Monday 29 July 2019

Poppy's Cria & Genetics

Alpaca birthing season for the year finished yesterday with the arrival of Poppy's cria, a spotted girl, who is sired by outside stud Classical Mile End Rococo. The cria weighed 19 and a half pounds when born, which makes her the heaviest birthweight we've had yet, and weighs the same this morning.

This spotted pattern seems to be caused by a dominant gene, and Poppy either produces a solid-coloured cria or a white cria with spots of the solid colour. Technically it's a cria with white spots rather than a white cria with coloured spots, as the cria is genetically the colour of its spots and the gene causes there to be large depigmented areas in the fleece. I'd quite like to get rid of this gene and have solid-coloured crias, as Poppy's bloodline has the best quality fleeces of my alpacas and solid coloured ones are better for spinning. Interestingly, Poppy's offspring seem to be more heavily spotted than she is, which suggests the causative gene is a long repeating string of DNA which has been developed by breeders in the alpacas' native countries selecting for mostly white animals. Because of how chromosomes recombine when animals reproduce, often if selection pressure is applied for a particular trait, the genetics for the trait are duplicated. For example, if the DNA sequence GAATC in a particular position causes the animal to have depigmented areas of coat, it becomes GAATCGAATCGAATC and so on over several generations, causing the depigmentation to be more extensive. That chromosomes are able to do this is an adaptation that causes animals to be able to change and adapt rapidly instead of having to rely on random mutation, and it's one of those genetic things that don't follow the most commonly understood concepts of dominance and recessiveness. While breeding together animals that are predominantly white over time will increase the white-spottedness, selecting away from it and breeding to solid coloured animals should have the opposite effect and cause the string of DNA to shorten over generations, so even where the gene is passed on the phenotype should slowly change to look more like a dark animal with white spots.

Meanwhile, here are the other crias.


James Bond and Zaphod Beeblebrox


Sunday 21 July 2019

The Life of an Animal Breeder

What is the life of an animal breeder like?
Being an animal breeder is going to the emergency vet out of hours because your animal has run into problems giving birth, and emptying out your bank account to pay for surgery she needs. After the surgery, the vet tells you one of the offspring didn't make it and there is a charge to incinerate it, so you say you will take it home and give it a decent burial and save money. The vet brings it out to give you in a towel and doesn't ask for the towel back, and you are grateful for small things because the towel is nicer than any of the towels you already own, and that includes the ones you use for yourself and not just the ones that are for the animals.
(I have never made a profit from any of the animals I breed, and I don't expect to. Please be aware when you buy an animal from a caring breeder, the cost of purchasing the animal is to subsidise the breeding programme so the breeder can conserve the breed, not so the breeder can buy luxuries like new towels)
Indi's puppies are now 1 week old and all doing well. Today's smell is anise.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Fleur's Cria

Fleur had another boy cria at 10:30 this morning, a suri with spots and fawn/brown feet and weighing 13 pounds. This happened just before I was taking Indi to the vet because I suspect she may be developing mastitis, so Fleur and the cria were shoved in a pen out of the way of the other alpacas once it was established the cria was breathing and appeared normal, and left to work things out for themselves. It seems to have worked as when I came back the cria was already feeding, so they have been let out to rejoin the others, at which point the battery on the camera went flat. Indi is having antibiotics as a precaution.

Monday 15 July 2019

Olivia's Cria

This is why I usually try to avoid having pups in the summer because I'm too busy! Olivia has just had another male cria weighing 12 pounds.

Indi's Puppies

Indi went into labour yesterday morning and delivered three girl puppies without any difficulty. Unfortunately we ran into problems after the third, as Indi started having intermittent bouts of unproductive straining, and there was nothing in her birth canal when I examined her despite there clearly being a few pups left inside her, When a bitch has difficulty with delivery, it's necessary to weigh up the risks to the bitch herself and any puppies already born against the risk to the unborn, as if it's suspected a puppy has suffered a placental abruption it's often better all around to give her the chance to pass it naturally whether dead or alive, as it will certainly be dead by the time the bitch has arrived at the vet and you've signed the consent form and the vet has anaesthetised her and opened her up. However, this wasn't one of those cases. Indi was already trying hard to pass the pup and it clearly wasn't working, and waiting was not in her interests as she'd likely become exhausted and unwell and this wasn't in the interests of the pups she had, and any pups alive inside her would be lost.

Unfortunately Indi had picked a day the normal vet was shut, so we had to go to the expensive out of hours franchise vet. Fortunately the staff were lovely and the only thing harmed was my bank account, as the obstruction turned out to be a dead puppy with severe oedema that would never have been viable whatever happened. Oedema is a buildup of fluid in tissue. A normal poodle whelp on the larger side can weigh about a pound, but this puppy weighed more than twice that and it was obvious it would never have fitted through Indi's pelvis and it wasn't even recognisable as a puppy. The puppy would have been black and had a jagged unpigmented line running down the underside of his body from his throat to his groin, which suggested a midline defect that probably had affected internal parts. Midline defects can occur in all vertebrates when something doesn't work as intended very early in embryonic development, as the embryo develops a structure called a neural crest from which all the body parts form. Cells migrate from the neural crest, which later turns into the spinal cord and brain, and meet up on the ventral side of the body. The most vital bodily part that forms from this meeting of cells is the heart, so I can only speculate that as heart problems can cause oedema, this would explain this unfortunate puppy that was not to be.

More happily, behind the obstruction the 5th and final puppy, a boy, was recovered safe and well during the surgery, and Indi has now been spayed. The pups so far are feeding normally and seem healthy, and I put them in a basket for a couple of hours at a time overnight so I could get some sleep in between watching Indi with them. Indi has recovered from the drugs and is licking the pups again and seems bright and well. I will be keeping one of these pups and the others at this point I believe all to have people waiting for them. I'm sorry yet again for the people who were waiting for a pup from this litter that there aren't going to be enough to go round. I think I've contacted everyone who was waiting.

The boy is the lighter of the two cream puppies

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Indi's Pregnancy

Indi is 8 weeks pregnant. The waiting list for this litter is now closed for the time being until the pups arrive, as the first 6 places are reserved and I have additional people who have expressed an interest and not yet visited.

Monday 1 July 2019

Alpaca Fleece

I have a few alpaca fleeces for sale, due to not having enough time to spin them all myself. Most of these are from slightly older animals and are not superfine, but a lot are great for beginners and can still be used to make nice things. I taught myself to spin using Costa's and Olivia's fleeces last year and made a nice blanket and ruana from them. Fleeces are £10-£20 each or can be broken up into smaller amounts for the equivalent cost.

Costa, rose grey, about 30 micron AFD and 3 1/2 inch staple length. Really easy to spin and can be broken up by hand with very little preparation. Also good for carding and blending. I have sold half this fleece already so I have half left available.

Poppy, 5" staple length, mostly white, decent crimp, around 25 micron AFD. Great for combing and dyeing and still has a soft feel nicer than any native sheep breed.

Marius, brown suri alpaca, 8" staple. Older animal so a fairly coarse fleece, but a lot easier for someone who has never spun suri before and wants to try it than starting with really fine suri. It also makes a really strong thread. Suri ideally has to be combed and spun worsted to get the best out of it. This is 2 years' growth and quite a lot of fleece. I am going to use some of it myself but have too much.

Olivia, fawn, about 32 micron AFD with decent crimp and fairly short staple at 3". Great for carding and blending and can also just be broken up by hand and spun with very little prep.