A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

April 28, 2009

One Paca Too Many

 

Sometimes things within the alpaca herd are a fine balance and the smallest of changes can upset that balance and cause problems.

 

Our herd pointed this out to us recently. 

 

When Marti, Orchid and Candytuft completed their quarantine period we allowed them to join the main female herd.  As usual there was much sniffing and checking out of the new additions to the herd.  We then had to figure out where Marti and Orchid were going to eat at feeding time, Candytuft at that time was not eating pellets and so we thought she would most likely go wherever Orchid went.  (Note:  Candytuft has since discovered the pellets and is now not at all shy about pushing her way into a feed bowl!).  Marti has stayed with us before and we felt confident that she would figure out a good place for her to eat.

 

Our custom at feeding time is to have the girls eat in pens in groups of similar need.  We group fast eaters together, slower eaters together, heavily pregnant girls together etc.

 

Orchid went in to eat with Chai, which worked out well as Orchid does not hold back when it comes to getting her share of the pellets and neither does Chai.  Marty started off eating with Orchid and Chai, but after a couple of days decided that she didn’t like that arrangement and instead went in with the eight dams of the fall crias.

 

We didn’t think too much about Marti’s move to a different pen.  The pen the eight girls feed in is a large one, certainly large enough to accommodate nine alpacas at feeding time – or so we thought.

 

A couple of days after Marti had moved to the bigger pen I noticed that Clarissa, who also eats in that pen, had a slight choke.  I made sure that Clarissa was okay and didn’t think too much more about it.  The next day though Clarissa started to choke again at feeding time, this time a bit harder. 

 

Choke in alpacas can be a serious problem; left unattended the choke can cause additional problems and can even result in the death of the alpaca.  Interestingly there is an article about an alpaca that died as a result of a choke situation in the latest edition of Alpacas Magazine.   The article is worth reading and explains the possible consequences of an unattended choke.

 

We were concerned that as Clarissa had choked two days in a row that she might have scratched or irritated her esophagus and so decided that we should feed her soaked feed for a couple of days.  To do this effectively we needed to put Clarissa in a pen on her own to eat, and so utilized a catch pen that we had available.  Clarissa enjoyed her soaked feed and did not choke again, but she also took really quickly to eating on her own in the catch pen.  By the second time of feeding her in that catch pen she ran over to it and was standing waiting for us as we arrived with her food bowl. 

 

Clarissa had not choked at all before Marti joined the feeding group, but apparently the addition of Marti to the group just tipped the dynamics and balance of that group enough to cause a problem.  As far as Clarissa was concerned Marti was just one paca too many.

 

Within a couple of days Clarissa was back to eating unsoaked feed without any problems with choking.  Marti and the other seven girls in her feeding group were getting along well and Clarissa was still running to the catch pen at every feeding time and so we decided to let that arrangement continue, with Clarissa now having what we refer to as “her own private dining area”.  Balance has been restored to the herd and everyone is once again happy.

 

Rosemary

August 19, 2008

Ow Baby, That Hurts!

Clarissa, one of our alpaca dams is due to have her cria in the fall.  We have started to see the cria moving frequently and it seems to be an active little thing.

On Friday evening when I was doing chores I noticed that Clarissa was not getting up.  Instead of coming over to check out the hay wagon she stayed cushed in front of the shelter.  That is not normal behavior for Clarissa who is usually up and milling around with the others trying to get the first bite of the hay.

I went over to check on Clarissa and discovered why she was not getting up; her cria was kicking heavily, drumming out its own dance on Clarissa’s side.  Poor Clarissa, no wonder she was not getting up!  I left Clarissa alone, knowing that in a while, once the cria had settled down, she would get up and join the other girls at the hayracks.

Clarissa did get up and was soon eating as normal.

During our Saturday morning feeding Clarissa again had a problem, she choked on her feed while eating.  A choking alpaca can be a serious situation, and is something that should not be left unattended.  Sometimes the attention needed is just some close observation, other times more intervention is needed.  One important thing to remember though is to try and keep the choking alpaca calm.  If the alpaca is calm it will be easier for him or her to relax allowing the blockage to clear the throat.  If the alpaca is stressed the muscles around the throat will tense and make it more difficult for the blockage to move.

Fortunately our feed is designed to dissolve should it become stuck in an alpaca’s throat.  It’s not a pretty sight, as the alpaca will regurgitate a green foamy mess as it clears the blockage, but better that than a choking alpaca.

We kept Clarissa under observation during the day and she seemed to improve and eventually joined the other alpacas eating hay.  In the evening though she started to cough and choke again.

By this time I was becoming concerned about Clarissa and wondering what effect all of this choking and coughing might have on her cria.  She seemed to be moving the blockage but was obviously still not feeling herself.  I gave her a large dose of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, which did seem to help her relax a little, but by the early hours of Sunday morning Clarissa was still having intermittent choking spasms.  By this time she didn’t appear to actually have anything blocking her throat, rather her throat was now irritated and possibly sore.

We decided to give Clarissa some Banamine to help her relax further and to maybe take away the soreness and irritation to her throat.  About 30 minutes after having the Banamine Clarissa seemed a lot better and we decided it was okay for us to call it a night.

 

A bad choke can cause irritation to the throat, and once you get irritation there it can lead to further choking as food comes in contact with the irritated area.  We didn’t want Clarissa to have another day of choking and so on Sunday morning we soaked her feed along with some beet pulp shreds and once everything was nice and soft we fed the mixture to Clarissa in a pen by herself.  We wanted to make sure Clarissa got all of the feed she wanted and make sure Clarissa could eat in peace without being challenged over her food by her usual pen mates.  Clarissa ate well with no further choking episodes, but just to be on the safe side I left her penned up for a while with a bucket of hay so she could continue to eat in peace.  Clarissa also got a dose of the MSE drench to help her digestive system to continue to function normally.

Once Clarissa had a good feed I allowed her out of the pen to rejoin the rest of the herd eating hay.  For the rest of the day Clarissa did well, she was a little less active than normal and I went out to check on her frequently only to discover she now had hiccups!  Poor Clarissa, what a time she was having.

This is not the first time Clarissa has had hiccups, and her previous bouts of hiccups have been at the same stage of pregnancy.  One time she had hiccups for three days in a row, which seemed to concern us more than her.  This makes me wonder if there is a connection with her stage of pregnancy and her choking and hiccupping.  Perhaps her cria is pushing on something and having an effect on Clarissa’s ability to breath normally and pass food into her stomach compartments.

Another large dose of Rescue Remedy seemed to do the trick for Clarissa’s hiccups and by the evening feed she was pretty much back to her usual self.  We will continue to soak her feed and feed her separately for the next week or so, we don’t want to risk another irritation to her system.  We will also hope that Clarissa’s cria will settle down for a while and stop doing whatever he or she is doing to cause Clarissa such discomfort.  I’m betting that cria will be quite the character when it is born and from the way it was kicking the other night quite the runner too!

Rosemary

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