Monday, 27 April 2009

The unveiling of a complete pronker.

I have been working very hard over the past 8 weeks on a secret training regime for one of our alpacas. It is now the time to unveil the fruits of our hard work.

I say 'our' hard work because I have been working in tandem with Patou Alacazam, the sparkliest alpaca in the herd.

Al was born in August last year and grew well on his mothers milk and the lush grazing here in Patouland. There were seven other cria born last year and they played and gambolled as a group. It was only when Al was nearly 6 months old that I discovered that he wasn't pronking with the other youngsters in the evenings. When they pronked around the field Al would be way out in front. Way out in front because he was running like the clappers and not pronking. He was not a pronker. He was a runner, a flat out, ears back runner.

This concerened me as I felt that he was missing out on an essential part of being an alpaca. I felt that something needed to be done. I needed to try at least to turn Al into a pronker.
Thus we began the long road to pronking. The training started in late February and to begin with was conducted in the dark to avoid ridicule and embarrassment to the both of us. Al was pretty much on board with the idea straight away. He initially thought that the rest of the cria were in some way defective because they spent so much energy going up and down rather than getting on with the speedier art of 'ears back' sprinting. When I pointed out the enjoyment that they were getting out of pronking and the wonderment with which people watched them he became focussed. Totally focussed. Al wanted to be a pronker too.

We tried various excercise regimes aimed at increasing his 'upward' movement and depressing the flat out speed element of his running. It was not easy at first and I wore through the knees of several pairs of trousers demonstrating the art of pronking. I have to say that we had tears along the way, tears of sadness, frustration, shame and ultimately tears of unbounded joy.

His secret training regime came to a halt last week on Friday with his first full pronk in public. I was there with the camera and have captured the moment for us all to savour.

If you will allow me I will expain what is happening in the attached movie clip. The rest of the herd gathered in front of the house in anticipation. The news of Al's first public pronk had got out and there was a buzz around the herd. The only member of the herd that refused to believe he could do it was Henry. He point blank refused to watch the attempted pronk.

Al's best friend, Barney went with him for support to the bottom of the field and said he would pronk with him. Several over excited herd members in the girls field decided to run along side him. The main bulk of the herd waited at the top, fingers crossed.

I write this with great pride, Al is the little black alpaca seen entering the shot from the left. He ends up posing magnificently in front of me, chest puffed out with pride, as tears of joy stream down my face. Henry is seen scowling at me the whole time through. We have had words.

Al is now a fully fledged pronker.

Now if that isn't drivel I don't know what is.

Friday, 24 April 2009

My vision

Hello folks, sorry for the lack of blogging over the past few days.
Once again I am laying the blame on the day job. Jeepers Creepers it gets in the way!
Today I was in a meeting all day discussing stuff and as I was not required by law to be an active participant I kind of glazed over, looked out the window (well stared at the blinds where the window was, actually) and started thinking about alpacas. In particular I was thinking about my vision for the future of the mighty Patou.

My mate and mentor, his horribleness..........I mean honourableness Timbo of Inca has been a great source of alpaca knowledge to us over the past three years or so and I listen to every word he says, well perhaps not every word, he is Australian after all. Suffice it to say that I listen to most of what he says for he is a wise man, a very wise man.

However, I remember in particular, whilst metaphorically sitting at the masters feet, listening to his vision for the future of the Inca herd. It was all very interesting and I have been thinking about his vision for a while. I thought it was about time I put my vision for the future for the mighty Patou out there for all to see.

I see a herd of black, brown and fawn alpacas. The colours, for me are easy but the look of the alpacas themselves took a little more thought. A lot of thought actually but I have now settled on the 'look' I would like our herd to have. The 'look' of the herd is based on five alpacas.
First up is the magnificent Poppy who has won three rosettes for us. She is the most gorgeous brown girl with a black face. She is, in my opinion a beautiful alpaca. Her sire is the legend that is ATA Cambridge Centurion, her mother is our spit fountain Bobby, a Mateus girl.

Second up is Amelie, daughter of our beloved Lily (Shafts Dream) and another Centurion daughter. 'Millie' is so neat and compact and has the most beautiful coloured fleece. She took two rosettes for us this year and we really are looking forward to seeing her progeny when it comes.
Thirdly I just love the look of our fawn girl Patou Fifi. Fifi is the friendliest alpaca in the herd and is quite content to stand there eating whilst you rummage through her soft dense fleece. She has the most amazing coverage and is a serial 'nose nuzzler'. Fifi is a Wiracocha's Dream girl and we also own her mother Dee who is a real favourite.

Lastly to the two boys who I really love to look at. Two herdsires that will hopefully play a big part in shaping the look of the Patou herd. Our own Cambridge Columbus, a superb looking animal with conformation that I can't fault. A beautiful head, a heavy frame and great balance, he is a cracker.

And last but by no means least, the big boy himself, Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca. Jack is the only animal of the five not owned by us. He is owned by Tim hey at Inca Alpaca but we are so impressed with him that he will figure largely in our breeding programme over the next couple of years. An absolutely magnificent looking animal. Big, strong, proud and just great to look at from any angle.

So there you have it, my vision of how I would like the mighty Patou herd to look.

And before you all start, NO COPYING!.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Tea Time in Patou land!

Well us poor old duffers down here in Wiltshire have had a go at increasing the technology levels. When the herd is called to the sound of a whistle and the rattle of a bucket they come running. For some reason I wanted the world to see it.

Today I did the whistle/bucket thing whilst Sue waited with the little Canon on video mode. The girls came albeit a bit suspiciously at the end. Normally the charge doesn't end until the troughs have been reached. Anyway if it works and you can see some video footage you can see the mighty Patou in motion in glorious technicolour. If it doesn't work then doo biddly splot I'm a silly twot. By the way there is no sound, the herd was in stealth mode.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Up close and personal

It's been a busy old week here in Patouland. As usual the 'day job' or to be more accurate this week, the 'evening job' has got in the way and reduced my alpaca time. However, we seem to have squeezed a fair bit in.
Lily is still improving, so much so that she has kicked me quite hard twice this week. I think she is getting a little bit fed up with injections and being poked and prodded. She still loves me of course, I can see it in her eyes. I see her kicks as a little way of her telling me 'I'm doing very well now thank you, I'm fine, just stop hassling me!' She has never kicked anyone before so it is a sure sign that she is full of beans, fantastic actually, she can kick me black and blue if it makes her feel better, no problem. She can't kick anyone else though, just me, she loves me!

Yesterday we had a visit from Diane and Nigel from Kent. They are thinking of relocating to the peaceful bliss of south Wiltshire and starting a herd of alpacas. It was nice to see them and to introduce them to some of the mighty Patou. Good luck with the house sale guys. There you are, a mention as promised!

Before they arrived I was out amongst the girls for some close up interaction. Sue popped out with the camera and snaffled a couple of snaps.

I know what you're thinking.....a nice picture of alpacas spoiled by some rotund baldy bloke.

Just get out of the shot will you! I couldn't help it though, the smell, the noise, the munching, dare I say the sneezefarting..........they put up with it all!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Happy Easter!

What a cracking Easter weekend we have had down here in Patouland. I have been off for 4 days and have enjoyed being at home with nothing to do but potter, play, entertain and look after.
The weather has been good with a superb day today of warm sunshine. So warm that we took Lily's coat off first thing this morning and she has been out grazing with the sun on her back all day. Marvellous. I have just been out to take a picture of her but she is so keen to get as much food in as possible that she hardly ever looks up. Eat eat eat, that's our Lil'. Anyway I hope you can see from the below photo that she has indeed started to put on weight. She continues to improve.
I have also been doing a little 'lawn mowing' today, alpaca style of course! The girls wandered in and grazed around the mad labs who were crashed out in the sun. Poppy, Ruby, Millie and Ronnie here doing the gardening.

Yesterday was supposed to be spit off day to see who has stayed pregnant over the winter. We pretty much know anyway but we thought we would let Columbus have a sniff of the girls for the first time. He has been very keen up to now, always straining through the fence as they walk past to have a sniff, keen as mustard. Anyway we gathered together the girls who we weren't sure about and I led Columbus into the 'mating pen' to await the first girl. In she came and he went all funny. He looked away and then just stood there. Not interested. I wheeled in the next girl and he didn't want to know. I prompted him. I orgled at him, but no, he had apparently turned. He was having a bit of a gay moment. In frustration I let the rest of the girls in. A couple who were very obviously pregnant let him know about it but he just stood amongst the other girls and they chatted about clothes and washing machines. I bustled him away back to the boys paddock where we had a very in depth chat about being macho and stuff. He promised me he would do better next time. Its a good job he looks the part and has balls the size of duck eggs!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Lily update

Right folks, pin your ears back for some seriously good news.
I spoke to the vet yesterday about the results of Lily's latest blood tests (the third).

Her PCV count (this is the Packed Cell Volume) is up to 17.
When she was initially 'about to die' her PCV was at 10. Four days after coming home and four days after 'Operation Fightback' commenced it had risen to 12. Now two weeks after the battle began it is up to 17. Apparently a normal PCV count ranges from 25-45, however, from what I have read whilst swotting up on all things anaemic, it can naturally be lower in camelids. In other words Lily's count is almost where it should be.

How fab is that? I'll tell you. It's pretty much stand up on the roof of the tallest building in the village and shout your head off until your eyes fall out. That is how flipping fab it is!
Her haemoglobin level has also risen, from 4 to 5.6. Apparently it should be between 11.3 and 19 so she still has a way to go there but she is heading in the right direction.

The rest of her blood results were absolutely normal which is such splendid news that it makes me want to dance in slow motion in a field full of wild flowers with the sun beating down on my naked torso. You mustn't try and picture that in your head, seriously, it could do you great harm.

Other news here in Patouland is that Sue and I have decided to give the Bath & West show a miss this year. The youngsters will be overfleeced by then, Poppy will be pregnant hopefully and Columbus, who we were going to be taking if we had gone, will be pretty busy with the ladies here on the farm. On top of that I am working that weekend. In my little mind I can hear a collective sigh of relief from the big breeders as the news of the absence of the mighty Patou showteam gets around.
Anyway we can't fit any more rosettes in the house.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Lawnmower? Who needs one?

Can I start by saying thanks to you for all the kind comments about Lily and the showteam and for all you people out there who take the trouble to take time out of your day to take an interest in what we are doing here.
I have to say that this 'little blog team' performed extremely well at the Spring show, with many rosettes won. Good on you and lets keep it up. They won't see us coming until its too late and then the world will be ours for the taking (mad professor cackle).

Life in Patouland was a bit more relaxing today. No work for me and young Angus to keep me company. Basically we have belted the leather of a football and he can now spin pass off both hands and execute a very respectable dropkick with a rugby ball. That's my boy!

I was supposed to be cutting the grass as it has grown well in places and is lush. Mmmm. I bet the alpacas would like a bit of that lush grass action I thought. A quick whistle and the herd was up. Garden gate open and in they trotted to get stuck into some nice green stuff. The lawnmower can stay in the shed for a litle bit longer.

Above is Patou Amelie, back from the show enjoying a nice snack in the front garden.

Whilst in the side garden, Lily, Bobby, Ruby, Joy and some other fluffsters tucked in too.

Poppy was soon in on the act and skipped around a bit before settling down for afternoon tea.

Other than that we have had a good couple of days. Penny, now a month old is doing very well and Sue took a lovely 'headshot' photo of her yesterday which i thought I would share with you.

The vet was back yesterday to take some more blood from Lily. The results will give us a good indication of what is going on. She seems to be improving all the time and she has started to regain some weight. In fact she hardly ever seems to stop grazing and galloped up at feeding time this morning. I took this photo of her this afternoon as she modelled her brand new alpaca coat. Very fetching indeed! She is not going anywhere that girl, except maybe to win a show or two next year!!!!!

Right enough of this sitting in front of the old computer, Bangers and mash to prepare for the future captain of the world. The rest of you get back to work.

Monday, 6 April 2009

The SWAG show

Last weekend was the annual SWAG (South West Alpaca Group) spring show and there were over 400 alpacas entered. It's one of our favourite shows and Poppy, Amelie and Alacazam were ready to fly the flag for the mighty Patou.

We nearly pulled out at the last minute as all our thoughts have been concentrated on Lily and the weather and not missing out on giving her the best possible care and attention but the decision was made, the team were ready, it was game on.
The plan was that I was going to set off at 6am on the Saturday with the team. Sue and Angus were going to make sure Lily was fed and set for the day and then follow on.
The day didn't start or finish well, but we had a cracking middle bit!

I had finished work at 2am and so only had what seemed like 2 minutes sleep before the alarm woke me. It was raining and with everything else on our minds we had left the show team out in the rain. Great start, wet show team. I then had to get the trailer into place in the dark. Tantrum time, not pretty.

On arrival we were vet checked and then sraight out into the sun for some drying off time. Poor Al in particular was soaked and he was first into the ring. It was great to be amongst alpacas on a large scale again. Meeting up with old friends, making new ones, great stuff.

Al was in a huge class of 19 junior black males. 19 folks! That is some serious competition.
Anyway suffice it to say that little Al did his best but was excused from the ring when the judge reduced the numbers to select the rosette winners.

Never mind, we had our two brown girls to come. Proven rosette winners, they were ready and as I entered the ring Sue and Angus turned up. We were boosted by the back up team's arrival. We stood a little taller, our chests out a little further, we set about commanding the ring. There were some super little brown girls in there and it was tremendous to see our friend Karen pick up second place with little Cinnamon and third place with her other girl Clover. Our little Amelie bagged the fourth place. Nice one guys! With our big gun Poppy to come we were in the game, we fancied our chances of bagging another rosette.

Poppy looked great and did her stuff. It was a close run thing but she took second place!

As I have said before we only have 16 alpacas of our own and compete against breeders with hundreds. To win two rosettes at the futurity and then at the SWAG show is fantastic for us and really underlines the fact that our breeding programme is working. Sue and Angus left late in the afternoon to get back to sort Lily out and I spent the night in the back of the trailer. I have never been so cold in my entire life but as my teeth chattered and my muscles quivered I was trying desperately hard to smile, it had been another great day for the mighty Patou.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The clock ticks on!

We have been in pensive mood here in Patouland and I apologise if previous blogs have lacked a bit of humour. It just seems a bit difficult to be zany when I think of alpacas. If I think of alpacas (which I do a lot, as we all do I bet) I think of Lily. When I think of Lily I start to worry that we have missed something or that we should be doing something or that I should have done something better.....or different. I assume you have the picture?

Anyway, when we do take the time to detach and look at the big picture things are looking bright. Lily is going from strength to strength. I have been at home all day today and I think she has grazed more than any other member of the herd. She had one long flounce in the sun, as did the others, (I might have had a bit of a flounce myself this afternoon) other than that she has been munching all day. She runs. I know that may seem something small but to see her run is superb. Sure she's not pronking or anything like that but every now and again she breaks into a trot for a few yards.

We still have a way to go, she is still very thin and by the look of her gums, still anaemic but she is fighting like a tiger and we really believe in our hearts that the silly old sausage is going to make a full recovery. She can't go just yet because we love her and she loves us loving her, or something.

So what else have we been up to? Well I trekked westwards into bandit country last weekend to visit Monseigneur Timothy at the Incatan for another masterclass. This time it was power tool time as his Timness taught me how to grind alpaca teeth with an angle grinder.

Priscilla, one of our foundation females has the fastest growing teeth in the west. Because I had sheared the herd myself last year teeth grinding got missed and poor old Priscilla was starting to look like an inverted Bugs Bunny, with his eyes on his chin................and his ears upside down...well you get the picture. Anyway after my masterclass and a visit to B & Q on my way home I was fully equipped for some serious dentistry. The following day Priscilla was dealt with and now has a supermodel smile.....................well almost.

Other than that the only thing of note alpacawise was that we decided to treat the whole herd with a coccidiosis drench. Purely because we have never done it before and we just wanted to put our minds at rest. As usual the only problem was Bobby the resident spit fountain. It was like trying to plug a hole in a dam. As I moved closer to her mouth with the drenching syringe the flow of spit increased. I didn't realise that alpacas could actually switch to 'fully automatic' and spit continuously without seemingly taking a breath. My hand, the syringe and the fence turned green in about 5 secoonds. She was even spitting whilst the drench was going in and I really don't know how she did that!

Anyway I must be off, small boy requiring a bath. And yes I can still smell it.