Tuesday, 15 December 2009

I'm not very good at this!

Just realised that it is over two months that I last posted anything meaningful.

A New Year's resolution ought to be that I must blog at least once a week, but I know I'll break it.

I'm glad to say that the llamas are all doing well, although the weather in October & November was just too wet for anybody to enjoy it. Nazca is quite large now, big eyes, and the fur around his head makes him look like he has a hood on. His mum Lima is quite happy for him to wander off and explore, and Clara who shares the paddock/shelter is very placid, except when it comes to feed treat time.

I'm glad I got a really good stock of hay in, they munch their way through it though, particularly as the grass has stopped growing.

Wilbur & Cusco have got used to the bachelor life in the other paddock, but we have put some extra fencing up to cut the paddock in two as they were starting top mess just too much of it up! Wilbur though really does not like the wet, and has had a real sulk on for a while, and while we have had 3-4 days of dry weather where he perked up quite a bit, it is back to raining and him cushing down in the shelter, where he just munches on the hay!

Good investment those shelters!

Hoping the weather brightens up for the weekend, must take some more photos and get the website updated, and then time for another blog!

Monday, 26 October 2009

The changing of the clocks...

I know, I know, it's a long time since I blogged, but as the days get shorter(I also know that each day still has 24 hours in it, but I meant the daylight part of the days getting shorter) there just seems to be so much to do, and in the evening I feel too exhausted to want to do much, other than send the odd tweet, or comment on someone else's Facebook status.

But now the clocks have changed, a recognition that the days are too short to get any real work done outside, certainly after a day in the office there isn't any daylight left, and that will just leave weekends, and that will depend on the weather, as to whether I can actually get anything done.

However there are chores that need to be done every day, most twice a day, and that is the interaction with the animals - llamas, goats, chickens as well as the cats and dogs!

They of course aren't bothered by the clocks changing, to them the days have gradually been getting shorter, and that means that meals come out later in the morning, and of course earlier in the evening.

The grass is not growing either, so the llamas turn to hay to eat during the day, and that is good, because they come up to the workshop more often, and that means we get to see them more often. They share the workshop area with the goats, who have munched hay most of the year, and out of all the animals have the same diet all year round. The goats however do not like the rain and tend to stay indoors on wet and damp days.

The chickens roost about an hour before dark, and like to have their corn an hour or so before they roost, so they are the ones that start the feeding session for all the animals.

During the summer, the animals get fed after I have finished the office work, but now I have to take a break around 4pm to sort the animals out, and go back to work after. 4pm gets closer to 3pm as the days continue to get shorter.

This does mean though that I now have time to think about blogging and doing a bit of my office work in the evenings after it has got dark.

It also means that I have to be careful about organising business meetings in the afternoons, because I have to be back by 3pm, or else the animals don't get fed. that isn't strictly true, as the animals have food and water on tap all day, it is just the treat food that they are in danger of missing out on - corn for the chickens (they have layers pellets to eat as and when they are hungry), and feed for the goats and llamas (but they'll happily keep munching hay).

So that's where we are now, and hopefully more to follow, now that I have time in the evenings!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Here he is, sitting quite serene in the paddock on a nice quiet sunny day - he's now two weeks old (this picture was taken when he was 12 days old), and he's put on 5Kg (11lbs) in that time.

He is such a treasure, he is very inquisitive and enjoys the odd tickle under his chin, and plays by coming up to you and then running off.

Yesterday was injection day for the llamas, they needed 3 each, two under the skin and one into muscle - they have to have a "blue tongue" vaccine, the clostridium (I think that's how you spell it) and they all had a vitamin one as well. Young Nazca (it'll be Naz for short) took his better than the grown ups.

We're allegedly due a week or so of sunshine, and that'll see him come along quite quickly, and that will also mean more photos. We've got our own website now, and lots of photos are already uploaded there - check it out - www.ashwoodllamas.co.uk.

See you soon - we're going off on holiday soon, so housesitters are moving in for a week, need to work up a list for them! that could be a blog in itself.

See you soon!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Talk about a difference...

This is Pico (or it might be Isco) full brother to our young Cusco. He's only 9 hours old, and look at him standing up so tall and so proud next to his mum Lima.

He just looks so much stronger than poor Tilly, who, with hindsight was born poorly.

However, we're not taking any chances. Tonight, it is forecast wet, windy and horrible, the back end of Hurricane Bill is coming through. Not a good start to life in North Devon, and not even a day old. He now has a coat on!

We have had him weighed, although not very accurately, and he is just over 20lbs maybe 22lbs. This is well above the minimum range, and we are happy with that.

Today has been a happy day, not done much work, and luckily a client cancelled a meeting yesterday, so no need to go out. I went out this morning to do my normal rounds, and Lima was no where to be seen when letting them in to the larger paddock where the grass is longer - unlike her. Popped up to the shelter and she was lying down, and when I got there she stood up and there was a head appearing, rushed back to the house to get Vicki, and by the time we got back he was all out, and struggling to sit up.

It can take a few hours for the cria to stand but he was up in 15-20 minutes, nosing around for food. He was on the move to pasture in less than an hour!

We have had a couple of chats with the vet, she is happy with the reports, tonight will be sleepless, with I suspect the odd trip out in the wet and windy weather to double check all is OK!

More pictures to follow!

Thanks for reading!

Cria ahoy....

Lima finally gave birth today - a year and 10 days after the last one!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Llamas, gestation and crias!

After the drama of young Tilly, we are now waiting patiently for Lima, our other female to give birth, and in my basic estimation she was due on or around 7/8th August. Today is the 11th, and so we are a few days late!

Camelids are induced ovulators, which means they only shed eggs only in response to mating. They don't have seasons like most mammals. Ovulation takes place 24-48 hours after mating. We had our stud running with the female which makes the precise calving dates very difficult to determine!

According to my book "Storey's Guide to Raising Llamas", once a llama has calved it can be 7-14 days before she produces an egg (and is ready to produce one every 10 days thereafter). Gestation is 11.5 months, although it is not unusual for a female to deliver 2 weeks premature or to carry her pregnancy to a full 12 months.

So, if we work backwards, Cusco, her last cria was born on 15th August 2008, 7 days later is 22nd (her earliest date for ovulation) and a normal term of 11.5 months should mean that she is due on or around the 7/8th. But she could take another 7 days to ovulate, so she could give birth on 14/15th and she could run a full 12 months which could be anything up to 28/29th or anything in between.

Mind you, it has been known for a llama to gestate for 13 months! Let's hope not!

Now, you'd think that there would be some signs, well there may be - some females show signs as early as 6 weeks ahead of time, others don't exhibit any signs until just before delivery. Just our luck, I think we have one of those!

Llamas are generally easy, and need little help during birthing, a little cleaning up after is all.

They are also very considerate, and generally give birth during the day, Clara had hers about 10am, and Lima had hers last year at about 2.30pm. This is because in the Andes where they originate from it can be very cold at night, so having the cria in the sun enables them to be up and about, dry and ready to run in case of trouble in the dark, not that the last bit is a problem in North Devon!

So, thank you to all who have asked, we are still waiting, and don't worry, pictures and news will be posted as soon as possible after it happens!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Animals just don't let you dwell on the past...

..thanks for the comments, the well wishes on both Twitter and facebook - there are a lot of really good people out there!

Today, Saturday, time to get the animals, and especially the llamas back in to routine, everyone likes routine, and animals like that, they like to know that the normal things in life carry on.

Clara seems to be fine after the traumas of the last week, though she occasionally goes looking for young Tilly, but she seems to be so relaxed that I feel she knew that something wasn't quite right!

Today, it was Wilbur, our young gelding who we hope to be our leading trekker, yes we would like to let people take our llamas out for a trek around the countryside of North Devon, but I think that is a "next" year task now, anyhow, it was Wilbur that had a very uncooperative day. He is normally such a star.

The girls are quite calm, and were happy to be rounded up and groomed. Clara in particular just stood there and enjoyed the attention. The boys though were in frivolous mood, and it took at least 4 attempts to round them up, but rounded up they were. They are actually in the biggest paddock, and trying to get them in to a 6' by 6' pen when they don't want to is to say a bit of a challenge.

Once in the pen, Vicki gave them a good groom, got the halters on both Cusco (not yet a year old, and our first own bred llama) and Wilbur, and we thought we would take them for a short walk.

Cusco, little devil, just lay down - that's it I'm not going anywhere he indicated, and Wilbur took two steps outside the pen, and just stopped, I'm not going anywhere either he seemed to say. He was coaxed a bit, but no, he wasn't interested. One of the tricks to get him in to the pen is food, and I don't think he had finished before we wanted to walk him. He won't get as much next time :-)

So, today, everyone was groomed (well Lima wasn't but as she is due to have her own cria soon, she's being spoilt), and no one was really walked. It was good fun though, and good to get back in to the routine!

Tomorrow, we 're off to learn all about shearing! watch this space!

Friday, 17 July 2009

The downside of having livestock...

.. having heard it hundreds of times by now, if you have livestock, you'll also have dead stock!

Young Tilly was born last Thursday morning (9th July)... a pretty young thing.

She was soon up on her feet and suckling and in the early July sunshine looked a little unsteady on her feet. She was a bit knock kneed, a common fault that is rectified as she gets older and stronger.

She was a little premature, just a week or so, but as the gestation period is eleven and a half months, something that is quite common.

Mum, Clara, was a doting mum, this was her second and everything seem to go so smoothly.

Last night though, the weather had turned, and we have had such a downpour, that even my bucket in the office that sits under my leaking roof was over half full, something that it hadn't done at any time over the winter.

At 6pm, our neighbour, also a vet, had popped over to give Tilly a vitamin injection, and while she was at it, gave her a quick once over. Thought she looked a bit thin, but she had a warm tongue and seemed to be fine. Took her injection as calmly as you like.

Vicki popped out at about 7.30pm, the rain was just getting harder and the wind stronger, and wanted to ensure that Tilly was still in the warmer and certainly drier field shelter and not out in the open. Clara was however out in the rain, and so was Tilly. Tilly was not happy, and having fallen down did not want to get up again. Vicki picked her up, and carried her to the field shelter and came and got help. We dried her off and wrapped her in a couple of old towels to warm up.

The vet popped back over, so useful having one as a neighbour, and thought that a some food would help, so having rung around some other llama owners we determined that lamb milk would be OK. She took a couple of mouthfuls, and died in the vets arms.

It was so sudden, and awful at the same time.

The feeling of guilt that we could have done something more to help is still with us, despite the assurances from the vet, and the various other llama owners that we have spoken to have given us. She was just a week old, and all that hard work by Clara to bring her into this world has all gone to waste.

So, various theories, she was premature, she wasn't getting enough to eat, she was too weak to cope with the cold and wet weather (llamas can normally cope with cold temperatures but it is the wet cold they don't like), we'll never know.

Time to reflect, but the other animals all need looking after now, especially Clara!

Thankyou for reading, I hope the next blog will bring a happier tale!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Our first cria (baby llama)

Cusco, just moments old on 15th August 2008, and such a surprise.

Why a surprise, well we bought our girls (Inca and Lima) in July 2005 – a pair of Roseland girls bought from an owner who was moving and no longer had the space for them. They were a bit unruly, and although halter trained originally by Roseland had been left to run a bit wild and were not happy to be handled. They were good looking though and we (that is Vicki and I (Kevin)) decided that we wanted them, mainly as grass eaters on our 4 acre plot, and also because the regulations were not as onerous as say, for pigs, goats or sheep.

They came with halters on, but it took us a while to get them off, and they didn’t like it, but they got to like us, and as we did not want to walk them, we were quite happy for them not to be caught again (a big mistake as we have subsequently learned, but more about that later).

Our 4 acre plot is not a single field, and is divided in to about 5 areas. Room for chickens, room for a large vegetable plot, room for a small orchard, room for a little woodland area, room for a shrubbery area, room for an overgrown area, room for a couple of lawns, and room for 3 or 4 llamas. I know that is more than five, but I’m a creative accountant. The room for the llamas would be 3 * ¾ acre paddocks, so plenty of rotation (especially as I really do have a problem with dock leaves), and the llamas enjoyed the variety (some browsing in two of them, and grazing only in one).

We bought the two girls as possibly pregnant, and were disappointed when neither produced that first summer, but he! ho! That’s life – made the initial investment quite expensive.

So, 2006 we needed to find a stud!

We had not heard of the British Llama Society or equivalent, and so with some local networking (based in North Devon, I stumbled across a very nice, albeit slightly eccentric lady) we found a young male in Sussex. We were lent a horsebox by the owner, and off we went.

George came back with us in September 2006, a young male, about 2 years old.

Now George’s grandsire was called Harry, and his sire was called Harry’s son, so what better name to give him than George, Harry’s son. Come along, catch up, it’s a Beatles thing!

George was a wild boy, never having had any training, and just left to run with the herd, he took a bit of catching, but he came back to North Devon safely, and although the girls didn’t want to know him to start with, he soon settled in, and had his wicked way.

This was in September 2006!

So, by the end of July 2008 we had assumed that the girls were either barren or George was firing blanks.

We went to the North Devon Show on the 6th August, and tried to see the Llamalland people, but they were enjoying the show, and not manning the stand, which was just as well for us, because nine days later Cusco arrived.

He looks a bit like a pipe cleaner, but mum Lima looks so proud.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Fast forward to today... roll call!

... we have been here for over six years now, and when we first moved here we had 3 dogs already, two Samoyeds (Tasha & Cookie) and a lovely black rescue collie-cross (Polly) - town dogs, used to being walked on leads and taken for rides in the car to get to a field where they could stretch their legs, imagine the joy of just being let out the door and to have a field within 50 yards and you didn't need a lead to get there.

Sadly Polly & Tasha are no longer with us, the years catching up with them, but Cookie still loves digging down where the molehills are in the hope that she'll catch something, never has done. Pepper has joined us, a cross between a Springer and a Jack Russell - adorable but mad as hell!

So, our first foray into the "farm" animal world was the pigs, but they have been and gone, and so our first llamas were Inca & Lima, two big "Roseland" llamas - we didn't realise how big, until we got Clara, who joined us with Wilbur, a young gelded male who will be our "trekker". We also had George, a stud male, who having covered Lima, we had our first cria (Cusco). So, 6 llamas, but sadly both Inca and George have left us (a blog of its own), so we are back to four.

Chickens were a must on a smallholding, and I can honestly say that we have not bought an egg for over 6 years since the laying of the first egg. They are fed layers pellets, and get a handful of mixed corn to peck at in the late afternoon. The maize in the corn adds a wonderful golden yellow colour to the yolks and they taste just great. We now have 20+ chickens including 3 cockerels. We had 5 new chicks hatch out, and we have a broody sitting on another 5 eggs at the moment.

Pygmy goats came next, having decided we didn't want to get in to the DEFRA form filling, we just couldn't resist. We have 4 females, and this autumn we hope to breed with them (need to find a good looking billy for them) - we have 2 pedigrees (Frostie & Fudge) where the horns have been left on, and we have 2 "pets" (Flo & Fuzz) that have been de-horned, but they all get on well.

Next on the roll call is Howard & Hilda, our two rescued farm cats, brother & sister. Still kittens really, but they are our "organic rodent control" system. Unfortunately, they also have a habit of catching the odd bird!

Finally, we have just acquired 3 ducks, Khaki Campbells drakes - that'll be Charlie (Drake), Francise (Drake), and Quackers!

Notice that the only ones not to have names are the chickens - just too many of them!

That's where we are today!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Today we cleaned out the goats...

... this is one of the main reasons we went for llamas. Llamas are so easy to look after, just put them in a field and let them get on with it! Unlike goats that require all sorts of looking after!

Of course it's not quite as simple as that.

Llamas are quiet, gentle creatures, and readily adapt to most new surroundings, they can be housed, or left to fend for themselves in an open field, they do appreciate a shelter, somewhere they can get out of the worst of the British weather, but will happily just sleep in an open field; seeing their backs covered in a frost is actually quite amusing, and they don't even know it's there!

Cleaning out the goats took two of us about 3 hours today, as well as a general clean out the whole yard area had a spring clean. The climbing apparatus was taken down, cleaned out, and re-erected, their overnight accommodation emptied of soiled straw (some 8 wheelbarrows of the stuff) and filled up with clean straw.

Did you know that llamas poo in the same place in their field! They produce tidy heaps of small pellets that are easily collected, unlike horses (and goats, cows, pigs etc...) that just poop everywhere!

Llamas don't have hooved feet; cows, goats, sheep, horses all of hooved feet which need attention on a regular basis, llamas have soft padded feet, with toes and toenails. In the unlikely event that a llama needs its toenails trimmed, it is an annual affair, but more often than not, they don't need trimming.

Llamas originate from a very harsh environment, and are very resistant to some of the more traditional diseases like foot-rot, flies (flystrike) and bloat.

Llamas will live well with other livestock, and can be very useful in protecting lambs and other vulnerable animals, and can be easily treated for worms at the same time as their companions.

They eat grass, hay and particularly enjoy eating the hedges that surround the fields, you'll never need to cut that hedge again! In winter a supplemental feed is offered, and taken, just to keep a few natural vitamens that are scarce at that time of year to the right levels.

DEFRA (or whatever they are called nowadays) doesn't need to be notified every time you take one for a walk, whereas sheep, goats, cows, pigs etc... all require a huge amount of form filling.

So, you've guessed it, we got llamas because they required a lot less work than your average farm animal, they ate the grass in my paddocks, they kept some of my hedges under control, they were supposed to protect my chickens from the fox (that's another story), and the form filling was not onerous.

Apologies for the delay between this and the last post, must try harder said the teacher! I will, I promise! Next, how to go about buying a llama, and what to check out for, learn by our mistakes!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Before llamas came pigs!

Having acquired a property that had nearly 4 acres of usable land we had to do something with it. We had to have some animals, and we had to have something that was not full time. We were here to earn a living not to retire and enjoy looking after animals all the time.

The land was not really suitable for much, some of it - the bit to put a single paddock - was overgrown with docks, thistles, stinging nettles and a variety of other weeds, and not much grass. We got a neighbouring farmer to come in with a "topper" and a fencing contractor to fence it off, and then what.... we decided, or should that be, we were persuaded, to put some pigs in there.

Now pigs were supposed to enjoy digging up the ground and eating the roots of all living things, and we were hoping to be left with a paddock that had been dug over, manured organically, and be left with some nice pork as well.

We had five - what a nightmare - they needed feeding at least twice a day, constant drinking (they did enjoy the beer slops from the local pub), and left the paddock looking like a first world war battlefield.

We needed to get a large digger in to level the paddock afterwards (7 months of fattening up), and there were still large areas covered in dreaded weeds again.

We were back to where we started, but did have a freezer (or two) of the most wonderful pork, 100lbs of sausages, and some superb hams, so it wasn't all bad.

So pigs were not for us, so what should we have next.... lots of thinking, but we eventually settled for llamas - why llamas... tune in next time!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Some llama history

Llamas are members of the South American camelid family and are mostly found in the high altiplano regions of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They are the domesticated cousin of the wild guanaco and are extensively used by the Andean people and in the past by the Incas, as beasts of burden, for food, for fibre and their hides used as leather.

They were domesticated from the Guanaco some 5000 years ago. Their ancestors inhabited the plains of North America and migrated south to the Andes about three million years ago!

Llamas can be grouped broadly into two types: Ccara and Tampuli.

“Ccara”, the most commonly seen type in the UK, has a short to medium length coat with very short fibre on the legs and head and tends to be larger than the Tampuli.

The“Tampuli" is more heavily woolled than the Ccara, its coat extending down the legs and often distinguished by a woolly "topknot".

The llama is the largest of the South American Camelids, weighing anything up to 400lbs (180kg) and standing approximately 4 ft (1.25m) at the shoulder.

Elegant with an exotic quality, llamas are strong, intelligent and hardy. They have a gentle temperament and inquisitive nature. With their distinctive "banana" shaped ears, they are found in a variety of colours from solid white to black and with varying shades and mixes of brown and grey.

Llamas are very diverse animals and are becoming much sought after in the UK for their many attributes

Their life span is generally 12 to 18 years although some may live to be over 20.

Field Pets: Llamas are becoming increasingly popular as field pets being gentle, quiet, hardy and undemanding. They live in harmony with other field stock and make good companions for lone ponies etc. They quickly learn to wear a halter and to be led. Llamas can be taught to pull a cart.

Trekking: Llamas can be walked for pleasure and will happily carry a pack, offering the long distance walker or the picnicking family both a fun companion and a willing helper!

A number of enterprises around the UK offer llama treks of varying lengths from just a half day upwards.

Fibre: llamas have a double fleece; an outer guard hair and a fine, soft undercoat much sought after by hand spinners. Llamas do not have to be sheared at all, but the undercoat can be used to make an array of wonderful garments and the guard hair can be used for other products such as bags, rugs etc. The fleece comes in many natural colours from white to black with a wide range of browns and greys in between.

Livestock guardians: Although gentle by nature, male llamas are protective of their group and are used very successful to keep predators from attacking lambs and even ducks and poultry.


The Guanaco is not domesticated in South America but there are a small number of domestic herds in the UK. The Guanaco has an outstanding fleece, even finer than the Llama. Guanacos are a honey shade of brown or cinnamon with white under-parts and dark grey head. They stand approximately 1 to 1.5 metres at the withers, weighing 100-150 Kgs.

The above information is courtesy of the British Llama Society : www.britishllamasociety.org