Farm Diary

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:



End of the drought and shearing

At the beginning of September, the entire state of New South Wales was drought-declared. It is very unusual for us, being in a notoriously wet area, only eight miles from the coast, to be included in sure a dire proclamation. And how quickly things can change! In just three days last week, we had more rain than our average August and September totals combined (well over four inches). The pastures, which were taking on a decidedly brown tinge, are transformed, and the soil is actually too wet to work. Our hearts go out, however, to farmers in other parts of the state who have been nowhere near so fortunate, and who are now finding it almost impossible to buy hay for their starving stock. Meanwhile, we will be mowing succulent green grass as soon as it is dry enough to do so. If only we could get it to them!

We are once again indebted to master shearer, Bernie McInerney, for his professional expertise. The entire herd, plus several sheep from next door all shorn before lunch today! Our grateful thanks also to our good friend Laurie Salzler for her invaluable assistance in this back-breaking task. Some really lovely fleece this year.

Wet weather, shearing and a mountain of orders have meant we have had to turn away a lot of visitors in the past two weeks. This is not something we do lightly, quite apart from it being bad for business. Most booking problems could be avoided if only we could persuade people to to do so well in advance of their proposed visit. Please, folk, try to give us as much notice as possible! Remember that were are a highly labour-intensive, working farm. Same-day bookings are completely out of the question, and by contacting us only a day or two beforehand, you run the risk that we will already have unavoidable farm work scheduled, or someone else will have gazumped you. We hate turning people away!


Llama ffamas

Our exciting news this week is that we have branched into llama farming! Our first llama, Willie, has taken up residence along with his alpaca companion Whalon. Over the next few months we hope to introduce at least two more of these noble creatures, and eventually breed them.

Llamas and alpacas are very closely related and can even inter-breed, although they produce sterile offspring. People often ask us what distinguishes a llama from an alpaca: apart from llamas being bigger and not quite so neatly-proportioned, the main differences are in the ears (banana-shaped in the case of llamas) and the tail, which llamas carry much higher.

Willie is a lovely, quiet lad who has already made friends with a number of our visitors. We are looking forward to learning much more about these remarkable animals, although their alpaca cousins will always remain the stars of the show.

As Willie and Whalon arrived, Leisel, Mayan and Nell left us for a wonderful, new, upmarket home at a rainforest retreat in southern Queensland. It’s always sad to say goodbye to our pacas, and we will never part with them unless we are certain they will have a good life.

Better late than never

Yes, the heading could apply to my tardy blogging, but I’m actually referring to autumn, which finally arrived just a few days ago. An extra two months of “summer” may sound appealing to anyone on holidays, but, believe me, it becomes very wearing for a farmer: grass continues to grow at a ridiculous rate and seasonal routines are thrown into chaos. Alpacas love to wallow in water and bask in the sun, so they are happy, but they also postpone the growth of their woolly winter fleece, which is not good for business.

Apart from the weather, a highlight earlier this month was a visit from the Gilmer family from California. Erik, Summer and their five delightful children had been holidaying in eastern Australia and dropped in for morning tea and a tour of all things alpaca. Visitors from the USA are a rarity for us, even though we sell quite a lot of our products there.

As always, we’ve also had lots of local visitors, including a lovely group of ladies and friends from Iluka CWA, last Friday, and 17 people with their mums for Mother’s Day (last Sunday).

If you’re thinking of paying us a visit, the next few months are an ideal time to come. Crisp mornings and cool, sunny days are perfect for relaxing outdoors and enjoying a meal, and the alpacas definitely look their best at this time of year. Lots of crias to see, too, and more on the way. The count for this year so far is five, with Opal, Onyx, Oscar, Oprah and Olive being welcomed to the herd. All playmates for Napoleon, who was born last December.