Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Downs and Ups of Animal Husbandry

As of the last posting, we were excited about the duo alpaca births, and still anticipating two more. We worked outside all day on Saturday and kept a close eye on Flora (slightly overdue). Didn't observe anything unusual or any pre-labor activity like straining at the poop pile.

On Saturday night, she was very quiet. In fact, she remained cushed in one place the entire night, for I went out and checked on her several times, and again at dawn. Just before 8:00 she started laboring, but something was not right. It was a brownish placenta she was delivering, not a cria.

We called alpaca friends, and the vet. Front feet were presenting along with a turned neck instead of the head. It took four of us to support Flora while Dr Pete delivered a stillborn female cria. She had likely only been dead for a day. Perhaps the umbilical chord had broken in the repositioning for birth. I had not seen Flora's water break, a sign of impending birth. We chose not to do a necropsy.

Dr Pete tended to Flora, verifying that her uterine lining had not been torn, that the vessels were pulsing normally, and flushing her with mild antibiotics. We gave her some homeopathy to assist with healing, and later, with grief. She grazed near her cria for awhile, saying her good-byes before returning to the barn with her herdmates.

Since Flora's milk was not stimulated by nursing, it did not come in. One teat swelled a bit over the next few days, but there was no milk to express. On the doctor's advice, we are cutting back on her pellets for a week, putting carrots in her bowl for something to chew on while the others eat their pellets in the neighboring pen.

The temporary reduction in calories will assist drying her milk, as well as call on some of her reserves. Flora tends to be a full-figured girl, so this will help to get her back in balance. Before breeding again in late September, the vet will check to make certain there is no infection.

One day when the dams and crias were in the pasture next to the farm office, I noticed several of the crias sitting near Flora, as if comforting her. Alas, I did not have my camera handy, so the picture is only captured in my mind.

On the following Tuesday morning, I went out early to check Black Lace — the last of our dams due in August. She was cushed and birthing her cria, and from the slight dryness of its ears, I knew she had been laboring for a bit. I gloved up and went in to check the position. The cria's knees were bent, so Lace needed help. I was confident enough to identify the problem, but not to adjust the dystocia myself. My job was to Not Panic. Immediately I called Dr Pete and he came and delivered a healthy male, 19.1 lbs.

As with Flora, we will do a pre-breeding check to make certain there is no infection. This is advisable anytime human intervention is necessary to go in to deliver a cria.

Mike had to leave for work that morning. Since it was only Week 2 of a new job, he did not have the luxury of calling in late. But he was able to stay long enough to see a healthy cria safely delivered before he had to dash away.

We have named Lace's boy Rudulfo's Troubadour, for he and his mom hum to each other more than most. Troubadour's were Spanish/Moorish in origin, and their songs often included themes of chivalry and romantic love. He has the confirmation and fleece possibilities of a quality herdsire, so the love songs should serve him well.

Even with the sad loss of Flora's cria, it's a relief to have the births complete. The last alpaca due this year is Murphy Brown in early October with Orion's first offspring. Lately, Murphy has really begun to 'show' and she is eating more.

When Dr Pat was here last week to do well-cria checks and regular herd health, he also ultra-sounded four other newly-bred dams. With three of them, I was able to see the tiny 45-day fetus moving; on the fourth, Sable's breeding date was later, so the view only gave us a 50/50 chance of viable pregnancy. But we spit-tested her the next day and she ran and kicked at the male rather than cushing for breeding. We will u/s her again in a month.

Next project: tomorrow I will take Sheba (accompanied by her 2-month cria, Jedlicka) to OSU to radiograph her jaw to determine the cause of a chronic infection. She is a good traveler and will cush in the van on our hour-long trip.

Troubadour, keeping Flora company


Bil said...

Sorry to hear about your loss.

Troubadour is a handsome looking boy!!


Ann Dockendorf said...

Thank you for your concern, Bil. It's always difficult, but a part of life.

Yes, Troubadour is a stunner. It will be fun to watch him grow up. But then, aren't they all fun to watch??


Tami said...

So sorry for your loss, thank goodness Flora is ok.

I love Troubadour's coloring. He should be fantastic if he ends up with good conformation & fleece.