I discovered the supposed 11 month gestation for alpacas isn’t even an average; it’s more like the beginning of the window. There is actually a 40 day window where they can possibly give birth to a normal cria. Talk about a waiting game!
Luna has resembled a bloated Shetland pony for some time and is 11 days overdue. I put Aidyn down for a "rest break" (because she now refuses to take a nap for me) and head to the barn to make sure everyone's ok. Halfway there, I notice a red and gray blob on the other side of the pasture. Scan, scan, CRIA! But for whatever reason she is in the run, with her mom nervously pacing on the pasture side. Somehow the cria has managed to get through not one, but two panel gates.
I run to the barn to grab a towel and the iodine and get to the cria. I scoop her up, but she's already pretty dry and breathing just fine. YAY!!
Flashback about a month, our best herdsire, Backstage, was super skinny, had an infection, mites, & probably allergies. To help get him up to breeding health, we put him in the maternity ward. He's done very well & is back to being his full macho self.
Back to today, while I'm on the other side of the fence two gates over, Backstage realizes Luna is no longer pregnant and wants to now prove just how macho he is. I am now towel snapping his orgling face as he's trying to mount her. Ruth is doing her best to help by madly barking and jumping at him.
I somehow open two gates without letting the rest of the herd through while carrying the cria (they are ALL pressed up against it tying to sniff the new arrival or show Backstage they are also available). I put the cria down in the correct pasture, put Backstage in a full nelson and drag all 200 pounds of him back through those two gates, past the flirting maidens, and lock him in the run.
Now back to the cria. She's already pronking! She's running up to the fence and saying hi to everyone, looking up at Purple Martin aerial combat, and trying to figure out what the white poof ball creature is making all the noise in the other pasture. Shoot; I forgot to figure out what to put the iodine in to dip the umbilical cord...baggies! There's a slew of baggies for histogram and poop samples.
Ok, that's done, now what? Well you know by now that she’s a she, but I didn’t think to check until just now. Wahoo! It’s a girl! Has she nursed? She's trying to nurse the wire fence. Maybe if I get her and Luna together in the barn she'll have better luck.
So I was reminded of something I'd read after I did that: the cria will instinctively go to the darkest place, which on a normal, sunny day is under mom. In our barn, it's the corner by the waterer. She's now trying to nurse the waterer. Awesome. Back out to the pasture with you.
After holding my breath for what seemed like hours, she finally starts to nurse. Good, because I really didn't want to get up on a 12' ladder to find Aidyn's bottles from two years ago. Aidyn & I sit in camp chairs to watch the funny active girl explore her new world. A hawk flies low over her & I'm certain the raptor is going to scoop her up as his next meal, but he just cries a welcome to her.
Of course at this point the sky is darkening. No I don't mean dusk, I mean sirens are soon blaring and I'm certain we will be struck by lightning right there in our metal camp chairs.
Thank God; hubby's home. The certified weather watcher (yes, he has a card to prove it) announces its time to go to the basement. But not before he's going back up to the barn to lock the cria & mom in their stall. I see animals sprinting everywhere; he's also putting Backstage up on the porch. I see lightning hit the ground what seems like right behind him while he's holding a metal gate. Somehow he makes it alive back to the house and we go down to the basement.
Upon arrival, we see the brand new trampoline Mom bought Aidyn for her birthday go floating by several feet above the ground. Of course I flip at my hubby for not anchoring it right. The storm passes and the trampoline is somehow lodged in the corner of our fencing with only minor tears. I apologize for flipping out. He re-anchors the trampoline and I go check on the cria.
Luna looks hungry. It would probably do her some good to give her some grain. She inhales it. Literally. She’s now choking and vomiting and stumbling about so horrifically that I’m certain she’s going to die. Crap. Can you milk a dead alpaca?? Can I somehow get Estrella (who hasn’t delivered yet) to adopt the cria?? I’m madly searching the internet on my phone to see what I should do. Estrella is very concerned about her mom (she’s Luna’s daughter from some years back) and is humming nervously following Luna around. Luna is apparently going to live because she bites Estrella’s ear to tell her to leave her alone and get out of her way. She heaves violently for 20 minutes before finally settling down.
She immediately turns back to her baby and tries to call her, but her throat is still upset so it sounds pitifully gargled. I’m sure during all that hurling, she was even more stressed asking “who would take care of her baby if she didn’t fight through this?” As a mom, I could see the relief on her face not for the restoration of her own safety, but for the sake of her cria.
I stay and watch into the twilight. I lift up a celebratory prayer when I see the cria nurse again, then pee for a full minute. I laugh thinking of all the things you celebrate as a new parent (we cheered together when Aidyn finally took a dump in the middle of church at a couple days old). I had been questioning whether I was ready to go back there again. As the fireflies came out around us, a wave of comfort and relief washes over me with the cool summer breeze. I stayed up most of the night worried about that little girl out in the wet grass. But I didn't mind. I was ready for a baby. And I didn’t mind as much now that all that puking from Luna had made me throw up a little…
Cria = baby alpaca
Herdsire = alpaca stud
Orgling = the sound a courting male alpaca makes
Maiden = female alpaca that has not been breed
Pronking = a way alpacas run when they’re playing
Purple Martin = a species of bird that swoops after flying insects