Sheba's pregnancy was at day 366. We had been watching her closely for weeks, but were not really concerned since she is a 'push-button dam' who has had several cria with no difficulties. Still, it was only our 2nd birth since we've had the alpacas in our care, and we didn't want to miss seeing this one. Life is so magical!
I am in and out of the pens and the barn most days, so the dams are accustomed to my random presence. And I talk to them by name as I move among them, just like I do with my dog and cats. Sheba was cushing, humming, up and down, and finally she was dilating. I returned to the house to get my neonatal book, my knitting and my camera, and let Mike know that birth was imminent. Positioning myself just out of Sheba's sight, within 10 minutes I called Mike's cell phone to let him know that a nose emerging. This was the first birth either of us had witnessed from the very beginning.
I also dialed another nearby alpaca breeder, just to make sure she was available in case we needed assistance. Over the next half hour, I called Sheri 3 more times: I don't see toes yet; the head is presented but feet are on top... she carefully stepped me through each phase so I would know what to expect, and how long the progress should take if all things were normal. Her knowledge at each step was a calm reassurance.
Sheba alternately stood and cushed, trying to adjust her discomfort. Curious Miss Nutmeg was overly attentive, so I escorted the 'helpers' out of the pen and they watched through the fence (birthing dam is circled in blue). Sheba was cushed during the final expulsion of head and front legs, and the baby lay half-delivered in a jumble on the grass. So with her next contraction, I assisted by pulling the hind feet free. The cria rolled over and I could see that we had a girl! I moved her away from the fence-line and exited quickly for bonding time.
With the 'Cria Checklist' on my clipboard, we observed and documented the time markers after birth: sitting in an upright cush position by 4 minutes, the umbilical cord doused with Novasan, cria standing at 10 minutes old, etc. And once she did stand, she remained on her feet for over half an hour. This is a strong little girl!
With a towel, I picked up the wet baby to move the little family to a flatter pasture, and on the way stopped in the barn to weigh her. Twenty pounds! Sheba is a big girl, and her pregnancy was on the long side, so we were thrilled with such a normal birth. Being able to observe the whole process was another good learning experience.
We purchased Sheba a few years ago from a ranch in Santa Ynez, CA. Before raising alpacas, Bonnie was a horse-owner, so in honor of this cria's 'roots' in Santa Barbara County and of Bonnie's love for horses, we've named her Rudulfo's Jedlicka, after a popular western-wear store in Santa Barbara and Los Olivos.
When we tucked Jedlicka in for her first night, I put on the flannel toddler jacket that had graced young Ladyhawke. Jedlicka is so big that she will need the next size soon. Pre-dawn is cool, and like all newborn mammals, temperature regulating and bodily systems and functions must adjust. I was glad to see her peeing this morning!
So, since there are no blue roses, does this mean we'll always have girls here?? At least our string of male births is being nicely offset by welcoming Ladyhawke and Jedlicka to our herd.
In Tribute: Today, June 25, marks my dad's birthday. Jud Holt was a large and small animal veterinarian in East Texas, and although he died several years ago, he would have loved the alpacas. I think of him often as we learn more about life on our farm and raising these unique animals.