Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Beware: A long post, my yearly review.

So looking back on 2009 what is the verdict? I think on balance a pretty good one for us here in the land of Patou.
Naturally it has caused us concern and sadness to read about and to hear first hand stories of other people’s bad luck and misfortune this year but these things are beyond our control. We have offered our support and sent cyber hugs and stuff from afar but for us life must go on. We hope things turn around for those who have had bad times, we really do, it could be us next time, they will turn around, I’m sure. Just hang in there.

We had a dodgy start to 2009 as we battled hard to save the life of Lily (my favourite etc etc). She had virtually given up the battle having become extremely anaemic after a series of unfortunate circumstances but thankfully with some great vet work from the lovely Louise and some perseverance, including help and advice from friends we managed to see her through.
She has now fully recovered and hopefully will have a cria in the summer.
Thanks again to everyone who phoned or e-mailed with advice and encouragement. I have to say that the ‘Alpaca world’ is a good place to be, good people in abundance. There when you need them and that's nice.

Lily enjoying the sunshine and hay a few days ago, still time to pose for a photo!

The mighty Patou herd is in good shape and has even increased in size (on paper) recently.
My nemesis, Coolaroo Judah, who has covered me from head to toe more than a couple of times this year has been assimilated into the herd. I have been in contact with her Australian owner regularly about Judy’s behaviour. Believe me writing an e-mail whilst green alpaca spit is dripping off your nose and you are shaking with rage is not a good idea!
Anyway we decided that it wouldn’t be fair to sell Judy or even give her away. She is a big old unit and can be quite fearsome. I don't think anyone would buy her even at a knock down price. We have developed a way of dealing with her and we feel that we owe it to her to carry on trying to get her ‘sorted out’. I will still have periods when I know I will want her to go away but she is pregnant to our main man the Clumpmeister so we hope she has a beautiful little girl next summer!

We only had four cria this year. Regular readers may remember that we reset the herd clock last year. Our births were getting later and later so we took most of the girls through the winter empty. Hopefully this means that we have a bumper crop of late spring, early summer births in 2010. It has set us back a little but we don’t have the facilities to handle winter births here yet. It was a decision we were happy we made.
So the four cria we did have?

First up in early March Bobby produced the truly gorgeous Patou Penny. A glorious light brown colour and now at almost 9 months old carrying a rather good soft fleece. Lucky for her we had a beautiful spring which gave her a tremendous start in life. She weighed 10kg at birth and at one month old weighed double that!

June saw the arrival of Minnie the Minstrel, a Jack of Spades girl out of Priscilla (Bobby's mother). Carrying the white from the spot on Priscilla's chin, Minstrel is the third cria from Priscilla with white markings. Priscilla has produced solid coloured cria when covered by lighter males so she is now pregnant to the Clumpmeister. Hopefully a nice cria in the summer, solid colour, female and gorgeous will suffice!

The third cria born here this year was from Judy who produced a nice fawn boy in July, Samson, who is another big cria was sired by Wessex Cosmos. I haven't had much to do with him as Judy is always on the offensive when I touch him so he is dealt with very speedily!

Samson, getting the cold shoulder from Minnie who he tends to follow about quite a bit!

The final cria born was the result of our ‘rent-a-womb’ scheme with friends of ours. The resulting cria, born in July is a lovely medium fawn female, Polly, sired by ATA Cambridge Centurion. She is still with her mother at the moment but will join the Patou herd next month!

I suppose the biggest thing to ‘hit’ the alpaca world this year has been bTB. We have read a lot about it and spoken to people who have experience of it. I am a little reticent to talk about it too much as so much is unknown about it and how things are going to progress. Suffice it to say that we are taking every precaution we can here in Patouland and will continue to do so.

We have just had dates of bTB awareness meetings from the BAS which will be given by Gina Bromage a very knowledgeable alpaca vet. We will do our best to get to one of them, at least one of us!

The other news this year for us was our a good 2009 Futurity where Poppy and Millie took rosettes for us in the brown female categories, they also took more at the SWAG Spring show, a good result for us.

Later in the year we had the holiday of a lifetime in Australia where somewhere along the way, in Tasmania, whilst staying with friends Bob and Diane Hey, we did exactly what we said we would not do, we bought an alpaca. Van Diemen Qjori will be with us hopefully in July 2010 and we can't wait for his arrival. He was quite simply the best looking brown alpaca I have seen anywhere and we are sure that he will make his mark on the Patou herd over the next few years.

We lost our beloved Bryn (silly old Lab) this year and also our first ever cat, Bob.
Taking their place in the house have come Belle and Sebastian our two kittens who have ripped the house and it's contents to pieces and reintroduced the daily body count that we had missed so much since Bob died.

The Christmas tree is already down as they systematically set about destroying it. Just about every bauble was flicked off and chased, branches were broken, chaos was caused.
Talking of Christmas the highlight was watching Angus opening his presents and enjoying all the excitement of the occasion. His face on Christmas morning almost brought tears to my eyes and he has been an absolute joy to be with, as has Sue who I love more each year.

Angus complete with new bike on Christmas Day. Snow? Who needs snow when you have mud?

So anyway there is my brief review of the year, if you're still reading you must be very bored or have no life!

Seriously though, thanks for reading during the year, I know wits hegets alittele hatdf to follow at time sespeecialkyh when I try toe tyupe ftas but hey!

I hope you all have a great 2010, I just feel that it is going to be a good year. Be good and may the sun shine on you.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I had some interesting reactions to my last post which was quite obviously complete drivel. I asked Sue to read it and she did without so much as a smile crossing her face, she just didn't find it funny. I, on the other hand nearly wet myself writing it. Ah well there we go.
For the record we did attend the Inca Christmas lunch and we would have travelled a lot farther than we did if we had to. It was a very pleasant few hours spent in the company of some crackingly good people. People we are delighted and proud to call our friends. We must do that more often guys, we really should.

Anyway the day before that whilst we had a sprinkling of snow on the ground I was out to take some festive shots. As usual on Christmas Eve the snow has been replaced by the more customary rain and mud.

Here is little Samson, son of my friend Judy. He was sired by Wessex Cosmos and is a nice little fellow, it's just that every time I go near him I have you know who breathing down my neck!
Here is the Clumpmeister enjoying his breakfast of peas, oats and alfafa in the sunshine.

The rest of the herd are tucking in also, it doesn't take them long to polish off a couple of trough fulls!
We have been concerned about the alpacas in the weather that we have had. They have wandered in and out of the old field shelter (new one arrives next week) but have generally stayed out. It has been as low as -6 here but thankfully dry and wind free. It doesn't seem to bother them at all, it probably bothers us more on their behalf. Still with the new shelter arriving soon I will be able to shut the whole herd in at night if required.
All that remains is for me to say Merry Christmas to all readers of this drivel. I have one more shift pounding the streets of Salisbury tonight but as of 0200hrs I am on full speed ahead, all stops to go Christmas mode for ten days. Can't wait to see the face of Angus tomorrow morning.
Anyway, Sue, Angus and all the fluffstables hope you all have a great Christmas and that 2010 is a cracker of a year, especially for alpaca owners!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Anywhere for a free lunch!

Today we managed to wangle a free lunch. We had to travel down into deepest darkest Dorset, or Somerset, (one of the two) but the cunning plan bore fruit.
Several months ago I sent an e-mail to Tom from Inky Alpacas in Dorset saying I might be interested in looking at some alpacas with a view to possibly, and that's all it was folks, possibly buying one. A multi-coloured wether, an old one, with three legs it was. I think Inky Alpacas specialise in black ones but I'm not sure.
Anyway I thought nothing of it really but blow me down I subsequently got invited to Inky Alpacas Christmas do!
I couldn't believe it, I mean I had no intention of buying anything, I was just bored and messing around with the computer one morning.
Well, I have never been one to turn down free nosh so we were off!
I made sure we got there nice and early so that we could get the Inky Alpaca tab up and running and get a few scoops down before Tom and the rest of the Inky's turned up.

Anyway as it turns out this Kiwi bloke Tom and his wife Trixie were most accommodating and made us feel very welcome. God knows what the hell they were talking about during lunch, I'm sure it was something about crimpy feet? Or fleecy rump?

We just tucked into whatever was on offer and kept our heads down.
I ended up sitting next to some ex pro footballer called Terry, I think that's what he said his name was, bit of a cockney, hard to understand. He wittered on and on about some very old alpacas he had. I assume they were old, he said they were all grey? Actually come to think of it I'm sure he ran an alpaca retirement home or something? Still he seemed nice enough.
I think he was Dad to Trixie and some woman called Kate from another alpaca herd called Amorous Alpacas? What that was all about is anybody's guess. They had both brought children along so I'm glad we brought the sprog, I did think about leaving him at home.
There was also another couple there who I could have sworn said they were Polish chicken stuffers, whatever that means. I have a sneaking suspicion that they may have crashed the wrong do. I couldn't understand a word that the bloke said, I'm sure he was talking Polish most of the afternoon. Foreign names too, Ifan and something like Gillo? They seemed quite friendly but if I had to put money on it I reckon they were up to the same trick as us, feign interest, eat and drink as much as you can, grab a quick kiss off any nice looking birds and then leg it. There was another foreign girl there too, Cara, she talked a lot about Australia but sounded a bit more French than that. I think she might have been some sort of Nanny or something.

Anyhow that's what we did and we were just about to make a quick family trip out through the gents toilet window (leading straight to the car park) when bugger me Tom got up to make a speech! Not only that but photographs were taken! We just couldn't escape!

I couldn't believe it but the bloke with the camera stood right next to me, couldn't get out of the shot. That's me at the front with the red hat on and then clockwise it was Terry(the ex pro), Cara (the Nanny), Amorous Kate, Kate and Trixie's children, Trixie, Tom, Ifan, Gillo, Sue and Angus who as you can see was well stuffed with turkey. That boy can stack it away when he knows he doesn't have to pay!

Here's Tom getting all emotional during his speech, thankfully it was brief as I was very embarrassed at being classed as a close friend. The weeping went on for a bit too long as well. Jeepers it was the first time I've met the bloke! Although I did have a blank couple of hours a week or two back at another Christmas do I managed to crash. Maybe I bumped into him then? Who knows.
Still it appeared that a good day was had by all!
The above article was written by a gibbering idiot.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The sun shines in Patouland!

Patouland is bathed in glorious winter sunshine today, the wind has dropped and the temperature is hovering just above freezing, marvellous.
I have just been out and fed the herd and the ice has been broken in the water troughs.
I have also just taken delivery of a load of lovely soft meadow hay as we had just about run out and they are tucking into it with gusto at the moment.
Whilst out there smiling like a goon in the sunshine I took a few snaps of some key herd herd members.
First up the three brown youngsters. From left to right: Minstrel (6mths), Penny (9mths) and Millie (17mths). As you can see Millie is a bit of a midget compared to Penny and Minnie the Minstrel is also catching up fast.

Next up is a photograph of my most favourite alpaca in the world, Lily. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
And finally a picture of Millie (daughter of Lily) on her own basking in the sunshine.
Isn't life wonderful when the sun shines?
Have to go now, Angus has back to back parties in Salisbury today and I am the despatcher.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Drama at Patou.

There's me saying there is nothing much to write about and we go and have a medical emergency yesterday!
The girls all came up for their late morning feed and all tucked in to their usual alfalfa and peas. I was busying myself moving the Eglu to a more sheltered spot and was looking near the alpaca feeding area for a possible location when I noticed that one of the alpacas was not feeding with the others.
Lily (why oh why does it always have to be our favourite alpaca in the whole wide world?) was standing motionless between the two troughs, very odd. On closer inspection I could see that she was drooling heavily and struggling for breath, classic choking signs. I shouted for Sue and we quickly got her into a small handling pen. She was definitely choking so I squirted a couple of pints of warm water down her throat to try and shift it. Normally that does the trick. This time it didn't something was stuck and needed shifting. We called the vet and he was on his way from Salisbury straight away.

Lily by this time was really struggling for breath and was shaking, presumably from the stress of it all. We put a coat on her, there was a bitterly cold wind, and tried more water to no avail. We then just kept her calm until the vet arrived. Just prior to his arrival Lily had a huge coughing spasm and I saw a small piece of white matter fly through the air. Lily, however was still struggling for breath and making an awful grunting noise. Something was still restricting her breathing. The vet passed what seemed about 6 feet of tubing down her throat and Lily made various grunting, gasping and bubbling sounds. The tube out she was still struggling for breath. Her heart rate was normal, her lungs sounded clear, she seemed bright enough she was just gasping for breath.

The diagnosis was that she had been choking but the blockage had now been removed either due to the coughing or the tubing. The blockage had caused an inflammation in her throat which was now causing her problems. The vet gave her a large dose of anti-inflammatory intravenously and the reaction was almost instant. Within a minute she was breathing better and five minutes later she was grazing.
Throughout the whole incident Lily was the best behaved alpaca in the world. She stood next to us whilst we waited for the vet. She accepted the stomach tube with hardly a fuss and allowed the vet to examine her as if it was a daily occurrence.

She is a special one that Lily, a special one indeed.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas is a coming.

Sorry for the lack of blogging over the last few days, the day job once again is interfering with my alpaca farming. Mind you there isn't a huge amount to do at the moment.
We have upped the girls feed, adding micronised peas and oats to their alfalfa pellets and one of us is usually here to get them up and check them over visually whilst they munch.
Actually there is no 'getting them up' really. No matter where they are they hear the feed bin opening and the bucket being filled and the next thing is when you turn round, they are all there.

We are pretty much set up now for Christmas, I can't wait to see Angus's little face on Christmas morning (not too early I hope). For me it is the moment of Christmas. I finish work at 2am on Christmas morning for a whole ten days off..............and lo there was much rejoicing in the land of Patou!
Anyway this is an alpaca blog so I must report that the alpacas are getting Christmas presents this year. Big expensive ones.
We have taken the plunge and ordered a large field shelter, 24' x 12', which will go into the main paddock for the girls to use, or not, as will probably be the case. It will be very handy for us as it has three gates on it enabling us to turn it into two separate shelters. It is arriving after Christmas and will be tucked away in the corner of the field up against a big barn so it should be a nice sheltered shelter, if you get my meaning.
We have also ordered a new trailer to replace our 29 year old horsebox. It will arrive in early January and I can't wait to get working on the livery. It will of course be a mighty trailer, for mighty tasks. Although, with the current situation it may lie dormant for a while. Still it's nice, big and shiny and ours and I shall admire it from every angle. I just love new stuff.
The Christmas tree went up this week and with that one of the kittens went up. Up the tree that is. Sebastian comes in every evening and climbs up the tree. He seems to have made the third level (for it is not a real Christmas tree folks but an artificial one, with levels) his base camp. From there he can flick baubels and other sparkly, dangly things until they fall off. Belle, the other destroyer, doesn't climb the tree. No, she attacks it from the outside at the bottom. Together they flick and pat and grab and remove stuff for hours. Oh what fun we have picking it all up and replacing it. Still, it is the season to be jolly. I do a good 'jolly' actually. Not as good as my 'grumpy' or my 'rage' but still good.

Here is the little darling having fun. Oh yes and he weed in my log basket last week. Isn't that nice.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Feed, jabs and drenches.

Today I am not starting work until 4pm so it left Sue and I to ourselves for a while. A little Christmas shopping, lunch and then some alpaca stuff. We thought the sun was going to break through but it didn't.............meanie.

Anyway the girls came up as usual for their food, slowly at the moment due to the mud on the slope, but up they came. I was a little nervous about how my arch enemy Judy was going to behave as we haven't spoken since our little 'incident' happened a couple of weeks ago. She is the white one staring at me from down the hill in the picture below. No doubt she was a whole lot more nervous about it than I was.
Bobby led the way as usual and soon they were all in and heads down. The usual screeching spitting, nudging and humming went on as Sue and I readied the medication.

We like to send the herd into the winter parasite free. We have a had some frosts now so the field should be clean so it was time to dose the herd up accordingly. Everyone received another injection of vitamin AD & E, a jab of wormer (we use Noromectin) and a drench of Vecoxan to sort out any coccidia. Everyone was very well behaved, even Judy who sort of trotted on the spot kicked me a few times but kept her greenness to herself. Marvellous. With Sue watching I would have to behave myself so it was just as well. Hopefully the herd will now spend the winter free from any parasites and will be in tip top condition come springtime.

I was also able to have a good check of everyone, noting condition scores, checking jawlines and generally having a good look for any signs of illness. All appeared in smashing condition and there are some really exciting fleeces in the herd at the moment. Millie and Penny our two brown youngsters particularly look stunning.

Here is the scrummy Penny looking cute but a little bedraggled .
Ah well off to work I must go. The hunt for Mr Bad continues.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A mighty gathering!

If you are at all involved in the alpaca scene in the UK you may have heard a deep rumbling in the air today as three enormities of the alpaca world met at a secret location in south west Wiltshire this afternoon. The meeting, which wasn't publicised for public safety reasons due to the lack of available crowd space, began in a barn somewhere near the Dorset border deep into bandit country.
I was priviledged to attend with Sue as head of the Mighty Patou at this high powered meeting of alpaca minds. You could have cut the air with a jammy dodger as all parties arrived and we set about our work in a businesslike manner. Actually we had coffee and cake first but you know what I mean.
The meeting place was at the headquarters of Old Stour Alpacas, a name not familiar to many but surely a major force to be reckoned with in the near future. The participants were drawn together with a common bond......to talk alpaca and carry out some pregnancy scanning whilst examining a herd soon to be unleashed in the public domain.

Ivan Hayward was the host, ably supported by his second in command, Jill.
Here I am pictured with Ivan, the expression on my face, I believe, gives you an insight into the awesomeness of the occasion.

The third party was His Emminence Lord Timothy of Inca, an 'Uberpower' in the alpaca world if ever there was one. Tim was wielding the scanner whilst Rob, Inca handler for the day, held the females. I had the suitably important job of 'lubeman', vital to provide baby oil for his Timness at the beginning of every scan.

We worked like a highly oiled machine. Tim on the scanner, Rob on the alpacas, me on the baby oil (no, that doesn't sound right!?) Jill was taking the records, Sue was taking the photographs and Ivan was............ wandering about admiring his herd by the looks of it!

Here you can see the screen whilst a female is scanned, the white splodge in the middle of the black blotch is the next generation of Old Stour Alpacas, a sight to behold. I swear as each female was scanned tears were starting to form as the future of a herd became visible. All females scanned pregnant. Fantastic news!

Next the examinations began as the herd was scrutinised and appraised. Just look at the smile on the proud face of Ivan, good reason too, he has some lovely alpacas.

Next it was off down the pub for a pint and a spot of lunch.
Well even Oligarchs need refreshments!

Friday, 4 December 2009


Not much to say as I have been doing the 'going to work and coming home in the dark' thing all week.
Sue has been here and assures me that the herd is still here and is in fine fettle. Actually I did bunk off early again yesterday to get home in time to see them, it had been dry and sunny all day and they looked great. Even Judy didn't screech at me when I spoke to her.

However, we are just about to order our new Patou transportation device (trailer) and new Patou accommodation block (field shelter) so exciting times ahead! Who says alpacas can't enjoy Christmas too!

I am looking forward to four days off this weekend so will be able to get up close and personal again. Weather permitting there may be photographs.

Monday, 30 November 2009

It was all my own fault

Yesterday I had a very nasty altercation with an alpaca. I may have mentioned this particular alpaca before, her name is Coolaroo Judah and she is a big white Australian female about 8 years old.
She doesn't belong to us, her owner now lives in Australia. Judy has been with us for almost three years and has been a constant trouble to deal with. She is petrified of human contact and will do virtually anything to get away from me in particular. This isn't good as I obviously have to inject, drench, clip, shear and generally look after her. She doesn't make it easy.

A few months ago she covered me in spit for daring to try and inject her. I literally had to manhandle her away so that I could get on with the rest of the herd. I was not a happy bunny.
Since then I have been working very hard to keep her calm by acting very calmly around her. I always have her penned with half a dozen other girls so that I can sort of sneak in and jab by stealth. It seemed to be working and I was happy that we were making progress.

Yesterday I went out to give some medication to her cria, Samson who is almost 5 months old.
It was raining and blowing a gale so I decided that instead of rounding up the herd into the outdoor handling area I would get the animals into the field shelter where I could work in the dry. Mistake number one - a break from routine.
The first three animals through the gate were Judy, Samson and Minstrel who I also needed to have a look at. Great I thought and shut the gate leaving the rest of the herd in the field. Mistake number two - isolated from the herd.

I then turned my back on Judy to get to Samson. Mistake number three - a threat to her cria.

The first I knew something was wrong was when the biggest gobfull of spit hit me fairly and squarely in the back of the head. I turned round immediately to receive an equally large amount fairly and squarely in the middle of my face. She was advancing on me and I had to take evasive action as the greenness descended upon me. I have never seen so much spit.
Even out of the way and away from Samson she continued to advance and the spit continued to flow. Once again I had to use physical force to defend myself and get her away from me. I don't think she was going to do anything else, she had ample opportunity when my back was to her at the beginning of this episode but nevertheless it certainly got the adrenalin flowing. Finally, and I am not proud of this I threw a bucket of water at her and then the bucket. Throughout the episode and again I am not proud of this I was shouting obscenities at her, so much so that I have almost lost my voice. I know, not big or clever or indeed helpful but there we go.

It has given me cause to think about what her state of mind was at the time. She was obviously of the opinion (do alpacas have opinions?) that I was going to eat her cria and then eat her, and I'm not joking.
I should have thought more about how I dealt with her, I should have been more on the ball, I should have stuck to the routine that I was using beforehand.

So, in short, I would still like her to go away, but it was probably all my own fault.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A sad day at Patou

It was a sad day at Patou yesterday. The alpacas are fine, the kittens are fine but one of the magnificent mad labs, Bryn, had come to the end of the road.

He was nearly 13 yrs old and had recently developed a very vigorous and huge tumour under his ribs. Surgery was ruled out for various reasons and Sue and I had to make the decision that is so difficult for owners of pets. He was still able to go out for short walks but had lost interest in food and just wasn't doing what a dog should do. He wasn't a mad lab anymore, he was a sad lab and that just isn't right for a dog.

Sue, being an absolute trooper took the day off work to greet the vet and be with Bryn to the very end. I went to work with the knowledge that the deed would be done at 11.30. In hindsight I wished I hadn't known.
For those of you who don't know I am a Policeman. I work in Salisbury in the training department taking new recruits out on the streets to guide them until they are able to handle the job by themselves. At 11.15 I was sitting in a busy parade room surrounded by experienced and not so experienced Police Officers. I received a text from Sue and this big bald hulk of a twit burst into tears in front of a rather startled audience.

Bryn was the nicest natured and most gentle dog I have ever known and was loved by everyone who ever met him. He will be missed here for a long time.
We loved him very much, he was one of the family.
I was going to write more but I can't see properly.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Home from La Belle France

We've just got back from a pretty fast whizzbang trip to the south of France. The roughest ferry ride I have ever experienced on the way out was only surpassed by the new roughest ferry ride I have ever experienced on the way back. I don't get seasick luckily but I still can't work out how I managed to end up punching the ceiling with my thumb on my way to the loo. It was akin to being on a roller coaster it was truly unpleasant.
The reason for the trip was to empty the newly sold house and return to the UK with our stuff. There wasn't a lot of time for sightseeing. My father came with Sue and I and we all worked pretty hard. 1200 miles later and we are back home.
Whilst we were away the weather here seems to have gone beserk! The alpacas all looked sodden through this morning and it has been pretty rough all day. We must be grateful that we haven't suffered as much as oop north where it has been horrendous.
I received some more photos of Van Diemen Qjori our latest acquisition who is at EP Cambridge in his first bout of quarantine. Ben kindly took a few shots of him, a couple of which I have posted below. I am biaised but I do think he looks rather magnificent.
Below is the best fleece shot that I have, unfortunately it still doesn't do him justice but I think you can see the quality is there. His second fleece statistics make nice reading too. Average micron of 17.2, SD of 4.0, CV of 19.9, only 1.4% of fibres above 30 microns and a comfort factor of 100%. Now I'm no expert on reading fibre stats but that reads pretty good to me for a second fleece.
Tomorrow I return to the day job and the leaving and returning in the darkness. I will be as grumpy as buggery by Friday.
And finally.....................nice to see Scotland trounce Australia on Saturday!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Darkness looms!

It's dark and I don't like it. I hate it, hate it, hate it (it may help to picture me stamping my feet in a tantrummy way at this point), no seriously I don't like it. I get up and go to work IN THE DARK , finish work and then come home IN THE DARK! When am I supposed to interact with my girls! WHEN!?!?! Well? When?

Well today I bunked off work a trifle early and got home before darkness descended so that I could take the mad labs out and we could mingle amongst the fluffy ones. They all looked in fine fettle which they should do as we only checked them a few days ago but I do worry. I worry that I will miss something. I have missed things in the past and I still hoof myself every now and again about it. Ever tried to hoof yourself? It's not easy.

One thing caught my attention today and it was the lower jaw of my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, my Lily. It didn't look right, the light was fading but it just didn't look right. Up they were rounded and I caught hold of her in the top paddock to have a looksee. She has had jaw abscess problems in the past resulting in a very expensive three day visit to the horse hospital in Salisbury. Anyway once I had her I felt her jaw fearing the worst. FLUFF! That's all it was, it was fluff, fleece, fibre, beard, fluff. Relief all round and I will sleep soundly tonight. I am determined that I will not miss anything again.

Not looking forward to this weekend, not one bit. On Thursday night Sue and I plus my father will get on the Brittany night Ferry leaving Portsmouth bound for Caen. Luckily the weather forecast looks great, Force 8 to 9 gale force winds in Dogger, Bight, Biscay, Fishnet, and all the other shipping forecast areas. Force 8 to 9! Will they sail in that? Should they sail in that? If they do will we be able to sleep?
I have to confess I don't like boats, not since The Herald of Free Enterprise flipped over after some berk left the front doors open. I'm sure there are plenty of safety measures in place but it still makes me nervous.
So why are you going to France Mark? I hear you cry.

Well let me tell you. Regular readers will know we have a house in the South of France which is where the Mighty Patou herd planned to finally travel to. The problem is the house that we bought before we even saw an alpaca is not really ideal. Not enough land and no option to purchase any more. As a result the Wooden House has been sold and we are going down in a large van to collect our belongings. It will be a sad weekend, not least because of the boat thing and the fact that it's a thousand mile round trip but also because we have had some great holidays in that house and we shall miss it.

Never mind we will bounce back with something bigger and more appropriate for staging world alpaca domination nearer the time.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A washout

Yesterday saw some of the worst weather of the year down here in the South West, torrential, horizontal rain all day and all night. A bit like living in Scotland for the day I suppose!
Trees down everywhere and any leaves that were hanging on have been reminded that the wind is in charge. The alpacas seemed hardly to notice and just carried on regardless, heads down munching.
As a result I was forced to stay inside all afternoon and watch rugby. Such a shame.

Van Diemen Qjori has started his mammoth quest having arrived at EP Cambridge, north of Adelaide, to begin his first 30 days of quarantine.

Ben was tasked with getting him there and they were both on the ferry from Tasmania to Melbourne on Tuesday of this week. Once on the mainland Ben set off on the 7 hour road trip to EPC. Sadly the van broke down a couple of hours short, radiator trouble, well it was 43 degrees C so hardly surprising. Fortunately EPC sent someone out to collect Qjori and poor old Ben had a long hot wait to get the van fixed. We owe Ben and EPC a huge thank you.

So Qjori has now joined a large group of alpacas at EPC for a 30 day quarantine period. After that they will all fly to a further quarantine station in New Zealand where they will stay for 6 months.
After that they will fly here to the UK and then our boy will come home. That is of course providing he passes the BAS screening. He has been 'pre-screened' and so there should be no problem, but you just never know! He's also been 'vet checked' so that we can insure him straight away.

It's a complicated and drawn out process but it will be worth it in the end. All being well he should be here in June, just in time to say 'Hello' and 'Ding Dong' to a few of our lovely ladies.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

I can contain myself no longer!

Regular readers of this tripe will know that Sue, Angus and myself have recently returned from a 'Once in a lifetime' holiday to Australia. We had a fantastic time, which I may have already mentioned in earlier posts.
The holiday was very much that, a holiday. We saw the bright lights and sights of Sydney and Melbourne, rented houses on the beach, watched humpback whales frollicking in the southern ocean at very close range and generally did a lot of holiday things. We have hundreds of photographs and many, many great memories. It lived up to it's billing, it was a holiday of a lifetime.
Part of the brief was that we wouldn't be visiting any alpaca farms. We just didn't have time, we weren't there for long enough. It was important that it was a holiday and that I didn't hi-jack it and make it an alpaca trip. I was happy not to, we spent some real quality time together. That was important.

However, we did stay at one alpaca farm.

We were lucky enough to be invited to stay at Van Diemen Alpacas in Tasmania with our friends Bob, Diane and Ben Hey, close relatives of the Earl of Inca.

Whilst we were there we just happened to have been shown their lovely herd of alpacas, well we couldn't NOT look at them could we? Immediately our attention was drawn to a super looking young brown male. He further interested us when we opened up his fleece. When we realised that it was possible to buy this young male we just couldn't help ourselves. In our eyes, and under close scrutiny he is an absolute stunner. Not only that but he came in our favourite alpaca colour.

Let me introduce you to Van Diemen Qjori (soon to be 'of Patou').
Here he is wearing the ribbons that he has won this year in Tasmania. Quite a collection I think you will agree.

He has now left Tasmania in the capable hands of Ben and is on his way to EP Cambridge to enter into quarantine with other alpacas destined for the UK.

All being well Qjori (pronounced Cory and meaning 'Gold') will travel on to New Zealand and then eventually in the middle of next year will arrive here at Patou headquarters. I can't wait.
There, the news is out, I'm exhausted and am off to have a large glass of something fruity.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Busy, busy busy

It was a busy old day here in Patouland as a lot of general husbandry was done. Sue was working so Angus and I were joined by young Hamish Davidson, the son of a colleague, who was going to act as my assistant for the day. He took to the task very well and by the end of the morning was very practised in catching and holding alpacas. It certainly made the day easier for me.
I gave over 50 injections for various things, cut numerous toenails, inserted a couple of microchips and pregnancy scanned a few of the girls. All in all a very good mornings work.

Too busy for photographs today so I have inserted a few from the other day when I was wandering as one with the herd..................I always feel that to run with the herd properly it is best to get naked, not pretty but it's the only way for me.

Anyway it is nice to see the herd growing some serious fleece now, they have almost got six months of growth on and are starting to look rather magnificent.
First up is the utterly scrumptious Fifi, a gorgeous medium fawn girl sired buy Wiracocha's Dream. Her mother is our oldest and calmest alpaca, Deedee, a real sweetie, not bothered by anything. Fifi has inherited her mothers calm and inquisitive demeanour, she is a nose nuzzler.

Next we have a lovely side by side shot of mother and daughter, Bobby (resident whirling spit fountain) and her daughter Penny (apprentice resident whirling spit fountain). Penny is a Witness girl and has a fantastic fleece, really very very nice.

Lastly for today is a bevvie of beauties, from left to right, Samson, Minnie (the Minstrel), Penny and Bobster. All fronting up to the mad lab Joshua Washington.
I'm actually treading water with the blog at the moment. I am virtually bursting with news from down under but can't tell you anything until a few things are sorted out. Hopefully in the next day or so I will reveal all.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Cria updates

I had the chance to have a wander amongst the massed ranks of the mighty Patou with the camera this afternoon. Since we have been back from Oz it seems that I have either been asleep, falling asleep or waking up. The trouble is I have been at work for the last three days! And no, I can't remember a thing.
Anyway it was nice to see that this years cria are all growing well. Young Samson here, despite appearances is light fawn and has grown noticeably whilst we were away. His owner lives in Australia and Samsons mother is now pregnant to the Clumpmeister.

He is best buddies with the lovely Minstrel. Actually when I say best buddies that may not be strictly true. He is more pest buddies with her. He follows her everywhere and she occasionally turns and spits at him which doesn't put him off at all. He seems to treat it as a priviledge.

Then there is Millie who was actually born late last summer. Daughter of the fabulously wonderful Lily (our favourite alpaca in the whole wide world). Millie is very hard to photograph especially as I had the long zoom lens on today as she grazes at you. Everywhere I went she followed me grazing. Two problems there when you are trying to take her photograph. Firstly she rarely looks up and secondly she is invariably too close!

Next up is Penny who was born in March this year, she is the daughter of our resident spit-fountain, Bobby and is huge. She is as big as Millie and 7 months younger. All that fresh spring grass must have been good for her.
Lastly just to compete with those Amiryck people we have Josh. He is not a Post Graduate Bitch like Daisy though, more a slobbering half-wit but we love him anyway!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A fitting end.

Well folks the human contingent of the mighty Patou herd has returned to the motherland having had a thoroughly splendid, if too short, trip to Australia. 18 days have flown by and when we get over the 'what the hells going on, jet lag' we will look back on a terrific holiday.

We started in Sydney for two nights, (where we could have stayed a week, at least) before heading off down the beautiful south east coast towards Melbourne. Three nights in Jervis Bay (where we could have stayed a week, at least) and then on to Eden for three nights and two fantastic days of whale watching, (again where we could have stayed a week, at least). We then had a brief one night stopover at Lakes Entrance (where all the worlds mosquitos were on holiday, in the woods, where our cottage was situated!) before a couple of nights in Melbourne.
Melbourne is a nice city but we had itchy feet there as we looked forward to flying across the Bass Straights to Hey Headquarters on Tasmania. We only had a three night stay with Bob and Diane (we could have stayed a week, at least) but it was lovely. We were treated like royalty and the home cooked roast chicken dinner on arrival was the meal of the trip, just what was required. Thank you Diane! It was good to catch up with Ben too and great to to be shown round the estate, especially the late night possum hunting! (no guns involved folks just watching).
As this is essentially an alpaca blog I ought to mention the alpacas and what alpacas they were! We were particularly impressed with three young boys two of whom had recently won championship ribbons. A young brown boy named Cory (officially I think there is a Q in his name) and a grey male called Storm looked fantastic. Fleeced (2nd) between 15 and 17 microns and with tremendous coverage they really looked the part and if I could have stuff-packed them into my bag I would have done. Bob and Diane have been breeding alpacas for a long time and know a thing or two about them so I wouldn't have expected anything less!
Above, Cory (or Quorry?), Storm and Inti at home at Van Diemen Alpacas.

Ben, Cory, Diane, Storm and Bob and a shed!

And to prove that we were there Angus and I miraculoulsy rise from the long grass. Sue was on camera duties!
We were also taken to a superb Wildlife park where the requisite photographs of the local wildlife could be canned. Here, after wrestling it to the floor, Angus poses with a Kangaroo.
It was sad to leave Australia and sad for the holiday to come to an end but also nice to get home and see our own little wildlife park. The kittens have seemingly grown into cats, the mad labs are still mad and the alpacas look in fine fettle. The chickens however, seem to have gone completely doollally and have started 'oven-readying' themselves. Further investigations will take place this morning!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Alpaca shots as requested

I mentioned in an earlier blog that this Australia trip was truly a trip of a lifetime and was only possible with the help of others. Australia is massive and we have only visited a small part of it.
Part of the brief when we were planning the holiday was to see how the Australian Alpaca industry was doing and how the quality differed, if at all, from the best alpacas in the UK.
As as result from landing we have been scouring the countryside for sightings of Australian alpacas. Here are our initial findings.

These two brown alpacas we saw on a rocky harbour wall at a place called Eden. As you can see they have recently been sheared and conformationally leave a little to be desired. Their legs are far too short, their necks are too short and their ears are just so wrong. I don't think these would get anywhere near a showring and certainly shouldn't be used as breeding animals. I made sure I told the captain of the boat that before the trip was over. I also pointed out to him that they were trifle overweight.....he didn't like that but what can you do? You have to call it as you see it.

This next alpaca is a dwarf pygmy midget alpaca that we saw at a place called Tura beach. The little thing was actually able to fly and was still fully fleeced in magnificent green and red. Some sort of fancy I suppose? Again conformation was a massive problem for me. I pointed out the conformational defects to the owner of the property that the tiny alpaca was living on and she looked at me as if I was mad. I didn't press the matter and left her shouting something at me as I walked away. These Australian alpaca owners are very very touchy about their animals!

This next little female was in a large herd of about 50 alpacas off the coast of Jervis Bay. The whole herd had been very recently sheared, a bit too closely for my liking there was hardly any fleece left on any of them. Again (I'm afraid it is a common theme when talking about the australian alpaca scene) I had to comment on the terrible conformation. This poor female, like most in the herd had some sort of abnormal back line. Almost looked like some sort of distorted hump. It was difficult to make an informed comment on the fleece as there was none to be seen. Once again when I gave my opinion to the apparent owner all I got was a stare and a "You're off you're rocker mate", they just can't take an 'outsider making negative comments.
So there we have it for this installment. Not very serious I know but a serious point to be made. This trip of a lifetime is a family holiday and as a result the most important decisions have been made with the whole family in mind. We have seen alpacas in fields as we have driven past and sure at another time I would love to get stuck in and have a good look at what is in Australia.
However, the family always comes first, besides we have been having so much fun we literally couldn't have squeezed any alpaca farm visits in anyway. C'est la vie. We'll see some beauties in Tasmania tomorrow. No doubt about that!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A whale!

Ok, I can't help it just look at this big boy. About 7 miles off the coast of a on old whaling station called Eden in New South Wales I was on a whale spotting vessel when this 40 foot Humpback Whale 'breached' right in front of the boat. Luckily I was ready with the camera and got a half decent shot.

Alright it's not an alpaca but look at this whale, what a beauty!

Wow....where to start!

Hello everyone! We have been internet free for the past eight days and to be honest we have been having too much fun to give two hoots!

We are now in Melbourne for a couple of days prior to hopping across to Tasmania.

Two things have struck me since I have been in Australia which I hadn't full grasped, firstly, Australia is a bloody long way from anywhere and anywhere in Australia is a bloody long way from anywhere else in Australia!
Secondly, why on earth would anyone born and raised here ever want to leave! It is a truly amazing country! What is wrong with you overseas Aussies? Why did you leave and why haven't you come back?

As you may gather we are having an extraordinarily good time. I have so much to write and so many photographs (on one whale watching trip I took 278 pictures.......I know but it was AWESOME!)

First up was Sydney and our apartment was fanbloodytastic! Sue had carefully selected it but it exceeded our expectations.

From our veranda we looked out onto not only the Opera house but also the bridge! Needless to say we photographed them both from every possible angle and in every possible light.

I am tempted to carry on writing about the trip but Sue is prowling and Angus wants to go for a swim so for now, thats your lot!

I will be posting again soon

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Getting ready for the big trip!

Well folks we have almost come to the time when the management (me, Sue and Angus) of the Mighty Patou herd must head south to the land of Oz.

On Saturday night we will board a British Airways Jumbo jet bound for Sydney. We have never been before and bloody hell it's a long way. We don't get there until breakfast time on Monday!
I know they are 9 hours ahead, but even so it's like it's on the other side of the world!

Early on we had to decide whether this trip was going to be a holiday or an alpaca trip. The vote came out in favour of a holiday. I am sneakily trying to squeeze in a visit to at least one alpaca farm on the way............... "well we go right past it dear "......... that sort of thing.

The trip is a holiday of a lifetime for us and it is a trip that we have to thank others for. My father in particular coughed up about 50 million Airmiles to get us flying Club class both ways. Club class folks, with a bed and everything! Not to mention all the free food and drink. Fill your boots time I believe!
The problem is we will no doubt never want to travel any other way in the future. Mum and Dad are also moving into Patou HQ while we are away to look after the alpacas, mad labs, kittens and choocks.

From the flights onwards we have to thank alpacas for everything. The accommodation, car hire and spending money is all down to the lovely fluffy pacaroonios. Results of a good year for us.

Anyway we have a couple of nights in Sydney then a weeks whale watching and flapping around in the sea split between Jervis Bay and Eden. A quick drive round the bottom right hand corner of Australia and we are then in to Melbourne for a couple of nights.

Then we board another plane to cross the Tasman Sea to the land of Tasmania. I expect by then that we will be speaking fluent Oz so hopefully we will be able to converse with the natives without too much difficulty.

Tasmania is the homeland of the Earl of Inca and we will be staying with Tim's parents on their alpaca farm. We are looking forward to seeing them again.

I will be taking the laptop and the camera and hopefully if the Aussies have electricity we should be able to power up and blog from down under! I am assured that my laptop will be able to 'hook up' to wi-fi sites easily. Yeah, well I've heard that sort of guff before. Nothing involving computers is ever easy, especially for a technophobic numpty like me, let alone on the road and on the other side of the world!

So hopefully folks if you are interested you will be able to follow our progress around a small part of a big country a long way away. If it doesn't work? Well then the blog will be silent until the end of October.

All very quiet on the alpaca front here so nothing to report, it's raining which seems like a new experience down here!

I may post before we leave but if not you may be hearing from this Dag faced Dingo's donger when we land down under!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A few pics and a favourites daughter.

I was at a loose end this evening so I wandered out into the field as the sun broke through the clouds to take a few photographs of the residents. The sun bathed the alpacas in a beautiful light and it is only the limited knowhow of the photographer that has limited the quality of the following pictures.

First up is a picture of Priscilla's daughter, Minstrel (with her white chin, Sire: The Fantastic Jack of Spades) next to Judy's cria, Samson (Wessex Cosmos) who is a good three weeks younger.
Next up is our lovely Amelie. Amelie is the first cria from my most favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily.
Amelie, or Millie as we call her, has a simply stunning fleece (she is a Cambridge Centurion girl) and has inherited all her mothers traits. She is calm, friendly and as you can see, she loves apples.

She is absolutely gorgeous in my books and will be mated in the Spring to Jack of Spades, a combination that has the possibility of producing something special.
Finally, as I was wandering back in, the kittens, Seb and Belle, were playing on the gatepost. They are smashing little cats and are bringing in 'kills' every day. Not nice, but that is why we got them so, thats life!