March 2020 Corona Virus
Due to the worldwide pandemic of Corona virus we have had to cancel all bookings here at Elmet Aplacas. Obviously this is a very small price to pay to ensure everyone's health, but it seems very quiet here at the moment. The phone isn't ringing and emails aren't pinging through with people wanting to come and see our lovely animals. Hopefully this time will pass quickly and we can all get back to normal soon.
Corona virus doesn't stop life on a farm. The animals still need to be cared for and the crops need to be planted. Mr H is self isolating on his tractor and keeping well away from everyone.
I am restricted to the farm too, but not only because of the virus. It's lambing time here so I try to stay close by to watch for any new arrivals.
Usually the ewes all cope well on their own, delivering their lambs and caring for them following birth, but this year has been very different.
The first ewe that went into labour was due to have twins. we had them scanned in winter to find out how many lambs each ewe was expecting. This helps us to feed them accordingly.
This ewe, Annie, is a pet. She was the first Ryeland ewe we bought and has a very easy going temperament.
Annie had been having contractions for about 20 minutes before her first lamb was born, withthe second following quickly after. Both lambs were very weak. They were what we describe as 'flat' or 'born half dead'. Despite our best efforts of checking airways, rubbing the chest cavity vigorously, many doses of Kick Start and even tubing the lambs, they both died. Interestingly, Annie wasn't too bothered about the lambs while we were trying to revive them, although she shouted out for many hours afterwards, looking for the lambs.
The next ewe to go into labour had been having contractions for hours and wasn't making progress so i had a feel internally to assertain the that the lambs were in the right position for delivery. They weren't, hence why labour wasn't progressing. The lambs, she was having two, were mixed up, withheads and legs in a complete muddle. It was a job for the vet and we fully expected she would need a C-section.
After an epidural our vet, Craig, managed to manipulate them into the correct position and two lambs were delivered. Sadly the first lamb died, probably due to being stuck and injesting fluid whilst in the birth canal. The second lamb was anothe 'flat' lamb but by draping over my shoulder with it's head hanging downwards, I was able to massage it's chest to dislodge the mucus. Within the hour we had the lamb taking it's first feed from mum.
Craig, our vet, told us that it seems to be that most farmers are having a really bad time of it with lambing this year. He blames the horrendous wet weather and those terrible storms that we had earlier this year.
Whilst it's awful to think of lambs dying, it's comforting to know that this is a general phenomenon and not due to something we did or didn't do.
This has continued to be our trend. Other that one multiple birth, any lambs born have resulted in only one surviving.
We still have two ewe left to give birth, one of whom we didn't expect to be pregnant, so it'll be a surprise to see what her lamb(s) turn out like.
Take care everyone. Stay home and stay safe. We hope to see you all again soon.
Well after what seems like an everlasting winter it feels as though spring may be just around the corner. The bulbs are emerging from their slumber and the air is filled with birdsong here on the farm.
That all sounds very poetic, but it is all factual, however added to that we have mud, mud, mud!
After such heavy rainfall the paddocks and fields are totally water logged.
Our female alpacas have spent many days under cover in the barn, sharing their dry abode, reluctantly, with Petal and Daisy, our pygmy goats.
Petal has a tendency to barge her way around and as she has horns the alpacas are understandably cautious.
We try to turn the alpacas out as often as possible so they can stretch their legs, but they come in every evening.
All the female alpacas walk well on a lead with the exception of Jet, Skye and Lacey. They were adults when they came to us and hadn't been halter trained. As they're all fully grown it is too late to start training them now.
The ideal time is when they are around 6 months. I start by letting the youngster wear just the head collar for a few minutes each day before progressing to using a lead. I always take mum with the youngster for reassurance and I find that the younger alpaca is very happy to talk along next to mum. Before they know it, they're fully trained and a confident walker.
Any work we do with our animals, be it injecting the alpacas or herding the sheep, is always done calmly, gently and quietly. This helps to create a calm atmosphere and the animal is much easier to handle.
Sadly I had to say goodbye to my faithful friend Bruno. Bruno and had lived here all his life and he was quite simply the most gentle, faithful, loyal and loving dog I have ever known and it was a privilege to share the last 15 years with him. Although I miss him every day Bella is trying very hard to fill his shoes. She's always with me around the farm, and just like Bruno, she's gentle with the animals. I've noticed her recently going nose to nose with Jet on a regular occurrence. Jet is a very timid alpaca so it's very unusual to see her interacting in this way. Clearly they have a special bond. Watch this space - I might capture them on camera one day...!
We have had an eventful start to 2020.
After installing a wonderful wood burner in The Old Dairy we celebrated Christmas/New Year with a Harrison family party. It was a lovely way to round off the year.
January has seen some comings and goings. We said a sad farewell to Hugo, our ridiculously friendly rabbit. Hugo has suffered with several mouth problems during his lifetime. He had teeth trimmed frequently before having his front teeth removed when he was only 2 years old. More recently he had developed a lump under his jaw. This was operated on in October and found to be a cyst. Unfortunately the cyst was attached to his wind pipe so couldn't be removed completely.
Hugo sadly died in January. We will remember him as being such a friendly little bunny and is sadly missed.
A couple of weeks later we welcomed the arrival of the Barker Banties.
These cute little 'mini' hens are adorable. They had belonged to Mr Tony Barker of Boston Spa, but sadly the land the Mr Barker was renting to keep them on was being sold for building. Mr Barker had 2 months to find new homes for his feathered friends.
Knowing the family personally, I was only too glad to help.
The Barker Banties arrived on Saturday 25th January much to the delight of our eldest grandson. The cockrels have been named Simon, Cyril, Cecil and...? We would love to hear your suggestions for another name please.
Sadly we have had another case of sheep worrying. A dog entered our sheep field and attacked several pregnant ewes, leaving one dead and several with injuries. Another ewe died the following day due to shock. Nobody has claimed responsibility.
Please, please keep your dogs on a lead around livestock. It's not sufficient to rely on your dog having good recall. If you can see sheep, your dog can see sheep so please put your dog on it's lead. The chase instinct is so strong that dogs can't help but run when sheep start to scatter.
Mr Harrison has been busy working on the next phase of our Old Dairy development. He's currently busy converting the room next to the craft room into a kitchen. This means that from Spring we will be able to start serving afternoon teas with the alpacas.
Once the kitchen is complete Mr H will turn his attention to the decking area which will be accessed from either the patio or via the craft room. Adjacent to the decking will eventually be new alpaca paddocks.
All this means that we will be fully inclusive for anyone with limited mobility - something I feel very strongly about.
Finally some good news...
The sheep were scanned to see how many lambs each was expecting. This helps us to adjust their nourishment accordingly. We have several sets of twins expected and a set of triplets! Get those bottles ready... Lambs are due from mid March to mid April.
It's a beautiful autumnal morning as I type this update.
We've been totally fed up with the rain - crops aren't going in due to the waterlogged a
land which means that I'm living with Farmer Grump! Let's hope this sunshine can dry things up a bit.
We had our vet out last week to do a pregnancy scan on three of our alpacas. Scans are done with a similar scanner to those used in hospitals, but rather than using a monitor to show the foetus, the vet wears a head set.
A good splash of surgical spirit and away the vet went.
Carman is pregnant by Ferdinand with a well developed cria. The ribs were clearly visible.
Both Skye and Jet are very likely to be pregnant by Casper. They were mated onlt 40 days prior to the scan so it was more difficult to tell. there was a large amount of fluid present which is a good indication of early pregnancy. Our vet will return, armed with scanner in a couple of months to double check.
We are starting to plan the next phase of our building work. Over Winter we will be renovating the last part of the old dairy to create a fully functioning kitchen. This will enable us to provide more in the way of refreshments following a trek, plus cater for birthday parties. We will be building a decking that will overlook a new alpaca paddock so next Summer we can look forward to serving afternoon teas with the alpacas.
We were asked if we would be willing to feature in an article in the Yorkshire Post, to be published on Oct 19th. Chris Berry, the reporter visited and spent an hour chatting about our venture and how it came about. Following that was a visit from the photographer who was extremely patient with both us and the alpacas.
The article was to coincide with the Yorkshire Alpacas Show which is to be held on Oct26th at the Livestock Mart at Murton, York.
Anyone who is remotely interested in alpacas should definitely attend. Alpacas of all shapes, sizes and colours will be competing. Along with the show rings are trade stalls selling anything alpaca related. The breeders are more than happy to talk alpaca all day long so if you fancy a free alpaca information session pop along. The highlight of the day, in my opinion is the fancy dress competition. Once you see an alpaca dressed as Harry Potter you will be hooked. Cuteness overload!!
Well we haven't got the summer we enjoyed last year but it's been dry enough for lots of work to be completed outside before harvest gets underway.
We can now proudly say that we have disabled facilities! Our new wet room is now complete and wheelchair users should find it easy to access. The patio has been laid and we now have a secure picnic area outside. Most importantly though is the new craft room which was once part of an old dairy. This has been sympathetically renovated and retains some original features, creating a cosy atmosphere.
We can comfortably host birthday parties for up to 20 guests and still have space for fun and games!
When not hosting parties the room is used for craft workshops and as a place to enjoy a cuppa after a trek.
Next year will see the completion of the old dairy renovations.
We will be installing a kitchen so we can cater for your events and a decked area which will be wheelchair accessible. From the decking our visitors will be able to meet our inquisitive, friendly alpacas who will have a new paddock that will run parallel to the decking. Anyone fancy afternoon tea with the alpacas next summer? I know I do!
Whilst all this work has been going on Casper has been a busy boy himself...
After jumping the fence that surrounds his paddock he made his way round to see the girls. When I discovered the rendevouz it was a little to late. Casper had whispered sweet nothings into Jet's ear and also Skye's,who happens to be Jet's mum! Talk about keeping it in the family! Casper must have a thing for girls with dark hair. We will be taking Casper for a return visit shortly to see if the girls are pregnant. If they are they will spit at Casper and not allow him near them. If they're not we expect the to lie down and wait for him to have his wicked way with them again. What husseys female alpacas are. All they want is to be pregnant.
Bella, our spaniel pup is doing well with her training, although it is doubtful that she'll ever make the grade to be a working dog.
As a young pup she has a penchant for hens. There was nothing more that she would enjoy than chasing hens, tormenting hens, catching hens, rounding them up and giving them a Bella kiss - usually by grabbing them around the neck.
Obviously we did our best to teach her to leave the hens alone and, to her credit, she rarely bothers them now.
Yesterday, while accompanying me on my feeding rounds, a cock pheasant ran across her path only a few feet ahead of her.
Now Bella is a spaniel and it's in their blood to go after game birds, but clearly Bella must have thought that the cock pheasant was merely another hen with it's Sunday-best feathers on as she didn't bat an eyelid! Super success for my training - epic fail as a gundog. Now I've just got to work out how to stop her chewing. Not sure my door frames will take much more lol.
Hugo, our lop eared rabbit isn't well. Sadly, he has developed an abscess. A large lump has formed under his chin and when he was taken to the vet it was recommended that he have an operation to remove the abscess. This was done a week ago and when Hugo returned home he had a large baggy area under his chin where the abscess had been. Sadly the vet was unable to remove the root of the abscess as it was growing around his windpipe so for now he's on anti inflamatories and antibiotics to keep the abscess at bay.
Hugo is the most affectionate, friendly rabbit I have ever known so we hope to have plenty of time left with him around. He's currently hopping around on the lawn without a care in the world.
And finally...We haven't had any alpaca births here this year. We were hoping that two of our girls were pregnant, but it seems that they have just gained a few inches around their tums. It'll be difficult to get them to Slimming World with me, let along get them to balance on the scales, so for now I am rationing their food. Just like us, it's not good for them to become too overweight.
Latest news from Casper...
Crikey Moses! What a day we had yesterday!
Mum was all bossy and business-like with dad first thing which can only mean one thing... Either he's done something wrong or she's worried that something will go wrong!
It turned out to be the latter.
At 10am mum was busy sweeping out the lambing shed. My ears pricked up when her phone rang... 'Straight on at the next two roundabouts, turn right opposite the building site.'
A trek for us? I thought... WRONG!!!!
A white transit van pulled into the farmyard and out got Bob, the shearer. (I never forget a face, especially when it's the face of a man who wants to get close to my man-parts with sharp clippers!)
Within 15 minutes all of us boys were on head collars and walked across to the lambing shed. How my tummy was turning!
Now just so you know, I'm not usually a wuss. I am Casper, head of my herd, so my boys cannot be allowed to see any sign of fear from me, but the thought of those clippers clip-clipping my cloppers is enough to make even the bravest alpaca feel a bit nervous.
Seb went first and I'm proud to say that he was VERY brave and didn't make a sound.
Raffy next. There was a little bit of a wriggle with him, but mum kept saying how well they were doing.
I heard Bob say that Seb has an excellent fleece and mum should show him. clearly, Bob has forgotten how superior I am...
'Casper next!' said mum.
Dad, Rosie and Bob all looked at mum who was now holding me on a lead. All I could do was keep chanting my mantra of 'Don't show fear. Don't show fear.'
Up to the shearing mat I went. It may have well been the gallows the way my tummy was feeling. 'Don't show fear. Don't show fear.'
Whoosh! Suddenly my legs were whisked away from under me and I was flat on my side with dad's leg resting on my neck! How did that happen??
Literally within 30 seconds my back feet were tied firmly and stretched out be secured to a girder. No sooner had my brain computed what was happening, my front legs were tie up in the same way.
Now before any of you think that this is some kind of alpaca bondage I need to tell you that this is the way us alpacas are sheared.
By now Bob was oiling his clippers and away he went. First my side was shorn and the fleece was put in a bag marked !st,(Obviously I'm first, I thought) then my legs, neck, tail and, err, my under carriage were shorn.
'Seconds!' said Bob.
My head flicked up, well tried to flick up, but it's hard with a hefty farmer kneeling on your neck. How dare he say there's anything 'second' about me? Doesn't he realise who I am?
Worse was to come... Mum asked about my fleece. How did it compare to the others?
'Not as good as the others I've done so far,' came the cutting reply. No pun intended.
I'm changing my mantra to 'Don't show humiliation!' now.
Well after Bob had finished zooming around my physique he picked up something that made me think of Edward Scissorhands. SNIP! SNIP! SNIP! First my fringe and topknot were done, then my legs and then finally my nether regions were inspected.
I had had enough! wrestling against the restraints I was relieved to hear Bob say that I was done other than my injections. My voice was clear for all to hear as I screamed out!
Finally the other boys had seen the real me. The head of the herd alpaca who doesn't have the best fleece, doesn't like needles, doesn't particularly like being shorn, but does love my mum and dad, and Bob too, ( but don't tell him).
They'd seen me try to be brave, they'd seen me screaming with indignation, but when I walked back into the pen they saw a new me. A groomed, suave and sophisticated me who felt so much better without my heavy fleece on!
One by one the other boys lined up to take their turn with Bob the scissor hands shearer. One by one they returned to the pen looking equally groomed.
Just as we were finished two visitors arrived. Mum explained that we were going back to our paddock before the girls took their turn at the scissor happy hands of Bob.
Good luck girls! I hummed to myself as I rolled in the long, cool grass. Hope you don't mind a Brazilian
If you'd like to come along to meet me and my friends, take me for a walk or make something from our fleeces just give mum a call on 07795955517.
Mum does children's parties and adult felting craft workshops too.
I love meeting new people so hope to see you soon!