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 :