ANOTHER DATE FOR YOUR DIARY

Whilst you're all adding those course dates to your 2012 diaries - here is another one not to be missed for alpaca breeders before the breeding season gets under way.  By International Judge Nick Harrington Smith here at Meon Valley Alpacas, being central to the BAS Southern Alpaca Group, and is open to everyone.   contact me for details and to reserve your place soon 01489 878663 info@mvalpacas.co.uk

Wednesday 28 March 2012 One day Seminar designed to help better understand how to select and breed successfully for the bloodstock market and the fibre industry. Gain an insight into the importance and relationship of those traits most important to all markets.



DATES FOR NEXT YEAR

A couple of dates for your diaries -

We have the wonderful Liz Barlow coming here to give a BAS Alpaca Evaluation for Breeders Course on Saturday 4th February - limited to just 12 places, this is a fabulous days education, not to be missed, all classroom based, so we will be cosy in the training room whatever the weather's doing outside - lunch and refreshments included. Please get in touch to find out more and book your place soon.

Our own very popular Alpacas for Beginners day course on Saturday 3rd March - ideal for anyone thinking of keeping alpacas or newbies... again contact for details.

As soon as I have dates fixed for further courses I'll post them...  some very interesting ones I promise!

Been cold today but everybody was dry first thing, so Peter and I set about microchipping the cria - would have got it all done very quickly if the battery hadn't died in the chip reader - took longer to get the battery out and replace it than it did to chip them all. Anyway Job Done and now I must get on and register them.

WINTER

The trees are mostly bare and so it all looks a bit wintery out there - not as bad as last year when we'd already had a foot of snow by now - but we have had slightly more seasonal weather this week. I hope we get some snow for Christmas - but not too much!

The pacas managed to dry out today and are looking reasonably clean but a bit dishevelled - not surprising given the amount of rain we've had. Yesterday morning they were almost crispy, they'd had a soaking the night before and then the temperature must have plummeted overnight - the gates were frozen shut in the morning and all the raindrops everywhere were solid, as were the outside of the pacas fleeces - shows how well insulated they are.

We had a very large group of students from South Downs college come to learn about alpacas as part of their animal care course - thankfully we were all in our heated lecture room for most of their visit, and then  a shivery 10 minutes meeting the alpacas in the field before going back in their mini-buses.

Tomorrow we give the second dose of the season of AD&E and will handle the weanlings a bit, they've settled really well and are enjoying the hard feed with extra goodies - carrots and micronised peas with Readigrass - yum.

WEANING

Peter and I had a free morning so decided to wean the first bunch of crias - 11 of them altogether and split up the rest of the female herd according to their BCS and winter feed requirements. All went remarkably smoothly and we were just finishing putting the last females out when I saw young Dipper-Dapper make a bid for an escape, squeezing himself under the rails he was back with his mum two fields away in a jiffy.

Swearing slightly, well a lot actually, we decided that herding him back or carrying him across the farm was not an option, so we caught him and bundled him into the trailer and then moved them all along to the next field which is fenced with stock wire, drove him across the fields and put him back in with the others. Completely out of sight from his mum and his previous escape route, he settled down and stayed put with his buddies.

Tonight everyone seems remarkably calm, the weanlings have old Aunty Miel in with them for a bit of adult company and they all tucked into their supper. All but 2 of their mums seem oblivious to the fact that their crias are no longer with them.  Moya searched me up and down looking for Monroe but as soon as I was out of the field settled down in front of the hay feeder for a munch.  Calico stood and gazed into the distance but not for long.

Weanlings

The Fatties

Females & Crias

Caption ideas?

FIRST REAL FROST & BEGINNERS COURSE

When I pulled up the bedroom blind this morning there was a lovely Wintry scene of frosted alpacas, on frosted grass... not sure how cold it was but it was definitely very chilly compared to recent weeks. I should have taken a picture because it was all so lovely with the mists here and there and the sun coming up, but I was too busy flying about getting ready for our Beginners Course which was starting at 10am.

Very nice people on the course, some interested in pets and some in breeding females, hopefully they will all become alpaca owners in due course.  Our new training room was much admired and felt warm and spacious.  I'm tired now, thankfully Rebecca did cooking at school and made a pasta sauce so easy supper and then collapse in front of the telly.

AUTUMN GRASS

It's well known that an Autumn flush of grass can be deceiving when it comes to nutrients ... but I am sure this year it's different, it's so green, not that rusty yellow colour, growing almost constantly, and the alpacas are not only loving it but gaining weight on it too. Having weighed all the cria who all had very good increases since the last time we then went on to weigh all the adult females out of interest.  In 3 weeks all of them had gained, with good condition scores.  They're on Camelibra and a tiny bit of Fibregest and when offered hay, they're just not that interested in it. I know this will change as soon as we start getting frosts, but it's great whilst it lasts and we're saving masses on expensive hay and alfalfa.

The woodland path is finished - that was hard work - next time I get a load of wood chips I'll get it dropped the top of the hill - duh!  I'm off now to get bird feeders and nest boxes and for xmas I'd love one of those wildlife cameras to see who uses the path and a bench too ....

Treasure

Treasure and Dipper-Dapper messing about!

Bobby Dazzler

FOLLOW ME!

The woodland path is continuing to grow nicely, another hour or two tomorrow and it should be finished. I really love doing stuff like that,  but I do wish I had more strength and stamina...  'cos I'm knackered now. Next project will be the ivy on the roadside trees ... major muscle required for that, and the chainsaw - I can hear Peter groaning and moaning even before I ask him to help me.

I've been playing about with the Blogger templates .. I like the new ones, but just couldn't make up my mind which one, so you may get a different one everyday.  Was persuaded to join Twitter this week, I really like it, thought I wouldn't, but I think it's much better than FB - one has to keep up with modern trends and technology you know! Follow me and I'll follow you right back!



  

WOODLAND TRAIL

Got stuck into the wood chips this morning ... they're perfect and smell wonderful ... however after just a few wheelbarrows full I came across a fallen tree so that was that! I am forbidden to use the chainsaw - probably just as well or we wouldn't have a tree left standing, and I would probably saw my leg off or something - so will have to wait for Peter to help me tomorrow.  It'll be great for halter training the weanlings in a few weeks time.



Took pictures of Bliss and Bruno in the twilight this afternoon - weird eyes from the flash.

Bliss

Bruno

ON THE SCROUNGE

Our neighbours had a huge beech tree cut down today, so from my office window I have a glimpse of the hill at Soberton through the new gap. The alpacas were fascinated by the whole proceedings, well it's not everyday you see a two-legged up the top of a tree. The girls were keeping a beedy eye out for the tree surgeon's puppy that kept wandering onto our driveway ... completely harmless of course but worth a couple of alarm calls just in case - always makes me laugh when I hear it.

Pixie my VW camper van left us today with her new owners - I was a bit sad to see her go. On my way to the postbox to post off the DVLA form I managed to scrounge a truck full of wood chips from the tree chaps for my woodland path - so that cheered me up.

LONG DAY

Today seems to have dragged, probably because I have been doing stuff that's boring like the accounts and VAT. Peter always has to help me with the thing where you work out the 20% backwards ... I just can't do it... don't want to try either, so there!

I made a new power point presentation this afternoon, that was more interesting, we have a big group of students from South Downs College coming here at the end of the month.. so it's tailored for them. By the time I'd finished it I was cold, so I went outside and put a load of hay out for the girls to warm up a bit.  They're still not eating much hay, we have lots of grass, but they do pick at it, especially on wet days. Tomorrow's plan, if it's dry, is to do toenails and weigh the cria, then move them into the front field which has rested for months and has wonderful grass in it, it's still growing even now.  I reckon it'll last the big group of girls and cria a couple of weeks... then come December I will wean the first bunch and move them all again.  We rotate the fields more often at this time of the year, then they don't get overgrazed.

LEAVES

I decided this year that I would keep the driveway and little trailer paddock free from leaves ... so yesterday I slaved for hours and hours with the mower, leaf blower and brush, which works better than a rake, besides which we don't have one. ... I made umpteen piles of leaves all down the driveway, I filled one of those huge tonne builders bags ... must have made an amusing picture with me struggling to stuff the bag with armfuls of leaves whilst trying to hold the bag open at the same time .... made it so heavy that I couldn't shift it and abandoned it on the side of the track with only one pile left over, which I forbade to move and walked away feeling very satisfied with my work but rather knackered.

This morning my feeble aching body was even less able to move the bag, or a single leaf come to that, so I persuaded Peter, by way of homemade soup and promises to help me move the bag and then pick up all the other leaves I had blown into a massive line. We wrestled them into the bags against an ever increasing wind ... some of the leaves were determined to escape, but we got most of the little darlings. By the end of the task I looked back up the driveway which I had cleared yesterday, to see it all covered with a fresh supply of leaves again.

Nevermind,  I still love autumn and here are pictures of the remaining leaves still attached to the trees and my beautiful pacas...



Treasure

Midlington

Callista

SCANNING

Yesterday we had all our girls scanned - very pleased we have 24 pregnant. Only 4 were empty and I'm not surprised as I had guessed as much even though we hadn't done any spit offs lately. If you know your girls you can tell often by how they react when you handle them, but it's always good to have them scanned anyway, just to be certain.  We'll repeat the scanning again in March just to make sure they've all held through the winter.

Not much else to report, all very quiet on the farm and making the most of it!

CHANGES

Moved the females and crias into the next field, which of course was cause of much charging and prancing about.  Of course by the time I got the camera everyone had calmed down... anyway here are some pics taken from the last couple of days.

I've started the autumn clear up in the garden, a bit early probably, but I'm in the mood - I tend to get a bit scissor happy with the slash back and a light prune on a shrub can sometimes reduce it to a stump ...  but so far I have managed to restrain myself, even so, the bonfire heap is growing nicely ready for Nov 5th.  We have a huge paca-poo pile in the woods, thanks to Peter and his poo-hoovering,  the 2 year old stuff is looking wonderful, just have to work out how I'm going to get it to the garden without having to use the wheelbarrow numerous times. I would love a mini digger all of my own to play with - would be so much fun, and one of those machines that chop up bits of wood into chips..... highly unlikely that I would be allowed!

The mornings have suddenly become quite chilly and we had a light frost today .... I am definitely an Autumn person ...

Pacas lost in the mist

 


JOB DONE

Us 'Girls' were working well together this morning - with Rebecca and Lucy's help all the females and crias were weighed and wormed with Cydectin in a jiffy. All pacas co-operated beautifully, having gone straight through the race over the scales a couple of times to learn the route, they were then very calm when it was their turn to be stopped and weighed. This is where our round yard comes in so handy.  Shame no-one took pictures of the proceedings but we didn't think about it at the time. Along with condition scores its interesting to see how they change over the year and always handy to have weights to give accurate dosing, adults varying from 50 to 83 kilos and big Miel at 101.3.  I like to see if I can estimate the weights. I couldn't decide which field to put them in, so in the end they went back into the same one .. supposed to be a good strategy for reducing resistance in worms to drugs anyway.

Rebecca and I then went off to an auction and with her encouragement (didn't take much)  bought a couple of treasures and a rather nice teak table and chairs -  bargains - I love auctions!

COLIC & STUFF

Not blogged for ages, been really busy doing 'stuff' and most of it only interesting to me.... Fantastic autumn so far, the grass is still growing and the fields look great. The girls are still munching their way through our biggest field and look lovely against the autumn trees. The big boys are now in the same field with Bonami and Wizard, the 2 intermediates with their friend Yerba, the llama to look after them and stop any bullying.

Last weekend we weighed and dosed all the cria with Baycox as a precaution, and they had their first AD&E and this weekend the plan is to worm everyone and do any toenails that are looking untidy. I may decide to wean a few of the older crias soon, some are huge even though they're only 4/5 months old. Bliss and Bruno, the bottles, are doing well, gaining weight at the same rate as the others, but not ready to wean yet.

Medina had a bout of colic during the week, probably a bit bunged up I think, she was down, obviously in pain and not wanting to get up or eat, but chewing the cud a bit, always a good sign. Her poo was hard and a bit dry but everything else about her seemed ok - eyes, membranes, temp etc... so  I gave her some Metacam and a large dose of liquid paraffin and some vetrumex and by the afternoon she seemed a lot better. Today she is back to normal, thankfully.

Also this week one of the cria gave me cause for concern as he lay seemingly at deaths door and didn't stir even when I lifted his head off the ground. Checked him all over, looked in his mouth, opened one eye, then the other - then he woke up! I don't know who was more surprised, me or him, obviously a very sound sleeper!

Bonami, Wizard, Ardingly, Goldrush, Sir G and Yerba at the back, on guard.



Autumn colours

A DAY OFF AT THE SEASIDE

Woke to another stunning morning and a forecast of exceptionally warm sunny weather ... so after doing the feed rounds I asked Peter what his plan was and he said he was going to poo hoover the top field, unless I had a better idea. We could go to the beach,  I said... well, blimey he was ready in a jiffy!!

So off we went in Pixie (camper van) to Hill Head near Lee on Solent, not far from us and incidentally, where the Meon Valley River goes out to sea. The beach was quiet, just a few fishermen, some energetic runners and the odd person sunbathing and one even swimming ...  the sea was calm, deep blue and very dazzling in the sun and the air warm and fishy. Costa del (South of England) sol. First stop a cup of rather good real coffee (won't be able to sleep tonight) then a walk along on the pebbles for an hour or so. The sea air made us hungry and so we made our way to the Jolly Sailor at Bursledon for a very welcome half of best and a delicious lunch overlooking the boats and gin palaces before visiting a garden centre on the way home - bought a lavender plant to fill a gap in the garden and had a look at some Marine fish in their aquarium, Peter's new hobby..  I fancied a couple of little blue jobs, but apparently the tank is full.... All in all a really enjoyable day out which made a real change and made the most of the Indian Summer.

Some photos from the day and some of the pacas in the field this evening .... and Jazz too.

View from The Jolly Sailor

Hill Head Beach




Cotton Candy
Makes a nice screen saver!
Jazz



Bonaventure

NEW ROUTINE - NEW FIELDS

I love September, chilly starts and warm sunny days (well today anyway).... had a lovely time just doing stuff with the alpacas. The last spit off of the year and I'm fairly sure we have 24 pregnant, maybe 25 .... out of 27 that's pretty good going. We'll get them all scanned next month and then again in March.

I weighed the smaller crias and then moved all the females down to the bottom of the farm into one big group. There's so much grass down there and I want them to have it whilst there's still some goodness in it. They look great all together, just have to watch out for any changes in behaviour of the females with cria, some prefer to be in smaller groups and get a bit shy when feeding.  Just a change in their routine and mine, won't take long for us all to adjust I'm sure -  it's a huge field so they should be fine.  It's fascinating watching them all get re-acquainted .. and aunties and grandmas meeting the new crias, and crias meeting other crias - I wonder who will be the new leader of this large group...   Oh sh.... just knocked my wine over - went straight into the pot plant - I bet I couldn't do that again!

Anyway, seems really strange not having any next to the house, but those fields can now have a bit of a rest whilst the grass is still growing.  Dark outside already and only 8.30 something...





CRIA PHOTOS

A lovely evening for taking photos - here's just a few to share with you...

Bruno and Bliss the 'bottles' doing really well.

Baylee - this boy is so cheeky

Adele (who refuses to keep her collar on) and Baylee

Archer and The Sorcerer

A GREAT SUCCESS!!

Been like a zombie last couple of days, just so tired after the show. Then had all the catching up to do so forgive the lateness of my report of the show:-

Show Day - after a restless night in the vdub my phone alarm went off at 5.30am (felt like I had only just gone to sleep) disturbing a dream I was having of eating a delicious curry... ?? It was still dark and amazingly quiet on the show ground apart from some mooing from the cattle marquees. I was determined to use my whistling kettle, having remembered the matches this time and with my cuppa watched the sun slowly rise making the clouds all pink -was this the calm before the storm?

Everybody arrived on time - we had 89 entries altogether and just a few withdrawals. Despite the awful weather forecast and rather threatening black clouds from time to time, the rain held off til lunchtime, as arranged of course, and as if my magic it cleared for the afternoons judging. Tim Hey, our Judge, did a great job, as did all the stewards and John on commentary and Nikki Hayton my co-organiser of course.  We had a large crowd around our show ring all day and the marquee was packed with the public during the lunch break  - alpacas being one of the big attractions of the day.

Our own small show team did rather well - Bonaventure Champion Beige Female, Bonami Champion Fawn Male, Cassandra Reserve Champion Fawn Female and little Andromeda 4th in the same class, we're very happy with those results!

At the end of the day loads of people chipped in and helped put the hurdles away, and we arrived home about 8 pm - fed the rather hungry bottles, stuffed the show team back out in their fields and then I sent Peter out for that curry I had been craving all day ...  though I was really too tired to eat it and too wired to go to sleep.. all in all though a great success.

ALMOST READY FOR THE SHOW

Well this time tomorrow night I will be at the Romsey Show Ground all cosy (I hope) in my little green bus "Pixie" on security duty in the alpaca Marquee, or just outside it anyway ... this will be my second night ever spent in the old vDub and this time I must remember to take the matches so that I can light the gas burner, for the morning cuppa! I have too admit that owning a VW Campervan hasn't quite lived up to my expectations - mainly because of the rubbish summer we've had, but mostly because I just haven't had the time to take off in her as intended... maybe we'll have an Indian Summer and I can get a few weekends in before I decide to sell her..

The forecast for Saturday seems to be different whenever I look, so not going to look any more - nothing I can do about it anyway. Besides, it could be a shopping opportunity, our family motto being "You can never have enough coats!" and I haven't bought one for months! I seem to have so much to take - the car is packed to bursting with show stuff including 6 box plants that Park Place Nurseries, have very kindly lent us for the weekend, they stink of cats pee for some reason???


Meanwhile, on the farm, everyone's had a pedicure and the last mating of the season took place today between Akela and Ardingly, as I was short of time it was a quickie in the field with all the little boys trying to join in ... the couple seemed oblivious... the postman wasn't ... I felt a little embarrassed, God knows why!

Just to add to the fullness of my day, I had to go to B & Q and buy flooring for a little project we're doing, I was in a mad hurry and just couldn't make up my mind, some of it's down now and I'm not liking it much - oh dear.

ROMSEY SHOW - THIS SATURDAY

Been horrendous weather today, gales and just so much rain, I just hope it means that it won't be like this on Saturday for the Romsey Show. This is the first show for The Southern Alpaca Group and a first for Romsey too. They're really excited about it and yesterday we had their Chairman and Joint Presidents here for a photo shoot with our alpacas... it rained, but we stayed dry in the shelter.

Anyway, we're almost ready for it, though I keep remembering stuff to add to the list - (tubs of flowers just been added - must get tomorrow) - how did I get talked into being Joint Organiser?   Whatever the weather throws at us we will have a good time I'm sure - just as long as everyone remembers to bring their GSOH - and their waterproofs!

ALRESFORD SHOW

Been glorious last couple of days and I've been busy getting the last of our breedings done for the year. All the females have been mated now except one, who refuses to sit, I think she may have retained a CL from watching breedings a few weeks ago, annoying to say the least as I know full well this can happen but thought she'd be OK as it was only days since she had given birth. Anyway, I'll give her a couple of hormone injections and have one last go in a few days time.

We're off to Alresford Show tomorrow, hope it's nice weather - I think the forecast is OK - they look after us very well there and give us a nice big marquee. We're going to take a bunch of boys, as much as I'd like to show off a couple of females with crias, I don't think it's fair on them and they may reabsorb their pregnancies, just not worth the risk.

RELAXING SUNDAY

Lazy Sunday !

Toffee Apple and Treasure relaxing in the sunshine

Akela and Amaru
View from the train

River walk
Today we had the kind of Sunday I love ....  take my time doing the feed rounds and then walk the dogs, a leisurely coffee in the field with the alpacas, taking pics, and then a family trip out in Pixie Lott the camper van to give her a bit of a run, as it was a bank holiday weekend we stuck to the lanes. We ended up in Alresford, home of the Watercress Line Steam Railway.

We walked round the river and then decided to take the steam train up the line one stop to Ropley and back. The driver was a very pretty young lady... she must get through a lot of shampoo! All very nostalgic, though I'm too young of course to really remember steam trains!  Still got soot in my eyes and hair from sticking my head out the window - just love the noise and the even the smell. All in all a very relaxing day Here's a little video...

video

ROMSEY SHOW - LAST MINUTE ENTRIES

Come on you late comers - the extended closing date is tomorrow 28th August for the Romsey Show - get 'em in!!

What a beautiful morning, sunshine and blue skies, a rare occurrence this week, and a distinct feeling of Autumn, my favourite time of year. Just love those chilly starts, having bonfires, picking blackberries and X Factor on the telly!!     Really been noticing the evenings getting darker earlier too - the bottles last feed now at 8.30pm

Lucy, my Saturday helper coming in a minute and we're going out to do the weekly weigh-ins of the cria, they need to dry out a bit first though still looking soggy after yesterdays downpours. Still at least we don't have hurricanes to worry about.  Should probably do a few toenails too - noticed last week that some were getting a bit long. ...


COMPUTERS, MATINGS AND A MANGIE CAT

Been a strange week - most of it on the phone to Apple or actually in the Apple store having lugged extremely heavy iMac (assisted by extremely grumpy husband) to Southampton for not just one "Genius" but many to fix it (again)! It's just amazing how my life has changed in the last decade - previous to that I never used a computer - couldn't see why we needed one and it was only Peters job that led us to buy one! Now it seems I can't function without it .... so much of my daily life, both work and personal leads me to use it....

Anyway out of the office when its not been pouring with rain I have been busy doing spit-offs and matings with the Snowmass boys - all the girls are now pregnant or have now been mated in the last week except for Akela who hasn't been in the mood.... she better hurry up as this is the last week we're breeding here.

All the crias are fine - including the 'bottles' Bliss and Bruno, who are gaining weight steadily and playing with the others. The white crias are all sporting very smart collars for quick identification, actually I think I know them all by sight at the moment but it make it easier when they're all in the pen together...

Jerry, our black and white cat has had a bit of skin trouble - probably mange, as I know he goes down the fox holes in the woods - he's a bit of a git to treat with anything and I had to have two attempts at getting him dosed with stuff on the back of his neck, which you might think was a simple job .. ha.. think again - I got most of it! He seems to be scratching himself less now anyway, so he must have got enough of it and I certainly won't have mange....  I could have bought a whole bottle of Cydectin for the price of that stuff - what a rip off!

NEXT BEGINNERS COURSE

Having trouble with the computer yet again .. they're great when they work aren't they?!  Just so annoying as I am unable to change the date on the website of our next beginners course.  Anyway, for those who may be interested it is to be on Saturday1st October. We had a lot of enquiries on the Open Day from people wanting to know the ins and outs of alpaca keeping and breeding and this is just the perfect opportunity to spend a day with us learning all about them, with some hands-on experience. Check out our web page for more details....

Just having a swift cup of coffee now and then I'm back out to do the weekly cria weigh-ins ... most of which are just too heavy for me to pick up now. I bought some identity collars so we can tell the white ones apart - it's ok when they're out in the field with their mums but when they're all in the yard it gets a bit challenging.

Doing just a few spit-offs too.  We're coming towards the end of our breeding season - end of August being our cut off date, so keeping up with the spit-offs is really important now, especially as we have the Snowmass boys here at the moment.

SNOWMASS STUDS

For a brief time we have all 4 of the Snowmass boys here - they are just so gorgeous and make such an impressive sight in the field altogether.  After a busy time driving about collecting them and then working them, I put them all out in their field and just enjoyed watching them sort out who was going to be the boss...  Quetzalcoatl thinks he is - but judging from the amount of green gunge on him he may be mistaken...    I stayed on the other side of the fence out the way! Once they'd settled down I just spent ages taking pics of them but digital cameras are just so annoying aren't they - get it focussed, push the button - nothing happens - moment gone - click - takes the shot - out of focus - out of shot! Anyway I did get a few good ones ....