Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Introductions. Part 2.

Ok, so I am back from another day at the, er.... thing that I do when I'm not here and now that the chores are done I have half an hour or so to continue with the next thrilling instalment of the introduction to the Mighty Patou Herd. I do hope you are all sitting comfortably with pens and notepads at the ready.

We move on to one of our 'Foundation Herd' members (Oooh doesn't it sound grand!), Bannock.

Bannock is, in words of three syllabylls, a Superstar. She is not, however, a 'looker'.

Bannock's strength and attraction lies in her ability to produce very nice cria and be completely unbothered (is that a word?) by most things.

She arrived here in the Magic Mighty Kingdom of Patou in February 2006, having been purchased from a man who has made himself 'Top Banana' in the world of black alpacas, um, Tom Bly, no, oooohh it's on the tip of my tongue Bob, Tim, ooh wait it's coming....Tim Hey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (sorry mate, got carried away with myself)

Anyway, Bannock was pregnant to the legendary Shaft's Dream when she arrived and later that year she produced.... imagine now, if you will, an extremely loud and impressive fanfare....... the majestic Lily! My favourite alpaca in the whole wide world!

Lily was, is and forever shall be, gorgeous, beautiful, fabulous, marvellous and my favourite. I can't quantify why in a few words but a later edition of the blog with Lily as it's 'headline act' may explain why.

The following year saw the birth of a sister for Lily, a Centurion girl, Lola (pictured above).
Lola was as calm as her mother and sister and very inquisitive. She was a nose nuzzler. She was and probably still is, lovely.

Unfortunately in this wonderful world of alpacas sometimes you have to sell an alpaca that you don't really want to sell to make sure that the herd will continue to develop. This was the case with Lola. She was a favourite, she is lovely but the business needed some income and no matter how hard we looked and debated, Lola was the one who had to go. It still upsets me now if I allow myself to think about it but I know deep down that the sale of Lola was for the greater good of the Mighty Patou. She is missed here but we know she has gone to a good home. hopefully we will see her again one day.
In 2008 Bannock produced a male cria who was so sparkly that we named him Alacazam. He is a real character and he was sold last year as a pet with two of his chums (Barney being one, remember? From the last blog entry?). He now resides in Hampshire and lives a life of luxury. No seriously, they are treated like royalty, it's fantastic.
Bannock is now pregnant to Jack of Spades and in about six weeks she will undoubtedly give birth to a beautiful black female cria, she will, it is written in the clouds.
In the next exciting installment we will enter the world of Priscilla, mother of our resident spit fountain. I know, I can hardly wait too!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Right I am at a bit of a loss. I have been at work for the past 5 days and have 2 more to go before having the Easter weekend off. It is raining, it is soggy, the alpacas are soaked and I have no real alpaca news. No reports of cria (which is good news as it's tooooooo early) so I thought I would use this 'down' time to introduce the world to members of the herd.

I have decided that I will start at the top with an introduction to our oldest alpaca (13yrs this year),one of our favourites, Dee (full name Indira of Cambridge). She is also the only imported alpaca we have here having been imported from Chile in 2005.

Dee came here at the beginning of 2007 and was here for us to sell on behalf of EP Cambridge. She immediately stuck out from the herd as an individual. If the herd were moving one way and she wasn't ready she would just stay where she was. She was also the calmest alpaca we had seen. She was pregnant to Killawasi's Dream and in the summer of 2007 she produced a beautiful cria, Fifi. Fifi inherited her mother's calm nature and good looks. We couldn't bear to sell them so we bought them. Well we just had to! We couldn't help it.

Dee looking lovely in the sunshine. She really is an individual and will quite often be in the shed on her own when the rest of the herd are out standing in the pouring rain, she is a bit more switched on than the rest.

Fifi (pictured above as a cria) has also become a firm favourite here and is as friendly as her mother. She is one of the alpacas that I want our new alpacas to look like. She has a very compact and heavy frame, masses of fleece and a beautiful head. Fifi is pregnant for the first time having had a liaison with the mighty Jack of Spades and is due to give birth on my birthday in June. This birth is one that we are very eager to see. We hope that Jack and Fifi will produce a lovely dark brown or black female cria. Fifi will come up with the goods I just know it!
Dee was covered by the magnificently brutal ACC Killawasi and in 2008 she produced Barney, a very handsome young male with a cracking fleece. Barney also had a heavy frame and great coverage. He was right on the cusp of being stud material, and we did think long and hard but eventually the decision was made to sell him as a pet male and he went to live in Hampshire with three chums where he is doing very well. The picture below is of Dee and Barney who were lying next to me in the field. Marvellous.

Dee is also pregnant to Jack of Spades and is due to give birth at the beginning of May. She obviously has a strong colour gene as she has produced cria the same colour as herself when mated to white. What she will produce when mated to black should be right up our street, got to be brown hasn't it?
Next time we move on to one of our foundation girls, Bannock.
Sorry, bit of a boring post but as I have said, no news and the day job has sucked all the humour out of me, make it go away someone!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Negotiations over feeding.

Wet alpacas litter the place here at the moment, it has rained for the last 4 days and despite the odd dry patch the alpacas are pretty wet. It's warm though so Angus and I have been outside getting the herd into shape. We have decided that they didn't really run around much at all during winter and some were getting a little bit lazy. We have been feeding them throughout the winter and some of the girls are getting a trifle podgy. Time to act and sort out the general fitness level of the herd.

Angus drove down to the shed on his tractor as I gathered the girls in for a bit of a pep talk. I started off cautiously by saying that they were all doing very well and that we were looking forward to some lovely cria being born this summer. There was a general hum of approval as they all started nodding.
I asked them how they were enjoying the latest batch of hay and there was some enthusiastic reponses, it was going down well, nice hay, I was thanked for sourcing it and making it readily available.
I then decided to bite the bullet and we moved onto the fact that as the new spring grass was now coming through the hard feed rations would need to be cut back.
There was a sharp communal intake of breath and some general murmuring started at the back. The mood of the herd had now changed somewhat. I noted a general feeling of disatisfaction. Angus and I stood firm and waited for the herd to settle down once more. Angus sat on his tractor motionless, arms crossed with a stern look on his face whilst I snapped a photograph.

The girls moved closer and eventually calmed down. Fitness levels were then discussed and quite a vigorous and lengthy argument broke out. Bobby protested that she was due 'any day now' and couldn't possibly be expected to run anywhere. Fifi marched to the front of the group and stared at me whilst grinding her teeth in a very sinister manner. There was a general tutting and a few under the breath spits. We were getting nowhere as negotiations faltered and then ground to a halt.
A compromise was needed. I suggested that if they upped their excercise regime a tad we could discuss the food rationing. Backwards and forwards the argument went. On their side Priscilla fronted up stating that basically they wanted to do very little excercise and actually increase the hard food levels. I was arguing for a decrease in rations and a minimum of six laps of the field a day. There was uproar, six was not going to do it. They suggested one lap, I countered with five and we eventually settled on two. They refused to discuss anything higher than two and they only had to run the first one. Ridiculous.

Anyway with the promise of breakfast when the got back, off they went.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The great drought is over!

Yes, the great drought is over and the great rains have come to Patouland.
Alright so this isn't exactly the Serengeti plain but we have had about three weeks without any rain and we were getting rather used to it thank you. Today it has drizzly rained all day and the forecast says it is set for the next week or so. Yuk.

Still it will help to get the spring grass growing and I can stop spending oodles on alpaca feed. As this winter was longer than usual we have had to buy more feed than ever before. As a result they are in tip top condition coming into spring which is the way I like it.
I always try and feed myself up over the winter months so that I am well insulated and ready for any famine that may suddenly strike from nowhere. Yes, all you thin people are going to look a little bit silly if the big one hits and food is scarce. I, on the other hand can go for months and I will feel better and better the longer it lasts.......sorry whipped off into some weird parallel universe for a moment then.

Anyway this week saw the visit of our vet, the lovely Louise, who came to examine the whole herd for insurance purposes. We are looking at switching to a 'whole herd' insurance policy rather than individual animal insurance, it is a cheaper option and as the herd grows will make more sense. The verdict was that the whole herd is in mighty fine shape thank you very much, which was very nice to hear and satisfying to know.

We are now rapidly approaching our first birth of the year. Bobby, resident spit fountain with a deadly aim (filled my ear up yesterday) hit the 300 day mark today and is as big as a house. She is an early birther. Last year she gave birth to Penny at 330 days and 2 years before that she gave birth to Poppy even earlier at 315 days. Poppy needed round the clock bottle feeding initially but both her and Penny have grown into very healthy girls.

Bobby with Poppy tucked up in the shed in 2007.

Bobby with Penny last year.

Bobby is a very good mother until her cria are 6 months old and then she wants nothing more to do with them. She weaned Penny herself this winter and now refuses to talk to her.

Sue and I have now cranked up to Defcon four and scan the herd looking eagerly for Bobby several times a day. If her size is anything to go on she will not get to 330 days this year, no way.
Another consequence of this rain is that we are now having to deal with a very wet Newfoundland. Kira and Josh come back from their twice daily walk drenched and although Josh dries off nicely Kira is a whole different ball game.

I snapped them this afternoon in the 'holding area' by the back door with the kittens, Seb and Belle in close attendance. Right must go, sausages to cook.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

A dapper Alpaca

Regular readers of this blog will know that Lily, our beautiful black girl, is my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world. However, there is a tightly packed bunch of alpacas bred here in Patouland that could claim to be my second favourite alpaca in the whole wide world.

One of those in contention is a young male who no longer lives here but who lives along the road, about 3 miles away, with Jo and Steve Ings. His name is Bo Jangles and he is without doubt the most dapper alpaca I have ever seen.

Bo was born here in the summer of 2007 and to be honest when I saw him falling out of the back of Priscilla my first thought was not 'Ooh what a dapper alpaca!', no, my first thought was more along the lines of 'What the hell is that?' It was a brown cria with white markings on his face, white socks and black feet. I was disappointed I have to say. Here he is a few hours old with his mother, Priscilla.

Once Bo had grown up a bit and dried off he became something very different. He became the most dapper alpaca in the world. No doubt about it and the picture below illustrates that beautifully. Any disagreements will result in a visit from me in the wee hours to cause mischief in your sock drawer I warn you. Bo became a favourite here and was frequently spoken of in terms of 'Oh, we'll never sell Bo, he is too special'. Bo was a real character too, always sticking his nose in and always in the thick of things.

He had a very good buddy with him in Apollo who came from Charlie and Louise at Orchard Alpacas for us to sell on their behalf. Bo and Apollo became inseperable and would play fight for hours, entertaining us at the same time.
It became clear that these two should stay together and when Jo and Steve came looking for three boys to have as pets we made the decision, a sensible one I know, to sell Bo so that he could stay with Apollo. Now I know it was a sensible decision but I am not a sensible man and I still wonder about that decision. Thankfully Bo is just up the road and he is enjoying a very nice life with his chums.

In fact I visited Bo, Bingo, Apollo And Cosimo last weekend for a bit of toenail trimming and was very pleased to see that Bo and his chums are in tip top condition and being spoilt rotten, splendid stuff.

This posting is in response to a gentle complaint from Jo that Bo hadn't appeared on the side of the new trailer. I hope that this will make amends Jo and I hope that you enjoyed the pictures of a your very dapper alpaca.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The end of an era.

It's 6am on Sunday morning and I have finally found some time to write this blog. The day job has encroached far too much this week leaving little time for anything but chores, family time and eating.
Yesterday I was up once again at 'sparrow fart' for an early morning jaunt to South West Cornwall with the newly decorated trailer. It was a day that I had both dreaded and looked forward to all week. The reason I was going to Cornwall was to drop Judy, my adversary, off at Carthvean Alpacas, the home of Camelidynamcs expert, Julie Taylor-Browne. I was dreading it in a way because I knew that it could be difficult getting Judy into the trailer and away from her cria. There was a potential for some argy bargy.

Regular readers will know that Judy is not my favourite alpaca in the world. She has covered me several times from head to toe in spit and we have 'had words' on many occasions.

Judy came to us three years ago as a 'managed alpaca'. Her owner lives in Australia and has a small herd of alpacas as an investment. We looked after Judy and we split any profits from cria sales with her owner.
Throughout those three years Judy has been very difficult to deal with and has been a constant source of annoyance and frustration to me. When you try to help an animal to stay healthy by good husbandry and are attacked for your efforts it does get a little trying. Spitting whilst being handled I can cope with. We all have alpacas that will turn the air green when you're sticking a needle into them or giving them a pedicure.
The vast majority of them stop the aerial bombardment once you stop your 'fiddling'. Well with Judy this was not the case. Judy wouldn't let it lie. Once you finished handling her and walked away or pushed her through a gate so that she could escape you would have thought that was game over.
But no, Judy wouldn't have that, she had to have the last word. She would turn and come back for more, with her protective spray of green to the fore she would come back and have a go.
This led to several confrontations that I would rather forget, but this is a 'warts and all' blog, nothing is covered up here, even stuff that I am not proud of.
I am not used to being intimidated and in my day job I can't allow that to happen, I have to be the 'winner' of all confrontational situations. It's what I get paid for. You can't have Policemen (and women) walking away from situations because they feel intimidated. We have to crack on and deal with people no matter how scary they look. So it comes naturally to me, in Judy head to heads, that I must end up with the upper hand. I can't help it.
I aways give her the opportunity to walk away. I always hope and pray that she does walk away and most of the time she does. But sometimes Judy would not walk away, she would advance upon me. I would try and walk away initially, again to give her the opportunity to stop but once 'tipped over the edge', I would advance on Judy and force her to go away. As I said I am not proud of the way I acted sometimes but it is the way I am programmed.

Moving on.
My fears of loading were allayed when Judy went into the trailer easily and without fuss. The first pangs of guilt struck then. In a way we feel that we have let Judy down. She was undoubtedly mistreated when young and has a very strong fear of humans and although we have tried hard for three years we haven't made a huge amount of progress overall. We have had times when she has been better than at other times but every now and then we would have a setback and would be back at square one, sometimes back beyond square one! Overwhelmingly our main feeling about Judy is that we feel sorry for her. We just want her to be loved and to feel loved. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to have Judy eat out of my hand. It did happen once but was quickly followed up with a very green thank you.

Judy is an excellent mother and has given birth three times whilst she has been with us. The first year she was here she produced the lovely Sophie (named after the vet who pulled her out) who is now resident at Clover Park Alpacas in the midlands.

The second year sadly she gave birth to a stillborn male cria. Early separation of the placenta was the cause. Why it happened we have no idea.
Last year Judy had a 'textbook' birth and produced Sampson, a Wessex Cosmos boy who is a healthy strapping weanling with masses of fleece. Here he is on day one with Judy, a tremendous mother.

So anyway, yesterdays trip was to rehome Judy with Julie Taylor-Browne who has all the skills necessary to deal with awkward alpacas. Judy's owner gave us Judy, and in turn we have given her to Julie. She looked to be settling in well when I left and I know she will have a great life down there in sunny Cornwall.

On the way home I was strangely sad and in some surprising and ridiculous way I'll miss the old bat.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Look out world!

The sun is shining, I am not at work and I have had too much coffee this morning. WOO HOO COME ON WORLD GIVE ME EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEE JIBJIBJIBLETS WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Perhaps not a good state to be in to write a blog, I feel like I have electricity running through my veins and have goosed Sue way too many times today. She's now gone out to lunch with a friend to escape so I am jabbering away to myself and the dogs. I have been bouncing around talking in tongues all morning and know that later on when the caffeine runs out I will be slumped in a chair staring at the wall gently dribbling like normal. Anyway enough about me what about our new trailer!

I mentioned last week that my DIY livery kit had arrived. I have now finished applying it. It has been an immense effort to hold back and not rush it. I have had a few mini tantrums along the way and this morning I was so cold my fingers went numb but I think it has all been worth it. I think you will agree that no one will have any doubt as to when the mighty Patou are in town in future!

On the door side we have (from left to right), Moselle (now a member of the mighty Amiryck herd), Reggie and Alacazam (both now adorning a lovely field in Hampshire), Dee and Amelie grazing and Amelie again, as she's lovely.

On the other side we have the same again together with Barney when he was a cria.
He is in the same lovely field with Al and Reggie in Hampshire now. I don't know why I'm telling you all this, it means nothing, it is irrelevant. Oh, oh, I know why, because it's my blog and I can write what I like! Yooo Hooooooooo weeeeee!!!!!! Sorry, caffeine is still cursing through my veins like the Limpopo river in full flood. Deep breath people, deep breath......and relax.

On the back is Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, our fabulous brown boy who is currently in quarantine in New Zealand. He will be here in July and will be used straight away when he gets here. He is an absolute cracker, believe me.

I had to move some stuff from the shed this morning so took the trailer into the field. The reaction of the herd was quite extraordinary. Firstly, they mobbed me at the gate and then they chased me down the hill to the shed.

If you look carefully at the above picture you can see Amelie and Penny at the back both completely airborne as they skippedy dooed down the hill. I have rarely seen the herd so excited.

They then surrounded me and were very interested in the photographs on the trailer. They have seen and indeed been in the trailer before but have never reacted like this before. Millie stared at her own image for some time and sniffed it very carefully. Could she recognise herself? No of course not, she's never seen herself, surely?

What had me in absolute stitches though, was Penny. As the rest of the herd marvelled at the transformed trailer she stood there and motionlessly stared at me. It was almost as if she was saying 'Uh hum, I don't appear to see myself on the trailer, photograph me immediately and make it so!'
For anyone looking from afar it may have looked a bit strange. A herd of alpacas mobbing a trailer, apart from one standing slightly apart, staring at a human who appeared to be wetting himself with laughter. I tell you I couldn't stop (the coffee was obviously a factor) I laughed so much I nearly fell over. It hurt.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A sneeze is not a sneeze unless accompanied by....

Right, I think I have finally got the Futurity out of my system. It just remains for me to say that I met so many good people at the show, some for the first time some not and it was great fun chatting to you all. It was lovely to meet fellow bloggers and put faces to names, keep up the good work guys!
For all my new Norwegian friends all I can say is - Fantadei! Ielskerdeg! and tusen takk! Sadly we will be unable to attend the Norwegian Alpaca Show in April but they have very kindly allowed us to sponsor their brown championship ribbon. How cool is that? Oh and by the way, you all drink to much! And the smoking, very naughty!

Also a massive thank you for all those commenting on our results at the Futurity. It was a big thing for us and I am just stunned by the good wishes and congratulations that came our way. It was very, very much appreciated.

I have spent the morning collecting a load of lovely hay from some friends nearby. It is really good stuff and smells fantastic. I was tempted to have a little nibble myself but snapped out of the hay induced trance I had fallen into just in time. I have just finished unloading it into the shed with the usual audience of nosey alpacas. They are so funny how they all gather round to see what's going on. Getting in the way, having a little flap when they are in a corner and running off only to stop and return straight away. There was also some tremendous sneezefarting going on this morning as they stuck their noses into the new hay. I love that noise, fantastic.

Anyway I returned to the house to be told by Sue that my DIY trailer livery kit has arrived. I have been waiting for this for a couple of weeks. I had hoped to get the trailer 'Patoued' prior to the show but was very disappointed with the first company I approached who did nothing for two weeks. I then switched to another firm who tried but couldn't quite get the job done in time. Now is the moment of truth. I will try and get it done today. I have a propensity to rush things and completely make a hash of things so I am trying to be as restrained as possible and will approach the job with the stealth and patience of a stalking leopard. Obviously trying not to do the final 'leap on it and rip it to shreds' bit. We'll see, maybe a photo tomorrow. Maybe a tantrum and silence for a few days, who knows?

Big husbandry day tomorrow and the head of Old Stour Alpacas is coming round to give me a hand. He tells me we may have a pint at lunchtime! Nice.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Look at the swans!

Before I went to Futurity, my wonderful son, the mighty Angus, had Sue and I laughing with his impression of a television advert.
I copied him whilst at the Futurity and it went down well but I couldn't capture the real thing as well as Angus.
Here is the greatest 7 year old in the world, in our kitchen, this evening recreating the 'swan'.

Now that is how it should look guys!