Mar. 5, 2018

Jane and the Beast from the East

When it snows, it always seems to allow a silence descend around us all. Everything begins so tranquil and it feels like we have been given unexpected play-time. No matter how much you say you hate snow, it does have a tranquil quality about it.

But when that seemingly harmless snow is joined by a strong easterly wind with strong chill factor, it becomes less enticing, especially when you have livestock. 

Alpacas originally come from the Andes Mountains of Peru and Chile and they are 'built' to live in freezing conditions high in those mountains. Their thick fleece is better than any man-made winter coat. But the Beast from the East that we have just been through was different to anything we have been through in this country. We have been through very low temperatures in recent years, but the cost biting east wind was something else.

We had 11 alpacas at the beginning of March 2018 but the harsh weather conditions took one of ladies. Jane, three months from her 19th birthday was unable to last the conditions. The severe wind was too much for her. She was affected by the cold so much that she had already been wearing a special alpaca coat since November. The lady who gave us Jane advised us that the 'Old Lady' had begun rtghe feel the winter cold for last year or two. But alas, even with the special coat she was wearing, she was unable to deal with the punishing cold.

It didn't take this old lady long to realise that she could make the most of her situation and she was waited on hand and food for food and drink every day. She just stood or sat there in her new shed waiting to be served her food - head always held high - probably laughing away to herself at her new-found glory. That was until Saturday evening when there was a change in her, she didn't seem to want to eat or drink muck. Catriona watched her closely all of that day and she got out of bed just after 4:30am on Sunday morning to look at Jane. She stayed with her and then myself and the girls joined her some time after half six. The Vet arrived just before 7am and we watched the old lady drift off into alpaca heaven - but not without a fight to survive. But she was too tired to fight and death took her from Hilltop Farm. 

Jane will be missed by the young alpacas that she mothered and by her daughter who lives with us.

That was just one part of those few hard days. All of the other alpacas had to be tended to as well. The main source of their food is grass and hay, however the heavy snowfall had completely covered the grass and drifts made it difficult for the animals to move all that much in their fields. The freezing temperatures meant that water froze regularly and alpacas need to drink regularly. The Beast from the East made the days long, but not difficult.

With all of this happening, it seems like we at Hilltop Farm had a difficult time. That was not completely true. These fabulous animals bring a smile to your face when you see them work out how to survive the weather. Watching them find spots in their paddocks where they were less affected by the onslaught of the harsh wind was enlightening. Instead of moaning about the conditions like humans are prone to do, they just do something about it to improve their existence.

But returning to the beginning of this blog, we at Hilltop Farm say goodbye to our recent friend Jane, who up until the end acted like a lady. I have attached a photo I took of her last August not long after she arrived to our farm.

Yes, it was a sad time here yesterday, but she did add some aesthetic class to the herd for the time she was here. Some of the animals are still in mourning but like everything else, the alpacas will use their inner strength to pull through this rough time. Humans can learn so much from these docile and thoughful animals. 

Until again.