Saturday, 29 June 2013

Gone native!

Yesterday I was at home, in charge. I had plenty of work to do and checked the lardy girls at midday. All was well. Our lovely brown Jack girl, Reeya, was 342 days in and looking a bit 'slack' round the rear end but nothing obvious. Fabiola who had just hit the 11 months mark was also looking relaxed.

At 2.15pm I went out with a bottle to feed Una Paloma Blanca. I could sense that something was afoot in the field. A large group of females were staring at me as if to say "Well what time do you call this you slacker, it's all over!"

I glanced to the left and saw Reeya standing there looking normal. Hang on a minute there was a cria running around her, a brown one. A new one! I then saw her placenta. Fantastic, all over and all well. I trotted, well it was more of a smug wrapped amble really, over to the shed to get the Iodine spray and the scales. On my way back I walked past Fabiola who was in some long grass. As I passed her a wibbly wobbly head rose out of the grass next to her. Woah, another one!

Anyway closer examination revealed that Reeya had given birth to a very handsome light brown boy with the brightest fleece I think I have ever seen, positively glistening! He has been named Whisky Mac and he is very lovely. Some of you may think that he looks a bit fawn, which is ridiculous, everyone knows that we just don't breed fawns. It's the light, tricky under a tree. Probably had the flash going off or something.

He was soon doing lots of this. He weighed in at a healthy 8.55kg and is doing very well. Another Qjori son. 7 girls and 6 boys so far.

Fabiola, who is owned by Ivan and Gill Hayward had produced a beautiful little smoky dark brown Qjori girl. She weighed in at a very feminine 7.15kg and is extremely lively, and lovely, and beautiful.

Fabiola is a Columbus girl and despite the very light brown splodge on her back leg she appears to have produced a nice solid colour, time will tell. Actually it's a beautiful colour.

The next one up into the 'delivery zone' is the big one. My favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily. She is 11 months pregnant tomorrow. I will not be missing that one! No I won't. Not a chance. To ensure that I am here when she gives birth I have resigned from the day job, gone native and am now living in the alpaca field, full time, naked.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

 New girl, Verity with Alice behind.

I am a little confused down here in Patouland and it is the girls who are confusing me.
To bring you up to speed we have had 4 females in a row and the tally now stands at 5 boys and 6 girls.

A week ago we had the unexpected arrival of Verity who had only been cooking for 323 days. Alice is quite a stressy girl and she gave birth three days after shearing. No doubt in my mind that the shearing brought her on. Verity was a good weight at just over 8kg but was flat and lifeless. Four days of intensive care and we managed to get her strong enough to feed from Alice. They have now rejoined the herd and all appears well. Verity is not confusing me, I know who she is.

Una isn't confusing me either. She is a bundle of energy as can been seen below. She is also a sneaky little thing. She is our bottle baby, her mother has very poor quality milk and Una has been taking a litre or so of goats milk each day. Recently however she has been refusing her bottle and has been seen with milky chops. After hours of observations we have seen her sneakily feeding from four different mothers! She seems to watch and wait and when a cria goes under she whips round to the other side and wham bam thank you mam!

 Una, racing off as a cria starts to feed on the other side of the field!

It is now that the girls get confusing. Two days after Verity was born, we came home from a lunch out to find that Minstrel had popped out a lovely little black girl who we have named Violet. She is, as you can see, beautiful. I think that is her.

This is when it all starts to get confusing you see. Here is Ulani, daughter of Bobby, I think.


 Then we have Willow, with Umbria and someone else in the background. Do you see my problem? They all look the bloody same. I mean they all have the same father (Qjori) but really!

  These two girls for instance, anyones guess. Willow and Umbria I think but I may be wrong.
You see out of the  6 female cria, four of them are black. Which we all know is the new brown!

Here's three of them, but I can't tell you who is missing! All I can say is that they are all beautiful!

On a sadder note, we came home on Monday to find that our lovely brown girl Spirit had given birth while we were out and the cria, a beautiful brown male, was dead. He must have had something worng with him I guess but we are both kicking ourselves for not being here. I buried him under a tree in the field and cried buckets whilst doing it.

People who know us and read this tripe will know that we will fight and fight to keep our alpacas alive but this time we just weren't here. I know we can't watch them all the time but I can't shake off the feeling that I have let Spirit down. I will hurt for some time over this one, I'm welling up again now, she deserved more, we should have been here.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Patou Boys revealed.

Shearing over it is time to marvel at the alpacas as their transformation is complete. This is my favourite time of the year, just after shearing. The alpacas have gone from being huge powerful looking fluffballs to lithe, graceful, beautiful almost vulnerable looking creatures. I love it, they look amazing. Sadly so far I have only managed to take some pictures of the boys who have all gone off to land away from the females, an attempt to stop the big boys squabbling.
Columbus, the Clumpmeister, who is usually on his own is now in with the weanling boys and they seem to be getting on very well.

 Left to right - Tsar, Clump, Todd, Talisker and Thor (God of Thunder)

 Little Tsar with his new hero, The Clump.
 It was quite an emotional moment seeing Tsar without his fleece. It had started to fall out in clumps about an inch from the skin, which is when he was very ill I suppose. The fibre had an obvious weak spot and he looked a complete mess but now we can see what a beautiful colour he is and hopefully he will go on to grow into a handsome young male alpaca. I want him to live in the house really but that, of course, would be silly.

 The most eagerly awaited unveiling was little Todd, who had been shown as a rose grey and appeared brown from the outside. We knew what was inside and just couldn't wait to see his true colour revealed. We were not disappointed. Check him out, just how good looking is he!!

 Todd and Talisker who seem to be permanently neck wrestling!

  And of course the big boys, Rafiki, Woody and HRH Qjori who is looking very stern!

Right, tomorrow I have a day off so if the weather is good, the ladies will be photographed.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Shearing is always a stressful time here in Patouland because of the great British weather. We don't have the luxury of a large barn in which to house alpacas in order to keep them dry, we are dependant on the weather behaving itself. Which it rarely does.
This year shearing had been organised for Tuesday the 11th of June. Sue and I had the day off, in fact I had most of the week off. Plenty of time for organisation. As usual we had invited the owners of some of our boys who lived locally to join us for shearing. I would collect the boys (16 in total) from three different locations and return them after shearing.

The weather.
A week before I became obsessed with checking the forecast. It is surprising how much the forecast can change in a week.
It started off well, dry and sunny. Time to relax.
With five days to go it had changed to cloudy. Anxiety levels on the up.
Four days to go and a big blue droplet appeared on the map, chance of a light shower, I start to twitch.
Three days to go and we had constant light rain predicted, I develop several nervous ticks including a particularly abusive form of Tourettes.
Two days to go and heavy rain was predicted all morning, I lose control of my bladder and thoughts turn to running away from it all.
The morning of the day before. It's 5am and I am peering through bloodshot eyes at the computer screen. Sitting in a puddle and twitching uncontrollably I study the maps. The heavy rain has been replaced with light rain. I struggle to smile but all that happens is more wee comes out and I start to feel nauseous.

After banging my forehead increasingly harder on a solid surface I come to the conclusion that the weather will beat us unless I formulate a back-up plan and implement it. A friend offers us a barn about 15 minutes drive away. It will take about 20 alpacas leaving enough room for shearing. Perfect, I change my trousers and spring into action, suddenly a man on a mission.
The afternoon of the day before. All the males are collected, tranported and housed in separate pens in the barn.

The evening of the day before. At home Sue and I put up our 8m x 4m marquee and arrange the hurdles. We have 14 females and 9 cria housed in the marquee and 12 females tucked up in the shed. It's 9pm when we finish but we know that pending horizontal rain blowing in from the east we will have dry alpacas on the day. Large drink required.
Colin Ottery rings, he has seen the weather forecast and is checking that we have some dry alpacas in the dry ready to shear. I tell him that we have and shearing is on!

We have never had Colin before but I can tell you that when he arrived the stress levels started to drop and he was bloody marvellous all day. It was a thorougly pleasant experience from start to finish. It took a while due to the separate locations but by 6pm last night all alpacas were sheared and back wherever they should have been.

The herd is in fine fettle and we have had a couple of surprises as two girls who I thought were empty are very obviously not so it looks like we have another eleven cria to come instead of nine!

Tomorrow - pictures, the Mighty herd revealed!

Thursday, 6 June 2013


This morning was going to be the day, Sue and I had both decided.
Bobby was mooching around on her own last night and was still acting in that slightly bewildered way this morning. Today was to be the day, 373 days into her pregnancy and having been watched for what seems like months it was time for Bobby to come up with the goods. We needed another cria and we needed a female. And by crikey she went and did it.
Bobby, when she eventually gets round to it, is a rapid birther.
She has produced very well for us over the years but we haven't actually seen the birth of many of them. She is a secretive birther. She is one of the cornerstones of the herd and is mother to Patou Poppy (ATA Cambridge Centurion), Patou Penny (Canchones Witness of Inca), Patou Ruby May (Lillyfield Jack of Spades of Inca), Patou Sabrina (Jack of Spades) and last year Patou Tarquin (Jack again). This year was her first Qjori baby and we were very much looking forward to the birth.

So at 8.20am this morning I checked Bobby and she was lying in the dustbowl. I took the dogs into the other field to check on the other group of females and returned to the field Bobby was in at 8.30am. Now, this has to be some sort of record here in Patouland, because not only had Bobby given birth in those ten minutes that I was away but the cria was up on it's feet and under looking for milk!

Not only that but it was an absolutely beautiful dark brown (very dark brown, maybe black) female! She weighed in at a very respectable 10.45kg and is very lively.
Here she is with Bobby at 3 hours old. I am off to work shortly so I have left a list of suggestions for a name on the board. Sadly we are not on G's this year as her name would simply be GORGEOUS!

So to bring you up to date on other news, due to computer malfunctions and swaps (Angus now has my laptop and I have his, which has Windows 8 and is filled with witchcraft) I haven't been able to blog. Just before the Bath and West we had another cria, a big (10.75kg) healthy handsome black Qjori boy out of  Collabear Joy. He has been named Vincenzo and is doing very well.

And just to prove that we are still breeding brown alpacas and haven't switched over to the very dark side here is a picture of (left) and Umberto lounging in the sunshine this morning. In the background is Wellington (black) and Wilbur (back left) or the Silver Surfer as I call him.

All of a sudden, the sun is shining and all is well with the world!