Friday 29 June 2012

The Pinger pinged!

Two days ago I was on alpaca watch. In fact I have been on alpaca watch all week. As a result I am exhausted. Is it tiring this alpaca watching? Well, no not really but everything else is. Sue has been working all week. She leaves at 7.30am and gets home at 2.30pm. I have therefore switched my shifts round so that I start at 3pm. A nice relaxing time to start, plenty of time for a nice shower, a long lunch and time for chores galore. The downside is that starting at 3 I have to finish at midnight. So by the time I get home and get to bed it is 1am. Then it's up at 7 to get Gus some breakfast and continue with the 'watching'.
Now this may seem normal behaviour to some but I am a 10.30pm bed time boy. I'm always up early but rarely stay up later than that. So this 'watching' business means that come ten o'clock at night my brain is in shut-down mode and my eyes subconsciously are scanning my surroundings for a dark corner for me to curl up in. Sorry that may have given the impression that I am capable of curling up like a cat, obviously I am not cat like in any way. More like a bear I suppose, but not as flexible, I digress. 

So this watching business. Have I witnessed anything of note?

Abso-blooody-lutely I have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The day before yesterday I saw Polly, who was at the far end of the field, with two tails. One of them was fawn like the rest of her the other was definitely not fawn, it was very dark, and it looked like a head. This was the moment I had been waiting for, the moment I had trained for, the moment that I sprang into action like a crack commando unit, I was a blur as I hurtled (please allow me a bit of poetic licence here) up the hill, birthing kit under my arm. I screeched to a halt a short distance away and quietly observed, glancing casually at my watch to make sure everything was proceeding at text book pace. My heart rate barely subsided as I fought to contain my excitement. A head and two feet became a head and two legs, a body, a slippery slide and a gentle thud as the newborn landed on planet Patou.

To cut a long story short ladies and gentlemen, drum roll followed by fanfare please.......

May I announce the arrival of Patou Tabitha! And yes, Tabitha is a girls name!

Tabitha, a beautiful dark chocolate brown and weighing in at a generous 9kg is absolutely perfect in every way and completely and utterly gorgeous! Not only that but she is exactly what I predicted! I am now officially classing myself as a savant and am available for predictions for a small fee.

Here she is with her mother Polly, now how about that for an injection of colour from Qjori!

Polly had a gorgeous Columbus girl last year, Patou Spirit, a real favourite here and already on the 'never to be sold list'. Spirit has been hanging around her mother and is only a spit distance away from her new sister at all times as can be seen in the photograph below.

I am 'on watch' again today as the final three are all over 340 days. The brown girls are on their way!

Sunday 24 June 2012

Waiting for the pinger

Like most people, we have an oven. And a hob. In fact it is a cooker, two ovens, four halogen hob things, you know the sort of thing. It is on or in this appliance that we cook our food. Which we then eat, obviously. The cooker also has a 'pinger'. The pinger goes 'ping' at the end of the cooking time that we have allotted for the cooking of the chicken, sausages, rice, potatoes, baguettes etc. Actually it is more of a beeping noise but in this house, in the land of Patou, we call it 'the pinger'. Without it things would surely burn or dry out or generally overcook. It is a fundamental piece of life here. It tells us when things are ready and that it is time to get them either off the hob or out of the oven. I can't actually hear it anymore, so I need Angus, who has young highly functioning ears to tell me when the 'pinger' is 'pinging'.

So why am I telling you all this nonsense about cookers and pingers? 
Well it is for the simple reason we have come to the beginning of the next round of birthing. We have four females on or around the 340 day mark. They don't have 'pingers' unfortunately so we have to watch and wait. So, we are watching and waiting.

So to the 'cookers'. Firstly our two 'whiteys', Alice (pictured below) has a Qjori cria on board, I am confidently predicting a brown female here. She produced a brown male last year, so it follows that she will produce a brown female this year, simple.

Dilly is also looking rather wide at the moment and is also carrying a Qjori cria. I can't see anything other than another brown female here, she had a fawn Columbus female last year (Sahara, in the background) so it just has to be a brown female this year, definitely.

Then on to Millie (daughter of Lily my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world). Millie is carrying a Qjori cria. She had a fawn Jack male last year so another easy one to predict, a brown female this time around. Stands to reason.

The fourth 'cooker', Polly, a fawn Centurion girl, is pictured below. She has collapsed on top of Bobby and they both lay there grunting gently to each other for about ten minutes. Whoever said that alpacas can't stand touching each other? Here is Bobby, one of the 'Hair-trigger spit monster' family allowing a junior female to place her rather swollen nether regions across her neck. Whilst she was there I watched the pokings of two little feet near the opening. Polly is also carrying a Qjori cria. She had a brown female cria last year so we can expect nothing else really. It just makes sense, brown female for sure, I've seen it getting ready to depart.

Now in case you are getting the wrong picture here, we don't just do males here in Patouland. Truffle remember, was our first cria of the year, a brown Qjori female.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

The Three Amigos'

A day at home and some pictures of Taz (dark brown), Troy (light brown) and Tarquin (very light dark brown).

The pictures down't need many words. 

Taz, the youngest is now heavier than Troy and Talisker and is gaining 500g a day! he may be a rather large boy!

Troy with his perfect little head was grace and technique personified. A perfectionist I think.

The Mighty Quin didn't partake, or if he did I must have missed him, perhaps he was so quick that he was like a white flash, maybe I just don't see the light coloured ones? 

Finally, the bow taking final stand. That Tarquin isn't looking in the right direction again! 
Is there something wrong with the poor fellow, are all light ones a bit thick?

Tuesday 19 June 2012

All about the boys

Up until this year we have never needed plasma, naively, perhaps foolishly, we have never kept a stock of it.

This is our seventh year of having cria born and this is the first year that we have had cause to require plasma. Luckily friends at Old Stour and Reddingvale Alpacas have helped us out by supplying us with their own plasma when we needed it.

So now is the time to get our own stock, and replace the plasma that we have used. 
Yesterday, the lovely Louise, our vet, bounded up with her arms full of the equipment required for the process. We had spoken at length about what was needed and how we would go about the process of extracting blood from our alpacas and tranforming that into life saving plasma. I had spoken to others with knowledge of this procedure and the general consensus was that it was pretty simple. Splendid, I told Louise and she arrived full of confidence, as was I.

We don't have a paddock full of castrated males, we have never had a problem selling our boys on when the time is right so we had to look at what we had available.

There wasn't a lot of choice. First up was the mighty Roger Resilient. Roger has grown into a lovely looking male and when he was relieved of his massive fleece we could see what a cracking looking male he had grown into. Here he is pictured yesterday afternoon, under his favourite tree.

Now I have never done this before nor seen it done. Louise, who is relatively young in experience had never done it either. She has been learning about alpacas over the past few years by dealing with the Patou herd for various things. So a good start, me, Louise nor Roger had never done this before. It started off ok, a vein was found and blood oozed into the collecting bag. About a quarter of a pint was collected when Roger decided it would be a good idea to leap about, a lot. After an unsuccessful retry we decided to leave Roger and move on.

Up stepped Rafiki, who had been nibbling his lead rein in the next pen. Once again a great start, a vein located and blood was forthcoming. Again after about a quarter of a pint some general leaping about took place and despite my best efforts he wouldn't stand still. Here is the big boy under his favourite tree (the same as Roger's).

So we moved on to the third and final boy, Herr Clumpernickle himself who was waiting patiently eyeing up the ladies. Clump was 'stabbed' by Louise and the blood flooded into the bag. Columbus just stood there and although we had to change bags for technical reasons good old Clumpy gave forth a very generous pint at least.

To cut a long story short, we discovered that you can't leave alpaca blood to separate like horses blood, it just doesn't split. Perhaps it would if you waited long enough but 4 hours in a cool box was long enough for me and the blood was whisked away to the Eqiuine hospital in Salisbury where it was successfully spun into some lovely clear plasma. It is now in the freezer where I hope it stays for the rest of the year. In fact hopefully it will stay there until it gets binned in a years time. It is however, comforting to know it is there.
We will be increasing stocks during the winter ready for next years birthing.

Qjori, who is the biggest strongest alpaca here was excused blood giving duties as he is rather busy making the future members of the Patou herd with the ladies. We already have 8 spitting off to him.

Here he is this morning with Poppy (mother of Thor, God of Thunder and Roger Resilient). In the foreground is Reeya awaiting her turn with her eyes all glazed over whilst her son, Talisker takes Qjori's lead. Talisker was making the most wonderful bee in a jamjar noise which you could just hear when Qjori took breath.

It's all happening here in Patouland!

Wednesday 13 June 2012

My birthday present!

So my birthday has passed once again, and I am one year closer to retirement from the day job. 

Two years ago, we had a party on my birthday and at 7.15pm in front of a large gathered audience (a few of my old chums from London were here, they don't get to see much alpaca action) our black girl Bannock gave birth to Patou Rafiki. He was a big and strong Jack of Spades boy weighing in at 10.60kg. He looked a complete mess at birth, masses of fleece all over the place, and he appeared very fawn. Very fawn indeed.
Rafiki turned out, firstly, to be the biggest character in the herd and secondly come shearing time to be a very handsome boy indeed and a brown boy at that. He is a held in very high regard here in Patouland (and also in North Yorkshire!). He may not make the grade as a herdsire but as an alpaca he is a gem.

Yesterday, Minstrel, a Jack of Spades girl, gave birth to a cria. Once again a big strong cria weighing in at 10.38kg (I don't know where Minstrel kept it, she must have no internal organs!). Rafiki would be a hard act to follow.

However, I do believe that Minstrel and Qjori have followed on very well from two years ago.

May I introduce Patou Taz, named after Qjori's Tasmanian roots (Taz may be lengthened to Tasmanian something or other apparently, and Mrs S usually gets her way!)

As you can see Taz is an absolutely beautiful dark chocolatey brown, a really gorgeous colour.
Feeding within an hour and as seen in the picture below, still feeding well with a very milky face.

Now I suspect like most breeders there are some alpacas who's unveiling by the shearing blades is eagerly anticipated. This year we were waiting to see what Patou Skye would look like as looking at her fleece it was a bit hard to tell. Skye is the daughter of one of our Collabear girls and came to us as a weanling.

Here she is earlier in the year. She looked fawn from the outside but there were obvious signs of other colours when you looked closely.

Well here she is! She looks completely different! So what colour is that exactly? 
Any suggestions?

Oh and I suspect you may want to know what sex Taz is?

Well obviously he is a boy, we don't seem to be doing anything else this year!

Tuesday 12 June 2012

A day to remember

Today is my birthday and so once Sue had left for work and Angus had gone to school I had the place to myself. I planned a day with the newly shorn Patou herd. Who knows maybe a cria would come on this prestigious date.
First though was the little sweaty task of 'mucking out'. Due to inclement weather during and after shearing we have had all sheds and marquees up and open for business. The problem is they can't even be bothered to step out into the field to do their pooping. There was quite a lot of it! Not only that but the place had obviously been hosed down with alpaca wee, the filthy minxes.

Anyway once that was all done and the fleece was sorted I had time to wander about the field gazing at the beautiful slender graceful creatures that had emerged from under all that fleece. It is my favourite time of the year. The girls have never looked more gorgeous.

I sat down and was soon surrounded as mothers seemingly brought their babies over for me to admire. Here  is Reeya with little Talisker, Sahara also joined the group.

Then Poppy came over, (left bum) with Priscilla (grandmother and right bum, ooh that doesn't sound right, I mean her bum is on the right) and in the foreground, Poppy's boy Thor (God of Thunder).

Whilst I was out there, Minstrel, our lovely black Jack of Spades girl (she does have a white chinny chin chin) appeared to be readying herself for something. At 345 days she was bang on time. I nipped out for half an hour and upon my return................yes, she had just popped one out!

Further details of the latest addition to the Mighty Patou herd tomorrow!

Monday 11 June 2012

Sailing under full canvas

Over the past week I have become obsessed with the weather forecast. Absolutely obsessed.
I have been making checks virtually every hour on the BBC website, the Met Office site, a local weather website and any other weather prediction source I can find. I have been studying cows to see how long they have been lying down I have been asking local farmers (they seem to know) what they think. No stone has remained unturned to ensure that I have been fully briefed as to what weather to expect. They all said the same. It was going to rain all day on Sunday the 10th of June and Sunday the 10th of June was the day the shearers were coming. Bloody marvellous.

Still, the day before was predicted to be dry and sunny so I knew that  if we could get the herd dry we would be in with a chance. Our marquee (4m x 8m) was up next to the shed and we hoisted every gazebo that we had to bolster cover. The Mighty Patou Ship was sailing under full canvas, we had nothing left to hoist.

The herd went under cover on Saturday evening, and when I say under cover I mean they all went into a shelter of some sort they didn't all wander about in dodgy macs speaking in even dodgier accents whilst reading upside down newspapers.

We went to bed on Saturday night and waited to see what would happen the following day. 

Mike Banks and his team arrived shortly after noon and we were ready and waiting. A superb army of helpers we here and keen to get proceedings under way. 

Ladies and gentlemen it was like a well oiled machine. Prior to starting jobs were dished out. Every member of the Patou Army knew what was expected. Sleeves were metaphorically rolled up and, not afraid to get dirty, the army readied itself for action.

Sue and I had decided beforehand that I would oversee the animal side of things (a bit like the fat controller) and she would supervise the fleece side of things. Hamish Davidson was drafted into the alpaca handler team, Luke and Emily were dealing with the alpacas whilst they were down and collecting the blanket fleece. Richard and Di were absolute wizards with the brooms clearing and bagging the remainder of the fleece.  My dad was chief scribe ensuring all fleeces were correctly labelled and Mum assisted Sue in providing coffee initially, then lunch for all. Sausages and tomato soup, it was one of those days.

The rain just about held off and all alpacas were sheared dry meaning all fleeces were bagged dry. 
A massive thank you to all who helped, it was a great bit of teamwork and it made the whole process a pleasure.

Now, a short ranty bit. When a camera was produced one of the shearing team asked that no pictures were taken due to possible complaints from the RSPCA. I'm afraid my blood temperature raised slightly for two reasons. Firstly the pictures were only going to be used privately by the two new alpaca owners who were helping out (some of our boys came back for shearing). Secondly, if the RSPCA thing was true, what the hell do they know about alpacas!! The fleeces had to come off, each alpaca was treated with great care, they were probably restrained for less than 5 minutes each and seconds after release were grazing as if nothing had happened. Not only that but they looked much happier without their fleeces on!

So here are some pictures that I took and if anyone wants to complain I am ready to argue all day long!

Friday 8 June 2012

It's all too much for a little girl!

First came Patou Thor (God of Thunder)

Then came Patou Tarquin (Dashing and debonair)

Thirdly the arrival of Patou Talisker (The Special One)

And finally Patou Troy, a real live wire.......

Four new boys, it's all just a bit much for Truffle and her mum.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Something else new....

Something new every day must be a good thing. I must believe this and embrace my new found knowledge on a daily basis. 
Regular readers may know that we have been through the mill a bit this year with the birthing and so today when the torrential rain was driving in at a 45 degree angle, all day, surely we were due for some action. 
Or a new learning experience which is what I now call these 'episodes'.
So at ten o'clock I braved the rain again to check on the girls. Penny politely pooped in front of me then hurled herself to the floor and rolled, and it wasn't in a 'look at me I'm having fun' type of way. No it was in a 'Hang on a minute me old china something isn't quite right here and it is causing me some discomfort' type of way. Penny has been baking a Qjori cria for 340 days.

I observed, I've done a lot of that recently. She rolled again. I returned home and conferred with Mrs S. We then both observed. Time to investigate we both agreed. 

If we had to pick one female alpaca who we didn't want to have to examine internally it would be Patou Penelope. Penny was born into the 'Hair-trigger spit monster family' and after studying her family's behaviour she decided that she should and could take it up a level. She did, in grand style and ever since she has been the most spitty alpaca in the herd. She also kicks like a mule, sometimes at nothing at all, she does it just for fun. She also is the loudest screecher. We don't have a decibel meter here in Patouland but I might get one. I am sure she is breaking some sort of legislation when she is on full throttle. In short, Penny, who has a fabulous fleece by the way, is a bit of a pig to deal with. 

Now luckily with my big mits I am excused internal examinations. Sue being a midwife has teeny tiny touchy feely hands and is much better suited. Sue will tell you that internally examining a human and an alpaca are a long way apart on the similarity stakes. Apparently in humans Sue either feels the top of a big head or a bum. In alpacas there are legs and necks everywhere. Well ok, only one neck but it is very different.

Anyway suitably lubed up Sue 'went in'. Immediately she declared 'It feels like a torsion'. Seconds later I was on to the vet. We haven't had one of these before, we needed help. The lovely Louise was soon on her way.

Fortunately, yesterday we had put up our 4 x 8 metre marquee in readiness for shearing. We are supposed to be shearing on Sunday. The weather forecast looks set for driving rain all day. Shearing, schmearing, more chance of me growing a third arm!

Anyway Louise arrived and agreed with Sue's assessment, we had a twisted uterus or a uterine torsion as I have since learned.

We untwisted it. Yes, we put Penny down and stretched her out using my shearing ropes, placed a wide plank across her abdomen and untwisted her. It was amazing! Louise 'went In' and declared that the twist was out and that she could feel a head. No feet, but a head. We retreated for coffee and when we returned the feet had joined the head in the birthing canal. Should we wait or get it out? We chose to wait. We wanted Penny to do it herself.

At 4pm Penny gave birth naturally on her own. Another smashing brown Qjori boy.

He weighed in at 9.58kg, a big 'un, but he was up on his feet in ten minutes and he had his first feed inside 15 minutes.

Here he is with Mrs S looking fabulous in an orange ski jacket (we had both soaked several jackets during the day!)
The jury is still out on the name. When I checked him at 8pm he was charging around in the shed. He is going to be fine. I am sure a name will be forthcoming in the morning.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

A Double Whammy

We have several females approaching 11 and a half months and the last couple of days have been full of incident. Yesterday, for the first day ever we had two cria born on the same day. I know the bigger breeders have a dozen cria before breakfast every day during the summer but we don't. We never have had more than one in a day and so yesterday was all rather exciting. At one point I completely lost it (again) with worry. 24 hours on, all is well and I have calmed down.
First of all I went out to walk the dogs at 7.45, I had already been out in my jim jams at sparrow fart but was now showered and dressed, I find that the neighbours and the milkman seem to prefer that. 

As I wandered through the maternity ward I noticed Bobby, one of our originals, squatting. I saw poo forthcoming and wandered on taking in the rest of the field. On passing Bobby five minutes later she was squatting again. Aha, now this is interesting. I walked as quickly as I could (almost mincing really) back to the house and alerted Sue who, and she may deny this, was still in bed.

Bobby is one of our 'Big-hitters', she is a dark fawn Mateus girl and has produced four cracking females in a row. Poppy (brown and mother of Roger Resilient), Penny (brown and mother of Sultan) and two black Jack of Spades girls, the mighty Ruby May and the lovely Sabrina. So in other words Bobby has done very well for us. Bobby was once again pregnant to the awesome Jack of Spades.

We watched with interest from the bedroom window and I saw something twitching at the back. Hang on a minute what colour is that? I muttered. It certainly wasn't black and it certainly wasn't brown. It was either white or light fawn. Hang on a minute we don't do white or fawn it's one of our rules down here in Patouland. Nevertheless within a few minutes Bobby had delivered a rather large light fawn male. He was in a cush within 5 seconds, never seen that before. He weighed in at 10.90kg and although initially strong he weakened and we had to tube him with plasma (many thanks to the troopers at Reddingvale!)

To cut a long story short he is now doing well. So without further ado, please allow me to introduce Patou Tarquin, our new light dark brown male!

We thought that was that for the day but at 7.30pm Sue went out to check the girls and found a dark blob with legs kicking about at the foot of Reeya, our top brown female. Reeya is a Jack of Spades girl and this was the one that I have been looking forward to, the first Jack/Qjori cross.

I will say that at 7.58 kilos he was up and about quickly and feeding well within a couple of hours. Because of the awful weather both boys and mums spent the night tucked up in the shed.

Ladies and gentlemen, a fanfare if you please because I happen to think that this little boy may be rather special. He is a glorious brown colour with those lovely dark points, just like his sire. 
His name is Patou Talisker and I am a little bit over the moon with him. He is a real cracker!

Here he is tucking in with Truffle looking on. A few seconds after this picture she tried to rip his coat off. Yes, he is a stud muffin!

I know it looks like he has submerged his head and feet in a bucket of creosote but I like that look.

Tarquin and Talisker join Thor and Truffle (the sole female), here is a picture of the Mighty Thor who is also a cracking little fellow. 

Now, I love my little boys, they are marvellous and maybe one of them will be a future herdsire here at Patou but FOR CRYING OUT LOUD ENOUGH BOYS! BRING ON THE GIRLS!!!!

Friday 1 June 2012

The proudest day

We returned, weary, sore and perhaps a little bit dirty from the Royal Bath and West Show last night. We also returned with a hat full of rosettes. Half of those rosettes were bagged by Angus and his little alpaca Patou Sherwood (locally known as Woody). I will let the pictures do the talking.

First Angus and Woody were in the junior handler class. The apprentice judge Shirley Bettinson put the contestants through their paces and Angus bagged second place. We were up and running.

It may appear from the picture below that Angus isn't that happy, he was but he was now focussing on the main show. The big one. The junior brown male class was coming up.

First into the ring Gus and Woody were soon being put through their paces.

It was first! First place for Gus and the Woodster (a Cambridge Columbus boy)!
He doesn't look jubilant with his win  but Gus did reveal that he was close to tears at the time, which made two of us!

Sue was also in the ring with Sultan (a Jack of Spades boy) and 2nd place meant the boys had done what they did in Devon two weeks ago, fantastic for us and our breeding programme, we are getting something right!

Angus also picked up the special rosette for the top placed SWAG member in the class. 
Sue and Angus then took the two boys into the Countryside arena for an open air parade  in the sunshine.

Marvellous, absolutely marvellous.

That was our job done on the first day, four rosettes bagged we retreated to the field next to the alpaca marquee where we had pitched our tent for a barbecue and a few sherberts.

Day two, I have no pictures of day two so I will sum up. We had the two big boys in the Intermediate Brown Male Class, Roger Resilient and Rafiki. Sue and Roger bagged second place behind a superb little male from West Dorset Alpacas, his fleece was amazing, a worthy winner. Rafiki came in fourth and I fear may not make the grade as a potential herdsire. Roger is still looking good though and will be retaining his undercarriage.

Following that we packed up and headed home, Angus is back to school today and we have females looking ready to burst. I will be heading back to see who gets Supreme Champion today. I will be walking proud at the showground, proud of our little boys, all three of them.