Our Website: www.ashdalealpacas.com

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Get Off My Cloud

Si is now off work until next Wednesday, he is supposed to be getting the fencing finished but the weather is really getting on our nerves now as it is holding things back.  The clouds are so low that we can't see the paddocks and it has been like this for the past week.  We have to keep walking round checking the animals because they can't be seen from the window.  We have also discovered that our waterproof clothes can only cope with so much rain and the weather lately has pushed them far past their limits.  We keep coming back in with rain pouring down our backs.

All the animals are well although they don't really look it as they are all covered in mud, we can't take any photograps to prove it though.  Timothy has been wearing a coat to try to keep him dry as he dashes round the paddock.  He is coping with the mud much better than we are but that is probably because he is so light and quick he just skims the surface.

Poor Ollie is getting really fed up, he is raring to go now as he sees the place coming together but everytime he goes outside the heavens open again.  He decided to stay out in the rain to get some work completed today and then came in and stood in front of the fire to try to dry out.  The steam was rising off him, so much rain had soaked through his waterproofs.

Si had a dental appointment this afternoon and for some reason he was given a gold crown at the back.  If he tells me to get on with my knitting one more time I will be chopping off his head and sending it off to one of those companies that are currently advertising on tv for gold.

We have actually seen a small patch of blue sky this evening so we are living in hope that things get brighter for the weekend.

Sunday 28 March 2010

The Long and Winding Road

Thursday began with the contractor arriving while it was still dry. It is amazing how many posts can be put in with a tractor, much quicker than by hand. The ground was still wet but he managed to get most of the paddocks done. On Saturday morning we went to Mole Valley to buy some more fencing so that Si can get that fitted next week. We also bought some drugs for the alpacas. That sentence sounds more exciting than it actually was.

The large rubble is gradually being put into the new drive ready for the scalpings on top. We have been walking round checking the hedges and are amazed at just how many of the trees are in bud. We still haven't had time to plant the potatoes and strawberry plants that we bought as all our energy and time is going on getting things ready to have the barn erected.

This morning, Chance, who always sticks her head through the fencing to get at the grass that has been untouched by anybody else, had got her head caught. Not satisfied with putting her head through the gate, she had obviously spotted some extra sweet grass on the other side of the boys' paddock next to her. At the corner of the paddock she had put her head through to the boys then out into the chase so that her neck then got stuck on the diagonal. Luckily, we had just gone out again to give the boys their liver fluke treatment when we spotted her. Si had to climb into the boys paddock and he guided her head and ears through safely while I panicked. I was all for just cutting the fence. She could have been like that for over an hour but it didn't seem to do her any harm. I went and got the feed bucket to see if she carried on as usual at the feeding trough and she didn't seem stressed at all, she pushed her way along jolting everybody else out of the way.

It started to rain heavily around 5pm so we all came back in again and started to work on getting our logo on the blog and brightening it up a bit. Si fell asleep over the laptop as he has been up before the birds the past two days to watch the Grand Prix. I can't believe he got up at 6 yesterday just to watch the 'qualifiers'. He's been really lively company this weekend.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

We have been mad busy for the past few days. On Sunday we had to get up early to attend a Lambing Day. It was really informative and a lot of what we learned can be carried over to alpacas. As 'proper' farmers Nicky and Simon taught us what is the best way to prepare the animals through breeding and welfare to produce the best meat. I have a problem with this being a city person and couldn't stop saying 'Aaaaagh' every time one of the new lambs started to play. Why does meat have to look so cute with it's coat on? It really was a day well-spent and Nicky has a really wicked sense of humour which helps to remember things.

Si has been working extra days this week but is working here tomorrow because the fencing contractor telephoned to say that he will be here first thing in the morning. I can't wait to have a birthing paddock right under the window, it means we can watch the births at close quarters without having to stress out the mother.

The weather has been dreadful again with heavy mists so that we have to keep going out to check the animals as we can't see them at all. I even managed to get over and get their food in the feeders without them seeing me this morning it was so thick and I had to call the animals over. Timothy is still running around a lot but when Si got home tonight he was fast asleep and as it is so unusual for him to be still Si got really worried. He was soon charging around again though. Ms Humphreys seems to have recovered from the birth and retained placenta, she has just finished a course of antibiotics so hopefully she will be ready to be remated in a few weeks.

I have been practising my knitting and trying to design some hat patterns, while I have been unable to work outdoors, in anticipation of getting our fibre back from the mill soon. I also bought a book with instructions on how to crochet but I forgot to buy a crochet hook, I have been searching through all my knitting needles as I was convinced I had one somewhere and Si reckons he has now read the book all the way through and he thinks he could crochet if he had one prerequisite, coordination.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Men At Work

Have you ever tried drinking from a moving target?

Did the earth move for you?

It's Si here, I know, a rare treat for everyone.

We have a busy few days since Irene last blogged. About 9.15 Thursday morning our farming contractor turned up, he had said he hoped to get here one day this week and given yesterday's weather I'm very glad he turned up when he did. He brought someone else to drive the tractor with the tipping trailer while he was on the big digger (it must have been at least 5 tons). It took them until about 3pm to move all the earth I had dug out for the barn. They then dug out for the drive up to it. It would have taken me weeks to do this on my own so well worth the money.

They weren't the only workers to turn up on Thursday. Our vet, Matt, arrived at lunch time as arranged to reexamine Ms Humphreys and to have a look at Mimi who is struggling to get pregnant. Humph was given a saline flush which seems to have cleared her out, we are down to just one injection of antibiotics a day know for a couple of days. We can then think about remating her in about three weeks. It was then Mimi's turn to be looked at, Matt had brought the scanner but Mimi was not in the least bit cooperative. It took both Irene and I holding her for him to get a proper look. Apparently she has one follicle ready but it is just about on the maximum size to be considered normal so could well be cystic. We have been given a bottle of receptal to give her an injection of to induce that follicle. Hopefully this will mean she can get pregnant then.

In a few weeks we will put Mimi to our potential stud, Cooper. A good test for both of them, he is just 20 months old so we are not expecting results staight away but we are hopeful it will work in the end. Cooper was sired by EP Cambridge Samson, who resides with Rob and Les at Wellground Alpaca Stud, who in turn was sired by the illustrious EP Cambridge Peruvian Spartacus (also sire to EP Cambridge Navigator, UK's most expensive alpaca).

On the subject of lineage, I have spent a lot of time studying bloodlines using the BAS website and the IAR registry for Australia and New Zealand. I am happy to be corrected if I am wrong but I think in the summer we will have the only animal in the world with direct descendancy from these three exceptional and world reknown sires. EP Cambridge Peruvian Spartacus, NWA Ltd Ruffo (via Eringa Park Peruvian Irraquoy)and Peruvian Hemingway (via ILR Alpine Fiber's Brutus).

I spent most of Thursday doing little jobs. I decided the blades on the ride on mower were in desperate need of being sharpened, so I tipped it up only to find for the whole time we've been using it one of blades was upside down so was acting more as weed whacker than a mower.

Yesterday I was back to hard sums and I let Irene hold the fort, she's getting quite good at it now.

Today we had Carl and Rosemary from Westhill Alpacas visit, a chance for us all to catch up and check the progress we are all making in advancing our businesse, they brought us their new leaflet hot off the press, which looks great. Irene and Rosemary compared knitting, I'm too much of a gentleman to comment (OK I don't actually understand any of it). We had a look at a rain soaked Timothy then up to the young boys paddock to have a look at the fleece of Cooper and our exciting prospect for next year, Wisden. I would love to be showing Wisden this year but basic common sense regarding biosecurity means we cannot, if only it could prevail nationwide. We will not risk any of our animals for the sake of a bit of coloured ribbon.

Its an early start in the morning, we're going on a lambing course. We're going to have a lot of births this summer, one is bound to be difficult so any extra knowledge is a good thing.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Walkin' On Sunshine

Timothy is never still

I'm pleased to say that Ms Humphreys is a lot better today. We had to give her 3 injections first thing and she started to contract again but she had obviously had a good nights rest because she spat the green slimey stuff all over Si while we were doing them. It was good to see her being feisty again. She spent the morning looking pretty uncomfortable again but there have been a few spots of blood in the poo pile so she is losing the placenta slowly. It has been horrible watching her get up and down slowly, we could really see that she was in pain. When the injections had warn off she spent the afternoon alternating between stuffing her face with hay and sitting properly enjoying the sunshine.

Timothy has been running up and down all day but I did manage to weigh him and he only weighs 9kg. He's never going to put on any weight unless he stays still but he looks as though he is having a lot of fun. His head goes down and he just charges around, he could really do with a little playmate but our next birth isn't due until the end of June. It's so nice having a cria this early in the year, I'd forgotten how much time can be wasted just watching and admiring them. Paddock cleaning seems to takes ages now because wherever I am I keep looking over to make sure that he is ok. He does make the other white ones look really dirty though.

Monday 15 March 2010

Just Hang On To What You've Got

Ms Humphreys has still not dropped the placenta. We have been up the past two nights giving injections and we are not fit for anything. She, meanwhile is still being an absolutely brilliant mum and her son is thriving. We have been really grateful for the warm, dry weather as we have been keeping her in our sights in case anything comes out.

We have been giving her hormone injections every 6 hours which means she has been having contractions in the hope that she would deliver the placenta. Counting Thursday when she seemed to be in discomfort prior to having her cria she has now been suffering contractions for five days. The vet has been in every day to examine her.

Yesterday the placenta was still in place with no signs of it moving but today it had started to putrify and is coming away in pieces. I found small bits this morning at 6am in the poo pile and have been over there every hour to check what is coming out. She has been so compliant when we have had to inject her, which isn't like her at all; I want her back to her normal stroppy self. She has also been having antibiotics and painkillers but after seeing her today and hearing about how worried I was about her being in pain for so long the vet has cut her injections down to once a day until Thursday when he will call again. This means that she will have contractions for about 6 hours each day while the painkiller will be working and then a rest until the next day when it will start again. This should be a lot less stressful for her and should ensure that her milk supply stays plentiful.

The good news is that he thinks that she will be fine and a scan on Thursday should confirm this but she will then have a further course of antibiotics once she is cleaned out. He is also going to scan Mimi who absorbed her pregnancy early in 2009 and hasn't been able to hold a pregnancy since despite being mated five times after antibiotics and flush. When I said that she was a little slut and tries to get through the fence to any males he said that it could mean that she has a cyst which can be healed quite easily with drugs.

Hope this isn't rambling too much but we are so tired that we are going to bed to get an early start on Ms Humphreys meds again.

Saturday 13 March 2010

It's A Beautiful Day

Timothy an hour after being born next to Ms Humphreys birthing pool

The girls held a baby shower to welcome him

We had our first birth of the year yesterday. It was a few weeks early but I had been expecting it and had told Si that I thought Ms Humphreys was about to birth. She had been humming a lot the day before and was visiting the poo pile on a more than regular basis.

Sure enough about 11.30am yesterday when I had come back in to do some housework I looked out of the french windows and a head and two feet where sticking out. I stayed where I was and watched her have a really easy birth in her favourite spot. She had made herself a bowl in the paddock last year and she has dust baths there in the summer and mud baths in the winter but now it is obviously a birthing pool.

By the time I had grabbed a clean towel and the terramycin the cria was up on his feet. He didn't even take any tentative steps, he was up and running from the word 'go'. I had terrible trouble trying to catch him to spray his navel which explains the blue question mark on one of his rear legs and blue dots all over him. I did eventually catch him but I think I was more worn out than he was. He spent the rest of the day charging round the paddock only stopping to feed. There was no doubt he was getting milk as he is a very messy eater and gets it all over his mouth and he also 'piddles for Britain'.

His mum is worrying us at the moment though. She hadn't expelled the placenta four hours later so I telephoned the vet. He said that I must have missed it in the paddock but I had zig-zagged around it four times to make sure that I hadn't but I had also spent the afternoon just watching out of the window waiting for it. I always like to get it as soon as it comes out so that I can check it is complete. Something which Ollie thinks is absolutely disgusting. Si had to drive straight to the vets for Oxytocin and antibiotics.

We were convinced that it would come out overnight but it was typical that we had theatre tickets for a show in Torquay to see Tim Vine. We decided to go anyway with Ollie holding the fort. Obviously we were late as we didn't really want to leave here.

Ms Humphreys is in a small paddock with her baby and Mimi for company. We checked her as soon as we got back and still nothing but she has been feeding her baby no matter how much discomfort she must be in. There was no fever but we telephoned the vet again this morning and he came out and gave her more of the same and we had to repeat everything this afternoon and at 6pm. We have just been out to check and there is still no sign of it, these alpacas can be such a worry sometimes. We have more injections to give at midnight and then at 6am. If nothing has appeared by about 10 the vet is going to come back out. I think we are more worried about all of this because Ms Humphreys is still feeding her baby and hasn't stopped eating all day but then again, nothing much upsets her appetite.

Anyway, I feel better after a telephone call to Head Office. Rob has assured me that it is quite rare but not unheard of and the hormone injections will probably make her expel the placenta soon although he has warned me that it will smell. I'm hoping it comes out tonight or tomorrow so that Si can check it and pick it up. No doubt Ms Humphreys will wait until Monday when it will be even more ripe and Si will be safely in the office doing hard sums.

We're going to call the baby Timothy after Tim Vine but I have now warned Si that we are not going to get any theatre tickets for June, July, August or September when the rest of our births are due.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Day Tripper


We have had a really hectic but enjoyable day today. Si dashed around doing the hay, water and morning feeds while Ollie and I got ready to go out. We have been to visit MGB along with our other alpacas; we obviously disturbed Biffy mid-meal.

We had a walk around the paddocks and a look at their animals, they are much further along in their breeding programme than us and now own some really impressive stud boys. It was freezing cold and I couldn't wait to get back into the warm in front of their wood burner. We then went into the barn to admire their chickens and pigmy goats (I have my name down for another girl when they are born later this month). We decided that we were all starving so drove to Bovey Tracey and visited a really pretty, lively pub that did a carvery for £3.50 a head; it's amazing how much food can be piled onto a plate.

After a happy hour or two in the pub we went back to M&M Alpacas to get some photos for the leaflets that I should have ordered last week. By the time we had had another coffee and chat the day had vanished and we had to get back quickly to feed our own animals. It was dark and freezing by the time we got home so poor Si had to walk round the paddocks in the dark to check and feed the alpacas. I am now sitting in front of the tv with my knitting needles click-clacking away so that I have something to show Rosemary when she next comes to visit.

So we have had a lovely day out with the added bonus of double paddock cleaning tomorrow but at least it will help to work off the calorific intake of today. We also bought a tub of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and polished off the lot.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Hitchin' A Ride

Why walk when I can get a lift

Tilly has had a busy day. The weather has been really cold but sunny and we have been doing loads of chores outside again. The swimming pool that Si built has finally been drained and we are still waiting to find out when the contractors can get here. They are so far behind on their work because of the appalling weather we had prior to this dry spell which looks like it is due to go on for at least another week. The moat around the park home has now been filled with stones to make a path and we are busy spreading the soil that had been dug out for it around what will eventually be our garden and orchard.

The battery has been recharged on the mower so that we can start to trim the grass in the next couple of weeks, our grass has been growing for a couple of weeks now but, unfortunately, so have the docks. As soon as the leaves are large enough to spray we will be attacking them with the weedkiller. We also have to tackle the buttercups that seem to have spread everywhere but they can't be sprayed until they are in flower.

We have changed our minds about where the final fences are going for the last three paddocks but that isn't to say that this is the final decision. If the fencing contractor can get here soon it will put an end to the discussions about them because once the fence is in place we will just have to live with it.

Tilly has been asleep on the sofa for the past few hours as she has had a really busy day helping to put the hay in the bags, hanging out washing and even helping to dig a channel to drain the swimming pool. Even she refuses to help with the paddock cleaning but isn't averse to rolling in the poo pile.

Thursday 4 March 2010


Weather still dry so the land is draining slowly. We have been taking advantage of this drying time by getting out and about trying to move the business on.

The wellington boots were scraped, scrubbed and disinfected last night in preparation for a busy day visiting other alpaca farms. First visit this morning was to Ashton Lane Alpacas to check out their stud boy, Thunder. We have been looking for a really good suri male to put to Ms Humphreys after she gives birth later this month, well, that is if all goes according to plan, otherwise it will be during April. Thunder looks pretty amazing and his colour is wonderful. On some parts of his fleece it is as though somebody has dyed his coat with a bottle of burgundy.

After we had decided that we would definitely want to use him we drove down the road to Head Office. After coffee and a chat about genetics we went out to go through the fleeces of Wellground's stud males. They are still some of the best stud alpacas around and show us all what we are working towards. Rob and Les showed us how to take fleece samples to send to the lab and we then had a walk round the paddocks to see the girls. I did notice that they don't seem to have any weeds amongst their grass, so different from here, so that gives us something else to work towards. We really do have our work cut out here now. While we were walking round, Bullet, their new cria, came bounding over to have a look at us. He is so cute and alert. I really can't wait for our births to start now.

We sat and talked about how we can keep our herds safe from TB and Rob and Les have a contractor there putting up extra strong fencing. That place is going to be like Fort Knox by the time he has finished. Just looking at their barns make me jealous, they are so clean and we are still up to our knees in mud.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

We were just admiring Cooper and I was telling Si what we had to do to try him as a stud

"I've got to put what? Where? No way".

Well the weather has been fabulous for the past few days and we have been busy catching up with all the jobs that we haven't been able to do because of the rain.

The alpacas have dried out so today we gave them a dose of liver fluke treatment as a preventative measure and then their monthly dose of 'liquid sunshine'. I said to Si should we start on the cantankerous bitch first (meaning Ms Humphreys) and he said "I would but you won't stand still long enough". I just hoped that one of them would kick him. Larralluh obliged, she always was one of my favourites. We took the opportunity to check out their fleeces again and can't wait to send our first samples away for analysis.

The fleeces that we sorted were collected by the courier today and have gone off to be processed. I can't wait to get them back even though I have been told that they are going to take a couple of months at least.

All the paddocks are spotless because we just don't want to come inside while the sun is shining, we've even been able to work with no coats on. The girls have been put into a new paddock and we had to separate Temple from her mum because Chance looked a bit on the lean side. Temple didn't seem to notice at first as she had just been given fresh hay but this evening I saw her at the fence looking over at her mum, there was no crying though. Chance hasn't seemed to notice that she's missing a baby, she hasn't lifted her head from the fresh grass.

More good news is that the contractor has said that if the weather stays dry the land should have drained enough for him to get here sometime next week to shift all the clay that Si dug out.