Paul Hetherington – 5th July 2021

05 July 2021     British Alpaca Society     BAS Board

Birthing is slowing down now after the boom in May and June – we have 57 cria on the ground already with only 10 left to birth. Gestation times were overall a bit longer than expected this year perhaps due to the winter weather? We also broke our own record with one female going 386 days and producing a perfectly healthy 7kg cria. Girls outnumber boys this year which is always a bonus.

We’ve already cria sheared the first batch.  We haven’t had many mothers rejecting their cria after shearing (and have always managed to reunite them) but this year we decided to try something different. We put a coat on each cria the night before shearing, and then the same coat was put back on right after shearing, with the hope that the mother would recognise the smell of the cria on the coat. No rejections this time!

However, early cria shearing has meant that we’ve ear tagged the cria sooner than normal this year as it was getting difficult to work out who was who, especially when split from their mothers for weighing. The cria get weighed daily for the first two weeks then twice a week as a minimum after that. Weight loss or even lack of weight gain is a good early indicator of an impending problem.

My 45-year-old Massey Ferguson was getting difficult to start, and I was getting tired of being cold and wet and breathing in exhaust fumes, so I decided an upgrade was in order. Having looked at second-hand tractors it turned out that a 2-year-old Zetor with 120 hours was only marginally more expensive than a 30 year old Massey with 6000 hours. No brainer – I went for the Zetor.

Out with the old

In with the new.

The weather gods have been kind to Cumbria this year and we managed to make some hay at the end of June – the earliest ever and the first time for years the crop wasn’t rained on between cutting and baling. I like to have a couple of backup hay fields just in case I get the decision to mow wrong – which tends to happen when the weather forecast changes from a sunny week ahead to a rainy week ahead as soon as the grass is cut!  The backup hay fields will go to make round bale haylage for winter feeding. Last year we were getting through 2½ big bales a week so it’s almost a full-time job keeping the hay racks full.

A wonderful sight!

We’ve been trying to train the alpacas in the new barn to poo in a controlled area. Sometimes they get confused and put their noses over the poo area but leave their bottoms outside and miss the target. So far though they haven’t started pooing anywhere else in the barn so I guess the system is working. For anyone interested in the technicalities we use biomass boiler wood pellets with a sprinkling of dry powder disinfectant inside the frame and top up with both when necessary.

Poo training”