Jane and the Beast from the East

Mar. 5, 2018

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.





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Snow Joke

Jan. 3, 2018

Snow at the right time of the year looks great. Everywhere is covered in a blanket of a pure white frozen layer of dust that had earlier fallen from dark menacing clouds so silently. But after a day it gets in the way of normal life - as we know it. 

If you live outside town - far enough away that vehicular transport is the only way in - a heavy fall of snow can be annoying. Transport to and from the places you would normally travel to can even be dangerous.

And then there are the extra clothes that need to be adorned just to get outside. Winter coats and woolly hats become a necessity. That is of course if you are not an alpaca.

During our recent snowfall we at Hilltop Farm made sure we dressed up warmly before heading up to see our herd each day. A cold wind blew down the hill and it was cold. But our alpacas seemed to be in their element. They just carried on as if nothing had changed. And the heat inside their fleece was unbelievably warm.

Even though the deposit of snow had frozen, they were still able to pick at it and find enough to satisfy their needs even though there was always enough hay available in their shelters at all times.

Yes, it was no joke during that recent snowfall, unless you were an alpaca and you could make little of it. These are hardy animals even though you would not believe it as you watch them wander around so calmly, looking like they need all the help and assistance you can give them. But I think they know what we think and they just take advantage of us. 

I think the humans were the joke in the alpaca world. But who couldn't fall for these lovable and docile animals.

Until next time

Alan and Catriona


Jan. 3, 2018

I don't look like someone who leans on a mantlepiece with a cocktail in my hand

Nov. 23, 2017

That's a quote from the famous actor Charles Bronson, who we at Hilltop Farm Alpacas are saying we allowed to share his name with our gorgeous grey alpaca called Bronson. He may not be Hollywood royalty but he certainly knows how to hold his viewing public's attention.

Yes indeed, our Bronson is a show stealer, just like the man who shares his name. There has been quite a lot of interest in Hilltop Farm Alpacas of late and we have seen a big increase in visitor numbers here.

There are currently 11 alpacas on show and each has their own separate tendencies. Each of them has an attraction - something that pulls you in the direction of these friendly and docile animals. Some of them, particularly the younger ones, come down for a nose. They are always interested and want to investigate new people who pay them (and us) a visit.

In particular, the three girls who share a paddock (two black fleece and one fawn) come together, like a woolly package and almost try to out do each other for attention.

But, just like they say in Hollywood, you ain't seen nothin' yet until you've seen Bronson. He is an entertainer and especially with young children. He loves to tickle and hear them laugh them laugh, and, there is absolutel no way that a visitor will get away without rubbing him down, at least once.

So maybe he doesn't look like someone (or something) who leans on a mantlepiece with a cocktail in his hand, but he might not seem all that out of place with a celebratory drink of some sort, near him.

If you want to come see our Bronson and his pals, phone me, send me a text, contact me of Facebook or send a message on our website - www.hilltopfarmalpacas.com.

What are alpacas really like?

Sep. 13, 2017

Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups consisting of a territorial alpha male, females and their young. Alpacas warn the herd about intruders by making sharp, noisy inhalations that sound like a high-pitched bray. Their aggression towards members of the canid family coyotes, foxes, dogs etc. is exploited when alpacas are used as 'minders' for guarding sheep and poultry too.

But what are they really like?

These animals are so easy to handle because they are so docile. They are relatively easy to maintain. Feedstuff consists of grass, hay and a small amount of specially created pellets (which work for alpacas the way probiotic yougurts work for humans) each day. They like to drink fresh water. There are some necessary 'jobs' that need to be done especially in the autumn/winter time, but they are easy to do. If it were any other farm animal the farmer might need to call their vet. But not with alpacas.

But this still doesn't really answer the question of what they are like. It so happens that Sunday 24th September is National Alpaca Day and here on Hilltop Farm we are inviting people to come and visit us and when they are here they can bring Bronson, our well known male, for a walk. Our alpacas have been halter trained and are used to being brought for walks on a lead. Bronson loves going for strolls and you can lead him around the field on Sunday 24th if you so wish.

Come and see us and find out what alpacas are really like. Bronson, his family and friends are waiting here for you.