OUR SMALL HERD
Our four boys came from Ardo Alpacas in Aberdeenshire. We are not alpaca breeders and have our boys purely as pets. Our experience is that you don't need to be a breeder and that a 'batchelor herd' can give much pleasure to the owner. We have 5 acres including our big garden and grazing for the boys, 15 miles north of Inverness, Scotland. I spin, knit, felt and crochet with the fleece from the boys.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Most of the blogs are mentioning hay at present and the problems which some folk are having in getting it cut and dried. We cheat - and buy it in! We took the trailer to Karen & Dave's farm shop at Beauly (http://www.robertsonstomichfarmshop.co.uk/) and managed to get 22 square bales loaded during a lovely day and just before the rain came that evening. Our boys like their hay. Karen also has 3 alpaca boys at her children's farmyard attached to their farm and shop.
The boys endured their weekly roundup and penning and here they are with their halters on. Wee Eck held his head up with the halter fitted (he's been dropping his head with the halter on) and he can be seen in the middle of the group. He and Rufus are getting much better during these sessions.
Shortly after being penned we moved the boys to the lower paddocks and to new grass. There was the usual stampede and jumping around with excitement at being moved. Aside from the fact that it's fresh grass we think the alpacas like being in a different spot as they seem to get bored after a few weeks in one area. Being intelligent and inquisitive animals, boredom does become a factor and we noticed it particularly last winter during the heavy snow when they couldn't move around.
Robbie has been busy this week turning his compost and getting ready to spread it on the garden for the winter. This is one of the alpaca dung piles, the oldest at over a year and looking good and ready to spread. It looks a bit like Anne and Iain's peat bank at Isle of Lewis alpacas! We compost chicken manure and household waste and try to be as organic as possible and never use sprays on the vegetables. This does mean that we spend a lot of time squashing caterpillars on the veg which doesn't do a lot for the fingernails! Yuck!
And finally......here is wee Hamish in between his auntie Freda (L) and mum Lola (R) and we can see that he is growing well. They are quite tame now and the boys like to be near them, lying on the other side of the fence from the cattle.
Saturday, 21 August 2010
A couple of times a week we have to run out the hose across the paddock to fill the water trough in another field for the cattle. Usually Fyta strolls up to the hose and lifts it as he is demonstrating above. Of course Fyta lifts watering cans, hay buckets or anything which he can move so a hose presents no problems for him. Interestingly some of the boys will not walk over the hose as if it is a barrier and a few days ago Wee Eck got himself into a panic because he was on one side of the hose and the other boys were on the other side. He couldn't bring himself to step over it and instead ran up and down in an obvious fluster on his side of the hose! Eventually he stepped over it and wasn't bothered with it any more.
Here is Wee Eck having chin and neck rubs from Robbie. He still remains the least settled of the boys at halter fitting time, but is getting better. Fidget had his nails trimmed today and (surprisingly) was very well behaved.
We've noticed that Eck has taken to following Faro around. Faro is the herd guard, always first to check everything out and usually the last to settle down. Now when Faro appears, Wee Eck is usually a couple of steps behind him as in the photo above - a bit like 'tweedle dee and tweedle dum!' They have the same father (Aymara Gotit) and Faro is four years old, a year older than Eck. Interesting to note that Eck has a little white patch at the rear of his left foot. Rufus can be seen in the background.
This is some of Gaucho's fleece which I've been spinning and it is a real camel colour although when spun, because the underside of the fleece is light fawn, it creates a pretty, marled effect.
And finally.......... more goodies from the garden, thanks to 'paca poo!
Sunday, 15 August 2010
You can tell by the look on Gully's face that he really didn't want to do 'walkies' yesterday! There is a resolute glare which says, "You're wasting your time!" Normally he will walk (a bit) but yesterday he was not in the mood, however he was very good with the halter and having his cream rubbed on. Whilst he is a deaf boy, it is very hard to detect that now because he is so well integrated into the herd and knows exactly what is going on around him. He no longer relies on Gaucho as his pal and often lies down next to the older members of the group. He can also stand up for himself and can spit and grumble at the others when the need arises.
Gaucho getting his halter fitted with Wee Eck looking on. We've had a week of fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions from constant rain to boiling hot sunshine. This was taken on rather a cold morning. The boys were penned again for more halter fitting especially for the two new boys, Fergus had some nails clipped and we had some walkies. Wee Eck is still a challenge but Rufus is coming on nicely.
When the halter training is over the boys almost always want a 'poo with a view!' Shows what they think of the training regime.
And finally....... here is some of Rufus's fleece (left) and Gully (right) which I've been spinning. I've spun 12 skiens each of their fleece with lots more of Gully's still to go. Gully's is spinning up to a double knitting weight and Rufus is more of a Sport's weight. The quality of the fleece determines the weight that I spin and I spin straight from the animal then wash the skien and hang it to dry. As I'm not a breeder the micron count etc. is not so important to me, but if I get a good fleece then it's a bonus. What is more important to me is that the animals are a happy, contented herd and that I try to use as much of what fleece they have for my own purposes. Using spinning and felting I can use all of the fleece that the boys produce.
Sunday, 8 August 2010
This 'Alpaca Crossing' sign is on our front gate and we ordered it on ebay from USA. We already have a 'Cats Crossing' sign which our past neighbour Tracey bought when she was over in America some years ago. The alpaca sign was quite cheap at £6 and with postage the total bill was about £12. However, when the parcel arrived there was a VAT charge of £4.78 then a Royal Mail handling fee of £8 added! We knew that there should be no added VAT (anything under £18 is VAT free) and wrote to HMRC who confirmed that a mistake had been made and a refund of the VAT charge would be forthcoming. When VAT is applied Royal Mail automatically slap on a handling charge which we can't reclaim until the VAT has been reclaimed. We've now been waiting for 5 weeks for HMRC to spark and they have told us that 'a cheque will be in the post' (heard that one before!!) We then have to tackle Royal Mail for their refund. Don't you just love it when the authorities make a mistake then you have to spend time, money and resources in getting your money back! It's not the amount, it's the principle - and anyway, we love the sign! We bought it from firstname.lastname@example.org and their service was excellent.
We moved the boys to the new grass in the top paddocks this week and haltered them in the pen. Here is Gully getting cream applied to his bald spots between his front legs. It's hard to tell from the photo whether he is impressed by this or not! We've also had a report on our soil analysis which shows that lime is badly needed. We had a visit from an Agronomist who also advised that all herbicides (which we dislike using) should be used with extreme caution and Alpacas kept off treated areas for several months. Lime should help to reduce the growth of buttercups which most people will know, can be poisonous to some livestock if eaten in quantity.
This is Rufus's third time on the lead and he is more accepting of it - but he is still not a happy bunny as you can tell by the look on his face. Wee Eck still has concerns over the lead and hung his head most of the time but neither of the boys struggled too much so they are improving. All the others accept the halters and lead, except Fidget who does not like his nose being touched, although once it's on, he's fine.
Yesterday was Day 2 of the Belladrum Tartan Hearts music festival which took place about a mile away from us. Over 12,000 people attended in good weather and we could plainly hear the 'boompa-boompa' music, the aerial display then the fireworks display later at night. During the afternoon as the place was rocking, the boys were really impressed and totally excited by the music - not! Even Glastonbury wouldn't put the boys off sun-bathing.
And finally...... these monsters make an appearance each summer and annoy the boys no end. They are Horse Flies (we think - unless you know different!) and fortunately do not hunt in packs, just single insects. They are much bigger than the average Bumble Bee and settle on the boys' backs or legs, much to their annoyance. Flies and midges are common and the boys often avoid them by going into their shelters and we often spray them, which helps. This beast is a different matter and whilst the normal flies and midges tend to go for the dark coloured animals, the Horse Fly lands on any of them.