the nose! Luckily, it must have been at the end of her range, because although it smarted a bit, and I thought it could be broken, there was no damage.

This week we also replaced our plasma supply - the vet came and took a donation of blood from Apple Vale Autumn Gold, who was very calm about it, and we took it to Classical MileEnd to be spun down.

The warm weather this week has brought our shade/shelters into use,
as the herd have been feeling the heat:

And finally, completing the news round-up, we gave Apple Vale Fortune his first 'session' with a lady - both he, and Pelachuta, an experienced dam, were keen, and we hope this will show he is ready to start his stud career - more as this develops.

Well, it's the Devon County Show this week, so fingers crossed for good weather, good competition, and good be continued.