Monday, 29 October 2012

Sad times.

This is a very hard post to write and has made me question what we have started here.  Yesterday I was weeding the old vegie garden, and Husband had gone into the paddock to look for the lever that had fallen off the tractor.  He called me on my phone to tell me there was an alpaca baby in the paddock!!

Vodka had given birth.  Without any fuss or warning, and she certainly hadn't 'dropped' the day before.  I went running down to the paddock, calling to daughter and 15y.o son (2yo was in bed thank goodness) and we all went to look.  Vodka was in good condition, just the placenta out.  She was nuzzling and humming to a beautiful white little cria.  I managed to look to see that the membrane was clear of the nose and mouth, the cria was breathing quietly, and after telling Vodka she had done a great job, we quickly retreated to let them bond.  I left a bucket of food for Voddy, and was suprised to see Boo acting as the 'aunty', spitting on the others when they came near and also humming to the baby. It was a beautiful warm day without any wind, so I thought the cria would be fine under the tree with her Mum.

We grabbed all our Alpaca info, the times for each stage, and set up on the house deck with the binoculars.  Husband said that he had seen all the Alpacas in a circle around Vodka, and when he went up the baby was there on the floor.  We were a bit concerned that the cria was premature, Vodka is a rescue animal and we thought maybe she had mated earlier than we had been told.

After 45 minutes, although the cria was moving at times but not able to raise it's head or sit up - let alone stand, I started to worry.  When we hit the hour mark, I went back down with husband and daughter to have another look.  The cria was breathing nosily at this point, and Vodka had wandered off.  I (without touching too much, and keeping clear of her head) cleaned the remaining membrane off, checked the umbilical cord, checked the sex (female) and she tried very hard to raise her head.  Vodka came back, so I backed off, but was worried about the breathing.

We decided to give her half an hour, but after 10 minutes watching she wasn't improving.  I called the breeder in Hobart and left a message, I called a breeder close by, but she didn't answer her phone.  I then called the vet in town, who couldn't come out as she was in theater.  The Alpaca woman called me back (from her holiday in Queensland!) and told me not to take the cria to the vet, instead just rub the cria vigorously and try to get it to stand.  If it had breathing difficulty, then to hang it upside down to help clear it's lungs.  We did this under Vodka's supervision (I think she knew we were trying to help - there was no spitting).  We gave the cria some glucose on it's lips, and grabbed some sterile bottles and containers in case we needed to milk Vodka.
Trying to clear the lungs
The vet called back and requested that we bring the cria in.  I was so conflicted, as I didn't want to break the bond between Voddy and cria, plus the breeder had said to keep them together.  We would have no hope of getting Vodka into a trailer - she isn't even halter trained!  We decided to continue to rub the cria, and helpfully Vodka lay on her side next to us.  The placenta had come away, and I was able to see without touching her that she was ok, her teats were enlarged so her milk had come in.  Husband decided to risk the kicks and spits, and see if he could get some colostrum and milk out of her - thinking that the baby would need bottle feeding.  We were shocked that Vodka let husband do this, and he was able to get a fair amount of colostrum out of her!  Husband pushed the cria's nose into the teats, but she just wouldn't suckle, she was too weak.  We put some of the colostrum on her mouth and a tiny amount in her mouth.   It had been three hours now since we estimated she had been born, she was limp and her breathing was rattly, we decided to take her to the vet.

Vodka had one last kiss of her baby, and I prayed she would understand why we had to take her away.  As we walked up the paddock , she stood up and looked after us humming away.  I had been taking many photos up to this point, eager to document our first cria born so suddenly, and how proud Vodka had been of her achievement.  This was to be Macquarie Springs 'Bailey'.

Daughter and I took Bailey to the vet.  During the 30min journey, with car heater blaring, we kept rubbing her and making sure her airways were clear.  She was still attempting to raise her head
but her legs were limp.  We charged into the vet and were seen immediatley.  At first the vet told us off saying she should have been bought in hours ago, and we both felt very bad.  The vet said that there was little chance of the cria's survival, she was cold, not registering a temp and her heart beat was arrythmic.  Bailey was put on oxygen.  It took the vet half an hour to find a vein to give Bailey IV glucose, and then she listened to what we had to say.

After an examination of Bailey the vet concluded that she was very premature, and I said that we were told she was due in December.  Her teeth hadn't errupted from her gums, although she was a good size.  The vet said that her heart rate was all over, and the hypothermia was due to congential heart defects - Bailey was fighting a losing battle.

The vet gave Bailey adrenalin into her little heart, but her temp still didn't register.  We soon had to make a very hard desicion.  Heat lamps, blankets and hot water gloves had been padded around Bailey, she was on oxygen, but her breathing was becoming very laboured.  Her temp was taken again, and she started to register - giving us some faint hope, however within minutes of turning her over, her breathing stopped and started.  She had fought so hard, but it wasn't meant to be.  I couldn't see her suffer any more, and on the vet's advice I decided to put her to sleep.

Bailey had big blue eyes, which I think may indicate deafness.  She was solid white with one perfect small brown spot on her side.  In every way she looked just perfect.  She was just born too soon.

Daughter carried Bailey out to the car, and we took her home.  With many, many tears we took Bailey back to Vodka.  I layed her on a sheet in the paddock, and the Alpacas circled us.  It was incredibly sad to see Vodka humming and nuzzling Bailey.  With no predator animals here, we left Bailey with Vodka overnight.

Early this morning, Husband went to remove Bailey, but Vodka wouldn't let him near - spitting and blocking.  Later Daughter and I went down to the paddock and bought buckets for all of the Alpacas.  Vodka is usually the first one up, but she refused to leave Bailey.  I took the bucket to her, and she came only a few meters from the cria, whilst the other Alpacas took the opportunity to sniff the baby.  It was as if they knew and were saying goodbye.  The alpacas moved up to their buckets, but Vodka wouldn't move away.  I braced myself again for spitting, but Vodka stood and hummed as I wrapped the cria up in the sheet and picked her up.  I let Voddy have one last goodbye and I walked out of the paddock with Voddy following.  I had decided to leave Bailey in the garage until husband came home, and we would find a suitable place to bury her.

I went straight back into the paddock and Vodka came up to me humming.  I didn't think that I could feel any worse.  Vodka did begin eating though, and I guess that is a good sign.  I watched her all day and she is staying with the others, grazing, cushing etc.

We are now watching Boo with trepidation.  She too is a rescue alpaca, and as such possibly hadn't been provided with any of her injections, good diet etc.  I realise that we may have bitten off more than we could chew with these girls, but I really wanted to give them a chance.  I know now, more than ever, that the girls need to be healthy, strong, have the correct diet and immunisations even before they conceive if we are to have healthy cria.  I am sure that we won't have problems with the other girls - they are all registered, healthy animals that are in top condition and will be mated with Eclipse in December.

This is just such a sad start to our Alpaca farm.


  1. So sorry...I think we have all experienced this heart break at some point in our breeding...sometimes there is just nothing that can be done and you gave it your all. Poor Vodka too.

  2. Its a very sad time, you canonly do your best and sometimes even that isn't enough. I hope you can move forward into happier times with your alpacas.... Jayne

  3. Sorry to hear of your news, with your first (?) birth - there are often anxious times when you are breeding, but hopefully you will soon have many joyous times to put in prespective the much-fewer set-backs. Good luck.Dave.

  4. So sorry to hear your very sad news, but be assured you did everything you could and sometimes it is just not ment to be. I know from experience this year how you must be feeling, but rest assured mum will be ok and will move on to normal life within the herd.

    Try to look forward to all the very, very happy times ahead of you. x

  5. Oh I'm so very sad to read this... it made me cry. Sounds like you did the best you could, and I echo the above comments that sometimes there is simply nothing you can do. Don't ever question what you are doing... your love for your animals shines through so much, the animal world needs caring responsible people such as yourself. Don't try to blame yourself either, sometimes it is 'natures way' even though its heartbreaking for us. You say she could have possibly been blind too? Heart defects? You had no idea of her conception or history?.... now in your care Voddy can move on to have healthy beautiful babies. Chin up Lisa, you are great, your farm is great, your cria are great! Don't give up!

  6. Thank you all for your very kind words! I think the worst of it was Vodka grieving for her cria. We decided to move them all into a different paddock while we get it ready for the boys, and that seemed to help :)

  7. I so so sorry! A loss is terrible no matter what, but for it to be your first cria, even more devastating :(

    It does sound like the cria was premature. You did everything you could! Sometimes nature is cruel.

    The blue eyes does not mean it was deaf, just that sometimes blue eyed whites are deaf (we have never had one born on our farm but have acquired two BEW and one is deaf, the other not). Anyway, if you'd like more information, here is a great article about BEW (blue eyed whites):

    1. Thanks Cara, yes she was premature - and we are now watching Malibu (Boo) carefully, as she is lying down more and distancing herself from the others. I am hoping that the same thing won't happen twice! The trouble is that we don't know exactly when they were mated...but if Bailey was prem then surely if Boo births now (a week later) then that cria will be prem?

      The debate about BEW is huge here! About 20% of BEW here are not deaf, the rest are. They are penalised in shows here, even if they are not deaf. Is that the same with you? Thanks for the info, it is an interesting read :) Lisa

  8. Sorry to read of your bad luck. You all did your very best for your animals, and more than that you can't do. Don't let this experience put you off alpacas or other animals - they need you! Well done. Shirley & Robbie

  9. That's such a sad story, especially as it was your first cria, heartbreaking for you. Sounds like she just wasn't meant to be... You must put it down to experience and look forward to happier times - there will be plenty I'm sure.

  10. So very sad, I cried when I you told me and I have just cried again reading this, how heartbreaking for all of you, Julie xx