Farm Diary

A changing world

The recent September/October school holidays have illustrated to us just how much the world, and our business with it, has changed since last year: No international visitors, no inter-state visitors and no tour bus visitors; and yet we have been busier compared to previous years! How can we explain this? Well, it seems that with state borders closed, New South Wales people are looking for quiet, uncrowded places to holiday in their own state, so our camper numbers have actually increased. Meanwhile, fed up with restrictions and dangers, people are also looking for “safe” places to go for family/group meals or outings, so our day visitor numbers have also increased overall! It’s an ill wind …

Just a reminder to our valued visitors: We are currently restricted to a maximum of 20 visitors on the property at any one time. Please don’t ask us to bend this rule. There are massive fines for both you and us if we do.

The new “normal”

It’s good to be able to report that we are back in business and starting to see increasing numbers of visitors. Sadly, however, no large coach groups. We miss our elderly visitors and hope it won’t be too long before large group outings are back on the agenda for them.

As a treat for our Winter visitors, our huarizo, Sarina, produced a beautiful female cria. This was especially exciting because huarizos (male llama/female alpaca cross) are supposed to be infertile. So our little Spotto is a very rare baby, indeed: three parts llama and one part alpaca!

As I write, Australia is experiencing a second wave of corona virus. This appears to be happening in other parts of the world, too. It seems we’re not out of the woods yet. Wherever you are, stay safe and well.

Farm life goes on regardless

Due to the effects bushfires, drought and flood, and now coronavirus, our income has been reduced by 70% over the past seven months. The agri-tourism side of the business is now non-existent and, not surprisingly, in a time of economic crisis, sales of our premium alpaca products have almost dried up.

We are thankful for both state and federal government assistance to help us stay afloat, but we would much prefer to be paying our own way! Ultimately, all government assistance comes out of the pockets of tax-payers just like us.

But even in the midst of a pandemic, the daily routine on a farm continues as normal. It doesn’t really seem like a lockdown when you have over 50 hectares of land to work and roam around in. We feel very fortunate compared to those of you who are confined indoors.

After the ravages of drought and flood there has certainly been no shortage of work to get the farm back to how it was a year ago, but we are now getting close.

We want to assure all our day visitors, campers, caravaners and shop customers that we will be back in business the minute the lockdown is lifted. And there is going to be one hell of a party to celebrate!

Famine to feast

In the past four weeks we have had more rain than in the whole of 2019 (over 22 inches)! Australia is indeed a country of extremes.

While grass (and weed) growth has been phenomenal, large dead patches in our, now lush, pastures bear witness to how close we came to oblivion. These areas will take a long time to re-establish. Ironic, too, that low-lying areas of our pasture may now suffer from flood damage!

The pacas and llamas are loving the wet conditions, as they delight in wallowing in muddy water as an alternative to dust bathing. For those born last year, this is their first experience of getting really soaked.

End of drought

After 13 horrible months, our drought finally ended last weekend with rainfall of approximately 10 inches. In any normal January, this amount of rain would have resulted in serious flooding, but such was the severity of the drought that it had all soaked away within two days.

Assuming average follow-up rain, we are hoping our pastures will recover before the winter. At the moment, there are large dead patches that, even with favourable conditions, will take months to re-establish.

Jericho, our stud male, was obviously feeling very amorous around this time last year, as we had a spate of Christmas babies: Paul, Paula, Persephone and Prince were all born in December, along with two others that didn’t make it. All four are doing well.

Alpacas and llamas obviously thrive in dry conditions as the herd has never looked healthier. Unfortunately, we have now returned to the hot, extremely humid weather typical of this time of year, which is not good for skin conditions. The wallowing holes, which contain water for the first time in over a year, are proving very popular!

Drought continues, but life goes on.

Well, it’s been a long time since my last entry and it would be great to be able to say that conditions have changed, but, sadly, we are still in drought, with less than 42% of our average rainfall for the first eight months of the year. Amazingly, what little rain we have had has fallen at exactly the right time and kept us going, but how much longer we can survive, with the heat and dry winds of spring upon us, is hard to say.

There have been some exciting new additions to our family over the past few months: Sarina and Sarah, white adult huarizos (alpaca mother, llama father), joined us in June, and have proved very popular with visitors. Then, last month, Hugo, Simon and Dave (adult wethered alpacas) arrived. But most exciting of all was the birth, a fortnight ago, of our very first llama cria, Otto, to proud mother Cal.

This week master shearer, Bernie McInerney, paid us a visit and relieved the alpacas of their outer covering. I’m pleased to report that, following a very successful year, a new supply of fleece was sorely needed to fill orders. As always, we are indebted to Bernie for the amazing service he provides, not only as a shearer, but as dentist, podiatrist and surgeon to the herd!

No end in sight for worst drought in history

So far this year we have had less than one-sixth of our average rainfall. Over the past week, cooler temperatures and a few light showers have eased the situation and made everything deceptively green, but in the absence of heavy, soaking rain, any benefits will be very short-lived.

Meanwhile, lack of plant growth and mild weather have allowed us to tackle clearing jobs that would normally be reserved for the winter months. We’ve also saved quite a lot of money on fuel as pastures and lawns need less frequent mowing. Seems every cloud (if there were any!) has a silver lining.

Worst drought in living memory

Well, “living memory” isn’t always entirely reliable, but we are definitely in severe drought conditions again: No measurable rain for over six weeks, combined with near gale-force winds and temperatures, regularly in the high 30s, that never┬ádrop below 20 degrees, day or night. The effect has been devastating, and quite unprecedented for us. Our summers are normally wet, sometimes very wet. Droughts, if we ever have them, typically occur in late winter and spring.

Despite the gloom and doom, we have ample good-quality pasture to see us through the summer and beyond. The pacas and llamas are pretty upset that their paddling pools have dried up, but are otherwise coping just fine with the trying conditions.

Already this year, we have welcome two new crias to the herd. Peppa and Pebbles are thriving, despite both having had difficult births. With no rain to keep their older family members clean, it is nice to have two babies that are white as snow. Of course they won’t stay that way for long …

Merry Christmas!

The north wind is tossing the leaves.
The red dust is over the town;
The sparrows are under the eaves,
And the grass in the paddock is brown …

John Wheeler’s words, from one of his classic Australian carols, are highly accurate for most Aussie farmers at this time of year. Christmas is rarely a time of pleasant weather in Australia.

Fortunately, due to a lot of hard work and some timely rainfall, the grass in Cardiff Alpacas’ paddocks isn’t brown, and the pacas and llamas will enjoy a good Christmas dinner, punctuated, no doubt, by sun-baking and a dip in the pool.

pool pacasIt’s a great life for some!!!

A very merry Christmas to everyone.

Merry Christmas - Edited

Glorious Spring

While most people seem to be complaining about the weather at the moment, we are enjoying our best spring for many years. Lovely, cool days and good rainfall have combined to produce excellent growing conditions.

If we have a complaint (and we wouldn’t be farmers if we didn’t!), it’s that the pacas and llamas can’t keep up with the pasture growth and we’re having to mow too often!

Our thanks to Tracey Clarke, one of a delightful group of campers who stayed with us recently, for her excellent photos: