There was some talk on the blogs about how fleeces change as alpacas grow and it got me thinking about who has changed the most in our herd. I think it is probably Rafiki.
Rafiki was born at 7.15pm on the 12th of June 2010. I remember it well because it was my birthday and we had a garden full of friends who had been filling up with beer and wine since lunchtime. It was Tracey Hey who, ever observant, (and one of the few sober guests), mentioned that one of the alpacas was behaving strangely. This was Bannock, one of our founding females and mother to my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily.
She was 363 days pregnant and we had been watching her for weeks. She was indeed behaving strangely and it became quickly obvious that she was going to give birth. This was marvellous news as I could now provide evening entertainment for all my city slicker townie friends who had never seen anything with four legs give birth. I went to have a look and as a large fawn head appeared I was finding my disappointment hard to hide. Bannock, black as the Ace of Spades had been mated to Jack of Spades and a black female had been ordered, not a fawn!
The cria was huge and Bannock required some help to give birth to our heaviest ever cria, weighing in at 11 kilograms. Not only was the cria fawn, but the cria was a male. Exactly what we didn't want. However, no matter what colour or sex, all cria are treated equally here and after a shot of Oxytocin for Bannock (it was getting late) we made sure the big fellow was feeding well. He had masses of fleece and it was long, in fact to me initially he looked like a Suri.
Here he is the following day, as you can see he was big and strong. It's funny because my memories of him as a cria was of him being a big ugly cria but looking at the photographs it appears that my memories are incorrect. He appeared to be handsome all the way through!
At three months old he was growing into the big nose that he developed soon after birth. He still had masses of long straight suri like fleece but was rapidly becoming a favourite in the herd.
At four months of age he was already over 35 kilos and was developing a lovely friendly character. With his 'odd' fleece he was destined one day to be a lovely pet for someone.
He continued to grow nicely and so did his fleece, he had more than any other cria.
At 11 months of age, Rafiki was a huge bundle of fluff but by now his fleece had changed. It was now crimp from the skin to the tips. It was a mess but it was full of crimp. This was when we started to wonder if we had been a little hasty to write him off as a pet quality male.
When he was shorn a very handsome light brown male was unveiled! It was the surprise of the day. What a transformation! Not only that but his fleece stats were one of the best in the whole herd. Very interesting.
We gave him a run out at the Romsey show last year, a short fleece show, it was last minute decision and there was no halter training at all. We just put it on and off we went. We have never done that before. He is just so calm and friendly. Here he is with Roger Resilient, they were 2nd and 3rd in the intermediate brown male class.
Again at the show, one of my favourite pictures of Rafiki, such a handsome boy! (Please allow for some degree of Patou biaise!)
To bring the transformation bang up to date I have just been out in the mud and drizzle to take a photograph of the big 'un. It is not a very flattering picture I'm afraid but he is one of those alpacas who is always too close to photograph. He just will not stay away! Here he is on the left standing next to Qjori, who he is petrified of. One look from Qjori and the tail goes up and he squeaks!
So there we have it, 20 months in the life of Patou Rafiki (he who should have been a she, a black she). Against all expectations he has made it into this years show team and will be having his first outing at The Futurity in a few weeks time.
If you are going why not come over and say hello to Rafiki, he loves nose to nose contact and likes nibbling!