Monday, November 28, 2011

An important day for the local Alpaca Industry

Today, I finally feel justified in using the ‘i’ word (industry, that is).

At about 4 o’clock this afternoon, Sarah delivered the first 6 bales of alpaca fleece from our growers’ cluster group here in South Australia to the wool broker.


Just under 590 kg of skirted and classed fleece ready for core testing and market on 15th December.

Watch this space for news on the auction when it happens.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Look out, there are Llamas!

(with apologies to Monty Python)

This year the shearing operation has hit the road. James picked up a portable table from a breeder who left the industry. I say portable, what that actually means is liftable by two people with lots of grunting and groaning.

Anyway, today we get a new challenge, a nice small farm not far from us – nine alpacas and two llamas. We’ve never shorn a llama before, we’ve never even handled a llama before.

We spoke to a number of other shearers, got some tips and went for it.


So, we now know that you can shear a llama on an alpaca table – but it’s a tight fit.

We also know that it takes five strong men to get a full-grown llama to somewhere that he doesn’t want to be…


But I’m sure that they felt a lot better for it afterwards.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our best show - ever!

Still catching up on the news…

Back to October. Strathalbyn Show – A reasonable sized country show, well supported by South Australian breeders, just under 200 animals.

We took a small team along, including two animals making their show debut. Another first for us, light fawn and white rather than our usual darker colours. Eau Sauvage is one of James’s, a really nice boy with an ultra-fine fleece (13-point-something average micron), he was just over the minimum 6 months so he’s just starting off and Spock, he’s an adult that we’re about to certify; we’ve not shown him before because he has a tiny bit of colour contamination on his head, but he’s just getting better and better so it had to be worth a try.

First up was James with Eau Sauvage.


He takes Junior light fawn male and then goes on to win junior male champion.

Later Sarah takes in Spock…


He does the same – Adult white male, then champion adult male.

At this stage I seem to lose the ability to take photos…

Before we know which way is up it’s the grand champion line-up. Eau Sauvage, Spock and the intermediate champion male are called forward and, after 5 of the most nerve wracking minutes of my life, the big ribbon goes (drum roll) to Eau Sauvage…

Nearly a month later and we still can’t quite believe it – two champions and our first Grand Champion.

We opened a very nice bottle that evening…

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hills Garden & Environment Expo

We heard about this event quite by accident a couple of months ago. We’d missed the deadline for trade stand entries by then but the organisers cut us some slack and let us join in.

The expo is an annual event held in the small country town of Uraidla in the Adelaide Hills, not that far from our farm – it gets about 5000 visitors and is themed around sustainable living – something that fits right in with what we’re trying to achieve here.

Our stand before the gates opened and the crowds came in

We took five animals, two suris, two shorn huacayas and Bond – the professional crowd-pleaser. With us went a range of products along with the carder and spinning wheel – my public spinning debut!

Bond went out on a lead to mingle with his public every couple of hours and was definitely one of the stars of the show – I couldn’t even begin to estimate how many photos he must have been in.

But, for me, one of the nicest moments of the day came near the end when a young girl (sadly, I didn’t think to ask her name) came over to us and proudly showed off her arm.


She’d been to the face-painting tent and asked them to paint alpacas on her.

All-in-all, a great way to spend a Sunday – I reckon we’ll be back again next year.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Counting eggs–before they hatch

I’ve been lax with my blogging again – so much to post, so little time to prod the muse…

So here’s one to start with and to try to help get back into the habit.


One of the problems that we have to live with. We do a reasonable job of keeping on top of the wretched things but, every so often, they strike back. We’ve lost two young animals over the last year, both members of the show team and both victims of a strain of Ivermectin resistant Stongyles.

Added to this, we’ve been having an issue with diagnosis, not with our vet who is excellent, but with the path lab who lost samples at least twice and, on one occasion, sent back results that were clearly wrong – probably mixed up with another sample.

So, as the old saying goes, if you want a job done properly, do it yourself.

We now do our own routine testing. Here’s the setup…


After a lot of reading on the subject and borrowing a kit from Ambersun (thanks guys…) to try out, we decided to source our own.

The microscope came from AmScope in the USA (via their EBay store) - a nice bit of kit at a very good price. Getting it through eBay meant that the camera was included allowing it to be linked to the laptop in the picture – very useful when the old eyes are getting bit tired.

The egg counting kit came from Chalex, again in the US Easy to use and simple to follow instructions.

All we added to this were a couple of extra bits from Chinese ebay stores – a set of digital jewellers scales (about $15) and a calibration slide so that I could measure things – a benefit of this is being able to use the kit to do very basic fleece testing.

A Stongyles egg from one of our girls captured with our testing kit

And that’s really all there is to it (apart from the lingering smell in the house after a testing session).