September 13, 2002
Today at 12:30 pm, our first on-the-farm cria was born! He weighed in at 11
lbs 4 oz - a tiny little thing, as crias go, but he has all his fingers and
toes, and as I write this, he's settled down for a good night's sleep!
We were packing up to go spend the weekend camping with our family. Sobata
wasn't due for another five days, so we really had no concern about her
delivering her cria while we were gone. Everything we've read so far has
indicated that crias are often born AFTER the due date... but I haven't heard
much about deliveries BEFORE the due date! So Rick took the dogs to the kennel
while I did some last-minute chores, and when he got home, we started packing.
A neighbor was planning to look after the animals in our absence, so about
12:15 pm or so, Rick went up to the upper barn to fetch a bale of hay for the
neighbor to feed to the animals over the weekend. He called me to check on
Sobata because she had separated herself from the rest of the herd, and was
kushed in the brush at the top of the field. I went out and checked. Her
vulva had not elongated, her udder had not bagged up, and there seemed to be no
imminent danger of cria delivery, and I told Rick as much. But we came back to
the house, where I began looking for the book we have on birthing alpacas and
he called the Ciszewskies to see if they had any idea how long we had before
Sobata would deliver. After making the phone call, he headed back to the upper
barn to fetch the hay, and saw what he thought was our cat Fred playing with
Sobata. This was very unusual, because the alpacas like to chase the cats, not
sit there and watch them frolic. But as he got a little closer, the "cat"
raised its head and lo! It was not a cat - it was a cria!
Rick came tearing back to the house to tell me we have a cria, and I ran up to
the top of the field, and sure enough, there he was. Sobata had dropped him
over a tree root, so there was no way the little guy could get himself on his
feet. I lifted him off the root and placed him on the ground, checking to be
sure the sac was removed from around his nose and mouth. As I picked him up, I
checked his gender, and found that he was male. I sent Rick back to the house
for a towel, and watched as the little fella kept trying to get to his feet.
Our hill is too steep - he couldn't make it. So when Rick got back with the
towel, I picked the baby up and carried him to the lower barn where we have the
only level area on the farm. Once there, he was able to get to his feet and
wobble around a bit. Within an hour of his birth, he was toddling around,
although he was still a bit wobbly.
He started trying to nurse, and his mom encouraged him as only a good alpaca
mom can do. She stood still for him while he rooted around underneath her.
She blew on his little bottom. And he cried and kept on trying and crying. No
luck. For whatever reason, he wasn't getting the results he expected. After
awhile, he started heading towards the wall, looking in any dark spot he could
find, trying to find something to eat.
After dousing his umbilical cord in Nolvasan and weighing him, Rick and I
unpacked the camp chairs and planted ourselves right outside the barn enclosure
so we could watch the goings-on. Time went by, and the cria still couldn't get
anything to eat. Finally at 2:30, I went back into the house to take the cow
colostrum out of the freezer and let it thaw in a pan of hot water. If he
hadn't eaten by 4:30, I was going to have to bottle feed him.
Meanwhile, the other alpacas did not like being shut out of the barn. They
wanted to get to know the new baby just as much as we did! They hovered around
the back door of the barn and hummed encouragement to mom and baby, and would
not go off into the field and graze. Our two goats (more about them in a bit)
called out their encouragement, too, and we had quite a noisy barnyard for
Here are some pictures of the baby... we named him Atlas (Rick said it's short
for At LAST! - we've waited a whole year for him!)
Atlas is still wet
Atlas and Mom
Atlas and Mom
About an hour old
Talking to Mom
At 2:30, the baby still hadn't been able to get any milk. I made sure the wax
plugs were removed from Sobata's teats, and tried to strip some milk from her,
but no luck. If I couldn't get milk out of her, perhaps there wasn't any there
to get! Her udder did not look full, but it was soft. She didn't shy away when
I tried to strip her milk, which was a first!
In a bit of a panic, I wrote to the
AlpacaSite email forum
and asked for advice. The response was wonderful. People called me and
offered suggestions, and people responded by email with suggestions, and all
the help we got made me feel much more confident that we could handle this. A
very interesting thing about the forum is that when you get seventeen
responses, you have seventeen different solutions to the problem! They were
all helpful, though, and I was really comforted to have so much help at hand.
Ain't the internet grand?
At 4:30, the baby still hadn't eaten anything. I tried to feed him warmed
colostrum from a bottle. He was not at all interested in that - he wanted his
mama. I did get about half an ounce down him before I quit, though, and then
we went back to waiting and watching.
At 6:00 the Ciszewskis came over, and Lee managed to strip a drop or two of
colostrum from one of Sobata's teats. She heated up the bottle of colostrum -
to a temperature I thought was much too hot - and the baby took another ounce
of it. Lee told me that the milk had to be hotter than that which you would
feed to a human baby because the temperature of the alpaca cria was much higher
(102 or so) than that of a human baby. And she must have been right, because
the baby didn't fight the bottle nearly as fiercely as he had fought it the
After the Ciszewskis left, I called our vet and made an appointment to take the
baby in to get him intubated. He needed to get a substantial amount of milk
into him or he'd soon be too weak to continue to try to nurse. At 8:00, off we
went to the vet, got Atlas intubated, got him an enema, watched as he expelled
his mecomium (the substance that plugs the rectum while the baby is in the
womb) and urinated. Eight hours after birth, he had a full tummy and an empty
bladder and bowel. We took him home - and he immediately tried to nurse again.
The vet had given us a five day supply of oxytocin to help let down Sobata's
milk. He said it would encourage uterine contractions, which would also help.
So we gave Sobata her first injection afer we got home, and at about 9:00 pm,
we left mom and baby to rest while we went inside and thought for the first
time that day about getting something for ourselves to eat!
It was a very exciting and stressful day for us... and I'm so glad our first
on-the-farm delivery went so well. I know we won't be as tense for the next
one - we won't worry so much about it because we will have been through it
once. The next baby, Clovelly's is due in June!
The other exciting event of this week happened yesterday, on September 12.
Last spring, we took Sarai down to the Double "O" Good farm in Virginia to be
bred to their Dark Cloud. She was impregnated, but apparently slipped the
pregnancy, and they were going to try again in the fall. They called yesterday
and told us that she was bred again, and that assuming she doesn't slip again,
we can bring her home in 28 days - on the 10th of October. Now I understand
why folks do both spring and fall breedings... you only have to wait 6 months
Now.... I promised a few words about our goats...
Last weekend, Rick decided we were going to get some goats (he had in mind that
we would get four of them) to eat the weeds in the fields that the alpacas
won't eat. I thought this was a marvelous idea, and since it turned out that
he had been thinking about it for quite some time, we went searching for goats.
On Saturday we brought home Buddy, an 18-month-old brown Nubian goat. He's
dehorned and gelded, and we put him in the little catchpen right outside the
front door so we could keep an eye on him. Later that day, we let him out of
the pen, but it seemed clear that the alpacas wanted nothing to do with him.
They wouldn't go into the barn while Buddy was there, and that's where Buddy
wanted to be.
On Sunday, we fetched Jasper, a seven-month-old tan Nubian. He, too, is
dehorned and gelded. He and Buddy greeted each other like long-lost friends,
even though they had never met before, and they played together in the barn and
barn enclosure for the rest of the day. On Monday, we let them out into the
lower field, where they've been ever since. I don't see that they're making
much headway with the weeds, but then, there are an awful lot of weeds out
Buddy was a field goat; he was not a pet, and he finds it difficult to let us
pet him if we're on the same side of the fence that he's on. If we're on the
other side of the fence, he likes to have his head rubbed, but if we're on his
side, he shys away from us the same way the alpacas do. Jasper, on the other
hand, is a pet, and he wants all the attention he can get. He likes having his
head rubbed, and his neck, and he likes being petted and played with. They're
both cute as buttons - Here is a picture of them (as usual, click on the
thumbnail to see a full-sized image):
Buddy and Jasper
We're still looking for the other two goats. We want Nubians just because
they're so cute. We want geldings, or wethers as they're called in the goat
world, because we want to keep goats, not raise them. We want them dehorned so
they can't hurt each other - or get their horns caught in the mesh of the
fence. They're a lot less expensive than alpacas - we paid only $50.00 each
for Buddy and Jasper. The only problem we have is that they do like to put
their front feet up on the fence, which gets their little toes caught in the
wire, and I'm afraid they're going to hurt themselves one of these days. All
we can do is wait and see... perhaps they'll learn to stay off the wire if it
bothers their feet.
More later... when there's something new to report.
Copyright © 2003, A Pacapacas. All rights reserved.
For questions about the website, contact