A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 1, 2009

Beautiful Day, Beautiful Cria

Willow's New Cria

Willow's New Cria

Monday was a beautiful day, temperatures were in the 80’s, a light breeze was drifting across the pasture and everywhere was damp from rain we had received the night before.  It was New Mexico at its best with bright blue skies, brilliant sunshine and some fluffy white clouds in the sky.

Willow must have thought it a beautiful day too for that morning she went into labor.  I first noticed her looking restless at 9:40 a.m., she was sitting on one hip her legs kicked out to one side.  After a while she would get up and walk around then cush again rolling onto one hip or the other.  From there she started pushing a little harder and making those frequent visits to the poop pile that are often a sign of labor in alpacas.  Then her contractions became very strong and she cushed again, rolling onto one hip and pushing hard.

I could see progress was being made and so left Willow alone (that’s the hardest part of watching an alpaca in labor sometimes!).  Soon I could see a little white foot and nose emerging from Willow, followed shortly by another little white foot.  When I saw Willow was between contractions I moved her to a pen so that she could finish labor in peace without being bothered by the rest of the herd.

At 10:40 the cria was born, a shiny bright, snowy white female cria – beautiful!  The cria looked quite small, but when I picked her up she felt heavier than she looked, perhaps an indication of some good heavy bone.  Willow is not a large alpaca and Treasure the cria’s sire is an average sized alpaca and so I expected that the offspring from that pairing would not be huge.  Later when I weighed Willow’s cria she was 14.7 lbs. a nice weight for a smaller dam to deliver.

A Close Up of Willow's Cria's Fleece - if only you could feel it!

A Close Up of Willow's Cria's Fleece - if only you could feel it!

There is no doubting that Treasure is the sire of this little girl for she has his outstanding brightness to her fleece and that silky, slightly waxy handle.  The pairing of Willow and Treasure was a good one and I think this little girl will be one to watch out for.

The usual routine of the day went out of the window as I spent time watching Willow and her cria, making sure Willow passed her afterbirth without problem and that the cria found Willow’s udder and had a good nurse.   Later I let the pair out in a pen so that the cria could stretch her legs and have a trot around, and as she discovered that her legs would carry her well and fast, so Willow ran beside her not wanting to let her new baby out of her sight.

Days like those are just one of the advantages of being an alpaca rancher.  For those first precious hours of that cria’s life you can put the routine to one side and just enjoy the miracle of a new life.  I think you have to agree it’s not a bad way to earn a living is it!

Rosemary

June 19, 2009

A Surprise in More Ways Than One!

Chai's Surprise Cria

Chai's Surprise Cria

Tuesday brought us a pleasant surprise.  Ric had an appointment in the morning and checked on the girls before he left.  I checked on the girls before I walked the dogs, checked on the girls again before I finished the chores in the boy’s pens and then went into the girl’s pens to turn on the fans before I let Blue out of the house for a potty break.  I was thinking that after I had seen to Blue I could return to feed the girls.

Instead a surprise awaited me as I walked around the corner of the shelter, for there on the floor was a black male cria, cushed and almost dry!  There were several girls in the shelter, but it only took a couple of seconds for me to see that Chai (her real name is AB IYIYI but we always call her Chai) was the mother of the cria.

Chai was just two days prior to her due date so for her to deliver a cria was not really a surprise.  What was surprising was that she had not shown us any signs of being in labor.  No sitting around, no frequent visits to the poop pile, no getting up and down to strain.  Chai had simply delivered her cria very quickly and apparently with minimal effort.  The cria look strong and healthy and Chai was looking surprising undisturbed by her recent delivery!

The other part of the surprise is that the cria is black, as the cria’s sire is our Enchantment’s Prince Regent who is white.  While Regent has thrown a black cria out of a black dam in the past, we had thought that we would get a cria who was fawn or lighter from his pairing with Chai. That’s the fun of alpaca color genetics, you never really know what you are going to get!

Chai’s cria is a handsome boy, tall like his dam with tightly curled shiny fleece.  At the moment he looks to be more of a bay black than a true black, but Chai’s previous cria Kaneka started off being a bay black and was true black by the time she was six months old.  This little boy is darker than Kaneka was so I feel he too may well be more true black as he matures.

It’s always nice to have pleasant surprises and when you find a healthy, good looking cria waiting for you along with a dam who has had an easy delivery it makes for a really good start to the day.  Within a short while Chai’s cria was up and about checking out his legs and then nursing from his dam  – while Queen’s cria sat outside the pen where we had put Chai and her cria anxiously awaiting the time when he could play with the new arrival!

Rosemary

May 18, 2009

Will She or Wont She?

That is the game we will be playing at the farm as spring cria season comes upon us.  With several girls due to have their crias over the next six weeks we will be watching for signs of impending labor.

The first girl to set us on our toes in anticipation is Rose Marie.  Rose Marie is due on May 30, but as I write this blog entry I am getting the feeling that we may well be seeing her cria before then.

Rose Marie was shorn this Saturday (May 16).  As she was so close to her due date we gave her some banamine to help prevent or stop any contractions and some Acepromazine to sedate her a little.  By the time we sheared Rose Marie she was definitely under the influence of the Acepromazine.   

With all of the pregnant girls we take extra steps to be careful when shearing them.  We lower them onto the mat as gently as possible and try and get them shorn as quickly as possible.  The pregnant girls may look a little less “polished” in appearance once they are shorn, but safety of the pregnancy is much more important than appearances.

Sunday turned into a great day for cria delivery, sunny with temperatures into the 70’s it was a beautiful day.

Shortly after feeding I noticed Rosie cush in front of one of the hay feeders, taking her time to lower herself to the ground.  Her actions were different from usual and enough to catch my attention.  I know from experience that with alpacas it is the subtle signs that give you a clue something may be happening.

Rosie didn’t get up to join the herd when we put out beet pulp shreds, which is not like her at all.  I kept a spoonful of the shreds for her and took them over to her once the other alpacas were all busy eating.  Rosie nibbled at them but not as heartily as she normally does.

The next odd sign with Rosie was her straining over the poop pile.  She did pass some poop but stayed at the poop pile a long time, even chewing her cud as she stood there.   Finally she took a couple of steps and then cushed close to the poop pile – hmm something was definitely going on.

Rosie stayed cushed for a while but then kicked her legs out to the side a little.  After a while she laid on her side, still chewing her cud, again an unusual behavior.  I stood close to Rosie and watched her for a while.  She was not groaning and did not seem to be distressed.  There was a little movement of the cria towards Rosie’s rear but no contractions that I could see.  Rosie didn’t look puffy in the rear end and so I started to wonder if she was just in the process of rearranging the cria.  I decided to give her a little longer to see how things progressed.

About 30 minutes later Rosie was happily eating at the hay rack and I was starting to think that perhaps she was not in labor at all, but at the next check (about another 30 minutes) while Rosie was still heartily eating there was another change.  Now Rosie was puffy under the tail and the other girls were occasionally sniffing her.

So who knows or as the title of this entry says “Will she or wont she?”  It is difficult to say, this is only Rosie’s second cria and with her first cria she showed no signs of impending labor and then delivered her cria at night.  Fortunately I do nightly checks on the pregnant girls and discovered Rosie in labor that time.

My suspicion as I write this blog entry (it is now just past noon on Sunday) is that Rosie may be in the early stages of labor and that we may have a cria this afternoon or tonight.  Then again perhaps what I witnessed was just a change that indicates the advancement of Rosie’s pregnancy.  Time will tell, and until the time the cria is born we will be playing the will she or won’t she game.

Rosemary

October 26, 2008

Another New Arrival With An Interesting Quirk

 

Yesterday was a beautiful warm sunny day, too nice for one of the three remaining pregnant girls not to give birth.  This time it was Melody’s turn.

 

Melody is a maiden alpaca, so this was her first time birthing.  She went into labor shortly after she had been fed, taking herself away from the herd, sitting rolled on one hip and flaring at the nostrils.   Melody made several visits to the poop pile, initially passing poop and then not passing anything.  Textbook signs of labor in an alpaca.

 

Melody’s labor progressed well and I could start to see a nose arriving.  It looked dark and I called Melody’s owners (Bob and Regina Dart) to give them an update.  I went into the house to get my usual collection of supplies and towels and when I came out I could see more of the crias nose was presented but the amniotic sac was still in tact.  As I looked at the cria I could see that it was actually had a light nose but it looked dark because the amniotic fluid was a deep yellow color.

 

Usually the amniotic fluid on an alpaca cria is a clear color, I had not seen this yellow color before.  I burst the sac to release some pressure, which would help Melody make some progress.

 

The delivery went well, and Melody delivered a beautiful white male cria, except he wasn’t quite white, he was bright yellow toward the rear!  Bright yellow is certainly not on the color chart of the Alpaca Registry, so what was the deal with this bright yellow coloring?

 

In addition to the bright yellow we could see the cria had what appeared to be poop on his hind legs.  By this time Bob Dart had arrived along with Mitch Murry from Sandy Acres Alpaca Farm, who was visiting Bob and Regina.

 

We decided a call to the vet was in order, our concern being that maybe Melody had torn some of her bowel during birth.  Being a Saturday the vet’s phone went to his voicemail so we waited for him to call back.

 

In the meantime Bob called Regina to tell her the latest news on the cria and Regina got on her computer and did some research to see if she could find any reference to bright yellow amniotic fluid and feces in the amniotic fluid.  Regina quickly found a reference to just what we were seeing, except it was in goats.

 

Apparently sometimes prior to or during labor and delivery goat kids can pass their Meconium while still in the amniotic sac.  This causes the yellow coloring and poop on the cria’s hind legs that we were seeing.  This does not usually cause any problems with the cria unless the birth is difficult and the cria aspirates the fluid into the lungs.  Melody’s cria had a good birth, certainly not traumatic so it seemed as if everything would be okay.

 

I later went online and found a reference to this situation in goats at http://goat-link.com If you scroll down to the heading “Meconium” you will be able to read a little about this condition and if you scroll a little further you will see a picture of a goat kid whose fleece looks like Melody’s cria’s fleece did due to meconium staining.

Feeling a little more reassured that all would be okay with Melody and her cria we went about the usual routine of drying of the cria, dipping his naval and ensuring he was able to get up and nurse from his dam.

 

Melody seemed fine for the rest of the day, eating hay and keeping an anxious “new mother” eye on her cria.   Her cria nursed and slept as newborn crias do.

 

Today is supposed to be another nice day and so it would not surprise me if we have another cria born, only this time it will most likely not be yellow!

 

Rosemary

September 10, 2008

Doing The Cria Dance!

 With Mags and Song receiving bottles of milk three times a day, there are plenty of opportunities to keep an eye on our late term pregnancy girls.  Cinnamon, Clarissa, Carina and Keeva are all due in October or November. 

 

In theory Cinnamon should be the first to deliver, followed by Keeva and Carina (who were bred on the same day) and then Clarissa who is due in early November.  I say in theory as any alpaca breeder will tell you that the girls have their crias when they feel like it and not to our schedule or planned due dates!

 

I noticed a couple of days ago that Cinnamon has some udder development which is about right for her stage of pregnancy.  She is a maiden alpaca and so we need to be prepared for her having her cria a little early or a little late.  I also noticed though that Keeva has udder development, in fact she has much more of a developed udder with full teats and wax caps on her teats, but on paper her due date is October 20.

 

Keeva’s last cria (which was also her first) was born right around his due date, it may be as she has previously delivered a cria her udder will develop a little while out from her due date.  Some experienced dams do develop their udder early, but Keeva is about six weeks from her due date and the signs I am seeing make me suspicious.

 

Yesterday afternoon, as I fed Mags and Song I noticed Keeva sitting not far away.  As I watched her I could see the form of her cria pushing against the skin under her tail, doing what we sometimes refer to as the cria dance.  It is not unusual to see that type of movement in a late term dam, but usually it is in the last couple of the weeks of pregnancy.  Eventually Keeva tired of the cria’s movements and stood up.  She stretched and as she did so her tail lifted showing a very swollen vulva.  I watched her again as she waddled off and visited a poop pile, thinking that the swelling might change as she walked or after she had pooped, but it didn’t. 

 

So Keeva is now under close observation.  She did breed more than once so it is possible that the first breeding did take, or it may be for some reason she is going to deliver early.  Only time will tell, in the meantime while the cria is doing his or her dance inside Keeva, the crias actions are making me do a cria dance all of my own, as I glance out of the window to the girls pasture checking on Keeva every time I pass, and wander out to the pasture if Keeva appears to be cushed in what to me looks like a funny position.  I still get the feeling that Fall cria season could be earlier than we expect!

 

Rosemary

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