Spring but not as we know it…
As I haven’t written a blog for seven months I have a lot of previously unpublished drivel to share – during the current difficult circumstances I might have to rely on older material unless you wish to read about me ironing socks and counting loo rolls…
This is normally the time that the alpaca blogger comes out of hibernation, and starts posting about the show season and all the excitement which that entails. However, unless you are fortunate enough not to have yet woken from winter, you will know that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed everyone’s plans around the world.
Getting through the challenges of three storms, one after another, seemed rather a battle at the time. Lots of mucking out and muddy paddocks to cope with. But we had the British Alpaca Society National Show to look forward to. The thought of getting together with our friends and fellow breeders, and of course showing our junior show team at their first event, is always the highlight of the alpaca year for us. If only we had known what we now know. Maybe we wouldn’t have complained about the weather so much.
It has been a challenge to switch from … being super busy as a member of the National Show Committee and thus involved with the organisation of the show; trying to keep 22 alpacas clean and show ready (and realising that they wouldn’t all fit in our two trailers and having to hire a bigger one); organising for the NWAG Halter show for the weekend after; expecting to be judging for 3 days at the Heart of England Fiesta after a weekend off, and then judging the Scottish Alpaca Championships the weekend after that … to lockdown.
We are of course very lucky, we have 50 acres to roam and our day to day running of the farm continues. We have a purpose and alpacas are always a tonic for the soul at any time. Our vets are still accessible for emergency care and non-essential work can wait. We have a good stock of medical supplies and can manage most things ourselves. Shearing has caused the most anxiety. Firstly because our shearer was coming in from New Zealand (who are also now in lockdown) and also if we could get a shearer how do we manage social distancing. The shearing of alpacas is necessary on the grounds of animal welfare (this is especially so when we have so many pregnant females). We have been fortunate to have secured a UK shearer but will be shearing much earlier than usual. We have lots of barn space and felt that this was the better option for our girls than overheating later in the season. As for social distancing, it’s going to be harder work and slow the process but it can be done. Thankfully we have lots of hand sanitizer about the farm so plenty of supplies.
Hopefully, an entry for the fleece shows: Beck Brow Looks The Business
This year we weaned our first group in late December and the rest a month later, making a group of 39 weanlings in total. They are a delightful group, who are very content and were pretty easy to halter train. Our weaning arrangement goes against most advice but works well for us. We split the barn and wean into one half (making a meter barrier between the groups). This means that the weanlings are next to their mums at night. During the day they are fed out to completely different parts of the farm for grazing. Then head back to the barn for their evening feed.
It probably helps that we have a largish group of weanlings but this appears to cause the least stress for everyone. The weanlings quickly become independent and those potentially stressy mums seem happier too.
One of our many favourites of this year is our modern grey boy – Beck Brow Come As You Are:
Featuring Bozedown Blaze of Glory
Our last show outing was to the West Shires Halter show at the Three Counties Show Ground. It is a long journey for us and in November (when we normally start hibernation) but we felt that Bozedown Blaze of Glory deserved his day in the show ring knowing he couldn’t be entered in the anticipated National Show as the judge (Mary-Jo) is his co-owner.
I am pleased to say that he did us proud, taking the Huacaya Supreme Championship and loving every minute of it. Blaze’s second show entry for 2019 was the Northern Fleece Show where he again was awarded the Huacaya Supreme Championship.
Blaze has his first cria here at Beck Brow and has really stamped his mark on them. We are so pleased with what he has produced both in frame and fleece. We are looking forward to his 2020 drop. He will be busy working for us this year with 20 females on the list for him. Whilst he remains in-house, we will be releasing females who are pregnant to him (to birth 2021). These females can be retained with a deposit and kept at Beck Brow until normality resumes.
Pictured below is Beck Brow Dressed To Impress who is the image of his sire:
Birthing and breeding 2020
Our first female is due to birth at the very end of the month followed by over 40 due in May (no worries about the lack of anything to do then). We should have 60 in total if all goes well. Everyone certainly looks pregnant who should be. It is going to be exciting to see the first progeny of Beck Brow Vidal.
We have moved the groups around the farm to ensure those due first are closest to the house. The females are in four different groups and are fed according to need. It is lovely to see such a large group ready to birth within the next 6 weeks. We now have 100 females of our own on the farm and 12 agisted (how did this happen?). This means that we have 80 females to mate and spit-off this year. Even I acknowledge that we cannot keep them all! It will, however, be good to be kept busy.
We were delighted to see two home-bred top-notch stud boys leave for new homes before lockdown;
Beck Brow Mykonos who was selected for the BAS National Show elite auction (which was cancelled) was purchased by Shaun and Teri from Bingfield Alpacas.
Beck Brow Gee Whizz, another top-rated male, has also settled into his new home with Gary and Judith at Angersleigh Alpacas
We have high hopes for the future progeny of both these males. Both carry proven top-quality genetics and we are proud for them to carry our prefix.
Beck Brow Catapult will also be leaving us, but not for some time. Catapult will be heading down to his new home with Dawn at Andaw Alpacas in Devon.
Social distancing and isolation measures have changed everyone’s lives, but ours a bit less than some. Craig ruptured his Achilles tendon so was already somewhat housebound and Robyn is still working, as she is a Nurse Practitioner. Therefore it was impossible for Robyn to work without us looking after the grandchildren. Fortunately, we have plenty of outdoor space and woodland for them to explore. As we are still in the Easter School break all learning is through play, but homeschooling in isolation is going to be challenging for all children.
Keep safe and well everyone. Summer will be coming bringing alpaca births and the sun will keep spirits up for many. In the meantime these two always make me smile: