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!