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.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
We thought we would get a couple of new 'fast release' halters from Homestead Farm Supplies (http://www.homesteadfarmsupplies.co.uk/) to see how effective they are. Normally we use Zephyr halters and are quite happy with them but we needed a couple of new large ones so it was an opportunity to see how these would operate. This is Gaucho in his new 'baby blue' outfit. Cute eh?
Here is Wee Eck getting used to his 'Tory blue' creation - we needed several adjustments to this one. He is still unhappy about wearing a halter but next to him is Rufus who now accepts his one. We also went 'walkies' today, Rufus was much better although very wary whilst Eck flung himself about before settling down. "Softly, softly,catchee monkey" as the old military saying goes, so over time they will get better.
Earlier this week it looked like something catastrophic had happened to the boys with bodies lying all over the paddock - enough to give any owner a heart attack! Not to worry, it was just a case of serious sun-bathing! Wee Eck lies flat out in the middle of this group with Faro behind. Rufus and Fergus are sharing the sand-pit whilst most of Fidget is in the foreground!
Wee Eck in the front having woken up from his snooze in the sun with Faro top left and Fyta top right.
And finally...... just to show that the Heilan coos are getting used to us, here is Mum Lola standing over her bull calf. Auntie Freda is on the left.
Saturday, 24 July 2010
We moved the boys to the two bottom paddocks earlier this week - just before the heavy rain set in for 36 hours! When this cleared, the sun came out and it was very hot which was then ideal for swarms of flies and midgies. Most of the boys took to the shelters to get away from the flies except Fidget, seen here basking in the late afternoon sun, and Rufus to the right of the picture.
The boys were penned this morning before the sun and flies got going again. This was the first time that Wee Eck and Rufus had been in this pen but they were fine.
Here is Eck wearing his halter for only the second time and being a really good boy with none of the jumping about we had from him last week. You'll note that he is wearing a piece of straw as an adornment - he's practising to be a Unicorn I think!
A lovely shot of Rufus wearing his halter for only the second time too, and also being a good boy! Fidget is immediately behind, then Gaucho at the rear. Gully's ears were creamed again and all the boys eventually wore their halters. We decided that as it was all going so well, we would push our luck and go for short 'walkies.' The older boys did very well and were led, but for Wee Eck and Rufus this was their first time being led and they were not impressed! Rufus immediately rebelled and jumped and thrashed about a lot before calming down. Eck refused to budge but he didn't jump about. As a first time with their lead ropes on we weren't too concerned - it will be better next time.
And finally, a couple of shots for the horticulturally minded. This is part of our veg garden, taken yesterday, now beginning to produce the goodies after a late start following the bad winter. No doubt the over-winter application of alpaca dung has helped with growth!
Proof of the pudding! With every plate of mince should come a plentiful supply of tatties! These are some of the Dunluce early spuds, we are also eating Arran Pilot and Rocket as earlies to be followed by Estima as 2nd early. Not exactly 'early' this year although we have now finished eating those we grew in the Keder greenhouse earlier. All the earlies are now lifted, drying off in the garage and will then be bagged. The main crop spuds are growing well but will be in the ground for some time. The veg garden can be hard work but at least it pays fresh dividends.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
It's now just over 2 weeks since our new boys Rufus and Echo were delivered and they have settled in very well. Echo ('Wee Eck') is in the thick of the action every day but Rufus is still quite reserved, enjoying his own space and sometimes humming gently. This shows Eck at the front,Gaucho in the middle and Rufus with the white face, in their field shelter. Gully is on the extreme left eating his hay!
We penned the boys this week, put their halters on and creamed Gully's ears. For Eck, extreme left, this was the first time he has had a halter on as far as we know, so there was a bit of leaping about before he accepted it. He's not used to being handled but the neck stroking did have some positive effect this time. Rufus, extreme right, we think has had a halter on, but a long time ago. This was his first halter experience with us and he took it remarkably well. The other boys all accept their halters well, with the exception of Fidget who likes to put up a bit of resistance because he is sensitive around his face. This was a short first session for the new boys and we'll keep up regular fittings now until they get used to the procedure.
We have had terrible weather during the past week with days of gales and driving rain so the field shelters were much in use. This shows all the boys fitting into the one shelter although they usually spread out and use the other shelter too. Fergus, at the rear shows, his contempt for the photographer by having a poo at the wrong moment!
During a rare break in the bad weather we had a visit from relatives Pauline, Chick and son Matthew and this shows Matthew casting an eye over the herd whilst they in turn are wondering who this little human being is!
And finally....it is little wonder we are buying peanuts by the sackload. Not only are we feeding countless sparrows, tits, woodpeckers, siskins and green finches but this little chap who lives under a flowerpot (and drives the cat crazy!) joins in the feeding frenzy too. Seconds later and to prove that he can (almost) fly, he leapt off the nuts onto the ground.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Being the Guard within the herd, Faro takes his duties seriously. He is always the first to investigate anything, always first to check out visitors, patrols in front of the field shelters when the other boys are inside - and likes to check out exactly what is happening on a 'poop patrol!' When Robbie appears with his bucket and barrow Faro usually puts in an appearance and is obviously less than impressed with someone 'nicking' the boys' poo! If Robbie bends down Faro likes to put his head on Robbie's neck presenting a curious spectacle to any on-lookers. If Faro has been in the water tray it's a very soggy head being pressed down on the neck and bald spot! None of the other boys is bothered with the poop-patrol, but Faro is obviously programmed to make sure that it is not removed. He soon gets bored with this silly game and walks away! New boy Rufus (with white face) can be seen in the background.
Our old friends Fay and Brian visited on a very damp evening to see the boys. Like all hardy, macho mountain animals the boys run into the shelters when it rains (!) and here Faro checks out what is being offered by Fay to eat. New boys Rufus (2nd left) and Echo (inside, behind Faro) have both settled down well with the herd. We penned them this week, Gully had cream rubbed on his itchy ears and Rufus and Echo had their first neck rubbing session which was enjoyed more by the owners than the animals!
Remember Freda (L) and Lola? Here they are, getting a little more adventurous and standing their ground by the fence. Look to the right of the water trough and you will see a patch of brown on the ground.........
And here is the patch of brown - a wee calf! We all got a shock, including the owners, a few days ago to find that Lola had given birth but mum and son/daughter are both doing well.
And finally.........taken near our back door, a shot of Pansy Potter sitting near the Catmint bush before chewing a piece.
Sunday, 4 July 2010
Last weekend we drove through to Ardo Alpacas in Aberdeenshire to help Lorna and Sandy with their shearing. Needless to say, we were like 'bairns in a sweetie shop' being surrounded by all the lovely Alpacas and Llamas and it was inevitable that our herd was going to increase in size back home! Yesterday, Lorna brought our choice of two 3 yrs old geldings to their new home! I wanted a rose grey boy and a black boy with easy going temperaments who would fit in well with our existing boys. This is Rufus who originally came from a small herd in Caithness and who is a rose grey. Rufus is a big fella but he seems to have a nice way about him and will need some handling and halter training in due course. After 24 hours here he's still wary, but has settled in with the other boys, eating well and sharing the field shelters.
This is our black boy Echo - or 'Wee Eck' as he is now affectionately known! He is the smallest of our boys, small in stature but large in personality. He is not shy or wary, he gets into the middle of the herd and pushes and shoves when necessary, just like the big boys. He's very curious and within minutes of joining the herd, had started splashing himself with water from the trays and rolling in the sandpit. His tail is often up and he struts around the paddock as if he had been here for years. Eck is solid black apart from one small white patch on the inside of his front left foot.
Here are Rufus (with white face) and Wee Eck in the middle getting used to their new pals. When they first arrived we kept them in a separate pen where they could all see each other but Eck couldn't wait to get out and join the big boys. We gave Rufus several more hours to get used to his new surroundings but his humming only stopped when we allowed him out to join the herd. After the usual sniffing each other and a bit of jostling they all started to graze together and later ate out of their own bowls of supplement. They had a quiet night in their field shelters, the usual long lie-in in this morning and after more than 24 hours, they seem to have been accepted into the herd. We expect a bit of jostling and spitting in the days to come as they all settle down to a different herd structure, but no battles which we have previously experienced with boys.
And finally..........after a long journey in a trailer, meeting the reception committee and getting used to the surroundings, it was time for Wee Eck to copy his new mates, Fergus (front) and Gaucho and have a siesta. All I have to do now is update the blog with new photos - work for a rainy day I think!