Our Website: www.ashdalealpacas.com

Sunday 22 April 2012

With A Little Help From Our Friends......................

Is there really a drought going on our there?  Are we the only ones having rain every day?  Who makes the decision about droughts?  Do they ever go outdoors, or at least look out of their window?

Yesterday we were feeling really fed up with the weather and the fact that Wellground Jemima was obviously fooling us again.  It was gas and she was just fat so she was moved out of the birthing paddock to make way for the next due girls.  We did have more chicks hatching so that was fun but we couldn't get the mower out to cut down the weeds as the grass was just too wet.  The pekin pen is overrun with nettles so we keep losing the hens in the middle of it. 

In the afternoon Si was tidying the barn as the forecast is no better for the rest of the week and we have the shearer booked for Thursday so room has to be made to take the whole herd in on Wednesday to keep them dry.  I was very brave and decided that the paddock cleaning still had to be done so was walking up the chase towards the top when I saw a really clean alpaca.  It took a while for it to sink in that we didn't have one that small and I shouted Si.  He came running out of the barn thinking something terrible had happened and I just pointed.  Jemima had given birth on day 370.  The only thing Jemima does in a rush is get to the feeders.  She is a great mum and dotes on all the cria that are born.  Si went back down to collect a towel, teramycin and, of course, the camera. 

Not great photos, I admit but we were delighted with this new little girl.  We haven't decided on a name yet but she wouldn't have been here at all if it hadn't been for all the advice I had from friends in US and Australia.  We hadn't been able to get Jemima pregnant so she was flushed out, given antibiotics and mated on two consecutive days as well as being given Receptal.

We decided that we had to get them back down to the birthing paddock and when Si tried to pick up the cria poor Jemima thought he was kidnapping her baby and started to scream while chasing him all the way.  She's not falling for that again and hasn't left her baby alone all day, we haven't even been able to weigh her but as she is quite lively and seems to be feeding well we are going to leave well alone for now.  It is lovely having a baby in the paddock right outside our window, especially as she is from our own bred herdsire, Ashdale Cooper.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Roll Out The Red Carpet

Saturday is disinfectant day.  We normally start the day with paddock cleaning then sanitise all the feeders and drinkers before moving onto the chicken houses.  We were expecting a World Champion Alpaca Breeder to visit us tomorrow bringing a special delivery but whilst still on the paddock cleaning the telephone rang.  It was to check if it was ok to bring the visit forward a day.  We weren't really dressed for visitors but were excited all the same.

If I say it was so that nobody missed the Grand Prix tomorrow morning then those in the know will be able to identify the visitor straight away.

A couple of hours later Alpaca Royalty arrived, our new Elite Australian Herdsire, Eringa Park Lionheart ET.  I will tell you all more about him on the next blog.  To prove just how regal he is he had the aforementioned World Champion Alpaca Breeder employed as a chauffeur for his journey.  Most of us know him as Rob from Wellground Alpaca Stud, he had to come alone as Les does all the important jobs on their farm and had to stay behind.  We hadn't even had time to put the red carpet out or hang the bunting.

It was so funny getting Lionheart up to his new paddock.  He had to walk right up the chase past our girls.  He really strutted his stuff as the girls ran to the fence to stare at him, they were dancing and jumping with excitement.  I think Rob managed to get a video of it.

Lionheart settled in for a few hours and we decided to try him on one of our girls later this afternoon.  Here he is with Ashdale Delilah.  This mating should produce a cria with amazing genetics as Delilah's dam is Hemiccoyo Cricket of Cambridge which includes genetics from Hemmingway, Ruffo and and Fibre's Brutus and her sire is EP Cambridge Samson (a Supreme Champion himself) and includes more top Australian genetics from his sire EP Cambridge Peruvian SpartacusSamson has sired more Supreme Champions himself and, in fact, sired one of our herdsires, Ashdale Cooper.

While we had a World Champion Breeder here we weren't going to miss the chance to show off the fleeces of our home bred girls.  Rob was impressed with them so it has been well worth investing in the Elite Australian Genetics and we are definitely going to carry on the same route.  These animals hold their value and are producing the finest fibre, which we are proud to display and sell at agricultural shows which generates even more interest in the alpaca industry.

Delilah is a maiden but Lionheart is so experienced that he jsut pushed her to the ground and got to work...

...and half an hour later Delilah is looking decidedly bored with the whole procedure but Lionheart looks as though he is having a good time.

All the while this was going on we also had a hatch of pekins and silkies taking place so we had been running back and forth to the incubator checking on progress.  As I type this we have 20 out of their shells and are waiting on another 3 or 4 that are pipping.  I hope they don't take much longer as the race starts in a few hours and it would be nice to be able to fit in a few hours sleep before then.  If I manage to stay awake tomorrow evening I will try to get more pics of Lionheart and introduce him more fully.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Being Just As Busy As A Bee Can Be

Once again it has been a long time since the last blog but we haven't been sitting back doing nothing.  A few weeks ago we attended The Game Fair which was a two day event and almost sold out of our knitwear so the needles and yarn are out every night trying to build up stock for the next show we are to attend in a few weeks time.

Si had a trip 'Oop North' over the weekend delivering two of our young boys.  This sale had been on the cards for quite a long time and they have gone to live on a farm with other animals but they have actually been purchased by a knitting club.  One of the members attended one of the shows where we had a stall last year and we spent quite a while talking about the alpaca yarn and she bought quite a large quantity of it to take home.  A few more trips down here to see the farm and meet the animals and she was hooked.  Si forgot to take the camera so no shots of their new home. Her closing words when she came back down to purchase the boys where 'We'll just take a couple of boys ..........for now'.  I think she already realised that she was going to get hooked on keeping alpacas.

Now onto even more exciting things....................

We have bought Eringa Park Lionheart ET an Elite Herdsire from Wellground Alpaca Stud. I am so excited about this purchase as it means we can now offer our clients a choice of two absolutely fantastic studs which gives them another reason to purchase female alpacas from us.  I hope we can live up to having Alpaca Royalty living amongst us.

Eringa Park Lionheart ET

Ashdale Cooper

Although Cooper only has one cria on the ground, born last year, it has an absolutely fantastic fleece and on the strength of this he has 6 outside matings booked already so he is going to be a very happy boy over the next couple of months. 

Even more amazing news, and congratulations are due to Wellground Alpaca Stud, most of you will be aware that the World Alpaca Conference is taking place at the moment.  Les and Rob Rawlins decided to enter two fleeces from their Elite Herd and took two prizes.  Brown Champion for Wellground Lalique and 1st Senior White for their homebred Herdsire Wellground Close Encounter.  This now makes them World Champions.  We are particularly pleased for them as we have a daughter of Close Encounter, our very own Ashdale Exhibition, and her fleece shows excellent promise so we may well have to enter her fleece in a few shows this year. 

Although the blog has been quiet we have been buzzing with excitement about the future and are making plans to take our business forward and help others to do the same.

Saturday 3 March 2012

First Class Exhibition

We've been really enjoying the good weather and so have all the animals.  The grass is growing but, unfortunately, so are the weeds so we may have to start topping again soon.

Si has been carrying on with halter training last years cria and they are all coping well with their halters although Piper and Condor seem happy when it is over and they can get back to playing together.

Here they are after halter practice yesterday before the mist came down.

Exhibition just showed total disdain when I tried to get a photo of her face.  She is so pretty with a look of her Sire Wellground Close Encounter, she is out of EP Cambridge Larralluh one of our Australian Elite Imports.  She will be mated to Ashdale Cooper when the weather is a bit warmer then that will be a bundle of great genetics in one package.

No blog is complete without a snap of Heaven posing.  She never gets fed up of having her photo taken.

I had a broken chicken that is now fixed.  She had a compacted crop so she was moved into the house and fed mashed banana with yoghurt.  We kept syringing oil down her throat and then massaging her crop until the food moved.  She was quite happy here but she is like a new bird now.

Si has been busy building another chicken shed today ready for the silkies.  They are at the half way stage of shedding their baby feathers so are looking really scruffy and we have a silkie that has gone broody so I have been sneaking pekin eggs under her as the incubators are full.

We have been getting more pictures of hens that have moved on to other homes.  It's great fun seeing their new homes.

We were going to be moving the alpacas back out of a night but as the forecast had threatened more freezing weather later this week we decided they could have a reprieve.  They love coming in around 5pm to their evening meal and fresh hay laid out for them.

It's the time of year when alpaca owners have muddy knees from crawling aroung checking for udders and then wondering if the females really are pregnant after all.  Is she pregnant or just fat?  Is that a cria moving or just gas?  All good fun though and exciting.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Yes, Les. It has happened to me.

Todays title is directed at Les from Wellground Alpaca Stud.  She said that I was in danger of turning into mad chicken woman and it has really happened.  I don't feel bad about it though as I realise that most of our customers feel the same.  I get sent photographs from customers showing me our girls in their new homes and yesterday a lady was kissing and stroking her new birds before they went into their box for the journey.  There is no doubt that those pekins are going to be spoilt.  She didn't laugh when I said that I give the chickens Ready Brek made with water during the cold weather to keep them warm.  Her husband did, but that was only because she does the same. 

It's not so bad with alpacas as we give ongoing support to anybody who buys from us so we get to see them on a regular basis.  Actually what I am trying to do here is prepare myself for putting these two cute boys up for sale, Condor and Piper are great friends and I would really like them to stay together.  They will be up on our website tomorrow when I update the sales list.  They are both halter trained and walk quite happily side by side.

Ashdale Condor

Ashdale Piper

We have been topping up the alpacas with alfalfa mixed with their concentrate during the cold weather but we had two of this years babies refusing to eat hard feed.  One of ours, Bonnie, and one belonging to a client.  I got advice from Rosemary of Westhill Alpacas and it worked on the little boy that doesn't belong to us but Bonnie stubbornly refused to give in and I was getting really worried about her as there isn't much nourishment in the grass at this time of year. They are getting fed twice a day in the barn and she would just stand there while all the others tucked in.  We resorted to holding the two refuseniks back when we let all of the others out in the hope that they would eat once they were hungry.  Bonnie would just stand there looking at us but the little boy got his first taste of alfalfa and was addicted.  He now gets as aggressive as a baby can when the food is put out and is first with his nose in the feeder.  Bonnie finally gave in this morning eating so daintily, it seemed to take an age but the alpaca crack got her too and this evening she couldn't wait for their dinner to be put out.  I now have two babies pushing the bigger animals out of the way to get to the troughs. 

Friday 3 February 2012

Never work with children or animals

We're suffering from the big freeze here but as it has only just hit us and should be over by the weekend we can't complain too much.  We have been having such fun lately.  On Saturday we had visitors that we had looked forward to meeting for quite some time.  A lovely couple who have had previous experience with alpacas and want to build a new herd.  Really looking forward to their repeat visits.  They came over at pretty short notice as the weather had been so wet that we were all checking that there wouldn't be any rain.  Si and I still looked as though we had been having a mud fest and the alpacas had joined in but it stayed dry while they were here although there was still a chilly wind.  It was good enough that we could walk around the paddocks and show off the alpacas. 

Paddock cleaning is now hard work as the poo is frozen to the ground and we have to hit it to loosen it first.  We must look quite a sight bashing the ground as we walk around.  Still, we can still look on the bright side and think that the paddocks are being disinfected while we sleep.

The chicken side of the business is going from strength to strength with chicks in brooders, eggs in incubators but it was probably a mistake to put a breeding trio under the bedroom window.  The silkie cockerel does like the sound of his own voice before first light and for such a little fluffy bundle of cuteness he has a really loud mating call.  Chicken kiev anybody?  No?  Ok, I suppose I can just move them.

Country Smallholding had been in touch too.  They wanted to know if they could send a photographer to take some shots of chickens for their mag.  This morning he arrived and he wanted chickens on their own, with pigs, with goats and then some with alpacas.  We resorted to bribery and scattered corn for the chickens but the pigs just kept showing their backsides and we were dashing around them but trying to avoid shadows from the barn and fencing.  That's the problem with this time of year, the sun is so low in the sky that it creates long shadows. 

The photographer was particularly taken with the sebright cockerel but trying to keep him on his own was nigh on impossible. The man has the patience of a saint and it was a fun distraction from chores for us.   

We then all walked around so he could take some close up shots of the alpacas.  Heaven was true to form and ran over as soon as she saw the camera, it didn't matter that there was a stranger behind it.  Whichever weaning he tried to get in shot Heaven was always in the way.

Having fun had to be paid for so the afternoon was spent cleaning out all of the hen houses and putting in fresh wood shaving topped with lots of straw. That should keep all the chickens warm of a night.

The other day one of the hens had laid an egg on the ground and Tilly had picked it up thinking that it was a ball.  She walked around with it in her mouth for about half an hour, occasionally putting it down and kicking it to make it roll.  She then picked it up with a bit too much enthusiasm and broke it, well, she has now discovered what an egg is and loved it.  Today the hens were all out free ranging but Tilly then started barking from one of the hen houses. She never troubles the hens and they play quite happily around her so I went to investigate.  She was barking because a hen had laid an egg in one of the nesting boxes and she wanted it but couldn't reach.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?

I must apologise for the lack of blogging.  It has been a really busy time for us and as it was the first Xmas and New Year without Dad, I more or less just wanted to ignore them.  The year ended on an absolutely terrible note when we found Nata, one of our really old Chilean girls out of sorts on Boxing Day.  She was eating out of our hands but just wanted to sit in the field shelter on her own, but her daughter stood guard with her all day.  We called out the vet and he thought she had a slight infection so gave her antibiotics.  She didn't really improve and then on 28th she just seemed so tired and I sat with her in the shelter just stroking her.  The vet was called again and the hard decision to euthenase her was made as we think she was over 20 and she was having difficulty holding up her head by this time.  PM showed nothing so we have all made the decision that it was probably just old age.  I was definitely glad to see the back of last year.

This year has started really well apart from the mud.  It was such a gift after last winter, in fact we were even out pottering on Xmas day without coats it was so warm and sunny here.  The grass hasn't stopped growing and we had stocked up on extra hay in case the alpacas had to rely on it if it snowed and they were all stuck in the barn.  We have been struggling walking up the hill as the mud seems to envelop our feet and it takes quite an effort to pull them back out again.  Poor Si even had to resort to carrying the hay to the paddocks because the surface was too soft to take wheels.

 The hybrids come into the barn for their daily dust baths as they have completely destroyed the grass in their pens although we do now have a Beechwood Blue that is going to be having a bath and blow dry tomorrow, we don't know what she was doing today but we couldn't believe our eyes when she was queuing up to go to bed tonight.  She was completely caked in mud from head to foot.

We have also had a lovely email from Stuart Sutton, you may remember he came out a few weeks ago to take some photographs for a book.  Stuart is a freelance photographer and has worked for quite a few authors.  The top 2 photographs below, along with 1 or 2 others, are going to be published in 'Keeping Chickens' by David Squire in the Spring. You can tell that Stuart is professional, he even managed to get the chickens to pose for him.

Whereas, I had to resort to bribery and get out the bucket of corn to get the pekins that have just gone up for sale to allow me to photograph them.