Tuesday, December 21, 2010
We only shear at weekends and just lately they have been wet. We only have about 8 animals to go now, I reckon that it might be a christmas morning job.
For those of you in the UK you are not alone with the bad weather in parts of NSW and Victoria they have also had snow.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Well, the show season has come to an end, that means one thing – it’s time to shear. Or at least it should be.
This is from Rudolph, one of this year’s drop, a Jolimont Warrior boy who, just a few years ago, would have been destined for a stud career. Today though, he just doesn’t cut it and will probably become a pet for someone early next year.
Doing all of our own shearing is a great advantage – it means that, instead of a mad couple of days, we can spread things out over a month.
Anyway… Rudolph and Bond are both overheating and so go to the front of the queue. Off with their fleeces and, like magic, there’s a sudden change in the weather. Rain, near freezing wind and two very cold boys.
So we now have two boys in coats living in the very sheltered hospital paddock and shearing is on-hold until things dry out.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Wednesday 13th October
3am… There shouldn’t be a 3 am – it’s an offence against nature itself. But here we are – time to get up and start loading the animals. Four of our own to go to the show and three overspills for Ambersun.
A brief word about distance here, I know that many of the readers of this occasional blog are in Europe and the ‘old country’. To think, that when I used to live in Dover in South East England, I used to whinge about having to drive to Birmingham. Tamworth, where the National is held this year is about 1600km away (994 miles). That’s about the same as the driving distance between London and Gibraltar! Here, that’s considered to be a reasonable day’s drive.
That’s it really it for Wednesday – driving. 18 hrs solid driving, in convoy. Part of the South Australian Contingent along with Ambersun, Classic and Yaringa. We arrived in Tamworth at just after 11pm, got the ‘pacas into their stable and us into our tents.
Thursday 14th October
Hmm.. Camping seemed such a good idea at the time…
This year, the National Show is being held at the National Equestrian Centre at Tamworth. Here’s a tip for any horsey person who’s found this blog via google and is thinking of camping there – There are some really good motels in town!
Camping plots are well equipped but are situated on ground that is either hard as concrete or soft as mud and is right on the edge of the New England Highway on the approach to a roundabout. Truck drivers are friendly characters – they like you to know that they are amongst the safest of road users by demonstrating their exhaust brakes throughout the night – some of the really friendly ones will even toot their air horns in a cheerful way to to say hello to the sleeping camper.
Most of the day spent getting the team back to something like show standard following the long journey.
Friday 15th October
Wet, wet, wet.
When we heard that the show was to be in Tamworth in spring, like most breeders, our concerns were with heat and humidity, not torrential rain and freezing wind. The quality of the animals here is jaw-dropping, even under less than ideal conditions, it’s clear that the standards are still getting better year-on-year.
We had a reasonable show – a second and four thirds out of our four animals and four fleeces, not bad at this level and a fair reflection of what we were showing (a list of excuses and reasons why things were less than ideal can be found on page 94).
Highpoint of the day – the cocktail party in the evening when the arts and crafts competition awards are made. Sarah has a first for a knitted item and I took a smattering of ribbons and the championship for photography with a portrait of Lysander called ‘Bad Hair Day’
Saturday 15th October
OK, I admit it – I’m a wimp. But I never want to go through a night like that again. Sarah went and slept in the car at 1:30. By 2:30 I was laying on the floor of the tent to stop it blowing away – there’s a river running under the groundsheet and a carbon fibre reinforced pole breaks under the strain. Tonight we find a motel.
Today is the last day of showing and again, the standard of the animals is breathtaking. Ambersun are the stars of the show, taking out most of the major championships. It’s encouraging though to see the increasing profile of coloured animals – Milduck in particular have a really great show with their browns.
Sunday 16th October
Ah… A real roof, a decent bed and a good night’s sleep. A return to the land of the living.
Last day. Association AGM, Sale and Junior judging championship.
I have to give a talk at the AGM about IT at very short notice – hopefully it didn’t go off too badly.
The sale goes reasonably well given the current economic situation with nearly all of the animals offered selling.
Monday 17th October
3am again. Time to hit the road again for the long drive home. We decide to come back a different way – using the Barrier highway via Broken Hill. A classic Australian driving moment at one point when the GPS in the ute shows the next junction as ‘turn right in 585km’. This really is a big country.
Great moment at Little Topar roadhouse out in the middle of nowhere – lots of questions about the Alpacas and we end up bringing out Puck and Kobe for photos – needless to say, they both love the attention and ham it up like they they were a couple of b-list celebs, posing for Hello magazine.
It’s gone midnight when we get back.
Next year it’s Sydney, so we’ll do it all again
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Last night we had a well deserved night out, we went to see Bill Bailey what a good show it was. The theatre was packed (seats sold out very quickly) and it was interesting to hear just how many English accents there were at the theatre. He managed 5 encores and came back again as we were all trying to leave the theatre. So everybody just stood where they were and watched, sang and clapped.
Friday, July 2, 2010
We have had a busy time since late March.
Just prior to us leaving for the Royal Sydney Show we had a cria born, he was a poorly chap to start off with and in the end Perry didn't go to Sydney he stayed home to look after him. Easter Sunday saw the arrival of our last cria (at that time) until November. This little girl was extremely poorly and took a great deal of our time, in fact she still does but she is such a sweetie. She had hydrocephalus, some rather distorted limbs and ulcerated eyes. Needless to say she had no suck either. She has improved a lot her eyes are better, her hydrocephalus has sorted itself out, and with the help of some Vitamin D3 her legs are starting to straighten. She now feeds from her mum but is rather small for her size. Tiggy Winkle as we named her or Tiggy for short now is able to out run us in the paddock. We still keep her well wrapped up in cria coats as it is rather cold here now.
Perry and I have also attended alpaca meetings in Melbourne, helped with alpaca week and just recently an alpaca health day. So along with the monthly alpaca meetings we haven't had much time.
I mentioned about Tiggy being the last cria until November. Our son James changed that with a recent purchase of a pregnant female she is due on the 26th July. Last year you may remember we had a surprise delivery in July in a hail storm, the due date for that young man was November but something went wrong there! I have my fingers crossed that the weather is better for this crias arrival. I really don't like having winter cria we don't have the appropriate shedding for dealing with them.
James and I have also taken a show team to Alpaca Fest in Werribee Victoria. We enjoyed our weekend and came back with 4, 1st ribbons, 2, 2nd ribbons, a Best Brown Huacaya female and a Best Brown Suri Female. Not bad for a team of 7 animals. Needless to say Puck and Gypsy behaved beautifully.
July should see us with a quieter time, so maybe we can get back to posting!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Our second National Alpaca week has been and gone. It’s fair to say that we learned a lot from the inaugural event last year and this time it was leaner, meaner and far more effective.
The week started with a ‘Meet the Alpacas’ day in the Adelaide Hills. Rather than spending our regional advertising budget on newspaper and magazine adverts, this time we went for large banners on main roads and getting ourselves on the radio and into interviews in the press. It paid off and the day went well, we were never run off our feet but there was constant flow of interested visitors from start to finish. We sold some pets, a small starter herd to a new breeder and some craft work. Most importantly, as a public relations exercise, it was a great success.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Beatrice let the side down, all I can say is that the standard of animal in the intermediate black class was high as Beatrice has had 2nd place ribbons on outings previously. We had a 4th placing with Goldies fleece it was in a class of 20 and the 3 fleeces placed in front and the 5th placed fleece were all white. Goldie is a Medium Fawn.
So why the small team, well Easter Weekend we are off to the Sydney Royal Show. We have never been there before so it should be interesting. We have been told it is an 18hr drive and due to work commitments Perry is hoping to fly over to join us! He has told us how sorry he is and it wasn't his fault, he wouldn't have set a job completion for the day we start a long drive! But it makes you wonder. So we have split our show team to reduce the number of shows they do. That won't make Puck very happy as he is a bit of a show off and thinks he is the bees knees.
We are taking 4 to the Sydney Show Gypsy, Puck, Beatrice and Helena. Gypsy and Puck are used to long journeys as they have been to Victorian shows several times but this will be the first long trip that Helena and Beatrice will have done.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Just a very quick post. Life’s a bit on the busy side at moment.
Let’s see, since I last wrote…
I’ve started a new day job this week with ICT Strategy at Premier and Cabinet.
I’ve been appointed to the board as a director of the Australian Alpaca Association.
It’s the first show of the season this weekend (and the Royal Sydney in 2 weeks’ time).
And it’s impossible to take two steps in the paddocks without falling over another baby alpaca.
But, the Irish blood in me (from Co Waterford), couldn’t let the day go past without posting something silly.
Have a good St Paddy’s day!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
It’s a great time of year in the garden, everything is going into overdrive: chillies, capsicums, a second flush of strawberries, more tomatoes than we can manage – we’ll be bottling and preserving within the next week or so and the grapes! we only grow them for the Alpacas as treats (alpacas love grapes and vine leaves) but there’s more than we can use this year – and we still haven’t finished last year’s grape jelly.
Stink Wort…. Horrible stuff. If you’ve never met it before, it looks like wild rosemary and has a sticky sap that smells like rotting violets. It’s not toxic but it is an intestinal irritant for animals and we have, or rather had, an outbreak in the stud boys’ paddock. Trouble is that, at this time of year, unirrigated soil is like iron. I’ve certainly broken up softer concrete. Weeding over here involves a pickaxe, mattock and hours of hard labour singing chain-gang songs.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Now, I’m not a regular Facebook user but I do drop by a couple of times a week to see what’s going on and throw in the the odd comment or picture.
There are quite a few Alpaca breeders there though and there was a conversation a few days ago that raised the subject of Vicugnas (or vicuñas).
Anyone who’s had to listen to me prattle on about the subject will know that I have a soft spot, verging on the obsessive about these beautiful animals.
It all started a couple of years ago when I was writing a short article about alpacas and included the Latin name – Lama Pacos in brackets afterwards I thought I’d better check the spelling, typed ‘alpaca pacos’ into Google Scholar and began an 18 month search, during which I had dozens of online arguments, read many published papers, learned more than I ever wanted to know about Camelid genetics and spent some interesting time on my last visit to the UK with the curator of mammals at the Natural History Museum. I’m confident enough now to say that I keep and breed Vicugna Pacos rather than Lama Pacos.
You may be familiar with the story of the full name and heritage of the Alpaca but I wasn’t, so I’ll share a tiny part of it here.
The wild South American Camilids are the Guanaco and the Vicugna (both descended from a common ancestor, 2 million years before). For more than 250 years the zoological establishment believed that only the descendants of the Guanaco (lama Guanico) had been domesticated and that it was from this line that the modern Llama (Lama Glama) and Alpaca (Lama Pacos) came. It was thought that the Vicuna (Vicugna Vicugna) had never been domesticated and remained an independent line.
Then, in the mid 90’s, along comes Jane Wheeler (no relation unfortunately) and a group of archeozoologists who claimed that evidence from Peru suggested that the Alpaca was bred from the Vicuna 6-7000 years ago
To cut a long and fascinating story short, in 2001 Wheeler presented a paper to the Royal Society showing clear DNA evidence that the Alpaca was a direct descendant of the Vicuna rather than the Guanaco. So, genetically, the Alpaca and Llama are cousins rather than siblings.
Today, the V. Pacos name is accepted by most authorities and is gradually gaining ground in the scientific community, a quick search on one of the leading research databases finds 18 papers published in the last year that use the Vicugna form against 67 that use the Lama form – these things take time. Officially, either is acceptable for publication.
It goes without saying that I’d give major body parts to have the first Vicunas in Australia. It’s not going to happen of course, the Vicuna is still threatened, having been brought back from the brink of extinction after a great conservation success story, even now though, there are only a little over 125,000 of them living protected in South America and definitely not for export.
Every so often though, we do get a throwback – meet Flossy
Flossy is James’s rather than ours – he beat me to the wallet. She is probably one of the closest to Vicuna type alpacas I’ve seen in Australia and has just had her first Cria – it looks pretty special.
Jane Wheeler has most of her work and a lot of other fascinating stuff on South American Camelids on her website at http://janecwheeler.com/ A lot of it is in Spanish, but Google makes a reasonable job of translation.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
We’ve seen some behaviour in the maternity group this year that we haven’t noticed before.
I’ve mentioned before that, like many other breeders, we run a maternity paddock, an area close to the house where we bring in the girls about 2 weeks before they’re due and for the first few weeks afterwards. We’ve seen three interesting behaviour patterns this year, two of which are new to us.
The babysitting service
Nothing new here, fairly common practice, but still good to watch. One of the mothers (and the duty does seem to rotate) is designated babysitter, she goes off with the crias while the rest of the adults congregate for a child-free feed, dustbath or a drink and chill-out session.
The defensive wall
Haven’t seen this one before. Occasionally a fox, kangaroo or other perceived threat passes through (although the foxes seem to have learnt to keep well out of range!). One or two of the girls herd all the babies into a tight group and then they all form a barrier around them, either a complete circle or a semi-circle facing the danger – any fox that’s hungry, brave or stupid enough to fancy cria for supper would have to first pass though a wall of kicking, spitting angry mothers. Watching it happen reminds me of old westerns – form the wagons into a circle…
The milk bar
Alpaca mothers are usually strict about making sure that they only feed their own offspring, they can even be quite rough with any interlopers. But that all seems to have relaxed this year. Possibly because there’s very little natural grazing in the maternity paddock this year so we’re feeding out – the result is that there’s is no competition for food – there’s plenty for everyone. Yesterday Mali, a big Suri mama, was feeding two simultaneously
They don’t seem to mind this year – some of the babies (not all) just grab on to whoever’s handy at the time.
Then there’s the girl with the human chin fetish, the near-adult that wants a bottle, the one that we’re going to have to book into the Betty Ford clinic to get off her lucerne habit and the one that used to be psycho-paca but has suddenly turned as soft an anything…
It’s an odd year.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Never, not for even a moment, do I regret moving to South Australia. But, just around this time of the year I do start to pine a bit for Northern Hemisphere weather.
Sure, the sun is great and sitting by the pool sipping frozen daiquiris or taking the dog down to the beach sounds idyllic. And it would be if it was a holiday. But it’s not, there’s work to be done, animals to look after and it’s %&**$# hot!
Take this morning, another cria born – one of James’s, a brown boy and his 7th so far (identity number ends 007 so, at the moment, he’s provisionally called ‘Bond’). Not a straightforward birth so I had to stay with them for about an hour and a half and I’ve found that Alpacas don’t seem to understand ‘Hang on a moment while I go and get some sun-screen’.
“They call me Bond, James’s Bond”
It’s just tipped over 40 degrees and I now have what feels like the mother of all hangovers.
I know this blog gets quite a few readers in the UK and Scandinavia and I know you’re having it tough over there with the snow – but I am enjoying the photo’s of frozen farms – I’d just like a little bit of it please to stick my head into…
Thursday, February 4, 2010
It’s cria season here at the farm and they’re hitting the ground every day at the moment (which means a serious marketing effort later in the year, otherwise we won’t be able to feed them all!). It’s a daft time of the year really, it doesn’t really tie in with the Australian show season – Any that are worth showing only get a couple of shows at the end of the season and are too old for the 6-12 month classes next year.
One more and we’ll be able to enter a progeny team at the end of the year. We’ll keep you posted on how things go.
So far this year, no serious problems (keeping everything that’s crossable well and truly crossed…), we had one mum that was a bit fragile, but after a couple of false starts, she gave us another brown girl.
Even Juno, our only fancy has managed to ‘go solid’ this year.
As you can see from the pictures though, it will be nice when we get some grass back…
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Well, not real unemployment of course, but I’m currently taking a few weeks off for study, farm work and R&R between jobs having called it a day (it was time for a change) at the University a couple of weeks ago.
So I’m currently living the life of the gentleman farmer and loving every moment of it.
It is, of course, monstrously difficult, getting up in the morning to say goodbye to Sarah and James as they go off to work...
So what’s the day like for an unemployed IT manager on an Alpaca farm in South Australia in January?
First comes the first check of the day of the maternity paddock, there are nine animals in there at the moment, three new cria with their mums and three expecting very shortly. Hmmm, Mali is looking a bit ‘bulgy’ but I doubt that it will be today.
Then, feed time for Rudolf, he’s the oldest of the babies in the maternity group, but was a ‘failing to thrive’ cria and has been getting two supplementary feeds each day. He’s doing well now but still needs topping up.
Feed the chickens and collect the eggs then a bit of quality time with the boys over a mug of tea and some lucerne (I had the tea).
Five minutes of Frisbee playing with Ghandi the lab, then get the head down for a couple of hours serious study and a job application.
After another maternity paddock check (all OK), a quick few lengths in the pool, get dinner planned for the workers when they get home later and then the difficult decision... There are some jobs to be done – fleeces to box, shelves to go up in the new office, I really should look at adding some more channels to the CCTV system, there’s some wiring to be done and there’s always fencing and irrigation to work on.
Alternatively, I could take Gandhi down to the beach for a run in the surf...
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
When we first checked the maternity paddock this morning we noticed that one of our new babies had a problem with one of her eyes, it was weeping a lot and attracting the flies. We seem to have a lot of problems with eyes and grass seeds and always keep a tube of antiseptic eye cream on hand for problems like this.
On closer inspection though we found that she had a nasty little nick in her top eyelid.
We treated this with antiseptic, but the problem remained of putting a dressing on it to avoid corneal abrasion during healing and to keep the flies away. Anyone who’s had to put a head dressing on a cria knows how hard it can be to do anything that will stay on.
So we tried a different approach and, so far, it seems to be working.
We used a knee length stocking
Her mother had no problem accepting her back after a couple of moments hesitation.
I'd love to know what caused the injury though.