Monday, June 22, 2009

A Happy Update

I am sooooooooooooooooo happy to report that Margaret's cria has made a miraculous recovery, and is acting like any newborn cria. We have named her Phoenix, the bird rising from the ashes. Tomorrow, she and her mom will get to go out and meet the other girls and play in the sun. Getting lots of exercise will help those legs of hers. She has been nursing on her own all day, so I get to sleep all night.

Meanwhile, Edna and Eve are finally bonding. Last week you would not have found them settled in like this with each other. Eve is a little character, exploring her surroundings and greeting all guests. She will be thrilled to have a playmate in Phoenix. They should be quite a pair.
Raising alpacas is usually not this difficult. This has been a terrible year, and has had me questioning my abilities. Only two more babies due this year, and I'm hoping for easy births and healthy crias.

A Long Exhausting Day

As soon as I got up yesterday, I could tell Margaret was in labor. She started pushing at about 8:15, and her contractions were only about 10 seconds apart. She was getting exhausted and stopped pushing. The babies head was out, enveloped in the sack, and I decided to break the water and see if the feet were out. They were, but one leg was holding back a little. I pulled on it and got the baby in position, but Margaret was still not pushing. Seemed like we needed to get this cria on the ground, so I delivered her. Yes, another little girl.

From there it went downhill. Poor little thing is down in the pasterns and unable to stand to nurse. We milked Margaret a couple of times, feeding the colostrum rich milk to the baby. But by mid afternoon, she was like a rag doll, weak as can be.

We finally resorted to bottle feeding her whole milk. Still no improvement, and she was "honking" with every breath. Never heard anything like it. I finally called the vet, figuring we would take her in and have her put down. My son Michael drove while DH held the baby. I was amazed when he called about 40 minutes later and said he was bringing her home.
She had apparently suffered hypoxia during birth (a period without oxygen). The honking was coming from her throat, not her lungs. The vet thought it might be from swelling or stress, so he gave her a couple of shots to help with that.

I got up every two hours last night to feed her bottles, and at 6AM, she refused to take one. She is steadier on her feet and is nursing. Hallelujiah.
We still don't know if she will survive, but the vet felt it was worth a try and that we were doing everything right.
I'm exhausted.
I have a tour coming at 11am, and then it's to bed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


ADR is a term the farmers use around here to describe an animal that "Ain't doin' right". In light of our recent trials with Eve and Edna Mae, I thought I would tell you about the importance of observation.

Alpacas are a prey animal in their natural habitat in the high Andes Mountains of South America. Prey animals know that if they look weak, they will be targeted. As a result, they have honed their skills at looking healthy. They will stand and appear to be grazing, but they are just touching the ground with their noses. If you see an alpaca "down", meaning lying flat out, you are usually beyond the point where they can be saved. As a result, I make observation of my herd a priority, and pay particular attention to those with ADR. That is how I determined Eve was having problems, and Edna Mae was developing a serious infection. I caught both before they got dangerous.

Last October, this girl, Nutmeg, was found down in the field in the morning. The picture above is me holding her in an upright position while DH called the vet. Keeping them upright improves their ability to breathe and the intestinal tract to function. Being a ruminant, that is very important.
The vets arrive and work at putting in a shunt to administer IV fluids and medications.

They also took blood samples. Nutmeg took two liters of lactated ringers with calcium and magnesium before she was able to get on her feet again.

Here we are, Nutmeg standing, shooting the bull while we wait for her to stabilize. The young man in the plaid shirt is a vet student from WSU, my alma mater, doing his internship at our vet clinic.
Nutmeg's blood work showed she was fighting an infection, a few days after giving birth. Same as Edna Mae. But let me tell you, we didn't have a clue until we found her down. Same case as with Edna, I had assisted in the birth. Whenever I have to put my hands into the birth canal or uterus to deliver a cria, I start her on penecillin immediately, even when I have washed up thoroughly. It's an unnatural invasion, leaving the area exposed to infection. The penecillin was not strong enough to stop the infection from developing. A uterine infection isn't always caused by germs. In Edna Mae's case, it seems that the uterus has not contracted enough to regain it's natural size, so fluid gathered inside has turned bad. So, fortunately, I observed that Edna was
"ADR" and got the vet out here before she crashed. She will be back to normal in a couple more days.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eve and Edna

I'm happy to report that little Eve is doing great and acting like a typical cria, exploring her world and trying out those long legs of hers.

On the other hand, Edna has become ill. I noticed her lying on her side and groaning when she was urinating. She had an elevated temperature. By the time the vet got here today, she had some nasty vaginal discharge. So, even though we had been treating her with penecillin, it had not done the job. So, she is getting an antibiotic twice a day, some banamine (animal aspirin), and possibly some oxytocin to help her uterus regain it's shape and expel the nasty stuff.
I'm glad we know what is going on now, and she will feel better soon and be more accepting of a lively, demanding baby.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Problem Solved (I think)

I think I have figured out what was ailing Eve. Like humans, alpacas are born with a meconium plug that MUST come out. Friday morning I gave Eve an enema, and thought she had passed the entire plug. Today, worrying and worrying, I was sitting in the field with her, observing. She went over to the poop pile and strained and strained, making little grunts. Hmmmmm, could it be that part of the meconium plug is still in her intestines? I went in the house and prepared an enema for her and administered it. Then I laid down in the grass next to her to watch what happened next. After about 15 minutes, she stood up and propelled a mass. Wooo hoooo. She pooped, she pooped. We get so excited about these things. And just to be cautious, we gave her a dose of mineral oil to keep thinkgs moving . Sometimes an impaction can form at the entrance to the spiral colon, which eventually bursts and you have a dead cria.

I will report in the morning on her status.

Milk Shortage

Unfortunately, Edna Mae is not proving to be a very good mother. I noticed yesterday that when Eve nurses, she does so for a very long time. When I weighed her this morning she had lost 3 pounds! A weight loss is normal in the first couple of days, but not 3 pounds. So, I'm supplementing her with whole milk with a little Karo syrup in it for sweetness and energy. That's the other thing. A cria this age is usually running and enjoying life. Poor little Eve is either nursing or sleeping. I just gave her a bottle and she took a full 8 ounces. To be perfectly honest, at this point I'm being hopeful she survives, but I have some bad feelings. Tomorrow I will obtain some Domperidone from the vet. It is a med that promotes milk production. It doesn't always work, but it's sure worth a try.
The other thing is: Edna Mae just leaves her baby sleeping, and goes off to the barn or to be with the other girls on the north side of the barn. We find the poor baby asleep in a field all by herself. I have NEVER had a mother do that. They usually don't leave the baby's side for a week.

Well, wish me luck. This is tough.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Star is Born

She finally did it. After 361 days of pregnancy, Edna Mae broke the rules and delivered her cria at 8:45 this evening. In honor of the late hour, we have named her Eve. HER!!! Yes, a girl!

I was watching Steven Colbert and falling asleep, when I decided to go take one last round of the pastures and then go to bed. As soon as I saw Edna, I knew she was in trouble. The head was out and the cria was trying to clear her airways. Both feet were out, but one leg was wrapped over the head. So in I went. I had to break the water, which sprayed all over me and my feet. Straitened out the leg, and then started to pull. It took awhile, but Eve seems healthy and robust, and is now nursing. Yayyyyyyyyyyyy, she really was pregnant. Baby weighs about 16 pounds.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shearing Day

It takes a crew of 5 people to shear an alpaca. We all have our jobs and know them well, and as long as we keep out of each other's way, everything runs like a well oiled machine. The crew did 27 alpacas today. We have 9 left to finish in the next week or so. Above is the shearing table. It tilts to the side, where we lead an alpaca to stand next to it. Then you close this big pillow on them and tilt the table up, tie down their legs, and clip their halter to the table. They are pretty much imobilized, and the shearer does not kill his back bending over them on the ground, not to mention wear and tear on the knees, if you did it that way.

Here is Alan, trimming toenails.

After being shorn, the first thing the alpaca does is go out and take a dust bath. Here, Abigail and Dolly enjoy a nice long nap in the sun.

And finally, here are the weaner boys. Aren't they cute? I love them when they are newly shorn.
In the background you can see our wheat and barley field. Yep. We are trying it all this year.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Doing My Homework

I'm doing my homework. Don't ever get complacent about your alpacas, and assume that nature will take care of things. With the uncommonly hot weather we are having, I am very concerned about a cria born with heat stress.

This is my best handbook. It is so used and abused, it hardly stays together. It's water damaged and covered in medicines and blood. But it is the best.
For general husbandry, this is an excellent resource. He has a bigger and improved issue, but this will do for us. Remember, the longer you own alpacas, the more you will see, the more illnesses you will have to deal with.

Then, the bible of alpacadom. Worth it's weight in gold.
Did you know that alpacas generally deliver between the hours of 8AM and 2PM? What a convenient form of livestock! We get to sleep through the night. The reason for this is the inborn instinct of the alpaca. They come from South America, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, in the high mountain plains which are well above 10,000 feet. While it can be in the 70's during the day, when the sun goes down, it drops to freezing or below. If a cria is born late in the day, chances are it will freeze to death if it is not dry and nursing when the sun goes down. Isn't God great, how he provides for all of his creatures? But as I said, this heat, combined with the fact that we have not shorn yet, causes me great concern. I am keeping the three wading pools filled with cold water so they can cool the crias off in their bodies. Next Wednesday can't get here soon enough. My stress level, as well as theirs, will be much reduced.

Last evening I was sitting out under the apple tree watching Edna Mae. She came over and planted a kiss smack on my lips. She must know I'm worried about her.

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's Toooooooooo Hot

Even Fred agrees, it's way too hot. He can't figure out why they are playing in the water. If he'd just give it a try, he'd find some relief!
Maggie knows how to take full advantage of the pool. She is due mid month and quite uncomfortable. Edna Mae is getting bitchier and bitchier, the longer she carries this cria. I'm actually worried about a heat stressed cria, if it continues in the 80's. Not normally a big concern, but they haven't been shorn yet, and are unbelievably uncomfortable. Imagine wearing a 5 inch thick sweater in the sunshine. We were going to begin shearing this last weekend, by my trip to the hospital ended those plans. Now we will start Monday, and hopefully will finish up on Wednesday.

Edna Mae shows off her sweet disposition. At least she knows to get INTO the pool. The majority of the pacas haven't figured that out.