A few days in the life of an alpaca farmer………
As we neared the end of our birthing season and after ten days of 30°C degree heat, when thankfully we had no births and the mums-to- be seemed to be holding on, the weather broke. Temperatures were much more pleasant and with a few girls around 350 days the births were bound to come, first was Fire Cracker a 10.5 kg girl to Miss Strez having her 6th birth. All her previous births had been easy but Fire Cracker was stuck with a leg back and Miss Strez pushing strongly. It must have taken 45 minutes or so until Fire Cracker was freed and this strong girl was on the ground, after a challenging birth there was no sitting around to rest for Fire Cracker and she was up and trying to suckle within 15 minutes.
Now we are approaching 250 births we have had quite a few challenging presentations and while Fire Cracker was not particularly difficult her size made it more difficult so it was quite a relief to see her safely on the ground and so determined to thrive.
Next came Fudge with a textbook normal birth, but he was only 223 days and really premature. Again, Pearl is an experienced mother and an early birth is unusual for her. We immediately knew Fudge was going to be a challenge as he lay quite still after birthing with none of the normal wriggling around. It seemed ages before he started breathing as we rubbed his body and tried to get him going. Sometimes they pick up after an hour or so but Fudge had no energy even after we gave him quick start and B1.
After a couple of hours we managed to milk Pearl of some lovely colostrum and managed to get Fudge to take 50mls from a 5ml syringe. Pearl did not like being handled and it need two of us to hold and milk her. By four to five hours after birth it was clear that Fudge was going to be very slow and we moved them into the barn so we could give as much support as possible over what turned out to be a long night.
Pearl could see Fudge was not doing well and realised we were trying to keep him going so she stood quietly while one of us milked her and fed it by syringe to Fudge. We wrapped up Fudge as warmly as possible and leaving the lights on in the barn prepared for a long night.
Milking mum was not giving us as much as Fudge needed so at 10pm we manged to get him to drink 80ml of goats milk. Coming back to the barn every two hours we got him drinking either goats milk or mums colostrum but, while he was still holding on it was not going well, and we wondered if he would make it through the night.
After the 4am feed we were worried that he was not warm enough and brought him into the house and I slept with him beside out AGA cooker. By 8am he had perked up a bit and we took him back to the barn where mum was delighted to see him, and we called the vet to arrange a plasma transfer for later that morning.
When the vet examined Fudge she felt he was strong enough to accept plasma with a strong heartbeat and good breathing although very flat. He wriggled a bit as the plasma was given but remained very flat and we took him into our lab with the heater on and after an hour or so he lifted his head and we began to feel he could make it. For the next 24 hours he gradually grew stronger sitting with his head up and taking a bottle every two to three hours.
By the time he was 48 hours old he was able to stand on his wobbly legs and try and suckle from mum. Amazingly he was able to get up on his own after 72 hours and suckle from mum. We continued to supplement with goats milk for the next 24 hours and at 4 days old he was able to walk around and he no longer needed a bottle, so we let Fudge and mum out in the paddock with the others. We brought Fudge and mum into the barn over the next few nights and put a coat on him while in the barn. Fudge is now 10 days old having put on over a kilo and weighing about 7kg and he is playing with the other cria and proving he can be one of the fastest in the cria races.
Luckily, we have had two more normal births both 9kg black girls and are left with just three to complete our birthing season.