I think it is safe to say that spring has finally sprung, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the bitterly cold north wind has been blowing. So, it has still been three layers of clothes, winter boots, thick coat, woolly hat, and gloves whenever you go outside, but at least it is dry. The grass has been rocketing away, everywhere is now green. I have let the alpacas out of the paddocks into small, fenced areas to eat the grass, they get about three days before I move them again to stop them scalping the grass so early in the year. They love it, and I love to see them run out of the paddock in the morning to the grass and the girls have even been pronking around in the evenings. (For any new followers, pronking is when they look like they are bouncing on all four legs) However spring for the boys usually means chasing each other around in the evenings and fighting (usually playfighting), it happens every year without fail at this time.
I am going to fence off an area around the oak tree hill for the girls to use and the fence posts came last week, just need to get the wire now. I used some of the posts to create a permanent corridor between the two girl’s paddocks so they can mix and share grazing areas. I am hoping it means they can still mix in the winter as I can use the snow blower to keep the corridor clear. At putting away time Vanessa’s girls make their way to their house and Aggie’s girls to theirs, I have them well trained.
I have been taking the alpacas out for walks to get them back into the swing of it again, they usually don’t take much persuasion to go. They know they get to eat grass on the way. It’s not often I get to take Aggie for a walk, and I always feel quite emotional when I do. Last few years she has been pregnant or been feeding and I don’t walk them then. She was the first alpaca I trained to walk and even though she is not walked often she still remembers what to do. She will walk steadily alongside you and respond to commands. I used to walk her a lot when she was small, so it brings back many good memories. I must admit Aggie is my favourite alpaca even though she can be a pain in the bum at times, but she was our first cria and I learned such a lot from her.
Big news is the vet came to scan the girls and Ilvija and Amanda are pregnant, cria due mid-June to beginning of July, but Silla and Valeria are not which is what I suspected from their behaviour when the boys escaped and got in with the girls last year. While the vet was here, she also castrated Freddie. His fleece has never been wonderful, and he has inherited his mums skin issues as well as having a weak knee ligament which is also inheritable, so we were never going to breed from him. He is quite gentle and sweet but towards the end of last year and in the very early spring this year he has been the instigator of many of the fights with the boys so we decided it might be best to have him castrated. He was on his feet and eating after about 20 minutes and has shown no aftereffects at all. It should take around six weeks for the testosterone levels to fall. He is still currently joining in with the boys fighting, I keep telling him to watch those stitches.
Now we know which girls are pregnant we have started the process of mating some of the others. I am trying Josefs and Jakobs for the first time. Josefs was pretty good and knew what to do, but Jakobs was a little slower. It is so funny with the young males until they get more experienced, you have to keep turning them around, “no not that end, try this end, you need to be a little further up” etc, I never thought I would need to be an alpaca sex therapist.
I was beginning to get a little worried that the fleeces this year hadn’t grown a lot but then suddenly over the last two weeks, boom…they seemed to have exploded. They all look so fluffy and long now, it always seems such a shame to have shear them.
The dawn chorus of bird song now is getting quite loud as more and more birds have returned, the wagtails returned about a week and a half ago and last Saturday it was the cuckoo. Then on Sunday it was the one I always love to see and that is the swallows, so fingers crossed they want to nest in the alpaca houses again, they have been looking.
Ilvija is pregnant to George, this is her first cria. I can't wait to see what colour it is.
Jakobs and Brencis relaxing in the morning sunshine, that snow in the background has all gone now and the grass is growing fast.
The wagtails have returned.
Jakobs is a very pretty looking alpaca, but Silla didn't seem to think so when I took him to mate.
Mr P practicing for those long lazy days of summer. The number of those longer grey fibres is increasing every year.
The cranes have been back a while.
Rocket Ron (aka Mr Rocket) has slowly been putting weight back on.
You may remember last year I was stung in the face by a wasp while trying to wash out a wasps nest in a nesting box on the barn. Well I recently took the box down and opened it up, this is the remains of the nest and if you look closely there is even a dead wasp at the bottom.
This was one evening as the sun was going down and it lit up just the top of the trees.
What a scruffy bunch of characters.
Especially this one.....
We had our yearly inspection from Sophie our previous cat. She has deserted us for the last few years and taken up residence in our neighbours cow barn where it is warm and she is well fed.
I have fenced off a corridor between the two girls paddocks so the can easily mix.
Mr.P is also beginning to put weight back on. I think our hay from last year was not very good as a few alpacas have lost weight. The majority are now on extra high protein food to help them.
Love this photo of Tellus. Things were so different when Tellus, Herkules and Turbjørn first arrived 10 years ago, we knew very little about keeping alpacas and made plenty of mistakes, but we learned such a lot from them.
George was on "companion" duty here. He was kept in with Freddie as Freddie was not allowed outside having just been castrated that morning. George wasn't too happy about it though and continually moaned at the door.
The girls finally out on the grass.
I expected there to be a choir of heavenly angels singing as Aggie is illuminated by the rays from the sun..
Silla is, as expected, not pregnant, so I am trying to mate her with Jakobs and if that doesn't work then with George.
Karla's fleece feels so soft.
The girls were queuing up to roll in the dust, there were at least five of them one after another. Here Antonia is waiting for Valeria to finish.
Here little bossy Karla is trying it on with Antonia, needless to say she didn't win.
So she decided to go and have a roll in the dust instead.
Lolly's fleece also feels so soft, but doesn't pick up as many bits of stuff as Karla's.
Strange to think just a few weeks ago there was still snow on the ground.
The boys are at it again, especially these two, George and Jakobs.
But Josefs does like to join in too.
As I had suspected from their behaviour Amanda and Ilvija are pregnant but Silla and Valeria are not. Amanda is due mid June and the father is Brencis, who also fathered Karla from Amanda last year. Ilvija is due mid July and the farther is George. I am very excited as this will be our first totally "home grown" cria from parents both conceived and born here and it should be an interesting colour.
Freddie was also castrated this morning, not sure who was the more nervous Freddie, me or the vet as this was the first time she had done an alpaca. All went well and Freddie was up on his feet within about 20mins of the operation. I also took the opportunity while he was sedated to file down his fighting teeth. The operation has come just in time as there have been a couple of evening when Freddie has been chasing the other boys around trying to bite them. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the testosterone levels to fall then we should start see some changes in his behaviour.
Amanda is due mid June, will we get another Karla?
Ilvija (on the left) is due mid July, strange to think Chanel (on the right) will be a grandmother, wonder how she will cope with that.
I don't think Freddie will be doing any running around for a few days.
About a week ago I finally stopped feeding Lolly, she has been really good about it. I think she has handled it better than I have, I quite miss doing it, it’s been part of my routine for nearly the last eight months. In the morning when I let them out, she comes running up to me and will pester me a little, “where’s my milk” she says. But if I ignore her, after a minute or so she gets the message that there is no milk and backs off and leaves me alone. I have been wanting to take her out for walks but there is still too much snow around for her short legs, and now it is finally going it is very muddy. Normally this time of year I start taking the boys out for walks to get them back in practice, but because of the lingering snow I haven’t even managed to do that.
We removed the bandage from Brencis rear leg and while he was being held took the opportunity to cut his toenail and give him his vitamin D injection. His leg has healed well, there are no signs of any lasting damage. I am so relived as he is our chief walker. He loves to go for walks.
Shearing time is approaching fast, I have just received some new combs and cutters from the UK and thanks to Brexit they have cost me a fortune. Mr.P and his two sons, Josefs and Jakobs are in serious need of front teeth cutting they are beginning to get a bit long. They may need to be done before shearing time if they get out onto the grass before then as I think they would have difficulty eating it, it’s not so much of an issue eating hay from the feeders.
I think Aggie is after a man. She is in her, I will let you stroke me phase, she will come up to you and will not back away when you reach out and just stands there while you stoke her, it’s almost as if she wants to be touched. She is not getting a man though; Aggie has been well and truly retired from the cria producing group. She has produced some nice cria, but she doesn’t handle being pregnant very well and she is not a good mother, she rejected Josefs for the first three days and then wouldn’t feed Lolly hence why I have had to bottle feed her. We had to put some cream on her feet and legs the other day and once I held her, she more or less just stood there. I stand at arm’s length and put one hand under her jaw, thumb on one side and fingers on the other and with the other hand hold the back of her head just under her ears and with my first three fingers can massage the top of her head. This really seems to relax her and of course I talk to her all the time.
I am still waiting to hear when the vet with the ultrasound can come to scan if my girls are pregnant, been waiting since September, not very good is it. I really need to know soon because we are going to risk early mating this year for early cria births next year. They will also be around nine months pregnant which is when the mum’s energy requirement begins to increase due to the cria inside her, so depending on their body score they may require extra food. This was just little fact I learned on the course I did. Fascinating when you think that they would naturally start to wean any cria when they are around eight to nine months old so they can then concentrate all their energy into growing the next one. Isn’t nature wonderful.
There are lots of photos this time.
We are planning to open again for visitors soon but that will all depend on how quickly the snow disappears and how quickly the ground dries up, so watch this space for further news.
Brencis enjoying the snow.
Flocks of geese have been flying over, but there doesn't seem to be any consensus which is the best direction. I have seen them heading north, south, east and west.
I will be talking to the vet to arrange getting Freddie castrated, before the hormones begin to rise in the spring.
Brencis having a scratch on a spruce tree I put in the paddock.
You are not supposed to dive into it Brencis.
Silla stood on the frozen snow next to the fence, luckily she is not too desperate to get out as I think she could quite easily get over the fence.
This is what she is looking at, she wants to go and see the other girls.
Amanda looks surprised to see me.
Antonia looking very serious.
Aggie having a scratch, we recently put cream on her rear leg, her feet and around her nose to help with her skin problems.
Karla having a roll in the snow.
Lolly has spotted Vanessa's girls.
Mari needs a little trim before shearing so she can see properly.
Karla is just a ball of fleece, and hay, and dirt, and spruce needles, and twigs ...and... and....
Looks like Lolly and Ilvija are posing for the photograph.
Vanessa nibbling at the freshly appearing moss.
The geese have not been the only things flying over just lately.
Brencis and George out in the morning sunshine.
Mr. P and his teeth. The bald patch on his nose is from the rubbing they get when they put their head into the abrasive hay to eat. Most of my alpacas get this this time of year, the fleece normally grows back when they get back on the grass and don't eat as much hay.
A fluffy looking Jakobs and his sticky out teeth.
Josefs has been rolling in the snow, you can see his protruding teeth too.
A coltsfoot flowering inside the greenhouse.
The snow is going but just too slowly for my liking.
A nice portrait of Freddie. You can see the start of a bald patch on his nose.
Mr. P spying on me.
Which side of the post does Brencis have his neck?
This is what I have been up to over the last few weeks, cutting trees. Some of these spruce have been getting too big, taking up too much ground area and light.
This is the stump from the second tree in the previous photo, its about 30 to 35 cm in diameter and I count about 18 to 20 rings.
Lolly looking all cute.
This is what I see each morning, "have you got my milk".
You haven't got time to take photos, we want our food.
I love these patterns on the snow as it disappears, looks like something from another planet.
My chickens are embarking on a new venture, laying ready decorated eggs just in time for easter. Got to admit I have never seen one like this before, it is a two tone blue.
It been an interesting last few weeks, Joanna has been away and I have been on my own, so some of the alpacas decided it would be a good time to make my life difficult. Firstly, there was Josef and the cut to his top dental pad I mentioned in my last post. Then a few days after that I went into Vanessa’s girls house and there was a very distinctive smell. A smell I recognised… feet, or to more precise in between the toes. I managed to get hold of each one of the girls to check and low and behold Antonia had a very bad infection between her toes on both front feet. I tried to clean it out and put on some of Joanna’s “magic” cream but after a few days it still wasn’t healing. Vanessa was also stamping one of her rear legs and when I looked, she also had an infection between the toes. I think it is because of mites and the fact it has been damp. Aggie then started with a sore patch on the inside or her rear thigh due to mites. I tried to put some cream on her and discovered she has quite a kick to her, luckily it was to the wall and not me.
Then to cap it all one evening when I went to put the boys away Brencis was limping badly on one of his rear legs, he was holding it in the air and wouldn’t put any weight on it. I presume he had been fighting and had slipped on the ice. I went to get our neighbour to come and look at him. She didn’t think it was broken and we bandaged him up. She came back next day to check on him and while she was there, we checked on all the girls to see what their feet were like. There was Antonia, Vanessa and Karla who had infections. I got some antibiotic spray from the vet and our neighbour brought some warm water and washed their feet in potassium permanganate solution and I sprayed in between the toes. I continued with the antibiotic spray for five days and glad to say the infections have gone. Brencis still has the bandage on but he is now walking ok, in fact he had a slight trot into the alpaca house one evening at putting away time. We think he has strained his Achilles tendon.
At last the alpacas are beginning to spend some time outside because the sun has finally made an appearance over the last week. It has actually been quite warm during the day.
Lolly is now down to around 40mls of milk in the morning and that’s it, soon I will stop all together. It’s hard to believe she is coming up for 8 months old.
Silla glowing in the sunshine.
Brencis and his bandaged leg, glad to say he is much better now.
Antonia and her blue feet. I wish you could get a spray that didn't have dye in it.
Tracks left in the snow from a hay delivery by sledge to the girls.
Ginger Tom out on the prowl.
I think he has been spotted.
Look at the length of Josefs eyebrows.
Vanessa (left) and Silla (right) catching up on the gossip, Silla always looks so serious.
Little Lolly is nearly 8 months old.
Antonia was very good while I was dealing with her toes, once I got hold of her she more or less stood still while I picked up her legs and sprayed in-between her toes.
This mobile hay stack also goes by the name of Karla.
Karla will be coming up for nine months old, she is still feeding from her mum but not often.
Chanel enjoying the afternoon sun.
Mari is in the zone.
GT and Rocket Ron have spent most of the winter in the small greenhouse with the chickens.
Freddie is another one basking in the sunshine.
And so is George.
Things are certainly a lot quieter around here since Turbjørn died, he used to make his displeasure known if he felt any of the others were invading his personal space by squealing very loudly. Mr.P and him used to make one heck of a noise, there have been times I have gone running up to see what was happening expecting there to be a big fight, only to see them stood next to the feeder looking at each other. I had to cut a pathway through the snow to the top of the land so we could bury him. I am still waiting for the histology results to come back to see it there was any cancerous tissue around his heart and lungs.
On the weekend Turbjørn went rapidly downhill we also had issues with Mari. While giving them some hay on Saturday afternoon I noticed she seemed very unstable on her feet and at one point she even stumbled. I was very concerned as this is not a good sign at all in an alpaca. I contacted our neighbour to see if she could come and take a look and went home to get the Vitamin D, B-complex and Vitamin B1 injections. Her temperature was 42oC, and her stomach motility was a bit slow. I gave her the injections and also a paracetamol tablet to get her temp down and some drops for her stomach. We had to come back in the evening to check again and it was 40oC so she got another tablet. In the morning it was around 39oC so she got another tablet but by the afternoon it was back to normal. She has been fine since.
I finally got the chance to clear out some of the bedding in two of the alpaca houses as I was nearly hitting my head on the roof beams, plus it was starting to get pretty bad in there. I had to clear away the snow on the other side of the paddock fence to dump it, normally I would put it in the trailer and dump it at the top of the land but there is just too much snow at the moment. I managed to clear out about 2/3rds and get some fresh bedding down, I think they were all very relieved it’s a lot more pleasant inside now. This winter the alpacas have hardly been outside at all, I do leave the doors open for them but they just don’t want to go out. They may venture out if the sun is shining but there hasn’t been much of that this year.
We managed to do the latest round of Vitamin D injections and toenail trimming without any real fuss, they all more or less behaved themselves. I wonder if it’s the result of the online training and behaviour course I did. Don’t know what we will be doing for Vitamin D injections next year as a lot of companies have stopped making it due to changes in EU regulations for the amount of Vitamin E allowed in meat. A lot of the injections are a mix of A, D and E it is very rare stuff indeed now, I nearly kissed the vet when she said she did have a bottle, but it will be the last.
I mentioned I have been doing an online course in Alpaca health management, it has been very worthwhile even if it does mean a late (post-midnight) finish on a Wednesday. Last night was about skin problems, probably the most common issue for all alpaca owners, but we have also covered Nutrition, Parasites, biosecurity and next weeks is about what to do when things go wrong.
Although I am trying to learn as much as possible about caring for alpacas (especially the veterinary side of things), so you know what to look out for and what to do in various situations, I am just so grateful for our neighbour who I can call on if I am unsure, she did used to be a vet.
About a week ago I noticed Josefs was sitting down a lot and didn’t seem interested in things, which was strange for him. A few days later he was back to himself so thought no more about it. Yesterday he seemed to have something in his mouth so I got hold of him and got it out, it looked like black plastic, very odd!!! Gave him some food but as he ate it, I could see there was still something in his mouth. Went and got my head torch to have a better look but he wouldn’t keep his head still. So, I asked if our neighbour was free to help hold him while I had a better look. Turned out he had a very large, deep cut to the bottom of the top dental pad in his mouth. First thought was it was his teeth had cut it but his teeth are all in the correct positions. So, I presume he has cut it on a tough woody stem while pulling hay from the feeder. It is well on its way to being healed and luckily it wasn’t infected. But it just shows it is worth while getting to know the behaviour of each alpaca and watching them more carefully and checking them over when that behaviour changes.
Fence, what fence? I think these tracks are actually from a Lynx, they are definitely cat like but much bigger than a typical cat. There have also been recent Lynx sightings nearby.
Did I mention it has been snowing.
Looks like I forgot to take down the Christmas light decorations.
This is the pathway I had to dig to get to the top end of the land so we could bury Turbjørn.
Jakobs is beginning to look very fluffy.
Josefs checking out the pile of old bedding I dumped on the other side of the fence.
Mother and daughter sat side by side, Amanda and Karla.
A view of the snow drift behind Vanessas girls house, it is at least 1m deep. That fence wire is 1.2 meters in height.
Amanda and Karla lit in the light from my head torch.
This is a picture taken with my phone down the microscope while I was checking poo samples for parasites. This is a mite that has been ingested as the alpaca has been scratching itself with its mouth. Some alpacas can cope with them but others are very sensitive to them and they can cause loss of fleece and thickening of the skin.
Rocket Ron and Ginger Tom are either found in the little greenhouse with the chickens or on top of the caravan in the big greenhouse. Why? because both places are warm.
Josefs is just so cuddly and best thing is he will let you.
Mari watching something out of the doorway.
I always wanted to be a surgeon. The patient was in an accident and lost the arm at the shoulder many years ago, the arm and spring was kept and after some in-depth studying (YouTube Video) I decided to try reattach it. This is just post op and the patient is in intensive care.
Day 3 post op, patient doing push ups.......operation was a big success.
Think I need to get out more.............
It is with great sadness that I have to announce the passing of Mr. Turbjørn, he died yesterday morning after a very rapid decline in his condition.
A week ago, I found him on his side on the floor when I went to let them out in the morning, got him up and he seemed ok. But a few days later found he could not get up on his own, so called the vet who came to look at him and take some blood tests. His recent gut parasite tests had shown a slightly increased level of eggs so he was given anti worming treatment. His blood results showed a slight anaemia but everything else was basically normal. Over the week I would help him up in the morning and he would be on his feet most of the day even going outside. But on Sunday he seemed much more uncomfortable with what looked more like colic, we gave him some drops to try and ease the colic and in the afternoon he seemed easier. But then yesterday morning he did not look good at all and by around 11am he had died.
It was such a shock because over the last month or so he seemed to moving so much better and looked so much more alert. An autopsy was done and his kidneys, liver etc and GI tract were all normal, but there was some evidence of bleeding and some unidentified tissue around his lungs and heart which the vet thought may be cancerous so I am taking that today to be tested.
Turbjørn along with Herkules and Tellus was one of the first alpacas we got nearly ten years ago, he was four when he came to us. He was a “pet” quality alpaca, previously castrated and not very fine fleece. Alpacas all have their own distinct personality, just like humans, but Turbjørn was definitely the odd ball. We always said he was the grumpy uncle in the family. He liked his personal space and if anyone entered that they knew about it. He was usually found sat at a great distance from the rest of the group and preferred to be on his own. Any new young males we introduced to the group very rapidly discovered you don’t go near Turbjørn. He was around third in line in the herd hierarchy and had been known to step in and stop some fighting between the others. I think he was perhaps the most intelligent of all the alpacas he knew exactly what you were doing or were about to do. Whenever it came to shearing, toenails, injections etc we always had to do him first as he would have been so stressed by the time it was his turn. He was always a bit nervous and would not eat from your hand, he would if you put it on a tray and hold it but not directly from your hand, however last year he suddenly started doing it. We had an arrangement at putting away time, all the boys would come to the gate as I went in with the trays but Turbjørn would wait at the edge of the group and I would turn and offer him the top tray and he would take a few mouthfuls before we went in.
Turbjørn was the first alpaca that I realised was directly communicating with me, as I mentioned he was very nervous and one day he kept coming and standing in front of me and looking at me which was so out of character for him, as I moved, he would move and do the same again. Eventually I discovered the water bucket was empty and he was telling me he was thirsty and needed a drink.
Nearly two years ago just before shearing I noticed he would walk around with his head down low, at the time there were a lot of flies and I thought he was keeping out the way of them. But after we sheared him, I realised he had a very bad kink in his neck, X-rays showed he had dislocated his neck in two places, I presume him and his older brother Tellus had been fighting. We got an animal physiotherapist to look at him and she did a great job he looked a lot better; I continued with regular massage and got a heating pad for him. I think he knew we were trying to help him as he would just stand there and looked relaxed, again so out of character for him. That winter was very cold and he had lost a lot of weight, I think he couldn’t chew his food properly to grind it up enough to process it efficiently and of course the stress from a constantly uncomfortable neck. So, we had a special coat made for him with an extra neck piece to keep his neck warm, he loved it, I also think it helped support his neck as well as keep him warm. Last summer he made sure he kept his distance for the others, especially when they were fighting or running around, to protect his neck. I was hoping he would start to put some weight back on when on the grass, he did a little but not what I hoped for.
I will sorely miss Turbjørn and his eccentricities which made him so special, thank you for being part of my life and I hope you enjoyed your time with us.
This was the first time we saw Turbjørn, when we went to visit the breeder in Sweden who we got our first three boys from ten years ago.
This is when he first arrived with us along with Herkules and Tellus. He was four years old..
His fleece was always on the coarse side but he used to produce a lot.
He had a small patch of light brown fleece on his back.
Family portrait. Turbjørn at the back, his nephew Brencis in the middle and his older brother Tellus at the front. We always thought Brencis looked more like his uncle Turbjørn than his dad Tellus.
He did enjoy an early morning sing song.
Having a good scratch, this is of course before he dislocated his neck.
This is post dislocation, you can see the main dislocation in his lower neck and the second was about 2/3rds of the way up.
He had physiotherapy and I also used a heat pad to try to keep him comfortable.
I also had a special coat with neck attatchment made for him to keep him warm in the winter as he had lost a huge amount of weight.
A very rare sight of Turbjørn eating from my hand, it was only in the last year he started doing this.
This is the last photo I have of Turbjørn taken 11th January he had been out eating the snow.
R.I.P. Turbjørn you will be dearly missed.
It’s been a weird winter so far, it snows then warms up, one day it was -18oC when I came out in the car and by that evening it was +1oC, in fact I did see +7oC in the greenhouse at one point, I don’t think the alpacas are complaining though. They have spent a lot of time inside, by choice, I do leave the door open so they can go out if they want too. Usually if it is sunny, they will venture out for a little while. Because they are inside a lot has meant I am checking on them more often and poo clearing, as I don’t want it to build up to unacceptable levels. It also reduces the chance of them picking up any intestinal parasites. Over the last few weeks, I have been checking the poo samples for parasites, I am pleased to say they are reasonably free. Some did show a raised number of tapeworm eggs and I am deciding whether to treat or not as when reading up about it, most say tapeworm is not a big problem in alpacas and doesn’t need treatment whereas some say it can cause weight loss. I am more concerned that I did see a lot of mites in the poo samples, way more than I usually do which suggests there is a very high level of them in the bedding and on the alpacas. Possibly because it hasn't been really cold for any real length of time which would kill them off. Strangely though, apart from Chanel who usually reacts to mites, none of the others are showing any signs of mite issues.
In the mornings I have been giving Turbjørn a pot full of soaked Lucerne and Camelibra pellets to try to help him gain weight. He is a very bright alpaca and when I go in makes his way past all the others into the smaller side of the alpaca house while I get anyone else out and close the gate. He stands there while I put it on a tray, literally salivating and smacking his lips. We don’t have weighing scales so I can’t say for certain he is putting weight back on and his body score (a simple way to assess the condition of an alpaca by feeling its spine) is still very low but he really seems to be moving much better and seems much more alert, so I presume it is doing him some good.
I have only had a couple of chances to take Lolly out for a walk due to the snow which is a shame as I would like to take her out more often. I did take her up past the boys who came out to see her. I don’t think she was that bothered at all. I am aiming to have her weaned by early February so she is now down to one ¾ full bottle three times a day and the midday feed will be dropped soon.
I have been studying just lately and have just completed an online course in alpaca behaviour and training, it was fascinating. Now the hard part is putting it all into practice, not as easy as it looks. I will be going in at the deep end as I aim to work mainly with Chanel who is perhaps the most difficult of all my alpacas. She is the one with skin issues that need dealing with and is of course the one who doesn’t like being handled, wish me luck. I am also in the middle of an on-line course in alpaca health management, which again is fascinating, it’s organised by a specialist alpaca vet. I have lots of “bits” of information floating around in my head and it’s been good to have some order and structure put to it and learn the reasons behind some of it.
Awwooooooo Brencis practicing his wolf impressions.
Long ice crystals on a stem on a cold frosty morning.
Peek a boo says Lolly.
Amanda glowing in the afternoon sunshine.
I know I keep saying it but I just can't get over how stunningly beautiful winter can be.
But also hard work, I decided to clear the snow from the sides of the greenhouse.
Over the Autumn and winter Mr. P has shown no signs of his breathing problems, it's usually in the spring when it starts.
George and Mr. P out in the afternoon sunshine.
Our very creative scarf designer Silla, I have been talking to her about possibly doing workshops this year.
Mother and daughter, Vanessa (mum) on the left and daughter (Valeria) on the right.
Close up of Vanessa's smile.
I shall be practicing all my handling and training techniques on Chanel.
Still waiting to find out if Ilvija is pregnant.
Karla is growing fast.
Her fleece is a bit of a hay magnet though, she is usually covered in bits of hay.
Freddie.also glowing in the afternoon sunshine.
Errmmm Freddie I wouldn't do that if I was you, I don't think Brencis is too pleased.
Jakobs might look cute but you have to watch him, he usually pinches the food from Freddie's tray when I pop out to close the other door. He doesn't do it if I am stood there.
Josefs is just so cute though.
Jakobs, Freddie and Josefs tucking into our Christmas tree.
Gosh, I hadn’t realised it is month since my last full post, where did all the time go??? Anyway, I hope you had a good Christmas and we wish you a very Happy New Year.
So, what has been happening? Well, we have had snow then it has all but gone, then it’s snowed again, melted then snowed again. But at least we haven’t had the bitterly cold temperatures we saw at the beginning of December, which makes it a bit easier on the alpacas. The big news is that this week I have started halter training Lolly, she has been eating the pellet food for weeks now and even has her own tray at putting away time. She has only had a few days with the halter training but she seems comfortable with it on and is not getting stressed with it. Karla still doesn’t know what the pellet food is, so I will wait till she does before starting to halter train her. I like to use the pellet food as a positive reinforcement during training. It might not be too long as I have noticed that Amanda, her mum, is feeding her less and that is usually when they discover the pellet food. I am actually beginning to reduce Lollys feeds; I have dropped the afternoon feed and she is getting less milk in the bottles.
A very big thank you to Jelena who follows these posts and has visited on a few occasions, she came with a friend to help repair the plastic that split on the greenhouse roof. It took nearly all day but it was a job well done. I was so relieved as we have had quite a lot of snow since and it is much warmer in the greenhouse now the gaping hole has gone. She also helped us hold Brencis while I cut his toenails and give him his vitamin D injection. He was surprisingly good and just stood there more or less, which is very good for Brencis.
Someone else who seems to be getting better, behaviour wise is Chanel and I think it down to how I handle her. She has always been very spitty and will buck and sit down when handled, but because she was like this, I used to grab her and hold onto her. But I changed how I do it, now I just gently hold her head with my arms outstretched, one hand behind her head and the other cupping her jaw, since doing this she is so much more relaxed, she still does sit down though so need to work on that one. Her skin problem is not getting any better so she is in the middle of a course of ivermectin injections (no not for Covid) to kill off any mites that are on her skin.
I have been itching, maybe it's the mites :P to take the alpacas for walks but the snow keeps getting in the way, just when it has about all gone, we get more. I think they like to get out for a change in scenery and it gives them a bit of exercise in the winter months.
The reparied greenhouse roof, I was so thankful.
No the hay stack isn't on fire, it's the sun rising behind it.
Speaking of the sun........Looks like a UFO.
The gorgeous Chanel, her behaviour has changed such a lot since I changed how I handle her.
Valeria introducing herself to the new coloured female we have.
Little Lolly is getting quite adept at the alpaca yoga.
Not one of my best photos of Ilvija, but it does show her new front teeth that caused me some issues at the beginning of December.
The snow was beginning to pile up at the edge of the greenhouse, better here than on the roof.
This is the view from inside, it doesn't usually push against the plastic because where it touches the plastic it melts.
This is a frost covered tree on top of the ski hill in the "evening" sun.....taken at 2:56pm.
Lolly has good hearing, she can hear me coming and runs out to meet me, but why?.....
For her bottle of course.
Feeding her should have been your job Aggie.
Lolly first time in the harness. The harness matches her fleece.
This was from today, looks like more snow on its way.
Freddie has been at the snow.
You probably don't get the significance of this picture but this is Turbjørn eating the pellet food from my hand. He is one of our original alpacas who we have had for 10 years this year. He would never eat out of my hand until last year when he suddenly started.
Mr.P and Freddie though are usually first in the queue to eat out of my hand.
Karla looks like she is in a very contemplative mood.
Love this picture of Amanda who is Karla's mum.
This is Antonia who is actually Amanda's older sister.
Jakobs feeling hungry and decides to eat the alpaca house.
Josefs has also enjoyed eating the snow.
As does George, can't get any fresher snow than that.
The girls alpaca houses.
Aggie's girls house, Lolly was tapping her foot waiting for her milk.
The old oak tree
The birch tree on the left actually died last winter.
Vanessa's girls house.
The old oak tree.
The ghostly birch.
Aggie's house and the trees behind on the oak tree hill.
Well winter has arrived and boy has it come with a bang. First it was wet, then it snowed, snowed and then snowed some more and last night it was around -26oC. There was one point I kept the alpacas inside for almost two days running because of the snow. I would normally let them outside if it’s snowing but I didn’t want Karla and Lolly to get too cold or wet. All the alpacas didn’t seem that bothered by being kept in, normally I get a lot of ear ache from them moaning but this time they seemed quite happy about it. The snow was the horrible wet stuff which is heavy and there was so much one night it bust the plastic on the greenhouse roof. The next day was spent very carefully removing the snow off the roof using a special long scraper I made many years ago. Still not worked out exactly how to fix it yet but I am so grateful someone who follows these posts and has visited us a few times has offered to come and help.
There was a bit of a panic this morning as the car died on the way out to the land and a friend had to tow me. I suspected it was a blocked fuel filter due to wax in the diesel from the very cold weather. I thought I had changed it last year but when I looked in the barn there was a new one sat on the shelf so maybe I hadn’t. But I was so glad to see it there. Doing car repairs outside at -20oC is not my idea of fun but it had to be done and it seems to have fixed it as I got back home OK, find out tomorrow as it is supposed to be very cold again tonight.
The car hasn’t been the only thing to make me panic just lately, one night when I was feeding Lolly, I was watching Ilvija and thought she looked like she had a big gap in her front teeth. There is no way of getting close to her when her mum, Chanel, is around, so next morning when I went to let them out it just so happened, they were in separate parts of the alpaca house so I closed the gate. Then managed to have a good look, there was a big gap and the teeth had bits missing from the side where they up against the other teeth. I knew she was in the process of losing her baby teeth but in all the years of having alpacas I had never seen anything like this. I began to wonder if she had been kicked in the teeth and they had been broken and moved. But she had never shown any sign of swelling, pain, discomfort or anything like that and she has been eating normally. I sent the pictures off to a lady in Australia who specialises in alpaca dentistry for her opinion and glad to say she thinks everything is ok and the teeth will settle in to position. While we had Ilvija separated from her mum we took the opportunity to cut her toenails as well, as they didn’t get done when we did all the other girls.
All the alpacas (except Brencis) had their Vitamin D injections, next ones in two months. Turbjørn seems to be coping very well with the cold even though he is still thin, we haven’t coated him yet. I did leave a lot of fleece on him when I sheared him in June and I think he can feel the benefit now.
It was Lolly and Karla’s first experience of the snow and they weren’t sure about it at first but when they did eventually go outside, they did what every alpaca does in the snow and have a good roll in it. Lolly reached a big milestone last week, she started eating the pellet food from a tray, well actually it was Mari’s tray then Chanel’s tray, I don’t think they quite knew what to make of it. Now she has graduated to having her own tray, my little baby is growing up.
This is the shadow of Lolly stood behind me as I crouch down to take some photos.
That sun is a bit bright says Vanessa.
Karla also enjoying the morning sun.
Mari appearing from over the hill.
Chanel can be a pain in the butt and her own worst enemy, but I love her.
Tellus, one of our first alpacas and Lolly's dad.
Then the snow started, a few flakes at first.
Then too much.....my poor greenhouse.
I like to see the sky, but not like this.
Frozen grapes anyone?
Got to admit it is very pretty though.
Looking back from the girls house to the greenhouse.
The old oak tree.
Ilvija is such a gorgeous colour.
She does like a good sing song. If you look closely you can see the gap in her front teeth.
Mari has been eating the snow.
And so has Karla.
Nosey Lolly coming out to see what's going on.
It's too cold to to go out....
That’s right, “Not Again!!!!!”, yes, the boys did it again, they escaped and got in with the girls. I was getting them some hay and noticed Josefs had come from the field into the paddock looking quite agitated but sometimes he does get excited when I bring fresh hay. Then I noticed he was looking towards the girls and when I looked some of the boys were stood at the edge of the girl’s fence. There was a lot of unprintable expletives and a quick dash over to the fence. I was running up and down the fence arms outstretched trying to stop them getting in. Eventually I had to stop and phone for Joanna to come, which then gave Mr P and Freddie an opportunity to get in quickly followed by the rest of them and yet more expletives. Eventually we did manage to get them separated, I got the bag of leads and harness’s and managed to get Mr. P and Brencis harnessed up and lead them back to the paddock. They seemed really disappointed when they didn’t get their usual handful of food treat as I took off the harness. Next it was Jakobs and George. Joanna had been wrestling with Jakobs to keep him off Silla who had sat down in the doorway to the paddock, right in the middle of the muddiest patch. She was covered in mud. With Jakobs and George now safely in the paddock that just left Freddie who we managed to gently herd back towards the rest of the boys and he went straight in through the gate.
So, the boys are now confined to the paddock until next year when we will get the girls area permanently fenced off to stop the boys from getting in. It’s a great way to keep fit, but I think we are both getting too old to be running around man handling randy male alpacas and females who are too compliant and just sit down.
It has been very wet just lately with consistent rain and drizzle, at one point all the alpacas were kept inside for a day and a half. Not because they would get wet, but to try and save the ground as it was just so muddy and saturated. Alpacas are actually very gentle on the ground as they have soft pads on their feet which means they don't chew up the ground when it get wet. But this was just too wet. There wasn’t as much moaning from the alpacas as I expected, but they did seem relieved to get out again.
I am still bottle-feeding Lolly but trying slowly to reduce the amount she gets so she starts eating more grass and hay. We will soon be moving back to the apartment so her evening feeds will stop. I have been watching how Amanda is dealing with Karla and she is letting Karla feed less and less. I must admit I do love it when Lolly sees me coming and runs across the field towards me, then she circles around me, always in a clockwise direction. Takes a sip from the bottle, goes round again does this about 3-4 times before eventually settling down to feed.
Glad to say that Chanel’s eye infection has cleared up after a course of antibiotic cream. Mari has had a course of two different antibiotics but still has a bit of a cough. The boys, except Brencis, all had their toenails cut at the weekend. Vitamin D injections for all are next on the list.
A very rare full total "apacalypse" of the sun. Ilvija stood in front of the rising sun.
The view from the other side.
Silla before she was rolling in the mud with the boys, now she must be at least three shades darker.
Lolly eating the last of the grass.
Mari has had two rounds of antibiotics because of her cough.
Karla feeding from her mum, Amanda, I think she is beginning to reduce the feeds.
Chanel, Vanessa and Antonia.
At least Chanel's eye infection has cleared up.
Karla's fleece is becoming a magnet for hay and grass, I am dreading cleaning her fleece when she is sheared.
Lolly with her mum, Agnese, in the background.
Bee Balm covered in frost.
The Water Lilly encased in a thin layer of ice on the pond.
Hello Mr. Rocket. Rocket Ron does like to get up close and personal.
One of the cabbage's covered in frost.
Rocket Ron teasing the boys.
It's OK George he's safe.
Mr.P taking great interest in Rocket Ron.
Winter is definitely on it's way.
Lolly looks more like her dad Tellus than her mum Aggie.. Hope she also has inherited his relaxed personality as well.
Karla and her mum Amanda, sorry Amanda but Karla is just the spitting image of her dad Brencis.
Lolly's fleece is growing fast.
Karla, isn't she so sweet. The mark on the fleece on her neck is where she was shaved so the vet could put a line into a vein when she had her umbilical hernia repair.
If you have been following these posts you will have seen we narrowly averted a disaster when all the boys escaped and went to see the girls. In the end we did manage to separate them after much running around, man handling alpacas and a lot of quick thinking. Just to cap it all once the girls were locked away, we let the boys calm down a bit before we tried to get them back into their paddock. So they thought it was fun to go and walk through and roll on some current bushes nearby, snapping some of them…….thanks boys.
That afternoon I moved the girls fence to up on the oak tree hill behind their house and the following day moved the boys fence to field in completely the opposite direction to the girls. They were now around 300m apart with a small hill in the way. All good, well that’s what I thought…..On Thursday I had to take the car for some new tyres and while I was away Joanna rang to say that Josefs and Jakobs had escaped, got in with the girls and Josefs had possibly mated with Mari, but now they were back in their own paddock. I had thought of mating Josefs with Mari, it would be a very interesting combination but not just yet, don’t really want babies in October next year. I am surprised Mari let him as she really doesn’t like him. It was probably my fault as I had forgotten to switch on the charger unit for the electric fence that morning, when I checked I did find a snapped fence post which they may have snapped or it may have been a wild animal passing through during the night. So now every morning I religiously check both the girls and boys fence chargers are working and the fences are intact. Two pallets of fence posts are in the process of being ordered so in the spring the boys and girls will have a more permanent fence separating them.
Yesterday was toenail cutting for the girls except Chanel and Ilvija who will get done another day. Lolly did extremely well for her first time and even Vanessa just stood there with Joanna holding her. The boys will get done this coming weekend.
With the longer nights I have been able to get the spinning wheel back out and start spinning again, it is very relaxing. I love to think that you can watch the fleece growing on the alpaca, then shear if off, clean it, card it and then spin into hanks of wool which can then be made into a hat, gloves or something else. In the photos you can see some that I did earlier this year from George and Josefs for someone who wants to knit a sweater, can’t wait to see the finished product.
There is always one who has to mess about in the group photo.
Hello Lolly, yes it's milk time....
Amanda has really changed since having Karla, she will now come up and eat from my hand and will even let me stroke her.
And I didn't even know she was pregnant.......would love to know who the father is.
Chanel appearing out of the early morning mist..
Vanessa has that same "we are not amused" look that her mum Veronica had.
The girls making there way back to the paddocks as the sun goes down.
This was from a few weeks ago, a very Autumnal look. It has changed a bit since then, the strong winds have removed all the leaves.
I would suspect that Silla is not pregnant with her "sitting down" performance when the boys escaped and got in with the girls.
The boys have been fighting a lot just lately, here are Josefs and Freddie.
It was getting a bit serious.
Brencis, Mr.P. and Jakobs chasing each other.
The boys were chasing each other and came towards me at full speed. Good job I trust them.
Jakobs the vampire, it's a good job we cut his fighting teeth.
Now Freddie is after George with Josefs joining in.
At least all is peaceful in the girls paddock. Aggie and Lolly watching the sunrise.
Never had a second batch of grapes before. The main crop have all gone and I wasn't expecting this second batch to ripen.
Poor Josefs is getting it from all sides, Brencis, Turbjørn and Mr.P are all spitting at him.
Our oldest female Vanessa (13yrs) and our youngest female Lolly (3months) eating side by side.
A rare moment when Freddie is not chasing the others around.
Chanel enjoying a good scratch.
Ilvija is such a gorgeous colour.
Karla has spotted me.
I loved the pattern on the barn door from the frost early one morning as I went to get Lolly's milk.
This is 1kg of hand spun fleece made from a mix of George and Josefs fleece, the customer wants to knit a sweater from it.
Josefs gives it his approval.
George seems quite happy about it too.
We have just had our NIGHTMARE scenario this morning, all the boys escaped and managed to get in with the girls. Luckily I found out just in time, I heard some strange noises and went to have a look and saw seven very randy males chasing the females around. It was a very frantic next hour trying to separate them. I am so glad that alpaca mating’s take a while and it’s not something that is over and done with quickly. The boys were also fighting over who was going to mate with the female so that bought us a bit of time. We were having to drag off any males that had mounted a female at the same time as trying to get the female to stand up. Some of the girls were man handled into the paddocks to get them away from the boys.
Aggie, Chanel and Silla, bless em, were sitting down for the males which didn’t help the situation, also suggests Silla is not pregnant. Antonia and Vanessa did there usual “you are not coming near me”. At least Amanda and Ilvija were resisting suggesting they may be pregnant. Poor Lolly and Karla where also chased by the males.
Eventually we got the girls into the paddocks and then locked them inside the alpaca houses and let the boys wander around for a bit to calm down then managed to herd the boys back into their paddock. I think we will both ache tomorrow, never done so much exercise in a long while. Will be ordering fence posts and wire tomorrow.
This was a photo from a few days ago of the boys chasing each other but it gives you an idea of the situation this morning. Now add into that 11 females and two humans who are trying to keep them all apart!!! Not much fun......but don't panic!!
This was the start of the rain.
This is one end of the rainbow.
And this is the other end, I have never been so close to the start of a rainbow.
I always knew there was something special about Mr.P.
I have just explained to the girls that we are closing for the winter and will reopen again in spring next year. I think it came as a bit of a shock, I don’t think they took the news very well at all.
Seriously though, we are closing for the winter, a very big thank you to everyone who came to see us over the year, I hope you enjoyed your “alpaca experience” and learned a little of what makes these animals so special.
I am trying something new this time, I am absolutely fed up with Facebook changing things and making it harder and harder for me to post. You may have noticed the number of pictures I post has dropped; the reason is not because I haven’t taken as many, it’s because now when I upload them and try to write my post the window created is time limited and refreshes and then gives me a blank screen so I have to start again. It also keeps sending me to something called Creator Suite which can take up to one and a half minutes to load up on our sometimes not so swift internet. So, all in all I have had enough of Facebook. I am going to try and write the post as a blog on our web site, including pictures and post a link on the Facebook page.
Right enough of my Facebook moans, what’s been happening over the nearly a month since I last posted. The weather has definitely taken an Autumnal turn to it, within just a couple of days the leaves on the trees suddenly turned from green to yellow and brown. We did even see a few morning frosts.
I have taken on the main roll of feeding Lolly since Joanna is now too busy. It is so hard trying not to interact too much with her as she comes trotting across to see you. You just want to stroke her while she is feeding but I know too much interaction can cause problems later. She needs to know what her limits are while interacting with humans. At least she is accepted by the rest of the herd. My feeling is that Aggie, her mum, does recognise her and it’s as if there is something special about Lolly but Aggie doesn’t quite know what. I watched them chase each other around the paddock the other night. Lolly is now slightly taller than Karla even though she is a month younger, but we have come to the conclusion Karla has short legs.
Karla is a very determined little madam; she knows what she wants and not much will stop her. She will even stand up to older girls, it was funny watching her neck wrestle and spit at Valeria when Valeria wanted her to move.
The girls have been enjoying themselves amongst the trees on the top of hill next to the big oak tree. They have been doing me a great favour by eating the grass, trampling the small saplings and eating all the leaves off the trees to a fixed height. I can now see through the trees and it helps me to decide which trees to take out during the winter to open it up a bit to give the other trees more space. A lot of the trees are self-seeded oaks from the big oak tree. I have left them to grow so now when they are cut, they are about the right size to make some good oak fence posts from. Well, that is the idea anyway.
The younger boys are beginning to fight more often, nothing too serious but I am watching them. Because of this we made a point of checking their fighting teeth as we didn’t want any serious accidents. We ended up restraining them using the ropes I use for shearing to make the job a little easier. I did used to use a cutting wire for fighting teeth removal but I have had a few occasions where a tooth has cracked. So, I am now using a high-speed drill with a grinder attachment. I had delt with some of George and Freddie’s in the past but now made sure they were all cut. Jakobs had some fine examples of fighting teeth, I am so pleased we checked. I would rather they didn’t fight but I feel a bit more relaxed that they are now not going to rip each other open with their teeth.
Because the rain finally stopped, I managed to do another job that was long overdue and that was to clear out the old bedding from all three alpaca houses. Did the boys on one day and the both girls houses another. There was a lot and it was rather wet, I was shattered by the end of it, but at least it is a bit more pleasant in the alpaca houses now. I will if the weather allows do another quick clear out in about a month with a through clean before winter. I do have some drainage pipes on the floor which collects the urine and directs it to a bucket buried in the ground just outside the building which then gets emptied. It helps to stop it getting too wet inside, but the one in the boys needs some new pipes so that will the next job.
We had a few groups of visitors who wanted to do alpaca walks, these were the first walks the boys have been on in a while as it was just too hot over the summer. They certainly enjoyed it (and so did the visitors). Brencis and Josefs kept stopping to eat the grass every third or fourth step but it did mean plenty of photo opportunities for the visitors. Brencis did his usual walk through the trees routine which made the visitors laugh and we had to walk swiftly past the girls as he was showing a bit too much interest in them. Having said that they did all come running down to say hello.
"Have you got my milk?" asks Lolly
Lolly reflected in the water bucket.
We will find out soon if Valeria is pregnant for next year.
The girls have been eating the leaves off the trees up to a fixed height.
Karla is a determined little madam.
Chanel's skin problems look like they are flaring up again.
Mari is not in good books at the moment, she has recently broken three fence posts with eating through the fence. Admittedly they are coming to the end of their lifespan.
Karla starting with the basics of alpaca yoga.
Freddie has been at the centre of a lot of the fighting going on in the boys paddock. A visit from the vet is looking very likely.
Tellus having a scratch. He was 14 this year and was one of our first alpacas and is Lolly's dad. We were beginning to think he could only produce male offspring. He has fathered seven offspring and the first six were all male, so you can guess how surprised we were when Lolly appeared.
Jakobs has forgiven me for cutting his fighting teeth. Gosh they were sharp.
Turbjørn has been a bit uncomfortable just lately. He has a dislocated neck and I am not sure if he has been knocked by one of the others during the fighting sessions, or tried to move out of the way too quickly or its the cold weather.
Jakobs eating through the fence, at least he doesn't put his whole head through and lean on the fence like his mum Mari.
Even MrP has been joining in with the fighting.
Looks like Freddie has just heard the news about a possible visit from the vet.
Michaelmas Daisy covered in the morning dew.
The birds nest on the barn was becoming a wasps nest, I tried fastening a hose pipe to a long stick and poking the end in to try and wash them out and ended up getting stung just above my eye. In the end the cold weather has put a stop to them.
Ginger Tom, can disappear for a few days then demands attention when he comes back.
The alpacas now even have the cats doing yoga, Rocket Ron at full stretch.