About Us

My photo
Wokingham, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Easter-Wood Alpaca Stud is a family-run, BAS-registered Alpaca breeding enterprise, located in the Royal County of Berkshire. Sheila and Jeff Easter set the company up in mid-2008 when they purchased their first 5 Elite Australian Alpacas.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Where did it all go?

Good morning all. Today was a reflection on the Christmas festivities and whilst we all had our challenges, the holiday break was most enjoyed. Our son bless him, treated us to a sumptuous meal on Christmas day and since Sheila had volunteered to drive, I had the opportunity to indulge in a couple of bevvies! The festivities also embraced the obligatory TV viewing and we had the luxurious "feet-up" experience which comes with every Christmas time.

Now of course, we are several days from the Christmas break and we don't know where the time went.....talking of disappearing acts; our resident "Reynard" despatched yet another two chickens again. We are now down from 9 to 5 chickens. Despite what they say about alpacas protecting sheep, chickens, etc,.......they don't!! We have had three taken from within the alpaca paddocks and all within spitting distance from them. I have resigned nyself to building a "run" so they will have to forego the experience of being free range but at least they will be safe!

We are currently spending a fair amount of time sourcing tradesmen for the cabin build and whilst this has become a priority, we are still battling with the inclement weather which poses the constant quetion of "do we bring in the alpacas tonight or not"? The snow has almost disappeared from the paddocks now but in it's place, we are having a fair amount of rain and the poor alpacas really look sorry for themselves having now to "weather" the rain and mud after the snow!

Well I am off to do a bit of poo picking inside the barn now.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Winter challenges!

Good morning all and may we wish you festive greetings!

Things have been a little challenging for us here at Easter-Wood just lately as we have suffered the fate of frozen water pipes, loosing another two hens and struggling to keep warm......We are however still very bouyant as the temporary "living in a caravan" will soon come to an end and our Log Cabin will occupy the space of our static in February. Another "Cold" view of our farm below.


We are still bringing in our alpacas at night during this cold and snowy weather and it is very satisfying to almost hear their sigh of relief upon entering the barn! The frozen pipes however are not just resigned to the static, our two exterior taps on the barns are equally prone to freezing up and we have to be inventive to ensure that our alpacas get their water.

Since the loss of our last chicken (we are now down to 6), we experienced a strange thing this morning.........upon letting them out of their coop, we collected 8 eggs!! We are certain that there were none in the nesting boxes when we put them away last night so we either have chickens laying more than 1 egg or maybe the "lost" chickens are coming back to lay their eggs in the coop before wandering off again.......strange!!

Over the last few months we had received emails from Dianne Summers alerting us all about the bTB disease in alpacas and this has now been supported by BAS who have advised us to attend the bTB meetings that Gina Bromage will be talking at. Easter-Wood will certainly be attending the nearest venue in January next year.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Another day, another loss and more snow!!


Following in the wake of a snowstorm yesterday, we decided to bring in the alpacas for the night. As we had lost one of the hens the previous day, we also made a point of doing a role call prior to putting them in for the night and would you believe it.......... another one was missing!! I made the usual searches in and around the field shelters, etc but could find no sight nor sound of her. If it was the old fox up to his tricks again, I would of thought that we would see some evidence of a struggle (feathers, etc) but nothing was found. Maybe the culprit was one of the Buzzards we have nesting locally! We shall see what tomorrow brings!


As the day started with a clear, sunny sky, we turned out the alpacas who welcomed the chance to frolic in the virgin snow (that is apart from the foxes footprints!). With the temperature staying below freezing for most of the day, it was a good day to be active outside. Interestingly, no sooner had I re-filled the water buckets they started to freeze over again. In this weather, they most certainly welcome the haylage which they devour with relish!

Signing off for today to have a shower and clean up!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A loss at Easter-Wood!

Having spent most of this afternoon rounding up the alpacas into the barn for the night as the weather is set to be pretty apalling, I had delayed putting the hens away and with the light fading quickly, I approached the chicken coop only to find a couple of them still wandering aimlessly around in a somewhat dazed state. I soon realised why! My eyes detected a brighter patch on the track running alongside the paddock and upon inspection, found it to be a pile of feathers. As it was almost pitch black, I immediately fetched the torch and subsequently found a trial of feathers which led me to the decapitated body of one of our lovely hens. It was quite clear that the nasty old fox had dragged the body away but couldn't get it out through the stock fencing. It is a lesson well learnt.....don't delay in putting the chickens away for the night!

Back to happier topics and we have an appointment with our roofer tomorrow in preparations for the cabin build. We have also taken another decision about the cabin..............We had discovered that builders seem to be quoting us incredibly high quotes to finish and project manage the team required to complete the internals of the cabin, so I will now be finishing off the internal elements myself with the help of my brother in law who is a competent builder himself. We will source our own plumber and electrician and I am sure that we can save a considerable amount by going about it in this way (I hope!).

Signing off for now and will be back soon.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Another spit-off day

What with our on/off mating programme of late, we checked our recently mated girls with Cambridge Ice Cool Lad today (EP Cambridge Olympus and Yuralee Sunrise of EPC) with another spit-off and we had a great result!.... It looks as though they are both holding their pregnancies (thank goodness) and so we now have all of the elite girls pregnant. Later this week we will conduct the final couple of spit-offs for the other group and finish with a Lambivac session!!

Our male elites have now been seperated off and Easter-Wood Metisha, out of EP Cambridge Neptune has been put back with the other elite females. I keep promising to post some photo's of this group and once we have a day which is dry and bright, I will do so.

We had the final meeting with our Log Cabin man today and completed the signing off process with the necessary manufacturing deposit so it's full steam ahead with a build date commencing February 2010........Can't wait!

Be back again soon.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The start of a production line!

Today was a bit of a milestone for us as we have now purchased a Spinning Wheel and as we had always intended to produce our own alpaca garments, this will enable us to get started. Sheila had been talking about sourcing one from ebay and a couple of days ago, she found one for sale and we duly put in a bid. Some couple of days later, we found that her offer was indeed the winning bid so today, we trekked over to Thornton Heath to pick it up. After a welcomed cup of coffee and a general chat with the lovely couple who sold it to us, we headed back to rural sanity. I had totally forgotten how congested the roads around London are and how  frustrating it is to drive in amongst so many vehicles without moving very far!

We now need to source a drum carder to complete the mechanics of fleece processing on a small scale!

Since the weather appears to have dryed up now, the alpacas have been released from the barn and are now back on the grass day and night. I hope that the rain keeps away for a while now as the paddocks have suffered over the last couple of weeks.

The haylage we purchased in the summer has been well received by the alpacas and they simply cannot get enough of it.

Our elite youngsters, Navigator, Polaris, Sundown and Metisha have now been away from their mums for 4 weeks now and this weekend, we will be seperating the boys into their own paddock with Metisha going back with the remainder of the Elite Australians. We had a chance to examine all of their fleeces during this seperation period and we are simply delighted about the superb fleece they are exhibiting. When we next get a bright day, I will take some photo's of them and put them in the Blog.

We also have some Lambivac injections to do this weekend so it will be a busy Saturday and Sunday methinks!!

Signing off now but will return soon.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

More mating and plans for 2010!

With our continuing program of mating throughout the winter, we set "Cambridge Ice Cool Lad" to work again today, this time with a Spit-off on "Black Magic" followed by a mating with "Snowflake". She has always presented a bit of a problem with us in the same way that "EP Cambridge Olympus" has. A boost with "Receptal" soon after mating seems to be the answer! A sound bit of advice from Rob at Wellground, so thanks Rob!

Our herd has now managed to get into a good routine of coming in for the night whilst the wet weather is continuing. We don't really want this to go on for too long however as they most certainly miss the grass even though there is not much of it around now.

We have now "broken" into the haylage we purchased earlier this year and the Alpacas most certainly love it. Mind you, I can fully understand this as the aroma is simply wonderful! As the amount of hay we normally feed them on is almost twice the volume of haylage, it is well worth the added work in trying to break up the compacted haylage in order to feed them!

The one thing that we have learnt during our relatively short time as Alpaca breeders is the constant need to update and modify our farm through simple, pure experience. As a result of the need for herd movement recently within the farm, we have decided that a number of fences we erected could have been better positioned and certain gates could have offered a better access! The work that we have planned for 2010 therefore will include a slight re-design of the paddocks.

Talking of 2010 and since we have now received the "Green Light" from the Local Planning Authority, we will be making a presence at a couple of local agricultural shows during the year in order "raise our profile". We do not however plan to take any of the Alpacas as we are still very cautious of the bTB and until this is satisfactorly addressed, we will only be marketing Easter-Wood through showing fleeces and introducing Alpaca breeding by photo's and discussions. My previous experience as a Sales Director should help in this case! :o))
Well, I am off to put the hens away for the night but will return soon.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Warm comfort again

Because of the most appalling weather we are having, we have taken the decision to move all the alpacas into the barn for the time being. It at least gives the poor things a chance to dry out and warm up! Our furthermost paddock on the farm was almost completely underwater on Monday and the remaining paddocks also had a considerable amount of surface water.

The task of designing the sectioning off the various pens inside the barn was conducted by Sheila who I have to say has incredible "vision" of how practical it will be! Once this was agreed (actually, I didn't dispute any of Sheila's suggestions!), we brought each of the alpacas in, group by group. I can honestly say that you could sense the relief from the alpacas once they were comfortably settled in.

Our plans are to keep them in until the paddocks drain off and we are hoping that we do not have a repeat of the atrocious weather for a while yet! Whilst we couldn't bring Cambridge Ice Cool Lad into the barn, we cleared out one of our stables, put a nice bed of straw down and brought him in as well. He looks more than happy to be in, away from the poor weather.

Despite the temperature drop and the constant rain of late, our hens are still laying their regular quota so at least we are never short of eggs.

On a final note, we have now committed to our Canadian Log Cabin as we have paid the first deposit!! The build is expected to commence at the end of January and be completed (we hope) by late March. Can't wait!!! As promised, there will be a pictorial record of progress.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Drainage issues, Husbandry and the Build!

The rain hasn't ceased throughout the week and into this weekend apart from a brief respite during Saturday. Our ditches which surround our farm are beginning to steadily fill which is a cause for some concern. Both the north and south ditches actually merge in one corner of the farm and then are supposed to drain out into one of the abundant streams that criss-cross this part of the countryside however, a large supplier of aggregates and cement are currently excavating shingle from the land almost adjacent to our farm. In their wisdom, they decided to install a very small pipe to take this water under a road that they have built for their earth moving trucks and as aresult, have considerably reduced the flow of water from our ditches. Needless to say, I have spoken to their team and I expect to see them installing a larger pipe! We will see if this happens as we do not wish to see our alpacas knee deep in water!

During the brief respite from the rain yesterday, we managed to vaccinate our elite herd with Dectomax and release them from their 3 day break in the comfort of the barn. We did however conduct a couple of spit-offs first. Olympus has had some trouble in getting pregnant and we mated her again with Cambridge Ice Cool Lad and gave her a dose of Receptal this time which we hope will get her "going".

Once the elite alpacas had left the comfort of the barn, we then moved the rest of the herd, minus the weanlings into the barn for their relief from the foul weather. They too will receive their Dectomax jabs this coming week and then it is the turn of the weanlings.

Yesterday morning, we met up with our builder who will be responsible for the internal fitting out of the Cabin build and chatted about the various options open to us. As we have seen the strengthening of the Euro against the pound over the last 18 months, we have been forced to work with a Canadian Log Cabin company now who will build our log cabin to the same spec as the other company. We are so looking forward to work commencing within the next couple of months.

Well it is almost time to brave the weather once more and feed the alpacas so I bid you farewell and will return soon.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Getting closer to our Log Cabin build!

Having had what we thought was a fairly reasonable weather forecast on Countryfile last Sunday, we have had nothing but wet and windy weather so far this week however, our spirits are somewhat lifted by the thought of our approaching log cabin build date. We will be meeting with our supplier tomorrow to finalise the details and agree a delivery and construction date. Frankly, we can't wait as it seems years since we have had the comfort of a "proper" home!

One of the jobs that we have to get on with very soon is the clearing of the leaves from a couple of the paddocks. As I use a blower to do this. it is always difficult when they are wet but it has to be done. All of the alpacas are also now due for their Dectomax shots and this is scheduled for this week but with the wet weather, we will bring them into the barn the previous night so they can dry out first.

We are still conducting spit-offs and whilst it looks as though most of the herd has held their pregnancies, we are not taking any chances and if this means winter cria, then we have to accept this. At least, this year we now have the barn!

My interest in the use of alpaca poo briquettes for fuel has been rekindled (like the pun?) following Rosemary and Carl's experimentations published recently on their blog www.westhillalpacas.co.uk. Although we have plenty of wood for our stove which will be installed in the cabin, it makes so much sense in being able use "natural waste" to use as a heating source. Will let you know the outcome.

Signing off now and will be back soon.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A visit to Willowbank Alpacas

Good morning folks. Today is a continuation of the appalling weather we are currently experiencing and our poor Alpacas are looking decidedly bedraggled! Added to the fact that the youngsters have now been seperated from their mums for a week now, doesn't help their case!! Right now, the wind is howling and the rain is really lashing down in torrents. I hope our ditches hold up OK. However, it is nothing compared to what the folk are putting up with in the Lake District.

Yesterday however, we had a real treat as we finally managed to get up to Leicester and visit our friends, Karl and Lisa at Willowbank Alpacas. What a lovely place they have and before I knew what was happening, Karl suggested I assist him with ear tagging some of his sheep. I noted a little hint of a wry smile on his lips and a few moments later, I knew why...............catching hold of one of these creatures is a bit like stopping a runaway truck!! Not only did they move very nimbly but they were also prepared to take the arial route to avoid their capture! After we managed to ear tag them, Lisa got on with the toenail trimming. Their toes are so different from Alpacas being hard and more hoof-like.

We then had a walk around their lovely farm, stopping occasionaly to discuss the location of the new paddocks which will be going in at some point in the near future. Heading back for a quick bite to eat, both Sheila and I remarked upon how well positioned the farm is. After a lovely snack that Karl produced, washed down with a coffee, we headed back south having had a most enjoyable day, albeit very brief. Thanks for your hospitality Karl & Lisa. We look forward to reciprocating in the near future.

Be back soon folks.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Weaning day has arrived

Hi Folks. Following our decision to provide a respite from the weather for our Elite Australians on Saturday, we gave them all their dose of vitamins AD&E before seperating the cria's from their mothers today. It is always a heart-wrenching sight to see the utter despair of the youngsters when their mothers are put into a different paddock. Poor little "Polaris" decided to attempt a break out and got himself well and truly stuck when trying to squeeze through a gap between the top rail and the stock fencing! Fortunately, we spotted his attempt and rescued him before he damaged himself. We then decided that the only way to prevent any potential accidents was to move the crias into a paddock which is completely fenced using "equifence". We did this but only after some considerable time as a couple of the youngsters were not about to be moved too far from their mums and in the end, I had to resort to catching them and literally carrying them into their new "safe" paddock. I was surprised how heavy they were!!

Having completed this task, it was the turn of the other herd to enjoy a spell in the barn for a couple of days before they too would be receiving their AD&E jabs.

With the barn being occupied by the kitten we bought in auction the other week, it is an entertaining sight as the alpacas are so intrigued by the kittens presence. They are not exactly sure what she is and they tend to follow her around as she prances across the floor and up and down the hay bales which are stacked in a corner of the barn.

The weather has been quite benign today and looking at the forecast, we could be in for a couple of days dry weather before it tips down again during the latter part of the week. If this is the case then we will be able to conduct a few more "spit-offs" with Cambridge Ice Cool Lad.

Signing off now and will be back soon.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Back to "Business as Usual"

Hi Folks. It is now business as usual after the elation of winning our Public Inquiry case and yesterday, we put Cambridge Ice Cool Lad back into action, mating with Yuralee Sunrise of EPC. Sadly her previous mating didn't take and despite the resultant winter cria, we have to get on with our breeding programme. Today, despite the torrential rain and gale force winds, we had a brief respite which was enough to put Cambridge Ice Cool Lad to work on EP Cambridge Olympus again. Whilst we have had a few problems in getting Olympus pregnant, we are determined to keep trying as she has the most awesome genetics and both Sheila and I are excited at the prospect of a cria from her.

The weather continues to be atrocious today and so we herded our Elite Australians into the barn for a spell so that their fleece and more importantly, their feet are allowed to dry out. Last winter, we didn't have the luxury of a barn and all of their feet suffered. (a bit like the way our fingers react after a long soak in the bath!). On Monday, the rest of the herd will have their dry "break".

Our chickens are now laying at a rate of 8 eggs per day with no sign of easing up during the shorter days of autumn! We shall not complain at all of course as the benefit of "free" food is always most welcomed. On this note, I have harvested a huge amount of field mushrooms during the last 5 weeks and whilst I adore mushroom omlettes, I am now looking forward to a change of menu!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

At Long Last!!

Well folks, THE major news for us has just been delivered by our planner, Marc Willis..............our long awaited application decision from the inspectorate has just arrived and is ALLOWED!!

Both Sheila and I are overjoyed and after a period of some 15 months, we are now free to get on with our alpaca breeding without any restrictions even though the news hasn't really sunk in yet. I am sure that many of you have also experienced the same anxiety and stress that we have endured. As a result of our local planning office, the local councillor and the local residents adding so much uneccessary and inaccurate "contributions" to what is a simple and genuine Alpaca Breeding business, our whole family has had to suffer the pettiness and ill-informed objections from such people. Anyway, we can rise above this and will do so in the manner that our business will be a resounding success!

Many, many thanks to all of you who have supported us over the last 15 months by way of emails, blog entries and personal visits. It is such a comfort to know that there are so many of you who genuinely care.

Back to earth now.............Despite the heavy rain right now, I have to give the Alpacas their daily hay. See you soon.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Man Flu!

Well today I woke up with the dreaded "man flu" and as us chaps know, it is so difficult to get on with our lives having to suffer so much! I will probably take it easy today just in case it develops into something even more sinister!

Yesterday, we conducted some spit offs and sadly we had some disappointments in that a couple of our elite Australians were found to have not held their pregnancies so we will have to re-mate them even though this will mean winter cria's. We just cannot afford to have them "empty" until spring next year.

With the Autumnal season upon us, I am delighted to report that we have a plethora of field mushrooms growing. Because of a late planting of tomato plants this year, we ended up with a considerable number of green fruit so I decided to make some green tomato chutney. I am pleased to announce that this particular culinery exercise turned out to be a great success, adding to our self sufficiency quest!

I am signing off now as I am feeling a little "crock" and need to dose myself up with Lemsip!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Winter preparations

Just returned from our vets in Alton today with our vaccination and needles in preparation for this weeks husbandry work. Actually, I am surprised I even got there as since I had not done the trip before, I relied upon my (usually trusty) sat nav however, it decided to tell me that I had reached my destination at least a mile from the actual vets!! I checked that I had put in the correct address but it still insisted that I was there when I knew darn well that I wasn't so I resorted to telephoning them and asking for directions (technology huh!).

Ice Cool Lad is now back with us again and indeed looking in fine fettle! He generated quite an interest with the girls as we put him back in his paddock!

Our hens are still laying (we are now up to 6 eggs a day) despite the drop in temperature and the shorter days.

As we are having to spend another winter in our static caravan, we have come up with what we think is a bit of a brain wave to keep the water pipes free from freezing........ Alpaca manure! We are bagging it up and surrounding all of the exposed pipework under the static with the filled bags. We haven't tested it yet but our belief is that the manure will compost/ferment and produce heat within the bag which in turn should generate enough warmth to remove the possibility of the pipes from freezing. Will let you know if it works or not!!

One final note; the male kitten we bought from the farm auction the other day turns out to be female! So we have to now rename her as Simba is not quite girly enough!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Another husbandry day

Yesterday, was the turn of the rest of our herd for the toenail treatment and whilst they were greater in number compared to the Australians, the time taken with them was much less. It is probably due to the fact that they are much more used to handling than the others, except for one of them who always makes a song and dance of the whole affair!

We have also ordered our Lambivac, Dectomax and AD&E from our vet and I will be picking that up on Monday in readiness for a vaccination session during the week ahead (must try to avoid the rain though!).

Following our purchase of the mobile hay rack, we have been delighted at the way the Alpacas have taken to this new contraption. It is of course a "food centre" with combined supplement feeders and hay dispenser. It is so much tidier than spreading the hay out on the ground for them as some of it never gets eaten and the resultant mess needs to be raked up and disposed of which is a waste of hay.

Tomorrow, we are off to Chase End Alpacas to collect Cambridge Ice Cool Lad again as he needs to be put to work on some of our girls who have not taken from the previous matings. It does of course mean that we will be getting Winter cria but to go without will not make economic sense.

I shall close now but on a positive note: the one and only neighbour of ours that has fully supported us through our ordeal of our planning application and subsequent Public Inquiry has come up trumps for us in that he has given Sheila and I a load of winter clothing from his Army days. This is a godsend to us as we were not looking forward to spending another winter in the static caravan. Without his moral support, it would have been even more difficult to get through
the last 18 months so God bless you Patrick!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Another step forward?

Good morning all. It has been a while since my last blog but with the Public Inquiry going on, it tended to take all of our focus. Interestingly enough, the Inquiry went into a fourth day, much to our dismay however we believe that common sense will prevail and we look forward to getting on with our Alpaca breeding business without the restrictions imposed upon us as a result of these proceedings! Sadly, I have to be careful of what I write as the local "hostiles" seem to want to "snoop" on our blog! I know this as on the final day of the Inquiry, one of the residents submitted a huge photo copy file of Alpaca breeder's web sites along with all of our blog entries from the first to the last!! For what purpose, I know not as I had written down so many entries which accurately portrayed the difficulties that Alpacas can, at times introduce to the breeder and that would be considered to be supportive to our cause!! Anyway, the Inspector will let us know the outcome on or before 18th November.

Turning to better things, we conducted the regular toe nail cutting exercise with the Australians this last weekend and gave three of them the "magic" mite erradication solution. We hope this works as the poor blighters are not too happy with the irritation! Later this week, we will be conducting the toe nail cutting exercise again but with the secondary herd. I am always surprised at how quickly the nails grow!

Last Sunday was a good day as we decided to attend a farm auction in Odiham as we noted that they were selling some mobile hay racks and we could certainly do with one of these. So off we went and upon arrival, bumped into Donna and Dave Line from Poppy Down who were showing off a couple of their males at the farm. After a quick chat, we sat down at the auction and successfully procured the hay rack which will be collected tomorrow. The farm was very busy and amongst the livestock which they were auctioning, was a little kitten! As we needed a good farm cat to keep the mice at bay, we decided to purchase it, much to the delight of our daughter, Gemma!

Will return soon.

Monday, 19 October 2009

My son's new start!

Our time of late has been taken up a lot by a number of various topics including the forthcoming Inquiry of course but on a lighter note, the marriage of my son this past weekend!

We spent last Friday preparing for the eventful day which included sprucing up our car which to be honest, looked rather shabby as it hadn't been cleaned, I am ashamed to say, for at least 6 months!! Anyway the following day was upon us and with our "herd manager" settled in with her book we set off. As my father had attempted to drive to Banbury in Oxfordshire from his home in Bognor Regis the day before, (a long story which I will not bore you with!) we picked him up from his stop-over point just north of Newbury and made our way to the church.

The service was excellent and with a guest list of over 100, there was much to talk about. The weather was also kind to us and apart from getting a little lost on our way to the reception (some 10 miles in the country), we had a wonderful time. Many of the guests were country folk running their own farms so it was a good opportunity to swap stories!

This coming Wednesday, we step up to our final (we hope) day of the Inquiry and are looking forward to this part of our life being "squared" away so that we can get on with our business of Alpaca breeding! Since the start of this, the attitude and hostility of the "locals" has never ceased to amaze us and one would think that they have better things in their lives to do rather than try to prevent an enterprising farming business being launched!! After all, shouldn't the government supposed to encourage and support such developments?? I will update our blog after Wednesday and let you know how it went.

Be back soon.

Monday, 12 October 2009

A Veterinary Talk.

I am so surprised that this week has flown by and noticed that the last blog I wrote was back last Tuesday!!

Anyway, I have to report that following the Fibre Day we attended at Meon Valley Alpacas last month, I attended another SAG-arranged session today and this time it was a talk given by Dr Gina Bromage, a most respected and knowledgeable Veterinary Practitioner and Author. She covered a number of issues including general husbandry and also the hot topic of TB in Alapacas. The one thing that struck me is that whatever ones experience of Breeding Alpacas, there is always so much more to learn! Nothing remains constant in this industry and there are always new challenges emerging.

Last week, Sheila and I paid a visit to Dorset where our new accountant resides. With our daughter acting as farm manager, it was an opportunity to take a trip out and whilst the weather was not too kind to us, the chance to run through our financial standing was well received.

Since my son is getting married next Saturday, I spent last Saturday evening in the company of him and his close friends with the sole intention of celebrating the forthcoming event (some would call it a stag night)!! I am generally considered to be quite a social individual however my days of consuming vast quantities of alcohol have long sinced gone and seeing how the others were more than willing to wreck their livers, I took the precaution of "pacing" myself!! I am pleased to say that it worked and found to my delight that apart from a slight headache, I was in fine fettle the following morning!

On a closing note, we had the most enormous egg laid by one of our hens the other day! it measured 8.5" in circumference and have to say that she must have received the most sorest rear end ever!!

On that note, I am off but will return again soon.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Ear Tagging and Microchipping

Good morning all. Yesterday was the day when three of our girls each gained their true identity! "Saphire", "Poppy" and "Miss Moneypenny" were ear tagged and microchipped. To be honest, both "Saphire" and "Poppy" were well overdue but what with one thing or another going on here at Easter-Wood, we didn't get round to it until yesterday!

Our vet was called in to also give our two horses their customary "jabs". The final job for our vet was to scan "Olympus" who we have had some difficulty in getting pregnant. Sadly it looks as though she has again not held so back to the drawing board!

With our Public Inquiry still going on and the rapidly approaching shorter days we have resigned ourselves to another Winter spent in the caravan and so we have been shopping for some oil-filled radiators which was recommended to us as a fairly efficient way to keep warm. I hope that advice is correct as our static caravan is certainly prone to chilly nights!

We have had a couple of local families (not the hostile ones!) come to visit our farm recently and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Once you are immersed in the business of Alpaca breeding, one tends to take things for granted but we have once again been reminded how exciting and educational Alpacas are as a result of the comments from our visitors!

Our chickens have increased their egg-laying yield and we are delighted with the additional "free range" food! The hens are a real joy to keep and a most welcomed addition to the farm. They are so inquisitive and have now taken to greeting us whenever we approach them by running towards us at a "gallop"! Since they have the run of the place, we do get the occasional chicken bidding for their freedom by ducking under the gate and exploring outside. Come dusk though, they never fail to make their own way back to the coop!

Well I am off to brave the weather as it is chucking it down at the moment however, we do need the rain....right?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mite treatment.

Hi Folks. One of the things that is currently bothering us at the moment are the mites that have targetted some of our Alpacas and in particular, three of our Australian girls. I have reported it before and we previously used such treatments as Dectomax mixed with Sudacrem and also Eprinex wiped onto the effected parts. As they didn't seem to have much impact and following some recommendations from other breeders, we decided to use a little garlic powder mixed in with their camelibra and fibregest supplements. We tried the mixture yesterday and all was fine but today, one of the girls who spent a fair amount of time lapping up the remnants in the feed bowl, had an adverse reaction to it as we suspect she overdosed on garlic! She spent the next 30 minutes trying to rid herself of the mixture and as we were not expecting such behaviour, we were a little worried to say the least! Close observation followed and upon recovery she was soon busy grazing again.........Phew! Next time, I will reduce the portion of garlic and make sure they do not lap up the powder remains.

We are looking forward to this weekend as a close friend of mine will be visiting Easter-Wood for the first time. Colin and his wife, Jane are coming over from Singapore where they have been living for close on 20 years. Sheila and I went over to see them in 2000 and whilst we have met up with Colin in France last year, we haven't seen Jane since 2000. It will be great to catch up again!

Another date in our diary is the veterinary talk by Gina Bromage in a couple of weeks time. This was set up by the Southern Alpaca Group and if the Fibre meeting is anything to go by, it will be a well received and most enjoyable day. Sheila and I attended the fibre day back on the 20th September at Meon Valley Alpacas and we were very impressed with Karen and Peter's Alpaca farm. We picked up many tips and met some very nice breeders. All in all, a very pleasant day out with us even having lunch in one of the Alpaca paddocks!

Will be back soon with more news.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

This and That!

Good morning folks. Apart from the routine work, things around the Easter-Wood farm have been fairly quite of late. We now have a further two hens that are laying and the extra eggs are always welcomed.

Today, Sheila and I will be treating a couple of our special Australian Alpacas against the dreaded mite! Two of them in particular have suffered with mite attack all summer long and as a result their ears, in particular are raw and looking painful.

The paddock cleaning is always in full swing and whilst the trusty "Trafalgar" earns it's keep, I seem to suffer from backache these days after a two hour stint with it! Anyway, I have to attack another paddock with it today but it is a neccesity and we will not compromise on cleanliness!

I have just come across this photo I took earlier this year showing our two first born boys to the Easter-Wood Stud. The one on the left is that of "Polaris" from his Sire "Accoyo Remarque" and on the right is "Navigator" from his Sire "EP Cambridge Neptune".

We are looking forward to next years cria following some "special" matings, promising yet again some particularly stunning progeny.

Well I am off now to get started today as the time has flown and I am already behind!!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A day trip to Wellground!

Today was our much awaited and overdue trip to see our old friends Rob & Les at Wellground Alpaca Stud. It was good to meet up with them and to catch up on some news over a smashing lunch at their village pub. It is a while since Sheila and I have been out together as our public inquiry is still going on but we took the opportunity whilst our daughter, Gemma looked after the Easter-Wood farm.

Our lunch however, actually became a bit of a banquet as both Rob & I decided that three courses were the order of the day for us two but Les & Sheila were the sensible ones and resisted the starters!! Actually, it was a lovely meal and I am pleased to announce that Rob appears to be back to his old perky self with plenty of humour coming to the surface until that is, upon our arrival back at Wellground. We were greeted by the sight of their living room being totally awash with tiny white polystyrene balls which used to be the filling for one of Rob's (bean bag) cushions, curteousy of one, very guilty boxer dog!! Poor Les spent alot of time vacuuming them up.

We did manage however to get a good look at their new cria and wow, what results they have had this year!! Sheila and I were really impressed with the quality of the cria's fleece in terms of definition, frequency of crimp and density even though they are still only a few weeks old. We are hoping for similar results from some of our girls who have had earlier matings with Samson, Buckingham and Close Encounter this year.

After a cup of "Kenco" on the decking and some previously cut fleece inspection, we headed back to Berkshire. It was a lovely day and it is always a real pleasure to meet up with them.

Well I am feeling tired now so will turn in for the night but will be back again soon.

Friday, 18 September 2009

A late Blog!!

Well it's been a week since my last blog!! Can't believe time has gone by so fast.

We have been busy this week in getting prepared for the Autumn/Winter! Frightening isn't it! All the winter feed is in and stored, machinery has been cleaned and we have even moved the chicken coop to a spot in the paddock which is always dry! We are still only getting a single egg a day.... Just have to be patient I guess! The Alpacas have now got used to sharing their field shelters with the hens who are really inquisitive and spend ages just scratching around looking for "tit-bits" including a couple of small toads which two of them managed to find under the coop.

With the recent cold nights, it won't be long now before we will have to supplement the Alpacas diet of grass with hard feed and we shall be also trying haylage this year. This week saw a particularly heavy bout of rain and whilst the fields are certainly in need of it, it also seems to herald the approaching winter and until we get our log cabin built, we will again, be exposed to the cold weather with it's consequences!

With respect to our Public Inquiry, the date of 21st October has been set for the final "summing-up" day and as you may well expect, we are very keen to get this over with!

We are both looking forward to this Sunday when we will be visiting Meon Valley Alpacas where the Southern Region Group have arranged for a "Fibre Day". I know that Sheila will almost certainly want to start spinning the fleece that we have from this years shearing so with a bit of luck, we should be able to start offering our own Easter-Wood garments in our product line in due course.

We are also looking forward to seeing Rob & Les at Wellground Alpaca Stud next Tuesday as we have not had the opportunity to see them since Rob had his unfortunate "encounter" with one of his Studs. Still, he sounds in "fine fettle". Eventually, we will also be visiting Karl & Lisa from Willow Bank Alpacas following a number of aborted attempts to do so!

Oh well, I am off to do some "poo-picking" again so will be back soon.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Another day of Paddock maintenence

Yesterday was a busy day with the routine "poo picking" again. This time it was the paddock where we have been keeping the largest part of the Easter-Wood herd and with 15 Alpacas doing what they do, there was a fair amount of "poo" to clear and after 3 hours, I was finally finished. If I had to use a bucket and spade, it would have taken me a month at least. It is always a pleasure however to look out at a clean and tidy paddock, even though it is fairly short-lived!

The chickens are getting used to their new home now but there is still only one of them that is currently laying! Interestingly enough, she produced an egg the other day that was twice the size of her regular egg and because of it's size, she decided that we would have to wait a couple of days for her next egg!

Our grass has almost ceased growing now and the paddocks are looking decidedly sparse and with the recent delivery of our hay for this year, we will soon be supplementing their feed with the occassional hay.

We are also planning on picking up Cambridge Ice Cool Lad again soon as we are looking to have him mate a few more of our Alpacas as it appears that some of them have not taken during their previous mating. The worry is of course that late matings will produce late cria and therefore we are hoping that our friends, Jo and Ann Hempsey of Chase End Alpacas and co-owner of Ice Cool Lad will have finished with him for their matings this year.

With the main birthing/mating activities all but over for us this year, we are trying to arrange a day to visit both Karl & Lisa at Willowbank Alpacas and Rob & Les at Wellground Alpacas. We have previously attempted to visit them but something has cropped up and we have had to postpone our trip. Must do this during the next couple of weeks!

Well, it is a fairly uneventful blog this time round so hope to have more interesting news for you next time.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A new day and new chickens!

Good morning all. Well, after the previous trauma, we have now purchased three new hens and hopefully, the resultant acquisition will culminate in a regular supply of eggs! We are obviously all too aware of what can go wrong with any livestock one keeps or breeds!

Whilst conducting routine maintenance, I had a need to access the top of the barn and whilst up there, I had a completely different view of the farm (of course I would, I hear you say!). We have worked hard over the last year in making sure that the paddocks are in as good a condition as possible for the Alpacas and viewing them from above (so to speak), drove this point home.

Here is one of the "aerial" views:

One of the advantages of having a woodland border around your farm, is the abundance of wildlife that we encounter. I have spoken about this before but it is always a real pleasure in encountering new species. Today was no exception when I found a snake skin which had been shed by its owner and almost within a meter, I noticed a fairly young grass snake basking in the sunshine. I tried to get a picture of it with my mobile camera but as soon as I ventured closer, it smartly disappeared into the undergrowth.

Anyway, nothing noteworthy to report on our Alpacas today so I will bid you all farewell and will be back soon.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A bad day at Easter-Wood!!

Yesterday was a bad day for us as one of our dogs, a small rescue dog that our daughter purchased four months ago, freed herself from her leash and coller and promptly went on a killing spree with our newly purchased chickens! I was alerted by her escape when our Alpacas sent out warning shrieks and when I spotted the empty lead and coller, my immediate thoughts became a nightmare as I began to fear the safety of the Alpacas! I found the dog over the corpse of one of the chickens and subsequently found another dead chicken within a few metres of the first. After a headcount, I found only 4 of the original 8 and came to the conclusion that the other 2 had fled. We felt absolutely gutted and after locking the four of them in their henhouse, both Sheila and I searched the area ouside of the farm to see if we could find them to no avail.

The only good news that day was to come later when I conducted the routine evening check of the Alpacas................I discovered the missing two chickens happily feeding from their feed station outside their henhouse. I was extremely relieved to see them and I ushered them into the safety of the coop for the night.

We have to learn from this tragedy and so certain things will have to change from now on, needless to say, the security of the animals will have to take priority!

On a lighter note, I have taken this opportunity to publish a couple of photo's of Miss Moneypenny who continues to get up to some mischief!!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The hens are laying!!

Hi folks. A major announcement!...............our chickens have started laying!! Yesterday we were thrilled to find an egg in one of the nesting boxes and further more, this morning, we noticed that one of the hens was settling into one of the nesting boxes in preperation for another egg laying session and sure enough, after a couple of minutes, she delivered an egg! Two eggs in two days.....wow! I guess the others will get round to it in due course.

After my comments about the Alpaca troughs getting filled with rain water, Rob Rawlins at Wellground offered a very simple solution..........drill holes in the base! Couldn't have been more simpler so thanks Rob for the advice.

We have noticed that the grass growth seems to be really slowing down now and on our routine paddock inspections just lately, we have identified even more Ragwort growing. It is a constant battle to eradicate this weed as the root system is fairly comprehensive and spreads underground only to "pop" up several feet away from the original plant.

At this time of year, we have a significant rabbit population and the damage they are doing to our paddocks is getting quite serious now. Mind you, a number of them have contracted that nasty disease, Myxomatosis and when found with obvious signs of the disease, they are humanely despatched.

Yesterday was a day for some chain saw and brush cutter work. I decided that one of our paddocks at the bottom end of Easter-Wood was in need of some serious hedge and bramble clearing so after a 2 hour stint, I am pleased to be able to report that all of the encroaching hedges and brambles have now been neatly trimmed! I suppose it is a bit like spring cleaning really as it always feels good when this sort of maintenance has been completed.

We still have a problem with mites on the ears and over the eyes of some of our girls and tomorrow, we will be applying some ointment that our vet sent over to us in the hope that this will erradicate the symptons. We will also administer another dose of Dectomax just to be sure.

Well, I am signing off now but will return soon.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

A quite week so far!

Good morning all. I am afraid it has been a fairly quite week this week with little to report other than the routine work. We did however plan to visit our friends, Karl & Lisa at WillowBank Alpacas in Leicester yesterday but unfortunately, Sheila was not feeling too good and we postponed the trip until another day. Mind you, the weather was abysmal so we probably saved ourselves a good soaking!

The chickens we collected last week are settling in nicely even though I thought we were going to lose a couple of them yesterday as they had managed to fly/jump up onto the fencing which encloses their run. As they have had their wings clipped, I didn't expect them to be capable of getting onto the top of the fence!

Our Alpacas always appear not to like the heavy rain and whilst they race to shelter once it starts, they seem to then ease up and bask in the torrent!! I find this a little odd! During the feed run yesterday evening, amidst the heavy downpour, all of them were quite content to lie down in the open paddocks rather than seek the cosiness of the field shelters. Most bizarre!

One of the other problems that we experience when it unexpectedly rains is the fact that the empty feed troughs fill up with water and despite our best efforts in remembering to inverse them once they have finished their feed, we always seem to forget. Consequently, our Alpacas have to wait until we drain off the water before giving them their feed/supplements. This leads to squabbles amongst themselves as they jockey for the best positions once we start to dish out the food!

With the weather promising to be good today, it means that we can get on with some general paddock cleaning without the fear of getting soaked.

Will be back again soon.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The winter feed is here!

Good morning all. Yesterday was a "full-on" busy afternoon in preparing and subsequently unloading the hay, haylage and straw. Our supplier, Phil and Simon made the task of stacking each bale look easy as they were unloading and stacking with consumate ease whilst our friends, John and Nina and myself really struggled to lift some of the bales, particularly onto the top rows!! Whilst it is a satisfying task of getting the winter feed in and nicely stored away, I always have a slight feeling of gloom in that we are already preparing for the Winter ahead and the thought of the short and cold days approaching, fills me with dread! However, the barns are now stored with wonderful smelling fresh hay and haylage! We have just finished unloading and stacking the second delivery of haylage and straw and for the first time, we (or more accurately Sheila) decided to order the haylege in the large, 300kg packs. Manually moving them once they had been unloaded from the trailer was a real challenge and it took all of mine and John's strength to get them into the barn. It is all worthwhile though as the haylage has a wonderful aroma and I can truly understand why the animals love it so much!

Well, I am now going to have a bit of a rest and get my feet up with a coffee!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Paddock rotation and Halter training

Good morning folks. Yesterday was a day for moving the Alpacas around. We tend to operate a rotation programme here at Easter-Wood, simply to ensure that the paddocks are kept in the best condition as possible. Each time they are moved across, the paddocks are cleaned and any long grass that has not been touched by the Alpacas, is mowed down to a reasonable level. It is a joy to see the antics of them once they have entered their "new" paddock. They run and prance around before settling down to graze again. I have noticed however that the grass growth seems to be slowing down a little and that tends to herald a fast-approaching Autumn!! Whilst the season is OK, it is the shorter daylight hours that I am not so keen on!

We are continuing our halter training of "Tin Tin" who is still fairly reluctant to be led on the lead. We have been introducing him to the halter and lead for a couple of months now and whilst he is happy with the halter, he still refuses to be led. I am sure that his reluctancy is due to the fact that we didn't start the training until he was over 1 year old. We will of course persevere.

Well, we are now the proud owners of 8 chickens and so we will at least have our fair share of eggs from now on! Sheila and Marion (her sister), picked up the chickens yesterday and I have to say, they look very healthy birds. After we had put them in their chicken house for a bit, we opened the door and gave them the opportunity to venture out. This just didn't happen so we took them out one by one and having experienced their new found freedom, they seemed to be very happy wandering around, pecking at the grass and some thistles along the fence line. Anyway, we are looking forward to our first "Easter Egg"!!

And now for something different!!.......We had heard recently that it was possible to use Aplaca dung as a log substitute! Apparently if you compress the dung pellets into a log shape and dry this out, it will burn like wood, so armed with an old baking tin, I attempted to make an Alpaca dung log! Whilst the compression worked fine and the subsequent "log" was created, it broke apart easily once it had dried out! Not a success I am afraid so I will have to conduct more research on the matter. If anyone has tried this and been successful, I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Self sufficiency at Easter-Wood!

Hi folks. It has been a few days since I last updated our blog and the simple reason for that is that there was not a lot to report other than routine stuff! Anyway, our annual delivery of hay is due on Saturday and so I am preparing the barns for this today. Another task that is now a priority is that in our ongoing quest for self-sufficiency, we are collecting 8 chickens tomorrow and therefore it is imperative that I create a "chicken run". Since the birds will be free range, my intention is to simply fence off a section of our nearest paddock where we have already set down a chicken coup (on skids) which was made by the company who erected our barn. I am quite looking forward to collecting our own eggs on a daily basis!

And now back to our Alpacas; one of the current problems we are experiencing is the seemingly selective approach that the mites are having on some of our girls. Two or three of them are clearly suffering as they are showing signs of loss of fleece around the upper eyes and ears. We have tried a solution of Sudacrem and Dectomax which improves the ear problem but we are reluctant to apply this around the eyes. We will be trying an ointment that our vet sent to us and see what results that brings. Anyway, it is a real nuisance and the quicker we can erradicate it the better it will be for their comfort and our peace of mind.

Having read about and subsequently spoken to Rob Rawlins at Wellground Alpaca Stud, we were shocked about this "incident" but pleased that it was not how the press reported it. We are all wishing Rob a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing both him and Les later this year.

Finally, I have to udate you on our Public Inquiry; Since we have to attend a third day (in late October), our plans to be in our log cabin by Christmas is now looking extremely unlikely and so another winter in the static looks inevitable! Still, nothing will dampen our determination and passion for breeding our Alpacas and once we have the "go ahead", you will be the first to know about it!

Signing off now but will return soon with more news.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Planning ahead!

Following my promise to continue the farm maintenance, I completed some repair to one of the paddock's fencing using equifence which we have used extensively around the farm. Whilst it is more expensive than conventional stock fencing, it does keep out all of the large "critters" other than rabbits (mores the pity!).

Having completed this, I then got down to topping two of the paddocks which are showing signs of seriously rapid growth and if I don't do this before the grass gets too long, the little tractor/mower really struggles and on previous occassions when I thought that I could just whisk through the grass, the machine simply ground to a halt amid a plume of smoke (from the drive belts)!! Anyway, this is now completed and we have now started talking about our plans for next years shows where we are going to show "Easter-Wood Navigator" out of "Cambridge Neptune" and probably "Easter-Wood Metisha" also out of "Cambridge Neptune". Inspecting their fleece yesterday gave us a very pleasant surprise as at only 3+ months old, they have stunning, well crimped fibre with excellent staple definition. We are looking forward to getting a bit more "exposure".

Since "Cambridge Ice Cool Lad" is currently back at Chase End Alpacas for a while, we are taking stock of our sales plans and having put him to our mid-range herd during this year, they will be producing excellent progeny which we hope will be of great interest to new and established breeders.

Signing off now to start the feed run.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A mixed bag of farm maintenance, etc..........

Hi everyone. Today has been a mixed bag but out of it, I have managed to lop back some of the intrusive, low hanging branches which pose a danger for the Alpaca's eyes. We have also been hard at work on removing the Ragwort as it seems to be sprouting up overnight in just about all of the paddocks!!

I mentioned in an earlier blog that we have more than our fair share of rabbits but it appears that some of them are suffering with myxomatosis and will have to be despatched as this is a nasty disease!

Sheila paid a visit today to a couple who are farmers of a rare breed of goats and was particularly interested in their approach to processing/spinning their fleece. We have a considerable amount of Alpaca fibre from this years shearing back in June and she is keen to harness her newly learnt skills of spinning and then subsequently, knitting! She is looking forward to the Fibre day clinic later next month in Droxford where we will be able to acquire more knowledge of the spinning/processing side of the business.

Now that our birthing programme has been completed this year (apart from the possible re-mating) it means that we can spend a bit more time doing some marketing work which includes of course, catching up with some of our fellow breeders including Rob & Les Rawlins at Wellground Alpaca Stud, who have been so helpful to us whilst developing our business. (Hope you don't mind us inviting ourselves Rob!). We have also promised to visit our new friends, Karl & Lisa in Leicester who are creating their new business, Willowbank Alpacas. We look forward to seeing their farm.

Finally, we gave our Miss Moneypenny her first Dectomax jab yesterday but despite the pain that she probably endured, she still wanted to be "fussed" over afterwards and did not show any signs of "disgust" in having been "stabbed" with a nasty needle!!

Well, I am signing off now to conduct the feed run but will be back again soon.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Bonding exercise

Nothing very significant to report today other than a bit of "bonding" with Miss Moneypenny and Midnight Saphire. Finishing off the feed run, I was very much aware of a little creature following me around the paddocks. This is the pattern that Moneypenny has now adopted and whatever you try to do, she keeps on "tailing" us. I have to say that she is so sweet and I will stop, crouch down and tickle her under her chin. She loves it and today, before I knew it, Midnight Saphire, our young black girl (sired by Witness) was also joining in for her twopennies worth!

I hear differing reports about whether the friendliness of the Alpacas is a good thing but all I can say is that it certainly lifts your spirits when they clearly want that attention from you!!

Well it looks as though tomorrow will be a very warm day for us here so I will photograph "Saphire" tomorrow to show you what a picture she is also. Signing off now and will be back tomorrow.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Farm Maintenance

Good morning to all you readers. Well, having a spell at Farm maintenance always feels good and so having completed the signage refurbishing on the gate and the improved security (which took almost all day!!), we entertained some friends who popped round to have a look at Miss Moneypenny. They to, fell in love with her!

Earlier in the week, both Sheila and I were sorting out our fleece for sending to the Mill and was surprised to find a couple of Toads hiding under the bags! How they got into the barn I shall never know so with gentle hands, I returned them to the outside world in a densely grassed area.

Another surprise this week was the sighting of a pair of Red Kites, so now along with our Buzzards, we can be proud of some rather special raptors occupying our air space! Talking of air space, whilst I was busy with the security lighting in the barn yesterday, Sheila called me and upon venturing outside she pointed upwards and we were greeted by a magnificant sight of a World War 2 Lancaster (or Wellington) flying only a couple of hundred feet overhead. What a sight!! It must have been either on it's way to or from a local air show I guess.

To complete our security improvement programme, I shall be installing another floodlight outdoors sometime today and since the weather continues to be fine, I shall most certainly enjoy the task!

One final thank you for all of you who have sent in your supportive comments on our blog. It is lovely to receive these from fellow breeders and well wishers!

Signing off now and will return soon.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Onward & Upward

Good morning all. One of the best approaches to coping with the stress created by our current local council issue is to simply "deal" with it and with this in mind, Sheila and I are moving ahead with the implementation of plans to improve our security. I don't know whether it is paranoia or what but last night, during my night time inspection of the farm and Alpacas, I swore that I saw torchlight within one of the paddocks which runs adjacent to a public footpath. People sometimes walk their dogs late at night and perhaps it was that which I saw however, today I will be installing additional security.........

The male Alpaca that Jo and Ann from Chase End Alpacas left for our "spit-off" tests is slowly settling in but he is constantly pacing to and fro in his paddock. I guess he is familiarising himself with new surroundings along with a whole new bunch of females to look at!

One of the biggest bug bears we are having to deal with at the moment is rabbits! They are really making a mess of the fields and every morning I am having to fill in the many holes/burrows that they make overnight in the paddocks. Once we hit late summer, a number of them will be heading for the pot!

As members of Southern Alpaca Group, Sheila and I will be attending a couple of their events planned for later this year. One is a talk from well known vet, Gina Bromage and another is a talk about fibre processing with demonstrations of hand spinning and weaving. We are looking forward to attending these talks and I wouldn't mind betting that Sheila will be keen to try her hand at spinning herself!

Finally, I am pleased to report that our Miss Moneypenny, whom you may remember was 35 days premature, has developed into an absolutely beautiful girl and has grown so much in the last 4 weeks. She is so friendly, greeting us at the paddock gates and continuing to follow us around during the feed run. As a breeder, we cannot get too attached to her and it will be difficult to sell her if we decide to!

Well that's it for today but I will be back again soon.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Our Public Inquiry

What a busy few days we have had! On Tuesday, our Public Inquiry commenced and both Sheila and I were simply shocked by the number of local residents making up an "angry" force! (approx 30 on both Tuesday and Wednesday). They were so hostile and you would think that we were proposing to build a Supermarket at our farm rather that a modest dwelling!!

Rob Rawlins did us proud as he was one of our expert witnesses, so thanks very much Rob. Yesterday, it was the "site visit" and the Inspector along with the senior planning officer turned up. Whilst the local residents had been invited to the site visit, they chose not to come onto the farm but instead "massed" together outside waiting for the Inspector to leave. I have never seen such hostility and to make matters worse, they were allowed to speak about all of their concerns despite the fact that the only disputed issue between us and the council is the "Functional Need"!! As a result of the "wasted" time, we have not yet finished the Inquiry and will have to return in early September!

Despite all of this, Both Sheila and I are totally committed to our Alpaca Breeding business and will not let these issues cloud the fact that this is our livelyhood!

Anyway, let's return to much more pleasent things.......... We had a visit from our friends and co-owner of Ice Cool Lad yesterday, Jo and Ann Hempsey from Chase End Alpacas who were picking up the "Lad" for a spell with some of their ladies. It was great to see them again and very kindly brought some flowers for Sheila which cheered her up (and she certainly needed that after yesterdays "bruising"). We introduced them to our latest crias and chatted about the businesses over numerous cups of tea along with sandwiches outside.....since we are currently living in a static caravan at the moment, it was just as well that the weather held!! It was a very pleasant day and Jo also gave some sound advice in halter training a young male we have.

Jo and Ann very kindly left us with one of their studs so that we can continue our programme of "Spit-offs" until September.

Well I am off to do some paddock cleaning now but will be back soon.

Monday, 10 August 2009

A visit from Leicester .....

Good morning all.

Our new friends and future Alpaca Breeders from Leicester, Karl & Lisa along with little Lily visited us again yesterday where we spent a busy time conducting vaccinations and toenail cutting for the whole herd! It was hot work especially as the weather turned out exceptionally warm!

Following a quick coffee upon their arrival, we set about firstly vaccinating our latest cria's with Lambivac, a job which was not as straightforward as I thought it would be as they were pretty frisky for them being so young! Anyway, from there it was down to getting stuck into the toenail cutting exercise, a duty that is always challenging particularly when they decide to "kush" down!

Both Karl & Lisa are really looking forward to getting their Alpacas and starting their business and so with a following wind and a bit of luck, they will soon be receiving their first Alpacas on their farm in Liecester which they expect to name "Willowbank Alpacas".

I thought I wouild share the following with you as it seems to have worked for us: One of the better "tips" we had recently from Sheila's sister was to put goldfish into the water trough as they completely rid the trough of all those nasty mosquito larvae and the occasional fly which falls onto the surface. Our water trough has never been so clear.

We have made all the prepartions necessary and are now more than ready to commence our Public Inquiry tomorrow. I will of course report on the outcome.

Will be back soon.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Despite the rain..................

Good morning all.

Having decided to have a major paddock cleaning exercise yesterday, I was greeted by the vagaries of the British Summer in the early afternoon when I was planning to hit the fields. We have always split up our herd into logical groups (one that needs spitting off, one that has been confirmed pregnant, etc) and we generally then move them around a bit to give the paddocks a "rest". The net result of this paddock management is that they are frequently in need of cleaning so donning the oilskin and hat, I spent the afternoon in the pouring rain with the "Trafalgar". I have to say that I always enjoy doing it though. Must be the combination of the open air and the freedom from the "clock"!

Another satisfying duty is the grass cutting/topping exercise which we seem to be doing regularly these days despite the alpaca grazing going on. I guess we are fairly lucky with our grass which tends to grow so quickly in this warm and wet weather.

We are getting particularly anxious now as we are only a few days away from our Public Inquiry and whilst we are confident at the outcome, you can't help the anxiety. Anyway, I have bored you enough in past blogs on this matter!

My blog today is brief as we are off to a friends daughter's wedding this afternoon. It will feel a bit strange having to put a suit on again!!

Be back soon.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Ice Cool Lad in action once more

Well it seems that the brief summer we had just upped and went again!! It is chucking it down outside so we will have to delay the mating we had planned for Cambridge Ice Cool Lad until this afternoon.

We have had a busy period of spit-offs and re-mating at Easter-Wood just lately and we are hoping to enter into late summer with a batch of confirmed pregnancies for next year. Joe Hempsey at Chase End Alpacas who is the co-owner of Cambridge Ice Cool Lad will be picking him up for a couple of matings at their farm a week Thursday so we will have to get a move on with our spit-offs! Ice Cool Lad will of course be back at Easter-Wood late summer.

Miss Moneypenny is now superbly fit and has a fantastic fleece on her. She promises to be a stunning girl and during a visit from a couple of our friends yesterday, she completely won over their affections! Problem is of course we cannot afford to humanise her too much!!

During the next couple of weeks, we will be building a quarantine paddock which we believe could be useful as a precaution. The plans are that after taking any of our boys/girls out for matings/shows, etc, they will come back and spend a couple of weeks in the quarantine paddock before returning them to the rest of the herd. It may seem to be a bit of an overkill but better to be safe than sorry.

On the wildlife front, whilst out cleaning the paddock that borders the wood last week, I was confronted by a 3 foot grass snake who took flight back into the wood upon seeing me. Since it is one of our harmless snakes, it didn't bother me but I can imagine how Sheila would have reacted!!

Just looked out of the window and it appears to be a bit brighter so I think I will venture out and get on with the jobs I had planned for today. Be back soon.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Planning for next year

With the all the birthing completed for this year and the subsequent recovery of little Miss Moneypenny, we are now organising Easter-Wood for next years plans.

We are currently in the middle of spit-offs and as we are using our Herd Sire; Cambridge Ice Cool Lad, the process is straight forward but we are trying to complete his "duties" as quickly as possible as our friends and co-owners of Ice Cool Lad at Chase End Alpacas are also needing his services. However, we expect to get him back at Easter-Wood later this summer for final spit-off duties.

It never ceases to amaze me the reaction of a mated female to a male after a period of 7 - 10 days can be so different. By this I mean that we have had in the past a receptive response from a perceived ovulated female and yet, 7 days later she fervently rejects the males advances!

We are off to do some research today at a local Agricultural Show and thankfully, the weather seems to have improved greatly.

Closing now but expect to be back tomorrow.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Fleece samples and retail therapy...........

Having read Debbie's blog at Barnacre Alpacas, I was minded to comment on what to do with our fleeces. Having had the remnants of last years fleeces from our elite herd, we have now added this years total of 21 to it. Sheila and I will certainly do something with the Australian elites batch but the remainder will be sold in it's raw state since processing it isn't cheap!

We took a sample of each of the Australian's fleece and sent them off to Yocom McColl early this month. The results were good and we are looking forward to sampling the males crias we have had this year. With their pedigree, we are expecting high quality but we will see!

Yesterday was a "bitty" day on the farm as we had to address an urgent retail need!! We are attending two forthcoming weddings and you know what..............we both do not have anything to wear!! Anyway a quick trip to the local town resolved the problem and Sheila purchased a stunning outfit (she looked really good) and I decided to go for a "bog standard" suit. I am sure it's a bloke thing but I do not enjoy clothes shopping at all.

We are planning to visit one of our local agricultural shows this Sunday. It is always a well organised show and we are very much looking forward to it as we didn't get there last year (too busy at Easter-Wood). Lets hope the weather is kind to us.

Be back soon.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Rain, rain and yet more rain....

Yesterday was not a good day for us. It literally poured just about all day thus preventing us from getting on with the some of the various duties around the farm but hey ho, that's UK weather for you!

Whilst feeding the girls and boys, I did have my usual contest of fending off some of them who would give the impression that they haven't been fed for a week!! There is always a handful who insist on "plunging" their heads into the feed bucket before I have had a chance to grab a handful of Camelibra/Fibregest and place it into their relevant feed troughs. Champion of all is our "Midnight Saphire", a young solid black out of "Cambridge Centurion" who blatently ambushes me on the way across the paddocks to the troughs! She will cut across my path and suddenly halt in front of me thus enabling her to "attack" the feed bucket I am carrying! But of course along with this behaviour, you can't help but warm to their individual characters/personalities!

Let's hope for better weather for Thursday..........

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ice Cool Lad in action again!

Following the failure of her holding pregnancy to EPC Cambridge Neptune, we decided to put EPC Cambridge Olympus to Cambridge Ice Cool Lad yesterday. It was a decision which quite frankly made a lot of sense to us as ICL has such a great track record and produces fantastic progeny! Both Sheila and I were frustrated that Olympus didn't hold but to delay her mating meant that we were going to experience another late-born cria again. We are eagerly awaiting the spit-off results!

We continue to count down the days to our Inquiry and it is now exactly two weeks today for our "showdown" with Wokingham Borough Council! I will try not to get too emotional about it but it never ceases to amaze us as to why councils take it upon themselves to often prevent any form of rural enterprise development. You would have thought that in this time of economic uncertainty, they would try to encourage such businesses instead of going out of their way to stop it!! Sorry, I started to get angry again!

Following the birth of our Miss Moneypenny, we will be mating her Dam with Cambridge Ice Cool Lad today. Whilst she is dark fawn, it will be interesting to see what resultant colour her cria will be.

Finally, we are looking forward to Karl & Lisa's visit to us again on 9th August where we will all be "mucking in" for a busy husbandry session. We have planned to conduct a couple of spit-off's, some toenail clipping and Dectomax vaccinations. As usual, we will all share the excitement and enthusiasm to start their own Alpaca Breeding enterprise.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Embracing our new lifestyle..............

We are fortunate enough to benefit from a plethora of wild life here at Easter-Wood. Following a decision to be a little frugal with our food bill, we discovered a considerable number of mushrooms growing in the paddocks and as I cannot ignore such a gift, I harvested them and subsequently enjoyed a delicious meal enhanced by fresh field mushrooms!! Can't get better than that or can it?...... I had already noticed that there were many pigeons gathering in the fields each late afternoon and so had considered that therin lies another tasty meal! My chance came when Sheila, whilst topping the bottom paddock, called me to say that a pigeon had been attacked by a sparrow hawk and was somewhat worse for wear. She suggested that I despatch the poor creature and put it out of it's misery to which I duly obeyed. Guess what? I had pigeon breasts for tea that night. No reason not to live off the land!

I also have an eye on the rabbit population right now as a food source. Not only are they becoming a real nuisance in creating huge holes in the paddocks, they are also undermining our fences. So later this summer, I will be culling a few of these for the freezer!

That's enough of our "Return to Nature" stories so back to the Alpacas................I sent off some sample fleeces from our Elite whites to Yocom McColl in early July and subsequently receive the results back a couple of days ago. They are very detailed and I was impressed with the reports. The only problem I had though was that they do not accept Credit Card payment and as they wanted the invoice paid in US dollars (not surprisingly), I was faced with a bank charge which represented nearly an additional 50% of the original value of their invoice!! Anyway, it is good to get an accurate measurement of their fleeces. I guess that it will be of more value for our "boys" once they are mature enough to be put to service.

Our Miss Moneypenny continues to improve her strength and is now literally full of energy and "bounce". We spotted her doing her regular late afternoon "run-around" yesterday and was delighted to see her "pronking" along the fence line with the others in the adjacent paddock. Wonderful sight!!!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Onwards with the Maintenance!

Promising myself to rid the paddocks of three days of Alpaca poo, I set about with the trusty "Trafalgar" yesterday and managed to clear the lot!! Phew, it was hard graft as the weather, whilst not searing sun, was nonetheless rather warm and I reckoned I lost at least a stone in weight!! I cannot praise the Paddock Cleaner enough actually and I thank Rob Rawlins at Wellground for suggesting this purchase way back in June last year.

We are lucky here at Easter-Wood as we have a significant amount of woodland at one end of the farm and it serves as an ideal woodland management project where the Alpaca poo is put to good use. I don't know if anyone has exploited the commercial value of Alpaca poo but it seems like the ideal composting material and since it has no odour, I can't help thinking that there is an "offshoot" business opportunity here!!

Our little Miss Moneypenny continues to grow and gain strength daily now so, touch wood, we could be well "out of the woods" with her soon!! When we first started to bottle feed her, she became accustomed to our presence and the only problem with this is that she now runs and greets us whenever we come into her paddock. Mum doesn't seem to mind too much but she keeps a close eye on her all the time. Despite the fact that we acknowledge one should not get too attached to the Alpacas, we still do have our favourites (don't we?)!!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A look back.......................

Looking back this week, we really get a a good feeling of progress despite the issues of planning and the council! As relatively new breeders, we are constantly reminded of the fantastic support we receive from fellow breeders and the goodwill they extend to you.

When Sheila and I first "plunged" into this wonderful world of Alpaca Breeding, we didn't expect that it was a bit like joining a large family. We recognised that our learning curve would be steep even though Sheila had comprehensive experience of animal husbandry but as far as I was concerned, my business knowledge was in IT and not agriculture. Notwithstanding however, I am delighted to report that the first year of running Easter-Wood has been an absolute joy! We have learnt so much and now that we have completed our birthing for this year, we are eagerly preparing for next years plans of sales, marketing, showing and subsequently further developing our business. Thanks to all who have helped to make it possible.

One of the major benefits that we have recognised is the building of our new barn in March, without which we would have almost certainly lost one or maybe two of our Cria this year. As previously mentioned in an earlier blog, a couple of our births this year were definitely complicated in as much as the delivery was either premature or the cria became stuck during the birth or the reluctance of mum not wanting to feed her new offspring! Still, it's a great opportunity to gain the experience in a short time frame.

For the coming week, we are planning to get Ice Cool Lad working on three of our maidens who should now be ready for mating since they are 14 months old. One of the things that we are fully satisfied with is Ice Cool Lad's experience and subsequent "track record". He just gets on with the job and simply knows the "ropes" so well.

Miss Moneypenny, who was our latest and somewhat premature cria, is making good progress and has developed into a rather energetic and "greedy" little baby. That is very satisfying for us as she spent the first 3 days of her life being bottle and tube fed!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Cria photos and an update...........................

Yesterday, I was looking to update our Cria photos and so, armed with my trusty SLR, I ventured out amongst the squally showers and "snapped" a few of our 2009 Cria. I have to say that all have really come on a great deal and their fleeces have grown so much! Must be the wet weather!



The photo above is "Miss Moneypenny", our premature girl. She is certainly looking better now!


This photo is of "Navigator" who is a Cambridge Neptune boy and the first of our male Crias this year.









Here is a close-up of "Polaris", our Accoyo Remarque male.











To the right is a photo of "Sundown" our third male Cria out of Accoyo Killawasi.











Here is "Metisha" our first Cambridge Neptune female.










On another note, some of you will know that we have had an application in place with our local Council for our Alpaca Breeding enterprise for over a year now. The local councillor in our ward has taken it upon himself to prevent us from residing at our site and since it is imperative to live with our herd, we have decided to take it to a Public Inquiry. This is taking place on 11th August and I will update this blog with the outcome!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Recent Cria from Cambridge Ice Cool Lad...

Just a short posting today................I have today received an email from Roger Mount at Snowshill Alpacas who very kindly enclosed some photo's of another of "Cambridge Ice Cool Lad's" offspring whom he mated with his own "Cambridge Chocolate Button" last year. The result is this beautiful girl whom he has named "Christabel". She is a stunner and we are all hoping that she goes on to make a name for herself on the Show circuit!

I have attached one of these photo's of her with mum.

Whilst I don't really want to labour our current challenge with our "early bird" whom by the way, we have called "Miss Moneypenny" (her ear tag is 007) but today it looks much more promising as she is now feeding from mum, albeit in small doses. We are sure that by the end of the week, we will have forgotten how worrying it was!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Early Bird is still not out of the woods!

What a weekend this is turning out to be.............first we had a premature (35 days early) female cria born on Friday afternoon and then just as we thought things were beginning to return to normal for her, we had to call in the vet today as it was clear she was weakening. Although she was of a good weight and looked healthy on Friday, she just doesn't seem to naturally feed off mum!

Today, we gave her a boost with a stomach feed and will keep up the nightime vigil again until she regains strength enough to feed from mum!

Meanwhile we are delighted that all of our other cria's this year are literally full of health and it amuses Sheila and I to witness their evening "run around".

This week we will be conducting some important "spit-offs" and the results may well determine who will be next in line for a mating!

Off now to start our first of the evening "duties" for the "early bird".

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Not everything appears as it seems.....

No sooner than Sheila and I had felt our early born cria yesterday was pretty well text book delivery, we then had a long night of bottle feeding as she doesn't seem to know what to do at the "milk bar"! After providing her the powdered Colostrum (this in itself was a challenge), we then had to express mum's milk as it was clear that mum was a little distressed as a her udder was becoming increasingly larger!

The cria is slowly getting the hang of what she should be doing at the "milk bar" but it is proving to be a slow process. Such is life............

Well, I am now off again to give our little "early bird" another feed.

Friday, 10 July 2009

An unexpected arrival...............

Whilst I was out on a dental appointment today, I had a call from Sheila announcing that the cria we were expecting in mid August had decided to make an appearance today!!

The lovely "Fedora" was not going to hang around for the wet weather to descend upon us this weekend and so chose today to deliver a beautiful white girl from the mating with Rural Alianza Don Pepe from Wessex late August last year.

Despite this, she appears to be very strong with a healthy weight.

She is our last birth for this year and so we continue our mating programme until late summer.

Looking back on this our first year of business, we reflect on how lucky we have been having our fair share of challenges this year. It can only be seen as beneficial as the exposure of difficult births, cria death, etc makes us better breeders in the long term.

I am going to sign off now as the hungry blighters need their feed for the day!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Technology comes to Easter-Wood

Well we can now report our day to day activities using a Blog! Even having spent most of my working life within the computer industry, computer technology is still a little hard to get to grips with (could be the age of course)!

Whilst we have had a good summer in terms of additional cria, we have not had an uncomplicated birth yet! Our first year of business has been a fantastic learning experience both with it's highs and lows. Our core herd of Elite females have produced some wonderful offspring for us with 2 males from Neptune and Remarque (pictured above right), 1 male from Killawasi and a female (pictured below) also from Neptune.

During the last 2 months, we have regularly welcomed Rob and Lesley Rawlins from Wellground Alpaca Stud Ltd as we are actively utilising their stud services with "Samson", "Close Encounter" and "Buckingham" doing their bit with our girls! Both Sheila and I are really looking forward to seeing their resultant offspring.

Easter-Wood also has a busy mating and "Spit-Off" programme ongoing this year where we are using our jointly owned Herd Sire; Ice Cool Lad. Not only does he have a terrific track record of success, he certainly knows how to charm the females!

I am now off to finish re-organising the Barn as we are soon to have a hay delivery.