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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

and another one

Cria number four popped into the Quelvehin troupe this afternoon almost unnoticed .This was typical of Bella,the most casual of mums! All the cria she has given us have just appeared as if by magic.Washed and dressed and with a full belly. Never any indication of it's likely arrival.
A boy this time, 8 kilos of chocolate brown, out of Daniel, and looking just like his dad.
We are so pleased with our lot this year. It was our intention to try to put colours into the herd with our matings last season and it's all worked perfectly.
Hope,our 5 week early girl has truly found her legs now and has been pronking around the paddock with a somewhat happier mother. We shall stop her antibiotics after tomorrow then the real test starts for her immune system. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Permission to blog accepted !!

Its not very often I am given permission to blog, so I better get on with it, before him indoors changes his mind !
After such a busy and stressful week, I was really looking forward to a couple of days away at Vierzon at the weekend. Marie Geneviève of the Alpaga Développement had invited Mary Jo from Bozedown to give a fleece course at her château. So Friday lunchtime Jacques Olivier picked me up and off we set, stopping off briefly at an appointed rendez-vous point to pick up Orla from Vaux Hardy Alpacas. We arrived about 6 .00 and met up at the Auberge Restaurant, a favourite haunt of Marie-Geneviève's, where the food is wonderful and the price is reasonable.
After a few bevvies and full stomachs, we all retired. Mary Jo and her friend excusing themselves earlier as they had been up since 4 am and had had to cope with a tedious hour and a half route around Paris.
The next morning we awoke to a dry and sunny day and headed off to the Château de Rozay. The château itself dates back in parts to the 15th century and is surrounded by its own moat.
Until M.G. brought it, 10 years ago, the château had never been sold. Passing down through the family for generations, until the last countess and is now badly in need of renovation.Entering into the courtyard is like stepping back in time. The ornamental gardens, around the back of the château were a picture with rambling old roses and honeysuckle. Over the stone wall, which surrounds the large courtyard, you enter into an enchanted wood which then leads to further lawned areas, where M.G. can enjoy her alpacas close up. Never have I seen a marriage so perfect, alpacas with the back drop of a 15th century château - one made for the other.
Mary Jo started the course outlining the importance of good conformation, something she feels represents the building blocks of a good, healthy herd from which to build on. During the course of the day ,we were able to get our hands on some pretty outstanding fleeces, that she calls her elite fleeces. Starting with the basic fleece language, she then proceeded to talk through with us her breeding aims and how she achieved them, bringing out Sire and then progeny fleeces from several generations for us to see the progress. Back in October Jacques was lucky enough to win a free mating with Bozedown Period donated by M.G. in the raffle. At that point he had not yet brought his animals, so the mating is still pending. The look on his face when he saw the progeny fleeces of Pernod was a picture, the smile went from ear to ear - what a prize !!
The day for me, was slightly spoilt by the news that little Hope had taken a step back but having one of the biggest breeders in England sitting across the table with advice helped and I realized
that without Plasma I had to accept whatever fate throw our way, as many have done before.
We arrived back in the early hours of Sunday morning, exhausted (Jacque still smiling).
Many thanks to Mary Jo for such an informative course and for making the journey, and also to Gaby and Michel for their translation, which at some times was challenging - what is the correct translation for 'bum fluff' when talking about cria shearing - anyone know ?!!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

All legs and raincoat

One week old and still hanging on. Hope continues to pull at our heart strings, laying comatose for long periods of time, and then, just as we give up on her, she has a dogged determination to live and gets up and totters about. Today has been her best day yet with more time spent awake and alert. She is attempting to suckle from mum and is starting to become more wary of us which is good.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A story of hope

We had just finished weighing and vaccinating the cria and attending to biscuits aftercare

when the rain started. We collected together all the paraphernalia and started to leave the field. As we left I noticed Bali had taken herself off to the opposite side of the field and was sitting alone under the big oak tree. She was still there some time later. The spot she had chosen was a favorite place for the alpacas, a large dust bowl they had created for rolling in. But not today. The rain was lashing down and it was more sludge that dust. Too far away to see for sure, but was that something beside her? I flicked up the hood on my coat and trudged down the field wondering how other folk spend a rainy afternoon.

As I approached her she didn’t move away as I expected but pointed her nose at the package on the floor and then looked at me with an expression that just said “whoops”

Her pregnancy still had five weeks to go and the helpless little bundle was laying in all the dust and sludge.

In normal circumstances mum and baby should be allowed to bond a while before we intervene but these were not normal circumstances. I gathered it up and headed out of the rain trying to coax Bali to follow. She wouldn’t and seemed pre occupied with the birthing spot. Eventually, after what seemed ages we managed to halter her and led her out the field into the barn where we were able to clean the cria up and dry it off.

It was another girl sired by Atlas, very dark solid brown almost black around the head.

She was too weak to stand and could barely hold up her head and obviously wasn’t going to suckle from mum any time soon but we decided to give it a couple of hours to see if she progressed. We kept her warm and monitored the temperature.

Eventually we had to try and get mums colostrum into a bottle and feed the cria. Not a task I was looking forward to as Bali is the most obnoxious alpaca we own.

She growls and slobbers and kicks every time you lay a hand on her.

One of my French purchases before I knew any better.

But a mans got to do what a mans got to do and as the night air turned blue and the spit flew I managed to get a little, not enough really, but it was something at least. We got it into the cria who surprisingly had a strong sucking reflex we also gave it powdered colostrum. I think it was around this time we noticed the blood on the floor and it wasn’t coming from the gash on my neck from a particularly well aimed kick moments before. It was coming from under the cria. Her umbilical cord, what little bit there was, was hemorrhaging and a clamp and more iodine was called for.

She was getting weaker and I really wanted more of mum’s milk. We decided to give it another go. The softly softly approach bore no fruit and soon descended into some Heath Robinson contraption to suspend her from the ceiling and prevent her from cushing down ,but even this only brought forth a dribble. It was given along with glucose to help her along.

Jayne volunteered to stay in the barn all night to monitor her temperature every hour and bit feed colostrum and glucose. But by the morning things were no better. An antibiotic was injected in case of infection via the torn umbilicus. By the evening she was completely lifeless with only the occasional flaring of nostrils to indicate she was still with us. She stayed like this for hours and we had given up hope. Bali was put back in the field rather indignantly because of her lack of co operation, Jayne was exhausted and went to bed and I brought the cria into the house to die before I could join her.

I layed on the settee with the cria on my lap and massaged its body, bit fed it milk and glucose every hour all through the night.

And then ,at four oclock in the morning as I was watching the Isle of Man TT highlights for the third time a remarkable thing happened, it lifted its head and started to look around and from that point within half an hour it was wanting to walk around!

I put her on the floor, but the floor was tiled and it was like watching Bambi on ice, every time she moved a step she slid spread eagled with her four legs to all four points of the compass. I steered her onto the perimeter of the rug that was under the coffee table and we slowly did a couple of laps around. She stopped , weeed and pooed on the rug and carried on. Oh joy! Never have I been so happy to have a animal defecate on the carpet!

When Jayne got up she was surprised to find me not in bed and even more surprised to find last nights ‘dead’ cria watching telly!

She continues to go slowly from strength to strength and is now back in the barn, re united with Mrs Grumpy arse and the bond is still there. Hopefully she will get strong enough to pester mum for milk and when and if she does get to suckle I’ve asked her to give her one hard bite from me!

I know she’s not out of the woods yet though.

We’ve called her Hope.


Having got a few births out of the way it’s time to start thinking about next years early batch and got the stud males ready to meet our first timers.

Four out of the five were successful couplings but with one young lady absolutely having none of it! I can see we are going to have to have a little chat.

Like mother like daughter

What a star Jayne is. Still managed to get these pictures of Cochitis monster cria being born surrounded by a group of admirers whilst helping with a prolapsed uterus.

I was awoken Sunday morning in my favorite guest house, still in the ‘recovery position’ from the evening’s excesses. “Jayne was on the phone” Pat said.

Biscuit had aborted her cria. There was nothing I could do from Normandy so it was decided I should have my ‘ride out’ and return home Sunday evening instead of Monday.

Upon my return the whole story unfolded. Not only had she aborted but this was followed at lunchtime by a prolapsed womb which the vet had to manipulate back into her and keep in place with big safety pins. Jake was a great help holding the animal and keeping things clean and translating the more complicated bits of the operation.

He only went and spoilt himself by asking how she was going to poo through the pinned up hole?

“Er, that’s a different hole Jake. I thought you were eighteen this week!”

But that’s not all, whilst all Bicuits bits were being re-instated in their rightful place Cochiti, another female, now well overdue and only one day short of a full years gestation decided that, with the gaffer away and everybody’s attention diverted it was time to unpack and promptly gave birth to a whopping great cria of more than ten kilos!

It was another girl and an absolute carbon copy of its mother, fawn with a white fringe and nose.

As we are on H’s this year and had waited so long for this one I suggested Hallelujah would be an appropriate name, but common sense prevailed and we have named her Heidi.

A weekend away

This weekend was supposed to be my long weekend away in Normandy. An annual event always held this time of year. A motor biking jaunt where I meet old pals from the UK, and we take over a b&b near Avranches. The’ Val de see’ run by Pat and Clive Beresford is the most wonderful place to stay. Great hosts, great food and a caverness wine cellar. It’s something we’ve done for ten years or more and long may it continue.

The problem is it’s always fallen on number two sons birthday and I’ve never been at home for it. This year was his eighteenth so I missed the Friday part of the trip and we had a birthday bash in the garden.

Also I had noticed a female alpaca looking a little ‘off colour’ and not being her usual self and thought it best to keep an eye on her. By Saturday morning she was worse spending most of her time in a ‘going to the toilet’ stance or sitting alone. The vet had been called and decided it was probably colic and gave her something for the pain. By the late afternoon she seemed to have improved a lot and Saturday evening I saddled up the Harley hoping to get to Avranches in time for dinner.


It has been decided that since our lives are now almost completely dedicated to raising alpacas we have no need for the large weed patch that used to be the veg garden. There just doesn’t seem time to manage it so it will be turned into another useful penning area.

The polytunnel stays though, and gets a complete new polythene cover. I’ve dug in loads of good rotted alpaca poo and planted it out.

Looking forward to football sized tomatoes to coincide with England winning the world cup!

The Dustbowl

Colin Otterey, Master Shearer and all round good egg (although he does moan a bit!)turned up today to do the shearing.
There was a mad panic yesterday afternoon converting the field shelter into a holding pen as the forecast was for rain in the night and the animals had to be kept dry.
But the sun shone and the day went without incident..Everyone was shorn and had their dentistry taken care of.
I do like to see newly shorn alpacas. They look so comical in their corduroy coats.Now the fun starts to try and recognize who's who.!
They didn't stay clean for too long though. It was straight to the dust bath!

Concours Bretagne,Terralies,St Brieuc.

It was the last show of the year for us and a well attended one. Set within the Terralies agricultural show at St Brieuc in Brittany. A three day event with halter classes held on the Saturday and Sunday judged by Nick Harrington-Smith.

We took just three animals, two young females Fanny and Fleur, and Atlas our black adult Male. Fanny took a first place in her class and Fleur a second. Atlas went on to the championship and took best black for second time.

Popham Columbus and Daniel, both standing at stud at Quelvehin were also entered and faired well with Columbus claiming reserve white huacaya loosing out to a beautiful junior female owned by Alpagas Sologne.

The show was won by Top Lines Aquaviva Marcus.

I had to leave the show during the championships on the Sunday to attend to a birth back home. Jake had discovered a cria mysteriously in the holding pen that interconnects three fields. As all the gates were closed and there were animals in each field he had no idea who it belonged to!

I soon established it was Evitas.She must have had it by the gate and somehow pushed it underneath and unable to get to it had wondered away.Mum and baby were re united and bonded straight away.

This is the first cria from Atlas for us as Bali aborted last years, and was something of a test of his strength of colour as Evita comes from at least four generations of all pure white stock.

The result is a solid mid brown girl. (Well a black would have been a bit too much to ask!) She’s gorgeous of course, and we’ve called her Hannah.