Yes, everyone seemed just right and thoughts of McDonald's play land were dancing in the kids head as I saw our alpaca Roz laying down on her side. I thought this is very weird. Now just 4 days prior to this, we had our first alpaca death at the farm and were still waiting for the results.
My mind frantically thought "oh, no, not another one". Then, I looked at her a little bit closer and realized that this girl was in labor. We had never bred her so I was dumb-founded as I watched the typical signs of pushing. Yep, we're going to have a cria. Oh great. I don't want a winter baby. Then it hit me. The moment when you your mind seizes on the thought: What do I do with my grandkids??
Sure enough, long before I had even had time to come up with a plan B, one of the kids looked over and exclaimed "grandma, there is something coming out of her butt". Oh dear, an unexpected birth to a maiden mom, two little kids present and its Nov and cold here in Ohio.
My husband, who tends not to get alarmed by these things, took the kids out to another pasture while I watched Roz. I saw the typical head come out first then 1 foot then nothing. I waited a while before I called out to my husband that we might have a little problem. Code word for "get over here now".
With two small kids in tow and grandma racing around looking for the gloves and the lube, grandpa dutifully grabbed onto the not so comfortable Roz. I came back out, gloved up, lubed up and went in. With just the head and 1 foot out, I saw that the still intact water sac was also coming. I'd never seen this happen before. While I was pushing and pulling to get the 2nd foot to come out, the water sac broke all over me and the baby. Oh yuck!. The kids, ever eager to understand what was going on, were asking all sorts of what you doing grandma.questions.
Finally, I had the baby positioned correctly and Roz proceeded to deliver. Given that this was a surprise cria, I had no idea whether or not it was an early, normal or late. It seemed though that this little one was very tiny. We would come to find out soon enough that he was indeed little at 11 pounds. Our crias normally weigh between 18 to 20 pounds.
We towel dryed him off and then used the hair dryer to finish the task. When we checked his temp though it was only 98. Given that we want it around 100, we continued to cover him in blankets and use the hair dryer.
All of our cria coats were too big for him so I called a friend who brought over a premie coat. We finally got a moment to check to see how mom was doing and found that she had no milk. Imagine if you will 2 little kids watching as grandma and grandpa try to milk out this poor first-time mommy. The innocence of kids. Grandpa why you pulling on the alpacas leg??
Fortunately, for us, their mom arrived and I left the task of explaining what the heck was going on to her. I returned to watch over baby and new mom. Unfortunately, new mom was not at all interested in the baby. This isn't all that unusal until they pass the placenta. Once the placenta passes, the bonding process generally start. However, that was not the case here. In fact, the mom wanted absolutely nothing to do with the new baby. I decided that maybe mom just needed something for pain. Shoot, I'd want something for pain if I had just given birth. So she received a shot of banamine which is a pain-killer. Because it will stop the contractions, you can't give it until after the placenta has passed .
After about 10 mins, mom seemed to feel better and we began the process of putting the new baby under mom thinking that would help to bring down the milk. When that didn't work, we went and got hot compresses to hold on her teats. When that didn't work, I called a friend to have her bring over some frozen cow colunstrum and a shot of oxytocin which will help bring milk down if its there. There is a window of time where it is essential that the baby get the columstrum in their system. The columstrum, generally from mom, has anti-bodies which will help the baby with its immune system. Authroities vary but most agree that you have between a window of 12 to 18 hours.
Time after time, we would put the baby under mom but he wasn't even trying to walk as most newborns do. Instead he was walking in circles. I'd never experienced this and was guessing it might be related to him just being a preemie baby. I'd heard people talk about babies that just didn't seem right. In the alpaca world, they were referred to as dummy babies. These babies generally take a couple of days before their brain engages and the light bulb goes on. I hoped that would be the case for our little one.
We started the bottles of columstrum and lucky for us he was very cooperative. Some babies fight the bottle but he seemed eager. You have to give them small amounts to start with just like human babies. We stalled him and mom together and began bottle feeding every 3 hours.
By day 3, he was doing well with the bottle BUT he was still walking in circles. I'd already given him several doses of thiamine which is used to help anytime there is a neurological problem. Mom was getting more adjusted to mother-hood. She didn't really have much choice given that we had her stalled separately with the baby. We kept them in the barn with the doors all closed up as much as possible to keep the temperature up in the barn.
Before every bottle, we would put him under mom. Running out of ideas, I asked another friend to stop by. His suggestion was that she might have mastitis, a swelling on the teats, which makes it very uncomfortable to nurse. So we started her on antibitoics and tried more hot towels to help reduce any possible swelling.
On day 4, our little guy was starting to fight us at bottle time. We decided to see if we could extend the hours between nursing. He would take one bottle in the morning but would fight all of the other bottles. We finally decided that mom's milk had come in and he was getting his milk from mom.
However, he was still walking in circles. At the urging of friends, I did a hearing test and a sight test. He can hear very well but his eyes had no reflex when I would put my hands quickly up to his face. Finally, I had to face the reality that our little boy was blind.
Paul is now 2 months old and doing well given that our Ohio weather is more like Alaska with morning temps of -9 and wind chills of -20. I can hardly wait till Spring when I can let Paul and his mom in with the herd and Paul can truly begin to get acclimated to his life as one of the herd members here at Lands End Alpacas. just