Saturday, 29 November 2014

A rose between two fawns

Caught this little brown girl hiding between two fawns yesterday looking for the courage to come forward and join the big school.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Happy new tags big boys and girls...and welcome to your new school

Microchip and tag application day today with seventeen newly weaned cria taking up their residency in the weaner paddocks. When we wean at TOFT we change the nursery tags to the big flags and microchip at the same time. 
With Linda tagging, Freya handling and yours truly on the chipper and not one miss or a spot of blood- we were all done and dusted in 30mins. I think we can safely say we now have this routine down to a fine art.  
So now the weaners  all have their adult tags which as you can see adds another colour to the collective. Now they are popping around the paddocks proud as punch, like kids in new uniforms on their first day at school.  One of the boys even came posing for 'new school' photies. 
Welcome to infant school boys and girls just get on munching now grow into your tags please! 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Shirley at Olympia with the British Alpaca Society at the Farm Innovation Show...

5 am the girl set off this morning with the trailer for Olympia where she is busy promoting Alpacas at the Farm Innovation Show for the next two days on behalf of the British Alpaca Society along with Gary Sanders of Popham Alpacas.
The girl will be tired tonight as she will have talked herself to a standstill today about our emerging industry and she had a lecture to deliver. 
This girl doesn't do ' Sparrowfart' easily so she was huffing and chuffing in the dark this morning as we were loading the alpacas and she will have run on adrenalin most of today.  The stand looks great. Apparently there has been a lot of interest throughout the day but I  hope they let her get to bed early the night or there won't be a lot left of her coming backup the M1 tomorrow! 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Congratulations Alpacan....Alpacas of Spain...Torrelavega, Cantabria

A huge congratulations to Alison Boyden of Alpacas Alto Pas and her merry team of helpers who worked their bandanas to shreds this weekend in organising and executing Fibratex 2014. 
Judging by the crowds flocking around the craft stalls in Torrelavega on the Saturday, and given more people normally turn out on a Sunday, I reckon the whole event was a big success. 
Considering it was a first then it certainly sets a big marker for all the Alpaca breeders in Spain. Well done and thanks for inviting us to be part of this. Shirley had a great time judging the first ever Alpaca fleece show in Spain. I loved giving the fibre processing workshop to the alpaca breeders and also the new challenge of judging the amazing Creative and Technical yarns spun at the event. The standard was very high both in the competition and on the numerous trade stands at the event. 
There were some really impressive skills exhibited in the hall - spinning, weaving, felting, lacework, knitting, crochet, dyeing, twisting, cutting and shaping throughout a huge variety of very fine Alpaca Products in both Huacaya and Suri. Every stand was busy with creativity and skill making and doing with yarn, cloth, tops, rovings and all manner of variations on those themes. Congratulations to all who took part in this very impressive Alpaca showcase.
We are now back at TOFT and plan on staying here for a while. We've enjoyed every single minute of our European alpaca adventures over the past couple of months but it's nice to think we shall be on farm for the next couple of months or so at least. 
I'm back to the  glamour of fencing in the new alpaca paddocks morn. No doubt it will be raining but I shall be comforted by the lingering warmth  of all the alpaca breeders and enthusiasts who we have had the pleasure of meeting in the past few months. Have a good winter one and all and let's meet up and talk alpaca again real soon.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Alpaca fleeces have been judged - let the Alpacan Textile Show begin...

Shirley finished the last of the fleeces yesterday evening and the organisers have this morning to distribute the Alpacan rosettes to the prizewinners and get the fleeces on display by late morning when in 'civilised time' Fibratex 2014 will begin. 
I'm sure this will be the start of great things for Alpacan and the Cantabrian Alpaca breeders. It certainly won't be for the lack of trying Alison Boyden has done the work of ten Duracell bunnies to get this Showcase on the road and there are some fascinating exhibits in the hall. Good luck to you all and thanks for letting us be part of this.

Mercado Nacional De Ganado -Torrelavega

I would pay to see this hall full of cattle and old boys from the area doing business. The mezzanine corridor alone could house an army.

TOFT in Torrelavega...

This is the hall where we are working in Torrelavega. It's got to be the biggest Cattle market/auction house I've ever been in. Shirley is upstairs in the boardroom judging the fleeces which have come in from all over Europe as well as Spain.
Yes that is Mr Gary Naish star of the BAS husbandry DVD who is over here helping out, behind him you can see the alpaca expo setting up in the end of this enormous facility. Shows on Sat and Sunday. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Now TOFT on tour in Spain

What a week! We flew out to Santander at the crack of sparrowfart this morning to take part in Fibratex   2014 over the weekend where Shirley is judging fleece and I am giving some classes on fibre etc
For a man who told his French teacher when he was ten that ' there is no point in doing this Miss- we go to Scarborough for our holidays!' I am loving every minute of our international adventures in Europe. Yeah, so we are not on holiday but who needs holidays. Give me a reason to be there and I will be there. In my day job for years I used to get to see the cities, work in the dark and get sent home as soon as the job was done. 
Now I am in the countryside on alpaca adventures making friends that last a lifetime  with an interest that is just as all encompassing and enthralling. Thank you Jesus ...and a massive belated apology to my old French teacher, now deceased,  who I put through so much pain. She was right and I was wrong but I still wish we'd learnt Spanish instead!

And back on the ranch... Now you see them ... Now you don't

Hardly had time to unpack my shaving kit after getting back from Germany and we are out in the shed most of Wednesday with Linda, Freya and Rebecca the Vet from Towcester Veterinary practice enrolling six mature males into the Billy No Nacks club. This team are heading off shortly to work as Guardian alpacas in Wales where they will, have no need of their tackle as they hopefully give long and faithful,service to their new owners protect the lambs from predators.
So long fellas.

And the winners were.... Alpaka Show in the Allgau...

Champion and reserve at Buchloe.  Both young with fleece and form to die for. If I could have took them home I would- congratulations. If the young  male who won, with the blue ribbon, carries his fleece forward as he grows he will be a very famous male in Europe. Let's keep,our fingers crossed.

Alpaka judging in the Allgau...

The schwabenhalle  in Buchloe was an ideal setting for the Alpaka Show last weekend. Apparently these halls are made specifically for the showing and sale of cattle. There is plenty of room for the animals alongside the hall and tons of tiered seats from which the public and breeders can enjoy the spectacle. The show was organised for breeders only on the Saturday and open to the public on the Sunday when 2000 people popped in to enjoy the alpacas. 
Great turn out and I had the privilege of judging some remarkable alpacas. Exhibitors had come all the way from Holland, Italy, Austria and France to compete their alpacas. A massive thanks to Hienz and Simon for inviting me to judge and for creating this alpaca showcase. A fantastic amount of work goes into getting it right and they worked their Alpaca socks off to make sure everyone had a good time.
There was a great atmosphere in the hall and the exhibitors as always took defeat in their stride with good humour and there were tears of joy for the winners. 'Twas ever thus - please feel free to blame the judge.
A big thanks also to Hieke who took Shirley and I out on the Thursday evening for my first ever Croation meal- yumliscious. 
A big thanks to Pia and Jan who worked as my interpreter - not an enviable task with my accent.
Thanks to Ritchie for his sound work and scribework  and thanks to his girlfriend who played show secretary throughout. 
Thanks to  Theresa for scribing the fleeces until late on Friday evening.
And  big thanks for the patience and good humour of the exhibitors and for all the volunteers and organisers who put in their time and talent to make this show a success.
And not forgetting the young Klinks - Reuben and Tom who did a great job ferrying fleeces to me all Friday evening. Thank you one and all for an unforgettable experience in your wonderful country and I hope to see you all in the UK pretty soon.

Alpaka Show Buchloe in the Allgau

Had a great four days in Southern Germany last week judging alpacas and fleece in a town called Buchloe.  A big thanks all round from Shirley and to the organisers Simon, Hienz and George for their wonderful hospitality. 
We arrived on Thursday and were taken out for the day by George  to visit the Bavarian Alps. The country is amazing. The views were to die for. We popped up a ski lift and spent an hour waiting for the wind to turn so that the Paragliders could terrify us mere mortals jumping off the cliffs. I was wobbly on the lift the very thought of jumping into the void hanging onto bits of nylon sitting in your rucksack is the stuff of nightmares. 
A big thanks to George of Alpaka Amada who was our driver and our host for the day. Thank you Simon and Hienz for an unforgettable day out. George got us back to the Show ground for 5pm where the jollies stopped and fleece judging commenced in earnest.

Friday, 7 November 2014

TOFT on tour in Buchloe...

Started the fleeces this evening still got 40 to get through in the morning before the halter starts in the afternoon. I shall have to work like the Duracell bunny to get through 180 alpacas and the fleeces and get the medals dished ouT by early doors Sunday. Alpaca breeders enter this show from France, Italy,Switzerland  and all points North and South. They drive for hours to get here and I'd like to get them on their way as early as possible on Sunday. One things certain they won't be hanging around to talk to the judge after the show.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sexing guinea pigs is a little trickier than alpacas

A couple of months ago for young Edward's  birthday his Gran bought two female Guinea pigs for him. Unfortunately three weeks ago both females gave birth to five wee ones. Apparently Guinea pigs can breed at three weeks so suddenly we have five iincestouos offspring to find homes for. 
Today was week three for the little ones and this morning Shirley decides we have to sex them and separate boys and girls immediately  be on the safe side. So before we leave for Germany to judge alpacas we are sexing Guinea Pigs. As you do.
 The one below protruding is a male. The one not protruding above is a female. Obvious, when you know but tricky to apply the right amount of pressure to facilitate protruding. All this over ones Cornflakes. There's never a dull moment at TOFT alpacas. At least they won't get to bonk their mothers and sisters while we are away!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Jobs still on at TOFT Alpacas...

Big TOFT thanks to young Will who came to help me with the alpaca fencing last week. We are about halfway through setting up the new 15 acres of alpaca paddock. Ran out of time today as I am off to Munich at the crack of sparrows in the morning to judge fleece and halter at a big show over the weekend. Next week it's Spain. The fence job will all get done by Christmas- we hope!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Jobs on...

We've been at the fencing on the new alpaca pasture for almost nine days solid and can now see the light at the end of the tunnel but it's still small and a long way away. We're probably at least another week or so away from getting the alpacas onto the new pastures which are currently growing  like they're on speed with this warm autumnal break. The number of posts in the stack are diminishing but still  a daunting pile remains. If the weather holds we get there quick and if it breaks we get their later but at least we know now we shall get there.