A Learning Opportunity

It’s nice when everything “goes right”, but you don’t learn a thing!

We have had 5 cria born to us: Ice Boy, Johnny Fleece, Black Jack, Stormy, and Sissy. Four of the five births went swimmingly. Some days we were there to see an uneventful, smooth, normal birth. On the day of hurricane Sandy, however, we were lucky that Bob & Lisa were there to assist in a difficult birth. The cria malpresented and he wasn’t coming out. His head and one foot were out while the other was stuck at the fetlock. Bob gently pushed the cria’s head back in and inserted his little finger in just enough to turn the fetlock and ease the baby out. We named him “Stormy”. While we were unhappy for the dam’s trouble, we are grateful for the experience. We have 3 credits for having finished “Assisted Alpaca Birth 101”.

Then, the cria was weak and could hardly stand to nurse. Or hold his head up. Bottlefeeding began. We gave Stormy yummy goat milk colostrum

from the Dearden’s goat farm. The vet was at the farm several times, including a visit where she gave the little guy vitamin D and some plasma to help him gain strength. We (Bob and Lisa and James and myself) did everything humanly possible to teach this cria to nurse his momma. The momma knew her baby but wanted nothing to do with the humans who were so “rudely interfering”. It was a huge struggle to get her to stand while we assisted Stormy in finding her teat and latching on to nurse. All the while, Lisa milked the dam to keep her milk going and generously provided Stormy with goats milk after the colostrum period passed.  On day four, we used James’ rope climbing equipment to hoist the dam up and keep her standing while we “taught” Stormy that, though bottles and the people who feed them are nice,  this was his source: momma. Another alpaca farmer friend, came over and gave us lessons in tube feeding. Some folks advocate that over bottle feeding so that the alpaca does not bond with the human.

On day seven, he started nursing his mom on his own. We were so relieved and pleased. We live 24 miles away from the farm. The Deardens are four miles away. It was extremely taxing to fit all the extra hours into our busy lives. To say nothing of the physical exertion required to hold up the dam and the bending and twisting to see life from a nursing cria’s point of view. We rejoiced and rested when Stormy was able to nurse his mom on the seventh day. It was biblical. We completed a course in “Alpaca Neonatal Care 102”.

During weeks of life two through five, Stormy was out in the field, nursing and trying to grow stronger. He still looked weak, had trouble holding his

head up all the time, and he frequently stumbled. He couldn’t run or pronk as freely as the other cria on the farm. Other times he held his head up and looked as beautiful and regal as all the other healthy and happy alpaca. Since he appeared to be in pain, we pursued relief for him. We gave him banamine, an analgesic, in the early days of his life. Due to the side effects of prolonged use (stomach ulcers), we were cautious about giving too much. We followed the vet’s advice on banamine, closely. Apparent pain persisted. What next? A little eastern medicine was worth a go: acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Bob and Lisa carried Stormy over to the vet for a round of acupuncture treatment. Bob sat on the floor, held Stormy, while the vet gently inserted the needles in the selected locations.  Stormy, whose muscles were hard as rock, began to relax and he soon felt like a bag of rice in Bob’s arms. It was clear that the cria felt relief. The Chinese herbs are given twice a day. It is seeming to help. Stormy shows both lethargy and alpaca herd-like behavior. We are  praying for his further recovery. We consider ourselves enrolled in “Pain Management 103”.

It’s been a trial and it is not over.  The learning experience opportunity is immense. We are so grateful for the support of the Deardons, the Lees, Suri Downs, Fireweed Farm, and especially our vet, Melinda McCall.

Some sites that were helpful:

Gateway Farms New Cria Check Up; Alpaca Hacienda Neonatal Care


More of Stormy’s story to come later this week.



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