Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I know it is not the most interesting of subjects but I thought I would just tell you about my gardening escapades with Ghandi the lab.

Off to the veggie plot yesterday to plant, rather late I might add, the tomatoes (should have been in by mid October), peppers and chilli's. Ghandi came to help. He helped to dig holes and filled some in! Then it was time to plant the plants, well the pepper was planted at least 3 times, every time I put it in he took it out, quite gently I have to say.

I have to confess to a bit of excitement, we can now get Gardener's World (sad, I know) but the gardening programs here are just not the same. Now I have heard that the new format is not going down to well over there but I think it really works.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The first arrival...

If there's one thing that it's compulsory to post a blog entry about, it must be the first arrival of the season:

Yes, that's right - it's a Suri. We don't really think of ourselves as Suri breeders, it's a bit of a side-line, but we do have a small group and are trying to get a good brown line going.

This one is particularly significant though - it's the first cria to be born here from one of our own certified boys (shameless advertising link to the sire...).
Mum and baby doing well - already trying to pronk (but landing in an undignified tangle of legs on each attempt).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meet Gandhi

After Kitties yesterday - a puppy story today.

Meet the latest member of the Prados family.

Not really an alpaca story, but puppy pictures are always worth posting. We’ve called him Gandhi, not just because he was small, brown and wrinkled when we chose him but because he stood out from the rest of the litter by having a quiet dignity about him. While all the others were racing around like mad things, He was just sitting there, taking it all in and clearly top-dog.

There’s been a big, dog-shaped hole in our lives since arriving in Australia in 2004, but we didn’t want to get one until we were sure that we could offer a home where someone was around most of the time and we were properly settled.

I’d forgotten just how much work a puppy could be…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A very fancy kitty

A large international parcel arrived at our little town post office today, always an event of interest – ‘What have those odd poms with the long-necked sheep brought from America this time?

But we’re not telling... we like a bit of mystery.

But we’ll tell you: we’re now the proud owners of a ‘Fancy Kitty’.

No... we’re not importing US felines, we’ve invested in a ‘Kitten’ drum carder from Ron Anderson in Montana ( We decided to go for one with an electric motor and brush attachment and it arrived fully assembled and packed with so much care that it probably travelled in more comfort than any human passenger (now there’s a thought for the next long-haul flight...).

It is a thing of beauty – hand made from quality materials, Ron clearly takes great pride in his work, it even included all the parts needed for converting it back to a manual machine (I don’t think that’s very likely though).

It didn’t take long to make sure everything was there (it was), check that the power supply really was multi-voltage (it was), replace the US plug and glance at the excellent instructions for just long enough to feel over-confident.

Sarah had pre-washed some fleece from Zahava – a beautiful mahogany coloured girl and the mother of Puck – this year’s little superstar (the term beautiful here refers to the fleece, not the animal, who has a face and a temper that only a really dedicated mother could love).

I have to break off for moment here, dear reader, and admit that this bit doesn’t sit easily – I like to spin from raw fleece, straight off the animal’s back, nothing more than a quick shake to get the worst of the rubbish out, but washing it first is what all the experts advise, so that’s what we did.

So, less than 30 minutes after breaking the tape on the top of the box, we had our first batt. Not too bad for a first attempt.

A quick dot-point review of the machine:
  • Solid and well made
  • Easy to use (almost dummy-proof in fact)
  • Good instructions
  • Helpful and patient supplier – Ron answered all of my dumb emailed questions himself, often within minutes of me sending them
  • Excellent motor – very quiet but with plenty of power
  • Very well priced (it cost less than I would have payed here for a lesser model – even with the shipping cost).
So the final question – why buy a carder when I prefer ‘raw’ spinning? There are a couple of reasons. Firstly, I can’t keep up with demand and I have to face it, spinning from batts is much quicker. The other reason is that, with fifty animals, we’re in an awkward place... Not enough to make commercial bales, too much to use ourselves or sell as plain fleece. There is a greater demand for part-prepared fibre and the margins make selling it more attractive – I’m selling raw fleece to spinners at $30 per kilo, but batts go for $12 - $15 per 100g; that's a big difference so it seems to make sense.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting back to blogging

At last, our lives seem to be getting back on track and slowing down. The National Show is well and truly over so I have more time which means Perry has more time as well. It has to be said that Perry and James were a big help whilst I was working on the show with a group of dedicated alpaca breeders.

Our shearing is now finished. As we did it all ourselves this year, our record number of animals in one day stands at 13 but the weather played a part in that, there is only so much time you can spend outside in 32 degree plus days (we stopped when the temp got to 32).

The show season for 2009 is now over and we don't start again until March. As we look back over our show year we feel quite content with what we have achieved; 52 ribbons from 9 shows with a show team of 5 animals (except on the last show where we took 9 animals). These 9 animals made up our team over the show season . Plus we have 2 girls on maternity leave so they didn't attend the last show. Now we just have to start planning for next year as we have set ourselves a standard to live up to.

So we now start cria watch. Our first should have arrived on the 13th but spring cria always seem to be that bit later. Our website has a camera that gives a regularly up dated view of the maternity paddock so keep an eye out and you may catch a new arrival.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We're still here

I have to apologise for the lack of posting but things have been busy here. We have had 2 shows since we last wrote Colourbration in Victoria and the Royal Adelaide Show. Gypsy, Puck and Goldie did their usual, Best Brown and 1st places. We took Colin our Brown Suri stud male to Colourbration it was his first outing for nearly a year, he managed a second place. We took an all Prados team to the RAS a first for us, we had an unplaced white, we weren't surprised by that but we were surprised when Beatrice got a 2nd place as looking at the competition we thought we would be unplaced.

We are continuing to work with our vet to discover why Choco died, the results on his heart and lung were not that helpful so we are now awaiting blood results from 10 of the animals. The results suggested toxic plants but the plants mentioned do not grow in this area or Selenium and Vitamin E deficiency. We regularly give AD&E so vitamin E is unlikely and Selenium is in the pellet they have. As you can imagine we are keeping a close eye on all the herd.

We are luck to have a botanist/zoologist living next door to us, she has walked the paddocks with me and there is nothing out of the ordinary there. And on Sunday I have an alpaca breeder who knows all there is to know about what alpacas can, can't and shouldn't eat coming to walk the paddocks. Our biggest concern is the same thing happening to another animal and still not knowing how to prevent it.

We will keep you updated.

Perry and I are looking forward to a break in New Zealand later in the month. We are going to the NZ National, we are interested to see the animals. Plus we will have a tour around the local area.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Show fatigue...

I think we may have overdone it... Nine shows this year and we're not half way though, four down and five to go.

This week saw the team at Murray Bridge for the South Australian Colour Classic, a two day 'colourbration' event where supremes are awarded across colour lines.

Murray Bridge isn't that far from us and most of our mob, apart from one white girl, weren't due on until day two, so I stayed home on Saturday to look after things here in the morning intending to join the team later for the dinner and to prepare for the big day on Sunday.

It all went horribly wrong. They whipped through the whites like they were going for a speed record (James' Fifi got a first in class - our first win for a white) and started on the browns next. Sarah phoned, but I got there just too late and missed all the fun and fun there was.

There are 8 classes in each colour - junior, intermediate, adult and senior, split by male and female. We had three of our top browns entered, Gypsy, Lulu (both from Golden Flame) and Puck (a Warrior boy). They each win their class, so we have three in the supreme line up and just James and Sarah to handle. A call for help and Rosalie from Andean Gold takes Puck - the reasoning goes like this: Gypsy is frontrunner as far as we're concerned, she already has three best brown ribbons this year so James took her, Lulu is pregnant, it's her last show as she increasingly turns into psycho-paca and likes nothing more than to kick judges and this is only Puckster's second blue - he's the obvious choice to give to someone else. You can guess what happens - the stars all line up, the wind is in the right direction, the Puckster's fleece peaks at the best I've seen it and he takes the big one! Poor Rosalie is embarrassed to be taking the trophy for an animal she doesn't even know the name of and the judge is puzzled about why the stewards and half the breeders around the ring are suddenly laughing their heads off at his decision.

Probably the best show we've had with a first for Goldie in the fawns as well. Icing on the cake was another surprise - Supreme coloured suri for Colin in the Fleece competition.

After the bad news earlier in the week this was a real boost to us all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A sad day...

Today is that day that we knew had to come sometime...

After nearly three years, we lost our first Alpaca.

Choco was only just two years old, an occasional member of the show team (second place ribbons in three shows) and only recently certified and DNA tested for stud work.

Monday he was fine, right as rain, playing in the boys' paddock with the others. Tuesday morning, he was on his own, couldn't get up and really lethargic. We called the vet out, he clearly had a heart problem and we moved him up to the house. Tuesday night, before I went to bed I sat with him for a while, he was very quiet but had his head up and seemed to be showing signs of recovery but sadly, he was gone by morning.

It had to happen sometime, but this was really unexpected, we've nursed a few animals back now that were touch and go for a while, but this was so sudden with no clue that there was a problem.

Unfortunately it's the reality of any type of livestock raising, but it's still pretty miserable....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A surprise in the paddock

I can't believe it is nearly a month since I returned from the UK. Firstly I need to apologise to Mark from Patou Alpacas for not thanking him sooner for the lovely time I spent at his property.

Glad to see that Columbus has the idea now! Minstrel looks like she is growing out nicely as well.

I arrived back to winter weather lots of rain and wind in fact one of the trees had blown down right across the gate. I thought Perry and James were trying to keep me out! So the only way in to the property was over the fence and through the paddock.

Trees or branches falling seem to a problem at the moment as soon as we get one lot sorted another drops. We are not going to replace them the gum trees make to much mess and insist on falling over!

Perry who thought he had got his last few modules for his masters sorted to have a lighter work load has found the opposite, he is getting frustrated at the amount of time it is taking particularly as he would like to be outside 'doing stuff'. He is currently trying to work out what he is going to do for his dissertation with computing and alpacas. You can just picture it alpacas learning to use a mouse!

Last week we had a surprise, we don't have cria at this time of year, too cold, but last Wednesday morning in the sleet when I went out to feed the girls there was a cria sitting shivering in the paddock.

Now our next drop is not due until November, all the girls looked at me to say "He's not mine". So I picked him and took inside as he was not looking too good. Tucked him up in the bathroom (underfloor heating and over head heating). Then took off to find mum. It had to be a girl that we had brought pregnant so after rounding them up and lifting their tails I found mum.

Poor little chap was deteriorating so off to the vet he went, had a plasma transfusion (needless to say he was a little prem) then tube feeding. He is back home with us now and feeding from mum well. We did milk her from the beginning, long job with little to show for it. But it has been worth while.

He has been named Bill and he might even be called Big Bill as that,s what the vets bill will be. The vet was back today as Bill has pastern problems in his left leg so he is now splinted up and we hope it will right itself.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gypsy does it again!

Alpacafest 2009

First the bad news, Puck didn't have a good show, he got really hot and sweaty and every trace of character in his fleece dropped out. He wasn't having fun and it showed. But we learn... Next time he gets his own fan!

After that though the little team did good.

Double first for Goldie (herself and her last fleece)
Second best coloured suri fleece for Colin
First for Lulu
Lulu and Gypsy took third in sires progeny
Gypsy again got first in her class and best brown in show, beating 44 others - she's one special animal.

Sarah and Lulu with James and Gypsy

There's no way that we were expecting a year like this.

So, where from here?

Colour Classic and possibly Bendigo in August
The Royal Adelaide and Strathalbyn in September
Then, possibly, the Nationals finishing off with Clare Show, then shearing and a break.

Who knows, we may even sell an animal or two...

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Well, James, Alice and I (Sarah) leave early tomorrow (Friday) for AlpacaFest in Werribee just outside Melbourne. We will be off about 7am and expect to arrive about 6pm. This will be the largest show we have entered so we are not sure what to expect. Rounding up and loading in the dark is always fun but a least we have no rain due so they will be traveling dry this time.

We are taking Puck, Lulu and Gypsy who have been a very successful part of our show team. This time Goldie is having her first outing. She is a full older sister to Gypsy and half sister of Lulu. So fingers crossed.

Drifter is saving himself for later in the show season and Chorus Girl has now been retired from the showteam, she did not really like playing showgirl.

Puck has had a difficult decision to make. What part of the float does he have, front window or back of the float. He decided on the back of the float in the end with a coat as he doesn't like the draft (he usually gets Drifter to sit on the door side). His reasoning is every time we stop he can stick his head out the window and attract the attention of passers-by. Plus get titbits to eat.

Perry will be holding the fort. Amealia still requires feeding at least twice a day and Perry is in the middle of one of his study modules so he has decided to stay behind.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A busy weekend

We have had a rather busy weekend. The rains arrived a couple of weeks back now so we have walkways turning to mud. So there was nothing else for it but to have 5 tons of pathway rubble delivered and shovels, wheelbarrows and rakes at the ready. We were pleased with the results but need another 5 tons to complete the job!

Then there were the injections, we give a supplementary 5in1 and ADE around about this time of year 100 injections takes some time but we got it done. We didn't have to many problems with them spiting either.

Next weekend sees us head of to the outskirts of Melbourne for Alpaca Fest more about that after the event. I think we will be leaving Perry at home but we will see how his studying is going. We also have a bottle top up cria. She is a pretty little thing called Amealia, but she can be a bit picky as to whether she is going to take a bottle so no really suitable to let our lovely neighbors look after over the weekend.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Suri vs. Bramble Patch

We just had to share this...

At the back of our plot of land is an old marble quarry. Overgrown with gorse and brambles it's been on the to-do list for a major clean-up exercise since we moved here just over three years ago.

While Sarah and I were away at the weekend on the show course, James and Alice started the makeover with machete and shredder...

They worked hard and cleared a lot of the overgrown mess. Of course, that means that it's now accessible to curious alpacas.

Specifically, to Lysander, the curious suri...

If you've never tried getting blackberries out of suri fleece, let me take this opportunity to advise against trying it out for yourself. It's certainly the end of his show career for this year. Iwouldn't mind so much if he didn't look so proud of himself

Show Course

Last weekend saw the Prados elders head up to Somadale Alpacas on the edge of the Barossa Valley to take the show convener and stewards course. Two days with a senior judge (Ron Reid) brushing up on skills needed for running and organising Alpaca shows.

A mixture of class and practical work covering fleece and halter shows, working through all the latest rules and regulations and being entertained by Ron's limitless range of stories about shows that he has organised or officiated at.

Day one was primarily theory based with day two spent on conformation and ringcraft with a mock show, complete with a range of typical show-day problems to sort out.

Then, horror of horrors, a written examination!

Now we wait for the results to see if we really are certifiable...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bill the Alpaca breeder

This has been around for while now. CGU is one of our larger insurance companies and they started a new advertising campaign a few months back.

'Bill' was the first one they made in the series and they ran it a few times late at night then we didn't see it again for weeks.

Then, CGU started started sponsoring the football on satellite TV and suddenly Bill is getting prime time spots at the weekend and he's becoming a minor celebrity.

Of course, he's not real and most of those animals were definitely chosen for character rather than show potential but he has been a great publicity boost for the industry here, especially as the campaign coincided nicely with national alpaca week.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Stawell Show

Continued from last posting....

So, there I am at home, holding the fort while the rest of the family are over the border in Victoria at the Stawell Show with our core show team of:
  • Puck – Dark brown intermediate male
  • Drifter – Mid-fawn adult male
  • Chorus Girl – Light brown intermediate female
  • Gypsy – Mid brown intermediate female
  • Lulu – Mid brown adult female
I’m waiting anxiously by the phone for the call about how things have gone. It rings and:

Perry: So, how did it go then?
Sarah: Disastrous!
Perry: What do you mean?
Sarah: We got two second places.
Perry: OK.... That’s not too bad really, who beat Gypsy?
Sarah: Gypsy wasn’t one of them... The seconds went to Drifter and Chorus Girl.
Perry: What? So... Gypsy, Puck and Lulu? How could Chorus Girl beat Gypsy?
Sarah: Oh yes... They all won their classes and Gypsy got best brown in show again.
Perry: %%&*#$!!!

It's enough to drive a poor harmless bloke to drink...

Three firsts and two seconds though, I'll forgive anything for that. After I calmed down, it turns out that it wasn’t a huge show. A few of the big Victorian breeders that we’d been hoping to go up against didn’t go but, it was still a great result. The judge said some wonderful things about Gypsy and Puck and there was lots of interest in all of the team from other breeders (none of them are for sale though).

So... This is second best brown in show for Gypsy who is becoming quite a special animal and who will now go on to the Alpacafest in Melbourne at the end of June and has probably earned herself a place in the Nationals in October.

And Puck? I’m starting to wish that we’d given him a more macho name... We were working through characters from Midsummer Night’s Dream at the time – he should have been an Oberon! (mind you, I suppose it could have been worse, he could have been a Bottom...). Puck will now be DNA tested and certified for stud work. Hopefully he’ll start working for his living in the Spring.

You’ll have to excuse me now.... It’s Shiraz time.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back home and home alone

Have to admit that it’s good to be home although it’s been an interesting week. There’s some sort of unwritten law that says that when you visit the UK, you have to come back with a cold.
Not normally a problem, but now is not the best time to get in off an international flight via Hong Kong sniffing and coughing. My week as a bio-hazard has been a different experience, but at least I now have a certificate that says I’m not going to spread swine flu around Australia...

It’s amazing just how much the land can change in such a short time; I was only away for just over a week. When I left, the weather had started to change, it was beginning to feel distinctly autumnal and there had been some rain but the paddocks were still dustbowls and what grass there was was mostly brown. Now, after nearly two weeks of light rain, you’d hardly recognise it as the same place.

Suddenly, everything is green again

So this weekend I’m home alone holding the fort while the rest of the family takes the core show team (Drifter, Puck, Gypsy, Lulu and Chorus Girl) down to the Stawell Show in Victoria. Hopefully they’ll bring photos back for a blog update on Monday. We have wonderful neighbours who are always happy to look after the menagerie if we go away, but as we have one cria having a supplementary bottle three times a day and another getting over a case of staggers who is still having B1 drenches, it’s a bit too much to ask, so someone had to stay and, as stereotypical pathetic self-pitying male with a cold, I was the obvious volunteer.

Yes, that is milk all over her nose

We still haven't decided what to call our latest arrival, a light fawn girl by Windsong Valley Wilde Star out of an Auzengate mother, but she's a pretty little thing.

And, I know this is daft, but I'd swear the mum, who isn't producing quite enough milk, looks quite hurt when she takes her bottle...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

UK - Day Four

Day four back in the old country and, well, there’s only so much that you can get out of dealing with bureaucracy and making up for lost time in fish and chips and real ale. I don’t remember it being so humid here, I suppose that I’ve got used to the dry climate of South Australia and it seems sticky – needless to say I brought mostly cold weather clothes with me – so I’ve been renewing the commercial relationship with Marks & Spencer’s.

I’m missing all the fun at home as well – Mikayla, our oldest alpaca, a brown Auzengate girl, had the last cria of season the day before yesterday, a light fawn female (so we’ve only had three males this year!). Apparently she looks nice but is needing some supplementary feeding. Miranda, who is only just over a month old, gave us cause for concern when I left on Friday. We were just putting my bag in the car when Sarah called me over to look at her – overnight she’d developed a bad case of staggers – a terrible thing to see in a cria, they go downhill so quickly. Thankfully it looks like we caught her in time, dosed her up with vitamin B and it looks like she’s recovering nicely. It’s a busy time of the year, with National Alpaca Week in full flow – not the best time to jump ship for a week.

Still, it’s been good see some of the old haunts – to see what’s changed and what hasn’t and to indulge myself with the camera (and Photoshop in the evening). Here’s a couple from Deal and Walmer taken yesterday...

Although there are only five or six commercial fishing boats winched up onto the beach these days, they still bring in some of the best fish I've ever eaten

See, it isn't just in Australia that you can see miles of deserted coastline...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

South of England Show

Many thanks to everyone who welcomed me or said hello today at the South of England show. I had a good time and it was a great chance to have a look at the quality (and size!) of some of the animals there.

It was particularly impressive to see Suris being judged with a year's growth against fully fleeced animals without being disadvantaged.

It's not been one of the best of weeks but this made a great break.

Things I've found so far that I've missed about England:
  • Decent beer
  • Cod and chips
  • Everything being close to everything else
  • France
Things I don't miss:
  • Church bells at 4am (why???)
  • Crowds
  • Traffic
  • The whinging and complaining in the papers
Thanks again folks and, Sara from Appledene - go on... type a message here or on Rob's blog. Before you know it you'll be writing one of your own!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Well, that's another module of study out of the way, so I thought 'here's the opportunity to get back to some blogging for a month before the next one starts' - Studying is much harder than I remember.

And then...

You know what they say about best laid plans and all that... The module finished on Wednesday; on Thursday we get a call from Canterbury hosptal in the UK to say that my father is very ill and on Friday I'm on a plane to London.

While I'm here, I see on the BAS site that it's the South of England show this long weekend - if anyone reading this is going on the Monday and you see a fat bloke in a Prados Alpacas shirt being nosy - come and say hello.

Monday, April 27, 2009

We have been lax again with our posting but as always lots to do. As Perry has told you he has been busy with our regional website and with the studying he is doing for his course he is not getting that much time. Luckily he should get a 4 week break from studying after Wednesday so hopefully he will be back to posting again.

I know I have been just as bad however, I have been organizing the South Australian side of National Alpaca Week. At last the advertisements have gone to press and I can just sit back and relax (if only). It is amazing how many people want things changed after closing dates or once adverts come out. It particularly frustrating as they have given you information in the beginning!

Enough of that, we are waiting on our last cria until November. We always get concerned and try not to have cria this late in the season as when the rains come the temperature drops off and the wind gets up. So we are chasing around coating everything that looks cold or has a rather lathargic appearence. We even have a 16 mnth old in a coat young Puck. We now face a new problem with him as he is in our show team and coated animals aren't allowed to show, we will be off interstate on the 15th May to a show in Victoria. But I am sure we can have him sorted by then. We still need to address our shedding issues we have plans but no action as yet. In the last 4 days we have seen about 70mm of rain which is wonderful. But for sorting out and tidying up the farm for visitors is a bit tricky. As fast as you tidy up a tree falls down or a whole load of stringy bark lands in the paddock. It will be sorted out by the time we open the gates on the 4th May.

Choosing a time for cria drops are beginning to become quite tricky for the second year in a row we are seeing very high summer temperatures (45degreeC+) in the paddock this is obviously not good for a pregnant mum or new cria. We have lost 3 pregnancy's this drop with the girls scanned pregnant at the beginning of December and empty when rescanned in the middle of March which which was after the due date on 2 girls and a month before on the 3rd. We are by no means the only ones having problems, low birthweights and all the problems associated with prems are showing up in late deliveries. By all accounts we have been lucky with the problems we have had. If we move our drop dates later we then run in to the change of the weather and the wet season. All part of the fun of breeding alpacas I suppose.

Well the sun has come out so I am off to plant up some of the flowerbeds, I was recently bought 2 banana plants so I am looking forward to them going in and having an area with a tropical feel.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Still here...

I am a very lax blogger....

The frustrating thing is that there are so many things I want to post about...

Alpaca auctions, baby's that can't decide what colour they are, the National show in October, National alpaca week in May, my take on Debbie's poo bricks, putting nutrients back into the land, over-feeding, the mysteries of fibre testing, spinning leftover neck fleece....

The list goes on...

I'm just not getting the time (or, more likely, I'm not organised enough).

So, for the time being I'll just share one of the most time consuming jobs.

We've been redeveloping the South Australian regional website (, it's been a major body of work and phase one has been live now for about three weeks.

The next stage is the release of member functions - classified adverts and certified male listings.

I'm hoping that I can get Sarah to do some posts - she's organising the regional participation in National Alpaca week

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tired but happy - Mt Pleasant Show

I don't know what it is about shows that makes them so physically and mentally exhausting. I meant to post this last night when we got back, but all we could manage to do was flop down and drink fizzy wine - Yup.. we were celebrating.

Quick recap. Mt Pleasant is the first show of the year for for us, a short-fleece event to start off the season. We were taking a show team of eight alpaca, four boys and four girls, the largest team we've shown, a mixture of high-hopes and try-outs.

The day didn't start well, it was raining for a start - normally we'd be thrilled about that, but not today.. Not today! We were running late, there were words...

But we made the showground in time (by minutes) and got settled in. The rain had stopped and the mercury started to rise - it turned into one of those horrible days that are thankfully very rare in this part of Australia, 35 degrees, but instead of our usual dry heat it was humid and sticky.

Judge for the event was Peter Kennedy from Canchones - He's an international judge, so some of you reading this in Europe and the US may have met him.

The show started with the Suris. We only had one Suri entry for this one, Lysander.

Second place for Lysander

We were thrilled of course to get a placing in our first class, but it was a small group (suris were poorly represented this year generally) and when Peter picked out the differences between first and second placings, well... we're still not sure of young Lysander's future career.

Lysander cooling off after the stress of his show appearence

Next came the big class for us, Junior brown female. No photo's of this I'm afraid as we had three animals entered so we were all showing rather than snapping. We seemed to be out there for hours, it was a tough class. Hermia and Chorus Girl missed out (although not by much in Chorus Girl's case). But (drum-roll....) Gypsy came first. We thought she was special, we were confident that she'd come away with something but first in that group was something we'll be glowing about for a long time.

So, Hermia is still a nice animal and will form an important part of our breeding program, Chorus Girl we'll show some more - she's a much better looking animal when she has a full fleece on and Gypsy... well, more about her later.

Gypsy was straight back into the ring for the best Junior line-up, that wasn't going to happen against the elite whites and light fawns, but at least it let me get a picture:

James with Gypsy being checked over again by judge Peter Kennedy

By this stage the day is becoming a bit of a blur..

Next came another of our tryout entries - Lulu. Lulu is a girl we brought as a good fit with our breeding program, but she's come on really well so we thought she was worth trying out in a show. It was a much smaller class than the Juniors, but she won us our second first place ribbon so she's coming with us to Stawell in Victoria in May.

(look at the state of my shoes - it was a really dusty show ring)

Yours truely with Lulu

Our next two were up against tough Ambersun competition, second place ribbons for both.

James with Drifter (Ambersun Futuris is the one the right, he came second in class in the nationals last year)

Same story again with Puck - second place after Ambersun's Shear Fortitude.

Finally, as if the day could get any better, it's the best of colour classes. So we're in there with Gypsy and Lulu and all the other brown first-place winners, eight blue ribbon winners in all and again, it seems to take ages.

The judge decides...

He collects the big green ribbon with the gold edging...

He walks over...

Looks like he's heading towards James...

He ties it around Gypsy's neck...

This is silly, but typing this a day later I've started shaking again...

Best brown alpaca in show

Total haul for the day, Two firsts, three seconds, three unplaced and a best in show in colour.

That's it until May now for the next show. But, for the time being, we're walking on air.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Arrrghhh - The Red Weed!

Anyone who has read HG Wells' War of the Worlds will recognise the reference to the Martian vegetation that grew everywhere, choked the rivers and 'glows purple in the night'.

In our case it glows purple in the morning and we haven't a clue what it is.

Purple haze isn't just a Jimi Hendrix track...

It's weird, no-one around here knows what it is and it's only coming up in a single north-facing paddock. The recent rain has started to transform the land already with green shoots coming through everywhere replacing what was dead grass and dust only a week ago. But this stuff - it's a mystery - it's possible that it's something that has stayed dormant in the soil for years and has been woken up by the freakish weather we've had. There was nothing on Saturday, it all just appeared on Sunday morning and today (Monday) is a public holiday so I still can't get it identified.

It looks like a grass of some kind, but beyond that? No idea...

What an exceedingly odd country this is...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Old dog, new tricks...

Halters.... You've got to love 'em.

I've been whinging for some time now about alpaca halters. If they fit well, they look horrible and the ones that look good for shows never seem to be a good fit. So, with the aid of the internet, I've been teaching myself basic leatherwork.

Here's the first attempt...

And, as modeled by Puck who it was made to measure for...

Could be a whole new market.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Meet the show team

The first show of the year is almost upon us.

The season starts for us with the Mount Pleasant Show on 21st March. Due to the time of year it's judged under short fleece rules. That makes it a show that, despite being a fairly small one (150-200 animals usually), is considered quite important as the overall standard of the animal is as important as the fleece.

So here's the team:

The boys


Our Jolimont Warrior boy, just over a year old now. We've just had to reclassify him for colour (hoping that the registration will be through in time, otherwise it could be a disqualification). He spent last year as a black; but after many arguments we've agreed that he is a very dark brown. It's been a difficult call, his fleece, at the skin, is black, but it immediately fades a tiny bit. So, by the letter of the regulations, he's black, but by the spirit of them, he's dark brown.


I should explain first that we have two herd codes on the farm. The Prados herd is registered to Sarah and yours truly, the other herd - Kobler Alpacas are registered to our son James who's living with us while he finds a property for himself. Drifter is one of his, but we show together.

Drifter is a nearly three year old dark fawn boy with a real macho presence. He's already won a couple of ribbons and with Highlander on both sides of his pedigree he's one of our hopes at this outing.


We really don't know what to make of Choco...

We brought him as a gamble from a breeder who was leaving the business for next to nothing because we thought he had potential. At nearly two, we have to decide what to do with him soon.

He is, without doubt, a good stud male. We've shown him a couple of times and he came away with a second place at both the Colour Classic and the Royal Adelaide Show last year. Trouble is, that they were small classes each time and we're not sure that 'good' is good enough these days.

Mount Pleasant could well decide his future career.

The only Suri that we're taking to the show (our champion boy hasn't got enough fleece back yet even for a short fleece show). Lysander, like Choco, is borderline for whether or not he has stud potential. It's sad in a way, just a few years ago both of these animals would have been champions, the standards have come so far in such a short time that now we're having to ask difficult questions about whether or not they have breeding potential.

The Girls

One of James' animals, we brought Gypsy for him as a Birthday present and she's a bit special. I think that the best brown female I've seen in South Australia is her full sister Goldie - an amazing animal who is never shown. Gypsy isn't quite as good, but she's close (and we brought their mother as well for ourselves at the same time). The Junior brown female class is larger than it's ever been at this show, but we hope Gypsy will come away with something.

Chorus Girl
She'll be in the same class as Gypsy. Chorus Girl is another of our Highlander line animals. How she does depends on the competition and the taste of the judge, some think she's over-fleeced around the face. We'll see how it goes.

Our Coonawarra Gladiator girl. Her pedigree reads like a who's who of Australian genetics. But, how can I put this? Just carrying the genes isn't enough. She's in the same class as Gypsy and Chorus Girl. She's probably just going for the ride.

Older, half-sister to Gypsy. Lulu is our wildcard entry - we really haven't got a clue how she'll do. Fingers crossed.

Well, that's the team. We're not entering any fleeces for this one, it's a busy show year ahead and they get pulled apart so much by the judges that we want to save our potential show fleeces for for the big shows later in the year.

I'll let you know how it goes in a couple of weeks...


Rain Rain Rain!

It's finally raining!

Now, I know this will mean very little to readers in Europe, but for us here at chez Prados, it's a major event. There have been a few little showers, but we've had no serious rain since August last year. The paddocks are almost dust bowls and the feed bill is going through the roof - our fussy alpacas are not that keen on the meadow hay we cut last year so we've had to buy in lucerne and wheaten for them.

It's all we can do not to run out and dance in the garden.

While we didn't quite do that, the temptation to take out the camera was too great.

Prados Friar Franc1s (Frankie)

Frankie's two months old now and has never experienced rain before - he really is as confused as he looks in the picture.

Nice weather for ducks

We don't use pesticides or other chemicals on our veggie plot, just alpaca poo as fertaliser and a pair of Indian Runner ducks for 24/7 slug and snail patrol.


Is there anything in the world quite as pathetic as a wet Suri?

X-Rated Webcams

Well, at the very least, that heading should drive up the traffic statistics on the blog...

'In the spring autumn a young man's alpaca's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.' No question, Tennyson was definitely writing for the Northern Hemisphere and he never gave a moment's thought to camelids.

Yes folks, it's mating time here at the Prados herd, hormones are ruling everything and the paddocks echo to the gentle sounds of 'orgling' boys.

Last weekend was the peak of activities with, at one point, each one of our four certified boys, Drifter, Choco, Iquique and Colin the super-suri, working at the same time (hence the images on the webcam)

Then on Sunday, it was down to Softfoot to introduce one of the girls to the amazing Softfoot Corroboree ( - now there's a fleece to aim for.

We tend to like late summer-early autumn births here. Although, in the traditions of all best laid plans, it hasn't worked out that way so far...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Caramello (and a new author!)

I thought I would have a go at writing for the blog this time as Perry hasn’t written for a while. I thought I would introduce you to Caramello she was the first alpaca to arrive at our property and remains our favourite.


Caramello also won us our 1st ribbon (Strathalbyn show in 2007). She has since gone on to win two 2nd places in fleece competitions. She was beaten in to second place on each occasion by Chaparral Dimple (I know some of you who read this blog know Shorty and Dee from Chaparral) who usually then goes on to win supreme fleece so Caramello has some tough completion.

On the 10th February this year, she produced her first (and long awaited cria). Caramello took a long time to become pregnant in fact it was about 14months after the first attempt that she conceived, she even managed a phantom pregnancy along the way. So you can imagine how keen we were to see the safe delivery of her baby. So at 4.10pm on the 10th she started to deliver on her side nothing was going to change her mind on her position. By 4.50pm we had a black female cria with breathing difficulties and a Caramello who still wouldn’t move. This is the smallest cria we have had so far weighting in at just 6kg. So with the vet called and a cold cria we worked on getting her warm. I gave her some colostrum hoping this would warm her up.

Caramello's first cria

Now there is something I need to explain here. It was rather cool at about 19 degrees C and many of you will say that that is not cool let alone cold but something strange happens to the weather here. The 15-16 degree C seems freezing even when family and friends have visited from the UK they comment on how cold it gets yet would probably be wearing short sleeves in the UK.

Caramello beyond sniffing her little one did not want to know and the little one did not want to move. Greg our vet arrived at 5.30pm to check both mum and baby. Both were fine and we started bottle feeding every 1.5 hours until midnight and then again at 3am and luckily by 6am little one started to feed from mum when we went to feed her. We were really pleased as Greg had said that if feeding was not happening by 9am it would have had to be plasma and we didn’t want that. Greg questioned if this was a premature cria as her teeth hadn’t erupted in fact she was 6 days late. The next few days consisted of going over to Caramello regularly to get her to stand up so little one could feed. They have at last got their act together and Caramello is beginning to look her like old self. It is easy to see her cria in the paddock, not only is she still the smallest but she has yellow tape on her ears holding them in shape. I have to say we are hopeful that she may become a show girl as her fleece at this stage looks really promising.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Victorian disaster

Serious post time...

I know most of the readers of this little blog are based in Europe but I'm sure that, at least through the bloodline of many of your animals, you know know a fair number of Australian breeders.

Many of them, some large and well known, most small, are in Victoria, in the middle of the worst bushfire that we've seen here.

At the time of writing this, there have been 173 confirmed fatalities and there are still 25 fires that haven't been controlled. Property, land and stock loss will be catastrophic. There are already stories hitting the newswires about small alpaca breeders who have lost some of their herds or pets.

Of the well known studs I know that Flowerdale and Canchones are OK at the moment but are still facing a threat. I've just heard that Jigaru are OK.

For those of you in Europe that use Mariah Hill, the Bunyip state park fire is close and property in the area has been lost. I understand that so far, they're OK but smoke will be a problem for them.

Coordinated efforts to help are being set up by breeders around the country offering shelter and food for animals and families.

You can follow the news at the ABC here

There's a live map of current fire areas here

And the Australian Alpaca Asn is posting offers of help and updates here

Our thoughts go out to those who have been affected and to those (mostly volunteers, including our own South Australian Alpaca Association president) who are fighting the fires.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jumping on the video bandwagon

Following on from the critical acclaim poured onto Paul's epic video on Debbie's blog a couple of weeks back I thought I'd have a go myself.

Well... Actually I didn't. I took the camera down to the paddock for today's arrival and set it to video by mistake. Once I'd started, it seemed like a good idea.

So... the mum is Compass Zahava. We purchased her as one of a group from Ambersun Alpacas in 2007. At the time she was carrying another of our Jolimont Warrior offspring (more about that little lad in a later post when he's done a few shows). She was mated last year to Waradene Dutch Chocolate and has just dropped this nice looking solid black boy (I hope it's not going to be a boy year!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jab time and going quiet

Before long, we're going to have to invest in a gun to do the injections with. I'm not sure of the point at which it makes economic sense to throw away the syringes, but I think we must be close, I know the queue at jab time is getting longer and I think it's probably kinder to the animals - there's always at least one that jumps and bends the needle.

We routinely give ADE vitamins and 5 in 1 vaccination twice each year to each of our adults. The 5 in 1 is recommended primarily to protect against clostridial diseases and the twice yearly regime seems to be the average over here

First shift of patients waiting for the needle.

Well, That's the first month of blogging. It's been an interesting experience so far and finding out that there is a small but active alpaca blogging community out there has been a revelation - thank you all for your support and encouragement.

There are so many things that I want to write about, but posting frequency will probably reduce (but not stop!) over the next couple of months. It's study time - I'm currently working part-time on a masters, 8 weeks on, 8 weeks off, 20 hours per week during module time and the next module is just starting. That leaves very little time for anything else. But who knows? I may even be able to talk Sarah into the occasional post...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bushfire Planning

Even though I live in Australia. Even though these days I think of myself as an Australian who was born a long way from home rather than a Brit who has chosen to live here, I reserve the inalienable right of all of those who hail from the mother country to whinge about the weather.

44.6 it peaked at here at the farm today (the regional forecast was for a max of 42). My office here peaked at 49. Even the pool is nudging its way above 30. Tomorrow, the forecast is for 47 degrees, that's 117F in old money. The herd is beginning to suffer a bit, we have plenty of shade and plenty of water but you have to feel sorry for them, particularly the suris who are carrying fleece. Nobody around here can remember conditions like these.

That brings me to the subject of this entry. We can't ignore it - the bushfire risk this season is the highest it's been for a very long time.

It came close two years ago - the Mount Bold bushfire was not huge by Australian standards, but it burnt out over 2000 hectares and it was much too close for comfort and, as you can see, the fields were still green then - they're dried out and brown today
The 2007 Mt Bold fire from Prados Alpacas

Of course, the Prados herd was much smaller then - we just had our first two animals so it was easy to safely shed them in my workshop.

Chelsea and Caramello improving their woodwork skills.

We couldn't do that with the 40 animals we have today and the sheds in the paddocks are too exposed.

So it's time to revisit our fire planning.

First make sure that we're safe.
  • Clear dry vegetation and anything combustible around the house
  • Clear the roof and gutters of leaves and other debris
  • Make sure we have downpipe plugs available (to fill gutters with water - more homes are lost through embers getting into roof spaces than as a result of the fire front itself)
  • Test the backpack sprayer for spotfires
  • Finally - open the wallet - This year, it's time to invest in proper fire pump and hoses - can't rely on electricity supplies in a fire.

Next the animals.
The layout of the farm, the distance from wooded areas and the lack of fuel in the paddocks means that we are low risk for lasting fire. If we get one, it should flash through fairly quickly. This means that the main priority is to provide escape routes.

Looks like the best thing we can do is open all the gates and make sure there are at least two exit points from each paddock. We may get some unplanned matings, but that's a small price to pay.

It's going to be an interesting few months.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Unwanted showers!

Whenever you go to a show, whenever someone new to alpacas asks questions, you know that it's only a matter of time before the spit question comes up.

My answer is generally the same - one of the most appealing things about our animals is that they all have their own individual characters - a bit like people. Most are normal - they'll only react if provoked. Some live in world of zen tranquility (we have quite a few of those) and never spit. But, just occasionally, you get a street-fighter with a short fuse and a bad attitude.

Meet Kirri...

Kirri loading up for another shot..

We brought Kirri last year, a nice animal in her own right, pregnant to Jolimont Warrior. She duly gave us our last cria of 2008, 'Summer's Dream', on Christmas Eve.

"My mum's tougher than your mum!"

So today was the day to move mum and daughter out of the maternity paddock to rejoin the main herd. I suppose I asked for it - taking her baby and interrupting her breakfast - turn and fire! A facefull (and mouthfull) of half-digested hay had me spluttering, retching and racing for a tap. Two hours later, a couple of washes and a shower and I can still smell it on me.

But, got to show them who's boss. Success on second attempt (at least as far as I was concerned, this time it was Sarah who received the blessing).

Checking out the new arrival

She's happy as anything now - loves being centre of attention. I doubt that I'll ever get tired of watching the way that a new arrival is fussed over and thoroughly checked out when they join the herd.