A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 17, 2009

Preparing for Baby

It’s interesting to watch our pregnant dams as they get closer to the end of their pregnancy.  Their pregnant bump grows larger and often changes shape as the cria repositions itself during the day.  Sometimes the cria looks to be all on one side, other times the cria looks as if it has dropped right down in the dams abdomen and at the very end of the pregnancy the cria looks as if it is about to pop out of the dam at any moment as it stretches its legs causing movement at the base of the dam’s tail.

Some dams, such as our Queen, develop a voracious appetite and seem to spend their day constantly eating.  Others slow down their eating, delicately nibbling here and there and taking their time to chew their cud often.

When the weather is warm we often find our heavily pregnant dams parked in front of the fan.  The extra weight of the cria they are carrying generates more body heat and they need the opportunity to spend time in a nice cool spot.

We often notice that our late term dams “pick their spot”.   They will spend more and more time in one particular spot in the pasture, often an area a little way from the rest of the herd.  This spot usually ends up being where they go to when they start labor.  Alpacas don’t “nest” as such, but they do seem to find comfort in being in that spot that they have picked once labor starts.  This isn’t to say that the cria will be born in that spot as once labor starts the dams can move around quite a bit as they push and work on getting their cria delivered.   Unless something drives them away from that spot then often the cria will be delivered not far away from the area where the dam has spent many hours in her final weeks of pregnancy.

Willow is due to have her cria at the end of August and she has already picked out her spot in the pasture.  Last time she delivered her cria she did so in our large blue shelter, but the weather had dictated that choice as she delivered during a sandstorm.  Willow is smart enough to know that the shelter was a much more comfortable place to deliver a cria when the wind and dust are blowing.

This year Willow’s spot is in one of the pens that we use to feed the llamas every morning.  It has now become part of Willow’s routine that once she has been fed and the llamas have been let out of their pens that she make her way over to the one llama pen where she carefully cushes on the ground.  Once she is comfortably cushed she sits there for at least an hour, sometimes more, her ears back a little, sometimes flickering as her cria gives her a swift kick or two.  Willow doesn’t look uncomfortable during this time but you can tell something is going on.

You can bet we will be watching Willow as she gets closer to her delivery date, particularly when we see her over in her “spot”.  Let’s hope the llamas have finished eating by the time Willow decides to go into labor, or else there could be competition for that selected spot!


October 2, 2008

Sneaky, Sneaky!


Dutchess and Cria - not the best picture, better picture to follow!

Dutchess and Cria - not the best picture, better picture to follow!

Once in a while you come across an alpaca dam that doesn’t give you much of an indication that she is about to deliver her cria –such was the case with Dutchess who sneakily delivered a beautiful 17.7 lb male cria yesterday afternoon.


Around 10 a.m. Dutchess’s owner Regina Dart had called me on my cell phone; I think she must have had a premonition as she asked me if I was out tending to one of her dams having a cria.  I was actually bottle feeding Mags and Song when Regina called and so told Regina that all of her dams were looking good although I had noticed that Dutchesses pregnancy bump had dropped since yesterday.  Regina and I had our usual conversation about what was going on in our worlds and then I went about finishing chores.  I did check under Dutchess’s tail and look at her udder as I do for all of the late term dams, everything looked fine with no swelling or significant changes.


Interestingly Dutchess had shown some different behavior a couple of days ago.  We had a breeding going on in one of the pens close to the pasture where Dutchess is.  She and Essie (another of Regina’s pregnant girls) had come over and shown some interest in the breeding, an indication that their hormone levels might be changing as they reached the end of pregnancy. Dutchess though took things a step further, she eyed up Keeva who was cushed close by, walked up to her, started orgling and then tried to mount Keeva.  Keeva wasn’t having any of that, spit at Dutchess and got up.  Dutchess was persistent in her efforts to mount Keeva and so I entered the pasture and herded Dutchess away from Keeva.


Yesterday afternoon I was preparing to load product into the truck to go to our booth at The Crafter’s Mall.  As I walked out of the house I could hear a cria humming.  The sound was coming from the pregnant girls pen, but I could see Cinnamon’s cria walking around and he is a little chatterbox, so much so we have nick named him Beeper (we promise to give him a more impressive registered name but for now Beeper suits him!).


I went around to the studio to get the boxes of product ready to load, and then came back to the house a short while later to prepare Mags and Songs afternoon bottles.   As I fed Mags and Song I could still hear humming, but as I looked across the pasture I could see that Beeper was fast asleep in the sun.  I checked for Keeva’s cria (who we have nicknamed Sleeper because when she sleeps, she sleeps so soundly you can pick her up and move her into the shade when she is asleep and she will barely stir), Sleeper too was sound asleep.  I then checked for Anya’s cria Annochia as she still hums loudly when she wants Anya to let her nurse.  I could see Annochia and she was nudging at Anya, but she was in the opposite direction to the humming I could hear.  There was only one option left – a new cria!


I urged Mags to finish his milk quickly, Song had already finished hers and Mags was almost finished.  I then went over to the maternity pen and there sitting in the straw at the entrance to the shelter was a brand new cria!


Looking inside the shelter I could see that Dutchess must have delivered in there.  She has spent a lot of her time recently in front of the fan in the shelter and she must have felt most comfortable there.  Certainly she didn’t come out of the shelter to the poop piles or lie outside while she was having contractions, as I would have noticed her.


Of course I called Regina to give her the good news and asked her if she had a premonition when she called me earlier in the day.  I reckon Dutchess was sending telepathic messages her way (or maybe the fact that Dutchess’s due date was October 2 had something to do with it!).


Dutchess and her cria are doing well.  This is Dutchess’s third cria and she is an excellent dam, she is attentive and a great milk producer but definitely more hands off in her preferences when it comes to anyone handling her cria.  The cria is a sturdy boy with great bone density and an interesting fleece color, he is a medium to dark fawn but has more of an ash hue to his fleece than the more usual red tone that you tend to see in a fawn alpaca.  It may be that he is going to be a light rose grey, tomorrow when he is more settled in we will examine his fleece more thoroughly to see if we can determine a color.


So congratulations Bob and Regina on another beautiful cria from your herdsire Andean Night.  I don’t know what you are planning on naming him, but I think for now Beeper and Sleeper are going to have a new playmate called Sneaker!





October 8, 2007

Pregnant and Uncomfortable

Our alpaca Chai is showing signs that her pregnancy is taking its toll on her.  Throughout the day she cushes a lot and she is delighted that the fall out from the big bale in the large shelter provides her with a cushioned area where she can cush and eat at the same time.

It’s not unusual for the alpaca girls to slow down and take things a little easier in the final stages of pregnancy.  I must admit though that I am a little surprise that Chai is sitting around as much as she is as she is not as big as she usually is by this stage of pregnancy.  It has been warmer than usual the past couple of days and that may be taking it’s toll on Chai, the next couple of days though are supposed to be cooler so we will get an opportunity to watch Chai in cooler conditions and better gauge her behavior.

Chai does usually act a little differently toward the end of her pregnancy, whereas she is usually one of the first to get into the pens to eat when she is heavily pregnant Chai seems to think that going into a pen is not a wise idea.  The past two days Chai has refused to go into her normal pen for morning and evening feed, it’s not that she doesn’t want to eat, once we catch her she eats her food with gusto, but she definitely gets wary of the pens.  Perhaps she feels that if she is in a pen and goes into labor she will not be able to move about as she would like to, or that us two-leggeds (humans) will bother her too much while she is giving birth.

Chai is only 14 days away from her due date if we base that date on 345 days post breeding, and as Chai usually has her crias around the 345th day of pregnancy she will probably go a little longer before having her cria.

The other night when I checked on the girls Chai’s cria was being very lively, kicking poor Chai hard – no wonder she is feeling a little sore.

We will be keeping a really close eye on Chai until she has her cria, checking her udder daily to see if it is getting enlarged, checking under her tail to see if she has any puffiness in that area and watching for signs that she is in labor (sitting on one hip, frequent unproductive trips to the poop pile, rolling on each side).   When the time comes for Chai to have her cria I know that she is a girl who prefers me to keep a little distance, so I will respect that fact and watch her from a distance that is far enough away for her to feel relaxed yet close enough to step in if she should need assistance.  In the meantime though I will watch and wait and look forward to the day when Chai’s cria makes its entry into the world.


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