Thursday 31 May 2012

Paddock numbering

Following on from my fibre testing - paddocks are now numbered and a little colour coded plan sits on my desk (I wonder how long before that gets in a muddle?!).  One handy tip which I should have realised and didn't - picked up from the AAFT information sheets - to put the samples in a paper bag - not a plastic sandwich bag as I did (condensation).  And for those who asked, the webiste is

It is beginning to cloud over a bit at the moment so maybe some rain later but hopefully not at the weekend as we have a lot of shearing to do - including these two ladies in waiting, Belinda and Carolyn, neither due until end of July/beginning of August but both looking like they feel very pregnant.
Zara is now on 343 days and appears to have gone off the whole idea and resumed normal eating, pooing and so on. 
Prue (front) and Crispie (suri behind) should be after Zara but Sapphire (lying down) looks bigger than anyone - she is Sam's and a tad hefty anyway!

Spent some time this morning sawing away at the stock fencing as Teddy (one of the Texel cross ewes) had got her head  through and her horns jammed her in so she couldn't get back - why she needed to is beyond me as there is mountains of  grass.

And my car has just flown through the MOT which has truly amazed me!

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Singing the praises of the AAFT

Firstly - apologies for no photos but I haven't had time to take one yet as I got a bit over excited when I popped home to check my email - and apologies to my non alpaca owning readers as this might all be a bit boring - back to normal drivel tomorrow!

Yesterday I packed up another batch of fibre samples and decided to try sending them to AAFT for testing.  I posted them first class yesterday and the results were in my inbox this afternoon!  How is that for efficiency!  Wonderful service and very, very reasonable price.  But, that is not all, they are very detailed and come with notes to help analyse them.  Now I may be making a complete idiot of myself here as I have not read all the notes yet or studied all the information properly but it appears  that using the graphs they send which shows the distance from the tip of the fibre plotted against the micron you could see  how your feeding regime or even individual paddocks they are in is effecting the fibre.   Experimenting is about to begin and I am going to number each paddock and write down which paddock they are all in over the next year and how much feed they get to use with next year fibre samples.  Each sheet gives lots of information which I have not had before so a massive thank you to Liz Barlow at the AAFT.

And I am pleased with the results - although I haven't looked properly so I may again be sounding foolish.

My beautiful suri, Lily, despite having had two cria and being heavily pregnant with the third came in at 19.6 micron.  Her son, Yossarian came in at 16.9 micron with 28.1% below 15 microns which sounds good to me.  He has a C.  Haut of 84.1mm but as I don't understand that bit yet that could be a good or bad thing!  Then Alf, the suri we used last year once to see how he did, at almost 3 years I am pleased with him at 17.4 micron - glad we tried him out and hope he managed it with Sherbert!  Then, before I bore you all to tears, Greeves.  He had a very low micron last year which we felt must be partly down to his illnesses (wish I had these graphs on him then).  He is now getting on for two and his micron is now 16.1 with the minimum micron being 15.5 and maximum 17.3 - - no good, I could go on forever and I can see your eyes glazing over!!

AAFT - Australian Alpaca Fibre Testing - really good information and a speedy service.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

John Deere and a teat incident

I took a leaf out of the Mighty One's book today and saddled up the John Deere for an in depth session with some buttercups.  Round and round we went with a cool drink balanced in the cup holder, sun glasses firmly on and only the alpacas for company.  Several hours later I decided to see if I could John Deere under the electric fence - not so easy as I kept hitting the posts but I didn't do too badly until suddenly we died and no way  would we restart - it wasn't the fuel as I checked that.  I had to abandon that job and wait for Carl to return to sort it out.  This he did and returned to say I should have emptied it and had blocked it up.  Now this is very strange as normally a little alarm sounds and I had heard nothing despite going round and round in ever decreasing circles (with the occasional checker board effect) for almost two hours).  It is only now that the mystery is solved as Sam has returned from work and told me he snapped the buzzer off as it was too annoying!

I can't get too annoyed with him  though as he has been working long hours.  Last night he didn't get back until 11pm after having started at 7am.. He loves it though as they are silaging and  he is doing side loading.  He took his CB radio with him today so he could talk to the contractors as they were all charging around in their tractors filling up and taking the loads to the clamp!

We had a further disaster this evening as when Carl went up to sort the John Deere he also took up a top up bottle for one of Mastitis mum's lambs.  She only has half an udder after getting mastitis last year and one of the lambs charges over for the occasional bottle (he doesn't really need it though!).  He sucked so hard he pulled the teat off and swallowed it!  Must have been perished at the bottom and I should have checked more carefully - lesson learnt as now I shall be lamb poo watching tomorrow.

Monday 28 May 2012

The Broom

It is very hot still and I have only just recovered from Sunday's shearing where I was 'The Broom'.  A job title that hides the many things this entails and I have a mammoth bruise to prove it!

No cria yet and Crispie looks more pregnant than Zara who is now on 340 days.
Both Cassie (brown) and Zara (black) spent most of the morning asleep but soon woke up when I let them into a new paddock at the top.
The down side of this paddock is that the grass is quite long and I lose them when they lie down!

Sheep are all doing well, including Shovel who is just cute!

Saturday 26 May 2012

Carl goes semi pro

Up to now Carl has been using standard alpaca combs for shearing but we were getting low and, as he has another 5 herds to do by next Friday, today he decided to give the Alpacacut comb a go - not quite the pro which is wider but wider than the standard and with  4 riders.  I bought it by mistake when restocking for the season and he has been a bit wary of it up to now but today it had it's first airing with Cassie as the guinea pig.  Very impressive - gets the fleece off nicely and evenly (not that I know I am just the getting them down, getting them up, toenails, sort fleece, brush up, hand oil, move heavy neck bag, turn on generator, put fleece in bag, take samples part of the operation).  Think we might be ordering another few of them now!  At this point I should be showing you a photo of Cassie but I completely forgot about photos.

Investigations into Angora shearing have shown up some interesting You Tube videos - not quite sure Carl is that excited about it though!

Little Wee's ear was still odd this morning (but not hot, painful or anything GHN) but she hasn't been in this evening so I am hoping she is alright.

Friday 25 May 2012

A Few Fleece Stats

Positively tropical today but now a nice breeze is blowing which I am thankful for as I am trying to dry out my handbag. I collected two eggs this morning, put them in my bag and forgot about them.  Putting my handbag rather heavily into that same bag created an eggy mess all over the leather - very difficult to remove as I didn't discover it until later and by then it had dried. 

This weather I find it difficult to get interesting pictures as everyone is flat out.  Yossarian looks like a bag of old rags!

I didn't make it very clear last night, Judi - we did capture the other lamb with the aid of the crook and both twins were reunited with Mum - one was already back in the paddock with mum.  Today number 3 has been straight to the gate whenever I drive past so another escape is planned!

Thank you for asking about Zara, Debbie.  Today she has just been very, very hot.  She has been trying to go off on her own but Sapphire has decided to be her Birthing Buddy and is sticking close!

And Little Wee's ear?  It is decidedly weird!  I have no idea what is wrong with it as there are no cuts or tears.

And I have had my first fleece stat results back from the Fibre Lab today.  I should have sent them all off at once as it would have been cheaper but I was interested to see Emily and Little Star's (Trouble and Strings just slipped in as well!) for planning matings.    Emily came back at 25.9 mean micron which was what I was expecting.  Little Star at 19.9 I was very pleased about, at almost 3 years old I think that is pretty good.  Trouble was a respectable 18.4 and String was 17.4 which is impressive and shows Dude is doing well for us.  I knew he was putting the lovely face through and the conformation and I thought he was making massive improvements in the fleece but it is nice to see it in writing.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Chaos caused by number 3

I don't know where the time has gone today and why I still have a list as long as my arm still to do.  Things went haywire at lunchtime when I wasn't quick enough getting out of the gate after replenishing the sheep water.  One of the Blackies and her twin lambs escaped and charged off up the field.  It was one of my favourites, number 3, who is fairly friendly so I managed to get her penned up in a corner but I couldn't get her back with the other sheep as by this time Stumpy was attempting to climb the gate to see what was happening with Two Tone pawing the ground beside her.  By the time I had seen to all the alpaca water number 3  and her lambs had disappeared and the temporary pen was destroyed so I spent several hours driving round all fields, up the drove, in and out the double hedge boundaries but there was no sight of her. In the end I gave up and went home to make some phone calls and went back with Carl later - counted the sheep, still missing.  So Carl and I drove round and round, looked in neighbouring fields, looked over the valley from The Ridge - nothing.  Carl then spotted one black lamb charging about on the outside of the electric fence and on recounting we found number 3 and one lamb was back in the paddock.  Carl says I miss counted and she had been there all the time but, if that is the case, how on earth did she get back in?

Little Wee, the cat, looks very strange at the moment as one ear appears to have died at the top and is flapping around turned over whilst the other is pricked up.

. . and Zara, my lovely black maiden alpaca 335 days yesterday, looks a trifle restless!!

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Water container rolling

Today has been roasting - I am not going to moan about it but I have to say shearing when it is like this is hard work!  Carl and Sam were doing the shearing not me but I am shearing assistant next weekend - which should be fun.  I am just wondering if I need to get my hair done before then as it is rather a mess and when you are bending over a lot it kind of fluffs up anyway.

Today's alpacas to be sheared included one of the best young males Carl has sheared - great except it was one we sold!  He brought me a handful of stray bits of leg hair from the shearing mat and I saw what he meant - Ah well!

Everyone was tired and hot today - except Trouble.
She discovered the water container I had left by the field shelter and discovered she could roll it with her feet.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Heritable traits in alpacas

This afternoon has been hot and now the alpacas who haven't been sheared wish they had!  Cassie has hugged the side of the field shelter all day delicately picking at blades of grass and leaping up every now and again for a quick dash o the water.
Yossarian has learnt how to turn the foot water over and has been steadily doing this all day meaning I have been charging around restocking water.  Sam and Carl had an early start as they were shearing in Essex so I have had rather too much time on my own.  I have put this time to good use though as I have finally developed a pattern for a beret which I have been struggling with.  I have been also thinking about heritable traits in alpacas - not your normal heritability of fleece characteristics or fleece with but the rather more thorny issue of the heritability of snoring,  pipe tongue and wobbly lips.  Carolyn's lips wobble and flap when she runs and I noticed today that so do her daughter Emily's.  Flamenco rolls her tongue into a pipe - not only when drinking , she also lies there and does it for fun - so does her daughter String.  And Crispie is the biggest and most noisy snorer which I heard today she has passed on with a vengeance to her son Alf!

Now we have an issue to investigate tonight, following another shearing booking, namely - How do you shear an Angora goat?!!

Monday 21 May 2012

Warm weather!

After all the dreadful weather we have been having this warm spell is a welcome relief - mind you, now the girls are all too hot!  No shearing today though as Carl and Sam were shearing  elsewhere leaving me in peace with the animals.  I did get lots done but wasted some time watching the lambs.
And then yet more time trying to take a decent photo of Bert in the shed.  Trouble managed to get part of herself in every shot.  Including this one where she appears deformed and has Bea at the side who is unable to see what is going on!  Not a successful photo shoot!

Sunday 20 May 2012

The one to watch

We all seemed to be busy doing our own thing today.  I was on poo collecting, removing spilt hay from field shelters and John Deering (for no real reason except that I like doing it!) and moving the not so pregant girls into a new paddock - which they loved.

Carl was cleaning the bed of the pickup, removing the liner on the bed (unsure why) and other nameless things.

Sam was making a sort of combined play table/creep feeder/shelter for the lambs.

Sadly we really, really, really have written off Little Star as being pregnant now - it is just too late and there really are no signs.  Disappointing but I just don't think she was ready and was simply spitting off because she didn't want to know!  This is the most pregant group with hangers on.

From the left - Bert lying down (who shouldn't be in there anyway as not due till August), Crispie lying down looking at Bert and looking very pregnant, Emily should be due beginning fo June but I am not sure about her, Slink with her back to the camera, Sapphire (dark brown at the back and, again, not in the right paddock - not due for ages), Cassie due middle of June (light brown), Zara (black) 335 days on Tuesday.  Then Little Star at the front (Oh I don't know - maybe she does look a tad pregnant there) with String lying down behind her.  Yossarian at the front with Bea behind and Prue behind her next to Zara.  You probably didn't want to know all that - what it all boils down to is that the one to watch is Zara, first due (in theory!).

Saturday 19 May 2012

Doing the Dingleberries

I am covered in fleece right now having just sorted out the first little bundle to go for processing.  I have just sent Little Star and Emily's away as they are both really nice but not what I would call show fleece quality - I am hoping for a very pale fawn.  Little Star's looks pink so it will be interesting to see what comes back!  I have also started sorting Trouble and String's but they are a nightmare - first fleece and full of all sorts in the tips.  If I ever get them clean enough they will go away with Barnaby Rudge's I still have from last year to create, hopefully, a brown. 

We spent some of the rest of the time putting Click on the sheep (to prevent fly strike), a bit of crutching out (or "Doing the Dingleberries" as Carl calls it!) and checking the lambs.  Then Sam was home from work early so he and Carl moved the sheep electric fence whilst I had a lovely time driving round on the John Deere destroying odd clumps of docks then swapping to the Mule and collecting Poo!

Sorry no photos of all this activity - I forgot to take the camera.

Thursday 17 May 2012

A bit of a pronk

An early start today as it was the Ascension Day service in the church at 6.30am but, as this is followed by a delicious breakfast in the village hall afterwards, cooked by The Flower Lady, this is usually no hardship.  However, today I had to rush off afterwards to check the animals and just got back to the village hall for the tale end of the washing up!  Luckily, a sausage and bacon sandwich had been saved for me -excellent!

I am not sure what the most pregnant group of girls (in with the cria we still have from last year) were up to this afternoon.  They suddenly started charging around having been stirred up by Sapphire who was pronking around and whinnying at the top of her voice.  For a pregnant alpaca not in her first youth she is one lively alpaca!
Sapphire is the brown one at the back  - sadly, I caught them just after all the pronking.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Shearing the boys

Back to lovely weather today - and a leisurely bit of shearing, the boys this time.  All of whom, with the exception of Harry, were little darlings.  Dude was first up and virtually lay down by himself - I think he was relieved to get the fleece off!  Greeves behaved impeccably and just had a little moan when his front legs were being done.
Quite why I am kneeling on the ground with a miniature handful of fleece in this picture is beyond me but might explain why my knees got so dirty!
Alf, the suri, really amazed me with how muscled and strong he was with VERY impressive undercarriage!  I have several photos of it but fear it might not be the right thing for the blog.  We have, hopefully, his first cria due in August so that will be exciting.  He is in the middle with Greeves (looking a normal size now) at the front and Harry at the back.
And as for Harry!  Well!  He takes the prize for most noise made by any alpaca - worse than even Lina last year!

After that we did a good bit of paddock maintenance, had a Chinese Takeaway and now we are going to bed!!

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Lovely weather - for penguins.

Hail, rain, in fact whopping great hailstones - very painful!  Glad we didn't shear anymore than we did last weekend as there is no room for anymore under cover. 
We did have a brief bit of sunshine but then it returned to rain.
So no nice alpaca photos today.  I spent a lot of the time in the garage sorting fleece and very pleased I am with the results so far.  The problem is the first shearing fleeces which are covered with hay and just about everything else they could be.  I think this year we are going to have to at least take the tips off the cria fleece as they seem to make little hooks at the ends and trap everything.

Monday 14 May 2012

Happy Chappy

Not quite such good weather today - drizzle for most of the time but not too cold.  The naked alpacas are still loving their new sheared look and are doing a good bit of pronking whilst the unsheared ones look on.  I'm not sure if this looks like maybe a couple are not pregnant after all and I think we might need to try a few spit offs at the weekend.  I think Cassie, background of this picture is a definite pregnant!
Sam takes his driving test at the beginning of June and has been desperately searching for a vehicle.  I was going to give him my little car but the insurance was horrendous so he has been searching comparison sites and finally found something that he can insure reasonably - You might recognise it!
Incredibly it is cheaper for him to insure our old 4x4 than to insure a little thing - he is very happy about that!  And lucky - as he can practise in the field where Carl and I were both up the old aerodrome with all the other teenagers and their our Dad's white faced behind the wheels!  Sam does have lessons with a proper instructor as well!

Sunday 13 May 2012

A day of watching

Another day of lovely weather today and I spent a great deal of it sitting and marvelling at the difference a bit of shearing makes!  Even old Prue looks elegant - and very happy!

The cutest are String and Trouble but I was too busy watching to get a decent photo - this is the best of a lot which involves half a head, back end views  . . .

And finally some lamb photos - Shovel, Grace's baby first.  Happy with his mum - and nearly as big!
Two Tone's naughty twins.
And a pair of Blackies, exhausted after having escaped under the electric fence last night.

Oh!  And Judi, sorry - thank you for the comment but I deleted it by mistake, still getting to grips with this new Blogger.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Lambing finished and the start of shearing

I know I didn't mention the lambing yesterday but got rather carried away with the show news.  Lambing has now finished and we have 33 lambs charging around from the 19 pregnant ewes.  There were two difficult births - both requiring ropes.  Grace and Shovel I have already mentioned - and finally, two weeks after she had him, Grace is feeding him by herself - before I had to go and stand with her before she would let him feed.  They are both doing very well, I must get a photo tomorrow.  The other hard one was Pugsly, last to lamb, huge  and very stuck with a leg back and head coming out before any feet.  No room to manoeuvre properly and no Sam to help.  Bailer twine worked a treat - but not the new stuff which kept slipping off the leg before I could get hold of the other one.  Pugsly also did not want me helping her and I have to crack that issue before next year as trying to get ropes on whilst clinging onto a ewe is not easy.  I also had a ewe with milk fever but 80ml of Calcijet SQ sorted her out in seconds.  I had to warm it on the Mule engine and I got one lump where it went in a bit fast but that massaged away and she was up in seconds - miraculous stuff.  I also had a set of twins born in the pouring rain before I got up there and they were almost gone but a lot of warming in my body warmer, Kick Start (oh, and a wee drop of gin - think it should have been brandy but it did the trick - you may be wondering where I obtained gin in the middle of a field but that's another story!).

This afternoon the weather has been wonderful for once and while we were in the fields we decided to shear a couple - we had put off shearing as the weather was so bad but it has to start sometime.  In the end we did Prue, Emily, Little Star, Trouble and String.  They were all very well behaved and look so tiny and vulnerable now, I always forget that!  I have only one picture as the camera card is full but I'll do the others tomorrow - Trouble and String are particularly gorgeous!

Here is Little Star who is supposed to be pregnant but she looks way too tiny.  It may be wishful thinking but there might be a slight sign at the back end and on the udder - time will tell.

Friday 11 May 2012

Very over excited!

Finally!  Back on the internet!  I have blog withdrawal symptoms and so will probably ramble on for ages - please excuse me it is just over excitement!
A lot has been happening here so I will have to try and fit it all in but I have to do the most exciting thing first - we went to the North Somerset show and took three alpacas.  This is the first time we have been to a show other than a fleece show and the weather made for a very exciting time - to be honest I don't think it would have mattered what the weather was like it was just so exciting!  The journey was horrendous - weather wise, not alpaca wise!  We took Trouble, String and Yossarian none of whom had ever been in a trailer before but they loaded like little lambs and settled before we were even out of the fields.  The weather got steadily worse and all three looked a mess but I kept saying to Carl and Sam, "It doesn't matter we are just going for the experience and to meet people."  In the end we hardly talked to anyone as it just poured in various ways!  Trouble and String were both in the same class so Sam took Trouble and Carl had String who, due to the weather, had not had as much halter training as planned but they were both so good.  I had to hold onto Yoassarian who was very unhappy his two friends had gone and was only distracted when he caught sight of a donkey who he really fancied meeting!

Now you are going to get rather an overload of photos now!  Sorry!  Sam was on tenterhooks waiting to take Trouble in and had to shelter in the truck from the worst of the weather.
Then it was into the ring with me trying desperately to see what was happening, take photos and control Yossarian.  Sam took it all very seriously - no chance to wear his new white coat though as it was drenched by the time he went in the ring.
Carl trying to look like he knew what he was doing!
And the results - well, if I hadn't been so wet by then I would probably have wet myself in excitement - a 2nd for Trouble and a 3rd for String!!!!

By the time Yossarian was on the weather was even worse - torrential rain with the odd burst of thunder mixed in.
The judge and stewards were fantastic and kept their humour despite the appalling conditions - most of the spectators had moved away by then as you can see.
Carl was having the time of his life!
So, how did my little man do (Yossarian that is - not Carl!)?
First place!  And he got colour champion but they had run out of rosettes so we're waiting for that one!
And just to prove I was actually there - and loving every minute of it  . .
Now as we snuggle down to sleep at night I whisper in Carl's ear, "Tell me again what the judge said . . "!!

No good I have to go and do feeding now so further updates tomorrow!