Monday, 29 April 2013

Alpaca judging

Mary Jo Smith of Bozedown alpacas judging the Heart Of England Alpaca Fiesta 2013.
Congratulations Mary Jo you did a great job on a cold two days and thank for giving Toft Alpacas one of the best alpaca showing days In it's 16 year history. 15 entries, 13 rosettes and two reserve champion ribbons. Roll on the British Alpaca Society National Show at Bury Farm Equestrian centre on the 11th and 12th of May!!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Champion Suri and Huacaya at the Heart of England Alpaca Fiesta

Big day for Houghton Hall alpacas who took champion Suri and for the Alpaca Stud who took champion Huacaya.

Resting alpacas

And finally at the end of the first day of showing at the Heart of England Alpaca Fiesta the sun broke out as the juniors sat in repose in the pen.
Despite Toft doing exceptionally well, winning stacks of prizes, this image gave me more pleasure than anything else all day. These juniors just sat down and enjoyed this brief respite in the sun and breathed a great sigh of relief which truly gladdened my heart.
Well done boys and girls I look forward with great excitement to watching you grow and produce the future champions- as I am certain you will!

Alpaca handlers

It's an art handling alpacas in the show ring. The handler has a massive effect on how the
alpaca will settle and present itself for the judge. A calm steady, unselfconscious handler who doesn't allow their own nerves to affect the alpaca is vital.
Linda our herds woman and her daughter Gemma handled our alpacas like real professionals and despite the cold weather in the shed they looked like happy handlers all day long. Thank you ladies.

Considering that Paul our helper and Judith our close neighbour at Willoughby Alpacas are new to the alpaca show ring they handled it like real pros yesterday. Paul use to show dogs and he is a man who certainly likes the ring as his happy demeanour shows. Alpaca showing should be fun and despite the weather being uncommonly cold for April lots of fun was had by all at the Heart Of England Alpaca Fiesta.

Much thanks to Paul Stead of Saphire Alpacas and Lulu Oliver of Lusi alpacas for the vast amount of effort that went into getting this lovely local alpaca event organised.

Alpaca showing Toft gets results on first day.

Great day of alpaca showing for Toft at the Heart of England Alpaca Fiesta. A massive thanks to our handlers Linda and Gemma who did a fantastic professional job of handling our Alpacas and to heir trusty helper Paul who is new to alpacas but handles them with the calmness and professionalism of a man born as a natural Alpaquero!!!
Thanks team for making us look so good and hey look at these results!

Toft Ison- 2nd in the Adult Black Male
Toft Rastaban - 2nd in the Adult Brown Male and RESERVE CHAMPION
Toft Ikrit- 4th in the Intermediate Brown Male
Toft Jedi- 3rd in the Adult Fawn Male

Toft Madysen- 1st in the Junior Fawn Female and RESERVE CHAMPION
Toft Ambria - 2nd in Intermediate Fawn Female
Toft Gabbi- 3rd in the Junior Fawn Female
Toft Adele- 2nd in the Junior Brown Female
Toft Nubia- 2nd in the Intermediate Brown Female.

A fabulous set of results for Toft Alpacas and there's the white and lights to enter today. Fingers crossed!

Much thanks to Mary Jo Smith of Bozedown alpacas for judging and awarding toft such accolades.

Damp alpacas ?

Big disappointment yesterday at the Heart of England Alpaca Fiesta when after all our efforts Friday to keep our Show team dry we turned up at the crack of sparrows to find them damp!
No they hadn't been outside. It's just the weather has changed in the past few days from extremely dry to damp and the amount of moisture in the air has caused the finer alpaca fleeces to suck it up like a bath sponge. That's the downside when all our juniors are showing fleeces under 19 microns.
Effect? All our 17/18 micron fleeces on our show team felt wet which doesn't show off their crimp or their superb handle to its best advantage.
The result is that we probably took a lot more second prizes than we would on another drier day. Having said that we did great at the show. taking two reserve champions and lots of rosettes. Of the 12 alpacas shown by Toft yesterday we took 11 prizes. If only they had been dry who knows what we might have achieved.
Strategy? We will buy some fans for the National show which is in three weeks time and take our own wind with us to play over the young ones whilst they sit in their pens. At least this way we will have done everything we can to get them not the ring at their most impressive.
You've got to try everything when you are chasing the bling!!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Alpaca Showtime!!!

What a day, we had to deliver the show team to the National Agriculture Centre at Stoneleigh this evening ready for the Heart of England Alpaca Fiesta this weekend where they are competing against another 250 pedigree alpacas at the Heart of England Alpaca Show.
The sun shone, then it rained , then it hailed, then it shone again and it went around in that cycle all day long and In between we had the show team in and out of the barn all day long trying to keep them dry.
Alpacas can absorb almost 20% of their fleece weight in water if allowed and in that condition the crimp drops out of the fleece. The fleece gets duller and the handle becomes difficult to quantify. That's why we never judge alpacas in the rain.
Anyway finally the sun shone and we loaded them up into the trailer drier than they started the day and packed them off in the trailer to the show ground. Tomorrow Linda and the Toft Alpaca show team will be up at the crack of sparrowfart strutting their stuff in the show ring at Stoneleigh.
The show goes on all weekend if anyone wants to trot along and see how they do please feel free. All alpaca enthusiasts are welcome at the Alpaca Fiesta.
More on the Toft Alpaca Show team over the weekend- fingers crossed- watch this space!

Alpaca poo

Alpaca poo is a wonderment. Alpacas do their poo in select poo piles in the paddocks. They make several of these and always return to the poo piles to defecate. This makes tidying and cleaning the paddocks a dream.
The recommended everyday tool for collecting poo is a simple £7 snow shovel which is light and flexible enough to be able to scoop up the 'alpaca beans' easily.
We collect ours and bag it up for sale to allotmenteers and gardeners. It doesn't need to rot down like horse manure. Alpaca poo can be dug straight into the flower beds. Because of its pelleted nature the poo stays in the garden a longtime and breaks down ever so slowly providing gardeners with an excellent slow release fertiliser.
Here we see a slightly clumpy poo caused by the new grass coming in and a comparison picture of the normal 'alpaca beans' which look a bit like rabbit droppings.
We sell bags of alpaca poo at £3.50 a bag and the profit goes to the Warwickshire air ambulance. If there are any keen allotmenteers out there who want to give it a go please get in touch. It's all in a good cause!

First Lord of the Admiralty!

Young Edward taking charge

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Moving alpacas

Today we a small herd of alpacas to some excited new owners. Yesterday we collected the herd together and brought them over to the house ready for transport and delivery today. And what a very fine herd of alpacas they make.
As you can see Linda walked three of them them from their small paddock, stopped off to gather another last minute addition to the herd and then deposited them all in the overnight paddock.
All in less than half an hour and all done on halter. Considering that these pregnant ladies have not been on the halter since they were juniors it is remarkable how well the walked. No fuss no bother ' oh we are going for a walk are we? I remember this' .
The time spent training at junior levels pays all sorts of dividends later in life as like all alpacas they never forget!

Toft Alpacas go to the seaside

Shirley and I took advantage of the fact we were delivering alpacas to the North East this week to visit my Mum and Dad and whiz them out for a walk on the beach at Seaton Carew, feed them fish and chips and have a bit of a catch up whilst walking our daughter Kerry's comedy dogs.
Well you have got to do these things it's a bit of a family tradition.
Seaton Carew is the 'Mecca of the North East ' and has more character than a Dickens novel with an amazing beach from which you can see the containers and cargo ships queuing up to get into Teesport through the new forest of offshore wind turbines.
There is nothing like a bracing walk on the beach past the sewage works, down to the estuary where you can view the oil rig yards at Seal Sands and the Steel plant over the other side of the river at Redcar.
Scenic in the classic sense it ain't- but for a man who grew up within smelling distance of ICI it 's called home!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Happy alpaca owner...

Lovely afternoon yesterday delivering three pet males to a young family in the North East who will have a great time with their new charges. Their three halter trained pet males, a fawn, brown and white are to be renamed Mo, Oz and Ronaldo who will live beyond the Ha Ha and present themselves beautifully to be viewed from the house.
I foresee lots of Janet & John moments for this lovely family and hope they enjoy walking and looking after their pet males.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Harrowing the alpaca paddocks...

Weekend was glorious ,dry and sunny. With that combination at this time of the year comes shed loads of work. In between the normal herd maintenance tasks we are halter training the junior alpacas, preparing the alpaca females for their imminent births, cleaning and harrowing and slitting the fields. This on top of talking to clients about matings and sales, running alpaca husbandry introductory workshops and trying to get the fence repairs finished. 'Twas ever thus!
This week hopefully we start to get some fertiliser into the empty paddocks. With a rise of a few degrees this week by next you will be able to hear the grass growing.
This vintage Massey Ferguson 35 tractor first saw service sometime in the 60's but I was able to use it, to good effect, this week to chain harrow the alpaca maternity paddocks.
These paddocks stay empty most of the winter because with 60 births due this year they will see plenty of action in the coming months. The alpaca birthing will start in May but with this warm dry spell upon us we have to keep an eye out for any earlies.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Spring on a roll...

It's breaking out all over on the Manor this week as you can see with this carpet of primroses that inhabits a wee sheltered spot near the pond. If you sit behind a bush amongst this uplifting display,out of the chilly south wester that is pretty constant and lift your face to the sun you can almost believe its summer. Almost...let's not get too carried away!

Monday, 15 April 2013

A fine group of female alpacas ready for their new home.

Before we send off alpacas we have sold to their new home we put the selected alpacas together in their new family group for a couple of weeks so they bond together and we can check that they get on.
These three lovely coloured alpaca females are destined to depart next week and a very beautiful good natured trio they have become in the last week or so. All three alpacas are pregnant so by the end of the season this wee herd will have doubled. That's the way with livestock.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Daffs broke out but still no spring...

The Daffs broke out in abundance yesterday all over the Manor despite there being no sight yet of any warmth in the weather. They'll stand alone in the grey grass as a reassuring beacon of hope that we will eventually see the grass turn green and grow again. Do you think the alpacas know this? No chance!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Black alpacas

Those black alpacas are elusive. Tried again today to get a good photograph of Toft Ison our Champion black alpaca so I could put him up for sale on the website.
This is as good as it gets. If we could get a picture half as good as this young mans fleece, pedigree and show record there will be a queue at the farm gate.
Toft Ison is a champion black stud male from the Skywalker line. He is coming up to three years old, is ready to work and we will do our utmost to get him busy with the ladies in the coming months in a new home.

Fashionable alpaca

Busy time this week ferrying the new Toft Alpaca collection into a promotional event in Regent Street. Kerry came along as creator and designer to set up the Toft Alpaca display and of course young Edward needed to be there to supervise. Meanwhile yours truly, the faithful family retainer, was lugging the stuff up two flights into the room. The things we do...

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Alpaca halter training

Finally the wind dropped. The sun shone and it the warm spell we were granted we got to grips with the Toft Alpaca Junior Show Team. We had the help of our youngest daughter Laura who is up on the Manor for the weekend with her boyfriend Miko who is playing photographer whilst Shirley Lol and I worked with the alpacas.