You've Got To Learn To Progress

Aug. 14, 2017

No matter how good you think you are doing at something there's always room to improve. This is a lesson I learned the hard way this weekend.

The Tullamore Show was held on Sunday 13th August in the midlands town of...yes you guessed it, Tullamore. It is the largest one day agricultural show in Ireland which hosts livestock and equestrian competitions among much more, and included a contest for alpacas this year. The actual competition was a 'Fleece Off' cotest whereby the animal's shorn fleece and their stature were examined separately and the combination of both scores provided the overall placement in their categories.

The fleece was examined by the competition judge (from Warickshire, England) on the day prior to the show. But it's not only the make-up of the fleece that is examined. I had thought that I was in with a chance of some good prizes because I considered the four animals that we entered to be of good quality and their fleece was in good condition too.

But I was wrong.

Little did I know that the fleece needed to be cleaned when being presented. We had removed as much of the dirt as we could but the dust collected by the animals in the fibre was still in there because I had failed to shake it out. A big mistake because it meants our animals' fleeces were marked down on the score-sheet for this oversight.

In saying that however, we still managed to leave the show with four rosettes. Bella our Intermediate Fawn girl was first in her category. Our white boy, Hercules, was third in his category. Unfortunately our black girl, Blanchette was last in her category and her fleece was dirty and I knew it when I submitted it. A big mistake not to have made a better attempt at cleaning it.

But Bronson, our grey boy finished second in the Any Other Colour category. He had been marked as first place on his stature but the fleece mark let him down. But, the last prize given out on the day was to Bronson - HIGHLY COMMENDED. The judge said he was the best looking animal at the show of the 45 there. People kept telling me that the judge was continually admiring him and he even took a photo of him. But the best comment was his last when the judge told me that Bronson would win any competition in the UK for greys. But if I had cleaned his shorn fleece correctly before submitting it to the competition I could have done better.

In fact all of our entries could have done better. But that's a lesson learned. It seems that you have to make mistakes to improve, once you take the new information and learn from it.

Next year I will have better entries to this competition and that will be because I will have learned from this mistake. Its progression in a relatively new venture for us and we are learning as we go. We know and practice the important basics and do them well but we are always looking to improve and learn.

The photo attached is of Bronson looking down at me with his cute teddy bear look.

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Have you heard; it's a herd

Jul. 23, 2017

Hilltop Farm Alpacas can probably now be correctly called a Farm. It wasn't that we on the farm were trying to deceive you at any point because a name is just aname, right? Well that's kind of what we thought initially. We had to call the place something and given that we are located on a slope that looks out at Croghan Hill we gave it the name Hilltop Farm.

But since we started back last September twelve months with two pregnant girls, we now have nine animals. Yes that's right, nine alpacas are residing at our Farm. I don't feel so silly calling it a Farm now.

Last Friday we brought in our newest animals - a seven year old mother and her ten day old Cria called Fudge and Cloud respectively. (We named the Cria)She is a pure white fuffy girl.

But there is an existing connection believe it or not. The new mother, Fudge in the attached photo, is also mother to one of our existing girls - Bella, a fawn alpaca who was Reserve Fawn in this year's national show. She has pedigree and some of that will no doubt have been passed down from her mother. You will see what kind of progeny Fudge gives when you see the posture and size of Cloud (Feeding from her mother in the picture).

So, to end this piece where we started, Hilltoip Farm Alpacas can be called a Farm without feeling silly.

If you would like to see our alpacas you can contact me by phone (on Website homepage) or by Facebook. You can even leave a message on this website if you so wish.

Until next time


Both good and bad things make us what we are...

Jun. 14, 2017

At Hilltop Farm Alpacas we experienced extremes of good and bad at the weekend just gone. Our alpaca farm will be just two years in operation this coming October and already we have undergone changes that we would not have anticipated twenty four months ago. We have had births, our own yarn, and work I would not have considered doing and evenings out in the paddocks with our docile and lovable animals. But we experienced out worst episode yet last Saturday.

Our two pregnant mothers, Apollo and Astra were due to give birth in the first week of June, the 7th to be precise. This is an exciting time for any alpaca farm with new cria (babies) running around freely without a bother in the world. You could watch them springing around the paddocks for any amount of time and never get tired of it.

One thing you should know about Alpaca is that they are known to go over their due dates for anything up five or six weeks. However, last Saturday, Astra went into labour and after what seemed an age after her waters finally broke, she gave birth to fabulous looking black boy (photo attached). We gave him the name, Caesar. He had very long legs and a long neck and was just a stunning looking animal.

We allowed him and his mother to get to know each other for a while before we stepped in lifted him up off the grassy floor of the paddock. Having gone through this process last year with our first two births, we began to realise that there was something not right. Caesar had sat up for only a short while and then lay back down. Over half an hour had passed since his birth and he should have been moving somewhat more.

With some distress it was decided that we should call the vet. When we brought in Caesar, the vet told us that the cria had swallowed some of the fluids when his mother's waters broke and that his lungs had water in them. Caesar died in the vet's surgery after the vet almost pulled off a miracle. Darren from Hannigan Griffin Veterinary in Tullamore was brilliant but there was nothing even he could have done for Caesar.

It was a very distressing evening in our house after it hit home that the little fellow was dead. It was a hard lesson learned - everyone who has livestock, will at some stage have deadstock. Nothing is perfect.

But the weekend was not all bad. I brought three of our other alpacas to the National Alpaca Show in Dundalk on Sunday. First up were the girls and both of them won prizes in their categories. But the real surprise was yet to come, Bronson, our one year old male, won three rosettes. He finished up as RESERVE SUPREME MALE CHAMPION 2017 in the National Show. He also drew the most attention from on-lookers. He is fabulous looking animal, but I think he knows it.

So what I am telling you is that for every bit of bad luck or news you recieve or experience, there is a balancing bubble of good fortune waiting for you also.

But life is all about learning; and working with alpacas on your own land will teach you more about life that you would expect. Even with the bad news, it is a fabulous way of life.

Until Apollo gives birth, adios.


That Time Of Year Again

May. 13, 2017

Around this time last year I began my blogs. It sure doesn't seem like a year has passed, but it has. So much has changed on Hilltop Farm Alpacas in that period - our cria were born, weaned and have grown up; a bigger area has been fenced for them AND we have acquired two more alpacas of similar age to our Bronson and Blanchett. The two newbies are Bella - a girl and Hercules - a boy and both have settled in really well. It shows just how much of a social animal alpacas are. 

Anyway, Apollo and Astra, our mother alpacas (the originals) are due to give birth in the next few weeks and following that, wool shearing is next on the calendar.

The background work on our alpaca farm is far greater than one would expect, but that said, it is enjoyable because the animals make it so. Bronson is still an attention seeker and when anyone comes to visit he makes himself known so that he can receive the admiration he craves. But when you see him, he is impossible to ignore. He leans forward for a kiss and his lovely big dark eyes stay with yours.

Yesterday we separated the boys from the girls and now Bronson and Hercules are keeping each other company in their own paddock. They ran and ran around the paddock in the evening while the ladies just watched, eventually taking flight but not with the same intensity as their male counterparts.

In a couple of weeks time things will become busier with births and minding the cria that hopefelly are born fine, developing a 'link' with them and giving them the requisite jabs and medical stuff.

This is the best time of year on an alpaca farm and you should try to get to visit one if you can. You'd never know, you might even find yourself investing in a couple in the future.

Until again


A New Addition

Mar. 23, 2017

Hilltop Farm Alpacas has grown since I lasted posted here. Yes, that's right, we've added to our stock. As of last weekend we have a nine month old girl we acquired from an alpaca farm just outside Drogheda called Mullagh Lane Alpacas. Our new girl has been named BELLA in keeping with the existing 'B' names. She is a sweet little thing covered in fawn coloured fleece who we hope will be able to produce young cria genetically unrelated to our existing alpacas, when she is old enough.

Bella has been settling in over the week and is beginning to getused to her new surrouundings and friends and she is also beginning to know and trust us too. Alpacas are very sociable animals and like to live in groups. But there is one of our older girls who is a little unhappy that there is a 'newbe' in the group. But she will come around in time.

I have attached a photo taken of her on her arrival and she looks contented enough, even though there were signs that she missed the group she came from. But she looks to be good at making new friends and withing another week or so she'll look as though she had always lived here.

It's amazing how much you can learn about these fabulous docile animals just by observing them and there are probably a few things we as humans could learn from their interactions with each other.

Until next time