Happy Christmas

So, the pacas are all tucked up in bed for the night, extra, extra rations of hay so we don't have to do it tomorrow on Christmas Day... water tubs all topped up for the same reason. I told them to put their stockings out and they may be lucky to find a carrot or two in them tomorrow....

It's been bitterly cold the last few days, but today we had some lovely sunshine. We have ice everywhere, especially on our drive which caught me out the other evening when my usually fantastic 4 x 4 slid down the drive at an alarming pace, bounced us off one bank and ended way up the bank on the other side, only stopped by the bushes, left me sat almost on my door rather than my seat and rather shaken I have to admit- but thankfully no damage done!!

This week we've had the big shelter updated to offer even more shelter - quite a job wrestling with large sheets of clear polycarbonate in a stiff northerly wind with a chill factor of -5! But now they have windows so they can see see out but the wind and the rain shouldn't blow in... nothing but the best for my girls... if these hard winters become the trend I may have to have a barn...

The weanlings have got the hang of their new routine and now wait at the gate to come in for the night - only another 5 to wean in the New Year and then we can re-group the females til the Spring.

So signing off now to get stuck into all that food and drink we have in the fridge ... we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year!!


I'm so pleased I work from home ... I was even more ready for it this time ... remembered to put all the feed troughs upside down one end up on the fence, that alone saved me about half an hour this morning! Plus I took masses of hay out yesterday, so only feeding and ice breaking this morning. The weanings are cosy in their stables and everyone else making good use of the shelters. I can never resist taking masses of snow pictures, when I come to look at them on the laptop they're remarkably similar to the ones I took last time! I do love the trees - its as if they're ready to go to the ball!
Centaur, Bettina, Akela and Andromeda


So - here we are again surrounded my the white stuff. For a moment there I thought we wouldn't get any - a sprinkle on Wenesday and then woke the next morning to almost a foot of beautiful dry powdery fine snow, perfectly coating all the trees and furnishing the outdoor benches with perfect white cushions - so beautiful, I love it .... it does make life a little difficult I know and I feel very lucky that I don't have to drive to work.

The pacas have been fine, still wearing the bit of snow that they haven't shaken off, they're so well insulated with their fleece ... they're all on double rations of alfalfa nuts with sugar beat, peas and oats for the cria group - getting up to half a kilo each of hard feed and ad lib hay of course. The water troughs need de-icing 3 times a day as it hasn't managed to get above freezing for days. Just come in now and the high for today has been -1.5 mad!!

Filming and lunching

We had an interesting day yesterday ... we were approached by a Masters degree media student who wanted to come and film a short article on an alpaca business and how it was faring in the recesssion ..... thankfully it was the most perfect day, sunny and still, first for a while, and the alpacas behaved impeccably, bribed most of the time by food! Our clients Ken and Liz also kindly came and were interviewed on their views as new owners. We're looking forward to seeing the end result, if its not too embarrassing I'll post it on the website.

I've joined the Hampshire Farm Womens Club, they came to us on a visit to learn about alpacas a couple of months ago. It's very interesting to talk to these ladies - many have been farming all their lives. They meet once a month and go to all sorts of different venues, today we had a christmas cookery demonstration and then tasted it all, yummy and such a complete change for me I actually found it very relaxing... I may even try out the recipes at home - I'm looking forward to the vineyard visit!!

Very wild weather

For the second morning in a row we have woken to torrential rain and strong winds ... most of our trees are now bare of their stunningly colourful leaves, the best I can remember in years, and it feels really cold in the wind too. The pacas were all hunkered down in the middle of the fields when I looked out at them first thing - do they think the shelter is going to blow down maybe?! We can always tell how much rain we've had by how flooded our lunge ring is - looked like a duck pond this morning - 27 mm last 24 hours! They haven't wanted much hay the last few weeks, the grass is still lovely and although not as nutritious as spring grass it seems to have kept them all in peak condition, even fat in some cases. However, with all this wet stuff arriving I am offering them all extra hay as they need the dry matter, (remember to renew it every 3/4 days - think of it as bread - it goes stale) and of course their daily ration of camelibra. The lactating females are also getting alfalfa pellets and as soon as the frosts start to arrive some sugar beet too, this really helps with milk production and helps keep them warm. The crias love it too and as some of them will be weaned soon its good to get them all eating the hard feed.

Really noticing the dark evenings now - short days means I have to be more organised to get it all done, not a bad thing and rainy days means I can catch up in the office and surf ebay looking for VW Campervans!!


Where does the time go - not blogged for ages. It's been a busy day and it's still going, but at least I have a glass of wine beside me now! We had our trusty scanner Alan Fillingham round this morning. 28 females scanned, I knew that 2 were empty as they'd sat again recently on spit offs, but another two I wasn't sure of also scanned empty, but looked as though they had been pregnant and were reabsorbing - hense the slightly confusing spit offs.... they probably had a good reason, and it does just happen every now and then, but not what we wanted and I'm a bit disappointed, they'll have to wait til next year now. However, 24 positive which is brillient. Five of those go off to their new homes this week and so it gives us 18 cria to come next summer - just can't wait as apart from 2 they're all to the Snowmass boys.


Meanwhile all the cria are growing really well, some getting rather big and could be weaned, but as the mums are holding good condition we'll let them stay on til they're six months old or so

The Autumn colours are just fabulous this year round here, the pacas look lovely, as if they're joining in with the trees, always gets me in the mood for taking loads of pictures .. thought the pumpkins were fab and its been my screen saver for ages.


Yesterday was the most glorious day, clear blue skies and wall to wall warm sunshine.... today, however is very wet indeed, with warnings of heavy thundery showers. We don't get much rain here so it's quite a novalty for us and at least I won't have to water the garden for while. I do hope it's going to be dry on Sunday for our Beginners Course ..

The grass has been growing well and looks lovely and lush, rain will help to keep it going. The farmers are still making haylege near us, I don't think there'll be as much of a shortage of winter forage as was first feared, got our hay in off the field back in July and ordered some haylege, so we'll be ok.

We have a vet visit this afternoon, we're taking blood from some boys to harvest plasma, they're keeping dry in the big shelter, got them in first thing before the rain started, wondering why they're in there I expect. Makes me think of that wonderful Tony Hancock sketch - "very nearly an armful" I'm going to see if I can find it on the internet.

Got to go outside later and get some freshly dropped paca poo to give to the vets to sample for parasites - we usually worm the whole herd in October - and its good to see what's going on in them now and after worming. We gave all the cria their first AD&E vitamin jab the other day, and will repeat it every other month til April to prevent rickets. We weighed them all at the same time and they had all put on stacks of weight over the last 2 weeks, some that are around 4 months could be weaned but as their mums are doing ok we'll leave them on for a bit longer. They all had baycox too, as a preventive measure against coccidea and they'll get another dose in a few weeks.

Lovely Day

Woke to the first thick mist of the Autumn this morning, my favourite time of the year, I just love all of it, the early mists, long dog walks, the warm sunny days, chilly nights, bonfires, blackberries, the heavy showers, stormy rains .. we had it all today. The swallows are still here, masses of them, the last brood fledged a week or so ago, I worry that those won't be strong enough to fly all the way to Africa. Life here's taken on a completly different take, so much more leisurely and relaxed, I even had time to ride "Reg" my horse today, quite something as I haven't ridden him in months and not regularly in years, he was very good, amazingly responsive and light, I really enjoyed it, and I think he did too, I even cleaned my tack afterwards, must do the same tomorrow. Did loads of gardening too, lots of hacking back the summer jungle and I put in loads of violas to add a bit of colour, another trip to the nursery to buy more plants tomorrow, I've got a bit of a theme going on with deep purple and lime green ... My back is aching but it's a good ache if you know what I mean...

The pacas are all well, looking fabulous with a good inch of fleece now, the crias are full of beans and getting into mischief, they came into the little paddock by the areana when I was riding, I think they were trying to work out what was going on, as normally their equine neighbour doesn't trot around in circles and figures of eight with the one who feeds them on his back!

Breedings finished for 2010!

Well that's it, we've finished our breedings for this year. Our cut off date is 31st August and we start at the beginning of June, we like to have a short birthing season. If any females are still empty after that then they're carried over to next year. We'll scan them all in October so we know who is going into the winter pregnant and then again in March.

The Snowmass boys have been very busy and we gave Centurion and Ardingly some of the action too. We hope to have around 25 pregnant females and we just can't wait to see the crias next year

This years crop of crias are doing really well, the new flush of grass has really boosted their growth and its great to see them all develop.. We're resting half of our fields now and the grass looks gorgeous, so green, lush and new, there's plenty to go round - all I have to do is keep Peter away from the topper!

Great holiday - lovely to be back

Just back from a week in Ibiza - had a great time with not an alpaca in site! Very hot 38 degrees every day and didn't go below 22 degrees at night. The sea was lovely and the company great fun. Very chilled! Rebecca went to her first night clubs - she loved it and so did I! Brought some tunes back with us and we're going to have an Ibiza party soon....

Loved these cactus - look like feet!

All fine on the farm when I came back - no new problems and Bretta and her cria rebonded so they're back out and he's playing again - well done Peter. Woke (after 10 hours sleep) to rain - hurray, we so desperately need it. Spent the day doing all the usual post holiday jobs, and then vaccinated some crias, they've all grown so much in a week. Did a few spit offs only to find that we have a couple of resits to do.... got 2 or 3 weeks to get them pregnant as we stop matings at the end of August.

Last cria - perfect timing

Well Akela obliged by having her cria this morning - a beautiful very dark fawn Centurion girl who we have named Andromeda. So that's the last cria giving us 9 boys and 5 girls - not too bad. All perfect timing as I'm off on my hols tomorrow with Rebecca for a week, leaving Peter to peace and quiet and all the animals to look after and a list of jobs -wouldn't want him to get bored!
Bretta's not being a good mum and her cria isn't getting all the milk he should, he's not gaining enough weight, so they're in a stable for a couple of days re-bonding, seems to be working as every time I look in she's feeding him. All the others are putting on stacks of weight - those we can't pick up we don't weigh anymore, as long as they're charging about and playing they're fine!


I had to go to the other side of stockbridge today on paca business, a good opportunity to have a look around the art galleries which were full of lovely pictures and sculptures, including a bronze pair of boxing hairs which must have been about 10 foot high - £38,000 - I managed to resist them, 'cos I'd never have fitted them in the car!

The sun was shining yet again this morning and the pacas were really enjoying themselves and I couldn't resist taking these pics of BonBon and Bonami sunbathing - sweet, hope Rebecca doesn't do the same to me next week on the beach.....

Tums and makeovers!

We're waiting for Akela to have her cria, due on 24th July and she's looking huge as you can see. It's the last one of the season so of course it'll be late! Rebecca took the picture - its a bit out of focus, but check out that tummy!

Rebecca's been busy with my iPhone today .... maybe this'll start a new trend ... I have some wicked pics of some very well known alpaca people at the Bath & West sporting similar makeovers - I'm open to bribes to reveal!

Bacchus & Bonaventure

Bacchus making sure he gets his photo taken..
(Bettina x Centurion)

(Bonita x Centurion)
She's been looking at the dressage books - the beginnings of a very nice pirouette!

A course with a difference

Well that was a busy couple of days .... a birth on Friday, all very straight forward, text book really and leaves just 2 to go, both due now.

Saturday dawns, a lovely sunny morning, just perfect for a Beginners Course and the eager new and prospective owners due to arrive at 10 am. All ok first thing and I busy myself finishing off sales lists and notes and clean the house, not sure why I feel I have to do that but my Mum would have approved, bless her! Back outside at 8.45 and theres a girl in labour. By 9am she didn't look quite right so I decided to have a quick poke about .. that feels odd, I say. A bit later I have another feel and decide it's a vet job, either a torsion or a breach, certainly not like anything I've felt before and out of my league for sure. The folk arrive and I leave her under the care of Lucy our Saturday help. Vet arrives and the course skips from toenail trimming to dystocias! With the audiance staying a respectful distance away he confirms the torsion and we set about rolling her gently down the slope to correct it. It worked after about 10 minutes and then the cria was successfully delivered and it was a girl! Well done Vet Andy!
We managed to complete the course, but it was rather disjointed with all the comings and goings, but I think everyone enjoyed it and hopefully it didn't put them off!

Missing the rain!

Today the skies are a wonderful mixture of blue, billowing white and grey thunder clouds and that deep deep purple. There's been the odd rumble of distant thunder, all full of promise of the wet stuff, but still we get just a sprinkle of rain, when others it seem get floods. I certainly don't wish for a flood but we so desperately need some significant rain to get our grass to grow. We had just enough to turn the grass green last week but still have large cracks in the soil.

Yet another busy day, visitors in the morning, alpaca keepers for the future, then mobile matings, which turned out to be spit-offs (they'd had rain!). After lunch preparing notes for Saturdays beginners course and the usual job of cleaning out the cria groups shelter. One little chap managed to roll under the fence and end up in the dressage arena, left him for a while to see if he'd work out how to get back, but no, we had to help him out, much to the relief of his mum Beulah.

No crias born today - we have our last 3 due now - come on girls, its school holidays from tomorrow and we want to go to the beach!

Here goes - first blog!

Not usually the way we conduct breedings on our farm, but I was leading Ardingly down through the field of empty females on his way to the trailor and I thought I'd just see who was interested - well 4 of them, as you can see, and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss introducing one of the young maidens to grown up things! I had planned on using him on her anyway, as her dam is grey and she is going a bit in grey in places. He's already produced 2 rose greys, so maybe this'll work. By the end of the session they were all sitting beside him!