Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Mite in Alpacas

Although we've never had any problems with worms, a couple of our alpacas do have reactions to the dreaded mange mite. We have a family of foxes who live in the hedges and copse which surrounds our paddocks and so aren't in a mite-free zone (who is?) I thought I'd share our mite experiences as it's always good to know how other people are tackling this problem.

One of our girls came back after being agisted with some bad mite damage, even though she had been given a 4 week course of ivermectin (2ml every week). At first I thought it would take ages to get on top of it but not so! Our vet (Hale in Chippenham) provided us with "witches brew", a topical mixture that includes ivermectin. After using this on our girl a few times (over her belly, armpits and legs) the pink skin returned and she's remained almost mite free since. I'm a firm believer in providing vits and minerals to alpacas susceptible to mite and we give her extra rations of camelibra. Maybe this helped too.

Then we have Jean-Luc. A neutered accoyo male who has very dense fleece. He's a real kicker and so for months last winter I just clipped his toenails on the ground where he stood. Then at shearing we noticed his ankles were really thick with hardened crusty skin - mite attack! He hadn't lost any fleece on his ankles and so I didn't realise this was happening. I felt really guilty, poor boy, that I hadn't properly checked his ankles over winter. Straight away we started him on a 4 week course of ivermectin and I started massaging his ankles with the witches brew. This was achieved by getting him to cush and then I asked my husband lie on him while I bravely grabbed his legs. As a proponent of cameldynamics I had wanted to avoid this level of man-handling but we had no choice, we had to treat those ankles. Of course Jean-Luc was absolutely fine and apart from a couple of warning spits he didn't mind. He's a gentle soul and we can do anything with him apart from grab his feet. Perhaps the fact that he has mite problems has exacerbated this kicking or even caused it. If his ankles are painful or itchy he probably doesn't want people grabbing them.

But the thing I found has really worked for Jean-Luc's hard, crusty skin was sudocrem - a wonder cream! This is the stuff that has softened the thick skin and is sticky enough to stay on in this wet weather. I've now stopped using witches brew, ivermectin and am just massaging sudocrem into his ankles every 2 weeks to protect them from mite and help keep his skin soft and healthy (plus it smells quite nice too).

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Marvellous cria

Well the breeding plan really did come together, hurrah! A brown, female cria arrived last Friday. We've named her Olympia. Just what I ordered and we're absolutely delighted with her fleece. The first time dam is being marvellous after a slightly shaky start with her milk production which was resolved with a shot of oxytocin.

This cria is out of Bozedown Bellatrix (our lovely dam) and Snowmass Sizlin Hot.

Phew, all birthings done for this year.. it's been the year of the girl for us (lucky)..

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Autumn nip?

Is anyone feeling an autumn nip in the air the last couple of mornings? I feel that we're arriving at the end of our summer, such that it was! Still there's plenty of grass left still, I feel we barely need an autumn flush so the last few months rain has been helpful in one way!

Our little prem cria is doing really well and we're waiting with baited breath for our last one this year from one of my best girls. This will be her first time and I'm really excited to see what she produces. She has a very dense fleece that has great character, however I wanted to improve the fineness so I mated her last year with Snowmass Sizlin Hot who's held his fantastic fineness really well. I'm hoping for a brown/dark fawn cria. Fingers crossed it all goes well.

I'm also starting to knit up this years yarn ready for autumn and the craft fayres. I'm excited to have some lovely black this year from our boy Raven. It's come back from the mill really bright and true black. I was very pleasantly surprised as he'd gone a bit browny blond at the tips in the sun so I didn't know whether we'd get a very black yarn. I have him up for sale with some other boys but as he's my only black alpaca I don't know if I'm going to be able to part with him!

I hope to be able to post a picture of a new brown cria soon..

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Premature cria and unhelpful weather

Some of my alpaca breeder colleagues are so good at keeping up with their blogs! I try and follow your example but don't do very well.

I wrote a blog entry last Thursday but didn't get round to posting it. It was all about shearing and how I never get the timing right with the weather. This is important for us because our barn isn't big enough to accomodate all our alpacas for shearing in the rain. SO I delayed our shearer 3 weeks ago as the weather was so wet and cold and then it immediately turned tropical aargh! Since then the weather has done another u-turn and I was umming and aahing about when to shear a very-nearly-due pregnant female, when on Saturday morning my husband found a new shivering cria in the long grass and the rain. 10 months and 3 weeks and weighing in at 6.4 kilo this little female was floppy-eared premature.

We spent from Saturday until yesterday getting her going and, sure enough, the weather has been EXTREMELY unhelpful. Mum doesn't like going in the barn and so it's been a balancing act between keeping the cria dry and warm and having them both outside as much as possible.

At first the cria wasn't strong enough to stand and feed from mum on her own so we started by milking mum to get some colostrum and then continued by holding the cria up while she fed directly from mum every 2 hours. The cria has gradually gained in strength and is now thermoregulating (as much as possible in these conditions), feeding well and putting on weight.

We don't have any plasma in stock so couldn't do an oral transfer in the first 6 hours as people suggest, however I'm hoping that we got enough of mum's colostrum into her in the first few hours to have an effect. She certainly had plenty of colostrum during the first 24 hours so fingers crossed we don't see any infections appear. I spoke to the vet about the possibility of performing an intra-peritoneal plasma transfer but as the cria seemed to be improving, putting on weight, had a normal temperature and the procedure itself can be risky we decided it wasn't worth it.

Phew. What a lot of work. I hope the next birthing is easier.

As for the weather. We're booked in for shearing on the 12th June so I fully expect the heavens to open for biblical floods that day..

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Nematodirus, favourite injection sites and other stories

I've been busy busy busy getting ready for Futurity which starts TOMORROW! I'm sharing a stand with some other ladies from SWAG in the new fibre arts village and I'm really excited to get some of my new products out on show, to learn new things and to immerse myself in all things alpaca for a couple of days (as if I'm not immersed enough already).
After a routine faecal test last month I found a low nematodirus count (of just 10 eggs per gram) in the girls I look after in another herd. They're not showing any clinical signs and are in excellent condition but my vet has told me to be careful of nematodirus, being insidious it can creep up quickly and cause problems. I only worm when necessary so as not to risk building up drug resistance (currently not more than once a year) so there were no issues treating with such a low egg count and I wanted to knock the nematodirus on the head at an early stage. So I gave the girls a course of dectomax (the recommended wormer).
My preferred injection site is the loose skin around the armpit (foreleg) area. I sometimes notice a small reaction after an injection - a small lump at the site which goes away after a while. Do others find this? Can anyone recommend any other good injection sites?
Treating for nematodirus, of course, involved injecting the tricky alpaca I've talked about in previous posts.
I've now built up a good rapport with this girl and I think if I had to treat her, say, for an eye infection, I may be able to do it as she lets me perform TTouches and generally poke and prod her while she has some feed. She won't let me inject her yet though and doesn't trust anyone else, which is flattering but impractical. I'm not risking the nematodirus so I asked two men to restrain her (it takes two to be safe) while I gave the injection. She wasn't too stressed and I think we just have to carry on doing this for now. In the mean-time I'll continue to work with her and perhaps one day she'll let me inject her on my own.

Friday, 3 February 2012

No more whinging the sun is out! Plus very pregnant lady chases fox with mop (she needs alpacas)!

Both I and the alpacas are MUCH happier in this bright, frosty weather. I get quite proud of them out in their paddocks with their frosty backs on very cold mornings when other animals have to be tucked up in barns. A couple of neighbours in my village have expressed concern about them being out overnight in these temperatures, giving me a great excuse to talk about the superior qualities of their fleece!

The only inconvenience is having to keep the water from turning to solid blocks of ice within 5 minutes, not something I'm always successful at but it's really noticeable how much more alpacas drink when the grass is frosty and they have to rely on hay.

On other matters, I find that it's this time of year that foxes start to get bolder, I guess it's down to pack dispersal, cold weather and, a bit later on, cubs to feed. My (very) pregnant friend had to chase away a young fox from her chickens today. Bare foot (literally) and (as I said) pregnant, my friend went in fast pursuit of said fox wielding her kitchen mop, but she had to get within 2 feet before it released the hen and went off in search of another. She then grabbed an air rifle and ran (sort of) around the garden shooting into the air, screaming and yelling to scare the fox away. Fox eventually went off, hens were retrieved from various hiding places, and waters remained unbroken. All is calm now. Apparently the incident has been captured on their CCTV and I am currently begging her husband to post it on facebook.

Of course what my friend needs is alpacas to guard her chickens from the foxes...

Friday, 27 January 2012

More Mud and Motivational Issues

I'm finding this winter harder than the last couple, the constant half-light and rain is sapping my motivation. Does anyone else have to give themselves pep talks and motivational speeches before they venture forth at this time of year? Although the snow and ice of the last couple of winters was a pain at least it was accompanied by bright days. But it won't last forever - the snowdrops are out where we are (Wiltshire) and the daffs are coming up.

My difficult female and I (see previous posts) are being kind to each other for the moment. I'm hand-feeding her Camelibre outside of the pen and while I'm doing this giving her TTouches down her neck and body. She's very happy to be hand fed so I'm using this to my advantage and seeing if I can condition her into associating being handled with good things (i.e. food). Doing this outside of the pen instead of inside really works as she is free to escape and so consequently does not feel threatened. I'm hoping that in a few weeks someone will be able to stand with a feed bucket while I pop an injection into her side. I'll also try using a neck wrap on her at some stage to see if that helps keep her calm. Putting her in a small pen definitely did not work as she felt very threatened and I received several showers of spit.

Lastly, I have a couple of lovely knitter friends who are doing sterling work with the yarn produced from the 2011 shear. I, too, attempt a few knits but the results are not as fabulous as these ladies can produce. They are knitting for my first craft fayres that are coming up in March and April (including the Fibre Arts Village at Futurity with other SWAG members) which is really great. I find myself staring obsessively at other peoples knitted clothes for ideas. Is this normal?