I have been putting off writing this blog post for a couple of weeks now, but I'll have no interruptions sadly, so I need to get this one out of the way!
Well we have pretty decent fencing around our alpacas, but our boys are of the "Houdini" variety, and will squeeze through, under or over any possible obstacle, or indeed fencing they can. We remember the date very well, July 4th last year, an easy date to remember. We did a weekly shop and were out for a few hours. As we drove up towards the house, there in front of us were the 3 girls in a row, all facing the same way. Cassandra and Lily each with a male on top of them orgling away, and Bermuda sitting in the middle patiently waiting for her turn! Alan screeched the car to a halt and we leapt up shouting and waving our arms frantically, to try and break the romantic Barry White moment. Well it did work, although the boys were a little .... er put out shall we say, however we managed to usher them back to the boys paddock, and gradually all settled down to normality. In our mind it would be an easy date to remember and therefore calculate any impending births.
We have n't bred any of our girls for a couple of years, as we do not really have enough land for many more, plus there are not really the clients about that we had hoped to sell them to. In my dream, our clients would become friends, and part of our AEDA society and we could help them as much as possible, and be involved a little with the alpacas and their new owners, basically be of support. I know everyone's ideas are different, but when you have lost a few animals you tend to cocoon those you have, and try and do what you think is the absolute best for them.
Well as we have been handling Lily, which we do very often, as she has a bit of a mite allergy problem, she was being a tad more grumpy that usual and even a little spitty, but we did n't really take too much notice. In hindsight maybe we should have taken a male to her, and done a spit off, but we decided to play it by ear and if a baby came along, we would deal with it, and hope and pray it was ok. We took that attitude as two years ago when I was in England, the day my beautiful granddaughter as born, Lily gave birth to a cria who was about 3 or 4 weeks early. Sadly she died! The first 2 or 3 days she seemed to be doing fine and then she went downhill extremely fast. Alan took her away from Lily, and took her to the Veterinary University Hospital in Cordoba, but her lungs were not developed sufficiently and she died there, as they were treating her. For about two weeks, whenever Alan went near Lily she hummed loudly, and was in great distress for her baby. It was a terrible nightmare for Alan, he was here on his own, and I was going through so many emotions seeing my first granddaughter born, and then the wonderful news that a cria was born, and then the tragedy of losing her and of course knowing that poor Alan was having to deal with it alone. It was very tough all round. She would have been our first girl too. Do to circumstances that I wont go into right now, we have 3 young males born that have lived, but we have lost 6 crias, including the little beauty this year, and sadly 2 have been girls! So only 2 girls from 9 babies and we lost them both!
Ok where was I... oh yes, well occasionally with let the girls into another tiny paddock, just for an hour or so where we let the weeds grow and give them a change of scenery as their paddock is smaller than the boys. On route to it is a gravel type path and they all love to have a roll on the way. Alan called out to me "Oh my God you should see the size of her boobies!" Haha! I was sure he was exaggerating, however on cue she rolled for me, and it was like "OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!" Alan did a bit of research and was happy to read the nipples can swell from about a month before the cria is due. That would make her dates just right, so we settled into the idea that sure enough we would be having a new baby alpaca soon'ish!
It was I think only two days later when we had a little day trip out to the gorgeous Cordoba Patios, which was my last blog post. We pulled up in the car, Cassandra and Bermuda were outside and Lily was inside the stable area. This was nothing unusual as they spend most of the day in there when it is hot. As we drove past and adjusted our eyes to the darker stable, Alan said concerned "Oh no a dog has got in there with her.................... ON NO IT'S A BABY!!!!!!!!" We leapt out and sure enough there was a beautiful little brown cria, sat, wobbling, but upright next to her mum, Lily. There was afterbirth on the floor plus a rather large pool of blood too. The cria was fairly clean but had a little dried afterbirth still on her. As we picked her up to have a look at her, we realised her umbilical cord was bleeding, a lot. The first thing we did was to ring our vet, who we could n't get hold of. So as the mum and cria were stable, Alan drove into town to try and find the vet, hoping maybe he was already out on an emergency call in the campo, or even better having a siesta! No luck sadly! Alan quickly researched online regarding the bleeding umbilical cord, as we knew we had to stop it, as soon as possible! We found a plastic clip that seals a bag, and wrapped it in a betadene soaked cloth and he managed to clamp it, onto the remains of the cord! We were n't sure of course how old cria was, but the next most important thing was to get her drinking from Lily. I had already been trying this, when Alan went out to find the vet, and could not manage it. She was strong enough to stand although Lily was not happy standing still for her, all she wanted to do was eat! Good sign for Lily though of course!
The next step was to try and milk Lily, to get some colostrum into the little one. I could not manage it at all but luckily Alan did, from all of the nipples, so the routine was for one of us to hold Lily still, whilst the other held the baby up to try and feed, and then to feed her with a syringe tiny amounts, but better than none of course. This was going to be the routine for the night, every hour. Lily was not showing to be a great mum but in my heart I wondered if she remembered what had happened before, and did n't want to become too close, or in hindsight did she know this gorgeous girl was n't going to make it?
During the night Lily's maternal instincts seemed to kick in, and she began clucking to her cria, and even nudging her towards her nipples, we were beginning to feel quite positive. The baby was looking stronger and standing quite well, but could n't seem to suck well, so we kept the hourly feeds going. Around 5am Alan said he was going to have a couple of hours sleep, I did not want to sleep. I had a feeling that if I went to bed Alan would check on the baby, and come back and tell me she had n't made it. That had happened with the new born foal just a matter of weeks ago, and I could n't go through that again. So I stayed up, in the kitchen and had a look online, and read, and dozed but we had decided to leave the baby for a couple of hours, hoping she would sleep well and become a little stronger.
Dawn broke about 7am and I went to the stable to see them. Lily was fine but I could tell immediately the baby's breathing had changed. It was a little laboured, and I knew she was n't going to make it! I woke Alan with the sad news, and we held each other and I had a little cry. Alan got dressed and immediately we went back out to them. During the course of the morning we phoned our vet, and had a talk to him. It had been a day of celebration for his family, the previous day as his daughter had made her First Holy Communion, and of course they were partying, we must however try and get hold of another emergency vets phone number, we had already made the decision though we were not going to take Lily's baby away from her this time!
The day became all about keeping the baby comfortable and Lily too, and allowing them to be together. Alpacas are great mums and I, and especially Alan had seen how Lily had grieved when she lost her previous baby! Around mid afternoon, it became just too much for us to bear, the baby was struggling to breath and we could not help her. We decided to ask Andres the vet to come and allow her to be out of any pain and discomfort. The decision was made that if she passed away before he arrived home, I would phone, just in case he had n't already picked Andres up, and then of course he would nt need to come, although we wanted a general antibiotic for Lily, although that would be no problem we could give that to her.
After Alan had been gone about an hour, I picked up the cria and gave her a little cuddle, as I put her down again close to her mum she made a strange almost choking sound. I wiped her mouth and she had in fact taken her last breathe. It was so very sad, although a relief she was no longer in discomfort. I phone Alan as planned and choked back the tears as I said "She's gone1" The vet knew by Alan's reply to me and did n't speak another word the whole journey!
Lily knew immediately, and of course I do not know who reads my blog, and if any alpaca owners read it and have had any similar incidents I would be really interested to hear about them. Lily at the moment of her babies death made a cry like an alarm call. I kept Lily and the baby together and just covered the baby up. When Andres arrived he told me how sorry he was, and we spoke a lot about premature alpaca crias. Lily's baby had been approximately 5 weeks premature. Andres also told us he was pleased she had passed away on her own, as even though putting an animal to sleep can of course be in their very best interest it is a job he hates to do. I held Lily and gave her lots of cuddles, as Alan took the baby away. As Andres was giving Lily her first antibiotic Alan said in total shock "Lily is crying!" I was holding Lily so I could n't see her face but both Alan and Andres saw her, our beautiful girl with a tear down each side of her face!
For about 3 or 4 days our gorgeous girl hummed loudly whenever she saw us, but to be honest the hardest part was seeing her taking herself away from the other females, and see her alone in the stable, lying where her baby was. We will one day mate her again, however two losses for her broke her heart and ours too!