Most baby alpacas, or cria as they are called, are born in summer, but last fall we went on a holiday and our farm-sitter accidentally left a gate unlatched one day, and so one of our female alpacas get pregnant. Eleven-and-a-half months later, we waited with great anticipation for this little guy to be born! 😀 Here he is, less than a half hour old!
He was born at 4 pm and temperature was zero degrees Celcius, with a slight breeze! What a time to be born! I had come home and saw Miss Uki acting a little strange and by the time I went to the house, had a quick bite to eat and got back out again, he was born!
He was all wet and started shivering, so I went to the house and got some clean cloths to dry him off. I put a facecloth on his back temporarily to keep him warm!
Even though he is our 5th cria, it’s the first time I’ve been there right after birth. His instinct to nurse was immediate. It’s amazing! He was making sucking faces and looking up. He was shivering so I helped him stand up. He started looking around for where he could get something to eat. They have the instinct to look for somewhere dark, and out in a sunny field, their momma’s underside is the only dark place. So he started looking there! I stood back and watched but he didn’t seem to be really finding her teats and latching on.
I decided I should try to help, but every time I got close, his momma would turn and face me and if I got too close, she’d spit at me! She’s so protective! The other two girls, Daisy and Marley, were coming in to check him out too, and Miss Uki spit on them too. They were interfering with the little guy’s ability to nurse, since Miss Uki kept moving & spitting!! So I tried to separate them out, but it’s pretty hard for one person to move two alpacas who have no desire to be separated from their friends!!
I decided that at least I could move the cria over to the barn to get out of the breeze. Of course, everyone followed! Isn’t he adorable?
I had done some research and prepared for this day by putting extra straw in the barn and making him a little coat. I found the rough shape of a pattern online and the measurements from a store that sells cria coats. I had some thick polyester fleece, some thin quilted fabric, and my mom gave me some fabric to use as the windproof, water-repellent outer layer. I put the coat on a small heater to warm it up. He perked up so much after we put it on him!
The first couple of hours are so critical for a new one to get a good drink from his momma. Her milk has essential nutrients and immune factors that the cria needs. Miss Uki is an ornery alpaca, and VERY protective, so every time I tried to point him in the right direction to get some milk, she would turn and face me and spit. I tried repeatedly but I realized I might not be helping! So, I had to let him find it on his own. I was pretty nervous since last year, our cria Frankie could not find his momma’s milk and we ended up bottle feeding him for 7 weeks! Yikes, that’s a lot of work! And he was not as vibrant as he would have been if he’d been nursing. So, this cria born in fall REALLY needed his momma’s milk for all the energy to stay warm and grow!
Luckily, as long as I stayed far enough away, Miss Uki stood still and eventually it looked like the little fella found the milk! His head was at a good angle… he seemed to be suckling… he was under there a long time… he is nursing! Yay!
That first night it went down to -12 C! I got up at 1 am to check on him, to make sure he wasn’t shivering or getting hypothermia. He was pretty warm, and since I disturbed the alpacas and Miss Uki stood up, the little guy went straight to her for a drink! Double yay!
On day two, he had lots of energy, and after a few days, he even started tasting grass!
We always wait a few days before we give a cria a name. He is pure white like his papa, Boeing, and on his second day in the world, he was already finding ways to get dirty, like his papa! So we named him Pigpen, after the character in the Charlie Brown cartoons who was always a mess!
Boeing was very interested in how his offspring was doing. I’ve never seen a papa as interested as this. He often stands by the gate or fence closest to wherever the girls are.
It’s been over a month, and now we have lots of snow. Pigpen outgrew his first coat so I made him another one! I used alpaca fibre I have on hand, sheared from his momma, to insulate the coat. 😊
I just can’t believe how hardy and amazing crias are. He is exploring the world, running around and tasting new things. The cold does not seem to bother him so far. On day 2, we gave him a pink neckwarmer to help prevent heat loss. He’s so spunky, still tries to get away when we have to adjust his coat. He leaped all over when we gave him the new coat yesterday! But he also still comes nose-to-nose with me every day, and gives me a sniff. We even have a game we play where he follows/chases me, then he runs away. Then I turn around and chase him, not that I could catch him!! Then I run away, as fast as my ankle will allow (I sprained it this summer). And so on for 4 or 5 times. It is, undoubtedly, the highlight of my day! 😄
Thanks for reading! I will be blogging more now that winter is here, and I’ll let you know how Pigpen does! 😀