Friday, 28 December 2012

New pants - just in time!

I have new pants, not as in American 'pants', no I have new underpants. They were needed, they weren't a Christmas present they were needed before that, it couldn't wait. This is probably too much information for you readers but I am sure you can cope with it, I mean everything else we do is laid bare for all to see so a little underpant talk should be a doddle for you.

The reason I required new undercrackers was twofold. Firstly I am the sort of person who doesn't get new pants very often. My shreddies become like good friends to me, each pair is acknowledged for the important  duty that it carries out, each pair is individally cherished and recognised as being slighty different to the other pairs. They are all important to me. So much so that  I tend to hang on to them for a little too long. Some of them are more hole than not hole, some are very thin, some are older than our oldest alpaca (and she's nearly 15), some just give up and fall off.

So just before Christmas I visited Mr Marks and Spencers online shop and new trollies were despatched to Patou HQ.

Dee, our oldest alpaca and Truffle earlier in the year when it was dry!

They have been well used since their arrival mainly due to the weather. Patouland is nestled at the head of a beautiful valley on the magnificent Fonthill Estate. The Fonthill Estate bottles it's own water and provides all residents (including us) with free mains tap water. That may give you an idea as to how much water there is in these parts. The water that they produce is pumped from deep underground I presume but to get there it obviously has to fall out of the sky first. This year, as us outdoorsy types are aware, has been rather wet, there has been rather a lot of water falling out of the sky. A lot of it came during the summer meaning that when the winter rains arrived there was nowhere for it to go. Puddles became ponds, Springs have sprung up everywhere here and I am permanently sinking when I am outside. Gone are the days when I could skip across sodden ground with the nimbleness and surefootedness of a light skippy thing. Now, one large wellie is placed on the ground and the second one is gradually ripped with a noisy squelch from the thick sucking mud as wellie number one is slowly disappearing into a muddy abyss, and so on.

I also picked a good year to decide to forage for all of our firewood from the surrounding woodland. I know I should have started in the summer (would it have made any difference?) and filled up the log shed but I didn't. As a a result I trudge up the slippery slopes to the woods with a saw and my wheelbarrow to select fallen wood that isn't too wet. When I find a nice thick branch that has fallen from a big tree, be it Oak, Ash or Elm, and see that it has been caught in the branches and is therefore just hanging there with only it's toe touching the ground my excitement is almost uncontrollable. I dream of dry seasoned wood, seriously I do!

The treacherous slope when it was dry and not a health hazard (it's steeper than it looks!)

Anyway the second reason my new undercrackers have become invaluable is because of the descent I have to make from the woodland with a wheelbarrow full of freshly chopped logs. To get home with my logs I need to tackle a steep treacherous slope. Walking down a steep slope with a heavy wheelbarrow is hard enough but when that slope is covered in what feels underfoot like watery snot the danger level is escalated to a very high level. As a consequence I have fallen over more times than I would care to remember over the last two months or so. Falling over when stone cold sober is unfamiliar territory for me but I must do it, despite preparing myself and trying very hard not to do it, at least twice a week. A man of my stature landing on wet ground means wet underpants every time, hence my need for reinforcements in the underwear draw.

Next blog - alpaca stuff, honest!

Friday, 21 December 2012

An early Christmas present.

I am so sorry that I haven't blogged for a while, we have been flat out here with one thing and another and I seem to be spending a lot of time at the day job. Almost to the point where I have checked my duty roster just to make sure they are not 'overworking me'.
Not only that but we have been very busy on the alpaca front not helped by the weather. It is official I hate mud.

Anyway several week ago I mentioned that we were doing something that could have ramifications on the future of our herd and I wasn't joking. We were given the opportunity to have the whole herd bTB tested using the new (and not licensed for use in the UK yet) Enferplex blood test.

This was the test used by the Inca Tribe to test the massed ranks of the Inca herd after the 'Swedish affair' that Tim wrote about in Alpaca World.

We had no suspicion that there was TB in the herd, in fact the herd is in fine fettle, looking great, well it is when it's not wet and muddy!

It would be a private test and for that we needed permission from DEFRA to carry it out. It would also be fairly costly and if any alpacas had tested positive there would be no compensation forthcoming.

So why have the test done? Well, we thought long and hard about it, we live in Wiltshire which is now in the 12 month testing zone, so it is about in these parts. We decided that we would rather know one way or the other. As I said we didn't suspect it, our vets didn't suspect it so it was a calculated risk, we anticipated the herd to test clear and with that positive mindset we set the ball rolling.

First of all the lovely Louise came round and took blood from the entire herd. The blood was then couriered to the lab in Ireland where the test was carried out. Whilst this was going on we waited, and waited. We tried not to think about it, we didn't talk about it, but we looked at each other every now and then and we could both see what we were thinking. What if? Who had we possibly sentenced to death?
It didn't bear thinking about. We didn't sleep well. I became rather short tempered and adrift (I may have been short tempered anyway).

Finally after two weeks of nail biting the test results came through and the Mighty Patou herd had indeed tested clear, everyone. Nothing to it really!

Now we can get on with Christmas! Incidentally I received the results on Tuesday evening of this week. I was working an evening shift. I have been working evenings ever since and am working evenings today. Tomorrow, I may have a celebratory snifter!

Monday, 3 December 2012

A concerning time.

We have slightly concerned faces down here in Patouland. One of or number is not well. One of our number is decidedly not well at all. And when one of us is not well, none of us are well. It's a team thing. It's tribal.
It is one of this years cria, it is Tsar Tsar Superstar, the pick of the bunch. It bloody well would be him, wouldn't it?

Just over two weeks ago I rounded up the entire herd in it's various groups and treated everyone against Liver Fluke using Fasinex, a drench. With my relatively new all singing multi-drencher it was a doddle and was carried out without so much as a splutter. Actually there was one, Sirrocco. She made a bit of a spluttering fuss about it but I am sure that it was more to do with her demeanour than my drenching technique. Anyway whilst I drenched away I also carried out my routine checks which we like to do every fortnight. Jaws, teeth, eyes, feet and of course condition. I was pleased, all was well. I was particularly pleased that Tsar Tsar Superstar was in good condition. You may remember that he was a slow starter and had been bottle fed for a while until he got the hang of suckling so to feel him in good nick was satisfying.

So, when I next got hands on him twelve days later (last Thursday) I was absolutely stunned to find him as thin as a rake and I mean thin, very thin. Worryingly thin. Parasites were immediately suspected and he was wormed (Panomec) and treated against Coccidiosis (Baycox). He was also moved into the weaning paddock with his mother Millie and observations and action began. He was grazing like mad but Millie didn't seem to have much milk. We started bottle feeding him but he fought against it. On Sunday we moved them into the warm dry shed with the ultimate companion, or oldest girl, Dee (she has done it so often she is a real professional at it). I surrounded them with fresh hay and hard feed and we carried on with the bottle feeding.

Tsar Tsar Superstar and his mother Millie

When we checked them at lunch time something was obviously not right. Tsar was on his side and was obviously suffering from severe abdominal pain. It was a no brainer, we needed a vet straight away. We tend to only need vets on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Forty-five minutes later and little Tsar was being poked and prodded in every direction. He politely dropped a large solid turd for the vet to take away and provided three tubes of blood for further investigations. He was given Buscopan (anti-spasmodic) and given a thorough examination. He had heart arrhythmia (missing the odd beat), which I have since found out from the Lord of the Inca tribe can be due to being very thin. We hope so rather than some congenital defect. 

My theory is that it was either worms or coccidia. Which hopefully have now been dealt with. I think that when he moved to the weaning paddock, which is still full of lush green grass (not much in it I know) he gorged himself a bit and gave himself a touch of colic. If I am right, and I hope I am, it is just a case of feeding him up. 

Today he seems a bit livelier, he is no longer in pain and is eating hay and hard feed as well as suckling and taking milk from us. All very positive signs. We await the results of the blood tests.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Dutch Connection

My emotions have been all over the place this week. I have just about covered the whole range from ecstatically happy to down in the dumps miserable as sin.

We have made some decisions this week that could have serious ramifications for the Mighty Patou herd in the next couple of weeks. I don't like to tease but I am holding off for the moment on what those decisions are, suffice it to say that when  I can I will publicise the results of those decisions. It may just be a short sentence or it may be reams of idiotic drivel depending on the result but you will be the first to know. I promise.

The past few days have also been quite exciting tinged with sadness. On Sunday I received an e-mail from an alpaca breeder in Holland. We have been exchanging e-mails and information since then, despite the language barrier (how accurate is Google translator?) and yesterday a deal was finally done.

Patou Sultan (affectionately known as Sultana here) who we put up for sale a couple of weeks ago as a young potential herdsire is going to go and live with some lovely females in Holland. Hopefully next year, when he hits 2 years old he will be 'entertaining' some of them!

Now this is a big moment for us, Sultan is the product of several years of coloured breeding here in Patouland and has a great coloured pedigree. His mother, Patou Penny, is one of our very best brown females and his sire, Lillyfield Jack of Spades needs no introduction anywhere in Europe.

He will be the first future herdsire that we have sold and although we are excited that he will be going abroad to make his mark we are a little bit sad to see him go, he is a lovely boy.

Patou Sultan in March 2012

Now, having never exported an alpaca abroad I was in a little bit of a flap. How would I get one alpaca across the sea to Holland? As with any alpaca query that I have I contacted His Royal Highness The King of Darkness the Honorable Timothy of Inca. As luck would have it, a group, with space for one more, is leaving the UK, bound for Holland on the 6th of December. Sultan was whipped down to Incaland quick smart and is now under the command of the Inca Empire. Once again old twinkletoes has come to our assistance.

Patou Sultan(a), November 2012, aged 16 months. Right must go I am getting a bit unnecessary.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Futures decided

One of the bonuses of having so many male cria last summer was that people fall in love with the boys and we very rarely have to advertise to find our boys new homes. People who want alpacas and don't want to start a breeding herd obviously go for the boys and they do make great outdoor pets, or indoor, it's your choice!

We have never had a problem finding good homes for the boys who don't quite make the grade as herdsire potential and this year seems to be no different. Four boys now have new homes to look forward to and excited prospective new alpaca owners are counting down the days.

Three boys will be going to live in Odstock, just outside Salisbury. Mrs S passes the field that they will be in on her way to work so she will get a nice view of them regularly and will be able to pop in if any problems arise. That's always nice, we do like to keep in touch with members of the mighty herd. The boys are all Qjori boys who for whatever reason haven't quite made it and once weaned and halter trained will be heading off to give years of pleasure to their new owners.

Here is Travis, not a very good photo I'm afraid but the weather is very dreary today so it's the best that I could find.

Travis will be moving with Taz, who did decide to pose nicely a couple of weeks ago. 

Taz and Travis will be accompanied by Talisker, who is a very handsome boy and a real poser, all of the time.

The other boy who will be heading to pastures new is The Mighty Quin. Quin was 'reserved' at a very early age and will be joining previous members of the herd in Hanging Langford where I know he will be spoilt rotten. In fact I may be so bold as to say that he has 'Mummy's boy' written all over him!

All four boys are doing very well and although we will be sad to see them go we know they will be looked after very well.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

U to me are everything, the sweetest.........

I have been thinking again. I know, I know, me, thinking, again. These days I don't think I am meant to do much thinking, I mean maybe I wasn't ever meant to do much thinking. I was created for the following things surely: to push in the scrum, continually and mostly unsuccessfully attempt to sidestep, overpower naughty people, eat too much, drink beer and generally lark about whenever possible? What a wonderfully simple life that would have been.

Maybe things are on the change though, maybe now as the muscles wane and my speed off the mark has reduced to something akin to an ancient steam train setting off from Paddington station on greasy rails it is time to modify, time to diversify if you like, time to start thinking a bit more. Not too much you understand I don't want or need to overdo it, I don't want to burn myself out or anything silly like that. No just some gentle not too taxing thinking, perhaps not even proper thinking, maybe just some harmless musing? Yes that sounds more like it, I shall carry out some low key harmless musing. Right that's settled.

I have been thinking or rather musing rather too much about the letter U. For two reasons really. Firstly Angus has been using my computer a lot to play his computer games, although he is rationed by time on the computer, all our household computers are now password protected to stop any unauthorised access to 'game time'. However, we are not the Gestapo and sometimes the clock runs over and the small boy in the house taps away at the keyboard on my laptop, building fantastical dens and fighting off mutant tree creepers or something similar. Well how does this relate to the letter U? Well the letter U on my laptop is now no longer like the other keys. The letter U is now depressed a little further than the other keys. In other words the little sod has broken my letter U! So if there are words in this blog posting missing a letter U it is because I now have to stab the key with my finger to get it to register! We have had a father to son chat where the words 'treat' and 'property' and 'respect' were used rather a lot so I am hoping the letter U isn't joined any time soon by the letter A or W. He has asked for a laptop for Christmas. Mmmm, we'll see.

Anyway the second reason that the letter U has been the subject of some gentle musings is that next year is our U year. Or is it? Trying to be different we decided to start naming newcomers to the herd with the same letter each year. Doesn't sound too different, lots of people do that. Well for some reason we decided to start, having used no naming methodology for the first three years, with the letter R. I think it was because we decided to start when Qjori arrived and, well R follows Q. However as last year was T, it follows that next year is to be U. Maybe it will be U and V. Or maybe we'll just skip to W? But then we'll be onto X the following year! I must discuss this with Mrs S. This needs thinking about!

So, yesterday I wandered about a bit musing on things and taking a few photographs. Pictured below is Patou Sahara. You may remember that Sahara developed a breathing problem when she was about 6 weeks old. We never fully got to the bottom of it, following tests, x-rays and endless examinations and theories it was eventually decided that she had damaged her phrenic nerve which stopped her diaphragm from working properly. It gradually improved and she is now completely normal. She is also a very pretty girl and with her father being our Cambridge Columbus we are keen to see what she produces next year having been covered by Qjori this year.

I was primarily out to take some photographs of Patou Sultan one of the stars from our show team last year. We have decided to offer him up for sale as a potential herdsire. He does stand out in the paddock and has a terrific coloured pedigree. So photographs snapped, he has now been advertised.

Actually trying to take photographs of Sultan on his own wasn't easy. He has recently struck up a close friendship with Rafiki who insisted in getting into almost every shot. In fact he was not only getting in the way he was posing for the camera the whole time. It has also been decided that Rafiki is staying put here. He will be Qjori's companion or blood donor for plasma or whatever you like to call him. He is just too much of a character to sell. He is a complete muppet.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Some real drivel about breeding for colour

I have been thinking a lot over the past three days, I know, thinking, me, for three days, remarkable, didn't know I had it in me. I must have though, as I am now looking back at three days of serious thinking. I wasn't thinking the whole time you understand, there were large periods of 'situation normal' time whereby I was just sitting, standing or lying, a blank expression on my face with only the thoughts required to keep me from passing away subconsciously coursing through my shiny skull. When I wasn't in 'suspended animation' mode I was thinking about alpacas or more to the point breeding alpacas and the ultimate end goal for the Patou herd.
The reason for this intense period of thinking is because I have been updating the Patou website with a new page entitled 'Our herd'. So far I have only managed to get all the females up on the page and that took me, on and off, three days. It's time consuming work!

Some alpacas, can't remember their names.

One of the reasons that it took so long is that I was writing a short description of each female giving some details of parentage etc. Although I know the pedigree of most of them off pat I was checking with the BAS Registry so that I could eliminate any mistakes. The older I get the more mistakes I make and the more facts I forget, I am sure those of you the wrong side of 40 can sympathise with me.

Anyway, I digress (I do more and more of that these days too), so as I was checking my facts with the registry I was making a mental note of who the influential herdsires have been in the Mighty Patou herd over the past 6 years or so.

Other bloggers in the UK who write excellent accounts of breeding alpacas, frequently and proudly quote names such as Commissario, Conquistador, Ruffo, Spartacus, Top Account (yes, he's up there Graham and Jenny), Galaxy, Jacinto, Czar, Navigator etc. (please don't be offended if I have missed out your particular male or your favourite, it is merely a list as an example!) I obviously can't name them all and I may have spelt the names wrong but you get the picture, the list was just off the top of my head but the names are all familiar I am sure. These males, and as I have said the list is not exhaustive, possess genetics that anyone would love to have in their herd.

Some alpacas in a field with a woman.

However, if I am not very much mistaken the list is predominantly, if not exclusively, white. White alpacas with white genetics. There may be the odd beige or fawn male in there but essentially they are all white males, some are a bit whiter than others. Now I hope I am not offending or upsetting anyone here, as I said these alpacas possess genetics that we would all love in our herds, including me, these males are all outstanding. I haven't seen many of them you understand but I am assuming, from reputation alone that they are very good.

So what is the point of highlighting this? I'm not quite sure actually, I seem to have drifted off momentarily.

I had a nice green Thai curry last night, very nice.

So where were we, hold on, I will have to go upstairs and get the piece of paper that is on my bedside table. I awoke last night, my mind full of alpaca stuff and wrote some of it down. Woke Sue up I'm afraid such was the ferocity of my scribbling.

Right, it wasn't there, it was in the kitchen. I have no recollection of moving it to the kitchen but hey ho, may I refer you to previous memory related comments in this article.

Here is what I wrote, exactly as I scrawled it:

Breeding coloured alpacas
Herdsires - Spartacus, Commissario...... all white
Coloured alpacas - fawn, beige - no
Although very important - white/fawn
Shades of white
Boast superior white genetics
Colours - brown and down
coming from the dark side

The scribbled ramblings of an idiot half asleep.

Essentially what I was thinking was what we all know anyway, the top quality alpacas are at the lighter end of the colour spectrum. Not only that but that they are vitally important to the future of the alpaca industry. Quality is and must be everything within our industry, it simply has to be the focus for everyone.

So what all the claptrap about the dark side etc? Well what I was thinking and I haven't shifted my viewpoint since my night-time scribblings is this:

Here are some alpacas under a tree.

Beige alpacas are essentially white alpacas that aren't quite white enough, the same can be said for light fawn alpacas, they are white alpacas that just aren't white enough. I am of course, generalising as sometimes you get a white, beige or light fawn alpaca from dark coloured parents. Medium fawn? I think there is an argument for putting medium fawn alpacas in the same classification as beige and light fawn although these days there are all sorts of combinations with regards to mixing up the colours occurring at mating time and I can fully understand the thinking behind them.

So to the Patou herd. We don't have the genetics of which I burbled on about earlier. We don't have any of the names I mentioned featuring in any pedigrees. So my point is this (and it has taken all this rambling drivel to get to a point? Yes, yes it has). Is the reason that they don't feature because we are coming at alpacas from the opposite end of the colour spectrum or are we just not investing in the right matings?

To answer that we have to look at who we do have featuring in our pedigrees here in the weird, sometimes (mostly more like) confused world of Patou?

Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca, ATA Cambridge Centurion, Canchones Witness, three giants in the black alpaca world and all three hugely influential in the UK and Europe.  Ok,so not a bad start then.

Our boy Cambridge Columbus has done well for us and in the process of becoming the biggest influence (you don't know how much I want it to be a great influence) is Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, our Aussie brown boy. We have had 10 cria from him during the summer of which you may have read and there are 19 females bearing his progeny, due to birth here next year.

There are other notable males mentioned in the pedigrees of the herd and there need to be more introduced next year but so far I think we are heading in the right direction.

So, discuss, I suppose. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say on the matter.

Patou Talisker, wondering what's what.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Reluctant Poseurs!

When I walk around checking the alpacas when the sun is shining and the birds are singing one particular group of alpacas always makes me stop and watch just that little bit longer. The field with all the cria in? No, you would think that but no it is in fact the paddock at the top of the hill where Qjori and his minions live for most of the year. I happen to believe we have a pretty impressive looking bunch of brown male alpacas. Some are herdsire quality some are not but nevertheless they do look wonderful in the sunshine. They have all done very well for us in the show ring over the past couple of years. I often try and take a picture of them in a group but usually fail miserably. Anyway I thought I would share with you this weeks efforts, not perfect but I am getting there!

Qjori, Rafiki and Sultan have the pose but Woody and Roger are really not concentrating.

Qjori and Rafiki are still holding the pose but now Sultan has joined the naughty boys.

The dogs running back from an interesting smell cause some interest but Roger is now 'hiding'.

Finally everyone is paying attention but Woody is now hiding!

About as good as it gets everyone in a line and all sort of paying attention.

Now cropped, from left to right Roger, Qjori, Rafiki, Woody and Sultan. Now I need to get a photograph with a nice background, which doesn't include a telegraph pole!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Fleece, fleece, fleece!

I am sorry that I haven't blogged for a while, there are several reasons, job, business, stuff, etc. Anyway here I am, my fingers dancing across the keyboard in a blur of dexterity and accuracy. Actually I am in a serious mood at the moment. I have been gibbering around in a whirl of caffeine fuelled frivolity for most of the day but I have calmed down and I am being, or I am trying to be, serious.

So, on to today's drivel.

Fleece, fibre, hair, fluff, wool, hirsuitedness, that's what its all about. The reason we breed these beautiful beguiling creatures is because of the fleece. The fact that we love them and want to hug them and enjoy everything about them, bar one thing of course is another matter, it is secondary. The number one reason for breeding alpacas is all about the fleece, the fibre etc......

So it was with great trepidation that I received the fleece results for the Mighty Patou herd last week. Great trepidation because I want them to be good but they generally aren't and there are normally one or two surprises. This year is no different. 

The main surprise this year is that the finest four alpacas in the paddocks here in Patouland are all the progeny of one male. Not Qjori,, his first progeny have only landed this year so we will see those results next year.

No, the four finest fleeced alpacas in the herd are all the progeny of our other herdsire. 

Yes folks, the herdsire in question is none other than Herr Clumpmeister himself, Cambridge Columbus.

Now Columbus hasn't been used this year as we have used Qjori over everything, we have done that to maximise his potential. Qjori is our top man, our main herdsire, he is 'The Special One' here in Patouland. 

Even though Columbus had produced some nice cria last year we wanted to see what Qjori could do over the same females. Qjori was a step up in quality we thought. Now though, the pressure is on.

Here is Columbus (with me at the controls) at The Bath and West Show a couple of years ago where he was first placed senior brown male. 

The thing about breeding brown alpacas, (those of you who know me or who read this missive will have gathered that I am rather passionate about the brownies) is that it's not easy. I know, I know, calm down I know it's not easy breeding any colour to a high standard but with the colours and particularly the browns there are several other dimensions to consider. 

Allow me to explain (bear in mind this is my opinion and my view only, it is not data gained from extensive research!) 
Bear with me, for example, there are many high quality white males in the UK. These males have come from many generations of whites and when put over a white female I doubt there are many colour 'mistakes' with the progeny? If I'm wrong please do let me know. We all know that the white alpacas are ahead quality wise too. How many supreme champions are non-white at the bigger shows? Not many. In fact very few at any show let alone the big ones. The new beige class may change that but still, at the moment whites reign supreme, there is no doubt.

So to the other colours. The further you get away from the whites the harder it has been to breed in quality. With the possible exception of black. A lot of time, money, expertise and hard work has been put into breeding black alpacas to a high quality. Not just here but all over the world. Black fleece is desireable. Black is a cool colour after all! So blacks are ahead of browns I reckon, and that's mainly down to Old Inca chops in my opinion.

So the darkest colour after black is obviously brown. That is where we come in, where we have decided to throw our tuppence worth in, where we choose to put all our efforts in. I mean Qjori came from Tasmania, we couldn't have looked any further away for a high quality brown male!

But our efforts started long before that. Our first three alpacas were black, brown and fawn. We decided to concentrate on brown after a year or so of owning alpacas. We used black males initially for several reasons.  Firstly there wasn't to my knowledge an outstanding brown male out there. Secondly, because of our close alliance with Inca chops we got to know the black males available and liked them. Thirdly, we wanted to breed dark brown alpacas or certainly the darker brown colour. We felt that we stood a reasonable chance of achieving that using black males.

We took the plunge after three years and bought Columbus, a brown male with a fine and dense fleece. Not only that but he had tremendous confirmation, great balance, great presence.

All his progeny have inherited his great confirmation and most have inherited his colour and now as a result of the fleece results we can see that they have inherited his fineness. The fact that the finest four alpacas here were all Clump progeny was the surprise. All of them are yearlings, naturally as you would expect but we have got ten yearlings here and the top four are Clump babies. In fact the finest alpaca here is the alpaca that Gus has been showing all year, little Sherwood (Woody to his friends)

Now I know there is more to life than fibre fineness, there is much more. Density, fibre length, brightness, handle (very important), conformation and of course colour, not to mention our old friend character but I feel the focus these days is fineness and low standard deviation so I think we are getting there!

Next year of course we will be hoping that the nine 'Q' cria we have will match and surpass those statistics but I will no doubt be waiting with trepidation for the fibre results to come through!

Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, the pressure is on but the signs, so far, are looking good!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ground breaking stuff in Patouland.

I interrupted a conversation yesterday morning whilst I was out checking all the alpacas and walking the dogs, simultaneously I might add. I was multi-tasking if you like. 
The conversation was taking place in the shed between Reeya and her Qjori boy Talisker. They hadn't seen or heard me coming so deeply were they ensconsed in their highly conspirational little chat. 
I paused outside the shed door, just out of sight. I could hear the gentle murmurings of Reeya as she questioned little Talisker who waited patiently for her to finish. When she had finished, and by this point I was becoming more and more amazed at what I was hearing, Talisker sighed thoughtfully and replied, the faintest quiver in his melodious soprano voice.

It's difficult to convey the exact details of their discussion, they don't speak English of course, nor Spanish. They speak alpaca, obviously, but they speak a particular type of alpaca. They speak the highly advanced Patou dialect which is particular only to alpacas in this part of deepest darkest Wiltshire. There is no literal translation into our spoken tongue. The words with which they communicate have no direct comparison, no exact match. Luckily I have been studying this particular dialect for the past seven years and am able with the aid of some photographs by way of illustration to hopefully convey a rough translation for you.

The gist of the conversation was that Reeya and Talisker were discussing which of our two dogs they were going to try and communicate with. Having accepted the dogs as non-threatening and frequent interlopers into the field they were discussing making the leap from alpaca to dog. 

Reeya and Talisker were going to try and speak dog!

They had obviously made the decision prior to yesterday and were now trying to decide who they were going to approach. The conversation that I had stumbled into was about this final choice. The answer was not an easy conclusion to come to and the result of the head to head was that they were going to assess both candidates today, right now in fact, and having done so a decision would be made and contact would be attempted.

I took a step backwards as they walked out of the shed together, mother and son, pioneers in the animal kingdom, about to attempt the impossible.

Nervously I fumbled for my phone and with great excitement I managed to catch the encounter, the assessment and the attempt on camera. I have produced these pictures for you here today.

Firstly, Reeya and Talisker observed the prospective candidates together for some sign of intelligence. The dogs, Newfie Kira and Chocolate Lab Josh didn't really do themselves any favours with some very low brow scratching. I felt my heart sink with disappointment.

The two alpacas then separated the dogs out and discussed the various merits and pitfalls of attempting the feat with Kira.

They moved on after a few seconds and Reeya looked across at me with an expression that said 'Really? Is this the best material that we have to work with?'

They approached Josh who was still scratching himself spectacularly. However, he had made eye contact, he was engaging!
Reeya and Talisker were in deep discussion for several minutes, Josh waited......................and then.......

The attempt was made!!!!

Another amazing occurrence in the wonderful world of Patou!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The clock is ticking.

I have enjoyed reading about peoples exploits at the Alpaca Classic event, it sounds like it was great fun and very well organised. Usually at the merest hint of free booze I'll be the first to arrive and the last to leave but on this occasion the dreaded day job intervened as I was working evenings all weekend. 
So as the canapes were being passed around and the chilled Pinot Grigio was being swilled I was doing one of several things. I was either trying to talk sense into someone who could barely understand what I was saying, he wasn't foreign, no he was British he was just too stupid to understand that it wasn't nice to swear at his mother all of the time. Or I was chasing a group of drunkards who having managed to get themselves onto the roof of Lloyds bank were now throwing pies at passers by. Perhaps I was trying to talk to a man who was so drunk that he thought I was his wife and was trying to kiss me just before he passed out. Maybe it was when I was trying to explain to a man who was quite obviously stoned out of his brains that 1am wasn't the appropriate time to be playing 'gangsta rap' at full volume in the middle of a housing estate.

Whatever I was doing I would have rather been at the Alpaca Classic!

Still I have a little under 14 months to go at the day job and then I can hand my cuffs in and devote my time to the Mighty Patou herd. I can't tell you how good that sounds!

Today was a day off and as the sun was dropping I took the dogs out and grabbed a few pictures of the herd for your perusal.

The lovely Reeya is first, she demanded to be photographed by walking up to me and standing right in front of me. I was happy to oblige, head shot only as I couldn't get far enough away from her.

Approaching from the rear was Millie with Tsar Tsar Superstar, a very photogenic couple, beautiful colour.

Then Talisker, who had come over to see why I was taking pictures of his mother, arrived and posed. Qjori and his minions are in the background, although Qjori is playing it cool by lying down facing the other way.

I then went in to the main field and was approached by Mr Angry himself, Troy. he always has a frown on his face. His mother is Penny, the most volatile of the 'Hair-trigger spit monster family' so maybe it's no surprise that he always looks ready to stick the nut on someone.

Finally today is Thor (God of Thunder) who is looking more and more splendid every day. He is the only black Qjori cria and we are very pleased with him, he has amazing fleece coverage.

Tomorrow is another day off so there is more alpaca stuff to get through as well as a hundred other chores then it's back for another weekend of conferring with the intellectually challenged.
Every shift is a day closer..........

Thursday, 13 September 2012

It's a girl thing?

You may remember that on a previous post..... HANG ON A MINUTE! I'll come back to that, Karen at Amyrick reports of the arrival of not one but two brown female Qjori cria yesterday. That means we are almost up to 50/50 girls and boys Huzzah!!

Anyway where was I? Oh yes, you may remember that on a previous post I said that we were weaning Truffle at 4 months because her mother, our old Chilean girl Dee, was rather thin.

This meant that the bulk of the female and cria group went into the big field whilst we kept a small select group who are on extra rations. With that group are three of this years cria, Tabitha, Talisker and Tsar Tsar Superstar.

It is interesting to see that the two boys behave differently to Tabitha. Here she is watching me with the feed bucket having been giggling whilst Talisker was showing off by rolling in the dust bath.

She continued to watch and was soon following me towards the shed.

Where she immediately tucked into some hard food.

And the boys? What's a bucket? What is hard food? Who am I, where are we?

It's always the same, the girls tuck in whilst the boys just haven't got a clue.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Romsey and beyond

On the way home from the Romsey show yesterday Gus asked me what had been my favourite moment of the day. Without much hesitation I said that it had been watching him in the ring with Woody.
I then turned the tables and asked him the same question. I was expecting him to say that it had been taking part in the sumo wrestling organised by the local rugby club, or that the giant slide was tops, even rolling around in the giant bubble or buying sweets and ice creams would be the highlight. But no, Gus's highlight was the same as mine. His favourite part of the day was taking his alpaca, Woody, into the ring. Junior handler or big show I asked? Big show was the answer. That's my boy, that's the future.

So we took three alpacas to the show and we came away with four rosettes for which we must be pleased. We did really well last year with two reserve Champions but this year things had changed. The big boys were here. Not just big boys but the very big boys were here. The Alpaca Stud was here, Bozedown were here, Inca were here and these guys don't turn up with a load of donkeys in their trailers, no they don't. It doesn't make things any easier for someone with just 38 alpacas. It doesn't make things any easier at all but that's fine, if you aren't prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys you shouldn't be there. 

So what happened, the details? Well Sue and Gus took Sultan and Woody into a class of 9 intermediate brown males (it seems browns are everywhere now!). Woody and Gus picked up fourth and Sue and Sultan  grabbed fifth. Disappointed? Unfortunately due to my highly competitive nature yes I am. We must try harder.

Next up was Roger Resilient in a class of two. Beautifully handled by Sue Roger was awarded second place.  I went and looked at the winner. I don't think I could have separated them so fair enough. You win some you lose some. Three animals in, three rosettes. Nice one, lunch time.

During the lunch break we had the junior handler classes. Gus was in the second class of four, the younger class. It's always a tough one to judge this one, and to a certain extent it is a bit of fun. Gus doesn't care what  colour rosette he gets, which is great as it doesn't really matter, to him. But it does to me and fourth place had me muttering into my sandwiches. 

Gus, handling Woody like a seasoned pro.

Gus, with Woody, standing motionless facing the right way whilst one of the alpacas was spooked by a dog.

Do you ever get the impression that it all means a bit too much to me sometimes? I can't help it you know,  I'll compete at anything with anyone over anything, anywhere. Sometimes I'm competing with someone when they don't even know it, it's daft.

Anyway Mrs Steele took me to one side and had a few words in my ear, 'get a grip' 'sort yourself out' and something about perspective was mentioned and I stopped frowning at everyone.

Another highlight for me was when I was asked to take Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca into the ring. He is a walking, humming orgling legend in my books and it was great to handle him and pick up the first place rosette. He is a really special male. 

Here are the brown boys relaxing after lunch.

So a great show, well organised by Karen and Nicki, well done.
One thing was a bit annoying and I know it was something that was out of the organisers hands, so I am going to whinge at society in general about this one. The public were not allowed into the marquee (some came in anyway, you know what they're like) and I assume that this was for some health and safety (or arse and bum as I like to think of it) rule? Or maybe an insurance (or 'mamby pamby nanny state nonsense' as I like to think of it) regulations? Anyway it was silly whatever it was.

Today we have been spitting off with Qjori, excellent results as we had 18 spitting and four (who we expected to) sitters. So Qjori had a lengthy threesome whilst we drank coffee. One girl always spits off in spectacular fashion. No sooner had I walked into the field with Mr Q, than Millie was tail out and puffed up with a real 'come near me and I'll kill you!' look. 

She kept running up to him and spitting at him then stropping off with little Tsar in tow. Wonderful stuff.

Right that's it I'm off to find someone to arm wrestle with.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

It's all about the boy

I have learnt one thing this week. Taking photographs of an alpacas fleece is an absolute nightmare. Actually that's wrong, it is easy to take a photograph of an alpacas fleece. What is hard is taking a photograph of an alpaca's fleece that accurately portrays what you see with the naked eye and what you feel with your hands.

Anyway, I felt that having shown you some cria fleece photographs and then told you that there was one even better still out in the field that I ought to at the very least make the effort. Patou Tsar, is the little monkey that has had Sue and I trying as hard as we can to recreate what we could see. Why, because I think he is rather special and I am very proud of him. I mean just look at him. 

So we have been out with two different cameras, in the sun, in the shed, flash on, flash off you name it we tried it and to be honest we were disappointed with the results. But here are the two best pictures out of a pretty poor bunch. I hope they at least give you a flavour of what he looks like. To know what he feels like, well that's a bit harder, you'll have to come and visit!

It's amazing how different the colour is between these two pictures. One taken in the sunshine (below) and one taken in the shed with a flash (above). Both Tsar, I promise! His real colour is somewhere in between.

We seem to have rather a lot of brown boys here, you could almost call it a brown male production line. This weekend we are off to the Romsey Show and surprise surprise our show team will consist of three brown boys. Sherwood and Sultan who are just over a year old and Roger Resilient who is now into his third year. We have recently put Roger up for sale as he's related to too many of our girls. Roger has started working this summer and if anyone wants to see his details he is on Alpacaseller and on our website.

Patou Resilient

The weather looks set for a great weekend down here in the south and hopefully The grounds of Broadlands where the Romsey Show is held are dry and firm it should be a great show. 

Right I'm off to do anything apart from try and take fleece shots, I am done with them!