Update – Alpacas

Algy and Verdigris continue to be fairly low maintenance.  Well except for Algy and his lust for our ewes.  He’s particularly keen on the Suffolks, and they really don’t appreciate the attention.  I’ll look out and see the whole flock running, and a twenty or thirty yards is Algy running with his head down, focused on one of the Suffolk ewes.

Verdigris is either more subtle, or doesn’t fancy the sheep as I’ve never seen him do anything similar.

We had them both sheared, which is always a rather industrial process as they have to be tied down to keep them in place.  They really don’t like being man-handled!  We sold their fleece on eBay, as whole fleeces.  Unfortunately the bidding didn’t not reach the frenzy we’d anticipated, and we had underestimated the cost of postage!  This meant we actually lost money on the fleeces.  The nice lady who bought the fleece noticed and was kind enough to make a donation which at least covered the cost of postage.  We’ve never done well with selling the fleece.  I’m sure there must be a better way…

We’ve decided that the alpacas need to find a new home, as part of our animal reduction plan.  On the one hand they are relatively low maintenance, but on the other they don’t do a lot, and they do stress the sheep.  So we’re trying to sell them.  I have high hopes!

Alpacas and lambs

The main reason we acquired the Alpacas was to provide protection for our new born lambs.  Alpacas have a reputation for being fox killers, or at least fox scarers, as indeed do llamas.  As far as we know this has worked out well.  We don’t believe we’ve ever lost a lamb to foxes, though one did just disappear a couple of years ago, so that might have been a fox.  Still, the alpacas seem to do their job well.

Often when the first lambs are born the alpacas will go and sit near the mother, and look like they’re keeping an eye out for her.  Sometimes this freaks the ewes out and a little chasing occurs until everyone agrees what appropriate distances are.  All seems well.

We had to leave the house very early this morning, so hadn’t fed the animals at their normal time.  This usually results in much bleating, quacking, clucking and very loud mooing when we return, which is often sustained until we get out there and feed them.  This morning there was a little of that, but also the sound of a happy alpaca.  It’s hard to describe really, sort of like a high pitched squeaky fast bleating sound.  I looked up to see that Algy had managed to mount one of the Suffolk ewes.  It soon became clear that it was in fact the mummy Suffolk, as her lamb was wandering around next to her bleating in confusion.  I did shout at Algy, I mean really, she has enough problems without him adding to them!  I dumped my stuff inside and went back out to do the actual feeding time, by which point the ewe had managed to shake Algy off, and they both came to food without any problems.  Perhaps all was forgiven, or maybe I’d misunderstood the whole situation…

Poo Watch

Our Alpaca poo piles continue to provide an artistic, if scatalogical, touch to our fields.  Yesterday I noticed this particular gem.  I’m starting to wonder if they are deliberate:

Lamb watch:  Still just the one, but it’s doing fine.

Ex-bat egg watch:  Still none.  Really, I think they’ve become lazy.

Alpaca Poo Continued

I’ve already mentioned Alpaca pooing habits (http://wallowinginpoo.net/?p=197).  I’ve been told that the males tend to be more tidy than the females, with the females forming a line, as opposed to taking it in turns as the males do.  Until recently this has been true, and all the poo piles have been broadly circular.  This is why this particular poo patch was a bit surprising:

It’s not just the shape, it’s also its location.  When entering this field from the gate in the corner, this is now the view:

The yellow line is the rough line of the path, and you can see the new poo pile clearly crosses it.  I think the Alpacas are trying to give our walkers a little message…

Algy the Alpaca Lies Down

It’s a true pleasure staring out over the fields, gazing at our animals as they go about their business.  Every now and again however I get a bit of a shock as I look out over the animals  One of these was the first time I saw Algy lying down.  Mostly the Alpacas sit down like the sheep, and seem to sleep in that position.  So when I saw Algy lying like this:

I panicked.  Given the totally supine position I assumed there must be a problem, and so I ran towards him to see if I could help.  As absolutely nothing was wrong and he was just having a bit of a kip this rather freaked him out.  He leapt to his feet and ran off, making sure to keep me in sight at all times.  It took him a little while to trust me again after this.

Alpaca Poo

Every day as I feed the animals I walk over a particularly lush part of the field when heading towards the pigs:

It’s a roughly circular area about 10ft across and what makes it lush (mostly) is the Alpaca poo.  To make it easy to spot I’ve highlighted the key areas below:

Alpacas tend to poo in the same place, only occasionally altering their location, and that’s what we have here.  The area highlighted by the white circle was their toilet pile at the end of last year.  It’s now starting to be taken over by the grass.  The light blue show the area they’ve been using for much of the year, and particularly to the bottom left you can see how lush the grass is.  In the last few days they’ve decided to move a little and that’s the new red area at the top of the picture.  We’ve found that the Alpacas will keep two or three ‘live’ toilets and tend to abandon them with no particular rule.

There are some who say Alpaca poo makes excellent manure.  I’m wondering if it will make some good gas.  Must investigate further…


Algy and Verdigris – What are our Alpacas for?

We have two intact male Alpacas, Algenon (or Algy) and Verdigris.  We bought them originally as fox protection, though their usefullness in this is debatable given the chickens we’ve lost.  Some might ask why we bought two males and not a female to breed them – and that’s because the females are much more expensive than the males.

Alpacas in this country are kept either for breeding or their fleece, so we’re already out on the first.  We shear ours once a year, an experience the alpacas hate.  This results in two bin bags of really lovely fleece.  Two years ago I sold them by the bin bag on eBay, and made less than half the cost of the shearing.  Last year the fleece just disappeared for reasons I can’t remember.  This year I decided to sell the fleece in chunks a la the other eBay sellers, as this seemed likely to generate more profit.  I had 5 of one and 7 of the other, and managed to sell just one lot of 300g of fleece in the first listing.  I sold nothing in the second listing, and decided on one last listing, dropping the price a bit.  Another two weeks went by with nothing, and then yesterday someone decided to buy three lots!  Much excitement.  I’m still on track to make less than half the cost of the shearing though…

So the question is, what are they for?  They don’t like to be stroked – alpacas are not touchy feely animals by nature, in fact Verdigris has never even eaten out of my hand, though Algy occasionally does.  They are pretty as you can see below, but aestheti I think we’re probably going to look at selling them at some point, hopefully before the winter.

Either way I moved them into the field with the goats and the main sheep flock today, as the grass is starting to get a little longer and I’m trying to balance the sward length – not something we’ve worried too much about before as we hadn’t split the fields up!