Do we have a herd?

A real herd, at least in its natural environment, would include a stud or alpha male, it would include your breeding females, your cria (young), your adolescents & a few oldies!

Do we have them, why yes we do, but….we control who spends time with who!

Of course, I’m talking about llamas, but we could be talking about any domestic herd.

Today, we put our “herd” back into two groups, boys & girls! Up until today our herd has been split into four groups. The four groups were “mums & babies”, “girls (both adolescents & oldies)”, “studs” and finally the “boys (adolescents and mature gelded males)”. Not strictly true, as we have one gelded male who can hold his own with the studs – Cusco, the first youngster that we bred, but, be that as it may we had four groups.

Now, as a rule we split the girls into two groups around birthing time and we put them all back together when the youngsters (boys and/or girls) are old enough to cope with the attention of the others, particularly the adolescents who can be a bit exuberant when saying hello for the first time. We did that today. They are all in a small paddock where they will stay for a week or so, and then weather allowing they will all go into the big field for the autumn before coming back to the small paddock for the winter (better shelters, hard standing & access to hay). The re-integration went very well and it makes the daily rounds so much easier to have them all in one place!

The boys are a bit more problematic! Once weaned at around six months we have to introduce them to the rest of the boys gradually. We tend to put them with at least one adolescent from the previous year and one older mature gelded male. They will hopefully learn their herd manners before being introduced to the bigger boys.

This year we had a problem. Pepsi our stud was hurt, initially we thought he had arthritis, but we now suspect that he had been injured by our rising stud Nazca, a battle for who is to be alpha male! This will be an ongoing battle, so we have built them separate enclosures, in fact we have built four altogether so we have room to split up any bolshy male from the main group if we need to.

We tried a month or so ago to re-integrate but it didn’t work without these enclosures, so today with our stud boys being settled for the best part of three weeks we brought up our two youngsters Max & Beau, Buster the adolescent and Wilbur our mature gelded male to meet the studs. It went amazingly well. Peace in all camps.

The boys will stay like this through the winter, although once the girls are in their winter paddock, they may all be joined together, an experiment that may just last a few days, but we shall see!

So, a busy day today, and a settled herd, albeit that they are in their separate groups!

Watertown Llamas Open Day

Watertown Llamas, near South Molton, North Devon are having the first of two open days next weekend, Sunday June 24th, from 10 am until 5pm, and everybody is welcome.

Julie Taylor-Browne will be giving two demos, working with some of their llamas , at 11.30 and 2.30 , and will be on hand all day to give you helpful advice on handling and husbandry skills. She will also have all her fabulous equipment from Zephyr halters to hand shears and toe-nail trimmers available for you to buy if you haven’t already discovered it.

This event is not just for BLS members so if you have friends who keep alpacas and/or llamas please invite them along as well . You can pop in just for an hour or bring a picnic and make a day of it. Home made cake and drinks will be provided but please bring some stale bread as we have lots of hungry ducks to feed .

Please drop me a note via our contact page to let me know if you can make it and so that I can email directions and we look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

I’m hoping that they have better weather than we did! We plan to be there in the morning but will be dashing off after lunch to look after our own llamas!

We’re going to the Llama Festival!

Of course the llamafest I am talking about is nothing to do with llamas. Llama Festival is an arts and music festival in North Devon that takes place against a stunning coastal backdrop. It’s all about celebrating the community through live music and arts in one of the UK’s most unique settings. It’s friendly, relaxed and the sea laps the shore a mere stone’s throw from the main stage. From the start, the ethos behind Llama Festival has always been one of inclusiveness and celebration.

You can find out more about it on their website http://www.llama.org.uk/

This year though there will be llamas there – well on the Saturday there will be – we will be taking Wilbur & Buster along to meet the crowds! We are aiming to be there around lunch time but will be gone by 6pm as we have the other llamas, pygmy goats, chickens, dogs & a cat to feed. We reckon it’ll be a good 2 hour drive each way!

If you are going please pop by and say hello!

Nazca & Eclair meet!

After the trials & tribulations of our last mating weekend we waited with bated breath to see what would happen today.

Pepsi is still poorly unfortunately – he has had a course of anti-inflammatory injections and whilst there is a small improvement, we are unsure as to how well the course has worked – the vet is coming to visit us on Tuesday next week to give him another check over.

Since the last weekend it has also been all change – the girl llamas have gone to their summer field where they are enjoying the fresh grass, Pepsi has come up to where the girls were & is being kept separate from Nazca who we think will be giving him a hard time as the spring hormones start to rise! He has Wilbur & Buster for company as well as Max & Beau, our two yearling boys who have been separated from their mums.

So, Nazca had a longer walk to find Eclair but we can report that they did mate, albeit we are not sure that it was anywhere near successful as it was a first time for both and that neither of them looked entirely confident in what they were doing!

Practice makes perfect, so he shall be coming down again next weekend to meet up with either Bella or Wispa before coming down to see Eclair again for what we hope to be a spit off (a lady llamas way of saying, we are already pregnant, we don’t need to go through that again thank you)!

Exciting times!

3 times unlucky this weekend! Breeding llamas isn’t as straightforward as it should be!

We have two stud males, Pepsi who is coming up 13 this year, and whilst with us has produced two great boys, Max & Beau and also young Cola a really good looking young lady – a real Cola sort of colour – and all 3 have great temperaments, quite laid back, just like Pepsi.

We also have Nazca, unproven as yet, and just coming up to his 3rd birthday, and he is such a good looking llama we thought he should be given the chance to to replace Pepsi as Pepsi is coming up to retirement age!

We have 3 girl llamas ready to be mated at the moment, Wispa & Eclair – both about 2 years old and ready to be mated for the first time, and Bella, Beau’s mum, who is one of the star mums of our herd. Wispa & Eclair would be perfect for a visit from Nazca and Pepsi was to come down for a visit with Bella, after all Beau was such a nice young cria, it would be nice to have another just like him!

The weather forecast for North Devon was good this weekend and so our whole weekend was planned around doing what we are all about – breeding llamas – but what a disaster!

Firstly, Pepsi – he has lost his Mojo – he was very lethargic and not at all interested in being haltered  & walked whereas last year he knew what was going to happen and toddled down the lane with great enthusiasm – not this year, he had to be nearly dragged to meet Bella, and whilst Bella snorted and had a loveable spit at him – normal foreplay – he wasn’t the slightest bit interested – poor Bella – spurned! Pepsi ambled back to his field and was much more content getting back to munching grass!

Well, that put a different complexion on our planning for the year – what to do!

Whilst we thought about that it was Nazca’s turn – Wispa was ready – hopefully willing & able – she wasn’t willing – Nazca tried really hard to do what he was supposed to do, Wispa, bless her was not having any of it, so Nazca had to trot back to his field very disillusioned with the whole affair – it is supposed to be easier than that!

That was Saturday!

Having slept on it, we decided today to have a go at the obvious – Bella was willing & Nazca was up for it as well – so Nazca was brought down to meet Bella!

First signs were great – Bella, snorted and had a playful spit – her ears were back  & she was willing – Nazca though thought “I don’t want another fight like yesterday” & ignored her!

Poor Bella – spurned twice!

Nazca though – didn’t care – trotted back to his field to play with his mates!

What next – maybe we need another stud!

Saving hay!

This year the price of hay has nearly doubled!

This year we have more animals that eat hay!

Last year we must have composted nearly half of the hay that we bought! This was mainly because as the animals eat the hay they drop half of it on the floor – the floor is wet and/or soiled and so it goes to waste!

This year I am determined not to waste quite as much hay!

The answer might lie in building hay boxes – I have built a box that has a wooden floor that is a couple of inches off the ground. When eating hay over the box, the hay drops back in the box, it does not become wet, it doesn’t get soiled and so there is every chance that the llama will pick it up and eat it! Or, drop it back in the box again!

Only time will tell!

The rain of the last week has taken its toll!

Monday of this last week was the day that 6″ of rain in a 24 hour period or the whole months rain all in one day was forecast to arrive in North Devon! Not only did it arrive, but more was to follow during the subsequent days and as we speak it is damp out!

It has only been 4 weeks or so since our latest field was finally fenced and the mums & baby (crias) llamas had the chance to try it out and start eating the grass that was in there, but sadly this has got to come to an end!

Why, well the rain has made the field very boggy, it hasn’t recovered from the fencing contractors churning it up as they made a mess of gateways and vast areas of the field as they went about their work and the rain has meant that the llamas now labour through 4-6″ of mud to get into the shelter area to feed and drink! The crias in particular are not enjoying the exercise and so it is time to move them back!

The winter paddocks are not yet fully recovered from being over grazed during the summer, but as the grass has stopped growing and we have plenty of hay in store, we think it is right to get them out of the new field, which after all was only meant for summer grazing and into the paddocks closer to the house which have better shelters for the expected rain that is bound to follow!

A busy day tomorrow! Just hope it stays dry!

It’s an optical illusion!

A short while ago, we had a field shelter put in one of our fields and the plan was to put some guttering on the back to collect rain water so that we didn’t have to traipse drinking water that far away from the house!

The shelter had a pent like roof that sloped front to back, but the field sloped downhill and the water actually ran off the front of the shelter.

The llamas were not too impressed with that as it meant they had to cross a curtain of water to get into the field shelter and we weren’t too impressed as the water would have flowed into the guttering that was due to be fixed today!

So, today we had to spend an hour gradually lifting the front of the shelter (a 12′ * 10′ shelter is not a light object) using a small crowbar and a series of stones to raise the height. We managed to get a few blocks to hold the weight at either end and one in the middle, underneath the skids and hey presto the roof now slopes the right way.

However, looking at it, it looked fine before but wasn’t, it doesn’t look fine now, but is!

weird!

It’s very muddy!

The girls are enjoying their fun in the new field – plenty of grass to eat, plenty of hedgeline to munch on, a big mound to clamber over…but…..

…the fencing contractors left a lot of muddy patches, and the worst one is right next to the corral where they come to feed, so tonight’s task was to get some sheep hurdles down there to block off a large area where they will now not be allowed to walk on until the spring.

It needs to be raked, rolled and seeded pretty soon so that come the spring the grass has grown, the ground has hardened, and they’ll be able to walk on it without sinking six inches into the mud!

It’s pretty yuckie down there and I feel sorry for the llamas as it is obvious that they do not like it, but unfortunately the weather isn’t going to improve enough this side of next spring!

For me though there is a few weekends of hard work ahead!

The llamas finally made it into their new field!

Back in April we were lucky enough to buy a few more acres of land!

Last year we decided to increase the herd and had been renting a couple of acres, but this was still not enough and an opportunity arose that would give us another 7 acres (2 big 3.5 acre fields) and a small plot that would link them to our existing land.

The boy llamas were lucky, they moved out of the rented field in May-ish and have a full 3.5 acres to play in – mound and all! The girls however have had to wait for the fencing contractors to finish their work, which included taking a bank out at the bottom of one of our existing fields to make a short walkway to join the two up!

This was finally finished on Friday and so fixing a corral around the field shelter and moving all of the feed bowls, water trough and the like took us all day Saturday so that this morning they could spend the day getting used to their new surroundings!

The thing I like about llamas is that they are curious animals, maybe just nosey, but when the gate opened that they had never been allowed through before off they trotted to see what was there – they followed the well marked trail and ended up in the new field where they proceeded to run and jump, even the old ‘uns, and dare I say gambol in their new surroundings!

So, it is now very lonely around the house and the cottage as there are no llamas! They will spend the next 5-6 weeks in the new field as we clean and prepare the paddocks close to the house for winter, for it will be here that the mums and babies will spend the winter, not in their new field which we have set aside for summer grazing! However, due to the delay in getting the fencing done the paddocks around the house are now in need of a rest!

It’ll keep us fit though – the extra walking to this new field!