Monday, 30 April 2012

The waiting is over!

Regular readers will be aware that we have not had the best start to our breeding season and that we have been anticipating the arrival of the next cria. Dee was the next in line and was way overdue. So yesterday, the worst day for weather that we have had this year we were hoping that she could keep her legs crossed. 

However, as I looked out of the window yesterday morning, squinting through the rivers of rain pouring down the glass I could see Dee all alone, standing, staring into space. The rain was lashing down and the gale force winds meant nowhere was dry out there. It was a horrible day, utterly miserable. Half an hour later and Dee was still standing there staring into space. Something was up, today, no matter what the weather was like it became apparent that Dee was going to give birth. The watching became more intense.

At about a quarter to three we saw Dee running up the hill with a sense of urgency into the top part of the paddock where she disappeared behind a large holly bush. The rest of the herd followed at a more sedate pace and a few minutes later, wellies and waterproofs in place off I trundled up the hill to see what was going on. On my way I noticed that it had stopped raining for the first time of the day and that the wind had dropped. In fact the sun was almost visible through the clouds. As I rounded the corner at the top of the hill I could see Dee lying on her side facing away from me. Something was up. Then I saw something momentarily flick up behind her, something small. It was close to her but too far away from her to be her tail, was it an ear? My pace quickened and as I arrived I could see that it was indeed an ear which was attached to a cria that was just arriving into the world. Considering the weather so far it was a momentarily calm and dry world.  A quick check revealed it was a strong healthy looking female who was up in a cush in less than two minutes.
About 45 minutes later and the weather turned nasty again, so dried, coated and jabbed with Amoxypen, Truffle, her mother and Aunty Sabrina were ensconced on some fresh clean straw in a shed as spotless as I could make it. Two hours later the placenta was out and Truffle was feeding nicely, we could relax. Large gin and tonics all round, job done.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce......... (pause for fanfare and cut to shots of people wiping away tears of joy) after 371 days of slow cooking............Patou Truffle!

I was up early and a double coated Truffle is now back outside and doing well. 

Before all that excitement I was tasked with bringing excitement to others. We had sold Jake, Jonah, Blackjack and Samson about 18 months ago but their owner could no longer care for them effectively and had asked me to find a new home for them. Within a month of advertising them a call from Wales had come and Peter and Jenny were making the four hour trip to see them. It was love at first sight and on Friday I loaded the boys up and set off back to the motherland (I was born in Pembrokeshire). The usual tears of joy as I crossed the Severn bridge came and went and a couple of hours later I was driving down the narrow lanes of Landshipping to Cloverback Farm. Peter and Jenny were very pleased to see their boys and I know they will be looked after very well, they are now part of a lovely family.

Right enough in doors stuff, I must get out and see how the latest Princess of Patou is doing.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A particular obsession.

I was trying to wait until Dee had given birth before posting again but the old Trollop (or more accurately, the old soaked to the skin Trollop!) is still wandering around grazing. Sometimes I look out and see her standing staring into space, legs apart, tail up, and get excited but then she sort of snaps out of it and resumes grazing.
I can't tell you how many times over the past month I have looked out at her and thought 'It's show time!' only to be disappointed. Well I've stopped looking now. Well almost. Well, Ok, I have quick glance every hour, perhaps every half hour, it maybe more I don't know, just leave me alone! I am not obsessed!
I really must get a grip and stop. Slowly my mind is starting to unravel. She is now 369 days into her pregnancy and I think of little else, which is kind of intrusive when I am at the day job. I say 'pardon' a lot these days. Sorry general public, I can't help it.

Right I am back. I have just been out to umm, look round the alpaca fields. No reason really, just fancied some fresh air. Nothing more. Whilst there I did see Dee, well who would have thought it,  and took some photographs. So here she is, a close up shot, not much to tell here.

However, a quick whip round to the back end and aha! There you see, a very bulgy rear endy bit piece.
She has been showing me this rear endy, bulgy bit piece for the past month! It moves.

Actually Dee and her posse have been moved into the next door paddock, previously occupied by Herr Clumpmeister. He is such a neat and tidy pooper that his paddock was spotless, just a few little neat piles. He has moved up to the top paddock where Qjori and his minions used to live. Qjori and his boys are now where Dee and her posse were. Got it? They are all in the same field basically just separated by fencing.

The Qjori minions (pictured below) are this years show team. Roger, Rafiki, Sherwood and Sultan. They very much operate as a group. Qjori, in the same paddock, operates outside of this group but everything he does is noticed by and has an effect on, the group of minions.

For instance the Qjori minions were gazing over the fence at the girls when The Big Q arrived on the scene and an invisible forcefield seemingly barged them out of the way. As you can see he now has the best view whilst the minions wander off mumbling quietly to themselves tails aloft. There is only one Chief in this field.

Right that's enough of this I need to go and er, stand um, well I need to just nip outside, phwoar it's hot in here, so I'll just be nipping out for a moment, outside, not for anything in particular, you know just to get out of the house for a bit, nothing more than that, fresh air that's all.

I am not obsessed, honestly.

Friday, 20 April 2012

A room with a view

This is the view from our kitchen window. I know every pane of glass well. I could draw a picture of the window, the frame and the view from memory. I could correctly recreate the vista with every tree, bramble and clump of grass in it's true place. I could detail every chip of paint on the metal window frame, every scratch or blemish on each pane of glass, every cobweb, every miniscule amount of detritus picked up on it's surface over the years, everything would be correct, for it is a window that I have come to know well. Why? Why you may ask? Well, in the right hand pane standing grazing as if she hadn't a care in the world is the alpaca that is currently the focus of all my attention. She is from our 'Space Cadet' family, a lovely calm slightly spaced out and carefree family. These are not spitty alpacas, these are not strugglers, these are not hummers, no, they are apparently content within their world, they are comfortable in their own skins. They are a happy family. A family with 'Never to be sold' stamped all over it. 
Her name is Dee and she is the head of the Space Cadet family. All the hippy cool, all the laid back attitude, all of the seemingly perpetual state of bewilderment that pervades her offspring stems from Dee.

She wanders the paddock without a care in the world, if the rest of the herd follow so be it, if not she doesn't seem to care, she just does her own thing in the nicest possible way She can't whistle, obviously, for she is an alpaca. But I bet you any money you like she would if she could. She is a huge favourite down here in Patouland, I may have mentioned it before. 

However, I am at the point where I may have to handcuff myself to the kitchen table soon because almost every fibre of my being is clamouring for me to run outside and chase the lovely Dee around that bloody paddock until she gives birth!

I mean come on! Today Dee has been pregnant for 361 days for crying out loud! Two more days and she will break our all time record! Doesn't she know what we have been through recently! Doesn't she know that we need a healthy cria on the ground NOW!

No of course she doesn't. She is an alpaca. She is fourteen years old and has had many cria before. She knows what she is doing. I just wish that she would let me in on the plan that's all!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Alpaca 2012 Show

Sorry about last nights slightly sombre report, I was in a pretty grim mood. By way of a quick update the preliminary PM results show a huge E-Coli infection in both the stomach and the lungs. The full report will hopefully be available later today. In the meantime, with Dee, mother of our best female (Reeya), currently 358 days pregnant we will be hitting the cria (when it finally arrives) with anti-biotics on arrival as a precautionary measure. She will no doubt produce a gobsmackingly gorgeous female so we need to be on the ball.

Right enough serious talk, back to the drivel that you are more used to!

So this past weekend was the rather grandly titled Alpaca 2012 Show organised by the South West Alpaca Group (SWAG).
Grandly titled and grandly held. It was a cracking show. The changes made from last year worked splendidly with all the animals under the one roof. Three judges whirred away and although it was a later finish on both days than planned it was a great show with around 340 alpacas entered. 

We had taken the four boys that we took to the Futurity, Sherwood and Sultan in the junior browns and the Mighty Roger Resilient and Rafiki in the intermediate brown males. Both sets of boys were in large classes and the competition was tough. Once again there were several show teams larger than our entire herd!

The main thing on the agenda for the Mighty Patou was the debut appearance of the Warrior son Angus. Yes, it was time to unleash the one time Jedi Knight but mostly now Magnificent Wizard on the general public. Angus has been halter training little Woody and agreed to show him, not only in the junior handler class but also in the main show as well. Sue and I were as proud as punch to see Angus and Woody enter the ring with so much confidence and obvious pleasure. Sadly the junior boys just weren't good enough on the day to pick up a rosette but they are improving all the time. 

Angus and Woody in the junior brown male class.

Sue and I were getting a bit twitchy by now (well I was anyway), no rosettes (or mini ribbons in this case) and only the two big boys to come. We have never come away from a show with nothing, but there's a first time for everything. Considering what was going on in the background at home (or at the vets) we needed some glory, we needed something tangible, we needed ribbons, any ribbons would do, we just needed something! Then came the junior handler class. Of course - a guaranteed ribbon! Angus took Woody in but was up against some pretty tough operators.

Gus answering the questions from the junior handler judges. He was carrying out my instructions to look as cute as he could. 
However, he was up against some past masters in this particular class. In fact he was up against the South West Champions if not National Champions at this discipline. He was up against Chris and Isla May! 

Chris and Isla May have been coached down at the Amiryck International School of junior handling for several years where they have faced day after day of rigorous questioning and coaching. I saw a documentary on it once, it is akin to training for the Special Forces. These two are tough and ruthless. They are professionals, Gus never stood a chance. Third place though was good enough for the future leader of the Patou herd, he was chuffed and his ribbon has taken pride of place in his bedroom. He also received a lovely message via Facebook from Christopher May which was absolutely brilliant. What stars he and his sister are. We all thought that was absolutely superb.

Angus getting his ribbon from the judge with Chris and Isla. Well done to all of you!

So we were then coming to the business end of the show. After a scan of the arena I had already awarded Rafiki the 'tallest alpaca in show' trophy, another to add to his Futurity trophy. They're imaginary of course but then so are most of my awards.
It was soon time for the intermediate brown males and with a class of eight it was going to be tough (since when did we have 8 entries in the Intermediate brown male class?????) 
Not only that but Herts Alpacas Nigel, the Futurity winner, was here and I couldn't see an opportunity to nobble him, security was just too tight. I was able to check him out at the NEC and he is a very nice male.

With my days in the ring coming to an end we recruited Vicky from Snooks Farm Alpacas to take Roger Resilient into the ring whilst Sue took Rafiki (her favourite nuzzler) into the ring. Thanks Vicky!

Sue and Vicky waiting to enter the ring. Just look at the size of him! That is a wall of alpaca!

After much deliberation Nigel was once again victorious and a worthy winner. But our boys did us proud by coming second and third! Fantastic news for us! 

Obviously my plan for total domination worldwide in the brown alpaca category needs a little tweaking but we are still on the right road and we will carry on fighting! North Somerset next!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Under fire

I feel the need to write this blog posting. I don't really want to but I have to get it out of my system and move on.
We have had the worst week that I can remember since we started breeding alpacas 7 years ago.

My previous post announced the news of the arrival of Qjori's first son, a lovely solid black male. Unfortunately he developed a serious case of diarrhoea and was rushed to the vets in Salisbury. Sadly he died in front of me whilst three vets tried to get a line into him. I have never seen diarrhoea like it, it was like milk. It came on so quickly and he went down so quickly we just didn't know what had hit us.

Prior to that as previously mentioned, last Monday Priscilla had given birth to a super looking solid dark brown boy. Qjori's third son. We named him Tendulkar. When I say 'given birth' I am perhaps misleading you. In appalling weather Priscilla had a very traumatic vet assisted birth and lost a lot of blood. At one point I thought we were going to lose her.
Initially very strong Tendulkar soon went down rapidly and was taken to the vets with pneumonia. He recovered well from the pneumonia but whilst at the vets developed the same milk like diarrhoea. He was there, bright as a button at the vets when the little black boy (Tanglefoot) died.

To cut a long and bloody awful story short it was a battle to cope with Tendulkar's condition and despite being at the vet's being cared for by two vets he was put to sleep at my request on Sunday afternoon. There was nothing else that could be done for him.

So three births, three Qjori sons, all super looking solid coloured boys. All dead.

We have thought of little else over the past few days and to be honest we are still devastated by what has happened. I know that worse things have happened to others and I know that we may get worse things happen to us in the future but right now it feels a little bit like the walls are coming down around us.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

What a weekend

We have had a busy and somewhat tumultuous weekend down here in the land of the Patou.
The weather has been rubbish, the worst weekend of the year with horizontal rain predominant. I know, we need the rain, but this weekend, the weekend we start unpacking? Thanks. We have been bashed around a bit and Sue and I are knackered and just a little bit anxious.

Firstly though, on Saturday afternoon, Joy, one of our Collabear girls, gave birth rather quickly to a beautiful black boy. Qjori's first son! Joy is brown with a white leg and has a white mother and a black father. The cria is a super solid black. A few early breathing problems but he is doing very well and Joy is an excellent mother as the dogs found out when they were chased out of the field yesterday!

The cria, weighing in at a respectable 8.26 kilos was quite premature looking (born at 334 days), his teeth had erupted but he was very down on his pasterns giving him the appearance of having very large feet. With large feet come problems for a little one and he was falling over those 'feet' frequently. As a result the little chap has been named Tanglefoot (it was Sue's idea) after one of my favourite local real ales. It seems to suit him.

Sunday passed uneventfully and then we hit Monday. The worst weather of the weekend so we had Joy and Tanglefoot, Dee (now 347 days pregnant) and Priscilla (337 days) in the large shed out of the weather. All was well and we were checking on them hourly. 
At 2.30pm I saw that Priscilla was straining and two little feet made an appearance. I phoned Sue excitedly and then watched incredulously as the feet disappeared back inside. We thought that we would leave her alone for a few minutes and things would continue as they should. Thirty minutes later and Sue was lubing up and was examining what was going on. She could feel a leg and a head but something wasn't right. The vet was called. Bank holiday again, it seems to be our speciality. Within half an hour Louise was on the case and declared that the cervix was not dilated. However, having seen feet, this baby which was alive but a bit stuck, needed to come out. Not only that but the cervix had been dilated when Sue examined her. It had been open but had now closed? Anyone had that before?
After about 40 minutes of pulling and manipulating  a cria was delivered. A big (8.75kg) beautiful solid dark brown boy. Qjori had another son (ok, when will the girls start coming?) Fortunately he was strong and healthy. Unfortunately Priscilla was bleeding heavily and in a bit of a state. Whilst I got the boy sorted out Sue and Louise stayed focussed on Priscilla trying to find out where the bleeding was coming from so that they could stop it. It eventually stopped but it had taken it's toll on Priscilla, she was in a terrible state.

Priscilla is the head of our 'Hair-trigger spit monster family' and in short is a grumpy old bat. But she is our grumpy old bat and we love her. We have never seen her like this before. As you can see in the below picture she is flat out exhausted with her big strong cria standing at the front. 

The new cria, named Tendulkar, and Priscilla were separated from the others and we watched and waited. Poor old Priscilla was obviously in a lot of pain and was very weak. She couldn't stand and when we rolled her to milk her, there was no milk forthcoming. Sue is an excellent milker, but nothing. Priscilla had been given Oxytocin but the placenta had not come out (it still hasn't, she is on antibiotics). Feeding the cria then became a priority and he fed well taking a whole bottle of Colustrum in three feeds.

I was up early this morning and Tendulkar is doing well. Priscilla is now in a cush. She has drunk about a gallon of water and had some hard food  but she is still very weak and reluctant to stand. 

I have sworn at our old bat Priscilla many times over the past 6 years. But what I would give now for a face full of spit.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Strangeness abounds

Strangeness is one word for it, arseness is another. Someone has been interfering with my blog. You may have noticed (or you may not have noticed) that it was closed down last night after some 'suspicious activity' on my blogger account. It makes sense because I have been going slightly mad over the past couple of days due to comments that I have placed on other people's blogs appearing and then disappearing. 

That has caused me to think that my 'age related memory loss' has been progressing faster than it should be. It has also made me think that I have been imagining that I have been doing things, when doing those things I have not. Someone has been messing with my blog and that has messed with my head. I have a theory about who has been causing mischief but there is no point in voicing those suspicions here. It has happened, I have now beefed up security and we will move on. All I will say to the infiltrator is 'Up yours mister!'

Anyway today the excitement is palpable here in Patouland. We now have three lovely ladies well and truly in the birthing window.

We looked at previous gestation dates this morning. Dee, our oldest female has previously baked for 333, 336 and 355 days. That's an average length of 342. She is currently holding on at 343 days. This morning she is looking very imminent, but then she was yesterday and the day before.

Priscilla's last four cria cooked for 330, 332, 333 and 332 days respectively. She is now wallowing around on 333 days and looking huge.

Joy, one of our Collabear girls has just hit 330 days and is looking spaced out. We don't know her history but she is in with Dee and Priscilla and we are trying not to watch too much! No doubt they will all wait until Monday when torrential rain is forecasted. 

In complete contrast here are a couple of simpletons, Josh and Rafiki about three minutes into a staring competition that they had the other day. Life is so much simpler when you are boy.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Near and Far.

The bagpipes still haven't made an appearance yet. Dee continues to wander around sometimes with her tail sticking out at right angles, sometimes not. She has now been baking for 339 days, which coincidentally is her average gestation length. It is half past ten in the morning as I type this so maybe today is the day.  It's the most frustrating time of the year, the time when alpaca breeders are as impatient as it is possible to be and I'm a pretty impatient sort anyway. If I had hair I would be tearing it out!

It was a pretty busy week for us last week as we welcomed prospective new alpaca owners Nick and Karen to the paddocks as they decided to buy a lovely little group of four boys. They are all around the 9 months old mark. We wouldn't normally sell boys that young but they are going in a foursome and they are only going one and a half miles down the road. It is lovely to know that they are just down the road and we will be able to see them frequently and see how they develop. Saracen, Scout, Sandstorm and Sebulba will be heading off in a week or so to their lovely new home.

We also have some keen interest in another set of four boys who we sold about 18 months ago. The lady who owns them has had a change in circumstances and can no longer look after them effectively. As such she has asked us to find them a new home. We have a couple coming down from South Wales to look at them this weekend. So Jake, Blackjack, Samson and Jonah will probably heading off across the Severn Bridge soon. The Patou name is gradually being spread near and far!

Right, chores to do. I haven't had any coffee yet so there may be several more posts of an intelligible nature before the day is out!