Monday 22 August 2016

Ellingham & Ringwood Show...and new arrivals.

I had been told that the Ellingham and Ringwood Show, near Ringwood Hampshire, on the edge of the New Forest was a nice show, and well attended, and that was exactly how I found it to be. A beautiful day beckoned at 5.15 when I got up, and set off just before 6, for the 2-hour drive. It took another quarter of an hour to cross the vast estate to the site of the show, but as always, a good-humoured bunch of alpaca owners, and show organizers, in this case Viv & Andy Redwood, and Rosemary & Carl Aylett were there to greet me.
Supreme Champion - Artwork Mischief

There are always a few breeders that need a bit of help in the show-ring, or just handling their alpacas to and from the ring, so I got involved  with those, as my two entrants were not due to show until late, being in the white classes. Garry Naish's team wound themselves up into a frenzy by running up and down the trailer ramp to and from the pen, and one of them sneeked out of the pen, deciding to explore the site, but Andy Walker.charmed the alpaca into giving up it's short-lived freedom.  Another breeder needed a colour check of one of her team, entered as grey, and an 'independant handler was required, so I took the animal to show-judge Nick Harrington-Smith, who declared it an appaloosa. Andy Walker of Reddingvale needed an extra handler for his Intermediate Black Male, Shylock, and I was pleased to don the white coat for him. Now Shylock is a sweet boy, but has a short attention span, and likes to draw attention to himself - and so one minute he would rest his chin on my chest and gaze into my eyes, and the next, he would drop to the floor and roll around or play dead - highly entertaining for the crowd of onlookers, but I imagined judge N.H-S already marking us down before getting to us (I joke: if you are not an alpaca owner, animal behaviour isn't taken into account). As it happened, Shylock was awarded first place, and as Nick talked about Shylock auditioning for acting roles, he duly dropped and rolled, as if he was listening, to much hilarity!

Well our turn eventually came, but unfortunately, neither Apple Vale Fortune who had been shorn seven weeks earlier (and the shearer had left a bit of length on), or Apple Vale Gala, had sufficient fleece length for Nick ("I'm struggling here")  to compare with the others in the class, so they didn't  get in the 'medals'. Nevertheless after three full-fleece shows, Fortune remained un-beaten, and has his 2nd place in the National Show on his C.V. Given the wild weather last saturday, we had a smashing day, with thanks to the organizers for their hard work.
Reddingvale Valentina ('Blossom', to us), with 'Harvey' (Apple Vale Doctor Harvey)

Back on the farm, with an unfortunate birthing season, we identified a shortage of light fawn fleece for the craft studio, and so after some searching, we found Reddingvale Valentina (Grand-sire ILR Alpines Fibre Brutus) , with her cria, sired by Wimmera Skies Class Act, (whose progeny have won many classes this year) who she is again mated to, and they have joined us, and settling-in..

Thursday 4 August 2016

REM to B-E-W

"we're off to a new paddock - Florina, you shut the gate!"

Those who know me, will know that REM are one of my favourite rock groups...Rapid Eye Movement, a tenuous link to this years only cria, who turned out to be a 'BEW', a Blue-Eyed White. We had hoped to have four cria running around this summer, but two females lost their pregnancies over the winter, one female, (as you may have read in the previous blog) had a still-birth, and the final one, born the same day, was a white boy, with a small grey spot...and over the next twenty-four hours, I realised he had blue eyes. I had been aware of the existence of such alpacas for many years, and knew that it wasn't an ideal condition, but I hadn't come across one, and didn't know anyone with one - it seems to be a bit of a taboo subject - and so began research into what we had been presented with. Perhaps a little ironically, the apple variety he was named after, being an 'H' year for us, was Hawkeye Delicious, before we confirmed his condition the next day.
Apple Vale Hawkeye Delicious
Apple Vale Elstar, our fawn female from Apple Vale Bramley (sire: CME Centurion), had been sired by Qjori of Patou, and knowing that Qjori had some grey ancestors, we selected a grey stud male (Urcuchillay Smokin' Ace) to cover her, in the hope that a grey cria would be forthcoming. Well, it appears we have a male carrying a grey gene, so that's a positive.

What have a I learned from my research:
One of the six foundation white sires imported into Australia, must have been BEW - he produced 25% grey cria from all colours of females. The other five produced 3% greys, mostly from grey females. This sire was confirmed as BEW by his last owner.
What is clear, is that the phenotype of BEW is the result of multiple genotype, a combination of genes, and is not due to a single BEW gene, and it is not a disease.

BEW is most likely to occur between two whites, grey x white or grey x multi;
Mating grey to a dark-eyed white has higher risk of producing BEW;  A BEW should not be mated to a grey or a broken-coloured mate.The best mating would be to a solid black or dark bay;
Some all-white alpacas have white spots on them, but of course you cannot see them, and it is possible to get a BEW from an all-white bred to a white-spotted, or grey alpaca. To eliminate BEW's from the gene pool, we would have to eliminate all greys, white spotted, and patterned alpacas, and a good number of white alpacas would still have white spot alleles, which we would initially be unaware of - so it just isn't a realistic course of action.

BEW's are often deaf, and we are fairly sure that Hawkeye cannot hear. It is considered that in a captive, farmed situation that is of little disadvantage, as their sight is so good, and they are aware of the herd movements - certainly Hawkeye charges around the paddock freely like any other cria. He is quite a character, and will happily chew or suck your shorts, and has become a bit of a nuisance to his aunties.

They often have very good fleece qualities, as they may come from the best white-breeding lines, and some consider that the best use of Blue-Eyed Whites is to produce more, possibly better-fleeced grey and coloured alpacas. Clearly careful selection of the mates is paramount, for this to produce satisfactory results.

It is too early for us to say whether that will be our course, but it gives us possibilities from a dismal summer of births, or lack of them. 

I understand that there is currently no formal BAS judging policy on them, but there are moves to make the situation clearer. There's more information in the references given at the end of this blog.

"...oh, no, I said too much, I haven't said enough....." Losing My Religion - REM;

Meanwhile, we have re-mated or mated our eligible females, and so we look forward to next summer in that respect. We got our hay in a couple of weeks ago, between showers  - 100 bales which usually sees us through the winter. 

We have a couple of short-fleece shows - the North Devon Show yesterday, saw Apple Vale Fortune lose his un-beaten record for this summer, when he came second, in a reversal of a previous result, to Alpha Bilbo, who went on to become Champion white male. Next week, Ellingham and Ringwood. Today we welcomed a lovely couple of potential new alpaca owners, and introduced them to the herd.

Credits: Elizabeth Paul - The Alpaca Colour Key 2011 (available from Classical Mile End) 
Merriweather and Merriweather - Nyala Farms 2007
A better use for Blue-Eyed Whites - Alpaca World Magazine - Elizabeth Paul - Sept. 2005