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).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shearing Days

It’s that time of year where shearing is once again upon us. Prados Alpacas in conjunction with Kobler Alpacas will be running open shearing weekends in November on farm in Meadows. Booking for these is essential as places fill up quickly, so contact us soon.


How do these days work?

When contacting us to book a place for shearing your alpacas we will agree on the date and a guide time for you to bring the alpaca to us. We will want to know how many alpacas and when they were last shorn, animals with more than a year’s fleece take longer to shear and will most likely incur an additional charge.

Upon arriving on farm you will be asked to either hold your alpaca in the transporter or unload to holding pens. Please do not unload alpacas until directed. The aim is to structure the days so there is never a queue however sometimes this cannot be helped.

The alpacas will be shorn one at a time on a table. The fleece that comes of will be bagged for you to take away. Once shearing is complete and before the alpaca is lowered of the table any additional husbandry can be performed including teeth, toenails and vaccinations. This will be repeated until all your alpaca are shorn.

Things to remember

We cannot shear wet animals so if during the weekend you are booked it’s raining or has rained very heavily on the lead up to the weekend we will need to reschedule the shearing.

We only shear alpacas please don’t bring along sheep, goats or the farm dog.

Please try to get to us for the booking time; this keeps the days flowing for everyone.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Colourbration Day Two

The things you do on tour…

Eat way too much junk food, stay in odd places, drink too much red wine, find yourself watching an old episode of thunderbirds at some unearthly hour of the morning and, best of all, take embarrassing photos of leading alpaca breeders for future blackmail purposes…

But enough of that, back to the show.

A good day yesterday, a first and a fourth with our first two animals.

First up today was James with Illustrious, a light fawn junior that I’m really excited about

Colourbration 2011, Illustrious

A tough class with some good competition and….. Drum Roll…. A first! A great result and she’s probably booked herself a ticket to the nationals in October.

Next, a bit of light relief. I blogged earlier in the year about our first appaloosa. A complete surprise to us all when he arrived from a line that is solid on both sides.

Well, spotties are a growing thing – they’re getting more and more popular and this little boy has got a very fine and well defined fleece, so, why not…

Colourbration 2011 Appaloosa

Another first! This is getting silly.

Interesting though that the line-up for the 'fancy' championship, which, of course, was won by Ambersun Jag, were all spotties…

Expect another blog about him when it comes to shearing time – I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s there when his fleece comes off.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Colourbration – Day One, Part Two

First success!

OK, it’s a second place, but it’s a second place to the animal that went on to take the championship, so I’ll happily bank that.


Cassia is another one from our suri experiment, an experiment that is, so far, going very well. Colin, our suri sire, is throwing some quite outstanding offspring. We nearly pulled her from the show at the last minute – she was that muddy and messy, certainly far from show condition. But the girl did good.

Colourbration – Day One


For us, Victorian Colourbration is, second only to the National Show, one of the year’s most important events. It has almost become the colour breeders’ national.

Sadly, we’ve only brought a small, wet and muddy team this year but hopefully they won’t disgrace us too much and the judges will be able to make allowances for the paddock conditions.

Congratulations to the organisers, a well laid out shed, good facilities and the bacon sandwich to start the day was spot-on (very important at any show!)

More later

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our first fleece collection day in South Australia

One of those rare things – a video blog!

I don’t think that Hollywood needs to be afraid just yet….

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Unsung heroes…

Every reasonable sized herd has them. Those animals that, objectively, are nothing special but are alpacas that their owners wouldn’t part with for anything. It could be an older girl who can always spare a drink for a baby whose own mother is struggling with feeding, it may be the very tame animal who will halter train others (more about that in future post) or, as in this case, it might be the ‘utility’ wether that does all the odd jobs.

Allow me to introduce you to Prospero…


On any sane farm, Prospie would have been sold off as a pet or sheep guard long ago, certainly, we could have moved him on many times over. But, he was our very first baby on the property, so he’s a special case.

He’s had his moments of fame – he was a very pretty cria. He featured in our earliest advertising:


A picture of him (heavily Photoshopped) has even won a few prizes:

prosp photo entryBut there was no getting away from the fact that he was never going to make it as a show and stud boy and was going to have to face the unkindest cut of all.

Today, he’s a big, ugly wether. But we’d not be without him. Got some weanlings missing their mum and in need of mentoring and company? Prospero. Need an animal to move in with the chickens because there’s a fox around? Prospero. Need a companion for a sick animal? Guess who. And, this week, when we needed a donor for a really sick animal that needed an urgent blood transfusion, it was Prospie who parted with a litre and a half of the red stuff over three days (although I don’t think he likes the bald patch on his neck).

DSC02985 (1)

So, here’s to you Prospero and to all the other unsung heroes in herds around the world. You may never win a broad ribbon at a show, but you’re champions as far as we’re concerned.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

School Visits

These days we find frequently find ourselves taking the alpacas on days out to visit schools and other community centres.

Of course, this is all good karma but, and here’s the big secret (don’t tell other breeders or they’ll all be doing it) it’s also great fun!

Alpacas are such natural crowd pleasers, you’re always guaranteed of getting an appreciative audience.

This week saw the roadshow at Narracoorte Primary School.

Narracorte Primary School _02

Sarah took three of the boys, a suri and two huacayas, all very wet, down to introduce them to the youngsters.

Narracorte Primary School _05  We usually  follow the same format, a quick talk followed by an opportunity to get up close to the animals. It always goes down well and we leave the school with some handouts and fleece samples to use in project work.  A good time is had by all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shameless advertising

The truck’s back from the signmaker’s

Tyson and the guys from DzignFX in Adelaide have done a great job.

The Triton

Monday, May 30, 2011

The National Comes back to Adelaide

South Australia is going to play host to the Australian National Show and Sale in 2012 so lock October 25th to 28th into your diaries.

Planning has started early, we've got a team together and have enlisted the help of the Western Australia region. Hopefully we can build on the success of the 2009 show - we have many of the same organising group.

Sarah and I are convening the show, so it's going to be a busy year and a half.

Follow NationalAlpaca on Twitter to keep up to date on what's going on.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birthing day

Just got back from one of the education days for breeders that we put on here in South Australia. The theme for the day was ‘Birthing Problems’

Workshops in full swing

Not a day for the squeamish, the simulations and demonstrations where frighteningly realistic and used stillborn cria. I know that sounds ghoulish and, I admit that it probably wouldn’t have been my first choice of a way to spend Sunday afternoon but, there is simply no substitute for the real thing. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know that when it was my turn to delve into the darkness and correct a bad presentation, I found myself suddenly taking things very seriously indeed. Approximately 2% of alpaca births have some type of problem – of these, most sort themselves out without intervention but a tiny minority can cause real problems and knowing what to do can mean the difference between life and death for mother and baby in a country where a vet may be many hours away.

Chris and Adrienne from Ambersun sharing their experience

All-in-all a really useful session and one that we will have to repeat (we were limited to about 30 people and soon overbooked – there’s already a waiting list for the next one).

Everyone there got something out of it and we all shared our experiences (good and bad).

Halfway through the afternoon we were joined by Greg Rodda, one of our top Alpaca vets who provided a vet’s eye view and a wealth of experience.

I can’t finish this with out mentioning the art that you can see on some of the walls. These cartoons come from a terrific book called Llama and Alpaca Neonatal Care [Amazon link]


The book uses some brilliant cartoons by artist and llama breeder Kathleen McLeod which I scanned and enlarged to help lighten things up a bit. I mention it here because before using them, I emailed Kathleen to ask her permission – she not only gave the OK but was clearly very pleased to see them being used like this – If you get to read this Kathleen, many thanks from South Australia.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rain stops play

I shouldn’t be here at the moment, typing something on this little blog. Right now, I should be at the Uraidla and Summertown show talking about (and selling) alpacas. But, we’re having some unseasonable weather down here – nothing like the floods that they've suffered in Victoria and Queensland of course, but a bit different to the sweltering, 40 degree plus days we were having this time last year.

So anyway, there we were last night, putting the finishing touches to our stand (an information table, a display of fleece and other products, show ribbons and two pens of our most crowd-pleasing ‘pacas) when the call comes that we can’t get in – the area of the showground where we would have been is under six inches of water and there’s a new creek running through it.

SONY DSCWhat should have been the information table

There are plus sides though… We get the rare luxury of a day at home with no commitments and the paddocks are loving it. Last February our main concern about most of our farm was the fire risk, this year we’ve got fresh grass coming through – something that we don’t usually see until May.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bond’s story

Young Bond seems to be a regular visitor to this little blog. He got a photo and a mention when he was born a year ago and again when we started shearing. He’s never been quite good enough for the show team, but a photo of him has done well in a couple of competitions – he’s a natural crowd pleaser:


Anyway, the time came for Bond to move on, he was sold as a pet and delivered to his new home in early November. I have to admit that he was an animal that we were a little sorry to see go.

A few weeks later, it started to go wrong for his new owners. We’re still not sure what happened but it looks like he injured a knee and the injury became infected. A vet was called (not one that was very experienced with Alpacas) and prescribed antibiotics and regular dressings. There was no improvement and the vet, on a return visit, told the owners that he may have to be put down. We couldn’t let that happen and swapped him for another brown boy and brought him back to treat ourselves.

He was in a sorry state when we got to look at him, not the owners’ fault, his leg clearly needed quite a bit of TLC that they couldn’t really have been expected to provide.

DSC02700Day One, after cleaning and flushing

Not a pretty sight, but much better than it was before cleaning.

We turned one end of our veranda into a sick bay and brought in another young boy as a companion.

The daily treatment session, with concerned audience

We changed the antibiotics (we have a great and very supportive vet) and worked on the knee, cleaning and debriding the wound twice each day. It wasn’t long before it started to pay off.

Day ten, almost healed

Bond has now made a full recovery and is back with the rest of the herd. We’re taking the hint though and he’s off the ‘for sale’ list. He’s a great character and is so good natured that we’ll use him for country shows and school visits.

I like this convalescence lark – bring me another daiquiri!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Where did this one come from?


OK, I know Appaloosas are a growing thing, they’re getting more and more popular and there are even serious calls for an appaloosa class at shows, quite distinct from other fancy types.

But it’s not part of the plan, we don’t breed spotties!

Both lines he comes from are solid through and through (Halifax was the sire, a solid white warrior boy and the Dam was a multiple championship winning solid brown).

He’s about as cute as they come, so he has that going for him.

Name? Well for a short while he was Dipstick (after one of the 101 Dalmatians puppies) but no one else liked that. Currently he’s called Notyet and it might just stick:

Q: He’s sweet, have you named him?

A: Not yet…

The tour comes to Prados

The Tour Down Under is the largest pro-cycling event outside of Europe. Every January, at at least one point, it come through or close to our little, sleepy town of Meadows.


This time, for the first time in recent years, it came past the farm. The main race, followed by 8000 enthusiastic amateurs and TV crews from all over the world.

I knew we should have put some large roadside advertising signs up!