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.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Heavenly haylage!

The snow has all gone now, thank goodness, the weather has been more Spring like, and the grass is beginning to grow.  The boys still love their morning haylage and this is Wee Eck enjoying a mouthful.  He has a new tooth growing in on the bottom left (on the picture.)  Fidge is lying in the background enjoying his breakfast too.  We are going through less and less hay as the grass comes on, but these guys do like their haylage.
Faro enjoying a mouthful with Rufus and Fyta standing behind,  and Gully, Fergus and Gaucho lying down to eat.  Faro is a lovely alpaca, very gentle, slim - like a deer, and the boy who always comes to greet us ( and check us out!)  He doesn't have a dense coat, but it is a lovely colour.  Always alert and the first to spot anything or anyone approaching.
Fidget - a beefy boy!  Shortly after this was taken he got into his favourite muddy rolling spot and changed to a lovely brown colour!  Fidge is very much part of the herd, but he likes to keep himself apart from the others, preferring his own space.  He does not take kindly to having his food being pinched by others - unless it's Wee Eck who is scared of nothing!
And finally.........Gully, another lovely, gentle alpaca who has his supplement feeding routine off pat.  He gobbles the feed down as quickly as possible keeping an eye on me all the while,  then comes running over for another handful - which he always gets. He is always so pleased he starts 'dancing'.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Mad March weather!

Whilst we were doing last Saturday's blog it had started to snow lightly, but by late evening it got heavier and heavier.  We lost our electricity during the night and it came back on at 9.00am.  When we opened the back door on Sunday morning, this was the scene which greeted us!   Bummer!  My car is in the middle of this shot.  Quite pretty of course but it means lots of extra work - first job is to get the snow shovel out....
The boys were the first to be dug out with a large circular trench so that they could get at their morning haylage.    They were not bothered by the depth of snow although boredom soon sets in when they realise they can't get at their grass.  We also dug a trench leading from their field shelters to their poo piles to stop them completely messing the shelters overnight.
Next job was to get to the henhouse even though we know that the birds will not come out when they see the white stuff lying on the ground.  Couldn't get the gate open because the snow had drifted behind it and the white on the left of the photo is the snow filled fence.    Eventually another trench was dug to the henhouse door - and the girls steadfastly refused to budge.
At least the flowering heather can stand the depth of snow whilst all the crocuses have been flattened.  We managed to get into Inverness on Monday to find that there was no snow there whatsoever!  It's taken  all of this week for the snow to shift because of frosty nights but at last the boys have got most of their grass back now.  We had stopped the sugar beet last week but started it again when the snow returned.  We'll stop it again as of tomorrow.  They've also had their Verm-X granules for a week and are none the worse for another week of snow.  We hope that this will be the last time we have to mention snow until next winter!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

More snow - and a budding alpaca farmer!

A look of resignation from Fergus as he eats his breakfast haylage in the snow again.  We all thought we'd got rid of the snow for a while, but no such luck.
We've had a couple of days this week when we were back into mid-winter.  Fortunately the temperature has stayed above zero most of the time, so the snow does shift.  Sometimes it has been really sunny, then it gets very dark, and we get dumped on again.  Here, the boys happily eat their haylage whilst in the background, on the hill road traffic came to a standstill as usual, skidding and sliding all over the place.  There's plenty of grit in the Council depots apparently, but we rarely see the gritting lorry.  Until a couple of years ago piles of grit were left on all the hill roads so that drivers could get themselves out of trouble - those were the good old days!  Now drivers have to find a friendly farmer with a tractor to pull them - clearly much cheaper for the Council to do it that way.
Last Sunday however it was cold but not so wintry and the boys had a visit from Rauridh, Callum and their dad Pete.  They were up from the Borders with mum Lesley and Rauridh likes to have his 'paca fix when he's in the area.  We're convinced that he's going to be an alpaca farmer later in life!  Here he is showing total control of the herd with his bowl of goodies!
Rauridh with Faro.
Now that's one happy junior alpaca farmer as he feeds Fergus and checks the thickness of his fleece.
Rauridh keeps his dad right on the finer points of feeding Wee Eck!  Unfortunately Callum missed the photo shoot - next visit for sure, Cal.
And finally...........I started with Fergus the Big Man, so I'll finish with him.  He's looking for food as usual.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A Busy Day

After a week of mixed but mild weather, today was a 'real beaut' with warm sunshine for most of the day.  A day to get things done and even the boys sensed there was a bit of action to come.  Left to right here are Gully, Gaucho and Rufus all looking as if butter wouldn't melt etc!  First job then - round up the guys and get them into the pen.
'Get ahead - get a hat' as the saying goes, Robbie in the catch pen wearing Fergus, who is at the front left, with Gully on the right.  Faro is behind wearing the blue halter and Fyta at the rear.  It was Robbie's turn to fit the halters today, we do it time about, and I joined him so that we could trim some nails.  For the first time we've had to trim Gully's back nails and he was as good as gold - Fergus was also obliging today!  We trimmed Wee Eck's fringe as we're convinced that he couldn't see through it -  now we can see his eyes quite clearly so he must have better vision.  I've noticed that Eck  has been chewing the gate bolt recently and wondered if he was teething, so we had a look at his teeth.  He had a discoloured tooth at the front and I've now discovered that it is missing but it looks as if there is a new tooth coming through.  Their incisors are deciduous as we know and a couple of years ago Fyta had double teeth at the front for a short while until a couple fell out.  Scary looking! 
One of the paddocks has a drainage problem and after each winter there is always a large pool in place.  We wanted the boys to get the benefit of the grass but firstly had to section off the pool.  Robbie spent more than an hour shifting most of the gates whilst the boys looked on, knowing that shortly they would get into the new grass. Here the gates are lying on the ground waiting to be connected.
After a stampede down to the new grass, the boys immediately start tucking in whilst Fyta checks out the gates.  The pool is out of sight on the right but there is a lot of boggy ground around it, just the sort of place for alpacas to wallow in given half a chance.  The boys were enjoying their new grass so much they had to be called later in the day for their supplement - normally they are waiting by the gate for it.
Couldn't resist taking this photo of a flock of Waxwings on our Scots Pine, having earlier descended on our Cotoneaster hedge and polished off what red berries were left after the Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings had almost stripped the hedge throughout the winter.  Our digital camera doesn't take the best pictures but magnified, the tufts of feathers can be seen at the back of the birds' heads.  Lovely migratory birds which we don't often see in this part of the world. 
And finally............wanted to take this photo today in the Spring sunshine.  The Snowdrops and Crocuses are all out and the Daffodills are beginning to form heads.  There were two honey bees flying around the flowers, so considering we have been suffering from a lack of bees over the past few years, to see two honey bees this early in the year must be a good sign.  At the top right of the picture can be seen the covers for the winter over the Gunnera plant  and they will stay on until April until the worst of the frosts are over - hopefully.