A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

June 6, 2008

Witnessing Life’s Circle

Raising livestock brings all aspects of life to your doorstep.  Some things are welcome and some are not but insist on showing up anyway.


In the early hours of Thursday morning Bjorn’s dear cria “Legs” passed away.  “Legs” was never intended to be the little guys’ permanent name, but the name kind of stuck due to the problem he had with lax tendons in his legs.


Initially we thought that the lax tendons were Legs only problem, now it seems that possibly there was more going on to challenge this sweet boy in his short life.


On our vets advice we had confined Legs and Bjorn after Legs was born, in an effort to restrict his movement and allow his tendons to contract back to normal.  For a while the restriction seemed to be working, but after several days both Legs and Bjorn were anxious to leave the stall and Legs appeared to be getting depressed.  We let them out for a couple of days but it turned out that Legs was fighting an infection and running a fever.


Again we consulted with our vet who advised that we treat Legs with antibiotics for his infection and for a couple of days he seemed to be doing well.  He was gaining weight, looking stronger and even attempting to play with the other crias.  His legs were getting straighter but still had a way to go.  Unfortunately the antibiotic we used is known to have a disruptive effect on the rumen and so we also gave Legs probiotics to try and keep his rumen functioning properly.  Then Legs stopped gaining weight and a thermometer reading showed he was again running a temperature.  Another consultation with the vet was made and Legs was back on antibiotics but this time he did not respond as well.   He seemed lethargic and generally not happy.


Legs stopped nursing from his dam and so we had to supplementary feed him.  He wasn’t too keen on that to begin with but then seemed to appreciate that at least he was getting food, but all the time he continued to get weaker.  Legs temperature was back to normal so we hoped we were making some progress in the right direction


Tuesday evening Legs almost seemed to fall asleep while I was feeding him.  I had a cria once before who would fall asleep toward the end of his feed, but Legs seemed almost unable to stay awake for long.


By Wednesday afternoon we knew we Legs was in trouble.  Unfortunately our vet was called out to several emergency calls that day and was unable to contact us until 7 pm that evening.  Our vet told us he suspected White Muscle Disease, something that is brought on by selenium or vitamin E deficiency.


We treated Legs with some Selenium and Vitamin E but it didn’t make a difference.  By the late evening the little guy had labored breathing and things were not looking good. 


We checked on Legs through the night.  His dam Bjorn stayed close by and was obviously concerned about her cria she knew something was wrong.   Legs died shortly after 2 a.m.


Our vet has performed a necropsy on Legs to see if he can help us understand what happened to this poor cria.  Initial findings are that there was a problem in his lungs that were filled with blood.  Lung swabs and muscle samples have been sent off for testing.  We hope that they will give us an answer but it is not unusual for test results to come back as inconclusive.


It is hard to watch a little cria lose his fight for life, even harder to watch is the grief of his dam.  We left Legs body with Bjorn after he died and we took her with us to the vets with Legs laid beside her.  We wanted her to have a chance to realize he had passed away and we also decided to run some blood work on her to see if there are any clues that will explain Legs illness.  Bjorn is the picture of health, but alpacas are very stoic creatures and just in case something is going on with Bjorn we felt it was best to test her.


I have given Bjorn some Rescue Remedy during the day.  It contains Star of Bethlehem Flower Essence, which is helpful for those who are grieving.  Bjorn has done a little better since we returned from the vets, but she still searches for her baby every now and then, sniffing the other crias in the pasture in the hope that they are her boy.


And in the same day that Legs was starting to lose his battle with life, Life also delivered us the happier side of the circle.  Ivanna delivered a beautiful light fawn female cria on Wednesday afternoon.  The cria is strikingly beautiful with thick eyelashes and deep brown soft eyes.  Of course Ivanna’s cria is not a replacement for dear Legs, but she is a reminder that life is indeed a circle and for the circle to be complete you have to accept the various stages.



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