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We have recently welcomed a new member to our herd, Cassius. Cassius has joined us as a breeding male and will be starting his stud duties in 2022. We will also be using our homebred boy Bear as a breeding male going forward, but required an additional stud male to diversify the herd genetics. Cassius is a lovely natured, quiet boy who has settled in really well with the herd and we are delighted to have him with us.

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It's been a busy summer for us here at Christie Alpacas, though in a different way to the norm!

At the start of July, as the tourism sector began to reopen, we had to have a long think about the best way forward so that we could welcome people to see the alpacas, minimise risks and be economically viable. In the end we decided to open only to voucher holders, since they had already invested their money in us, and people staying in the Paca Pod.

Many voucher holders have taken the opportunity to get their alpaca fix (although we still have several outstanding vouchers, so if you have one get in touch ASAP!) and the alpacas have enjoyed meeting people again and are getting back into the swing of walking in their halters. Bear and Babooshka have been building on the halter training undertaken with us in the spring, and are now walking out confidently with visitors.

The Paca Pod has also been busier than ever this year and we were fully booked throughout July and August, and continue to have a steady stream of bookings coming in. People have visited from all over Scotland and a few from across the border too, and the feedback we have received has all been wonderful - we are so grateful. We have had families with young children, who loved seeing the alpacas, running around our large garden and splashing in the pool. The local beaches have also been a hit, with children and adults alike. It's nice to think we've played a part in making great memories in what has been a worrying and stressful year.

There has also been a bit of building work underway, with the girls getting a new extension onto the front of their shed. We've noticed that whenever there was stormy weather with a northerly wind (quite common in the winter months!) the boys were tucked in their shed nice and cosy, whilst the wind blew right in to the girls shed, taking the rain with it. There was only really one corner of the shed which was sheltered in these conditions - not ideal when there's six alpacas! The girls therefore now have a fetching new veranda at the front of their shed, with metal sheets where the gates used to be to deflect the wind and the roof has been extended out over the concrete path at the front to provide more shelter from the rain. We have also create a second gate at the fence side to make it a bit easier to guide them in when we need to catch them (although a bucket of feed usually does the trick!)

Besides the above, we also have all the routine tasks - poo-picking, feet trimming, vitamin paste treatments, water bucket and paddling pool filling, grass cutting, etc. - keeping us busy, as well as our 'day jobs' so it's been hectic at times. We are, however, grateful for everyone's continued interest in visiting and, although we will continue with vouchers and Paca Pod guests only until the end of our season (October), we hope to welcome everyone who wishes to visit next season (from Spring 2021). Until then, stay safe and enjoy what is left of the good weather!

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For us at Christie Alpacas, spring is usually an exciting time of year as we prepare to reopen for the season. Our alpacas usually get the winter off - the weather in this region of the world tends to be cold and wet during the winter, not much fun for customers or alpacas - and we reopen from April to October. In March we would usually be taking the alpacas out for walks ourselves to get them back in the swing of things and used to having their halters on and leaving their fields. We did this as normal this year through March, but unfortunately Covid-19 soon put a stop to our routine and instead of opening in April we were forced into lockdown. So far we haven't been able to welcome any visitors at all in 2020.

But even in lockdown, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. This year our usual Australian shearer decided to hang up his clippers to pursue new adventures. There were a couple of other alternative shearers we could have used, but we decided it was a good time to try our hands at it ourselves. In previous years we have been constrained to the schedule of the shearer, whilst this is understandable, it was also frustrating that our alpacas weren't typically sheared until late July when the best of the weather was usually past and their fleeces didn't have sufficient regrowth before the colder weather started. We had a couple of weeks of warm weather in May so decided it was the perfect time to have a go at shearing them. All in all, it was a success - all 11 alpacas were sheared and had their teeth and toenails trimmed. We were, of course, a little slower than a professional but the alpacas were quite relaxed throughout and I've seen worse 'lockdown haircuts'!

The other thing which happened in May was our matings. We decided to not to have any cria this year, simply because they would be born too late in the year. Alpacas gestation period is, on average, 345 days (around 11.5 months) but it varies quite a lot and can sometimes be over a year. Bear and Babooshka were born in late July/early August last year, meaning their mums couldn't be mated again until late August, and their cria would have been born in August or early September this year. In many places, even just further south in the UK, this would be fine, but our Autumns tend to be very wet and windy which isn't ideal conditions for young cria. So instead we decided to skip births in 2020 and mate this May, hopefully resulting in some lovely healthy cria in May 2021, which will have the whole summer to grow strong and enjoy the sunshine before the colder days make an appearance.

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