Saturday, 29 November 2008


Occasionally you come across moments of sheer brilliance. Last night was one of those occasions.

Let me set the scene. As some of you may know I am good buddies with the Lord Mayor of Incaworld and have the pleasure of using herdsires from his impressive line up.

The latest male, and undoubtedly the star of the show, is the mighty, nay awesome, Lillyfield Jack of Spades.

We had the big fellow here for a few days over the late summer months and he was introduced to some of the Patou girls. For some inexplicable reason that we shall put down to 'that's life' not many fell pregnant.

A few days ago I read in the entertaining Amiryck blog (Inca splinter group Karen and Richard) that they had a very good success rate with the splendid Mr Spades.

I commented, enquiring " Well done, did you have low lighting, soft music and a glass of bubbly for Jack?"

The response was a highly entertaining piece of brilliance which I would urge you all to look at as a matter of urgency. is the site, blogspot url is check out the blog entitled 'In answer to your comment Mark'.

Make sure to achieve the full effect that you have your speakers turned on with the volume up.

Brilliance, sheer brilliance.

Monday, 24 November 2008

A touch of the trots

The last three days we have been pretty busy here in Patouland.

On Friday we noticed that our lovely 'older lady' of the herd, Deedee, was a bit lethargic and not eating. She is a ten year old medium fawn Chilean import with an absolutely super temperament which she passes on to her cria. Fifi, the 'noser', who I mentioned in the last blog is Dee's cria from last year.
She has done this before so we knew what to do, a dose of antibiotics, and a course of Vetrumex and she perked up.
However, I also noticed that Valley Farm Sheba had a rather runny bottom. We observed her for 24 hours and the 'softness' turned into 'wateriness'. Chocolate moose to oxtail soup if you will pardon the comparison. That was the cue to throw everything at her and also look at the rest of the herd. Sheba was wormed (1.5ml Ivomec super), treated for coccidiosis (20ml Vecoxan), given antibiotics (4ml Nuflor) and given 7ml of Kaogel. Having done that we wormed the whole herd to be on the safe side.

Today I have been out amongst them and there are no signs of 'looseness' anywhere. Sheba herself saw me coming and as I approached her she turned sideways on, assumed the position and plopped out a nice firm poop for me to look at. Marvellous. We are still watching carefully for anymore signs but seem to have sorted it out which is satisfying.

Saturday was a good day here. We were visited by some very nice people who had come to look at Milarka. Milarka is an incredible alpaca being a Purrumbete Highlander daughter. We have had her for sale for over a year and it has baffled the doodahs out of me why no-one snapped her up. She has a beautiful white Killawasi girl at foot and has bred some tremendous cria in the past few years. In short she is a superb breeding machine and would be a valuable addition to any herd. I am very happy to report that the visitors are now to be Milarka and Minna's new owners. I know they will be very pleased with her, she does the business.

Thursday, 20 November 2008


What a splendiforous day it has been today.

I have been at home alone left to my own devices. Sue has been at work and Angus has been at school, obviously, for he is a schoolboy. First up was some badly needed updating of the girls on alpacaseller so a couple of hours on the computer. Then some other computer work that needed doing and out I went to mingle with the herd.

It is four weeks since Lily had her jaw abscess operated on so I was giving her a final check over to relay to the vet. I had just paid the bill and if I could avoid another visit costing more money I would.

On the subject of the bill and to encourage you all to check jaw lines religiously you may be interested to know that it came to a whopping £755. Now I don't know about you and bills but when I opened that envelope I was so scared a little bit of wee came out.........and that's never good.

Anyway I checked the lovely Lily over this morning for the vet. I knew what she was going to be like as I checked her yesterday. We've checked her just about every day since she came home so we know that she has almost healed up, the swelling has gone and she is munching apples like an apple munching monster, a lovely monster of course.

So I phoned the vet and told him what a great job he'd done and that was that. We'll just keep an eye on her but we have no cause for concern.

Something else I spotted yesterday amongst the herd was Patou Fifi had lost a toenail on one of her back legs. It looked painful but was dry and she wasn't limping, she is now also under observation. I haven't mentioned Fifi much on the blog, she is the cutest sweetest friendliest little bag of fawn fluff in the herd.

Fifi is what I call a 'noser'. If you walk out into the herd and bend over so that your head is the same height as an alpacas, within 5 minutes, more often than not, you will have a small fawn alpaca stuck to your nose peering at you with the biggest brown eyes.

I have never seen or heard her spit. I don't think she knows how to and if she did she would think it an awfully revolting habit.

After all that 'alpacerring' it was off to pick up the boy Angus from shool and once he was changed we were off out in the beautiful winter sunshine to walk the mad labs. We climbed a hill and looked back down on the herd and had some fun throwing a ball down that hill so that the really mad lab, the boy Josh could expend some energy. No doubt he will still be up at five tomorrow but hey we had a great time. If you're a parent you will know that sort of time together is special. Doing nothing special just enjoying each others company.........I'm talking about me and Angus here by the way not me and the mad labs.

As I write Angus is eating an enormous amount of spaghetti closely monitored by the labs. The chickens are shut in and I will shortly be lighting the woodburner and thinking about preparing supper for Sue and myself. A simple day, no dramas, nothing hugely exciting but an immensely satisfying one. Splendiforous all round.

Monday, 17 November 2008


My last ramble seemed to provoke a reaction and what an unexpected reaction it was, Sue and I are very grateful for the very nice comments that were posted. What a pick me up! Or pick US up I should say.

To tell the truth I do feel a little embarassed. I have always been someone who speaks (or in this case writes) without thinking. Sometimes it has got me into trouble, occasionally it as got me out of trouble but mostly I have ended up thinking that I should have thought a little more about what I was going to say before transmitting. In fact I spend a lot of time thinking about what I should have said instead of what I did say. When you are a Policeman dealing with highly charged situations it pays to wait, think, and then speak, but you don't always get the time.

I have declared in the blog previously that I am pretty much an open book, my emotions are right out there for all to see, I am transparent. I can't hide what I am feeling, just can't. Believe me I used to try...............until I realised I couldn't.

I suppose emotionally I am a still in my early teens and I say that with a soaking wet head having just had a flannel fight with Angus whilst he was having a bath.
Jeepers that boy's throwing arm is getting good. He caught me fair and square right in the chops with a somewhat illegally heavy flannel. Completely loaded with bath water, close range, hard throw, it hurt.
The rules state that each flannel should be squeezed out before throwing. That one wasn't, I saw him bend down and pick it straight up out of the water and then....... wallop......... it was stuck to my face. You should have heard him laughing, it was priceless. Situations like that make you realise how lucky you are. How lucky I am.

Anyway, I have been at work for the last four days, leaving in the dark, getting home in the dark, miserable. I haven't seen the herd since Friday and here I am finishing this blog entry on Wednesday morning. The sun is shining and I am immersing myself in alpaca world for the next two days. First up with some AD & E injecting this morning and then moving amongst the mighty patou with the camera and a bucket of food. They will have missed me as much as I have missed them! Obviously.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Faith,'s under attack.

I am in a very thoughtful mood. Drivel it still may be but it is thoughtful drivel.

Sue and I entered the alpaca world almost three years ago as the second step on a ladder which would ultimately change our lives dramatically. The first step had been the sale of our house in Dorset and the resulting purchase of our 'Wooden House' in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the South of France. It was a long term plan, eight years to be precise (still 4 years and 11 months to go). Some people said it was too long, sometimes I think it is too long.

The plan was to buy three female alpacas, which we did, and from them build a herd of alpacas through careful breeding that would be worthy of a business after the eight years had passed.

Three years down the line and we have 9 breeding females, (three black, three brown and three fawn) having purchased two more a year ago and 'grown' the others ourselves.

The herd, however, stands at 29 at the moment, which for us and our 5 acres, is maximum occupancy.

The rest of the herd is made up of our boys, including our new herdsire Columbus, and the sales herd. The sales herd is made up of animals belonging to others who have asked us to sell them on their behalf. The commission on the sales covers stud fees and the cost of running a herd of alpacas, in theory.

Last year, the first year of real business we did well. We have just received the accounts and we actually made a profit. Everything we made went back into the business.

This year the belief that we have in the ability of our alpacas to provide us with an income is under fire. We are going through the 'difficult' second year. The alpacas are in tip top condition, they are pampered, they are adored, they are watched carefully, they are fabulous, we love them all...........yes even the spitty ones and we don't regret making the decision to enter the alpaca world one single bit. Actually we can't imagine life without them.

However, we are starting to struggle. The cost of running two homes, a five year old and a herd of alpacas is beginning to take it's toll. For the last six months the alpaca bills have been paid by us personally and not the business (we don't earn huge amounts so it makes a big difference). The latest raft of bills (including Lily's jaw abscess whopper) arrived today and made me wince. In fact it made me want to run away and hide.

To try and ease the situation we have reduced the prices of all the alpacas on the website. We are having a winter sale, we need to shift some alpacas for monetary reasons and to reduce numbers, as I said earlier we are at maximum occupancy.

My faith and belief that we have made the right decision is still strong, I see that there is a future for alpacas and deep down I know that if we can weather the storm we will come out the other side and we will look back on a 'glitch'. At the moment though, the belief and faith are under attack.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Days too short

Winter seems to have arrived here and that brings the darkness. My dayshifts now start in the dark and finish in the dark which makes checking the alpacas tricky to say the least. Most of the time if I am working during the day Sue isn't but there are the odd occasions. I have considered reflective collars for them all but it might send them all potty. Going out in the dark to check them has its own hazards. Patouland is on a hillside, which means that we don't flood or get boggy but there is plenty of mud around at the moment and some days you would be better off strapping on skis to get down the runway to the grass.

It's funny to see the alpacas coming up for food. They obviously don't like the mud and tiptoe through it very daintily, the slightest slip sending them into alpaca panic mode!

I was out sorting the herd out yesterday as we had to rearrange the grazing for a day. The landlord has a small driven shoot twice a year and yesterday was the first. He likes all his chums to park their cars in the main field which is where the main herd is. So for the day we had to move the main herd into the top paddock and bump the boys into the little paddock.

It also meant the boys had access to the fieldshelter. I managed to take a picture of Columbus (left) and his new best friend Henry, who was our first ever cria.

They are joined at the hip and get on very well together although there is still a bit of standing still refusing to look at each other when there is food around. It is also of note that Columbus was sheared by some australian bloke and looks very neat and tidy whilst Henry was 'hacksheared' by yours truly. Hackshearing is the next big thing in shearing and will be all the rage soon. Before you gasp at the lack of ears on Henry in this photograph I must point out that they were not 'hacksheared' off but are simply tucked away until he is sure I'm not carrying anything sharp.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Back with some photos

I have been at work for the past 4 days working the evening shift, a gloomy mood descended upon me. However, the ridiculous grin has now found its way back on to my ridiculous face as I have three days at home with a) the family and b) the animals. Fantastic, not only that but as I write the sun is shining and the herd is looking magnificent!

I have just been out with the daily feed and herd check. Whilst out there I was watching the cria and the habit they have of hogging trough space but not actually eating anything. They just lie down next to the trough and soak up the atmosphere as the feeding frenzy around them takes place.
Jonah, Millie and Reggie assume pole position.

Priscilla is the worst offender she sounds like a wookie on crack as she tries to hog the whole trough.
Whilst watching I wandered up and took a close up of Lily's cria, Millie, she really has the most wonderful colouring and has inherited the lovely nature of her mum.

As I kneeled next to her I felt like I was being watched, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I could detect the faint sound of something breathing close behind me. I looked round slowly to find Alacazam and Reggie taking a great interest. They were begging for a photograph I could tell so here they are.

Reggie, you may remember, was delivered by the vet after presenting in the breach position, he really hasn't suffered as a result and is growing up into a very handsome young fellow.

Tonight I am doing my very first firework display for Angus as he missed it all this week. Afterwards I might have a drop of something warming.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Back to the drivel

Right after the serious stuff of yesterday (gave me a headache) back to the drivel, much more my style.

I was out yesterday amongst the herd walking the dogs and all 9 of our 2008 cria were in a group following us round the field. Now that they are getting older they are much more inquisitive. I only had my phone with me and it was a dreary overcast day but I took some snaps anyway. It was quite strange, every time I stopped and turned round they stopped and stared.
It was like being followed by the paparazzi I would imagine. Except these were the fluffiest cutest most endearing group of 'paps' around.

They were so sweet, some of stared at me some stared at the dogs. There was a lot of standing around pretending that nothing was going on. As soon as we moved off I could hear their little feet on the grass as they resumed 'the follow', only for them to stop when I stopped. It was like playing some sort of weird outdoor alpaca musical statues, without the music and without the present at the end of it. I'm sure there was some whispering going on too.

From left to right: Reggie, Barney, Blackjack, Millie, Minna, Moselle, Alacazam, Jonah with Juno grazing behind.

We are approaching weaning time with the oldest. The mums will go off for a short break with our good friends Liz and Peter just up the road and the male weanlings will go into the boys paddock with Columbus and Henry.

Then of course halter training will start. One of my favourite alpaca things to do. It's a great excuse to get up close and personal and do something together. Don't you just love them!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Mr Anonymous is at it again.

I have been quiet for a few days due to the constant interference of the day job but Sue is at work, I have just dropped Angus off at party and I have an hour to spare.
Then will follow some log chopping, alpaca feeding and a cup of tea with some friends who are coming to have a look at Columbus this afternoon. This evening will consist of a nice roast, followed by Strictly Come dancing in front of the log fire. Watching strictly come dancing, not doing it that is. Yes we are fans. I don't know why I am telling you all that but there we are, you now know.

Anyway alpaca stuff. I have read Bob's blog and see that he received the same letter as I did yesterday. It was a letter extolling the virtues of supporting the increase in registration fees for imported animals thus protecting the existing 'british' stock.

It was written by a 'small Uk home-grown breeder'. I searched for a name, a clue as to who had written it. Nothing, it was an anonymous letter. That annoyed me. Anonymous letters usually go straight in the bin or the fire whichever is closer, such is my disliking of them.

I'm sorry but if you are going to send out letters putting forward a strong point of view and extolling readers to act upon the contents of the letters then please, please have the guts and confidence to sign the bloody thing. Ooh it really annoys me.

Ben Harford, who objected to the introduction of the increased fees, put his name very much to the fore, he rang me (sadly I was in France) and sent me an e-mail and argued his case well. I didn't support his point of view but respect to him for standing up and having his say. As a result of his actions the board has changed it's tack.

I am a small breeder and have sold less animals than last year, has that got anything to do with imported animals? I don't know, but I doubt it. I have seen some very ugly looking alpacas that have been imported though and that can't be good. What sort of screening takes place?

If increasing the registration fees stops sub-standard alpacas that can't contribute to the improvement of the national herd getting into the country then that must be a good thing. Could not the same effect be achieved if the screening standards were much tougher?

I am not a political animal, I would rather let other people with greater knowledge of the subject matter sort things out. Sure I will offer an opinion if asked but that's about it. It's not entirely because I can't be bothered it's just not me. I am insular in a way, I like to just get on with things my own way and not have to rely on others. We like to be independent down here in Patouland

The futurity stuff arrived today, great stuff, we're looking forward to it immensely. We had a fantastic time this year at Newbury and if you are reading this and can't decide whether to go or not you simply must. It is brilliant. Total immersion into alpaca world for three days. Love it, just love it!

One thing annoyed me last year though. It said quite clearly (as it does this year) on the bumpf that people entering the showring must wear black trousers and white shirts. Did everyone abide by this small and not very difficult to follow rule? No, some people didn't. Why not? Because they are complete numpties that's why. It's a small request, for goodness sake make the effort.