Heading into Autumn at Beck Brow Alpacas
The Final Births of 2020
At last the birthing season is complete. After a flourish of births during May and early June, and a trickle during July, we were left with just three females due to birth in August. Whilst hanging around for the final births might have been a bit of a drag, especially after starting so early in the season, these three females had us anything but bored. With a good record of producing numerous multi-championship winning off-spring, the anticipation was great, especially as we had tried a couple of new pairings (and let’s be honest there isn’t much else to do right now).
First of the three to birth was Morden Hall Honaria (white). Honaria is a superstar within our herd, the dam of Beck Brow First Edition and all his championship-winning sisters. Last year, aged thirteen and with so many prize-winning progeny from her pairing with Beck Brow Explorer in the bank, we decided to try a change of sire. Beck Brow Vidal (light fawn) was the chosen one. We had had a few clues that Honaria might have colour behind her, and thankfully we were right. Honaria produced a beautiful light fawn female with a superb fleece. We have named her Beck Brow Get The Pary Started, which really sums her up. Photo as newborn.
Next To birth was Ep Cambridge Courtesse. Another of our more senior females who carries top-notch genetics. After a run of four males we were really hoping for a female from her in what might be her last year of breeding, and she didn’t disappoint us, delivering a lovely light female. She has been named Beck Brow Champagne Bubbles (I think the name speaks for its self). Again photo as newborn.
Last but certainly not least was Bozedown Camapari. Now Campari has only ever had boys. Five to be precise. Hard to complain when amongst those boys are: Beck Brow On The Money, Beck Brow Hit For Six and Beck Brow Back of the Net (all multiple colour-champions). Thus we were not greatly surprised when she delivered her sixth male cria.
What we were excited to see was the colour. Sired by Beck Brow Vidal (light fawn) we really werent sure what colour to expect. I think I might have been doing a happy dance when I saw the brown nose and legs appear, which turned into a full-on jig when I saw the quality. The last one to be born Beck Brow Touchdown. Photo newborn.
Now time to reflect. It has been a really enjoyable birthing season on the whole. We have had 55 cria born on-farm (including agisted). We sadly lost two who were born with little chance of survival. We tried but failed. The most upsetting loss was that of a beautiful fawn female (Bozedown Delphi x Beck Brow On The Money) at 5 weeks of age due to peritonitis. All losses are reflected upon and are extremely sad for us all, but we know they happen despite all our efforts. Thus we have 52 thriving cria to care for, of which 45 are owned by ourselves.
As some will already have gathered we have had a boy year with 28 out of the 45 being male. That said, we are so pleased with the quality that we are struggling to choose four pet boys to fulfil a request from last year. Of the 17 females, three are sold so just 14 additions. This means, with sales and retirements, we are not adding to our numbers of breeding females which keeps Paul happy (always thinking about the amount of poop to deal with!).
We have had a surprising amount of non-white cria this year. It would appear that Beck Brow First Edition prefers a touch of colour, with the majority of his progeny this year being beige or very light fawn. His full sister (Beck Brow Ditto) also has a beige son from her pairing with Bozedown Blaze of Glory. The final tally on colour (at this stage!!): White 8. beige 11, fawn 9, brown 8, black 6, and 1 x appaloosa, 1x multi (both Suri). We also have an agisted grey so have covered all bases on the farm.
There are a couple of young cria with umbilical hernias. Both are sporting Vet Wrap as hernia belts. We have had a bit of trouble with the other cria undoing the wrap on Champagne Bubbles (who is especially tolerant of others picking) but Paul appears to have (accidentally) solved the problem by buying white wrap which goes unnoticed, I will let you know if we are successful or otherwise in the next blog.
I haven’t managed to get photos of all 45 cria but will post what I have:
Ep Cambridge Lady Gaga has had a mini-me. She oozes the same serenity with a subtle sense of superiority which personifies Lady Gaga. Beck Brow Rocking The Tiara is the same champagne colour and is looking extremely promising (as they say – let’s just say I am extremely pleased with her!)
The day to day stuff
With two of us full-time on the farm now, we generally manage to stick to getting the tasks in the diary done on the correct day. Its great to tick off the tasks knowing the herd are being cared for as best we can. We give a mineral drench all year round to all growing and producing stock (that is everyone on the farm). We are currently using Ovithrive but there are lots of similar products out there (just be sure to avoid the added copper versions). We are always surprised how quickly this is done when we combine it with weighing day.
The yearlings get AD&E all year round as we have found with dense fleece and limited sunshine they do benefit from supplementation throughout the year (certainly up north). The late due females were also given a boost in July. This month sees everyone start the winter regime.
This morning we have been moving some groups around in preparation for the winter feeding and also making space for weaning later in the year. We moved four non-nursing females into their appropriate groups. Three of these females are the dams who lost their cria. We never move them until they have another established pregnancy and when they can be moved as a group rather than as a single alpaca (there are usually some who aren’t pregnant as thought to move with). We feel that it is a very stressful event for an alpaca to lose a cria and do not wish to add to the stress by moving them away from their herd mates. Bozedown Delphi, especially, enjoyed being in with the cria and at times we had to close our eyes as she pronked with them (hoping she didn’t crash into anyone). It’s a tough decision between heart and head, and I nearly weakened, but she will get too fat on the feed we give the nursing dams heading into winter.
They have gone in with the other pregnant non-nursing females who have all been allowed into the ‘favourite’ strip so that they are all on neutral space. The ‘favourite’ strip is where the apples and elderberries are growing. Unlike Lady Gaga who is obsessed by apples, this group are enjoying the elderberries.
Our stud males remain in the same groups and same paddocks all year round. They are generally in groups relating to the size of the shelter/paddock. Beck Brow Explorer is head of a group of six of our working stud males. I suspect Beck Brow Vidal would tell you that he is in charge, but this is only because Explorer is very lazy and only intervenes to sort out the youngsters when they are really irritating him. This is usually just with a grumpy look. In the adjoining paddock we have a group of young studs (five) who get along very well. So much so I think they have a group leadership approach. Both of these groups share a fence line/wall with nursing females all year. We are fortunate that the boys are good natured and don’t fight over the females (they do occasionally have a spat as boys will be boys, but rarely and unrelated to the girls).
Like every other alpaca breeder I know, we are planning ahead for 2021 and beyond. I spend so much time making mating decisions for all our females. Every single one is analysed for conformation, fleece and colour matches. We have used 10 of our stud males this year over our females. Without including agisted females and those sold, we have 66 females spitting-off pregnant at this stage (we will expect some to drop). The white boys have 20 females spitting off, the fawns 11 and the brown boys 23 (might have got carried away!). We are also expecting three from Viracocha Black Sabbath before he left to join Capital Alpaca and we have 9 Suri females spitting off. I am now planning 2021 pairings as we need to introduce some new colour genetics. With so many quality coloured females we are hoping we can breed ourselves some unrelated stud males by using outside stud services but of course, that will be the year we have lots of females!
The Young Farmers
Finally some photos of Hettie, Theodore and Toby who have enjoyed their summer visits to the farm. We have 5 acres of woodland which makes a perfect playground especially when the Shetland ponies (who live in there during the summer) join you on your walk. Theodore is obsessed with the quad bike and spends much time with Granddad. Toby has decided he is now one of the gang too.
That’s a wrap from Hettie and Theodore!