Friday, 28 September 2012

Big Day

This post is not for those of a delicate disposition

Its been a big day for the boys.  I told them repeatedly it was going to be a big day over the past few weeks but they didn't seem to care.  'Yeah yeah, whatever, where is the hay?'

Having thought it through we have decided to go ahead with castration.  We debated this in late spring (see past blog) and had decided not to, but we have changed our minds.

Why ?
  • Shirley from Tigh Mhor made some useful comments that made us think about the longer term
  • This year's fleece is not as good as last and fleece is important to us.
  • Probably the deciding thing was that Finian has begun to challenge us a little and is increasingly dominant with Noah.  Just last night I was giving him a bit of a hug because I knew what was coming, and there was a bit of a stand off. 
We think that castration will help settle him down a little and may help us if we decide to introduce any new additions to the herd.  I am a little skeptical, I think they may be more or less the same after the event, but with sore bits for a while. Lets see.

So.  Its was a day off work and out bright and early with the pressure washer again, to change the shed into a field hospital. This involved pressure washing and disinfecting with something pink and DEFRA certified to kill all germs dead for a couple of days (Same stuff you use in foot baths for foot and mouth according to the label).

Then an agonising wait for the appointed time.  Neither Bev nor I could settle down to anything.  I busied myself trying to fix my power-line gadget thingy, fetched some logs, scraped the tile adhesive off some tiles that must have been on there for 10 years, pottered in the garage, checked on the progress of the poo-log I made last week-end (still soggy), fiddled with my phone etc. etc.  Nothing got done right, nothing really distracted me.

Chris the vet turned up at the appointed time with his usual cheer.  The boys ran to the shed with their usual thoughts of some grub or other interesting thing.  Then it was down to work.

One at a time they were brought forward into the OR (shed) from the pre-op room (yard).  Fin was chosen to go first, we wanted to get him done as he is apt to enjoy snuffling your ear or tugging on your collar if you are bent over one of the other boys.  Mildly annoying if you are doing something routine, but not what you want when doing something more delicate. Kenzie was going to go next because he would stress if left to last, Noah would bring up the rear (as it were).

Chris is a member of the BVCS and his experience shows. The epitome of  a calm, organized professional.  He soon got down to work.  Setting out his implements, drugs, potions, gloves etc in the 'human side' making great use of Bev's archery target as a useful shelf.  Then to business proper.

Step 1 - Ask the right questions about general health and assess the animals in a calm conversational manor with subtle hands on before you begin. (Boys professionally certified as Fat!)

Step 2 - Brief the daft folk about what is going to happen - Remember the animals history and have a stab at their names (top class account management skills, in a shed!).  Include clear details of what is going to happen, in what order (more Agile than prince-2)

Step 3 - Ask if it is OK to shave a small patch of fleece - assure owner that it will grow back (I guess this one is from experience - but for goodness sake would someone really object?)

Step 4 - Bring in the boy!

Step 5 - Andy to the left, using the usual head cuddle / hand on back restraint.  Bev to the rear right.

Step 6 - Sedative into right Jugular.  Just a few seconds and you can feel the Alpaca begin to relax in your arms.

Step 7 - Pain relief SC into shoulder.  Long acting anti-biotic IM rear flank.

Step 8 - By this time the legs were getting a bit wobbly (the Alpacas, not mine) and were soon on the ground cushed, then on their sides.

Noah, even more out of it than usual  - He was the most floppy.

 Step 9 - Local anesthetic to the target area

A bit of local

Step 9 - Not exactly sure about the detail of these next steps.  I was at the front with a relaxed, but clearly aware Alpaca in my arms.  I know it involved a sterile sheet, a scalpel, a clamp, some suture, There are some pictures below.

Half way !

Two is a pair

A close-up if you are interested
Step 10 - Chis leaves the 1" incision open to allow drainage but puts in a single cross stitch to hold things together.

Step 11 - A spray of blue spray and we are done.  It was amazing how quickly they boys recovered and got on their feet.  We thought we would have to lift Fin into the corner and commence operations with Kenzie, but he soon got himself together and decided he wanted to be outside in the yard.   The picture below shows Fin and Kenzie while Noah was getting done.  Alert and back to themselves minutes after they were having the most horrendous things done to them.
Fin watching Noah 

All over in just around and hour. The worst part was the waiting for the vet!

The behavior of Alpacas is the most fascinating thing about them.  The boys watched their mates with concern during the procedure and looked out for each other after the event.  The best example was when Noah came out.  He was unsteady on his feet and Fin moved close to support him and let him rest his head on Fins neck until he was steady.

The boys are locked in the shed /yard tonight, for the first time ever. We wanted them bedding down in the dry and where we had disinfected.  We hung around for a couple of hours to make sure the sedative had worked out of their system before leaving them.  Hourly checks thereafter to dark.  As the pain relief wears off they are obviously not 'comfortable' and there is more mutual humming going on, this is usually just Noah but nothing too serious.  I'll set them free in the morning.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

$h1t Happens

The boys like to keep a clean shed. Occasionally we need to brush down to gather the waste hay and every blue moon we take it upon our self's to pressure wash the shed and the concrete handling area to keep things Bristol fashion.  This is a routine operation now and I know just how to string together our collection of extension leads and hoses to reach the shed.

I have a store of a mild insecticide / disinfectant that I use to dowse down the living quarters in the belief that it may keep any reservoir of mites at bay. I have no knowledge of a mites life cycle. I have no evidence that there are any microbial colonies lurking with malintent, or plans to take over the earth.  So this is more an act of ceremony than any thing else - but it can't be a bad thing, it seems like the right thing to do a couple of times a year.  Pressure washing is a treat. Normally shy and nervous Kenzie is especially keen.  He noses right up to the water jet, lies down in the way etc. Just so out of character but he clearly loves the experience.

So anyway,  mission complete. A nice clean shed and concrete.  Until the next morning when someone had done a poo in the shed.  This hardly ever happens, only in the wildest gale, with horizontal rain has it ever been known,  perhaps once or twice.  The pattern has repeated though and without direct evidence an investigation of the type seen on Columbo takes place.  Who is the phantom pooer of the shed ? What are the underlying causes of the crime ?

Lets examine the evidence :

  • Who ?  Forensic analysis says that the evidence is too bean like for Fin, he produces more of a hand-grenade offering.  So that narrows it down. 
  • Why ?  Confusion.  I have been conducting a bit of poo pile engineering of late.  This involves digging over the burned patches and re-seeding.  The boys seem mostly to keep clear of the newly dug areas (get your feet dirty) - This would tend to implicate Kenzie.
  • Why ? Safety in numbers.  Pooing does seem to be a communal activity.  Perhaps someone is out of sync with the others.  This could implicate Noah. He won't go anywhere without Fin and if he felt the need in the middle of the night perhaps didn't feel it appropriate to wake Fin and ask if he would accompany him ? 
  • Why ? The sweet smell of home.  Perhaps the pristine shed has lost its homely smell ?  Maybe a bit of poo will reestablish ownership ?   
  •  Why ? Health.  Is someone sick and unable to hold on.  Absolutely no signs of anything wrong with the evidence so I am going to discount that. 

Whoever it is, it seems to have stopped after a few days.  Maybe this is a result of Bev's counselling.  Maybe after Fin rolled in it, and got a nice patch of poo on his neck, he has had a word with the offender? Maybe the usual smell has been re-established?  But perhaps this is a mystery that will never be solved, or perhaps it doesn't need to be solved.  I'm trying to get Bev to move on...

Our midden floweth over.  In 18 months I recon we have a couple or three tons of well compacted wet and smelly gold.  Muck isn't exactly a scarce commodity in these parts. The Yorkshire adage of 'where there is muck, there is brass' doesn't hold.

So what to do ? Brian the bee man lives down the road and has a substantial garden. So operation poo bagging commenced.

So that is say 20% of the stock disposed of.  Our own garden will get a generous cover.  I did this last year come the first frost and have to say that the results have been fantastic.  Reminds me of a joke my dad told me "What do you put on your rhubarb ? Alpaca poo ! Oh really, we put custard on ours"

Really we should be putting it back on the paddock. But this leads to further logistical problems.  We would have to borrow a muck spreader.  Not a problem.  We would have to load the muck spreader, that probably would not be a problem, if I hadn't built the midden with a 3' wide gate !

Putting it on the fire is an attractive option.  Debbie's video shows us the way. So that's a project I intend to start today.  Watch out Paul, my engineering skills will be put into action.

Westmorland show came round again.  Again, Barbara organized the event very well.  Again I got the chance to be ring steward.  It's a long day, but worth it.  I would highly recommend anyone with a small herd and not into showing to offer their services to a show organiser.  We live in a little bit of a bubble and the internet and books don't go near to some hands on experience. I think that there was 100+ animals put forward and I got up-close and personal with most of them.  Conclusion :  Our boys are too fat.  Too fat by far.  Operation slim down has commenced.  Longer term solutions may include dividing the paddock, getting more boys, cutting down on the hay input, no  treats.