Saturday, 6 December 2014

Comings and goings.

It appears that another month has raced past and now I find myself in December. A glorious hard frost this morning was a very welcome sign as worm burdens this year have been the highest that I have known in 9 years.  I am always mindful of not overdoing it with medication, the vets don't go on about resistant parasites for nothing but even so this year we have had to worm earlier and later than ever before. In fact Fifi, one of our, 'never to be sold' girls had a very squitty rear end this morning. She was dealt with but I really must remember to take my reading glasses (or injecting glasses) as I once again gave myself a dose of wormer in the finger. Still I shall be worm free going into the Christmas period which is always nice.

December is set to be a busy month, but more on that as it develops, a trip to Calais is coming up so we will be well stocked for the festive season. Which by the way, still hasn't started people, what happened to the twelve days of Christmas? The Christmas build-up seems to get longer every year, patience is becoming very old fashioned these days, bah humbug etc.....

I had a trip to a new alpaca herd in Suffolk two weeks ago, a small herd had been formed and they wanted a lovely black girl to complement the colours that they already had. As a result young Patou Ulani, accompanied by Vanilla and Violet (acting as travelling companions) came with me to a lovely village just outside Ipswich. It was a horrible day, wet and drizzly but here she is with her new 'family'.

 And because she doesn't look her best in the wet, here she is before she went.

I thought that I ought to point out that we have decided to put the big Q up for sale. Qjori has been a huge part of our herd for several years now but is being used more and more sparingly here as a lot of our herd is now related to him. He still has a big future ahead of him hopefully and if he does go there won't be a dry eye here, he is an absolute superstar and is much loved. His impact on our herd has been amazing, his attributes have been carried into our herd and his progeny are testament to his quality. He's like a big teddy bear really. I mean, don't get me wrong, when there are female alpacas around he is the true macho but he is so easy to handle and is such a character, he is always making me chuckle. Last week for instance I caught him for the second time, standing in his water trough. This time I had a camera with me and snapped him in full 'look at me' pose. What a muppet.

Another major change here is the 'retirement' of the Patou wagon. The old Discovery, which broke down spectacularly on the M25 last summer and then again on the M1, leaving me once again at the mercy of the AA, has been traded in for a newer and slightly more luxurious mode of transport.

Now I know I am 51, but when you only upgrade cars every 6 years or so it is quite an exciting moment. After much research I decided on a Nissan X-Trail and found a garage in Devon with 5 to choose from. When Gus (he's only eleven but isn't quite as excitable as me) saw pictures of the five cars there was only one option. The one with his name on it!

So far I have been very pleased with it, both on and off road, with or without the trailer behind it.

Right, must go, Sue is away this weekend, Gus has two friends round and we all like curry so there is cooking to be getting on with.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Hello, good bye and yahoo!

It has been a busy last 10 days or so with a lot going on down here in Patouland. First of all I had help for four days last week when I was joined by a young GCSE student who wants to study to be a vet. She was looking for some work experience over half term week and had written asking to come over to help.
Her name is Charnia and she is pictured below on her last day. She was a great help as we went right through the whole herd condition scoring, and medicating. The whole herd was given Lambivac, AD&E and wormed. We also drenched with Fasinex, cut toe nails, inserted ear tags, moved the herd around into winter grazing mode and generally got things pretty ship shape. Charnia baulked at nothing and threw herself into everything, even wearing a bit of spit. If you are reading this Charnia, thank you again! Charnia will be back to help out again I am sure.

With Mrs Steele out at work it is amazing how much you can't do on your own but when she was here on the Monday we spat off all the mated females and I was very pleased to see 17 spitting off comprehensively. We had left mating this year until very late so most of them only had one mating as we stuck to our end of September cut off date. It should be an interesting summer as we have an interesting mix of cria due. We used three males, our super brown boy, Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, the legendary and packed full of awesomeness, Lilyfield Jack of Spades of Inca and the new kid on the block, the small but perfectly formed Australian black male, Wimmera Skies Class Act of Reddingvale. I can hardly wait to see what those three will produce!

It was also quite a sad week as we said good bye to a real favourite here, Patou Vickery. Vickery was sired by our boy Qjori and he is a very friendly male who did very well for us in the show ring last year. He has come on in leaps and bounds and is now a very handsome young male with a great future ahead of him. Thanks to the Inca Chief, he is now at his new home in Scotland where next summer he will take up his position of stud male to some lovely females. If you are oop north and are looking for a cracking grey male next year he may be the one for you.

It has also been quite a remarkable week for me in that I have actually fixed things without creating more work, more expense or more problems, which is usually my speciality. Firstly, Gus somehow managed to break the screen on his mobile phone. In true 11 year old form he refuses to take responsibility for anything that breaks and says that he wasn't near it when it somehow 'fell off  a bench' at school. Having checked out how much it would cost to replace at the mobile phone repair shop I was onto Amazon and tracked down a replacement screen that came with the necessary tools required to carry out the job.
On arrival I opened the box and found not only the replacement screen but some tools that had been designed specifically for elves to use. I kid you not I have never seen such small tools. Even with my glasses on it was very difficult, I swear they were only about 18 microns wide.  And before any wisecracker asks me 'how would you know what 18 microns looked like', I do, we have some, here!

Anyway I went in 'swiss watchmaker mode' and after only seven or eight hours I had replaced the screen and the phone worked perfectly, give that man a large one!

Buoyed on by my success I had a second repair to complete. The rear nearside window on my Discovery shattered due to a very rusty electric windy up thingy (technical term) so I hit Ebay and soon had a replacement window and windy up thingy ordered. After three hours of using a lot of tools, a Haynes manual and several cups of coffee I now have a nice see through window once again. Nothing else broke whilst carrying out this operation (well nothing much anyway) and it all works like new.

I now intend to open up a workshop for fixing absolutely everything as I am surely not the completely useless plonker that I thought I was. More of a versatile mechanical genius really!

Right, time to get out with the dogs for a final herd check of the day. When I get home I may break something expensive to test my new found abilities!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sorry, I've been asleep.

Some of the following, may have been made up..........................

My eyes were tightly shut as we climbed ever higher directly into the midday sun. I squeezed with my knees as hard as I could and gripped with my arms as strongly as I dared. Unable to encircle the densely feathered neck of the enormous eagle that I was clinging to I was forced to hang on to the thin leather strap that formed part of it's elaborate necklace.
The noise was deafening as the mighty wings did their job of taking us ever higher, higher than I thought possible and then abruptly, they stopped beating. For an instant we hung as if suspended from a silk thread before slowly the giant bird rolled over to one side and tucking in those enormous wings, corkscrewed with ever growing pace back towards earth. Within seconds we were hurtling in excess of terminal velocity, the wind pulling at my cheeks causing my eyes to stream with tears which were instantly peeled from my face to be left way behind high up in the sky.
"MARK! MARK!" Came the cry from somewhere behind me, slowly I turned and was dramatically pulled from my dream back into a state of consciousness, by Sue who was, not very gently, poking me in the back...."MARK, the alpacas are alarm calling!".
"What?" I mumbled as I came back to reality with a bump.
"The alpacas are alarm calling!" Sue repeated and as my eyes focussed on the alarm clock telling me that it was 1.30am, I could indeed hear at least 2 alpacas sounding the alarm call outside.
I stumbled out of bed and staggered towards the light of the landing. I walked stiffly down the stairs and picked up a large torch as I shuffled into my wellies. It was a warm overcast night as I left the garden in my pyjamas and limped up the road towards the gate to the nearest alpaca field, alarm calls beckoning me to hurry up.
I opened the gate and as I entered the field I swept the beam of the powerful torch in an arc. The alpacas, 16 females and 10 cria were all standing in the middle of the field looking towards the woods in a state of full alert. I followed their gaze with the beam of the torch and scanned the fence line and the trees beyond to reveal........................... absolutely nothing.
I switched off the torch and as my eyes adjusted to the night I walked slowly into the middle of the gathered throng of alpacas. I stood amongst them and we all stared into the gloom in silence, the only noise was the distant hoot of an owl. A minute passed and nothing made its presence known to us. I then felt the nibbling lips and the gentle breath of a female alpaca on my right ear, the state of emergency had obviously passed.
I spent a further five minutes standing amongst the girls as the tension dispersed and slowly one by one they returned to whatever they were doing before the drama had unfolded.
I returned to bed smiling, feeling like the herd protector, the enforcer, guardian to a group of lovely females, another precious alpaca encounter experienced.
You just can't make that up.

And now some random photographs:

This one, for instance, is the view from inside the garage. That is the field I was talking about, those are the alpacas and beyond them, the big dark scary wood containing mysterious beasties.

This afternoon I refilled the hay racks and in the process I was mobbed, as usual (I'm sure we all are) so I took a couple of pictures.

The little fellow front right of the picture is Branson who you may remember spent his first night in our bedroom having been found flat out and very cold. His mother had no milk either so he was bottle fed for the first month or so until he managed to get her producing enough milk, marvellous little sucker he was.

And here he is on that first night, just over four months ago. Very nice little chap and I tell you what, I had a good look at his fleece today, it is coming along very nicely!

Here are two of my favourite cria, Nutmeg (sire Popham Thunder) on the left and Misket (sire Qjori) on the right, both delightful, both very promising. I keep looking at Misket's fleece hoping it is brown, but I fear it may be.........................fawn.

Here's another of my favourites, Patou Pippin, beautiful even colour, deliciously soft handling fleece and wonderfully friendly.

And finally, one to watch, Patou Spitfire, a Jack of Spades boy. I love the look of this little male, dense greasy fleece which I hope will stay dark chocolatey brown and not tip over into black. Sadly he is being photo-bombed by Dilly (the ear nibbler), who in turn is being photo-bombed by Reeya who is performing back right.

Right, it must be time for another nap.

Monday, 22 September 2014

And finally.......... a dilemma

In my last blog I posted a photograph of Amelie looking lovely and pregnant. She was the last Patou female still waiting to deliver.
Millie was expecting a Lavender Park Tulley cria. It was a late decision last October to mate her and it was a one off opportunity, one mating. The great masterplan was to try and breed our next herdsire, hence Millie, our best brown female was the chosen one and we hoped for a brown male.

On Friday, just before lunch, Millie did indeed give birth to a super little brown male. A bit of a tiddler at 6.95kg but perfectly formed and very lively.

He was up on his feet quickly and apparently feeding well within an hour or so. However, Millie has had problems feeding her last two cria, Vanilla and Tsar. She gets an enormous udder full of milk with huge teats and the cria struggle to get on and get enough milk. As we knew this we were prepared, so there has been a lot of milking going on over the past three days. Sue is the expert, I am merely the holder. Luckily Millie is a friendly girl and although she makes a bit of a scene initially she soon settles down and allows the process to take place.

We are also supplementing him with a bottle to make sure he is getting enough volume. He is doing very well and although in the above picture he has milky chops as a result of me bottle feeding him, it did take me ten minutes to catch him! Millie sees me coming and they are off! It is a case of trudging on and wearing them down.

Sue and I are completely smitten with the little man (as is his mother) but we do have a dilemma. As he was our last cria this year, born on the day the Scottish independence votes were counted, and the votes from the Highlands were the last votes to be counted, I suggested we call him Highlander. Sue, using similar thought processes came up with Braveheart and Gus, being eleven and bonkers favours Hercules.

As a result, on his little husbandry card (I like to keep my records in a card index, old fashioned I know but dependable!) it simply says Patou............... A decision will be made today, we will be arm wrestling for the privilege of naming him later (Sue and Gus don't know this yet!)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What! September?

I have just walked into the kitchen for a coffee, covered in hay (Sue is at work so as long as I whip the hoover round later she'll never know) and thought I would log on and see what was going on in the world of alpacas. The first thing that struck me was, 'Where did August go?'. It says in the corner of my laptop that it is already the 17th of September? I'm sorry but was I cryogenically frozen towards the end of July? Have I been in a 6 week long catatonic fit? Was I drunk, I mean really drunk? Where has the time gone? I haven't blogged for two weeks either. Um, really, it seems like only yesterday!

Anyway, time to right the wrongs and report from the heart of the Mighty Patou headquarters. It is an absolute buzz of activity here. We are in the middle of a late season mating frenzy (the alpacas that is).

We have a visiting stud male of the dark variety here for four days, all I can say is that he is Australian, black, smallish, but perfectly formed and working well (his identity must remain a closely guarded secret for the time being). On Thursday I return him and welcome another slightly larger Australian male, black again and as awesome as they get. As well as that our two brown boys Qjori and Tsar are getting some action so August should be a busy month next year!

 Patou Reeya (Jack of Spades daughter) welcomes our esteemed visitor, in customary fashion, in the hay shed.

Mating cut off date is a strictly enforced 30th of September, so anyone not up the duff by then will just have to wait!

Last week I went out to soak up some sun amongst the mighty herd and was mobbed by Truffle. Truffle sadly lost her cria this summer and is going to be covered this weekend but until then she is the friendliest of alpacas and I have to say I made the most of it with a 'selfie-fest'. (Apologies to FB friends for the repetition)

 Pucker up big boy!

However, when I got all 'arty farty' with the camera and put it on the floor, she appeared to turn into Rudolf the red nosed reindeer!

Since Gus went back to school I have been able to reclaim my little tractor and because of the glorious 'Indian summer' that we seem to be having (it was 26C here yesterday) I have been mowing paddocks in a blur. Here I stopped to admire my handiwork.............and probably to have a wee.

My parents popped round last week too with their working Cocker Spaniel, Abby. She always causes a stir. She is the size of a fox, the colour of a fox and moves like a fox and the herd don't let her out of their sight. She needs to keep her wits about her!

 First it was the half of the herd with the older cria, a steady advance on Abby.
Then the other half of the herd, the top of Abby's head is just visible at the bottom of the picture.

I appear to have rambled on for far too long, after all I still need to whip that hoover round, have lunch and make myself look marvellous for when Sue gets home (it may take some time!).
I only have one more bit of news, or rather 'news to come'. Last year we broke our 30th of September mating cut off date for one special female. Patou Amelie, our best female, mother of Patou Tsar and Patou Vanilla had a final date with Lavender Park Tulley on the 5th of October last year. That means that her due date, based on a gestation of 345 days, is tomorrow. We all know that she may hang on for weeks (or even months) and to be honest I have just nipped out to check on her and she looks more likely to shin up a tree and start singing 'Over the rainbow' than to give birth today.

However, I did take a photograph of her just to prove that she is preggers and beautiful too (well she would be, she is the daughter of Patou Lily, paddock blindness? I don't care).

 Right, where did Sue say we kept the hoover?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Immature and nasty, that's us.

Do you know what, I was going to tell you in great detail all about our prolapsed uterus last week and our cria who collapsed due to a vitamin B deficiency but as they are all fine I harked back to my promise at the end of my last blog to bring you happy news. Which I have just done, two potentially serious events sorted and all concerned recovered. Pats on the backs all round and let's move on.

Instead I am going to show you some of our lovely cria. We have 17 on the ground now, 9 girls with the boys catching up and 2 still to come. Potentially the last two are the most exciting, certainly the most eagerly awaited this year. Penny and Millie are both due to give birth to cria soon, to a male we have never used before. Penny and Millie are undoubtedly our best two females, both brown and both have done well for us in the past. More news as it happens readers.

Onwards to the cria report, here is Patou Primrose (left) a Popham Thunder girl who is completely the wrong colour, having a black mother, she also needs to grow into those ears!
Next to her is Qjori's only black son this year, Patou Swanny, (named by Gus after the retired England spinner). Swanny is very black, very stocky and looks great, well he would do, as his mother is my all time favourite, Lily.

Last week also saw the arrival of a super little Jack of Spades boy. Patou Spitfire is a lovely rich dark chocolatey brown. His mother Patou Sirrocco, (she was the one with the prolapsed uterus) is a medium brown Cambridge Columbus girl so an excellent result. Spitfire is just in the process of receiving a welcoming headbutt from Polly. He was out cold for a good couple of minutes, nasty streak in that female, real nasty.

The cria with the vitamin B deficiency was Patou Pippin, son of the above mentioned headbutter and Qjori. I really like the look of young Pippin, he has real potential, one to watch. A bit wet in this picture but I hope you can see what I can see.

Another Popham Thunder cria, this time Patou Pinot, a lovely black female. She is being photobombed by Primrose's mother Bluebell! She was actually trying to get in all the pictures and pull a face, not very mature is it Bluebell?

Continuing with the Thunder offspring, Patou Black Lightning, very black and very fast!

Right, that's enough for now, the sun is coming out so it must be time for me to go out and get on with some real work! Things need to be ship shape here by Friday as I am packing my tent and sleeping bag and am off to Bozedown for the Classic this weekend, which will be a first for me. I am looking forward to a weekend of alpaca talk!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

MH - anyone heard of it?

It would appear that I have been blogless for the past month.
I think I am probably correct in saying that this is my longest absence since I started writing about the ups and downs of life amongst the Mighty Patou herd.
I always wonder when one of the regular alpaca bloggers is absent for a week or two, always suspecting that it is because of a 'down' moment. Well if you were thinking that of my absence you would be spot on. To be perfectly frank the last few weeks have been amongst the lowest since we formed the Patou herd 9 years ago.
As a result I just didn't want to write about alpacas, I didn't want to talk about alpacas, I didn't even want to think about alpacas, in fact there have been moments when I just wished that they would all go away, as one problem after another manifested itself seemingly without a break in between.
I know others have been through much, much worse situations, heartbreaking life altering scenarios and in a way I feel guilty for mentioning our problems, which are relatively minor in comparison but I can only write truthfully and honestly about our experiences in the hope that it helps someone. It is probably going to help me to write about it, therapeutic I suppose, so here goes.

Anyway we seem to have come through our 'bad patch' and now with the wounds (literally) healing I can look back and try to learn something from what has been going on.

In short, in numbers alone, we have lost five cria, one two year old female and a yearling male. That, in numbers alone is a huge hit for us to take and to understand. Every death has been for a different reason which kind of puts into perspective the feeling that we just couldn't believe something else life threatening had come up. I can't remember how many times I have uttered the words "What next?" over the past few weeks.
I won't go into each and every case but will say that we have had congenital defects, infections, abnormalities and a good measure of bad luck.

We have lost cria before, we have had still borns, lost early ones and have accepted that sometimes it is just not meant to be, in short, it happens. I know that. It is part and parcel of breeding animals. But in nine years of breeding we have never lost an adult and as a result it was a huge shock.

I will go into details because she died of something that I had never heard of before and I feel that it is worth 'sharing'.
The alpaca was a lovely dark brown girl called Tabitha. She was the sort of alpaca who you hardly ever noticed, quiet, calm, anonymous within the herd. I blogged earlier about her cria, QT, who was our mystery cria this year, totally unexpected when he arrived, investigation required to work out who is father was.
QT himself developed a bladder/urethra problem when he was 5 weeks old and heartbreakingly after ten days I asked for him to be euthanised to put him out of his pain. A post mortem revealed a urethra that had closed up, he was unable to pee but spent all day trying. We tried everything we could to put him right.

Naturally Tabitha moped around for a couple of days after her cria was taken away, as you would expect and then out of the blue I found her collapsed in the field.
It became obvious very quickly that she was severely anaemic and the vet was called straight away. Apart from the anaemia she had also gone blind (due to the anaemia). She was in good body condition with normal pelleted poop. A rapid blood test was carried out revealing a PCV (packed cell volume) of 6%, which is very, very low. Fecal test was normal. An even faster blood transfusion followed with good old Priscilla providing a couple of pints of claret.

The suspected cause of the anaemia was something called Mycoplasma Haemolamae. Basically as I understand it, it is a bacteria that attaches itself to the wall of the red blood cells and causes the host to attack its own blood cells. It is a blood borne disease spread by biting insects. She was prescribed daily Engemycin (Tetracycline) injections and we waited, hoping she would recover.

Tabitha initially picked up and was eating and drinking well but after five days she started to deteriorate and 48 hours later she died. A subsequent PCR test confirmed the presence of Mycoplasma Haemolamae.

If you Google Mycoplasma Haemolamae there is plenty of information about it, mainly from the USA where many alpacas succumb to it every year.

I promise that my next blog will be on a more cheery note.

Friday, 25 July 2014

All in the eye of the beholder?

Something has been gnawing away at me for some time now and I just can't shake it off. It's nothing important to anyone else, no one else cares a jot, just me and I simply can not let it lie. I spoke to Sue about it....again....last night and was told in no uncertain terms to 'just let it go'. But I can't, it bothers me.
So, as I have shared everything else with you lot I will share this also. Sue is at work so by the time she reads this it will be too late, there is no real censorship going on here, my blog, my thoughts, the good, the bad and of course, the ugly.You won't care about it, it doesn't actually make any difference to anyone apart from me and even then it is only in my mind, but, and this is why I have to share my feelings, I just can't let it go!

Firstly I am a big believer in the premise that the judge is always right on the day. Animals change from week to week and it is in the ring, on the day, that they are being judged. I have no problem with results in the ring. I may disagree sometimes, but I still accept the judges decision. I have no problem with that, it is a difficult job and I respect anyone who does it, I couldn't do it.

What is bothering me is the performance of our two grey boys in the show rings this year. They won't be shown again this year as they are too young for The Ellingham Show, which is the last show that we are going to, so if and when they appear in the ring again this will all be long gone and forgotten.

We had two grey boys born last year, both sired by Qjori. A mid grey, Patou Vickery, (mother a white female, Tisbury Dilly) and Patou Wasimba, a rose grey sired by the fawn Patou Sahara (daughter of Dilly).
They both should have been brown females, obviously, but they were grey and we are beginning to like the greys down here in Patouland.

Patou Vickery - medium grey.

Patou Wasimba - rose grey
So, what is my problem I hear you shout! Well, before either of them entered a show ring, they were selected by Sue and me to be in the show team, something that we, as alpaca breeders, all do. To be honest, initially I didn't know what colour Wasimba was but as he grew his fleece became a lovely even mix of brown and white fibres, he was a rose grey. Vickery was easier to assess, he was grey from the word go.

Both were put in the show team but I believed and still do believe that Wasimba was the better alpaca. His fleece was denser, softer, brighter and had a tighter crimp. So to recap, before they entered the competitive arena I had already decided that Wasimba was better. I must also point out that I have had no judge training and was only basing my decision on my limited experience.

The two boys competed in three shows in front of three different judges and each time, to my great frustration, Wasimba was placed one position behind Vickery. I just could not understand it.
So, and this is where I get a bit naughty, I asked two other BAS judges, both who I hold in very high esteem to have a look at the two boys. I didn't give away anything of my views prior to their inspections and was very pleased when they both put Wasimba ahead of Vickery, easily.
Now, once again I must point out that this was not under show conditions and I understand that alpacas have to be judged on the day, in the ring but it is interesting that my view on who was the better animal was shared.
Fleece statistics can tell us something about the alpacas too, Wasimba's fleece is finer by 2 microns.
Right, that is it I have got it off my chest and will now 'Let it go'.

So to other news down here in Patouland. This week I made a momentous trip out on the road to visit Andy and Viv Walker at Reddingvale alpacas. Of course it is always momentous visiting Andy and Viv but this trip was extra momentous as it was the first time that I have travelled with two Patou herdsires on board. On this occasion Qjori was joined by his son, Patou Tsar, a very special boy here in Patouland, who has made the grade and has recently started his working life.

It was an interesting experience as they were in pens separated by a walkway in which we stood. On one side was the deafening warrior like roar of Qjori orgling away as he dominated the Reddingvale female allotted to to him. On the other side was the sight of Tsar clinging limpet-like to the back end of surely one of the biggest females in the UK whilst he did his job in almost complete silence. It was like being deaf in one ear.

Patou Tsar, what a journey we have had with him over the last two years!
That is all.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

From brown to lime green!

It's all been go, go, go here in Patouland, the mighty herd has grown by ten and at the same time been reduced by ten.
At the end of last month I took a trailer of 8 home bred Patou warriors across the channel to Calais where I was to meet up with some lovely breeders from Belgium. It was an interesting experience as up until the point where we transferred the alpacas from my trailer to theirs I was very businesslike about the whole thing. Well OK maybe the shorts didn't look terribly businessman-like. Then, when they came out of my trailer and made the short trip to the other I suddenly became quite emotional, so much so that I couldn't speak for a few moments and my vision became a little blurry.
We said goodbye to six boys, Todd, Thor, Talisker, Wellington, Vincenzo and Wilbur and two girls Una and Verity. Too much in one go for a simpleton like me to cope with emotionally. Still, I am happy that they will all be going to good homes where they will be looked after properly. Not my favourite part of breeding alpacas.

We also said goodbye to Woody and Rafiki who went to a lovely home the other side of Salisbury, we will be seeing them again which is great.

So to my favourite part! We now have ten cria on the ground, six of them females. At the moment all are wonderfully healthy. Little Bijou is back to her lively self and we have been able to withdraw from all top up bottle feeds.

Here are a few pictures of some wonderful brownness!

Patou Bijou, back to full fitness. We think it was Coccidia that caused her listlessness, lack of appetite and thirst.

 Patou Drambuie, a very handsome young man with a great head shape. Branson in the background nibbling Sue's fleece, he is always nibbling something.

 From left to right, Finnegan (light, light brown), Pepper and Branson.

QT and Delilah, QT seems to try and shag anything that moves and moments after this picture was taken he was trying to get Bannock (aged 14yrs and very tall) down onto the ground. It was a very bold move, which was ultimately unsuccessful.

And so to the latest arrival, Patou Nutmeg. Last year we had four females pregnant to Popham Thunder, all four gave birth to males. They were all remated to Thunder and yesterday the first of them gave birth. Samantha produced a lovely dark brown female who we are delighted with.

And finally, I went to Leicestershire last weekend for a school reunion at Ratcliffe College. It was a superb weekend until the mighty Land Rover once again blew up, this time substitute the M25 for the M1. Anyway to cut a very long story short the AA managed to get me towed off the M1 but then took a further 4 hours to get a mechanic to me. I was urged by one of the many AA call centre operatives that I spoke to (I spoke to most of them I reckon) to make a complaint and as a result I was whisked away in a taxi on Monday to a car hire centre where I had a lime green Seat Leon FR thrust upon me, all at the expense of the AA. As you can see it is highly visible and as I have found, goes rather faster than my old Discovery! I have had comments and odd looks where ever I have been, especially at school pick up time. I'm sure I heard someone muttering something about a mid life crisis!

Have I reached mid life yet?

Friday, 27 June 2014

It's all on the QT.

Finally after a hugely busy couple of weeks I get time to sit down and update you all with news from Patouland.
We now have 9 cria on the ground, 5 females and 4 males. Colour wise we are very pleased, all brown until last night when the first black girl arrived.

We also have a confession to make, bad herd management I'm afraid, all a bit embarrassing but very cute nonetheless.
On Monday this week I went out to check on the portly ladies to see a female with a head hanging out. When I got closer I could see that it was Tabitha, our lovely dark brown Qjori maiden. The problem was that she had been mated to the awesome Jack of Spades in September and therefore wasn't due until August!
I immediately expected the worst. A premature cria who, at not even 9 months gestation, would be dead on arrival. However, a short while later out plopped a lively little male who was only showing slight signs of dismaturity. According to my records it was a gestation of 268 days. No, the general consensus and the text books suggested that it was not possible. But how could it have happened?

When Sue got home we discussed it at length and tried to work out who had been responsible. It remained a mystery until 5.45am the following morning when I was awoken by Sue declaring "It was Qjori".
During last summer we kept all the males in fields in the next village. They would have had to catch a bus to do the deed. But Qjori kept coming over to do some matings and spit offs. When he was visiting he stayed in a paddock next to the girls. Sue recalls finding him grazing in the girls paddock one day. That day must have been the day he carried out the filthy deed. So Qjori's daughter, Tabitha, has produced a son and a grandson for him. Line breeding or just plain incest?

And here he is, we have named him QT. As in 'on the QT (quiet)', it also stands for Qjori Twice.

Our other cria seem, after a tricky start for some, to be thriving. Here is the gorgeous Rio, she is full of beans. Her mother, Minstrel, is a Jack of Spades girl. In fact Minstrel was the first ever Jack of Spades girl, how about that!

The unnamed brown boy who spent the night in our bedroom is now doing very well and has been named Branson. He is perhaps a little too friendly but has worked hard on his mother's, initially unfruitful, udder so much so that we have now stopped bottle feeding him as she is now providing sufficient milk. He is a nibbler of trousers and a nipper of bottoms.

The only one still being bottle fed is little Pepper. Her mother, Poppy, is not really doing the job we want her to. Frequently wandering off, often in the middle of a feed, she seems oblivious to the fact that she has a cria. Pepper is feeding from her when she can but is not getting enough just yet. We are monitoring her intake and her weight gains very carefully and will reduce the bottle when we can. She'll get there, they are amazing little suckers these cria.

A perfect result from Fifi, finally, as she produced her first ever female cria! A beautiful little thing who we have called Bijou. Text book everything from the word go, just lovely, lovely, lovely.

Bijou, with her mothers ears, bless her and the Qjori greyish head. It usually fades to brown.


I have no pictures of the new black girl as yet, she is a whopper though and was up very quickly last night. She was born at 6.10pm following a quite lengthy assist. Her head was somehow twisted around one leg and upside down so I was up to my elbow for ten minutes sorting it all out. However, she took the longest first feed I have ever seen from a cria. She stood absolutely rock solid for 15 minutes, glugging away before she was even an hour old.

So the first batch are now done. All sired by Qjori. We now have a few days respite before the next dozen.

We have cria from four other herd sires to come so exciting times ahead!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Back on track.

Thanks for all the messages and good wishes over the past couple of days, I can report that we are back on track and the Mighty Patou machine is rumbling on!

An update on the little brown Qjori boy. After a night with us and a bit of TLC he is stronger and feeding from his mother. He is dis-mature though so we are watching him very carefully. He had a couple of doses of bovine colostrum, has been covered with long lasting antibiotics and we are topping him up with supplementary feeds for the time being. The glorious warm sunshine is helping and I am sure he will be OK. Two thirds of the naming committee (it is a big thing here) are at school and work respectfully. I am not permitted to name anyone without consulting said committee but I will have some strong suggestions at the end of the day.

So here is unnamed boy in his 'padded cell' in our bedroom.


And here is the little munchkin with his mother the following day.

Yesterday we moved into shearing mode, bit of a clue in the above picture. I heard Colin Ottery and his side-kick Seb arrive at 0750hrs as I was looking at the back end of a female, Rosa, from across the field as she looked to be acting a bit oddly. By the time I got to her a head and two feet had been pushed out and a short while later a large brown Qjori girl arrived! She was in a cush almost instantly, up within an hour and feeding within 2. She is now hard to catch and pops up in all corners of the 5 acre field, almost instantaneously. I think she may be some sort of shape shifter. She will also be named this evening.

Today I am on cria watch again as we still have seven females due this week and there are a lot of suspicious looking ladies out there. Minstrel makes a habit of giving birth on my birthday, today, and she was wandering about with her tail sticking out earlier.
The herd looks absolutely scrummy at the moment, newly shorn, suede to touch and of cartoon like, almost alien appearance, my favourite time of the year.
Here are the hooligan mobsters, last years boys, they follow me around the field like a team of pick-pockets waiting for an opportunity to half inch my wallet. When I turn round they all look around as if to say "Who? Us? No, not up to anything here". I am sure of they could whistle, they would.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The worst possible start.

Pretty crap start to the day today.
We are on high alert here as we move into the birthing window for 10 girls.
6am and Sue ran up the stairs announcing that Sabrina was giving birth.
I was straight out and sure enough a head and two front legs were out. Airway was clear and all appeared normal.
However, it soon became obvious that Sabrina was exhausted and was having trouble giving birth.
I delivered the cria but after 30 minutes of trying everything we just couldn't get her breathing and had to call it a day.
Sabrina, meanwhile, was flat out exhausted and had lost a fair amount of blood. Two hours later and she is much improved having had oxytocin (placenta now out, and normal), antibiotics and pain relief.

The cria was a big beautiful dark brown female and I have just laid her to rest in a lovely spot in the field. Tears are falling on the keyboard as I type, I know it is all part of breeding animals but it's hard to come to terms with.

Sabrina knew she was in need of help, she was lying right next to the gate that we always enter the field by.
I know that there was nothing else we could have done, we will be up earlier tomorrow.

Shearing tomorrow, I have a busy day ahead of me getting everything set up.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Knackered, as the real work begins!

It was 7pm last Saturday when I finally pulled up outside Patou HQ, weary, knackered, hungry and gasping for a drink. After four and a half days at the Royal Bath and West show I was home, ready to unload the show team and all their kit. The last show of the summer (well maybe just one more in August) was over and so was I, almost.
We had a good show, but it's always difficult for breeders coming from the dark side at the Bath and West as it is run as an age championship, rather than the more familiar and MUCH BETTER colour championship. It basically means that the black, brown and grey juniors are compared to all the other light coloured juniors and so on. That invariably means that the Supreme championship line up is made up of white, light and fawn alpacas, from my point of view that looks a bit dull to anyone watching. OK, so it may be argued that they are the best alpacas in the show and so deserve to be there, but for spectators and breeders of the darker alpacas it is all a bit..........boring. Oops.... did I just say that?

At this point I must point out that there was one exception in the line up this year.
Shining out like a beautiful ball of anthracite amongst a ring of dirty cotton wool, smoulderingly good looking and seemingly tearing a hole through the atmosphere from another darker world was a super Inca female. Black as the ace (or should that be Jack) of Spades, she stood alone amongst all the general assembled beigeness. All was not lost, we, the champions of the dark side were represented by the best of us all.

Actually I was also in the line up with a little white boy owned by Classical Mile End alpacas. He went on to win Best of British, very deservedly.
In that Supreme line up we stood next to the eventual Supreme Champion, a junior fawn female owned by Houghton Hall Alpacas, who was absolutely beautiful. Her fleece was simply gorgeous, like molten gold. A very worthy winner.

Right enough of that drivel. The highlight for team Patou was that we were represented in the ring by two young Patou warriors, Gus had been accompanied by his best mate, George Fry and both of them were up for a scrap. Having camped on site we were up early and breakfasted ready to do battle on Thursday, junior day. Unusually the Bath and West show not only runs as an age championship but also runs in reverse order. I have no idea why, but it does. That meant the whites were in first and we weren't in the ring until after lunch.

Just before lunch, however, was a small matter of the junior handler class. Gus and George were entered in a line up of five eager handlers, including, past master and hot favourite, Isla May, a very shrewd operator with a steely glint in her eye.

The boys couldn't match Isla and she took the trophy, Gus coming second and George a very creditable third. Top marks to Barbara for her judging in, undoubtedly, the toughest class of the show!

Lunch was taken as the boys prepared for the proper show classes and it wasn't long before they were doing battle in the junior grey class. First for Vickery with Gus and second for Wasimba and George, the Mighty Patou were up and running.

As usual it was a all over in a blur with Gus going in six consecutive classes, brown, black and grey, not just for us, he was in demand.

He took Wesley in the junior black male class and came second behind some old bloke from Somerset, who was a little too smug showing off his first placed rosette!

The nuts and bolts of it were that we ended up with colourful display of rosettes as the big boys Tsar and Talisker took first and second in the intermediate brown class on Friday.

I am now at home with plenty to do, we are shearing next Wednesday and we need some sunshine to dry the shearing field up or we won't be able to get any vehicles in, I mean, come on, it's June! Where's the bloody sunshine!
We also have females to watch, ten girls have now passed the eleven month stage and are lying around like a load of beached whales. No galavanting about from now on, we are firmly and properly on 'cria watch'.
I also have a a group of animals to get ready for export, but more on that when they have safely landed the other side of the channel.

So what am I doing sitting here in front of the computer I hear you all roar!
Enough said, now where are my wellies?