Friday, 27 May 2016

First TOFT Timogen babe hits the ground...result

Always difficult to know when to start the boys mating the females. This time last year we decided to get our Champion Brown Male TOFT Timogen working earlier than usual as we have syndicated this male and the new owners were keen for him to work in 2015. At the time we had a couple of older girls that we decided to let him practice on. Today the first results of that boys graduation to being a man arrived in the paddock in the form of a beautiful dark brown female out of TOFT Snowdrizzle. Result!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Hallelujah....Bring on the boys !

These girls are those that over wintered in the non pregnant paddocks yearning to meet the boys and satisfy their need to reproduce. We started mating at TOFT as soon as shearing finished, which was last week. So these girls are now all together in the early mating paddock being run in and serviced every other day by our very happy Stud males. Every day they queue at the gate with that 'look' in their eye! 

The sound of 'orgling' echoes around TOFT every Monday Wednesday  and Friday at the moment as the boys get themselves match fit for the rest of the season.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Devon County Show with Mrs TOFT Alpaca Judge

Splendid Thursday and Friday this week at the Devon County Show in Exeter where Shirley was judging the alpacas and I was commentating on the proceedings and keeping exhibitors and public informed on the wonderful world of Alpaca. The weather heals off both days from being disastrous with a short break for rain on the Thursday when we went inside for a couple of hours. 

All in all the rain threatened throughout as it does in an English Summer but it never really materialised and a good crowd enjoyed the proceedings throughout. Jo Bridge was apprenticing with Shirley and together they kept up a cracking pace to get through 170 entries over the two days.

It was a great two days of Alpaca fun and the standard of alpacas seemed very high with a very large Suri entry making my job of keeping the 'rabbit' going fairly easy. Great crowd, great setting, fabulous alpacas and a great sense of camaraderie from the exhibitors makes this an unmissable event. Just look at the setting, a permanently fenced show ring, two huge back up marquees to house the alpacas and to keep the ring going in adverse weather. All this next to the main show attraction the Devon Eye! What's not to enjoy??
What a showcase for our magnificent creatures. Congratulations to all the winners, commiserations to those who didn't get placed. Well done Mrs TOFT Alpaca judge and her apprentice from....Suffolk!
Well done Devon!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Six minutes on that table and look what happens...

That's all it takes to shear an alpaca- walk it from the pen, lift it onto the table, tether back and front legs, stretch and secure as someone holds the head. Once settled, toe nails are cut and shearing begins . Shear one side then  roll the alpaca and shear the other. Check teeth, administer vaccination and wormer if appropriate then release. 
Meanwhile the useable part of the fleece, which is the majority, is taken from the shearing table and placed on the sorting table where three other people rapidly skirt and grade the fleece to its relative batch in less than six minutes.
6 min is all it takes to transform our stunningly beautiful 'teddy bears on legs' into ' Pink Panthers'. Now we must wait 3-6 months for the 'look' to return whilst enjoying the comedy of our Panther romping around inthe sun enjoying the freedom of their summer clothing.
Why do we leave the top knots on? Because it's cute- shave the topknot and  they look a bit like 'Old Nick'. You can't sell an alpaca with a shaved topknot!

Monday, 16 May 2016

And they're off... Group sex on the hard standing at TOFT

Yesterday we began mating in earnest, well the males did. It's been a long winter for the boys and they've been waiting patiently in their paddocks this past month or so. The weather has been good if a little cold and although we could have had Cria born early this year there is no telling what next year will bring. 
Our Policy at TOFT is to begin mating as soon a shearing is over. In this way fleece can't get in the way or complicate the process in any way. As we shear around the second week in May it means our babies will not arrive next year until the beginning of May. It's an 11.5 months gestation period for an alpaca and they are ideally mated 2 weeks after birthing. So a little foresight and stamina is required over the next few months on all our parts whilst birthing and mating dominate at TOFT.
So yesterday it began mating with 8 stud males performing the first duties of the season in the pens on the hard standing.They went off like a bag of frogs. The sound of or 'orgling' males was deafening. The sex party was in full swing from the outset and those poor boys left in the field were non too pleased to be on the bench. 
TOFT will resound to these dulcet tones of mating males every Monday, Wednesday and Friday right through until the second week of August by which time hopefully all our breeding Mums for 2017 will be settled, scanned and the boys can rest all winter in the paddocks as their respective females concentrate on growing the next TOFT generation.
This year we are returning to scheduling all our 2017 births between May 1st and the end of July all things being equal. We did achieve this a few years back but birthing has got a little out of sync in the past few years. Any late birthers this year will be held over until this time next year. We much prefer our Cria to be on the ground early in the summer so they can thrive and be ready for anything our winter may decide to throw at them. 
It has been said and so it will be done- we hope. We can but try. As with any livestock operation we react to whatever the weather and circumstance throw at us and plan as a best we can against most eventualities. 'Twas ever thus!

TOFT Alpaca husbandry introductory day...

Lovely day yesterday with a cold breeze but a lot of bright sunshine as we ran the 2nd TOFT Alpaca Husbandry Introductory of the year on farm. Here's a shot so some very happy and now knowledgeable alpaca enthusiasts.
Thanks for choosing to come to TOFT to increase your awareness and experience with alpacas. We trust you went home with all your questions answered and your heads spinning with the wonderful world of alpaca. Thanks for your sense of humour and your company and we wish you well with your own alpaca adventure whatever that may be.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Talent will out...

There are millions of alpaca picture taken every week. These magical creatures steal the heart of everyone who comes into contact with them. However the great alpaca pictures come as always from those who have the eye to recognise the light , the situation and the composition as a potential upon which to lavish some time to get a great result.
Whilst in the last throws of shearing on Thursday I noticed my daughter Kerry Lord sitting cross legged in the paddock with a bunch of newly shorn alpacas. She is currently 5 months pregnant with her second child and there she was shuffling slowly forward on her back side inch by inch until she was in a position to take this photograph. Was it worth it? Well judge for yourself. I see lots of alpaca photies having been breeding them for almost 20 years now., I have taken loads but just occasionally you see something that takes your breath away and this one took mine. Is it the combination of colours all bright and new in the  air minutes after shearing? Is it the sense of release in the alpacas as they recognise summer after a wet winter? Is it the angle and the contrast against the deep blue sky behind?  It's all of those and a lot more besides but more than anything it's the taker who knew what she wanted and pursued it with patient determination to achieve a fantastic result. Luck no way! It's called talent. My eldest has the 'eye' and long may she continue to use it to surprise us. Enjoy!

Who's a smart boy then...?

Archie the TOFT Llama got his annual haircut yesterday as the final alpaca to be sheared at this sitting. Archie is sheared standing up and that cut is called a Barrell cut which apparently is all the rage in the Lllama soirees at the moment... Honest!
Archie has one main function at TOFT and that is to demonstrate the difference between a Llama and an Alpaca which he does magnificently. As you can see he is... A foot and half taller, has big curved ears like the handles of the European Cup, his tail is permanently cocked at a jaunty angle and his head is much larger and more accentuated giving him a haughty arrogant look which is not as submissive as the alpaca. Job done.. Well done Archie.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Happy new hair do....

Well that's done, we knocked off shearing the last alpaca about 1 ish, having made good progress since 6.30am. Good breeze over night ensured all were dry this morning. We got a good start and Freya and Linda had al the remaining alpacas in their place adn running smoothly through the holding pens ensuring the shearer kept moving without a break throughout. A big thanks to all who took part in  rounding up, shearing , sorting, grading and tidying up. Couldn't have done it without you. Go get showered and enjoy!
All there is to do now is clear up. For the rest of the summer we live with the 'Pink  Panthers' until the regrowth rounds them back into cute Teddies. Mind you with those ears now their main feature these girls look pretty cute!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Busy busy busy... From the crack of sparrows

We begin shearing yesterday afternoon having shredded up a number of alpacas overnight Tuesday for an early start. Unfortunately the weather was against us for most of the day. So as we can't shear wet alpacas we delayed starting until the afternoon. In between showers we had just enough dry to get through about 40 before rain stopped play. 
We were all up at the crack of sparrows this morning to find our shredded alpacas a bit damp to kick off straight away. We got them outside in the wind for an hour while we all tucked into bacon sarnies and Bobs your Uncle we got the table busy by 8.30am. The weather has been perfect today with bright sunlight and a gentle breeze to keep the alpacas dry. Finished about 7.30pm after a full on day. 'Twas ever thus! Dinner now then bed.  We shall all get up at the crack of sparrowfart and do it all again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

And we're off.....

The first Cria of 2016 was born today in the rain. A white girl from Shanbrooke Accoyo Tsar of TOFT ET out of TOFT Ambarona. We haven't weighed her yet but she looks a big un. So much for being born on a sunny day before 3.30pm. Obviously Mum couldn't hang on as the rain has been fairly constant today, if not heavy, from about 1am. 
So there we go first one on the ground for 2016. Mum and babe all well and only 47 to go. We shall call her Alyona which is a touch Russian after her Dad. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

It just went...

Bit of a shocker the other day. I went up to the Rye Hill Farm entrance to our place where the Sustrans cycle track comes through towards the Reservoir to find that a gate had completely disappeared. Gate and post were gone leaving a large gap where a wooden pedestrian gate used to hang. 

On enquiry it turns out that Linda had noticed this omission a month back and Shirley swears the gate was gone before that. Well I never.  No one found it remarkable enough to inform yours truly. 'Twas ever thus. 

Who and why we shall never know. Maybe some kind and handy soul is going to replace it but I doubt it. Of course the cyclists love it because now they don't have to stop and open the gate. H'mmm...

TOFT poo picking machine

TOFT Poo Picking Machine- Only thing missing is the engine. Runs on normal fuel intake with cake and coffee supplement! 
Seriously I always smile when I pass these rigs. We have them placed all over the farm in strategic positions for clearing the hard standings, small home paddocks, isolation paddocks etc. A £40 wheelbarrow and a £7 snow shovel. Yours truly has been known to invest in several snow shovels in July and August when he sees them in the sales at less than £7 outside small DIY outlets and garages. Well, we just can't have enough of those boys floating around to shovel up the Alpaca poo. Simple but, oh,so effective. After almost 20 years of picking alpaca poo we still haven't found anything better than a cheap plastic snow shovel for scooping up the 'beans'.
Of course we do have an old Wessex sweeper/scarifier that works off the PTO on the tractor for cleaning the bigger paddocks. I mean lets get real, there's almost 70 acres of alpacas  at TOFT !