Friday, September 15. 2006
Well its definitely a TGIF Friday this week.
I am working at Adorabella alpacas today with Larry Vellozi we are making a handful of wooden display racks for the alpaca fibre arts competition that we are running with our annual alpaca show AlpacaMania on the 7th and 8th of October. Just 3 weeks to go.....
Larry has a great barn which is home to his workshop so putting the display racks together is pretty straight forward.
After lunch he has a visit from his local vet to perform health checks on some of his alpacas before they go off to local shows. The vet also draws blood for DNA registration cards for the new arrivals and examines a newly born cria.
Larry holds the cria while his vet checks her out.
Of course if holding a 30lb cris for 20 minutes isn't your idea of fun then you can always pop her onto a table!
Larry and his wife Paula have been in the alpaca business for 15 years now and have seen the whole industry blossom from its early beginnings. As Larry will tell you there are many more alpaca farms out there than there were 15 years ago and the standard of alpacas is much higher, so the competition is even tougher when it comes to selling.
Thursday, September 14. 2006
When we were farming alpacas as a hobby back in the UK the sequence of events when it came to breeding was to drive over to a friends ranch put the female in with male, drink a glass of wine have a chat and drive home. Two weeks later we would repeat this for a spit test and then wait 335 days for the cria to arrive.
We never lost a cria or had a retained CL or any other complications.
I guess we were naive and just lucky.
Now we are running the farm as a business breedings are a much more serious affair.
For a start we usually drive much further to get our females bred so generally they are off the farm for 60 plus days together with their cria. Not an ideal situation , but that's another story.
Now what I expect to see is a series of spit tests not just one at 14 days.
Ideally I like a spit test at 7 days and again at 14 days.
Then from day 28 through to day 36 I like to see another spit test and an ultrasound exam to confirm pregnancy.
Some people draw blood and test for progesterone but to my mind the definitive test is the ultrasound.
I like to see a second ultrasound at day 60 and spit offs ever two months thereafter and possible one or two further ultrasound exams.
So during gestation I expect to see maybe 6 ultrasound exams (each one costs $20) so its a small investment. Over the same period I will have done as many as 8 spit offs.
The whole point behind this approach is to catch a lost pregnancy as early as possible and then re breed at the earliest opportunity.
An open female is costing you up to $1,000 in lost production every month....
All of which is weighing on my mind as I have an open female on the farm which I am taking for a breeding this week to Snowmass Perfection who now lives with Al and Jude at Pucara near McMinville.
Wednesday, September 13. 2006
The fencing project is in danger of dominating life on the farm to the exclusion of the alpacas, so today I am starting to redress the balance and will spend more time with the alpacas and if the fencing project slips slightly well it will be worth it in the long run.
Last night we had to take our Golden Retriever to the vet after she suffered a bite and started to scratch the fur and skin under her chin until it bled. She is now safely home and none the worse for her ordeal....I think only my checking account suffered any lasting damage.
This morning we drilled the last of the post holes that will be concrete filled and all went well.
Then we took all the old fencing, bent 'T' posts and barbed wire to the transfer station (dump) the good news is that because they can recycle the steel there is no charge to tip.
Jamie loads his pick up truck.
It took about four trips to get rid of everything and squashing all the wire flat and loading was a long job. But unloading was much easier.
In one skillful movement it was all gone!
We did try to sell the scrap but no one is interested in such a small volume so getting to tip it at the dump without charge was a good result.
If you are ever tempted to undertake a fencing project then make sure you visit the Kencove web site which is a wealth of information on what type of fencing to buy and how to install it.
Now I am off to move the irrigation and spend some time with our pregnant females and see how they are doing.
Tuesday, September 12. 2006
Today we started with enthusiasm and optimism on our drilling of post holes.
Macario and equipment at the ready.
The first two went like a dream and then trouble struck. We either hit rocks and snapped the shear pin, so we went through 5 shear pins in as many minutes. Or the ground was so clay like the orgre drilled down and would not come out! Until we manually dug it out!!
So here are some tips on drilling posts holes for the novice:
Make sure the ground is wet this makes it much easier and even makes it easier for rocks to become loose and pass out from the hole. Crazy but true.
Once the orgre is turning in the hole under no reasonable circumstances should you stop. Wait until the orgre is almost free of the hole before pressing the clutch and stopping rotation.
Twice we got the orgre completely stuck, buried up to the hilt literally. One way I discovered to then get the orge out is to disconnect the PTO shaft from the tractor insert a steel bar through the end and wind in the opposite direction to the normal rotation of the PTO on the tractor.. With luck and good deal of effort the orgre will slowly unwind out of the hole.
Do some tractors have reversible PTO drives? They certainly should have in my opinion
Finally as the boom lowers the orgre into the ground it is necesary to inch the tractor forward in order to maintain a true vertical on the ogre, its no big deal but its worth knowing about.
Well I could go on but those are my "top tips" for fellow alpaca breeders thinking of using the post hole digger.
The first two holes took twenty minutes the second two took and hour and a quarter.
We will see how much our technique has improved tomorrow.
Several times each year, we love to offer a competition with a small prize. This fall, the prize is a two year subscription to ALPACAS magazine.
To be considered for this prize, please email us with the answer to the simple question below:
On our website at MulberryAlpacas.com you will find details of the lovely BF Ottavia. Please tell us the name of her 2006 cria, with whom she is being offered for sale.
An email to email@example.com with the correct answer will put your name into our "winner's hat" and we will draw the name of the lucky winner at Thanksgiving.
Monday, September 11. 2006
Americans are nothing if not fiercley patriotic and for obvious reasons today brought that virtue to the fore.
Plans for three new skyscrapers to sit alongside Freedom Tower on the site of the World Trade Center in New York have been unveiled by architects.
Meanwhile down on the farm the fencing project was rolling along.
The Grange Delivery
All the fencing supplies and tools were ordered from the local Grange Coop and arrived on time and exactly as ordered. In fact some of the fencing posts were not quite perfect so they had delivered 5 extra posts which was thoughtful.
Post Hole Drilling Tool for theTractor
James Adams a good friend of ours has kindly lent me his post hole digging attachement and as you can see this fits into the bed of a small pickup so is relatively easy to transport, so if you need one think about borrowing or even renting.
Today we completed cleaning the fence line of rocks and debris and tomorrow we will start drilling holes.
Sunday, September 10. 2006
I received this great picture of a multi female from my good friend and alpaca breeder in England, Ben Harford.
Ben's English Multi
Here is how Ben describes her:
Am attaching a photo of a young female born here this summer. She is steel grey (mainly) at the skin and rich tea biscuit colour at the tips. I have had her shorn to photograph, so I can send photo to the registry. She's a curiosity here, but I would guess of considerable interest to your more esoteric breeders !? She has two black spots (1 ear, 1 leg), pale grey legs, white splodge on face & many brown spots up front & over shoulder. Blanket mainly steel grey turning biscuit.
Rich Tea Biscuits are fawn in color and taste great by the way!
So are there any American breeders out there who would be interested in this multi/pinto female? I hear they are almost "collectible" on the east coast.
Saturday, September 9. 2006
Two Australian farming families have again produced the world's finest wool - fibre so delicate it is almost invisible to the naked eye.
The 93kg bale has been bought by Italian luxury fashion house Loro Piana for more than $232,000.
The World Record Bale surrounded by Merino sheep.
The southern NSW farmers, the Wilsons and the Walkers, equalled their own world record of 11.8 microns they recorded last year.
A micron is one thousandth of a millimetre.
Their sheep, bred from a 150-year-old merino bloodline, are kept in a shed where they are played music all day and fed a special diet of premium grains and hay.
Loro Piana hailed the families' work in producing the finest wool for five out of the last six years.
"The achievement is truly exceptional insofar as the average fineness of an Australian bale is generally 20 to 21 microns, and only five per cent go below 17 microns," the company said.
The clothing maker will use the bale for suits which sell for up to $15,000.
Barry and Gavin Walker, whose farm is near Yass, and Garry and Kay Wilson, from Tumbarumba, began the Highlander partnership that produces the wool six years ago.
Barry Walker said keeping the sheep happy was the key.
"We treat them like potential Melbourne Cup winners. They're very well looked after," he said.
The price paid by Loro Piana shows there is still demand for top-end Australian wool in tough times for the industry.
On top of severe drought and vigorous animal rights campaigns, producers have suffered some of their worst-ever returns, with wool prices hitting a six year low in November.
In its last forecast, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics said demand for the fibre would continue to fall, with prices averaging less than $7 a kg in 2005-06 - down another 10 per cent on previous year.
Loro Piana's winning bid for this year's finest bale was $2,500 a kg.
The company set up the competition for the world's best wool in 2000, with the contest including only Australian and New Zealand producers.
Friday, September 8. 2006
Having shared by hopes and plans over the last few days for the fencing work I am about to start. I had an e-mail overnight from an alpaca breeder on the west coast of Australia to tell me that I am on the right track and that by using a Spinning Jenny to uncoil the wire I can do most of the work single handed.
The Spinning Jenny
There are several different types of Spinning Jenny but this picture gives you some idea about exactly what it is I am talking about. What really blows me away is that I write about fencing here in Oregon and get mail from the UK and Australia from fellow breeders who want to help....the internet is an amazing thing and the alpaca community just as amazing.
The weather isn't quite so hot today so I have put the female alpacas into a field with better grass but no shelter from the sun. If it gets really hot later I can always move them back so no worries about that.
I am heading off shortly to collect the post hole boring machine that goes on the back of a tractor and is driven by the tractor PTO. I am going to use this to drill holes for the end posts of the fence which I will set in concrete. Th end posts take all the strain or tension in the wire and the other posts simply support the wire along its length. So when you staple the wire in place you don't knock the staple all the way into the post and trap the wire.
Anyway I am getting into the detail and there will be time enough for that once we get underway with the fencing.
Thursday, September 7. 2006
I had a very nice letter from Mandy Wilson an alpaca breeder in the UK today asking where she can buy tags to go round the necks of her alpacas, apparently she had seen them in Alpaca Magazine being worn by alpacas at shows and at auctions but couldn't get anyone to tell her where they were from.....basically none of the US breeders even replied to her e-mail requests.....which is truly dumb. I guess the breeders she asked didn't realise that last year she flew over for Greg Mecklam's Parade of Champions Auction and bought Caligulas Accoyo Galaxy for $185,000.
Never make an assumption that just because someone lives outside the USA that they are not a potential customer.
Moving on ....I spent sometime last year talking to the company that publish the Dummies guides and trying to get them interested in producing a Dummies guide to alpacas...but without success they simple thought the global market was too small. Well the good news is that during that process I was introduced to a literary agent in New York who called to say that another publisher may be interested in producing an alpaca book for beginners. Not sure what will come of it, but it was very exciting to get the call as I had given the idea up as a lost cause.
Meanwhile the weather here remains in the 90's and we are running irrigation all day and just rotating around the alpaca pastures.
It really is a complex balancing act to work out which pastures to water, which to graze, which to rest, which to mow and which to fertilize or spray for weeds. Speaking of which its almost time to gove move the irrigation and clean the filters out.
Wednesday, September 6. 2006
Great news from Renate Gyuro who is heading up our Columbus Weekend alpaca show, she e-mailed to say that we are now totally sold out of pens. I guess it wasn't totally unexpected but I never like to count my chickens until they have hatched, so to speak. Its a good feeling to be still 30 days from the show and to be totally sold out.
The fleece entries are down on this time last year so we need to stimulate some late entries if at all possible.
Plus we need some alpaca fleeces to give as prizes in the fibre arts competition.
While our Italian alpaca farmer Gaia was staying with us she skirted a couple of fleeces and I am going to enter one in this years Monterey Pronk. Its not something I have every done before so its quite interesting filling out all the forms and boxing the fleece up to mail it to the show. Not quite sure how I will get it back but I will figure that out nearer the time...
I was thinking today that it might be quite interesting to do a "day in the life of an alpaca farmer" and try to chart out a typical day hour by hour with some attractive pictures.
Speaking of pictures I must upload some pictures onto the bLog later today I normally do it at the same time that I write the entries but for some i am out of synch this week.
Tuesday, September 5. 2006
Heard today that the last of the three girls I took to NWA for breedings have now all been confirmed as pregnant having spit off several times then scanned pregnant using ultrasound by the Vet. Now I need to sit down and work out when I can go up there and bring them home.
Mike who owns NWA was telling me that this summer he has had all the data from the alpacas that were originally imported into the US entered into a database so that any breeder in North America can access the data. Not exactly sure what data he has on the imported animals but he sounded pretty pleased with what he had done so I guess it could be interesting. I will post a link here on the Blog once the data is accessible on the NWA web site.
If you aren't a member of an AOBA Affiliate you really should think about joining one. For those of you who are in an AOBA Affiliate then you should have recently received a short series of questions about the fees for fibre entries at AOBA certified alpaca shows and the provision of insurance by AOBA to its members. All of this has come about with the formation of the Affiliate Congress, which is essentially a collection of all the AOBA Affiliate Presidents.
Monday, September 4. 2006
My eldest son appears to have coped pretty well farm sitting while we were away.
Still no idea which girl has taken to eating the expanded neoprene foam we used on the gate to protect peoples fingers. But I have had to remove it on the basis that someone is eating it in large quantities....
Had an e-mail from a fellow alpaca breeder asking about Flax which we now put into our alpaca feed and if it was possible to add a handful of alpaca seeds and expect the same result.
For what its worth here is my reply, just in case anyone else is having the same thought:
Glad you enjoy the Blog and thanks for your question.
I don't believe you can just add flax seeds in with the normal feed as alpacas are not designed to digest grains and seeds. In fact whole corns and seeds can cause problems so I would avoid them. Therefore, I am almost certain the flax will need to be milled.
Best to check with your own vet about the form and the quantities you should use.
I do know that many horse breeders and owners add milled, cooked or soaked flax seeds, or flax supplements or treats, to equine diets, especially if the horses are not fed on pasture for much of the year. But then the equine digestive system is different to the alpaca system.
Its election time once again in the local AOBA afiliate that I am currently president of called SoJAA. Despite having said that I didn't want any more than the two years of office I now find myself running for a second term....this will definately be my last two years. I don't want to be like Tony Blair and try to make it 10 years!!
Sunday, September 3. 2006
Saturday, September 2. 2006
Its my daughter Camillas 16th birthday tomorrow so I am taking a couple of days off back on Monday the 4th.
Here is a picture I took of a lighthouse on the southern Oregon coast, it was a pretty misty day but maybe that adds something to the picture.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse the most westerly point on the Oregon Coast.