Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tick follows tock..... follows tick follows tock....... the waiting continues.

Bobby is still wandering around in a daze. Today she is 333 days pregnant so, for her, she is breaking longevity records.
Sue has been on 'Bobbywatch' for the past four days as the day job has taken me away. However, I now have 6 days off and will be trying not to watch.
Actually those 6 days are going to be pretty busy. On Sunday we are celebrating our 20th Wedding Anniversary and have invited 90 people for you do. Today we are putting the marquee up (it is bound to rain) collecting garden furniture from all and sundry and generally tidying up the garden. Mmm, that's it then, the cria will be born on Sunday, at lunch time, guaranteed! Actually that would be awesome!

I have been meaning to tell you about a temporary visitor to the herd. Tisbury Dilly arrived with us a couple of weeks ago, she belongs to Liz a good friend who lives 2 miles up the road. Liz has a small herd and has the odd female to sell to cover costs and keep the herd small. Liz has some of the friendliest alpacas and Dilly is no exception. She always runs over when we go into the field and stands right in front of you waiting for attention. Whilst she does this her mouth is moving frantically as if she is trying to speak, she is a lovely girl, and it is nice to have daily cuddles forced upon us!

Dilly above, (yes I know she is completely the wrong colour), actually this is a rare shot as she is normally on the move towards us or as below when Sue was trying to take a picture of Bobby, ever so slightly in the way!

Anyway no more news at the moment, cria are starting to arrive on other blogs and pretty soon we'll all be posting about new arrivals, lets hope they are all healthy!

Friday, 23 April 2010


Not watching.......................but still waiting!

Like many alpaca breeders/farmers/growers out there we are waiting for the first birth of the year.
Our resident spit fountain, Bobby, is once again the first one due having produced recent multiple rosette winner Patou Penelope in Spring last year. That was after a 330 day gestation. Previously Bobby has produced our multiple rosette winning Patou Poppy after a 315 day gestation (as you can see Bobby tends to produce something good).
Bobby has now hit the 328 days mark and is showing a lot of signs that she is about to 'unpack'.

She is as wide as a very wide thing, moves very slowly around the paddock and spends a lot of time gazing into the distance as if she's trying to remember where she put something. She lies down a lot and is acting a little bit spaced out. Not only that but she has gone from being the first one at the feeding trough, skipping sideways spitting at will, to being the last one to lumber up the hill. Once at the trough she looks at it as if she doesn't know what it is and wanders around watching everyone else.

Bobby in contemplative mood earlier this week.

Bobby is pregnant to the simply awesome (fanfare required please) Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca. Jack is my favourite stud male in the whole wide world and he is as impressive looking as any stud male of any colour that I have seen, anywhere. Get the picture? He is pretty special. He is also owned by my mate, His Royal Highness the Lord Lieutenant of Inca Timothy Tippietoes.
As a result we are very keen to see what the Jack and Bobby show can produce.

The simply stunning Jack of Spades posing in front of our cottage when he was visiting last year.

Anyway today Sue and I will resume the Bobby watching, my 6.15am check revealed her to be up and grazing with the herd.
To indicate her readiness to unpack, below is a photograph Sue took earlier in the week of Bobby lying in the sun. When she showed it to me I said "I take it she's in mid roll?" Apparently not. Bobby was just lying there in the sun, her stomach so big that all four legs were off the ground.

It's a lovely sunny day would be nice...................... meanwhile, we'll be watching......................and waiting.........................

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Mighty Patou girls do it again!

I returned from the SWAG Spring show at Easter Compton last night slighty euphoric.
I eventually decided to take the girls up on Saturday night, they would be dry after a long day in the sun and would be kept out of the overnight frost. It meant that when they arrived in the ring they would be dry.

I had also decided that I would not lead them into the ring. The judge was my good mate His Royal Timness and I thought it would be better if we didn't come face to face in the ring.

Therefore I needed a handler. Someone who knew the animals, someone who knew about alpacas, someone with show ring experience. I also needed someone totally unconnected to the Patou herd and someone who could show them off to the full in the ring.

I mate Graham.

Graham didn't exactly fit the selection criteria. He had never touched an alpaca before, he looks like a slimmer taller version of me and he doesn't like being told what to do. Oh and he's suffering from a very painful bad back which is worse when he has to stand still. Perfect!

To make matters slightly more challenging we went out on Saturday night and had a skinful. Doing it all with a hangover seemed like the best thing to do.

We checked out of our hotel early on Sunday morning and arrived at the showground just after 7am. The girls were damp but it was sunny so we found some hurdles and got them out into the sun. Nice.

The girls had been checked over by the show organisers (who did a marvellous job by the way), Nick Weber and Lindsey Skinner, ably assisted by Gary Naish sporting a rather curious new hair arrangement. Despite my sneakiest tactics Penny was bumped from the brown intermediate class to the fawn class. She looks light brown sometimes and dark fawn at other times. C'est la vie. However it also meant that my top handler could show both girls.

So, first up in the second class of the day was Patou Amelie, our big gun. She behaves like a dream in the ring, is very calm and looks the business. Graham took her in and I watched from afar. The main challenge was Bozedown Daisy May who had beaten Millie at the Futurity. Fair enough she beat Millie again, density being the main difference. Still with a second place rosette we could have a crack at the Championship. The other brown girls returned . Daisy May picked up the Champion ribbon and Graham advanced into the front row to contest the reserve.

Come on my son!! Yes, Millie was declared the Reserve Champion! Woohoo!! Graham immediately bonded with Millie and declared alpaca showing as easy peasy!
We returned to our 'outside pen' to find Penny being looked after by Maurice and Sara from Appledene Alpacas. Apparently she didn't like being left on her own, despite there being alpacas all over the place including pens to the left and right. No, she kicked off big time. She kicked the hurdles, kicked over the water bucket, ripped off her show number, in short she threw a right old wobbly. Oh and she also rolled in the water that had been in the bucket before she kicked it over. Still never mind we had a few hours before the fawns were to be shown, she would dry out again.
After lunch and there was quite a bit of decision changing about who was going to take Penny into the ring. Graham was not so keen as she had revealed herself to be a bit of a Psycho and Maurice who had kindly offered to do the job had now seen Penny's 'other side'. The general 'suggestion' was that I should do it as I knew her.

After a bit of persuasion Graham, the main man, girded his loins and said he would take her in. Good lad!
It was a class of 8 fawn girls and some of them looked pretty good from where I was standing. I wasn't expecting anything but knew that Penny was looking at her best. Penny, true to form, kicked off in the ring and Graham was given some stern words of advice from Tim who's patience with a whirling Penny was wearing a bit thin.
After careful deliberation Penny was awarded second place! Fantastic! That meant that she would also have a crack at a championship ribbon! Could it happen? No, that would be asking too much and it was. Still two second places and a reserve champion ribbon from a two alpaca show team was a great result for the Mighty Patou! I was very pleased and very proud of our girls.
I did enter the ring myself later as Maurice and Sara from Appledene had asked me to show their awesome male Eringa Park Commandant. What a super looking male he is and what an absolute privilege it was to parade him in the ring. He was just pipped to the fawn Championship by a Bozedown stunner but Commandant is an elite top quality male, I liked him a great deal and would have loved to have taken him home! Thanks to Maurice and Sara for allowing me to show him.
It was great meeting everyone again and I think it was a cracking show not just taking our results into account.
Next up The Royal Bath and West! Bring it on!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

It's showtime!

I have finally grabbed a few minutes to post a blog. Day job issues and lots of planning for our 20th Wedding Anniversary Party at the beginning of next month have been preventing me for the past week. Yes I know, 20 years, Mrs S deserves a very shiny medal!

Anyway, although I still have tomorrow at the day job I can now start to plan for this weekend's SWAG (South West Alpaca Group) Spring Show at Bristol.

Huge deliberations have taken place all week as to who should represent the mighty Patou in the show and Penny and Millie have once again been volunteered to step into the breech from a potential list of, um.............., ............ it was just the two of them then.

Should be interesting as they are both in the same class and I am reluctant to enter the ring myself this time. Any volunteers to lead one of them into the ring in the intermediate brown female class on Sunday morning will be carefully considered!

The biosecurity issue seems to have been handled very efficiently again but as we are not showing on Saturday we will be tipping up on Sunday morning. I have a lot of fencing to catch up with on Saturday and being the worst fencing operative in the whole wide world I need all the time I can get.

Patou Penelope and Patou Amelie looking resplendent in the sunshine and ready for action!

Looking forward to catching up with friends new and old so see you all on Sunday.
Mrs S will be holding the fort at home as Bobby is now very large, very lethargic (she's even stopped spitting at us at feeding time!) and currently at 320 days which is right in her early birthing window.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Introductions. Lily.

You may have noticed in previous postings that I refer to lily as 'My favourite alpaca in the whole wide world'. She is, and there are several reasons for this. I will try to explain why in the telling of her short life to date.

Lily was born on the 3rd of August 2006, our second cria and our first female. A Shaft's Dream girl, pictured below with her mother Bannock. As we only had two cria in our first year Lily and Henry got rather a lot of attention.

We were eager to get involved in alpaca shows and as such we set off with a mighty show team of two to the SWAG Spring Show, Lily having been expertly halter trained by Spiderman. Here caught in a rare moment when he is without his mask.
Lily did very well, coming second in a class of about 14 black girls. Our first rosette, it was a very proud day. Here she is accepting yet another cuddle from Angus, never complaining always obliging.

Lily grew well and late in 2007 Lily was covered by Centurion. Naturally, being Lily, only one mating was required. 11 and a half months to the day later Lily delivered, in text book fashion, Amelie, a beautiful healthy brown daughter.
Shortly after Amelie was born, on a beautiful sunny day I took the camera out and sat in the field. Lily came over with her new baby and they lay down next to me. The reason Lily's head is not visible in this picture is because it is right under my arm and it was too close to get in the picture. It was as if Lily was showing me her baby and in turn showing her baby that there was nothing to be afraid of when baldy came around. It was a special moment, a very special moment.

Two months before giving birth we had discovered that Lily had developed a jaw abscess on her lower jaw. An intensive course of antibiotics (Nuflor) was administered and the abscess reduced in size and all but disappeared. A few months later and it had returned with a vengeance. After lengthy discussions we decided that it would be surgically removed.

Luckily for us there is a superb Equine Hospital just the other side of Salisbury and it was there that I took Lily, Amelie and Lola (Lily's sister) for company. Three days later I collected them and the operation was declared a complete success. The front root on her first molar on the lower left jaw had been removed and the tooth had been saved. It had cost us a small fortune but it was Lily, there was no quibble about expense.

The next short passage is difficult for me to write. It makes me angry and sad to think about it.

It was time to wean Amelie off Lily, it was the end of January 2009. I loaded Lily and two others into our trailer for a short five minute drive to our friend Liz who looks after the mums whilst the babies learn to live without suckling. At the time we had an old horsebox, a very old horsebox. On arrival I opened up the trailer and Lily was lying down by the side door which is the door they were loaded through. It quickly became apparent that she had her foot caught in the trailer door. I released her foot but part of her rear right foot had been severed. I thought I had been so careful when shutting the trailer door, obviously not. That trailer has never and will never be used again, it sits in the field and I hate the bloody thing.

To say I was furious with myself would be a gross understatement. I wanted to kick my own head in. Lily hadn't made a sound throughout and we quickly got her home and called the vet.

He cleaned the wound and bandaged her up. Another long course of antibiotics was prescribed. Then it started to snow. After an already long wet winter we struggled to keep her dressing dry. It had to be changed every three days and with 6 inches of snow on the ground we needed help.

Good friends of ours Ivan and Gill came to the rescue with the offer to use their barn. Lily was taken over with two companions (the wrong two as it turned out) and housed in a lovely dry barn. The dressings remained dry and the wound started to improve. On the 20th of March 2009 the dressing came off for the last time the foot had healed but at a price.

Three days later we went to see Lily and found her in a bad way. She was not eating, she was thin, she was down and we were worried. The vet was called. He examined her thoroughly. Her guts had shut down, she was severely anaemic and she was very thin. She was showing no interest in life. The vet said, and I'll never forget his words, 'Sorry, you are going to lose this one, she's given up'. There were tears at this point and then Sue and I decided that we would take her home immediately. Lily may have given up but we had not given up on her.
What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary. I drove the trailer into the field and opened the rear door. I was practically knocked over by Lola and Bannock as they rushed to get to Lily. There was a lot of sniffing and they stayed close to her from then on. Never underestimate the bond between alpaca family members!
I put a chart on the wall. It was titled 'Lily - Operation fightback'.

Blood results came back, the news was not good, Lily shouldn't really have been alive. There was talk of a blood transfusion. We changed vets to facilitate this and sought further advice. We commenced a full on regime aimed at getting Lily back from the brink. She stared eating again. We were pouring high energy meals down her twice a day, injecting her with iron, multi-vitamins. You name it, if we thought it could help we did it. The support we received from the alpaca community was immense.

Lily slowly turned things around, her bloods improved, she improved, she started to put on weight she came back to us and our new vet was very pleased with her progress. She made a full recovery and by the end of May her bloods were back to normal. So much so that after another lengthy discussion Lily was mated to Jack of Spades.

Our very special Lily pictured above fully recovered. She is due to give birth late in May and we can't wait to see what she will produce. After all she produced something pretty special last time.
Sorry that was a bit long winded, it's been quite an emotional morning for me going back over all that. Hopefully you will now see why Lily is my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Introductions. Part 4.

So to the third and last of our intitial 'foundation girls', Bobby, resident spit fountain. Queen of the grumpy hair trigger line.

Incidentally our 'foundation girls', Bobby, Priscilla and Bannock were selected using the following criteria; We wanted some alpacas. We could only afford three, they were fluffy and in front of us and could be ours! That was it. There was a little bit of talk about fleece and conformation but I don't think I was listening I just wanted to take them home and look at them.

Anyway, Bobby, was the youngest and the most expensive of the three. She was a Wessex Mateus daughter and we were also buying her mother, Priscilla, she of the chinny chin chin.
She was soooooooo fluffy!

Bobby was pregnant on arrival, who to, I have no idea, I just can't remember. Sadly, she aborted twins at about 6 months. Still that meant we could choose the next sire and as we were looking for some brown in the herd we went for ATA Cambridge Centurion, a black super stud.

Sure enough Centurion and Bobby did their stuff and in June 2007 along came the whirling stress monkey that is Poppy. Poppy was born at 315 days and was very weak. We had 24 hours of round the clock milking and feeding to get her sorted out. Milking Bobby is not something Sue and I would like to repeat! Bobby switched to fully automatic mode and the air was green, every three hours!
It was all worth it though and Poppy turned out to be a little cracker. She went on to pick up rosettes for us at some really big alpaca shows. Here she is pictured with some egg head picking up a first place at the Royal Bath and West Show. A very proud day at Patou! Poppy also went on to win second place rosettes at the SWAG Spring Show and the British Alpaca Futurity.
Pops is now pregnant herself to Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca and we are looking forward to her being a mum in June. Serious potential for a stunning cria there!

We struggled to get Bobby pregnant in 2007, it was either the foot and mouth outbreak or the arrival of Blue tongue that prevented us from having enough 'stud time' and as such Bobby went through the winter empty. We were keen to get started with her in 2008 and as luck would have it all she needed was one mating from Canchones Witness of Inca and she was pregnant.

Subsequently in March last year Bobby gave birth to another feisty hair trigger stress monkey, Penny. Born in a lovely warm Spring Penny grew at a phenomenal weight, doubling her 10kg birth weight in less than a month!
Penny has also been successful in the show ring and is pictured below, with the same idiot as before, picking up a third place at this years Futurity. She was soaking wet I must point out and I reckon she could have done better if she had been in show condition. Well I would say that wouldn't I?

Bobby is now also pregnant to the imperious Jack of Spades and is 310 days down the line today. She is as wide as a house and at her spittiest, frequently giving either Sue or myself a quick sideways blast for no apparent reason at feeding times.
Still, she has been the provider of two lovely girls who will no doubt go on to form the basis of a world beating line of brown alpacas! For that we can forgive her the odd broadside!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Introductions. Part 3.

Well, have you had enough yet?
This is three blogs in three nights for me and it's write this or watch a programme called Bob Triangle pants or something on the television with Angus. The blog writing won!

So to the subject of this 'introduction', it is Priscilla, Queen of Patou.
Priscilla was another one of our foundation herd members (don't worry there were only three) and will be ten years old this summer. Another of the foundation members was her daughter Bobby (resident spit fountain).

Priscilla arrived pregnant to Wessex Mateus, who I have to say is one of my favourite white males. I saw him again a couple of weeks ago and he still looks good, great shape to him. Now the more observant amongst you may notice two things in the below head shot of Priscilla. Firstly she has her tag in the wrong ear and secondly she has a white spot about the size of a 50p piece on her chinny chin chin. There are no other white fibres on Priscilla, none apart from her chin. That white spot would go on to have a bearing on Priscilla's cria and Priscilla herself has become a bit of an experiment in motion.

Later that summer the first ever Patou cria was born. Patou Henry a solid dark fawn with no white markings, (eartag number PAT001) arrived in textbook fashion and immediately thrived even though we had absolutely no idea what we were doing or what was going on. He was quickly followed by Lily and we were up and running as a herd.

That summer we mated Priscilla to the magnificent ATA Cambridge Centurion trying to get a nice black or brown cria. We had forgotton all about the little white chinny chin chin.

11 months later, again in textbook fashion, saw the arrival of the totally dapper Bo Jangles. A beautiful healthy boy with very handsome markings. The little white chinny chin chin was working it's magic.

Intent on trying to get that dark coloured cria we tried again this time with Canchones Witness of Inca, another black superstud. Eleven months later a huge brown cria, Jonah, was born. A white chin and a white spot on his foot proved that the chinny chin chin was still working against us. We decided to try one more time with a different black male. By this time the awesome Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca had arrived on the scene and we were keen to give him ago.

11 months later a lovely black cria arrived on the scene. Minstrel, Priscilla's first female cria since Bobby was again a textbook birth but that chinny chin chin was still proving a very difficult adversary when trying for solid cria!
As a result we mated Priscilla to our own boy, Cambridge Columbus. The theory being that if she is mated to a male lighter than her she will produce a solid colour. Priscilla is due in mid June and will produce our first Columbus cria, we are very excited but will the chinny chin chin strike again?