Friday 27 August 2010

Broadsiding ponies

Just thought I might share this picture of Calypso broadsiding a Dartmoor foal whilst out on a Llama walk this week.  The picture really doesn't do it justice, we were walking back to the carpark after enjoying our picnic lunch on the top of Yar tor , the llamas were having a munch on a hawthorn tree, Calypso who isn't much interested in hawthorn was just stood with his handler waiting when a little foal approach, Calypso really wasn't sure about this and presented a broadside display to the foal, who not speaking the same language just carried on approaching until he was in sniffing distance, sniffed and decided it wasn't a funny looking pony so ran off to find its mum.

We have been busy with walks this week and the weather has mostly been dry if not sunny.  The gorse and heather is looking amazing at the moment, I have tried to get a picture of it but it is not easy to get the true colours.

We have returned Nugget and Caliban to Lakeham Alpacas as we have finished our breedings for this year.  We have decided to put Langaton Caliban up for sale as we don't have that many light coloured Alpacas to use him on now, so we will be looking for a Black or Grey stud male for next year s breeding program.  Also up for sale is West Webburn Titan a young dark brown male who was placed first at Devon County Show and a third at SWAG this year.   The only other animals we have for sale at the moment are a group of three young males who are being sold as a package for ridiculously low price.  we are very short of land so at some point we have to sell something, but I can always find a reason not to sell any of them.

All the females have returned to Widecombe for the autumn and winter, to grow their babies on the lovely fresh grass they have over there.  They always seem to thrive, left to themselves except for a daily check from us to feed them and make sure they are all well.  They come home in the spring about a month before the first cria is due.  Having this facility allows us to rest the fields so we don't have a big parasite burden  and the fields they go on to are only used for hay so they don't get a problem from there either.  It is a bit of a pain having to travel over there to see them but it is worth it in the long run but the owners of the fields get to enjoy them all day.  Oh for more land!

Friday 20 August 2010

A face full of spit!

As usual it has been a bit hectic what with holiday makers , work and the animals.  Last Sunday we got all the female alpacas in weighed them and checked for any mite, trimmed any toe nails which needed to be done before putting them all past the males for a final spit off  before taking them over to Widecombe for some fresh grass.  Thankfully everyone we expected to spit off did, which is great as they are well and truly pregnant now, the first one due at the end of March next year.  Demeter (96 import with attitude) jumped the hurdles last time we put her in with the male, this time she looked at him------- he stood in the corner looking the other way, she looked at me as I was guarding one side of the pen in anticipation of her jumping out again and gave me a full blown mouth full of the smelliest, greenest spit ever seen------------I think she may be pregnant!
We then loaded most of them into the trailer for the short journey to Widecombe where they will stay until spring.  They are in a field which has been cut for hay several weeks ago and it now has a lovely lot of fresh grass.  We held back a couple of Alpacas as they needed one more spit off,  the two female llamas and of course Murphy, just because I don't want him to go just yet as he is growing so fast and is such a character.
In the afternoon we had a visit from my Mum & Dad, Sister and family, daughter and family and younger daughter, funny you don't see anyone for weeks and then they all turn up.  It was a lovely afternoon and we went and introduce them to the llamas, alpacas, pigs and chickens before having a picnic in the field.  Just what Sundays should be like.
We had to cancel a llama walk this morning as the weather was so foul, thick mist, rain and a howling gale not what you need for an enjoyable walk on Dartmoor.  hopefully it will be better by Monday as we have a half day walk booked.
Merlin our young llama in training is coming along nicely, he is very calm and walks around the field very well now.  It won't be long before he can be introduced to the trekking team and will start to come on short walks with us.  Over the winter he will get lots of training on the moor where he will meet all sorts of new things and by next spring hopefully he will able to be part of the team, but not carry a pack until he is at least two years old.

Monday 16 August 2010

Finally managed to take the camera

I finally managed to take the camera out with me and I got some pictures of Murphy and Merlin

Murphy first, he is now 7 weeks old and is full of life and attitude, he really struts his stuff around the field.  He is nearly as tall as our adult females so he towers over the Alpaca cria who are all older than him.

We have been putting a halter on him just to get him used to been handled, he is going to be very big and if he isn't well trained he will be a nightmare to work with.

Merlin is now reluctantly walking around the field each morning with his two mentors, Atlas and Titan are well used to walking on halters and Merlin doesn't want to be left behind, I am sure he will look more like he is enjoying the experience with a few more days training.

Merlin is much calmer whilst in the handling pen, he stands still once you put your hand on his neck, we can touch him all over his back and belly area which is important as he will be trained to take a pack system when he is older.  I am touching his ears an mouth in preparation for any drenching that he may need.  It will be so nice to have an animal who is easy to do all the husbandry on because if a llama doesn't want to do something is is a different proposition from an Alpaca.

Now it would be nice to get some up to date pictures of the Alpaca Cria.

Saturday 14 August 2010

I forgot another High

We have managed to get Merlin our new young llama to have a halter on, he now stops when we put a rope over his back, will take a halter and is starting to walk around the pen when asked too, not quite as good at walking around the field following the alpacas though but that will come over the next few days.  We are getting him used to having his sides and tummy touched in preparation for having a pack on.  It is great to see the progress he has made from being a scared little llama never handled to accepting that we aren't going to hurt him and learning new things every day-------he no longer runs out of the pen when his lesson is over often just standing there until we leave him!  Must get some pics of him!

Highs and Lows

10 days since my last blog and I have had several comments from certain quarters about my lack of blogging.  My only excuses are lack of time and not really knowing what to say!.

The highs have been that we have had our busiest week ever for llama walks, not that we have done more walks then usual but we managed to combine several groups together meaning we could take more animals out and I have to prepare more lunches, cakes and our famous cream teas.

We had a lovely day at the Honiton show, great weather and we came home with a 3rd and a 4th Rosette, met lots of lovely people and spent all day talking Alpaca -------what could be better!

We have started to get enquires for our cottages for the Autumn, we are full until the end of September (except for 6 nights) and have already got bookings for October, November and next year.  So thats looking really healthy, I am now looking at what advertising has worked best this year and where I should be looking to target for next year.  This is work I usually save for rainy days but we haven't had that many  of those lately, not that I am moaning about that although the grass could do with it ------ never satisfied are we.

The lows---------- we lost an Alpaca this week--- Himma was a gelding we inherited when our friends decided to return to Wiltshire and we took over their herd.  He was the first cria they had born and he was over handled as a youngster, to be honest he was a pain in the neck as he got older--------- what started as being quite cute and amusing started to turn into threatening behavior as he got older.  When he was about two years old he got a kick from a llama shattering his shoulder, the vet operated on him but I think he was always in a little pain and he did tend to sit down a lot.  Anyway last Sunday we had been out on a walk and when we got back we noticed he looked a little bit off colour, nothing you could put your finger on but just not right.  We took the decision to see how he was in the morning whilst putting him in the shelter for the night.  Any way Monday morning he was dead, I felt so bad I should have rung the Vet but knowing Alpacas -  if they look sick it is probably to late.  We arranged for a Postmortem which revealed nothing conclusive but did confirm that it wasn't anything nasty which could affect the rest of the herd.
Himma was always a reminder to us not to over handle young cria especially males they can become a problem (BMS Berserk Male Syndrome) which may not show up until they adolescents and they start to treat humans as they would other alpacas which we all know is not alway pleasant.  We do routine husbandry with the cria as we do the adults and we have bottle fed several cria but it is strictly feed the bottle and leave alone.  Once they are weaned they are handled everyday until they are halter trained and are behaving calmly, easy to catch in a pen and can be stroked once caught without them trying to escape.  All the young males get to go on walks with our trekking llamas who are all calm and well behaved which they seem to pass on to the youngsters.
I also remember the advice from an experienced breeder when we were first looking at buying our first Alpacas-------- "beware of over friendly Alpacas it isn't their natural behavior" 

Wednesday 4 August 2010

North Devon Show

Just got back from avery successful show, the weather was very wet this morning delaying the start of the halter classes.  We had only entered fleeces this year as we are showing a couple of animals tomorrow at Honiton show.  We got a 1st place with West Webburn Atlas’s fleece, he was a junior when he was shorn and has worn a couple of ribbons earlier this year. Atlas a fawn scored highly on his fleece weight, fineness and handle and his lack of guard hair.  Lack of guard hair had been commented on in previous shows so we were pleased to see him highly scored on this element.  West webburn Titan got 4th in his class although the black and brown had been combined.  He also scored very highly on fineness and handle but lost marks on his fleece weight.  I think I may have over skirted this one as I wasn’t sure what to remove and what not too.
Anyway as a first attempt we are really pleased with the results.

On a different note we have managed to get a halter on Merlin the new Llama without much fuss.  We have spent the last couple of weeks just gaining his trust and although he is still a bit jumpy he will let me put the halter on and do it up with out moving about.  We let him keep the halter on for a few hours just to get used to it, the next stage will be leading him around the pen.

Sunday 1 August 2010

More Ramblings from Dartmoor

Following another busy week I have finally sat down to write something in the blog, so now I can't remember what we have been so busy doing.
ahh yes it was Totnes show last weekend so we set up the stall on the Saturday afternoon ready for the show on Sunday.  This is the first time that they have held the show on a Sunday but as the traffic queues were so bad on a Thursday the decision to change days was made.  We had a combined stall with Lakeham Alpacas and Bats brook Alpacas and we took some Llamas as well.  To keep to the best bio security arrangements we could, Bats brook had a pen on one side of the Marquee and we had ours on the other side, so the animals were unable to see each other let alone get within spitting distance.  As it is a small show we were the only Alpaca stand there.  The sun shone and there were lots of people around although it was very slow to start with, I think as it was a Sunday people got up a little later before coming in but they stayed much later and it was after 6pm before we thought about packing up. The rest of the week has been the usual round of feeding up, picking up poo, holiday cottages and a lovely llama walk yesterday.

We or rather Steve has been doing some handling every morning with Merlin the young llama and has got to the stage where we thought we could get him to take a halter.  Firs I showed him the halter and let him sniff it then put the nose band over his nose and just let it rest for a while.  He took this well but drew the line at letting me do it up, he is still very jumpy and I think it is going to be a long process but we are getting there.  I really must get some pictures of this young boy for you to see, her really is very handsome!

Later this morning we had a visit from Inca Picasso from Blacklands Alpacas for a drive by breeding with Marietta.  We had been trying to get Midnight covered by Picasso but for some reason she wasn't too keen, but would sit if you put her in with our Stud Golden Nugget who we had been using for spit offs.  So we made the decision to let her have here way with Nugget and to try Picasso over the very reliable Marietta, who is a much more willing partner, she sat when I let her into the breeding pen and Picasso was only half way down the M5 at the time. so fingers crossed we won't have to take her to Blacklands next week for a repeat meeting.

Just after Blacklands left for home we had some people turn up for a look around and discuss keeping Alpacas which was great as we don't need much encouragement to talk Alpaca all afternoon.