About Us

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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.

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.