Sunday 15 December 2019

End of term report.

With short, wet days, and the paddocks becoming muddier, it's time to look back on the last six months or so.

The show team of our white males, Apple Vale Kit (Kitageskee) and Apple Vale Jupiter attended five halter shows from Spring to Autumn, coming away with a very pleasing set of results, being placed either 2nd or 3rd in all classes but one, and generally in classes of between 6 and 11 entries - the sashes proved elusive this year, but they were snapping at the heels of champions.

In the Spring and Summer, I built the 'bandstand', somewhere to sit and watch the cria on a summer's evening:

We are looking forward to next year's shows, and the show team have been enhanced with this year's crop of four female cria.

At the end of July, Blossom gave birth to Lady Alice, sired by CME Florestan (S: Ntherough of CME GS: Dovecote Jaquinto), a light fawn female.

In August, Apples gave birth to Liberty (Libby) sired by Hanley Hall RA Polaris of Alpha Alpacas, a white, full sister to Kit and Jupiter.

The following day, Gala gave birth to Little Emily, sired by Appledene Commander-in-Chief of CME, a dark fawn female.

Finally, early September, Elstar gave birth to Longworth Bryony, sired by Apple Vale Fortune, a fawn and white female.
This abundance of female births balanced previous years of male-dominated births.
All the births went smoothly, although Blossom went into several days of isolation and 'quiet contemplation' in preparation, just before our son's wedding, which kept us on tenterhooks. Two of the mums had some difficulty feeding, with a swollen teat or two, and I was quite chuffed to learn the skill of expressing milk to relieve the pressure, and help the milk to start flowing.

In July, we attended Middlezoy village show with two of the yearling females, and Joy took a table full of products, which generated some sales and interest in felting classes.

Joy has continued processing our fleeces, and making fabulous knitted, felted and woven garments, which have sold well to B and B guests, and recently at local craft fayres.
Finally, we have said goodbye to a few females recently, who we have sold to an established breeder - this has helped to ease the pressure on the paddocks, which is welcome after these continuous wet months.
Not long until the days start lengthening...

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Apple Vale Bryony

The class of 2019

It's a whitewash!  A clean sweep! Any other sporting cliche you choose -  the girls have 'trounced' the boys 4-0!

Apple Vale Elstar was due to give birth on my birthday, 24th August, but she wanted her cria to have it's own birthday, and besides, it was 26 degrees, so she held on for another 12 days, and on 5th September gave birth to Bryony (Apple Vale Longworth Bryony).

Sired by Apple Vale Fortune, she has produced an almost identical sister to Apple Vale Kerry Pippin. Born at 9.15 a.m, she was quick to get to her feet, the placenta was delivered within the hour, and she was searching for milk quickly, and she searched...and searched...and searched. After about four hours, I had a feel of her teats, and managed to express some milk/colostrum, spread it onto the other teats and onto Bryony's lips, but after seven hours she was clearly not spending long enough at the milk bar to be getting much, but visiting frequently, so we decided to give her plasma, to be sure that she had some immunity to infection. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength, feeding properly that same evening, and gaining weight at a good daily rate. Her fleece is beautiful, and she is full of energy. From Elstar's sire, Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, we know that there is a grey gene in there, and Kerry Pippin has a partial Rose Grey saddle, so we tried to 'get it out' again -currently, we can just see it in Bryony's ears.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Another one bites the dust

Last week's birth of Lady Alice was followed by two births this week.

On wednesday, Apples produced Liberty, a white female, sired by Alpha Polaris. Exactly like last year, with the birth of Kit, Apples went to the rolling pit, and labour began - eventually a white female was launched head first into the dry earth - another one bites the dust - literally, and Liberty had arrived, the dirt immediately sticking to her fleece, still damp with amniotic fluid - her bright white fleece was mottled like an appaloosa, and it will take several days to work out the dirt! However, already, it is showing promise to follow the success of her full brothers, Jupiter and Kit...
Another one bites the dust! Apple Vale Liberty.

Liberty being chased by Alice.

On thursday, Gala produced her first cria, a fawn female, sired by Appledene Commander-in-Chief of Classical Milend. At first, a nose appeared, but with little happening for a while, we decided to break the sack with a gentle poke, so that the cria could start breathing. Being a maiden, Gala seemed a bit surprised by something hanging out of her rear end, and spiralled around like a cat or dog chasing it's tale, screeching at the same time! This went on for a while, before she sat down with the head and front legs protruding - progress had halted for some 10-15 minutes, so while I 'comforted' Gala by holding her head, Joy applied a gradual pull on the cria's legs to ease the shoulders out, we then stood back - she didn't stand, but with a few more contractions, Little Emily was born from Gala in the kush position. We have waited a couple of years for one of our female granddaughters of Jaquinto to produce a cria, and at last we have one, and we shall follow the development of the Commander-in-Chief influence with anticipation.
Apple Vale Little Emily.
Heavy rain and strong winds demanded coats for a couple of days.

Sunday 4 August 2019

Birth of Lady Alice

Last year, once we had confirmed the pregnant females by scanning, we realised that two females were due to birth on the weekend of our son Ross' wedding. So it was the day before the wedding, I noticed that Blossom was sitting away from the rest of the herd, and had begun to look 'thoughtful'. We had arranged for a friend to call in every couple of hours on the day of the wedding, as the venue was half-an-hour away, and I checked my 'phone regularly all day - the wedding went well, and with a houseful of relatives for several days, all were hoping to witness a birth during their stay - Blossom had other ideas - she stayed 'distant' until all the guests had left on tuesday, and I returned to work on wednesday, but was polite enough to give birth at lunchtine, so I could pop home for an hour and see that all was well.
Looking for milk before the placenta has passed;
Most importantly, she delivered a light fawn female, 8.4kg. She was up in 5 minutes, walking within 10 minutes, looking for milk before the placenta was delivered, and sits her driving test on Monday!
The females form a protective corden around the cria.

After 24hours we noticed that Blossom's rear teats were swollen, and Alice had lost more weight than is usual in the first day, so I milked off those teats, to reduce their size, and again the following day - the teats have now reduced to a consistant size, and she has gained a good increase in weight each day, and I have added the skill of milk-maid to my CV!
Regular readers will know that we name our herd after apple varieties, and this year we have reached 'L', hence Lady Alice.
Sire: CME Florestan - Dam: Reddingvale Valentina (Blossom of Apple Vale).

Sunday 21 July 2019

Harvesting all summer long

Early June brought 9 days of rain, including a thunderstorm during our village Open Gardens, for which we were invited to participate, with the added attraction of our alpacas. For a sculpture trail, we made Woodie, an alpaca out of branches:
With persistent rain due the day before our shearer was booked, I had to erect a tarpaulin to extend the field shelter where shearing could take place, and we put all 8 females into our gazebo 24 hours earlier, and shut the males into their field shelters, and we waited anxiously to see whether they would be dry enought to shear, and whether the shearer had enough space in the dry to operate. All was well, and shearing went ahead, we had harvested our fleece.
Rain continued for another 9 days, so we then had to take measures to keep them warm enough, to avoid hypothermic shock, by penning with hay bales for draught-proofing.
As the weather finally improved, our neighbour gave us notice that he would cut one of our paddocks for hay. The temperature rose to 28 degrees over five days, and, assisted by friends and grand-children, we got the bales in, filling our small barn. We had harvested our hay.
With our birthing period not due to start until mid-July, and having used our previous supplies of blood plasma, we now had time to invite our vet to take blood from a donor alpaca, who has been on farm all of her six years, and wasn't pregnant. This went very smoothly, and we set off to have it spun down to extract the plasma, at Classical Milend Alpacas. We had harvested some plasma, incase of difficulties nursing after birthing.

Finally, as we wait to 'harvest' this year's cria, some pictures of the boys: Fortune, Jupoter, and Kit:

Spring shows

The North Somerset Show took place on 6th May - an unusually late frost, gave way to sunshine and cloud, for a fine day for a show. Jupiter took second place in the Adult White Male class, while Kitageskee took 3rd in the Junior White Male class.

Two weeks later, the Devon County Show took place, dry with occasional light rain. The boys took the same placings, this time in larger classes of 7 and 6 respectively, so we were pleased with those results.
Now we look forward to the Somerset County Show in September...

Sunday 14 April 2019

Blue Peter and Ju-piter - Spring 2019

Writing this 3 weeks after the BAS National Show, where we had successful results for two of our white males: in the Junior class, Apple Vale Kitageskee was awarded 3rd out of a group of 11, and Apple Vale Jupiter was awarded 2nd out of a group of 9, and we noticed the judge gave him serious consideration for Reserve Champion. They are hopefully folowing in the footsteps of their half-brother Fortune who was a show Champion. It was very rewarding to see the alpacas placed above and below them, and to see our boys in contention with the quality genetics that these are all carrying.
Apple Vale Jupiter

I spent the weekend serving as a Ring Steward for the New Zealand judge, Molly Gardner, judging the female classes, which was an enjoyable experience - the show ran very well, due to the efforts of many stewards inspecting, recording and collecting, plus those who helped with setting-up before we arrived, and with just a few hiccups along the way.
Photograph courtesy of Abbey Kite

The Blue Peter film crew were filming one of their presenters, Lyndsey, as part of a feature on breeding alpacas that the show broadcast. Lyndsey was handling a black female alpaca which was awarded Champion, and so I managed an incidental appearance on the programme - as a fan of the show in my childhood, I have made a big thing of telling (boring!) anyone who would listen!
Photograph courtesy of Abbey Kite

The winter has been quite 'kind' to us here - plenty of frosts, occasional rain, dry periods and a dusting of snow. Still recovering from last years 'drought', the paddocks have required careful nurturing with fertilizer, seeding of bare patches, and rotation of the herd.

The herd have been topped up with injectable supplementary Vitamin D, and have just been given their spring Lambivac vaccinations - in December we said goodbye to three young males who went to new homes in South Wales - we carried out spit-offs on the pregnant females last weekend, and all of them spat-off, although several had scanned negative in the autumn, so we will be watching keenly  to see what develops.

Now a topic for discusssion: there have been several incidents cropping-up on social media, where single alpacas are being kept as pets, although I've not seen any in the UK (seems to be U.S and Australia, where there are many more alpacas than in the UK). Any owner or breeder of alpacas knows that they are a herd animal and should be kept in groups of three or more - I believe that part of the problem is that castrated males are often advertised as 'pet males', and so this is spreading the idea that they can be kept as pets. Perhaps the industry should start to encourage owners to use a different term for these to try and correct the image, and perhaps reduce the incidence. Grazers and flock guards are common alternatives - does anyone have other suggestions?
Apple Vale Kitageskee

In my previous post, I alluded to interesting developments regarding this years summer shows - well, the Royal Bath & West Show decided they could manage without an alpaca feature, which I find extraordinary, so we won't be holding a show there, however there will be a Somerset County Show on the 21st and 22nd September  at Taunton Racecourse, and so plans are underway for this new event, which is exciting.
Apple Vale Jupiter (Fortune behind)

Meanwhile, we are looking forward to the North Somerset Show, followed by the Devon County Show, both in May.

Apple Vale Fortune