So yesterday, when I started writing this, it should have been Northumberland County Show including our favourite alpaca event of the year. Instead I’ve been on cria watch whilst Kathryn has been busy planting. The weather has been fab – last year it was horribly wet – the law of the sod!!
Amongst so many other things we are missing all our friends in the alpaca community and the show would have been a great chance to catch up with many. That said the 2 local alpaca groups have both put on great webinars recently, to inform us of course, but it’s been great to see everyone on Zoom and see all the hairstyles??
In recognition of some of our friends I wanted to focus this blog on the joy we get hearing about births around the country, particularly when our studs have been involved. I appreciate some are still awaiting their first cria and will likely be envious – sorry! In my last blog I referred a lot to Tumby our first – well we had to wait more than a month for our next but we’ve had 5 in the last 7 days – cria heaven.
The first “outside” births we heard of were both at Capital Alpacas. The mating date was 29th May 2019, very close to Congleton - a week before our family all returned there for Jack and Becky’s wedding! The brown male was pretty early but none the worse as you can see. He is surprisingly dark with his mum Mini and dad was Mountbatten, our fawn. A black female followed a week later and is typically Cosmic blue black, out of Poppet, also black. Kim and Stuart at Capital Alpacas are now the proud owners of Cosmic.
Despite the boys visit to Bushblades in County Durham having been 2 weeks earlier than Congleton the first birth there was much later. However, it was the first grey we’ve been involved with, the supremely handsome Emperor. Mum, Charisma, is grey and sire was Shadow. And then it was nearly another two weeks later that Ann Muizelaar had her first female born. Empress was sired by Mountbatten over Cleopatra.
Next is a much darker, but similarly handsome male, again by Mountbatten over Twilight (black), the first actual birth at Dargan Alpacas owned by Debra Steward. You might see Raisin needed plasma but is going from strength to strength now. Debra has also bought an assortment of colours from Patou and Reddingvale and is looking forward to more births very soon
Helen and Alan at Merryoaks Alpacas, in the Borders, welcomed the first male to their herd within the last week. They have selected a number of black females from different herds and last year had 3/3 females. This fella weighed in at over 10kg and was out of Rio (brown), sired by Cosmic.
Then finally, for now, Debbie Harris at Woodborough Alpacas (Notts) announced the arrival of another black cosmic male, to her brown Coco. Poor Coco has since been poorly but is now up and feeding the wee man well.
It’s great to see the “rainbow” of colours and see the joy these births bring to, mainly, very new owners. There are many more cria still in the oven too, in Cheshire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Scotland.
Here we have 3 girls already pregnant for 2021 and another 3 in the “spit off” process. Later this week we are starting our 2020 mobile services, with Shadow and Mountbatten still in the van and this year they are joined by our new black herd sire Houghton Savoy. He is already enjoying “working” with 2 confirmed pregnancies.
For those not involved with Alpacas we leave the maidens until their 2nd Spring to mate them. Mum’s who have unpacked (birthed) normally, are happy to see the stud 2 weeks later. With gestation being 11-12 months typically, this means the mums birth around the same time every year. Of course, for the first 6 months or so of their new pregnancy they are feeding a cria too!
A brief update re here – Tumby is now 6 weeks old and has doubled her birth weight. She has 3 new brothers and a sister plus another wee male born to a female on agistment. All births were natural but Truffle did take a while over delivering Kygo – an 11.2kg whopper. Shearing was completed 3 weeks ago and in a weeks’ time 2 pet boys from last year are off to their new forever home.
Family are all great. Jack and Becky’s new sofa finally arrived nearly 2 months late, Hannah is loving her garden, filled with plants she and Kathryn are starting here in the greenhouse. Will is loving life with Murphy, and all at the Military Working Dog Section at Coningsby. It’s Kathryn’s dads 88th birthday next week and my mums 80th in a month. Sadly the Shrimptons were all off to Centre Parcs to celebrate the latter but it is cancelled of course – challenge now is how to celebrate in other ways??
Hope you enjoy all the cria pics – stay safe and sane all x ... See moreSee less
Well life in the alpaca world is no respecter of lockdown and this past week has been manic!
A week ago I proudly posted about our first cria arrival – a bonny black female. Mum was a maiden and laid down throughout her labour. The cria was delivered with minimal intervention and all seemed fine. Maternal instinct was as amazing as ever but cria didn’t latch on well. We supplemented as best we could with a good proportion of mums milk, plus cows colostrum from the freezer.
We were fairly happy and thru Saturday saw the cria feeding sporadically but supplemented too. Unfortunately on Sunday morning we became increasingly concerned and ultimately called the vet. Nick, the Equine specialist, was on call and arrived within 30 minutes. He left us in no doubt how poorly she was with a racing heart rate and likely infection. We transfused plasma (that had only arrived a week or so before). IV antibiotics and anti inflammatory drugs were also administered.
Nero Black Tumby, named after the RAF base where Wills’ dog section is sited, has recovered slowly throughout the week. She has been helped by ongoing anti biotics, a few nights in the barn, lots of tlc, double cria coats often and an amazingly patient yet attentive mum. Tumby really turned the corner yesterday, with the odd shuttle run, and today looks pretty normal.
Of course our massive thanks go to the whole team at Intake Vets. While not officially on call David was available with advice and Nick was incredibly thorough, informative and of course effective!
With 2 more cria imminent and another 14 due over the next 3 months we can only hope for things to be more simple.
Aside from caring for Tumby, and mum Rumour, we’ve been busy with regular husbandry and routine vaccinations. Add to that paddock cleaning, feeding, fence repairs etc the alpacas keep us busy.
And then I nearly forgot! Yesterday was a landmark day when Houghton Savoy – our new 2 year old Herdsire completed his first mating – a 20 minute “engagement” with Sheriff Arizona, a youngster we bought a year ago. He was “inspired” by Nero Black Shadow who was simultaneously covering Patou Kambuzi – another young addition bringing Toft Timogen genetics to our evolving herd.
Of course it will be good news when Savoy can join Shadow, Mountbatten (and me) on our stud tours this summer – when restrictions ease!!
Aside from working with our herd, I’ve had another project on the bubble too. Understandably all Spring Alpaca Shows have been cancelled and our treasured Alpaca Section at the popular Northumberland County Show in May is also a casualty. With the help of Kathryn and, most notably, Paul and Debbie Rippon at Barnacre Alpacas (we run the North East and Borders Alpaca Group together) we have created a new Alpaca Show to be staged at Hexham Mart on 31st October.
There will be a huge amount of work still to be done and we we need things to normalise, somewhat, in the wider community of course. The team at the Mart have been so supportive, as have the British Alpaca Society and our Judge Tim Hey.
Everyone involved is hoping that this initiative will give lots of alpaca breeders, and all enthusiastic lovers of alpacas, something new to look forward to.
In other news, daughter Hannah continues to work lots of hours answering 999 calls – fortunately whilst staffing is under pressure the number of calls up here are sensible. Jack and Becky are loving their new home but desperate to equip it fully and show it off to family and friends. Will has returned to his RAF base, after extended leave, when he should have been in Portugal with Lois and her family.
I’ve been in touch with my family down south and all seems fine. Kathryns mum and dad are doing well in difficult circumstances and today celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary - exactly double the celebration Kathryn and I enjoyed 2 weeks ago.
Well I’m off to cook our first barbecue of the year – have a great weekend everyone. ... See moreSee less
In my last Blog – over six months ago – I mentioned “battening down the hatches for winter” but I never envisaged being so quiet on here??
Safe to say it’s been a trying time. Back then we were on holiday but that was cut short by Kathryn’s dad having a fall which led to us heading home early. The upshot was him having a pacemaker fitted and, before, during and since then he has been significantly affected with dementia. Kathryn’s mum has had a diagnosis for some 9 years now and my dad too in the last couple of years L They all have very different presentations but suffice it to say our loving care for them is a distraction.
On the alpaca front we enjoyed the Yorkshire Show, with Savoy taking Champion Black Male being the highlight for us. We sold 3 quality females and Cosmic over the winter, to continue to manage our numbers and raise much needed living funds. The weather was really kind to us until Christmas but boy has it been dire since - and we’ve gotten off far better than most, I fear. However, the herd have stayed healthy and the weanlings enjoyed a couple of weeks in the barn in the very worst of the weather.
My Christmas present to Kathryn – a big surprise in every respect was a greenhouse! I’m delighted to say it was a big hit but I then spent 2 months or so, having erected it, trying to keep it together in the winds – we lost a few panes along the way – but it its at last coming into full use.
Kathryn’s present to me – ultimately not a surprise as she arrived 3 weeks before the big Ho Ho Ho – was Elsie, an 8 week-old Black Lab pup. I’ve made no secret of my desire to breed a litter or 2 of pups and sadly it proved not to be for Kestrel so we now have 3 Black Labs in our home. Any puppy is a challenge but in fairness, thanks in no small part to the socialising skills of Lily and Kes – Els has settled in brilliantly and will be 6 months old next week.
I could go on with the challenges of the winter but nothing would come close to comparing with what faces us all right now. I think we all we’re aware of this virus hitting a small region of China around the turn of the year. During Jan and Feb, as we trudged through mud and bemoaned the dirty look of our alpacas the threat of corona still seemed minimal. Our biggest worry was how were they ever going to look good at the National Show and when would we get a dry day to halter-train??
It was not really until we were returning from a fab weekend skiing trip to France that Covid 19 started to become very real. The guy next to me on the plane was returning home early because the Geneva motor show had been cancelled. In all honesty even then all I was obsessed with was – I hope they don’t cancel the Nationals. In reality by the time, last weekend came and we should have been in Telford our thoughts could not have been further from showing alpacas. We are in lockdown, there are horror stories around the world and on our doorstep our NHS is prepared for some sort of Armageddon.
I’m not very Political and there are so many brilliant writers out there that’s all I’m going to say about the here and now other than to share with you what we are doing now and what’s ahead for us.
Reality is we’ve had to stop the two brilliant ladies that were helping care for Kathryn’s mum and dad so we can shield them both as far as possible. The amazing Chrysalis Club they attended in Hexham has obviously closed, as has the Beacon Club for Robert and he loved to still visit St James Park every other week. We visit daily to ensure they are eating, taking meds etc. They don’t come close to understanding what’s going on and why they can’t go out – amazingly they can recall the war and sheltering under the table!
It’s with great pride that we see our daughter Hannah now fully operational as a 999 call handler – playing her part in team NHS. She is being so careful to isolate when not at work to ensure she can keep going.
Just before lockdown we visited our youngest Will at RAF Coningsby. He now has his Partner “Murphy” assigned to him and he demonstrated her amazing skills and the incredible bond they have formed in such a short time.
Also, just in the nick of time, Jack and Becky completed their move to the North East and now live close by. They stayed with us for a month and we had the most amazing fun together but its great to see them in their new family home.
Now back to alpacas!!
I’m hoping to be rather more active on here over the coming weeks as exciting times are ahead and hopefully, I can bring some joy and fun to your attention. Most exciting is that our first 2 pregnant females reach 11 months gestation today 1st April. Average pregnancy is said to be 11 to 12 months but our experience leads us to be prepared imminently. We are expecting 17 cria over the next 4 months – substantially more than ever before.
We are always very keen to see the fruits of our “pairing” decisions and this year is no exception. Aside from our Shadow and Cosmic progeny we are most excited to see what Wyterrica Palladium of Houghton does over 5 of our females. He is the brown father of our new Black Champion Herdsire Houghton Savoy who was still too young last year to work. Having sired 2 /2 blacks last year, we are expecting 3 cria by our Fawn Supreme Champion Nero Black Mountbatten and we have 2 new girls carrying cria by National Brown Champion Classical MileEnd Rococo.
Once birthing starts it is inevitably followed by the next round of matings – for those of you not fully au fait with alpacas the females are happy to see the stud just 2 to 3 weeks after a “straight forward” birth (I appreciate it’s more like years with humans). This means all being well the females birth a roughly the same time every year.
A highlight of a typical spring summer for me is when I start ‘mobile matings” with our studs. At worst I hope lockdown may curtail the start of this but Shadow, Mountbatten, Savoy and me – the chauffeur – will be starting as soon as possible. We are also looking forward to the annual visit of Ben Wheeler, our trusted shearer in early May.
For those who have stuck with this blog to here I have to end on a practical note, if only to jog any breeders out there in these uncertain times. On the advice of our vet we have stocked up on drugs, eg B1, Baycox etc. We have ordered 6 months of feed and I am off to Eggs-port later for vitamin paste and Fastract Jump Start. Last week we took blood donations from 4 adult alpacas to have plasma spun.
Hopefully we are prepared but “we don’t know what we don’t know…” – stay safe and sane everyone – enjoy as best you can the spring and summer to follow x ... See moreSee less
Lovely read Paul. You are going to be so busy during the lock down. Bless you both for looking after Kathryn's Mum & Dad as well in order to protect them from this awful virus. Hope everything goes well. If we can help albeit from a distance, don't hesitate to ask. 💜
URGENT!! We need alpaca plasma for Albie the new baby alpaca which has been recently born. If anyone noes anyone with a farm/ alpacas/ vets who may have some for sale please tag them or ask. Willing to travel. Thank you!!
EDITIED ((Its to late to get some from our herd by the time turned around as we need urgently so ideally someone who has some already stored and ready to use, we have a vet on standby should we get any🤞))
I did say I was off to eggs-port. Added 2 tubes of their new Xtra Care Gel 🙂
Thank you Paul so interesting to learn about the Northern Shrimps and their extended family of animals. We wish you strength to deal with all the problems associated Kathryn’s parents so sad and such a cruel illness Lots of love to you all ❤️
Stay safe you guys, we are all in this together. See you the other side and if your dog ever has puppies we are on the lookout for a little playmate for Noah 😘
Another good read Paul/Kathryn have a good year and stay safe xx
Pleased to see your back on line ,I thought you must have gone into hibernation .stay safe .😊
Lovely blog Paul. Lots of love to you all, stay safe and well 😘
Great to catch up Paul xx
Great story Paul Shrimpton👍🏻 Stay safe and healty🍀🤞🏼😘