Blogging Diary of the Farm
29 Nov 2015
A recent phone call to my brother in Australia was the trigger point for me to realise that an update here was well over-due.
Jack was quick to complain about the lack of any updates - and rightly so. On review of what I had previously recorded as "news", I saw that my last post had been before any of our alpacas had taken up residence here; and so there was a bit to catch up on. So, what we have here is a jumbo-sized blog entry to bring us up to date.
Early October - The First Alpacas in Bonaly
Since last writing in this section we went to Yorkshire to collect the first of our herd. (Naomi & Balthazar + Symphony & Bijou). These two sets of mothers and cria journeyed north with us, together with an accompanying "auntie" called Lexina, after we had received a very informative course on various aspects of their care and husbandry. We had a very enjoyable stay with Graham & Jenny at Fowberry Alpacas prior to our return to Edinburgh, and we thank them both for their hospitality and knowledge sharing. The journey coincided with the start of a period of fairly windy weather. I was glad that I had taken a little time before hand to become familiar with the feel of driving with a livestock trailer on the back of the car. Driving into a head wind does not enhance the fuel efficiency of the Volvo! On a couple of occasions I managed to "tuck" our vehicles in behind a conveniently paced lorry for shelter.
The plan on the way up was to make contact with Jean & Stuart, of Velvet Hall Alpacas, with whom Lexus had been in livery since her purchase. At the appropriate time, she would be taken with a couple of companions to meet us on our arrival at Bonaly.
All went perfectly to plan, and the BobCat starter herd arrived.
They all settled into the new paddock very well, and very quickly. by the second day, it looked as though they had always been together - as the photograph below shows.
L to R : Lexus, Symphony, Bijou, Lexina (front), Balthazar, Naomi (standing)
The Initial Herd is Completed
Phase 2 followed fairly quickly on from this.
On the following Thursday, I once again coupled up the trailer and set off south. This time the destination was a farm in Northumberland called Fallowfield Alpacas. Fallowfield is owned and run by Mike and Melanie.
We were buying another two breeding mothers with cria at foot from Fallowfield (Petaluma & Miranda + their, as yet unnamed, 2 cria); and also five "boys" to create the foundation of our "Alpaca Experience" team.
The group of nine were to be brought north. However, this was too big a number of mixed gender alpacas to fit in one trailer load. So, in order to avoid the scenario of me having to make two trips, Mike very kindly offered to take some in his trailer, and we traveled up in convoy.
Unloading the boys provided a lot of interest and excitement in the Mother & Babies paddock - everyone crowded at the near fence to view and converse with these new arrivals - even the Fallowfield mums & babies got in on the act. However, the boys were fairly quickly escorted to their new quarters and paddock to let them settle in their new surroundings.
L to R : Orlando, Milo, Artemis & Petros (Ignatius, [behind, and only just visible between Arty & Petros] was too busy eating grass to pose!)
Herd settles in - humming from Miranda - lots of public interest
The days that followed saw the new normal routine being established. I knew that this was imprtant for the alpacas and for me. Knowing what to expect from me was going to help them settle, and adapt to their new surroundings. Making each day similar should help that . We spent a lot of time just observing each other. For my part, this would help me recognise what was their "normal" behaviour; and so, I would be better placed to spot unusual patterns later.
In the boys' paddock, the familiarisation was of their new surroundings and of me.
In the girls' paddock, there was the additional operation of getting to know the other occupants of the paddock - and more importantly identifying the herd structure.
Amalgamating members from 3 different herds was going to be slightly more complex.
Everyone was being very civil with each other, but Miranda was oviously missing her former herd members - and possibly more important to her - her previously accepted status as herd matriarch which she was in the process of re-establishing.
She wandered around humming loudly with her (not so) little cria following her. She was quite unsettled for a few days. Happily, that stage passed and she is now no more vocal than any ot the others. The herd has bonded, and with the exception of the occasional misguided queue jumping at feeding time which elicits a predictable response (in the form of a warning spit), peace reigns!
If being allowed to be first in the queue for Camelibra is an indicator of matriarch status, then it would appear that Miranda and Lexus have accepted a joint role!
The arrival of the herd had a fairly predictable effect on the passing public too. Lots of "double-take" moments as the walkers realise that there were new and unusual occupants in the field. People wondering if they have been transported from the Pentlands to the foothills of the Andes!
The local interest has been massive, and very encouraging.
Once we get beyond the initial "Are they llamas?" conversation, we talk at length about these fine animals.
There have been more that a few evenings when I return home just a little hoarse from the conversations with the massive number of interested visitors - this is not a complaint, I enjoy every conversation and will readily chat about my love of alpacas - it is good practice for the "Alpaca Experience" when we open for business in the spring.
On the 25th October, we opened our gates to allow neighbours and former colleagues to see what they had been hearing about all summer. It was a dry day, but the wind speed meant that the gazebo just would not cooperate, so the buffet was set up in the container instead. A great afternoon, though, with lots of happy visitors, and inquizitive and obliging (mostly) alpacas. The boys mostly behaved well as various guests walked them around their paddock - although I'm not sure that they understood why they had to be haltered to walk around a paddock that they already knew well! Only one escaped the grasp of his handler, but even he came back to the group willingly.
The girls were curious about all these people in their area; and of course, the cria were just adored by everyone.
I make no apologies for re-using a photo that appears on our front page, as it captures the boys perfectly.
The cria are named
For a while the 2 cria from Fallowfield were simply known as "Petaluma's little girl" and "Miranda's boy" (at almost 30Kg, he really couldn't be described as 'little'), while we studied them and tried to determine the most appropriate names for them. We tried to find names that we liked, and which seemed to match their personalities.
Eventually, we agreed that we would each name one cria - Cath would select a name for the little girl, and I would name the boy.
So, Millie and Apollo are now in our herd.
Millie, which means "strength" or "determination" - both characteristics that she posseses. Despite her smaller frame, she can compete with her half-brother; and she certainly has the determination to ensure she gets her fair share of any food!
Apollo means "manly beauty" - he is a handsome alpaca; but Apollo is also the God of music - which many will know is another of my interests.
Unfortunately, no photos of this one as it happened - and it would have made a good photograph too! So I will try to describe, and let the reader's imagination do the rest!
The title is not a mis-spelling - the ADE referred to relates to the husbandry task of giving the alpacas vitamin supplements - the 3 main ones being A D & E.
The first task is to herd all the alpacas into their shelter. The photo below (taken at a different time) shows you what that looks like!
Next, each alpaca has to be captured and held, and a measured dose of the vitamin paste (on this occasion) given orally. It sounds simple - but 10 alpacas milling around with varying levels of willingness to being caught (ranging from "not really" to "definitely not!"), and the scene is set. Add the key fact that the vitamin paste is a bright pink colour. The outcome has the look of a child inexpertly applying vivid lipstick.
When the rains come!
Alpacas don't always shelter when it rains (and in Scotland it does rain a bit!). The photo below gives an idea of what some of our boys look like just after the rain stops!
Corporate Logo on Trailer
Not much needs to be written about this - we wanted our "brand" to be visible on the trailer when we moved animals locally or nationally for any reason.
The photograph below shows the result, and tells the rest of the story.
So, both Bob & the 'Pacas have settled into a routine which appears to be suiting all of us quite well!
Add a comment
4 Sep 2015
We are delighted to jointly announce our recent purchase of alpacas from Fowberry Alpacas.
These beautiful and high quality animals will form part of our core herd.
Two are breeding females (Naomi and Symphony), who each come to us with cria at foot; and both are pregnant again to birth in the summer of 2016.
Symphony's cria is called Bijou - a beautiful white girl.
Naomi's baby is a little fawn boy called Balthazar.
We aim to bring these alpacas to our farm around mid-October along with an "auntie".Add a comment
Despite a fairly grim summer (especially July), we have managed to complete our hay (haylage) harvest.
Cutting was done on the 7th August
... and scattered on the 11th
Gathered on the 12th
... then baled and wrapped on the 13th
Here is a short video of the wrapping
137 bales ready for winter feeding.
Fortunately, all completed before the heavy rain on the 14th!
It may be that this is how we spent the only dry week in the summer of 2015.
Add a comment
Not all aspects of our progress is attractive and pretty.
Some things are just destined to be functional.
Our temporary HQ falls into that category. Nothing beautiful about this new arrival in the field, but it is increadibly useful, and functional, and secure.
A 20foot container has been sited to provide a lockable store on the farm.
Placed adjacent to the area of hard standing, it is hoped that the container's arrival will reduce the amount of "stuff" which has been occupying the back of my car. There is a definite requirement for equipment to be available when I need it at the field, but is has been at the expense of a very messy Volvo recently.
The relocation of those items to where they are required has the additional benefit of clearing some much needed space in our garage at home.
We are now awaiting the contractors who are going to cut and bale our haylage in a couple of weeks; then I can make significant progress in the creation of paddocks and installing drinking troughs and fences.
The order was placed for our livestock trailer today too.Add a comment
Just a few more photographs of the field before and after the drainage work. The images are not from exactly the same position, but should give an idea of the work carried out and the improvement.
Firstly, viewing the entire field, it is possible to see the extent of the wet area at the bottom of the hill.
... an abundance of rushes.
Now, post drainage, it is possible to see the lines of the new drains.
(note also our lovely field of hay/haylage in the making)
The ground is now much drier; with more grass growth and fewer rushes.
Our turning area / car park is also completed.
Add a comment
The ground works to re-establish a functioning access road to the paddocks has begun, and is making significant progress.
At the end of day 2, the burn crossing has been refurbished, the vegetation has been cleared from the roadway, and the bottom layer (type 3) has been spread and compacted.
Compare the before and after photographs below.
... and the view from the field back towards the road