Friday, 28 December 2012

New pants - just in time!

I have new pants, not as in American 'pants', no I have new underpants. They were needed, they weren't a Christmas present they were needed before that, it couldn't wait. This is probably too much information for you readers but I am sure you can cope with it, I mean everything else we do is laid bare for all to see so a little underpant talk should be a doddle for you.

The reason I required new undercrackers was twofold. Firstly I am the sort of person who doesn't get new pants very often. My shreddies become like good friends to me, each pair is acknowledged for the important  duty that it carries out, each pair is individally cherished and recognised as being slighty different to the other pairs. They are all important to me. So much so that  I tend to hang on to them for a little too long. Some of them are more hole than not hole, some are very thin, some are older than our oldest alpaca (and she's nearly 15), some just give up and fall off.

So just before Christmas I visited Mr Marks and Spencers online shop and new trollies were despatched to Patou HQ.

Dee, our oldest alpaca and Truffle earlier in the year when it was dry!

They have been well used since their arrival mainly due to the weather. Patouland is nestled at the head of a beautiful valley on the magnificent Fonthill Estate. The Fonthill Estate bottles it's own water and provides all residents (including us) with free mains tap water. That may give you an idea as to how much water there is in these parts. The water that they produce is pumped from deep underground I presume but to get there it obviously has to fall out of the sky first. This year, as us outdoorsy types are aware, has been rather wet, there has been rather a lot of water falling out of the sky. A lot of it came during the summer meaning that when the winter rains arrived there was nowhere for it to go. Puddles became ponds, Springs have sprung up everywhere here and I am permanently sinking when I am outside. Gone are the days when I could skip across sodden ground with the nimbleness and surefootedness of a light skippy thing. Now, one large wellie is placed on the ground and the second one is gradually ripped with a noisy squelch from the thick sucking mud as wellie number one is slowly disappearing into a muddy abyss, and so on.

I also picked a good year to decide to forage for all of our firewood from the surrounding woodland. I know I should have started in the summer (would it have made any difference?) and filled up the log shed but I didn't. As a a result I trudge up the slippery slopes to the woods with a saw and my wheelbarrow to select fallen wood that isn't too wet. When I find a nice thick branch that has fallen from a big tree, be it Oak, Ash or Elm, and see that it has been caught in the branches and is therefore just hanging there with only it's toe touching the ground my excitement is almost uncontrollable. I dream of dry seasoned wood, seriously I do!

The treacherous slope when it was dry and not a health hazard (it's steeper than it looks!)

Anyway the second reason my new undercrackers have become invaluable is because of the descent I have to make from the woodland with a wheelbarrow full of freshly chopped logs. To get home with my logs I need to tackle a steep treacherous slope. Walking down a steep slope with a heavy wheelbarrow is hard enough but when that slope is covered in what feels underfoot like watery snot the danger level is escalated to a very high level. As a consequence I have fallen over more times than I would care to remember over the last two months or so. Falling over when stone cold sober is unfamiliar territory for me but I must do it, despite preparing myself and trying very hard not to do it, at least twice a week. A man of my stature landing on wet ground means wet underpants every time, hence my need for reinforcements in the underwear draw.

Next blog - alpaca stuff, honest!

Friday, 21 December 2012

An early Christmas present.

I am so sorry that I haven't blogged for a while, we have been flat out here with one thing and another and I seem to be spending a lot of time at the day job. Almost to the point where I have checked my duty roster just to make sure they are not 'overworking me'.
Not only that but we have been very busy on the alpaca front not helped by the weather. It is official I hate mud.

Anyway several week ago I mentioned that we were doing something that could have ramifications on the future of our herd and I wasn't joking. We were given the opportunity to have the whole herd bTB tested using the new (and not licensed for use in the UK yet) Enferplex blood test.

This was the test used by the Inca Tribe to test the massed ranks of the Inca herd after the 'Swedish affair' that Tim wrote about in Alpaca World.

We had no suspicion that there was TB in the herd, in fact the herd is in fine fettle, looking great, well it is when it's not wet and muddy!

It would be a private test and for that we needed permission from DEFRA to carry it out. It would also be fairly costly and if any alpacas had tested positive there would be no compensation forthcoming.

So why have the test done? Well, we thought long and hard about it, we live in Wiltshire which is now in the 12 month testing zone, so it is about in these parts. We decided that we would rather know one way or the other. As I said we didn't suspect it, our vets didn't suspect it so it was a calculated risk, we anticipated the herd to test clear and with that positive mindset we set the ball rolling.

First of all the lovely Louise came round and took blood from the entire herd. The blood was then couriered to the lab in Ireland where the test was carried out. Whilst this was going on we waited, and waited. We tried not to think about it, we didn't talk about it, but we looked at each other every now and then and we could both see what we were thinking. What if? Who had we possibly sentenced to death?
It didn't bear thinking about. We didn't sleep well. I became rather short tempered and adrift (I may have been short tempered anyway).

Finally after two weeks of nail biting the test results came through and the Mighty Patou herd had indeed tested clear, everyone. Nothing to it really!

Now we can get on with Christmas! Incidentally I received the results on Tuesday evening of this week. I was working an evening shift. I have been working evenings ever since and am working evenings today. Tomorrow, I may have a celebratory snifter!

Monday, 3 December 2012

A concerning time.

We have slightly concerned faces down here in Patouland. One of or number is not well. One of our number is decidedly not well at all. And when one of us is not well, none of us are well. It's a team thing. It's tribal.
It is one of this years cria, it is Tsar Tsar Superstar, the pick of the bunch. It bloody well would be him, wouldn't it?

Just over two weeks ago I rounded up the entire herd in it's various groups and treated everyone against Liver Fluke using Fasinex, a drench. With my relatively new all singing multi-drencher it was a doddle and was carried out without so much as a splutter. Actually there was one, Sirrocco. She made a bit of a spluttering fuss about it but I am sure that it was more to do with her demeanour than my drenching technique. Anyway whilst I drenched away I also carried out my routine checks which we like to do every fortnight. Jaws, teeth, eyes, feet and of course condition. I was pleased, all was well. I was particularly pleased that Tsar Tsar Superstar was in good condition. You may remember that he was a slow starter and had been bottle fed for a while until he got the hang of suckling so to feel him in good nick was satisfying.

So, when I next got hands on him twelve days later (last Thursday) I was absolutely stunned to find him as thin as a rake and I mean thin, very thin. Worryingly thin. Parasites were immediately suspected and he was wormed (Panomec) and treated against Coccidiosis (Baycox). He was also moved into the weaning paddock with his mother Millie and observations and action began. He was grazing like mad but Millie didn't seem to have much milk. We started bottle feeding him but he fought against it. On Sunday we moved them into the warm dry shed with the ultimate companion, or oldest girl, Dee (she has done it so often she is a real professional at it). I surrounded them with fresh hay and hard feed and we carried on with the bottle feeding.

Tsar Tsar Superstar and his mother Millie

When we checked them at lunch time something was obviously not right. Tsar was on his side and was obviously suffering from severe abdominal pain. It was a no brainer, we needed a vet straight away. We tend to only need vets on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Forty-five minutes later and little Tsar was being poked and prodded in every direction. He politely dropped a large solid turd for the vet to take away and provided three tubes of blood for further investigations. He was given Buscopan (anti-spasmodic) and given a thorough examination. He had heart arrhythmia (missing the odd beat), which I have since found out from the Lord of the Inca tribe can be due to being very thin. We hope so rather than some congenital defect. 

My theory is that it was either worms or coccidia. Which hopefully have now been dealt with. I think that when he moved to the weaning paddock, which is still full of lush green grass (not much in it I know) he gorged himself a bit and gave himself a touch of colic. If I am right, and I hope I am, it is just a case of feeding him up. 

Today he seems a bit livelier, he is no longer in pain and is eating hay and hard feed as well as suckling and taking milk from us. All very positive signs. We await the results of the blood tests.