Rick and Terry Simpson
HC 79 Box 52-E
Romney, WV 26757
(304) 822-3494

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 several hours.

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 - still wet from childbirth
Atlas is still wet
Atlas - still wet from childbirth
Atlas and Mom
Atlas - still wet from childbirth
Atlas and Mom
Atlas - still wet from childbirth
About an hour old
Atlas - still wet from childbirth
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 first time.

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 between crias!

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 there!

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
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.

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