So - it seems we are both pretty rubbish at updating our progress, but we've had a few people reach out so I wanted to just let everyone know where we are at and what the plans are!
First of all, building a farm from the ground up took a lot more time and effort that we first imagined. I didn't realize how much work and preparation was necessary. Whew - it's been a learning curve!
The last blog post is from April 2019 (17 months ago) when we were first breaking ground. We are in the final stages of building now and arranging for the delivery of our animals.
We've had some big delays with getting materials due to COVID but it looks like our fencing will be complete this week so we will have secure paddocks for our animals.
We expect the alpacas to arrive over the next few months (we are just waiting for the babies to get a bit bigger and for the mothers to be mated again so they come to us pregnant). In fact, the photos below are from our most recent visit to Furze Park Alpacas were some of our beauties live now - as we are arranging to get them delivered.
Many people have been asking about us opening to the public. The ultimate goal will be to open up for visits (we are thinking reservations will be required so we don't stress the animals out). But we will need time to settle in and get up to speed with all things alpacas ourselves before we can do that - so it will likely be summer 2021 before we start making plans for that.
We do have a small farm shop on-site from which we will be selling eggs (we have a number of rare breed chickens that will not only be laying lovely free range eggs, but will also be keeping our paddocks clean and tidy from bugs and parasites! We also plan to have tea and coffee available for the multitude of cyclists that go past. Our chickens are just getting to laying age so we expect to have a few eggs soon but since winter is coming and the chickens will mostly stop laying then it's not likely that the farm shop will be fully operational until Spring 2021. We will post on here as soon as it is open!
If you do want to take a peek, there is a small public footpath that runs along the boarder of our site. Please be aware, we are still a construction zone so no parking is allowed on site and, for your own safety, you cannot stray from the footpath. So you'd need to walk here from the other ends of the footpath (Stanford in the Vale would be a good place to start).
What else have we been up to?! We planted around 5,000 trees in conjunction with the Woodland Trust. Unfortunately, it never rained again after the trees were planted so we will likely have to replant next year - but as it grows it will make a lovely habitat for wildlife in the area, including some planned in glades for butterflies!
One of our goals is to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. We are completely off-grid for all of our energy usage and also have a 20,000 litre rainwater storage tank for all of the animal usage and to flush our toilets! Living this way has been a learning experience in itself as we moderate our energy usage to the daylight hours to maximize the solar yield.
Along with the alpacas and rare breed chickens (goal is to get to 100-150 chickens) we also have angora rabbits, whose super soft and high quality wool will mix nicely with the alpaca wool. We currently have 6 angora's with the plan to breed to grow to at least 10. We have some Rhea arriving today, which will be laying lovely (and huge) golden eggs that taste amazing (one egg = 15 chicken eggs) and they are also great for craft making so keep an eye out for those at our farm shop. We've got a number of cuddly cats and kittens around to help control the pest population and we've got a gorgeous German Shepherd to help keep everyone safe and ensure we don't have any more burglaries (we did have a break-in and theft in our early days on-site).
We can't wait to be able to show you around once we are up and running and I'll post more pictures when the rest of the animals arrive on-site!
Do message us if you have any questions at all! You can use the Contact Us form on the next page.
Well, it's been a while as we've been focusing on planning permission so we can properly get the farm up and running! It's been a long journey to get the planning permission to start building but we've finally got it. And luckily all the time we've spent planning and talking to contractors has helped so that we are all ready to get started straight away.
We've got phase A of the driveway in now so that the delivery trucks can get in and do their thing. And everything else is scheduled for May - so that will be a busy month. I'll try to keep updates on here and we are taking lots of photos so we can see the process!
The goal is to get all the animals on the land by the end of September! Lots of work to do before then but fingers crossed!!
We've added a new member to the JADE family. I think instead of calling the business JADE Alpacas we should have named it JADE Fuzz - so that we could expand a bit...because our newest member is a beautiful angora bunny. His name is Mostyn and he's about 6 months old.
He was purchased from Willowcot Stud in Hereford and is a beautiful show quality white angora - perfect for shearing and mixing with our alpaca wool. In fact, he arrived already sheared so we've got the first bag of fleece all ready!
He's a bit shy now as he's settling into his rabbit mansion! I'm hoping he will come out and play with me soon!
We were very excited to take part in our first show - the Heart of England Spring Alpaca Fiesta 2017. After feedback from Shirley and Rob at Toft Alpacas (http://www.toft-alpacas.co.uk/), our 9 month old baby boy Quartz was considered good enough to have a shot at the show!
Rob and Shirley very kindly helped us with all of the logistics, including getting booked on and also transporting Quartz to the show along with their own animals they were entering. They have been extremely supportive and generous throughout our alpaca journey!!!!
The show is split into different classes, based on the breed, sex, colour and age of alpaca. Quartz was entered into the Junior White Male Category. As there were oven 12 entries, the round was split into 2.
Having spent what felt like an hour picking all of the bits of the cardboard flooring out of his fleece ready for the show he was good to go.
We were in the second round and Jacquie volunteered to walk him into the ring. Shortly after entering she was asked by the judge to leave the ring!! We thought we had done something wrong as no one else had to leave, but it was just because he wanted to see Quartz walk a little further. Turns out we need to learn a little more about how to show the Alpacas and present them in a show!
Quartz did well earning a 6th place!! The judge commented that he would have received 4th place if he had walked a little better, something to work on for next time and a good result for our first show!!
So after the sad news that Anduril passed away in January, we are down to 1 female (Marie) and 2 lovely baby boys. This has really put a dink into our herd growth plans, so we decided following the Heart of England Fiesta to visit some of the highest quality breeders and invest in 2-3 more pregnant females for breeding.
Over the Easter weekend we were lucky enough to visit 3 farms run by some of the best Alpaca breeders in the UK, who specialised in top quality white Alpacas. We were kindly hosted by Mary-Jo from Bozedown Alpacas, Mick and Liz George from Houghton Hall Alpacas and Bob Hyde of Furze park Alpacas.
All of them breed top quality Alpacas and were all extremely generous with their time, knowledge and enthusiasm. We have loads of information to review before making some decisions soon!
A massive thanks to all of them, we have a fantastic weekend and if you are interested in some premium quality Alpacas then please visit them:
We've had the results back from Anduril's post mortem. Turns out she had liver cancer. A bit of a rarety, especially in an alpaca that is only about 6.5 years old. But luckily it was nothing that could be spread to the rest of the herd - just bad luck.
We've just had news today that we lost Anduril last night. We had a brief email from Shirley over at Toft yesterday saying that they had the vet in to look at her as she won't stand up (but is still eating and drinking). Her breathing is a bit erratic so they've given her some antibiotics for pneumonia. Unfortunately, she didn't make it through the night. We will be sending her off for post mortem to find out the cause.
Luckily - her cria Aluminum is old enough to be weaned to we won't have to worry about him. He is healthy and strong and all the other alpaca seem healthy as well - so will be interesting to see what the results of the post mortem are.
And luckily we had insured the 2 females so we should be able to get the purchase price back from the insurance company and be able to continue to build the herd.
We got lucky again! We had a lovely camping weekend planned nearby to Toft so that we could visit the alpacas and spend a bit of time outdoors - and Marie gave birth to her baby the day before we arrived. We are lucky to have another strong young male cria and all of our alpacas are doing well!
Having 2 male crias isn't great for growing the herd - as really we would have preferred females, the babies are showing promise to have good fleeces so we are hopeful that we may have a chance taking them to a show next year. We will keep a good eye on them but they come from very strong champion stock on their father's side (Beck Brow Explorer).
I won't go on and on - here are some more photos of cute fuzzy alpacas - because I know that's what most people want to see!
We had a visit to Toft to see our alpacas today. We knew they were in the pregnant mother's field waiting for imminent births. We had a quick peak in the top paddock and saw a couple of moms with their cria there and then we we walked all around the field looking for Marie and Anduril. We were able to find Marie - luckily it's super easy as she's got the brown spot on her neck. She was still looking a pregnant as ever with no cria running around. But we couldn't find Anduril...so we walked around again and still nothing. Feeling a bit worried we wandered back up to the top paddock to see the new babies that had just been born - and that's when we noticed that one of the mom's was Anduril. She had just had her cria a couple hours before we arrived!! Our first cria.
We later learned that it was a little boy - which we named Aluminum (Anthony really wanted an alpaca that we could call Al - Like Al Paca...). So aluminum was the closest natural mineral / precious metal that we could find that would shorten to Al. Since the company is JADE Alpacas we are going to keep the names in line with that and use precious stones and minerals.
Now for a few cute photos!
Shearing day was a lot of fun. We got to help with the shearing process for about 60 alpacas during the first day and Jacquie helped with around another 70 the second day!
Alpacas are usually sheared once a year (suri's can be up to every 2 years as their fleece doesn't bulk out as much). Marie was looking like she needed it as she could barely see through all the fuzz!
It is a fairly organised process - the shearing of an animal takes around 6 minutes and there are a number of things that need to be done during that time with the fleece of the animal before - its like a mini production line:
The alpacas are helped onto the table and both front legs and back legs tied to prevent them kicking and hurting themselves. Their heads are supported by a helper and shearing performed by 2 shearers.
After shearing they jump off the table and run around again outside - they look very skinny after!
Looks like she is missing a coat - its all in the bag! She lost about 1.5kg of weight that day!!
Massive thanks to Rob and Shirley at Toft Alpacas who let us help out for the day and shared so much knowledge. If you are interested in learning more about alpacas they run some fantastic courses and are lovely people: http://www.toft-alpacas.co.uk