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 8 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.

Clicking!!

Just a reminder that clicking on (most) of the photos will show them greatly enlarged.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Satisfaction guaranteed

Another day, another bowl of sugar beet!  Fidget enjoys his beet and insists on getting it all over his face.  We have reduced the amount of daily beet we are feeding the boys now and were going to stop it altogether but the sight of 8 boys lined up at the gate with a look of longing on their faces was too much for me  - I had to go and organise a  rapid hot water soaked bowlful each for them!
Fyta is eating his beet from the bowl, Fidget is in the background and then Rufus appears.  He has already scoffed his bowlful, plus some more, but insists on trying to push the others off their bowls. Rufus is a bit of a bully at feeding time.
A typical audible and visual warning between the boys - heads up, groaning or screeching in the hope that one of them backs off.  This has the makings of a bit of a 'stooshie' if one doesn't back down.
No eye to eye contact, Rufus looks away but they are still moaning at each other.  (Note that Fidget in the background is more interested in scoffing his food than getting involved with his sparring partners!)
Rufus chances his luck and moves in to get Fyta's food.   However, Fyta has a cunning plan to deal with this type of situation - see how his left foot is raised...........
Fyta's plan works as he puts his foot in the bowl putting Rufus off his stride!
Gotcha!    Get out of that one Rufus.............after Rufus moves away Fyta nudges the upturned bowl with his nose and eats the beet off the ground.  This trick never fails and if you look closely at Fyta's face you'd swear there is a smug look of satisfaction!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Frosty weather.

We've had a lot of overnight frosts this week and one day when a couple of inches of snow fell.  It's gone now so we are having clear days and frosty nights.  This is Gaucho enjoying his breakfast haylage.  He is one of those alpacas who always seem to have grass or hay sticking from their mouths!  Gaucho can have grass and moss sticking from either side of his mouth, eat his sugar beet or supplement and still have the stuff sticking from the sides of his mouth - how does he do that?  He's a lovely boy, gentle and gets on well with the others.  Gully is in the background here - having a scratch!
More of the boys and their breakfast with Fidget (front, left) wondering where his pile of haylage has gone (he's eaten it!)  Gully is in the middle with Gaucho on the right, Fyta behind and Rufus and Faro in the background.  Fergus and Wee Eck are out of shot, also munching on their haylage.
Frosties for breakfast!  Wee Eck enjoying his breakfast with the overnight frost showing clearly on his back.
This is the imprint left on the ground by an alpaca having slept outside all night in the frost.  Often there are 8 such imprints scattered around, not close together but spread about.
And finally............something to gladden the heart!  The Snowdrops have emerged from frozen ground with Daffodil and Crocus coming through more slowly.  It's a joy to see them again.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Check it out, boys.

Robbie was topping up the sand pits today and this was the cause of great interest amongst the boys.  All except Faro of course who was standing a short distance away having checked out what was happening and decided it was pretty boring!  Gaucho is sniffing the sand and shortly after this, Fidget (far left) got into the sand pit for a closer inspection.
Echo (Wee Eck) has been the subject of much scrutiny by us this week.  We have suspected that he may be deaf when on one or two occasions he did not appear to hear us, but this week he was grazing completely on his own in a fold in the land which hid him from view.  When we found him only about 30 yards away, we called loudly several times and he carried on grazing, then suddenly he looked up, saw the herd was missing and ran towards us.  We now know he is not hearing things and explains some of his actions and reactions.  For instance, he frequently barges into the middle of the herd oblivious to the groaning, moaning and general gnashing of teeth going on around him.  He is only a wee chap so often the spitting goes over his head, literally, then he realises it's being directed at him and he spits back.  He obviously misses the audible warning signs going on all the time when the boys are in close proximity to one another.  The fact that he is deaf makes absolutely no difference to us of course as he is a real charmer - and a bandit! 
Here is Wee Eck with our other deaf boy, Gully, behind.  If you look closely at his front left foot, there is a white patch at the back.  Some alpacas carry the 'white spot gene' which is connected to deafness.  So, does Wee Eck carry this gene and is that why he is deaf?  He has black eyes and is solid black colour otherwise, but Gully has blue eyes which can be associated with deafness.   The Alpaca Vet, Leo Van Merwijk explains the 'blue eyed white' (BEW) alpaca condition very well in his June 2009 blog (www.dierenarts-en-alpaca.blogspot.com) and there is a link to a scientific paper on the subject.  I mention all of this because alpacas are well known for hiding physical ailments or abnormalities - obviously hard wired into their system so as not to appear to be the weak animal to any interested predator!  We know from Gully's behaviour that deafness is very hard to detect sometimes in an animal within the herd - we have to look very hard for a sign in him that he does not hear because he covers it so well.  Clearly, Eck is obviously also good at hiding his inability to hear as we spend a lot of time with our animals and we've only just managed to confirm it.  Wonder if anyone else has an alpaca within their herd who might be deaf and it has not been discovered?  Interesting!  Robbie is always saying that Wee Eck won't do as he's told - now we know why........he can't hear him!
I've crocheted this curly wurly scarf from Fergus (white) and Ardo Gottit (black) fleece.  I carded the two fleeces together before spinning them to see what it would look like.  I'm pleased with the result.   On the right is a ball of Gaucho's spun fleece and I've made a label for it.
And finally............the boys are having a nocturnal visitor in their field shelter.  Mr (or Mrs) Rabbit is becoming a pain in the rear end burrowing holes in the ground!  We blocked one hole with a boulder two nights ago only to discover this morning that the rabbit had made a hole right next to it and scrapped away all the earth and straw as shown above.  The rabbit is either not scared off by the boys in the area  or it's a very big rabbit and the boys are scared!!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Doggone!

Why is it that I never have my camera handy when something interesting happens?  Our neighbouring farmer's sheepdog decided to go walkies on his own along the road and this immediately had all the boys heading towards the fence and facing the threat.  Tails were up, ears pointed forward as they watched the dog.  By the time we got the camera the dog had wandered back to the farm but the boys watched it all the way - all except for Faro the guard!  His attention was taken up with the new threat of the camera - he does not like it being pointed at him and does not like posing.
Can't say the same about this trio of Gaucho (L), Gully and Wee Eck (R) who will pose endlessly and come right up to the camera lens if allowed to!
Our two (dirty) white boys, Fergus at the front with Fidget behind.
Rufus in the middle with Gully (L).
Fergus is a really laid back character so whilst some of the boys still keep an eye out for the dog and others start grazing, he decides its time to chill out and lie down.  Shortly after this Wee Eck came and touched his back which had Fergus spitting up in the air as a warning to keep off!
And finally, Gully showing his thick fleece which he's needed this winter like all the boys to keep the cold weather out.