Pigs, cars and halter training
Firstly I would like to apologies to Ricky(with a Y not an I) for not updating the diary sooner, nice to know somebody reads it.
Well what's been happening, Pigs arrived back from the butchers packed an labeled just like it is in the supermarket. They are now nicely stored away in the freezer, I think we will be eating pork for the next year. We have sold some of it and have very good reports so far.
We have been looking for a new car for the last couple of weekends as my old Citroen is on it's last legs. The animals are all looking good, there is not much grass around but they are having their concentrate and haylage which they seem to enjoy. We have given them a mineral lick which is in a large bucket which you just leave in the field for them to use as and when they wish. The females seem to use it more then the males do, which is interesting as they will only take what the need.
We have been working with the young llamas as much as possible depending on the weather. Marco & Polo are not use to going in the trailer so they need some training for this. They really need to be reliable to box as sometimes I load them on my own.
Calypso the young male we have entered into the futurity is now walking nicely on his halter, we took him and Sparky (another young male) for a walk up our lane at the weekend. They were fine until the resident dogs did their usual barking and jumping up at the gate bit, calypso wasn't to bothered, but Sparky went mad, jumping up and down, he was very keen to get back to the field.
As the weather has been so cold & wet I have spent most of my time painting the holiday cottages. During the year we will be replacing some of the fixtures and furnishings, we have lots of regular customers so I hope they will appreciated our efforts.
Last week Steve and I went to a networking evening run by the Dartmoor Partnership Ltd which is the tourism association. A good way of meeting other businesses in our area and spreading the word about our llama walks. There was a film about Dartmoor Farmers Ltd who are marketing local meat, they have a lovely DVD about how the stock is raised in the traditional moorland way. We have put a copy of the DVD in each of the cottages along with a copy of the Dartmoor magazine, which should be a interesting read for our guests.
AT LAST A FREEZER
Finally we managed to locate a second hand freezer, so of we went to Torquay to collect it. Luckily all the seats come out of my Citroen Picasso which leaves a great deal of space for moving all sorts of things. So freezer load, fish and Chips for tea, what a way to spend an evening. At least we will have some where to store our lovely pork when it comes back on Friday. We have had lots of interest from friends wishing to buy our meat so we may be able to recover some of the costs that way.
I have had some success with the halter training, Dolly our female llama is easily bought, I put a halter on her and used some feed to bribe her and hay presto! one halter train llama, pity calypso hasn't read the same training manual.
BYE BYE PIGGY'S
Well the day finally arrived for our two Tamworth pigs to be dispatch, we have had them for about 6 months in order to clear an area of land we want to use as a veg plot. The idea being that they would get rid of all the bramble, bracken and weeds and then we would have some lovely homegrown pork to go into the freezer. Only one problem with that, we can't get a second hand freezer for love nor money, there seems to be a shortage. As we are having to keep this freezer in a barn I really didn't want to buy a new one. The pigs need to be collected on Friday I am now beginning to panic, I think I will have to bite the bullet and buy a new one or we are going to have a lot of rare breed pork for sale.
Saturday came and a trip to Somerset was in order for the AGM of the SWAG (South West Alpaca Group) a bit long winded but interesting, good lunch and a chance to catch up with other Alpaca breeders.
We went for a lovely short llama walk with our guests from the holiday cottages on Sunday, the weather was dry and not quite as cold as it had been. We took Lenny for the calming influence, Logan because we wanted to see how he coped with his bad eye, it didn't seem to effect him at all, Blackjack as he had not been for a walk for a while and Marco as he had not been out onto the moor at all. Everyone behaved impeccably including marco who took the whole experience in his stride.
Halter training on Calypso is progressing slowly at least the bunny hopping has stopped, he does look cute with his halter on.
The new year has started cold and crisp, the Alpacas look lovely all fluffy and clean except for the one who insist on rolling in the fallen leaves. The water in the fields has been frozen for days which means carrying water in containers from home to each paddock. Our females who are still feeding their babes are drinking a fair amount each day.
We weaned some of the older cria last week, Willow, Calypso who are both over 6 months along with Sparky who was only just 5 months but is huge and was pulling his mother down a bit. He is a cria from our old female Demeter, she consistently gives us huge babies every year and each year we wean them early, they grow strong and have inherited their mothers cautious nature always wary of what is happening.
Our llamas are happily grazing in our neighbours field which they have kindly lent to us for a month or two.
Holiday cottages are booked up this weekend and we offer a free llama walk with each booking so Sunday we are taking the boys for a little walk on the moors, we haven't taken the new boys out on the open moor yet. So this will be an experience for both us and them.
We have decided to enter Calypso into the British Futurity at the end of February, which means we need to get him halter train before then. so we started a couple of days ago all went well to start with until we moved out of the penn an into the track between the paddocks. Calypso decided that walking was not an option but little bunny hops would be OK, if this goes on I will be the only person exhibiting a pronking Alpaca whilst everyone else will be parading their well behaved alpacas around the ring. so today I thought I would try to take Calypso and Sparky at the same time, this seemed to work Calypso walked for a while, whilst Sparky decided to lay down and play dead. I think I may have to wait until the weekend, when I have some help.
Happy New Year
1st Jan 2009
Steve and I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
We had a very quite night in on New Years Eve. It is so cold here on Dartmoor that once we have finished feeding up and checking all the Alpacas, Llama, Chickens and Pigs are OK, all we wanted to do was light the fire have a nice dinner and something to drink. Others may say we must be getting old, but who care what they think I am sure we weren't the only ones and we didn't have the hangover this morning.
This morning we gave all the cria and the female Alpacas a shot of ADE, the Llamas and the male Alpacas are next, but thats a different job altogether as they are much bigger and we have to organize it so we can put the llamas through a sort of race made with our hurdles. Once you have that sorted it usually goes quite well, they need their Lambivac and Dectomax as well.
I have been looking at new chicken houses as our converted summer house has seen better days and the vermin has started to chew through the sides. I thought if I had smaller movable houses they can go out into the paddocks and the Alpacas can look after them. When we had our previous fields the chickens had the run of the place and we never lost one to a fox.
CHRISTMAS "WHAT CHRISTMAS"
Christmas is finally over again for another year and I am not sorry to see the back of it. I personally do not remember much about the day itself, only because I went down with a bout of food poisoning on Christmas eve so spent Christmas day wrapped in a quilt on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. I think it must have been something I ate as nobody else suffered with anything similar. This meant that Steve was in charge of cooking a Christmas meal for himself and his family who were due to have their dinner with us. Luckily they live next door so the venue was moved so I was not involved. So Turkey, veg, pudding and all were transported next door and I am told that everyone enjoyed their dinner.
We had a house full on Boxing day and although I was not back to full strength I managed to serve up lunch for my daughters and grandsons. Santa had left some pressies for the boys at our house so there was much excitement about that. Charlie got his big toolbox which is nearly as big as him (he is only three) and Josh had a small tool kit of his own, that should save some arguments.
Saturday brought back some normality so a trip to Mole Valley was in order, pig food, Alpaca food etc then back via the green grocers who are kind enough to give us waste veg for the pigs, it is amazing how much you can get in a Citroen Picasso there should be enough to keep the pigs happy for a while.
Sunday was a busy day as we had a change over in the holiday cottages and we wanted to move the female alpacas and their cria to the top paddocks. While we had them in a pen we had the opportunity to give the whole lot a shot of Dectomax and for the few who had missed their routine Lambivac they had that as well. What I like about Alpacas is they don't bear a grudge, you can jab them, trim their nails, check in their mouths, body score them and when you let them go, they just stand there looking at you as if you've gone mad. A couple of the females had lost a bit of condition, they are feeding cria so we will keep an eye on them and make sure they get their rations. We are aiming to wean some of the older cria this week so that should help them.
Nigella's cookies and stripy socks
Today I can honestly say I think I have done everything I need to before Christmas. I have got all the shopping I need as after all the shops are only shut for two days and I only go shopping once a week normally. Why we all think we need to buy so much food to last us over the festive period I wonder every year, but that doesn't stop me although I have cut back a bit. I treated myself to the new Nigella Lawson cook book which has some great recipes so we have been testing them out over the last couple of weeks. I can recommend her pavlova and the festive ham recipe. I met up with an old school friend today for lunch in Tavistock so I also went into Creber,s deli. The smells in this shop are amazing all the coffee's, spices and sweets. I brought some lovely local cheeses and olives but resisted all the lovely biscuits as we are already on our third batch of Nigella's christmas cookies.
I took a couple of the llamas on a short walk this morning, just down to the cottages to meet the people who are staying there. To start with the children were really scared of the two llamas, but by the end of our little session they were feeding them out of their hands.
Last Saturday I went to the Village market at Widecombe in the moor which was surprisingly quiet I sold a lot of the UK alpaca stripy socks, these are very popular and I have almost sold out again. The village market sells a wide range of products from not only Devon but the whole of the southwest of England.
Bookings for the holiday cottages have really taken off for next year, mainly the school holidays but I am sure that the rest will fill after Christmas.
We are trying to make a decision on which animals to put up for sale in the New Year, we need to sell some as we are limited to space. Hopefully we will have seven pregnant due next summer, but I can always find a reason not to sell each and everyone of them. I am sure that once you get to a larger number of animals it becomes easier as you do not get quite as attached to each animal. I would much rather make decisions on which stud males to use over which females or whether we should look at buying a Stud male or continue to use different males from other breeders. I am sure many bottles of wine will be consumed over the Christmas period whilst trying to settle this dilemma.
I finally managed to get a pic of Dolly, only one as the camera died after one shot. We spent a lovely weekend doing what we like to do, spending time with the Alpacas and Llamas. Saturday morning we fed all the animals, stopped for a coffee break when Tania from Caton Alpacas arrived to see the new llamas. We walked two of them down the lane to the holiday cottages. It is really handy if one is empty as we can have coffee in comfort. Walking back up the lane we found a friend and her children in the field visiting the Llamas, unfortunately she had driven her car right in and after all that rain on Friday night she needed a good push to get the car out again. saturday afternoon was pig moving time, the two pigs that have been housed in an Alcatrase type pen for the last few weeks were knee deep in mud, so a new enclosure was in order. We have fenced of one corner of the now cleared paddock so they now have more room and they are now much happier. The area they had is now like a swampy muddy pond, once this has dried up Steve is going to rotivate the whole area ready to seed in the spring.
Sunday we had more visitors as Mike and Liz Brookes came over to return the UK Alpaca socks and yarns which they had taken to Ashton Village market on Saturday. They had a very successful day despite it being a dull bitter cold day and it is a very small village hall and they only had about 40 people through the doors. I am sure that everyone of them brought some socks.
Sunday pm we went for a family cream tea at the House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey. I love this place, they have lots of beautiful glassware, old fashion wooden toys and lovely Alpaca Jumpers, scarfs etc. It was a bit hair raising leaving as both Charlie and Josh had got balloons which had to be manouvered out of the building past all that glass. They also have this really tacky singing Christmas tree which the boys found fascinating. Following this on the way home Steve and I were invited to a Mulled Wine and Mincepie get together at Friends in Widecombe, lots of people we haven't seen for ages, lovely. Feeling quite like Christmas now.
12TH DECEMBER - CALENDER GIRLS
I went to see Calender Girls at the Plymouth Theatre Royal last night, Lynda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge, Sain Phillips, Gaynor Faye and Bridget Forsyth were Brilliant. We had dinner in the restaurant before the show which made for a lovely evening, A great girls night out.
Apart from my night out it has been a pretty quite week here just the normal routine of feeding and cleaning out. There has been a bitter cold wind this week which does not encourage me to go out onto the moors for walks. I have haltered the two new boys and walked them up and down the lane just to get them used to me. I was really please to be able to catch both of them in the field and get their halters on, not bad in week one. Logan's eye finally seems to be getting better, it is still running but there is no infection there, I feel so sorry for him it is so cold and one side of his face is constantly damp. He's happy though, he gets to go into the barn every night with a fresh bag of hay all to himself, breakfast is brought in to him in the morning which he gets to eat with out interference from those llamas and then if it is not too cold he is let out into his own paddock next to the barn. Spoilt or what!
We have had several bookings for the holiday cottages this week, all the regular customers starting to book for next year.
I really must try to get some enthusiasm for Christmas as I need to decorate both cottages ready for Christmas visitors. So I started with some baking, mince pies, almond crisp biscuits, macaroons and some scones. Steve thinks this is a really good idea and insists on "testing" each batch as soon as it comes out of the aga, quality control he calls it. I have to everything into the freezer as soon as it is cool or he would just keep testing.
As we are cutting back this year I have decided any pressies we do have to get are going to be homemade such as preserves, biscuits, chocolate truffles etc.
We have a holly tree which needs to come down as it is getting to big, it is covered in berries at the moment so it will be just right for decorating the cottages. Holly is really good as it will always re grow after being cut back
The two new boys seemed to be quite happy this morning so we let them in with the rest of the boys. After feeding everyone we put their halters on and took them for a short walk up the lane. they are a little nervous but I am sure they will soon settle down.
Dolly on the other hand seemed to be a bit agitated, I was hoping she would have settled down with the alpacas, but she was running the fence line. We moved the rest of the females down into that paddock so there is lots of company for her now.
As it was such a lovely day I managed to get some pictures of the new arrivals. Although I couldn't get Dolly so she will have to wait for another nice day.
To read more about the new arrivals please use the link below
The Hotel Inspector
Today we brought home three new llamas from Samford Courtney, we sem to buy all our llamas from there! We had been looking for a couple of young males to train on for our llama walks and we fancied a dabble with breeding llamas so we have brought a young female as well. The two boys are about 18 months old and are about the same age as Blackjack and Toledo, the little girl is 8 months old. We've put the boys now named Marco & Polo in the paddock next to the other llamas to get to know each other. Lots of running up and down the fence linebut not much spitting which is a good sign.
We also collected some of our females from Collabear Alpacas near Barnstable, so we put the young female llama called Dolly in the paddock with these females and their crias. We are hoping that she will settle down with them as she had been with her mum up till now, so she had quite a stressful day in all.
Charlie my Grandson spent the day with us and was having a great time with all the llama and Alpaca goings on. Dolly is going to be Charlie's Llama so he was quite excited when we put her in the field.
This evening we went to the local pantomime in the village hall. The Moorland Merrymakers has been putting on a Pantomime for over forty years. It is always a good show and very funny not only in the tradition of Panto, but as it was first night the prompter Jo was busier than usual, I am sure she preforms most of the show herself. Most of the audience is local as is the cast so there are lots of local jokes going on and the story can change each night depending on who is watching. Charlie really enjoyed it, he went up on stage to help with the prize draw, they didn't give him his sweet rewards as quick as he would have liked, so he helped himself and came back off stage much to everyones amusement.
November past in a whirl, Logan seems to be getting over his operation, he's watching the females in the bottom paddock with his one eye. The vet is coming next week to take out the stitches. We are putting him in to the shelter each night as the weather is so cold.
The holiday cottages have to be inspected each year to keep the star rating. We had our inspection today, it was all a bit daunting as we have never had to do anything like this before. I had spent the last week cleaning everything from top to bottom, not that they weren't clean anyway but you can never be to sure. So floors washed, windows cleaned, door frames dusted, beds made, cream tea in the fridge ready for the "Hotel Inspector" Anyway the lady showed up and really it wasn't that bad and we have kept our 4* rating. We have obviously been watching to much TV.
Had to do changeover on one of the cottages this morning, a bit of a rush but it is surprising how quick you can get it done. While I was down there I got started on our fire risk assessment and our Access Statement two bits of legislation needed for our quality assessment which has to be done every year. I have never had to do anything like this before, so lots of research on the internet.
Phone call from the vet this morning to say that we can collect Logan today, he has to have injections for the next three days and drops in his eye, but hopefully he will be OK. They had to stitch up his eye and his eyelid has been stitched together temporarily, he will have to have some stitches out in about ten days.
When we got to the vets tonight both Logan and Blackjack were eager to get into the trailer, they practically dragged me in. Can't say they are difficult to load. We settled them into the field shelter with some fresh hay. If it is dry tomorrow they can go out into the paddock during the day.
Pigs are still in.
Thought we would go out today to look at getting some Christmas decorations for the holiday cottages. So off to a large garden centre nearby, it was so busy I thought there was supposed to be a recession. Didn't get any decorations but we had coffee, then went on to the House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey, great toys, Glassware and of course Marbles, didn't buy anything here either except tea.
Arrived at the field to find we had no pigs, they were there last night but no sign of them today. They soon came running as soon as they heard the bucket, some how they had got through the electric fence and gone down to the bottom paddock where the female alpacas are currently enjoying lots of grass. We managed to get them back into their pen and then spent the rest of the morning constructing Alcatras to contain the pigs. Charlie my grandson dressed in his overalls and wellies (just like grandad) played on his tractor and helped to feed the chickens, llamas and alpacas although he was not quite as keen on getting into the pig pen. There was a cold wind today so a hot cup of coffee in the shed to warm up after all the building work.
On the trip up to the Vet's last night we had a bad wheel wobble on the Landrover which was a surprise as we had only just picked it up from the garage following it's service and MOT. So today I took it to the tyre place to get the wheels balanced, but it seems that we had a faulty tyre which needed to be replaced(more expense) this was supposed to be a day off so by the time I had done the tyre, the accountant, banking, picked up grandson and got the shopping I wasn't impressed to find I had got a parking ticket after I had paid for a ticket. I had put the ticket on the dash board of the landrover but it had disappeared. As the checkout girl had refunded the parking fee on the shopping receipt I complained to the parking attendant and hopefully they will get it sorted out.
We thought Logan,s eye had healed up nicely only to discover that it had become infected. I called the vet out and it was decided that we should take Logan up to the surgery where they would knock him out to have a good look at what was going on. So
tonight we took Logan and Blackjack as a companion up to Cheriton Bishop to the Vet and settled them in to a nice warm loose box for a few days.
Depressing isn't it, I don't think it got light at all today. It was a howling wind and lashing rain last night and I woke up this morning listening to the radio telling me that we could expect more of the same today and how right they were.
Anyway back to alpacas, Logan's eye has healed nicely, he has a scar right across his eye and it is still cloudy although I think he has some sense of light & dark because he seems to react if you put your hand up to his eye. We are still putting n the drops and the vet is sending some more pain killer. We have managed to use the barn next door to house the llamas and male alpacas over night so it is easier to treat Logan in the mornings and again in the evening.
The females seem to want to sit out in the wet even though they have a field shelter, no helping some is there.
Llama trekking seems to have gone quite, not surprising in this weather. Holiday cottages are booking up now for November and Christmas so thats encouraging.
I though I would be very efficient this year and ring Colin the shearer to book the alpacas in for shearing in the spring and to book him to scan the females after the winter. Colin agreed that I was being very efficient and told me to ring him in January so that was a waste of time really.
Swag show is on the first weekend in April so I have started to sort out the advertising, surprising how much interest you can get on a wet November morning, just need to follow all the leads up once we have something official in writing. It's quite nice planning for next year with the hope that it may not be quite as wet as this year.
Alpacas, Liver Fluke and injured eyes
I haven't updated my diary for a while due to the fact that our internet speed is so slow I lose the will to live while waiting for anything to load, it is really frustrating.
We have had a bad couple of weeks here, one of the alpacas we sold earlier this year to people in Widecombe, has died and the postmortem revealed acute liver fluke. Very sad, but at least the reason for the death is known and the other animals can be treated. A regime of drenching can be put in place to prevent any further deaths.
On top of that I went to feed our llamas and male alpacas on Tuesday morning and Logan didn't come up to feed as normal, on closer inspection his eye was closed and weeping. I managed to clean it up, it looked very white and obviously sore. Richard, our vet, luckily was in Widecombe treating the alpacas for liver fluke and was able to come over to us very quickly. It looks as if he has lost his sight in that eye as there is a cut right across the eyeball. I am not sure how he has managed to do that but Richard thinks it may have been a sharp branch after hedge trimming. Anyway he has has a long lasting antibiotic, painkiller and eye drops which I have to put in twice a day. logan is very good and I can get the drops in on my own. I put a head collar on, tether him to the railings and he stands there while I put in the drops.
Apart from that we have had a couple of really good walks with the Llamas or Llama treks as Steve would like me to call them. Holiday cottage bookings are coming in for next year which is a relief.
We have done some spit offs with the females using Logan (before his injury) All the girls were very definitely spitting except Lily who we had mated to M&Ms Ebony and was spitting off but sat quite readily for Logan. We won't re mate her now as it is to late into the winter but she will be put back to the male in the spring. We will have them all scanned in February to see if they have held their pregnancy's through the winter.
To read more use the links below
May, June, July
April & May 08
Aug & Sept 08