Saturday, 30 January 2010

A visit from Willowbank Alpacas

We awoke to a lovely day today and after the dull, wet weather of late, it was a very welcomed treat! Our work on the farm recently has included upgrading our bio-security precautions and taking delivery of additional hay, haylage and straw which we have now re-stacked in the barn.

Today, we welcomed Carl and Lisa from Willowbank Alpaca Stud who, over the last several months, had been discussing with us the purchase of some of our Alpacas in order to complete their plans to develop their own Alpaca breeding enterprise. Today, after an in-depth inspection and detailed discussions about the various blood lines and phenotype, they finally selected 5 of them.

Afterwards, we retired for a bite to eat and a general chat about Alpacas and their progress with Willowbank. Sheila and I are very happy that they will be going to a very dedicated and enthusiastic couple who will, I am sure, make a resounding success of their business.

Today's blog is rather short but I have just been informed that dinner is ready!!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A busy husbandry day!

As announced earlier, yesterday we completed our 6 monthly Lambivac session for our alpacas and I also took advantage of the dry weather to kick the poo cleaner into action. Whilst it always performs well, the pipe began to clog  quite quickly as the wet poo is not ideal for the machine however, the job was eventually completed and I moved on to install a rather nifty hay feeder which fitted rather nicely on the side of Ice Cool Lad's field shelter. He must have approved as he dispensed with caution and immediately started feeding from it.

During a routine inspection of our paddocks later revealed an interesting observation and whilst it is pretty obvious, I guess I hadn't really acknowledged it before.... It amazes me that where the grass is particularly good with respect to growth and free from excess laying water, the alpacas prefer to use these areas as their latrines thus making do with the poorer quality grass elsewhere to graze on!! Strange!

With the building of our log cabin commencing from mid February, we have now re-located some of the alpaca pens in the barn to allow us to store some of the internal structures of the cabin out of the weather. It did give me a good excuse however to have a thorough clean up (it is surprising how much one tends to keep hold of "in case it could be of use later")!!

Well, today is looking pretty good here with a fair amount of sunshine, so it's off now to make full use of this while it lasts. Be back again soon.

Friday, 22 January 2010

A warm welcome for a great couple!

I will write a brief "welcome" blog for our good friends in Leicester tonight. Karl, Lisa and their daughter, little Lilly are the new alpaca breeders who have commited to develop an alpaca breeding enterprise called WillowBank Alpacas and with their recent "elite" purchases from Wellground Alpaca Stud, they are set to commence a great start to their core herd.

We wish them every success and like many other breeders who have taken this journey, we heartily welcome them into a most rewarding business. It is thanks to people like Rob & Les at Wellground Alpaca Stud that many breeders, including ourselves have had the benefit of the wisdom and guidance of them both to provide a great kick-start to their alpaca businesses.

Turning (yet again) to mundane things like the weather, we have had a rotten day of constant rain here and as a result, our alpacas are again tucked up in the barn for the night! Tomorrow will be a busy one for us as we will be administering Lambivac to all of our herd and that is always a great way to lose some weight!!

I am off to get some shut eye now so goodnight all.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Re-housing the hens!

Following the loss of several of our chickens to Mr Fox, we have come up (or rather Sheila has) with a stop-gap solution to our chicken housing issue. Since our chickens had become breakfast, lunch and tea for that "bloody" Fox, we had been keeping them locked up in their coop during the day for the time being and until I could build a more permanent run for them! This morning, Sheila suggested that we utilise one of the stables for them and so off we went to remove them from the coop and with a chicken under each arm, Sheila shipped them to the newly prepared stable, all kitted out with a deep spread of fresh straw, a refilled drink dispenser and a topped-up feeder. They were most appreciative of their new, spacious home and to give thanks for this, one of them duly delivered an egg in a straw-filled cardboard box, converted into a nesting box! That's breakfast taken care of then!

We have also been having a spot of bother with a few mice which have taken up residence in the small barn. This is the main reason we purchased our little kitten but since she appeared not to be doing her job, I had planted a couple of mouse traps around the barn and "hey presto", I got a result with two mice which had decided that a piece of carrot was too tempting a morsel to ignore! It will be the role of kitten to catch the next one, I hope!

As the weather looks to be dry on Saturday, we will be conducting the 6-monthly Lambivac session for the alpacas with the toenail cutting exercise to follow.....a busy day ahead!

I thought you might like to have a look at the latest photograph of Ice Cool Lad in the snow. He is a real "smasher" and has certainly left a great impression on a number of our alpacas here!

 Well, that's all for today so goodnight all and will return soon.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A trip to Lyndhurst.

I will write a brief blog today as I have a huge workload but wanted to acknowledge yesterday's venture! Yesterday we went to Lyndhurst to attend the bTB talk by Gina Bromage. It was a real eye-opener as she covered so many issues surrounding bio-security and the quest to avoid contracting bTB. Gina gave a great deal of credit to Di Summers hard work in co-ordinating information and disseminating this to everybody expressing an interest along with managing the support group. It was good also to meet some of our friends again. We most certainly learnt a great deal from this talk and as a result, we shall be making a few modifications to our bio-security from now on.

Like many of you, we are now enjoying an incredibly warm day today, Gone is the snow and at long last, our alpacas have some grass to graze on! We are so much looking forward to the return of warmer and drier weather!

Well I must get off to feed the alpacas now but will be back soon.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Getting there!

Our program of rallying the tradesmen for our cabin build is progressing well and we have now had a number of in-depth meetings with the carpenter, electrician and plumber. This Sunday, we will be meeting the heating engineer who, we hope will be able to implement a solution for the wood burning stove to be connected to under-floor heating and domestic hot water. He has also suggested solar panels for the domestic hot water during the summer months but I am not sure that the capital outlay will be economical enough. In the longer term, it has to be the ideal solution but with our limited budget, I believe it will be a tad too expensive!

Turning to the weather once more, it looks as though we have seen the worst of it now and we are now basking in a relative "heat wave" of +6 degrees C!! I have to say, I am not sorry one little bit that the snow and ice is thawing! Our alpacas have been very cosy in their barn each night of late but they are certainly missing the warmth of the sun! (As we are!).

We have now finished off all of the haylage we initially brought and whilst it is treated as a "delicacy" for the alpacas, they would, I am sure eat only this and not hay. It is full of goodness but they can easily over-indulge on it so although we have ordered more, we will ration it in future!

The fox has not shown himself for a while now. The reason is of course that we have now locked the 3 remaining hens in the coop until I get the chance to build a run for them. Needless to say that the supply of eggs is seriously down but at least we still get 3 eggs a day and that will do for us o:)!

I am off to the bTB talk in Lyndhurst by Gina Bromage on Saturday and looking forward to what has been described as an extremely informative talk. Sadly, I will be leaving Sheila to farm sit but I am sure that she will get to another venue in the fullness of time.

Signing off now and will return soon.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Yet more snow!

The snow came thick and fast (10 inches so far) and it appears that the worst has yet to come but we are quite happy about the way life is treating us right now! Maybe it's the British "stiff upper lip" syndrome but we are quite enjoying the challenge. Our daily routine of feeding, watering, mucking out and letting the alpacas out for the day has taken a new meaning as we are now taking bets about which of the alpacas reaches the paddocks first! The same applies for when they make a dash for the barn when we bring them in for the evening!

I am quite surprised about how quickly they learn where to go......they have now developed an incredible homing attitude, knowing exactly which pen they came out of when leaving the barn in the morning. The exercise of thawing the water buckets and refilling them in this weather is a real challenge however it certainly keeps one fit!

I have posted a few photographs of the farm showing different paddocks. See if you can see any of the alpacas!

This is a view from the west of our farm

This view shows "Ice Cool Lad's" Paddock with our Barn in background

This shows our "wood" with a field shelter shared between two of the paddocks.

Here's our coloured group who have just been put out for the day.

Hope you enjoyed some of the Easter-Wood scenes.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Just when you thought things were improving?

Good evening folks. I shall only write a brief blog tonight as we are due to have a meal cooked by my Sister-in Law later so I will have to get a move on! Today however, was a reminder that one shouldn't get too complacent! We lost another 2 chickens today and I would love to get hold of the perpetrator of this crime! This damn fox has now dispatched 6 of our hens now, most of which were taken during daylight hours so we will have to build a chicken run and forget the idea of "free range" hens. Sad, as we were really enjoying their gentle clucking whilst wandering around the farm pecking at the ground and picking up the occasional grub/insect.

The weather continues to be below freezing for us here in Berkshire with us waking to frozen pipes yet again today! If it wasn't for our friendly neighbour, Patrick, we would have struggled with water during the day. As the weather has been forecast with a lot of snow this evening, we have now brought the alpacas into our barn again. Mind you, they seem to enjoy the race to the barn each time and a couple of them have established superiority as exceptional runners!

Signing off for now.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A welcome respite!

This morning, the second day of 2010, we woke to another clear, bright and sunny day.....see picture below! It's only the second time for many weeks that we have experienced the warmth of the sun even though the air temperature is hovering around zero. Today, after a second night in the barn, we brought out the alpacas again first thing this morning and they appeared to be absolutely delighted to feel the warmth of the sun again, even though the ground was rock hard. According to the weather forecast, we could be enjoying several days of dry, bright days....hurray!

The year ahead for us is full of promise and as we get closer to the day when our log cabin is to be built, which is only 5 weeks away, we are very enthusiastic about what the future holds for us. Despite the issues of bTB affecting our original plans to exhibit this year, we will most certainly be attending some local country and alpaca shows with the intention of simply raising our profile. Like a number of our colleagues, we are very optimistic about the future of alpaca breeding and since I have personally become much more involved in the day to day running of our business here at Easter-Wood since my IT recruitment company went bust early in 2009, I cannot help but believe in a successful outcome.

We have now received the list of venues for the Gina Bromage talks about bTB in Camelids and so we have booked our place for later this month. Dealt with in a sensible and responsible manner, I am convinced that most alpaca breeders will overcome what will be a somewhat testing time for all. Not only have we stopped any animal movement but we now have hand sanitizer dispensers located strategically around the farm. It may be a small thing but we feel it is an essential approach to improving bio security.

Finally, I have to report that we have not lost any more chickens this past week so perhaps our improved vigilance is paying off!

Signing off now but to those of you who read our blog, may we wish you a very Happy New Year.