Monday 30 December 2013

Goodbye 2013!

I have finally managed to drag myself from beneath the great cricket fuelled depression that has been forcing me to overindulge in the Christmas cheer for slightly too long. Of the left-overs all that remains is some cheese and a bag of prawns. No doubt we will polish that off later.
So it comes to the time to cast an eye back over the last 12 months and see where it leaves us going into 2014. A small review is in order if that's ok with you? No? Tough, here it comes.

January and we were still struggling (but winning) to get Tsar back on his feet. The weather had been awful and hadn't helped, in fact I am sure it was a contributory factor in his decline. However, January was the month that we felt the corner was turned and so it proved to be, he is now thriving and appears to be the only one of the ten males that we had in 2012 to keep his testiculars. Castrations will be organised in the next week or two for his three contemporaries from last year and a couple of the older boys, Woody and Rafiki.

Tsar, before illness struck him.

Tsar this summer, looking a picture of health!

April saw the arrival of Patou Una, the first cria of the year, and another drama. Found early in the morning on a cold wet day lifeless and close to death. She was first introduced to a bath, a blow dry and an electric blanket. That did the trick and she was soon thriving.


We enjoyed a busy show season which as usual kicked off with a trip to the NEC and the Futurity. We weren't hugely successful but did take the female fawn championship, albeit with someone else's alpaca. It was still Sue in the ring, and if anyone asked who the gorgeous fawn belonged to we were open and honest, we couldn't have been accused of shouting that information from the rooftops though! It was a hugely enjoyable weekend and always great to catch up with friends.

We did however enjoy some success in later shows and enjoyed all of them, win lose or draw!

 Patou Talisker, son of Van Diemen Qjori of Patou, a brown male champion.

A much more successful breeding season was soon upon us and we ended up with eleven female additions to the herd in a variety of colours, all of which were one shade of brown or another. Although I have been accused of declaring rather too many shades of brown I do maintain that I am right. It is just that my brown spectrum is a bit wider than anyone else's!

 My favourite cria from this year Patou Vanilla. A brown alpaca in anyone's eyes!

A beautiful summer saw everyone doing well and there was even time to add to the herd further as four pregnant females arrived in late summer. Three black and one brown and all pregnant to Popham Thunder of Inca. We were ready for some female cria with some new genetics for the herd. Unluckily for us four males hit the deck, the best of the bunch just happens to be brown though, properly brown too! 

Matings were underway and 2014 will see cria arriving from five different herdsires as we expand the genetics in the Mighty Patou herd. Exciting times ahead. We start in June this year, with a September finish, all being well!

The major story of the year for me was my retirement after 25 years with the Wiltshire Constabulary (I know it's not called a Constabulary anymore but to me it always was one). Bugger what the desk jockeys think.

So I am now free to throw myself fully into the alpacas business. This has meant that everyone now gets fed in the daylight, injections and other treatments are up to date and you could eat your lunch off the floor of the field shelters, I wouldn't, but you could if you wanted to, and you don't mind alpaca shit on your sandwiches!

So to 2014. We must move on, we must move forward, we must sell some females. We will be at several shows the National being the first. The show team is taking shape and may be the biggest show team that we have ever taken on the road, I'm not talking double figures here, we only have one small trailer, after all you don't have to be big to be mighty!

So all that remains is for me to say Happy New year to you all, we hope that 2014 is an absolute cracker!

Saturday 14 December 2013

The darling of the herd.

On the fourth of August this year a little brown female was born here in Patouland. She weighed in at 6.65kg and was very dainty indeed. She was exactly the right colour and she was a she. She was the cria that I had been waiting for. We named her Vanilla.

Those of you familiar with the story of Tsar from last year know how much we laboured to get him right after a pretty poor beginning (he is now in great form by the way). You will also be aware of the fact that I declared him last summer as 'the best cria we have ever produced', a statement I still stand by as it was then. Well as we were so pleased with Tsar we repeated that mating. His mother, an ATA Cambridge Centurion girl, Patou Amelie (daughter of Patou Lily) was put back to our Aussie boy, Qjori and Vanilla was the result. A daintier version of Tsar but otherwise exactly the same. Great colour, great fleece qualities, beautiful.

Unfortunately Vanilla also had problems as a young cria, she gained weight initially but after two weeks she suddenly started losing weight and we had to step in. We started supplementing her feeding with a bottle and watched her very closely. It became apparent that she was only suckling from one teat. She would nudge the others but only the front left teat got used properly. There was no sign of mastitis but we treated Millie for it anyway, twice, to no avail. We continued to bottle feed, always a struggle as Vanilla never really gave in to us and at the end of September we stopped bottle feeding.

Acting on the gingery wise words of the Lord Chief Justice of Inca we put Millie and Vanilla in the shed and introduced Foal Creep pellets to Vanilla. A slightly complex arrangement with the feed buckets ensured that Vanilla could get them but Millie couldn't. Vanilla weighed in at 8.51kg. A month later and she had put on 3kg!

We have dealt with diarrhoea, pneumonia, listlessness and sudden weight losses since then but I think we have now turned a corner. Amelie and Vanilla now spend the days out in the paddock with the others and come in at night where they have plenty of feed. Vanilla is now off the foal creep pellets and eating regular alpaca feed, she is nudging 16kg and is a bundle of energy. She is a midget of course but she is, very definitely, the darling of the herd.

Sunday 1 December 2013

A sunny day but the 'phantom' still struck!

It was a beautiful sunny Autumn day yesterday so I headed out with the camera to take some photographs of the mighty Patou herd. Now I don't profess to be much of a photographer, I am always guilty of not 'seeing' what is behind the subject of the photograph, hence there is usually a certain amount of over-cropping before the finished article is ready for publication.
Yesterday was no different. Yesterday I was the victim of the phantom pooper.

For instance here is a picture of Skye and her cria Willoughby. In the top left corner the phantom perches in that familiar stance, the 'delivery' stance. At the time I hadn't noticed the phantom's presence.

Even when I moved location slightly to make better use of the sun I failed to see what was going on behind as the phantom had now been joined by a colleague, a 'double-header' was now taking place, could it have been deliberate?


Again I moved, still unaware, but it was no good the phantom and her colleague were still there. In fact a tail much closer had just been raised, luckily for a different reason.

Slowly, the phantom, having relieved herself then revealed herself and came down to say hello, it was Patou Whisper, daughter of Lily, my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world.

As she is totally beautiful I thought that I would photograph her, this time I could see what was occurring behind her as the scene unfolded, the perfect almost choreographed comeuppance for the phantom!

After that I was a bit more careful so here are some 'phantomless' pictures on a sunny day in Wiltshire.
Whisper was joined by her young apprentice, Wasimba, almost a grey but I am struggling to find any black fibre, plenty of brown and white but no black, yet.

Next, Vickery, a real proper, genuine, bonafide grey! He is the noisiest cria we have ever had, every time I touch him (and he doesn't seem to mind) he goes into a series of clicking, clucking, humming, chirping noises. I am hoping his fleece stays as it is, a bright shiney polished steel colour with a lovely tight crimp and as you can see he has plenty of it!

 Willoughby, a rich deep brown colour.

Wagtail, despite looking quite light on the outside she is a much darker, richer brown on the 'inside'.

And finally, regular readers may remember the drama we had back in April when Sue found a virtually dead newborn cria in the field early one cold morning. She was rushed into the house, went into a warm bath, was blown dry with Sue's hair dryer and then became the first alpaca to go into our bed, on the electric blanket under our duvet.  Here she is pictured on that morning, rising from the dead as her body reached it's optimum temperature.

Una has thrived since then despite having to have been bottle fed and although now fully weaned she still sticks close to her mother at all times. She is, as you can see a big bundle of fluff.

Monday 18 November 2013

What a show!

Last weekend we headed off for the South West Alpaca Group annual show, this year held in the Autumn.
I set off for The Hand Equestrian centre on Friday morning to meet up with a small but dedicated team of SWAG members, lead by the extreme organiser Di Davies, to set up what was a very impressive and professional looking show.

The rest of the Mighty Patou arrived that evening dazed and exhausted after I had taken the only sat nav. Diversions, Carnivals, roadworks and a complete lack of knowing where they were had delayed their arrival so I opened the wine and started without them, well the show must go on!

Saturday morning and after a bit of warming up wrestling we were ready for action. 170 alpacas had arrived  by the start and the Patou show team of 6 were pumped and ready to take on all-comers.

This was to be a show with two firsts for us, it was my first show where my primary occupation is as an alpaca breeder and it was to be the first time the three of us were in the ring together as a team.
The Patou pen was adorned with a gift from the Queen of the Mighty Inca Tribe and we were looking forward to the long day ahead of us. Isn't she clever!

Lunchtime and the junior handler class was held. Gus took Todd in and despite appearances in the below picture, worked hard to go through the motions of showing off his skill set. 

He went on to bamboozle the judge, Val Fullerlove, with his Jedi mind tricks and once under his spell the result was a forgone conclusion. She was putty in his little sweaty 10 year old hands.

We were up and running, first place, a nice halter and lead set and a Champion Handler sash. 
Gus and Todd milked it a bit as the onlooking crowd gathered mementoes having witnessed an impressive display of mind control.

Later in the afternoon, our big Team moment arrived, the intermediate brown male class. Three Patou warriors, three brown boys eager to impress. We were ready in plenty of time and Gus and Sue took it in turns to keep the team seat warm. I couldn't join in, I had reached the point of no return. If my legs had gone beyond the 90 degree point and I had taken a seat there is every likelihood that I wouldn't have been able to get up again!

It was a big class with 12 entrants and the judge, Liz Barlow, commented on the high quality of the animals on show. After much deliberation one by one we were brought to the front row and took 1st, 4th and 6th places. A very satisfying result for brown alpaca breeders!

Not only that but the first place male went on to take Champion brown male! I know that those of you 'in the know' will know why no names are mentioned. Suffice it to say that the Mighty Patou showed three brown males and were triumphant! I am, as shown below, far too embarrassed to wallow in the glory of the whole thing so I did the championship with my eyes tightly closed.

So 6 alpacas, 6 rosettes and two Championship sashes, a nice little return for us. It was a fabulous show all round and although there were things that could have been done differently it is difficult without the benefit of hindsight to get things perfect all the time.  We enjoyed it immensely and can't wait until the next show, The National!

Tuesday 29 October 2013

The dark side grows stronger!

Yesterday saw the arrival in Patouland of three, year old, brown females. They have settled in well and have already laid three eggs (presumably one each). Not alpacas of course but hens!
There is a free range egg farm near us and sadly after the chickens are 60 weeks old they are deemed to be insufficiently productive so they go off to meet their maker whilst a new batch of young layers arrive.

The egg farmer is very keen to rehome as many as he can so we took three home, we would have loved more but at the moment we can't take more than three. The naming ceremony has sort of taken place and at the moment we have named one each. So here are Clementine, Laura and Lambo, (please note the liberal use of baling twine used to repair the Eglu run. I am working on plans for a large run but for the time being they are confined to barracks. I suspect it is a bit of a culture shock for them coming from a flock of 38,000 down to 3! 

A couple of weeks ago we did welcome some new alpacas which I hinted about a few months ago. 
I shook on a deal back in early July to buy four females. Three black and one dark brown. They were all pregnant to Popham Thunder and I was keen to get some of his genetics into the herd. Once the deal was done we waited for news of their cria, some lovely black and brown females to take the herd forward would be nice. 
However, one by one news came of the arrival of a male cria, three black and one brown. Not a female in sight, can you believe it! Still all is not lost, all four have been remated to Thunder and all are spitting off nicely. Next year four lovely females please!
I must say Thunder does do a good job, they are all nice but two of them are very promising.

This is Samantha, she is a little bit of a munter (slightly odd shaped head) but has produced the best of the four cria a very nice brown male called Warrior (no pressure then little man!).

And here is little Warrior, a lovely brown colour, great head and a very nice fleece indeed.


Now the other three are a bit more of a challenge for me. Because it has pretty much rained constantly since they arrived and because the first week they spent in a huddle miles away from everyone else I haven't quite got who is who sorted out. So here are some pictures of the other arrivals.

 This one is............ a black female, with a black male cria.

This is another black female with a black male cria.

Here is the final new girl, as you can see, a black female.


Here is her cria,............................................. possibly.

Or it could be this one. 

I will be getting to know them all very well from now on as I have hung up my truncheon for the very last time. I am now, officially, a farmer!

Monday 14 October 2013

Where have I been!

Crikey, I have just looked and it is over 2 weeks since I last drivelled out a post on this blog, which is supposed to tell the tale of the Mighty Patou Tribe.Not much of a tale of late!
I have been in a complete and utter brain fizz. As I mentioned at the end of the last blog post I am retiring from the day job. This has caused quite an effect on my ability to function at anything other than 'a frantic, not achieving very much whilst expending a lot of energy type way'.

I suppose 25 years of pulling on a uniform, going to work at all times of the day and night, dealing with the worst the world has to offer, seeing strange things, horrific things, weird things, amusing things, incredulous things but mainly stupid things daily has kind of programmed me to wake up expecting to immerse myself back into that world. I can't quite believe that it is soon to be over.
I won't miss much of it I can tell you. I will miss the people that I viewed all of that with and I will miss the fun times I have had along the way, of which there have been many, but dealing with the sort of people that we tend to have to deal with regularly, no, I will not miss that at all.
Anyway at the time of writing I have seven 9 hour shifts left. Although I don't expect I will be doing much on the last one as I will have handed in my handcuffs, pepper spray, baton and the rest of the kit.

So, in two weeks, officially, when asked what my occupation is I will be able to answer 'Alpaca Breeder!'. That puts the pressure on a bit!
I will also be concentrating on another line of possible income but I won't bore you with the details of that.

So, the future, the Mighty herd now numbers 62 in total and we have 24 cria due next summer from five different stud males and that I find extremely exciting! In fact just writing that is making me feel like stripping off and galloping round the paddocks in the rain shouting complete and utter nonsense!

Perhaps I'll just have a wee dram and calm down a bit.

All that is left is to tell you all about the exciting and prestigious show that is coming up next month!

Closing date for entries is the 23rd of October so get on it NOW!! It is going to be great!

Sunday 29 September 2013

Time to reflect.

And so as another breeding season reaches the end it is perhaps time to reflect on what 2013 has to say about life in Patouland.

Cria count, 20 born here this year, 5 black females, 4 brown females, 2 multi females, 3 brown males, 2 black males, 2 grey males, 1 fawn male and Wilbur, the silver surfer.

I haven't got pictures of them all but here are some of the new kids on the block:

Firstly the four older black girls, all sired by Qjori.

Patou Ulani, mother Bobby, a fawn Mateus girl, head of the herd, bossy, spitty, kicky, we hope Ulani doesn't follow in her mothers footsteps!

Patou Umbria, mother Patou Penny a Witness girl, as bossy, kicky and spitty as her mother Bobby. We hope Umbria doesn't take after her mother or her grandmother............. but she probably will.

 Patou Violet, mother Minstrel, a black Jack of Spades girl. Violet is looking very promising.

Patou Willow, mother Sabrina, another black Jack of Spades girl, the pick of the black girls. Here is a fleece shot we took this morning. As usual the picture does not do it justice, it is lovely.

And now onto some of the boys, the browns.

Patou, mother the delectable fawn FiFi. Will has a gorgeous fleece and if we were picking a show team today he'd be the first name on the team sheet.

This is Patou Umberto, mother Poppy a brown Centurion girl. Sadly you might be able to see the white spot on his little chinny chin chin, his fleece is gorgeous.

Finally for today the only fawn in this years drop, Whisky Mac, out of Reeya our brown Jack of Spades girl. He is definitely one to watch.

And that is your lot for today, in other news, Sue and I came to a massive decision last weekend and that is that I am to retire from the day job at the end of October! That is fantastic news for me!!!

Now where are my pipe, slippers and satin smoking jacket?

Thursday 19 September 2013

The Magnificent Seven!

We have our cria divided into two groups at the moment, the older cria are with the main herd and the last seven cria are still in the birthing paddock with access to the big shed and within view from the kitchen window. 

The last seven are absolutely gorgeous (biased I know but it's my blog!), a really lovely little bunch of cria and so feeling a strong urge to share their wonderfulness with you I scurried out with the camera this morning. It isn't a nice bright sunny day in fact it is quite dull so as I was taking photographs (in the midst of a herd coming from the dark side) the flash was popping up frequently.

So here, for your information and wonder are what I like to call our Magnificent Seven! They have all been sired by Qjori and there is an interesting mixture of colour as you will see!

First is Patou Willloughby, his mother is Skye, a rose grey. This little chap is as smart as a button and has a very tidy fleece on him, one to watch methinks.

Second up is the latest and the last addition to the herd this year, Patou Wasimba. He is without doubt the cutest thing that we have here, by a country mile. His mother is Sahara, a medium fawn Columbus daughter. Wasimba has a glorious tight, curly, dense fleece and is looking every inch a superstar! He is so lively that when we weighed him daily for the first week we could never get an accurate reading as he was non-stop, mid-air galloping whilst hanging from the scales. Muppet.

Now for the first girl in the line up, Patou Waikiki. She is the daughter of fawn Centurion girl Polly. Waikiki has a dense fleece with plenty of character and is lovely but I have reluctantly put Polly and Kiki up for sale - I am hoping no-one buys them, I know it's stupid but I am stupid. It's just so hard to make these decisions. Don't look at her, move on.

The second brown girl is Patou Wagtail, a sort of smoky brown colour out of Patou Sirrocco, a brown Columbus girl. Her fleece is all fluff at the moment but it is starting to change colour (going darker) and the character appears to be arriving. Odd how they can change so much? She is in a blur most of the time as she races everywhere. Not much wrong with her that's for certain.

Next is Patou Whisper, now I know she has huge ears but as she is the daughter of my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world I simply don't care, paddock blinidness maybe but she is gorgeous. She has a very interesting fleece, could be good this one.

Next is the star of this years cria drop. Patou Vanilla, full sister to our boy Tsar and causing us almost as much anguish. Vanilla started off well putting on a lot of weight initially before starting to lose weight at 10 days old. Finickety feeding (one teat only) seemed to be the cause. We tried everything to get her onto the other teats (plenty of milk in all of them) and in the meantime have been supplementing her with goats milk. She has now started to gain weight and is refusing the bottle most of the time. The teats of her mother (Millie) have changed shape slightly so all now appear to be in use. We are monitoring the situation carefully. Vanilla has an identical fleece to Tsar at the same age but she is very much a girl and therefore very frustrating (ooh did I say that?).

And lastly, the big bruiser of the seven is Patou Vickery. Vickery is out of Dilly, one of our two white girls and is a cracking rose grey with a very promising fleece. He is the noisiest cria we have ever had, touch him with one finger and off he goes clucking and humming and chuntering to himself.

So there we have it, the Patou Magnificent Seven. An odd mixture of colour for someone breeding for brown I know but hey-ho variety is the spice of life!

Sunday 15 September 2013

A boys day out at Romsey.

Yesterday Angus and I spent a great day at The Romsey Show in the grounds of Broadlands House. The Romsey show is less than an hours drive for us and is one of my favourite shows.
We took a small but perfectly formed show team selected from the massed ranks of the Mighty Patou army.
Patou Todd, our rose grey boy and Patou Talisker who had taken the brown male championship at the Ellingham show last month.
We also took a third member of the herd for his show debut. The third member of the team was none other than a very special little boy, Patou Tsar. Those of you who regularly read this drivel will know that Tsar is the little male that we struggled to keep alive last summer and over the winter. After a long hard and emotional battle we have managed to get the bugger sorted out and although he is still a bit on the small side he is in fine fettle.
Anyway off we set well equipped for the day ahead. I had been up early cooking sausages so that Gus and I could breakfast in style rather than pay £4 for a crap bacon butty. The sausages were put in a thermos flask, we had buns, ketchup, hot coffee for me and hot chocolate for Gus. Nice.

We arrived and unloaded and then had to move the car and trailer to a field designated for trade parking. We trudged back talking about the fantastic sausage butties we were going to devour washed down with our own home made hot beverage of choice. We arrived back at the alpaca marquee salivating and in one of our customary hunger frenzies.
Angus sat down and eagerly awaited the promised feast. It was then that I realised that we had left all the food in the boot of the car! With the judges briefing fast approaching we didn't have time to go back and get it. After the judges briefing we then had Todd in the second class, still no time to get it! Todd went and came second in the intermediate grey class which meant he had to go into the grey championship line up! How inconsiderate! How inconvenient! By now we were becoming ravenous and were looking around for things to eat, hay was looking tasty. Finally at just after 10am we were able to return to the car and breakfast was soon underway. The Patou army marches along in a much better mood when it is well fed!

Our next venture into the ring was with the two brown boys, Talisker and Tsar. The conversation about who was taking who into the ring went something like this:

Me: Who do you want to take in?
Gus: Who's best?
Me: Well I think Tsar has the best fleece?
Gus: I'll take Tsar.
Me: Although I think Talisker is conformationally better.
Gus: I'll take Talisker.
Me: I still think Tsar will beat Talisker.
Gus: I'll take Tsar.
Me: Although Talisker won the brown championship at Ellingham last month.
Gus: I'll take Talisker.

And so it was decided that Gus would take Talisker and I would take Tsar.

It was a large class but eventually Tsar was awarded second place and Talisker fourth. I would have preferred 1st and 2nd obviously but Nick Harrington-Smith is a top judge who commands respect and I have no problems with his decision. First place went to a smart light brown boy owned and bred by Roger Mount, next time Roger!

Lunchtime was fast approaching (just because breakfast was late is no reason to move lunch back by the way) and just before lunch was junior handler time.
Gus had taken the junior handler title at the Royal Bath and West Show so was eager to maintain his supremacy. There were seven junior handlers in the ring and Roger Mount was volunteered to do the honours. Minutes later and Gus had the first place rosette, a lovely halter and lead set and a smile a mile wide. Me too!

Job done, lunch was troughed. Some Reddingvale people said we ate too much! Cheek of it!

With all the dark animals judged it was time for us to have a wander round the show and catch up with fellow exhibitors before our final event the Sire's Progeny class. Now we have never been in one of these but as we had three Qjori boys in our team I thought that we would give it a go.
We roped in Ali Chant from Windrush Farm Alpacas as our third handler and off we went into the ring, the team from the dark side up against three teams from the light side. I loved it, being in the ring with three of our boys at the same time was a real buzz and when we were presented with the second place rosette I was absolutely delighted! Obviously I would like to have come first but we were beaten by The Reddingvale Team with their Top Brass progeny, so no complaints.
Unfortunately the only photos I have of the day are of Gus in the ring with Toddy. I know; I am useless. Anyway here are the three Qjori boys.


And of course Tsar!
  And of course (again), the big Daddy of them all, Van Diemen Qjori of Patou!

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable day, well done to Karen and Nikki for organising it all.

However, something has got to be done about the access of the public. The 'Health and Safety' rule (or is it advice, or law, who knows) that members of the public were not allowed in to the marquee to see the alpacas and talk to the breeders (this removing a massive marketing opportunity) has surely got to be strongly challenged!(Maybe it already has?) It happens everywhere else doesn't it?

And my last word on the subject is that I think the organisers of the Romsey Show (the whole show, not the alpaca bit) are a bit jobsworth. I was berated by a moron in an orange tabbard for walking along the metalled road back to the car park at the end of the day. When I asked why I was being told to walk in the mud I was shouted at 'You will get run over, it's health and safety!'
When I explained that there were no cars within sight and that when one came along I would get out of the way I was accused of being firstly rude and the arrogant. Left a nasty taste that did, jobsworths.