Friday, November 30, 2012

And then there were sheep…

So, there we are, we’ve got the shed nicely set up for alpacas, we’ve got a workflow that, while not perfect, is getting better and we’re well past the halfway mark.

Then we get a call – “Is it OK to shear 400 merinos in your shed next week?”

Seems that there has been a long-standing arrangement with the previous owner where they rented out the shed to a local sheep farmer.

OK, not too much of a problem and with the bills we’re getting just to get the plumbing working, every dollar is welcome.

So.. out comes the table again. Let me pause here a moment gentle reader to talk about the space under the shed where I have to go to take out the bolts…

Like all shearing sheds, it’s built on legs with a crawl space underneath. A crawl space filled with  20 years of sheep …., at least half of South Australia’s venomous spider population, a possum and a snake or two (I’ve not met one under there yet – but they’re there, I’m sure that they’re there). Let’s put it this way, it’s not my happy place.

Anyway it’s done and we have sheep shearing going on


There is a plus side. In one corner of the shed there is an old (read very old) wool press. It looks lethal and would certainly like nothing more than to chomp down one or two of my fingers. I’d assumed that it was not serviceable and only really fit for scrap but, apparently they use it every year and, while undoubtedly something that would make a safety inspector need to go and lay down in darkened room, it still works perfectly. So, part of the charge for the use of the shed is a quick course in how the thing works.

That happens tomorrow. If I have any fingers left, I’ll tell you about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Settling in and shearing

One of the great things about the new place is that it has a shearing shed. For the last 5 years we’ve been shearing in the open or under canvas.

Of course, nothing is simple so one of the first challenges is to convert the existing two-stand sheep operation for alpacas


We’d have liked to have used the existing shearing plant, but we’ll save that for next year – rigid bar fittings may be fine for sheep but are no good for ‘pacas. So this year we’re sticking to our electric handpieces.

Table bolted to the floor and ready to go

Come the first morning for shearing and another great step forward – runways. We’ve never had proper runways before, we’ve always had to lead the animals into pens a few at a time or use the old maternity paddock with its catching area. Things are now on a much bigger scale with the main girl’s paddock nearly a kilometre away. Possibly taking photos while riding the quad is not something to recommend…

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They soon learn what the runways are for..

I’d like to be able to say that we got through them all on the first weekend but there was a lot to learn with the new setup and we barely averaged 4 per hour in the first session, but we’re getting there.

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Having friends to help makes a big difference – so does a well stocked drinks fridge

35 degrees wasn’t big help either, but we’re most of the way through now.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Well… We made it.

Hard to believe that the move was a week ago. It goes without saying that it was a couple of days of unmitigated hell and that we’re still living out of boxes (and will probably continue to do so for months).

But we’re here and ready to start our new life.

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One of the first loads leaves Meadows

But there is no way that we could have done it on our own so indulge me a moment while I acknowledge a few people from the alpaca industry who helped to make this possible:

temp_move1Rosalie Brinkworth from Andean Gold Alpacas who put so much into helping us to get packed and organised.

Susan Haese from Yaringa Alpacas who helped move animals and arrived with a home cooked meal on Thursday night

Fred & Bernadette Duncker from Glenvois Alpaca who helped with animals

And last, but by no mean least, Chris Williams from Ambersun. Chris helped us move tonnes of plants and equipment, he sorted out our water and he gave us a roof over our heads and hot showers on our first night. Most of all, it was Chris who probably kept us sane..

As for the Alpacas… They could not be happier

Heading off into the sunset to explore their huge new home

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

60% done with 80% to go…

At least, that’s what it feels like.
We don’t actually exchange formally until Thursday, but, as the new place is empty, we have a ‘licence to occupy’ which means that we’ve spent the last 3 days (a long weekend here in South Australia) starting the move.
We’ve never moved farm before. It’s a bit more complex than moving house isn’t it? All that equipment, the workshop, the tools etc. Strangely, the alpacas are turning out to be the easy part; that’s one of the great things about this business – a real sense of community, everyone mucks in to help.
Vet inspection today, a bit nervous about that. We’re part of the Q-Alpaca program, a national bio-security scheme. As the new place has been used for cattle and sheep in the recent past the inspection has to be thorough (and probably expensive).
Anyway, here’s a sneak preview
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The top dam. One of four large wet areas and home to yabbies and marron
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Really looking forward to seeing alpacas grazing over those hills
So, land? 10 out of 10.
House and shedding? That’s another story…

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Moving on…

There comes a time when you have to decide just how committed to something you actually are. To put your money where your mouth is, to grasp the nettle and to fearlessly use any number of other tired business clichés.

For a long time now I’ve been preaching the gospel about an emerging alpaca industry in Australia; about maturing from a niche market, selling high-value collectables and pets, into a viable and sustainable agricultural business.

While saying this though, we’ve been the picture of the established small alpaca business. A little over 100 animals; overstocked, small plot of land; concentration on shows and small volume sales and only a side interest in ‘the product’.

On October 4th, the game changes. We’ve sold the farm and have brought ‘Red Bank Springs’, a much larger property, currently running sheep and cattle in Hindmarsh Valley.

It’s going to take a fair few years to build up what we would consider to be a commercial herd, but we’re up for the challenge.

Of course, moving at the same time as trying to organise the National Show an Sale is probably not such a good idea…

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cricket fans

We couldn’t resist snapping this one…


Schnuffles is one very sick boy, we thought we’d lost him at the weekend when a visitor told us we had a dead cria in the paddock. But he’s a fighter and, while he’s far from healthy, he’s hanging on in there and seems to be enjoying a few days inside in the warm.

Gandhi, of course is the perfect pooch and has taken well to his new role as babysitter.

They both seem to love sport and children’s shows on the TV.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I’ve often wondered why so many farmers have missing fingers…



It wasn’t until after I’d finished the job that I started to think about how, maybe, this could have been done in a safer way…

Some figures from Safework Australia:

27 accidents per year for each 1000 agricultural workers – multiply that up and, according to Safework, there are more than a dozen reportable work accidents in the sector per day

It’s a dangerous business we’re in.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Busy busy busy

Just a quick entry to let folks know why things are so quiet here…

Team Prados is convening the 2012 National Show and Sale – A huge job that leaves little time for things like updating this little blog.

That doesn’t mean that we’re completely off the air though.

Keep up with us on the National Show Blog and at the national website

Hopefully the Alpaca Chatter blog will be back online in October