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PART 1 : The year that was…

2020 was a very strange year, first we had the Covid lockdown, which would have affected everybody to some or other degree, however, as we very rarely leave the farm we were perhaps a lot luckier than most.

Though as a consequence Agricultural shows were cancelled, face masks had to be worn when out shopping. and if by chance you inadvertently strayed too close to another shopper they would at first stare at you and then hiss excitedly if you didn’t back off pretty darn quickly. But at home things stayed much the same. Our first real challenge came when due to inclement weather our hay had to be cut and baled at the end of May which led to our first ever shortfall, though on the bright side the hay was probably the most protein rich sweetest hay the alpacas have ever tasted.

Which then led us nicely up to birthing season, initially we were expecting 9 births, but due to a surge in sales, we were left with just one female, and four male cria. Slim pickings you might say, but although small in number these cria were straight out of the top drawer, yes Fowberry Brigadier had once again excelled, passing on his finest genetic lineage to our herd here at Angersleigh Alpacas.

So without further ado here they are:

Starting with our one female we have Angersleigh Lola, full sister to Angersleigh Gaia 2020 SWAG champion fawn fleece.

Shes has an amazingly soft fleece, with good handle and Brigadiers now signatory crimp and pencil staples. She has an endearing flash of white on her nose but has no white fibres running through her fawn blanket. Her Dam is Valley Alpacas Ghillie, a Diplomat daughter, and a successful show winner in her own right.

Lola is going to be a fantastic addition to our breeding herd.

Next:

Then we have Angerlseigh Snow king, whose managed to completely trash his very first fleece through over indulgence in outdoor pursuits. Again his sire is Fowberry Brigadier, and his dam is Angersleigh Tickety Boo a solid white Supreme Champion, hence his lighter appearance which I suspect might actually be a light. We are really looking forward to getting our hands on his next fleece and he will be staying with us until we can properly assess his breeding potential.

Followed by:

He’s Certainly one we have our eye on.

Angerseigh Forged in Fire, who is camera shy and hides himself in the middle of his brothers. His Sire is Fowberry Brigadier and his dam is Angersleigh Romy, a Wellground Maverick Daughter who brings in a wealth of top Australian genetics. like his brother and sister his fleece exhibits superb density, its beautifully soft to the touch,and opens to reveal the most exquisite crimp in his tightly packed staples. we have our eye on this fella!

And here we have the Great Angersleigh Nacho, a Wellground Maverick Son, and he’s absolutely stunning and has a wonderful character – if I could bring him indoors with me I would. There’s nothing more to say about him really as he’s such a star in the making, and I will go on hunger strike if Jude ever tries to sell him!

Last but not least, we have Angersleigh Oliver, a Furze park Polaris son, out of a CME Paris daughter, hes not quite the density of the other cria but does have the most amazing fleece structure, he’s the undisputed pack leader, and the others follow him everywhere, whether he likes it or not.

2019 Alpaca Bakeoff.

We decided early on that we did not want to be a big breeder, settling for quality over quantity you might say.

Of course as with most things breeding alpacas is a numbers game, as it’s easier to pick a showteam from 100 new born Cria than from a population of say 10.

So, to breed a successful show team from smaller numbers takes a bit of luck, good genetics, and correct phenotype.

If we start with the, stud we need good character, correct phenotype I,e, compact, solid frame, exceptional conformation, carrying a dense, fine fleece with low SD, and as the stud can only inject 50% of the genes, we need breeding females, that have similar qualities.

And what about colour? We decided to build fawn on a white base, which means you can never be sure what colour the Cria will be, but then that’s part of the fun in breeding, nature has its own pallet, and the results can often be quite unexpected.

But phenotype is only part of the package, next there’s genotype in particular what characteristics are prominent, desirable and repeatable, there is no golden bullet, no exact formula, and no guarantee that the breeding animals can recreate the desired outcome from their own basket of genetics with any certainty

Genetics or genotype  are also a major factor, I’m sure we all have our favourite breeding lines, and from these we overlay the building blocks to the new generation. Our herd has benefited greatly by careful use of animals exhibiting similar characteristics, bred from strong Australian genetics, with proven qualities.

So our philosophy in a nutshell; if you breed from the best you have, you should fingers crossed produce improvement with each successive generation.

We have two main herd sires, Wellground Maverick, who produces a marked improvement on fleece style and density, and Fowberry Brigadier, whom to date  has given huge improvements over density, fineness, and SD, in fact if anyone should ever find that elusive golden bullet, I would perhaps not be too surprised if it had Brigadiers name emblazoned right across it in big bold letters!

The females in our breeding herd are also a huge improvement over the herd we started with, sharing many comparable traits and similar genetics, with our studs.

And lastly, nutrition  never skimp on nutrition, as these form the building blocks for creating strong healthy fit alpacas with luxurious fleeces.

So there’s the ingredients, of course the proof of the pudding is often in the eating, so let’s meet the latest offerings from our genetic cookbook in this year’s bakeoff.

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Dam ; Valley Ghillie Sire; Fowberry Brigadier.

Above, Angersleigh Gaia.

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Dam; Burridge Dalili, Sire; Wellground Maverick

Above Angersleigh Vanilla.

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Dam; Angersleigh Flower, Sire; Fowberry brigadier.

Above; Angersleigh Fiorella

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Dam; Angersleigh Crystal, Sire; Fowberry Brigadier.

Above; Angersleigh Pandora.

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Dam; Valley Jedda, Sire; Furze Park Polaris.

Above; Angersleigh Baron.

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Dam; Angersleigh Tickety Boo, Sire; Wellground Maverick.

Above; Angersleigh First Lady.

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Dam; Valley Jacaranda. Sire; Cambridge Buckingham.

Above; Angersleigh Buckshot.

 

Movano van conversion

Having never being totally at ease with a trailer, we decided it might be a good idea to convert a van to carry our Alpacas.

My first step was to scan the internet looking for both inspiration, and ideas, though apart from a few examples of DIY conversions for carrying horses there was not a lot of information available. I did however learn that Movanos / Renault Masters appeared to be the vehicle of choice for many due to their low floor height.

This was perhaps fortunate as Jude had sourced an ex police surveillance van, which just happened to be a Movano.

Having now acquired the van, the next step was to undertake the conversion, which on the face of it did not seem too daunting, though it would have been good to have read up on other peoples experiences  – particularly the dos and the don’ts.

So for anyone out there who might be thinking of doing the same, here’s my experience.

So early one Morning set off for Mole valley and bought a sheet of marine ply, a sheet of galvanised wire, some timber, and an assortment of steel, along with some miscellaneous bolts and fittings.

So far so good.

Next came the tricky part, what goes where…

I decided to start with the ramp, though this was not as easy as first thought as the ramp had to fit inside of the rear doors, plus there had to be room for the gates.

So my choice of hinges at this point could prove to be crucial, I decided upon using gate hinges as I wanted to achieve several inches of clearance so that the ramp would clear the rear of the van.

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I inset the hinges into the ply floor and assembled the ply ramp into position.

To ensure I had enough room for the side gates I constructed and attached the L/H gate assembly to make sure there was enough clearance to it all to fold away neatly.

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To help achieve the desired clearance I fashioned up a set of basic hinges as can be seen in the photo above.

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The above photo shows the ramp (gate hinge) detail with the ramp in the closed position.

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Now all the main ‘moving’ parts were in position I could make the final adjustments also, due to the constraint on width, I will also look at adding a folding section to the gates so they fully encase the ramp.

For info the ply ramp is encased in 25mm L steel section with 2 x 50mm steel sections on the underside for support. the rubber mat came as a 6 x 4 ft sheet so fitted snugly into place.

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Next I built an internal door, using 25mm L section steel and wood.

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Note, the door is in the fully open position, and can be moved as desired just like the divider in our Ifor Williams stock trailer.

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I then fitted an acrylic mirror, so that the Alpacas would think there were other Alpacas already on board. I also put a window in the bulkhead so that we could see the alpacas whilst we were traveling.

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Unfortunately, the photos were not taken in sequence, as you can see the floor mats have already been fitted.

The next set of photos show in more detail some of the fittings in situ.

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The above photo details the new location of the spare wheel, and the exposed wheel arches – these were left as they are nicely ’rounded’ and so should not cause any injuries to the Alpacas.

And lastly, our surprise at finding out that the van featured air conditioning to the rear load area.

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The pipes had been removed along with the fuse, and the rear switch had been disconnected.

Once this had been rectified  – we found we had a very powerful AC.

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20180306_142343-1The internal lights were also in need of a little attention (a new fuse) and hey presto, lights.

The project is almost finished, I just have to make another internal divider, so we can carry our show equipment.

Like all projects, if I was to start again from scratch there are many changes I would make.

But hopefully these photos will be of some assistance should you be thinking of undertaking your own van conversion.

A brief look back at 2017

Sat here at the dining room table looking out through the warmth of the conservatory at bare fields with  trees dancing in gale force winds, the long hazy days of last Summer  are now a distant memory.

To help with my recollection I look back through our photo album, and recall how our year started,

Well, the year started with Yorkie our Chocolate lab coming out of hibernation, beckoning the onset of Spring.

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Next of course was the arrival of our seven cria, 11.5  months is a long time to wait,  and to be honest we were more than a little nervous with having so many 1st time mums in our maternity paddock. Anxiety aside each birth gave way to much excitement,  as overall the mums proved to be very capable, so there was no need to bring out the baby bottles this year!

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Jumping about a bit here I have just come across some photos of two new studs we purchased at the National show way back in March.

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First we have Furze Park Polaris, who brings in genetics from Viracocha Prophecy of Anzac, and Rural Alianza Wiracocha of WSX to name but a few. as you can see he was only a junior, but we are hopeful he will be ready to work this Summer. Then we have Fowberry Brigadier, who is a Fowberry Nobilty son, he certainly looks like a chip off the old block –  we are very excited about this boy.

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What a bonus –  he was also very happy to start work straight away, so we are eagerly awaiting his progeny

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Summer then arrived, and it was way too hot outside so we just decided to take it easy…

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Though we did find time to set up our Alpaca Experience, which was very exciting, and Jude concentrated on the SWAG craft and fleece show. The show proved to be a great success, and particularly memorable as I was awarded the cup for the Supreme Champion, with Angersleigh Tickety Boo taking Best White and Supreme Champion and our new boy Fowberry Brigadier taking 1st in class and the Fawn colour championship.

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Then came the onset of Autumn Timmy was the first to notice it arrive.

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Then the full bleakness of  Winter set in, in fact it got so bad here, even our local fox decided to set up camp in the barn.

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We have yet to name this little fellow but we may in time, as he appears to turn up in the morning, and sleep through most of the day – he is totally unfazed by humans, Alpacas, or indeed the cat.

Things get a little hazy after that, though I have now started work on my winter project converting a Movano long wheel base van to carry the Alpacas to this years shows, no more nervous trailer towing for me, If all goes to plan this conversion will feature in my next blog…

 

In our experience…

New ventures can of course look somewhat daunting, they certainly need careful planning, but once you get over the what ifs and a few other imponderables, it can all begin to look doable.

So after much planning the day arrived and the gates to Angersleigh Alpacas were well and truly  ‘flung’ open, and we are now welcoming guests from far and wide onto the farm to find out for themselves everything alpaca.

Bio-security is of course paramount, so guests are asked to dip their feet before stepping onto the farm and again when they leave. Shoe covers are made available for those who may not have suitable shoes for dipping! Then once on the farm the introduction begins.

To help with this we often look upon the services of ‘Bluey’ and his gang of teenage boys to demonstrate how truly appealing an alpaca can be, they never fail to entertain and like nothing better than stepping into the limelight, eating from the hand and perhaps giving an occasional cuddle.

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For us this also a great opportunity to meet with some lovely people, talk ‘alpaca’ and share  both our enthusiasm and knowledge with others who are probably meeting alpacas for the first time. Though for our guests I’m sure their moment of excitement comes when they are handed the lead rope for their alpaca, for the first time, and between stroking and hand feeding they get to lead their alpaca around the farm.

On route we meet up with their alpaca friends and of course this time of year the young cria, some of which are just days old. often get caught up in the excitement and love to run and pronk alongside the fence.

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After the walk, we like to spend some time  in the mothers and Cria paddock quietly sitting waiting for the most adventurous or curious cria to come over to check us out.

Then lastly, we like to visit our males paddocks where we introduce the stud males to our guests, the boys love the attention so often run over to be hand fed.

Sometimes people will visit because they have thought about alpaca ownership, and see this as their first tentative step, and we are always happy to advise. On other occasions people come just because they love the look of alpacas and want to get closer and learn a little about them.

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To date, we have had guests from far and wide, young and old, and with differing  abilities and we try to work within each persons capabilities to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable alpaca experience to remember,

In fact we have enjoyed the experience so much ourselves,  we have decided to stay open all year round, weather permitting.

Freedom for the Angersleigh two

For what seems like an eternity myself and Jude have stayed at home on cria watch duty, slowly but surely, our patience has been rewarded with the slow succession of new beautiful cria.

So now the harvest is safely in, Mothers and Cria all doing well, we can go off on joint outings to Mole valley, and Salisbury’s – Yes life is good and back to normal.

But what of the Cria…

Well, Florence started the ball rolling presenting us with a nice brown male whom we have called Renegade.

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Florence is the daughter of CME Herodotus, and Renegades Sire is Wellground Maverick. Born on the 12/06/17 he weighed in at 7 kg. His fleece is just starting to show signs of character similar to his Sire.

Next up was Valley Alpacas Honey with little Miss Marple, who weighed in at 10.1 kg, our heaviest cria ever at that point

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Miss Marple has Silverstream Czar and Wellground Tchaikovsky as grand sires.

Next on was Angersleigh Juno, a white CME Herodotus daughter, who gave us 6.6 kg  Captain Jack. on 24/06/17

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His Sire is Wellground Acquittal, who is cram full of top Australian genetics, so its no surprise his fleece is already exhibiting extreme brightness, great density and good length.

Valley Alpacas Ghillie, a Valley Alpacas Diplomat daughter and possibly our best girl, was next to deliver her offering Sired by EP Cambridge Buckingham.

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Now her birth should have been accompanied with trumpets and a drum roll, as she really is something special. in fact we were so delighted we have repeated the mating. Angersleigh Amber weighed in at 9.4kg

Burridge Elektra, an LMFI Peruvian Dynamics daughter, was next presenting us with a lovely male cria Angersleigh Apollo who weighed in at 7kg

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Apollos sire is Wellground Olympic Legend, who in turn was sired by EP Cambridge Samson and has both Spartacus and Commisario as grandparents.

Angersleigh Crumble was not to be out done, as she conjured up a lovely little vanilla fudge coloured male at 8.9kgs called Angersleigh Griffin, again, great fleece – well done Humble Crumble.

Griffin was sired by Wellground Luther

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Last but not least, with the help of the vet, a trainee vet, myself and Jude, Willowbrook Isabella a Snowmass Sizlin Hot Daughter, eventually gave birth to the Mighty Angersleigh Horace Ironshirt. weighing in at a huge 10.5 kgs!

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Horace Ironshirts Sire is Furze Park Saracen, (Telstars full brother) a Jolimont Commisario grandson. Horace might only be ‘chillin’ at the moment, but he’s one we certainly have our eye on.

Worth the wait

June is heralded in with bird song and sweltering hot days and we are now officially on ‘Cria watch’. We have at long last entered the last phase and are well and truly inside the ‘birthing window’ so excitement once again fills our paddocks.

This year Florence a 3 year old dark brown maiden decided to go first, though to be fair this probably came as a bigger surprise to Florence than it did to us.

She was a star though, no dramatics no fuss, just a nice clean easy birth, resulting in a stunning 7 kg brown male.

Florence is a lovely quiet girl who comes from an established line of good mothers, who raise strong healthy cria, to us these are as important as any other traits you may care to mention.

Renegade her new-born, carries genetics from Wessex Cosmos, Tulaco Centurion, and Dovecote Jaquinto, from Mum, and Jolimont Commisario, NWA Ltd Ruffo. and Peruvian Caesar courtesy of his sire Wellground Maverick.

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Not to be outdone by Florence’s star performance, two days later, Valley Alpacas Honey decided to put all her weight behind a big solo effort resulting in the birth of a massive 10.1 kg white female, again no dramatics, another nice clean and easy birth, for reference its often me who provides the dramatics…

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So far so good…

Well, almost, call me old fashioned, but in Gary’s world, if you put a dark fawn male over a medium fawn female, you should have every right to expect, nay, demand a fawn off-spring?

Still muttering but slowly moving on…

Miss Marple, a dazzling blinding whiter than white female, carries genetics from Silverstream Czar, Cambridge Ice Cool Lad, and Peruvian Caesar from Mum, with the Sire, dark fawn Wellground Luther (the colour blind scamp), contributing more Silverstream Czar, Jolimont Conquistador, Jolimont Commisario, and more Peruvian Caesar.

Here’s hoping the rest of the births are as stress free. Juno hope you’re listening as you should be next !!!

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Angersleigh Alpacas

Taking down barriers…

For quite a small herd, we do hold a surprising amount of stud males, 7 in all, which can be quite an overhead in terms of the paddocks / maintenance needed.

Our boys, are all without exception true to form ‘macho’ males, and like nothing better than strutting their stuff along fence-lines in an attempt to dominate the other boys in adjoining paddocks.

With each paddock holding two males, who by and large got on together as well as can be expected life was on the whole relatively peaceful, yes there was an occasional evening when things may have gotten a little tense judging by the banshee wailing and screaming coming from Mav and Ollie’s paddock which incidentally, always resulted in Ollie being found covered in green camouflage the next Morning.

Yes Mav & Ollie were the archetypal Macho’ male’s, but so too are Fire Storm and Saracen, followed closely by the two likely lads Luther and Acquittal. surely there was no way these hooligans could ever be brought peaceably together?

Well that was our intention – so one fine Morning we opened the gates and introduced Luther & Acquittal to Fire Storm & Saracen, they knew each other well from encounters over the fence so they were hardly strangers, but we were at the ready to get them out quick should it all ‘kick off’

Who would have thought it, they were more interested in each others paddocks than the interlopers that had just encroached on their territory. Later that day, they did all meet up there was the usual sniffing and play barging, then peace was restored and they just got on with the regular day to day business of being a small herd.

With several weeks now passed, and peace being the order of the day, we started toying with the slightly mad  idea of opening Mav & Ollie’s gate, now this gate also had extra security, fitted there was no way we wanted these two hoodlums making their merry way into the other paddocks unsupervised.

Still they would all meet up at the gate and all spend time laying up next each other with just a fence to keep them separated.

Then that fateful day came, and that gate, their last defence was eventually breached – and the gate was opened, once again we were at the ready, but as before, their only interest was exploring each others paddocks.

Now here we are several weeks later, and we are very pleased to say, there has been no fighting, no scream filled evenings – just six boys enjoying each others company on the peaceful Somerset levels…

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Mav and Ollie holding an open day for their friends in their bijou former residence with inside bathroom and great views across open farm land…

Stop press; Mav & Ollie have now taken residence in ‘Alpaca mansions’ with their friends, again it has an inside bathroom, room service, great views, and room to swing a cat should one ever have the temerity to pass through their residence again…