A year on an alpaca farm
Winter is a time for doing indoor jobs and for keeping the alpacas comfortable and fed. During snow and frost, the alpacas need regular hay feeds and to have their water troughs kept ice-free. They must be checked several times a day in all weathers. This is also a time for getting all of our fleece products finished and for catching up on inside jobs.
Around Christmas, we’ll often be attending Craft Fairs and Farmers’ Markets with our fleeces, yarns, knitted goods and kits. And speaking engagements at craft groups, Embroiderers’, Spinners’ and Weavers’ Guilds begin to appear on the calendar.
In Spring, we’ll be making good any damage done to pastures, buildings and facilities over the winter. We’ll also be looking forward to the arrival of the year’s cria - we’ll be making a list of potential cria names beginning with that year’s letter. 2016 is an “L” year for instance. Each year, we think “that was a hard year for names but next year will be easier !” It never is !
In Summer, life gets busier with births and then matings. We keep a very careful watch on the due females. And once the cria arrive, we’ll monitor them carefully to make sure that they are getting plenty of milk from mum. All being well, we’ll re-mate the females three weeks after they give birth - we then have 11½ months to wait for the next cria to arrive.
Shearing is an exciting time and our shearer James Dixon comes all the way from his home in Australia to shear our alpacas and those of many other European breeders. Ideally, there will have been several fine and dry days and nights beforehand but it doesn’t always work out that way ! We need to be very organised for shearing day and have all the alpacas gathered up. We also need lots of bags for the lovely fleece and plenty of helpers. After shearing day, we must “skirt” the fleeces to remove any vegetable matter such as bits of hay and twigs. Skirting also removes any coarser fibre and and anything else that might spoil the finished product.
Autumn is for consolidation. We keep a careful watch on our females’ early pregnancies and we’re busy halter-training cria. We’ll also be preparing for winter - checking drains, buildings and fences and doing the essential maintenance that took a back-seat during the busy summer. We’re also planning for our knitwear range and awaiting the delivery of our gorgeous craft-spun yarns.
There are plenty of year-round tasks too. Each day every alpaca, adults and cria, is fed a small amount of specialised camelid concentrate, Camelibra, that helps to keep them healthy. There are regular injections to give too.
Each day throughout the year, we’ll be observing the alpacas to ensure that they are feeding, cudding and generally looking fine. At the same time, we are in the alpaca paddocks checking fences, troughs and looking for any harmful weeds.
And we use our poo-picker regularly to keep the paddocks clean. The alpacas help with this task as they poop in piles rather than randomly across the field. Also, sometimes we need to cut or “top” the grass if it is getting a bit too long for the alpacas and we use the quad bike and topper for that.
So, there is never a dull moment and always plenty to do.