Shearing basically done

We shore two animals this morning, and that marks the “end” of the shearing. The end of the list we know about, that is. I am sure a few more will emerge from the woodwork over the next few weeks, but at least the long weeks of seemingly-endless shearing are done. All up we shore about 150 animals this season, including our own.

The alpaca stuff is generally winding down for the season now. We have a few cria due in Feb/March, but hopefully that goes easily. Most of the matings are now for other peopl’s animals, which is nice, because it is business and a bit of income.

Looks like I will be busy bottle feeding for the next few weeks, though. A friend, who has also had a very tough year with her alpaca, had a new mum fall over dead on Saturday- leaving a 3-day old cria at foot. For the first few weeks, the young cria needs about 6 feed per day, so I will take care of it since I can. When the cria is a bit older it can get by on 3 or 4 feeds a day, and it can go home. For better or worse, I have gotten quite experienced at bottle feeding.

Good News, rural style

On Tuesday afternoon our neighbor across the valley shot 2 dogs.

Dog attacks started about 12 weeks ago. AT first it was the odd ewe or lamb that went missing. ABout 4 weeks ago the frequency and severity really stepped up. Large groups, all torn apart.

Seven neighbors lost sheep to these attacks. Another had his pet tethered goat mauled.

Probably the only thing that saved us from attack was the surrounding buffer zone of (tasty, tasty) sheep. We could have easily have been looking at a dozen dead alpaca one morning.

The dogs were microchipped. They found the two owners. They admitted their dogs would go off wandering. One even admitted his dog came back covered with blood on occasion!?!

If only we could shoot the owners, too, in these circumstances. How long before they get more “big, tough dogs that make them feel like a man” and let them wander.

But for now the danger has passed. That is good.

Also, it is raining. That is *very* good!

The crazy time begins

Of course, you may ask when is it not “crazy time” for us. Perhaps I should have called it “the busy time”.

Shearing all of our alpacas started last week. (12 down, about 40 to go) We will be shearing every free evening and weekend for the next 2 weeks to get them finished. And when that is done, we get to shear almost every other camelid in the Wellington region. Every other shearer who used to work in the area has either moved away, become to busy, or is fully booked with shearing closer to home.

So, basically from now until mid December (at least) every evening and weekend is booked. We are trying to fit in some social stuff in the cracks in the schedule, just to make sure we are extra-exhausted.

Oh, and did I mention that cria are due to start dropping, and we need to start getting matings going again. And delivering animals we have sold. Plus other stuff I am sure I am forgetting right now.

Busy indeed. Crazy even.

Doing the right thing

Trying to do the right thing is difficult, especially when the right thing is not the easy thing.

This last week has seen two difficult and ultimately irreversible decisions.

Last Friday Yvonne had Max, her big quarter-Clydie, put down.

Max and Friends

Max had been sick for a while. Back in May he lost a lot of weight, but bounced back a bit, but never back to his big, wide “sofa with legs” look. At the beginning of September the problems returned, scouring and weight loss. Testing, treatments followed. Finally, after rounds of probiotics (get gut going again) and anti-biotics (nuke the gut flora, as GI infection was one possible cause) it was clear he was not going to get better. In his last week he lost a lot of weight, it was painful to see the big guy just wasting away.

The insurance company required a PM to determine cause of death, so I got to learn a lot while Julia did the deed. She was nice enough to narrate during the PM. The “good” news is that it was massive cancer throughout the small bowel. That news is “good” because it confirms there was nothing that could be done. I always fear the PM will show that “we could have easily saved him, if only we had done X”.

The second difficult decision was acted upon this morning, when we had Oak put down.

Oak was one of our first alpaca, he and Chris were the first two to arrive seven years ago. Chris sadly died only 9 months later.

A very young Oak

We first knew something was wrong with Oak in May 2009, the poor boy was nearly crippled, collapsing to his knees as we tried to move him to the shed. He responded a bit to VitD (though he was not suffering from Rickets). We kept him going with frequent D injections for the last 17 months, but it became more and more clear he was in pain. Best guess (which may yet be confirmed) is a spinal injury, probably when rough-housing with the boys.

The plan to have the new vet come and do an educational post-mortem (she has never opened up a camelid before) fell through when her young son fell suddenly ill. Unfortunately by the time she got in touch with me, Oak was already dead, so it was too late to postpone.

The last 6 months have been tough. Sugar, Cotton, Tessa, Persil, Robin and now Oak. The great irony of it all, is Oak is the only one who we can be sure did not suffer in the end. It was over in an instant, the last he knew he was eating some chaff.

Sometimes, when life is nothing more but pain, death is a kindness. It is a difficult decision to make for an old friend, but in the end I have to think about his welfare above and beyond my feelings.

It is difficult, but it is right.

Living in a fishbowl

For the last few weeks of April we had 3 alpaca living in the yard around the house. Marlett was the primary reason. She was too thin, so we wanted to supplement her- the grass around the house was best, plus extra food provided in a creep-feed. I also gave her vitamin B (dissolved Berocca tablets) to stimulate appetite and active-culture yoghurt to kick-start her rumen. She was also getting eye drops twice a day, as she had conjunctivitis in both eyes. Boo, her mother, had to be there too of course. We also put Blaze in with them to keep them company. She was a bit lame, and we figured she would be happy to not have to go up and down the back hill on her bendy old legs.

Familiarity breeds, well if not contempt, then at least a very laconic attitude. By the end of the week Boo was merrily (and greedily) eating from our hands, and had a good appetite for both carrot and apple.

Blaze was deeply fascinated by the “monkey house.” There was this big glass door where she could look in and see what we were doing. One evening we had friends over to watch a movie, and in the dark I saw her come up to the slider, look at us, look at the TV, and clearly think “just what are those monkeys doing?”

If it were not for the 2 wobbly wooden steps up into the room, I am sure she would have come in to explore. I saw her test the steps more than once, but with her bad legs she is a bit conservative.

Blaze is a funny animal. I would have loved to see her when she was young and spry, she must have been a real hoot.

what're you doin' in there?

Camelid Season

The “festive season” saw a great deal of camelid-related activities.

We took the opportunity to take animals walkies on two occasions, once to Battle Hill Farm Forest Park on Boxing Day (the park is about 20 minutes from here- and a good choice as troublesome dogs are forbidden- and shot on site by the ranger!), and on New Year’s Day along the beach at QE Park at Mackay’s Crossing.

For the Boxing Day trip the extra excitement came form the fact that we tried on Hob’s saddle and bags- he did quite well, only occasionally forgetting he was extra-wide and scraping them on bushes and gates. Tam decided to experiment and hooked Opa’s lead to the back of Hob’s saddle, and he followed in train with narry a complaint (well, at the very end they got a bit stroppy when they were tired, could see the trailer, and wanted to eat grass and/or go home).

Scenery Hob and Opa WTF?  Sheep wonders, What the heck are those?

On New Years day we took 5 of our boys, including the llamas, and met up with a bunch of other camelid owner/breeders at the beach. Two other llamas were there, as were two baby (4 and 6 month) old Suris. Very cute little lads, and so tiny next to the llamas! It seems everyone enjoyed the beach walk very much. Next time I willl give more than 24 hours notice, and hopefully we will have plenty more people along. My goal is 20 camelids for the next beach walk.

Into the surf!

We have also had our final two cria for the “first wave.” Jasmine dropped a nice little fawn boy (Copperplate) on December 30th, and then Concetta gave us another boy (5 in a row!) on January 4th (Bookman). We now have about 6 weeks until our second wave of cria is due. If I weren’t still bottle-feeding Marlett, I could relax a bit…

Copperplate, in action Bookman

We also sent off three more boys as pets. Jasper, Gungnir and Clarent will now be living in the home-paddock of a 1200 acre S&B farm up in Taihape. I look forward to visiting them at some point in the future.

Transport is away

Ten Minutes

A lot can happen in a short period. Trust your instincts. Mind your peripheral vision.

I was preparing to head into town this morning, getting into the ute, when I looked up and saw Tessa on the ridge, about 100 meters away. My instincts immediately said something was up. It is not unusual for heavily pregnant females to “act funny” in their last month or so. They groan. They stand in strange postures. They lie down- often in weird positions. They get that “this enormous parasite inside me is squishing my organs and kicking my bladder” look. In this case there was just something different about Tessa, so I went up and checked. Sure enough, she was in labour.

So I call Maggie, as her oldest daughter Maria (age 10) wants to grow up and be a vet, and this is a great time to see something “agricultural” and learn lots.

I go back up to check on Tessa, and while I am staring at her, Evita walks by, with a head sticking out! Seems she is in labour, too!

The two gave birth 10 minutes apart. Though Evita had a head start, Tessa managed to get her baby on the ground first. Maggie and kids arrived a few minutes later- so the kids got to see freshly born alpaca, see a placenta drop, and generally learn lots about newborns. (And they loved it, as far as I can tell.)

Two girls! In ten minutes! Woot!

And I think Tessa’s new cria, Raavi, is probably the cutest cria we have ever had. Her little white boots, they slay me.

Raavi with her boots and locket Raavi Corsiva with Evita

But that’s not all. It has been a busy couple of weeks. On Friday the 11th, Sugar (one of Bruce’s animals) dropped a lovely white boy, with the temporary name of “Saccharine”.

Sugar and her cria, who hopefully will get a better name soon

Then on Sunday the 13th , Cindy went into labour just as we were finishing up the matings and preparing to shear. It was very endearing, she wanted us there for the birth. She followed us around, and if we both tried to leave, she would hummmm most insistently! She gave birth to a lovely little light fawn girl! A Pinocchio cria of our own!

Helvetica and Cindy

Then on Wednesday the 16th Boo gave us a brown girl! (Another Fred cria this time.) I ended up having to help pull the little girl out, as Boo didn’t seem to be trying that hard, and the labour had gone on long enough. After losing Yale 18 months ago, I decided to take no chances and began feeding little Marlett plenty of colostrum. In the days that followed, I switched her over to milk, and continue to provide plenty of supplemental nutrition. This will be Boo’s last cria, it’s off to the retirement paddock for her.

Marlett Marlett has her supper

And finally, this evening we delivered 3 pet boys to a couple up the coast! Pointer is off to a new life, along with Kusunagi and Ridill. While the place is smaller (only about an acre of paddock for the ‘paca), I hope that the new owners will get in the habit of taking them walkies around the neighborhood. I expect everyone, human and camelid, would find that entertaining!

Merry Christmas!

Business Time

So, the crazy-time is upon us. Cria are dropping. Dams are being re-mated. And shearing! Yes, we are doing some of our own shearing, so when the weather is fine (which seems a rare occurrence these last few weeks) we try to shear a couple of animals.

On top of this we are also selling animals- using Trade Me once again. You can definitely see that the market has slowed considerably since last year. When we put the advert up last time, we had multiple calls within 24 hours. This time it is days or weeks before calls, and we are getting many more tire-kickers.

That being said, we have sold 3 boys to a couple up the road in Pukerua bay. Contract has been signed, and delivery is just waiting for them to do a bit more work on their place (removing a few ornamental plants that are known to be or might be toxic). We also sold our first female! We delivered Topsy to a lovely woman over in Mangaroa on Tuesday night. And then yesterday Topsy dropped a beautiful little brown girl. Lucky purchaser! She instantly gets a female cria- and a Pinocchio offspring to boot! (His first one! We have 5 more due to him this year, hopefully we will get a few girls, too.)

We also sold some stud services (with Hyouki) to the woman who purchased Topsy. This is also nice new business.

Once we finish shearing our own animals we will probably do some hearing around the district. There used to be 3 local alpaca-shearers. One moved away. Another is not shearing this year, as she is super-busy launching a new business. That leaves Brent, and he is booked solid. Shearing might be a great way to get to know other local breeders, and maybe sell a few stud services, females, or more pet-boys along the way.


It’s currently raining boys.

Courier, born last Friday:

Courier, Isra's cria

Courier, whose mother’s name means “Travels by night”, has the distinction of being the first ever cria from two “Rampant” parents — Isra and Hyouki. He looks just like his dad !

Baskerville, born two days ago:

Baskerville, Miniya's cria

Baskerville (Sharon inadvertently picked the name of this one) was born at 10.25 kilos — 6-7 is more usual for us. He’s a *big* baby. Stephen had to give Minnie a bit of help getting him out, and is helping out with the feeding a bit as well, since that’s a bit much for a new mum to keep up with. I swear, he makes me think of those fairy tales where the child “reached the age of twenty years/ when others aged but two”. At 24 hours old, he was already bigger than Wingding and running and playing with the other boys. He’s got a really… odd face for a cria, too. Like, he has smallish ears, and smallish eyes, and this little narrow muzzle with a little black nose — all on his big bullum head (though maybe that’s just because his fleece has started out so long?). I’m not sure what he looks like, but it’s not quite a cria.

Finally, Cotton On (actual name pending), born today:

Cotton's cria Baskerville, checking out the new(er) kid

Cute wee thing, from one of the agisted girls.