Monday, November 29, 2010
We welcomed AO Misbehaven into our herd June, 2010. She was already well into her pregnancy, with her due date set for November 22. She & I fast became friends. A very curious girl, Destiny Alpacas, the farm where I purchased her, warned me her name suited her…she quite often found herself getting into trouble. Being a bit of a rebel myself, I admired that very trait within Miz. I found it not a problem but rather a blessing…always a smile came across my face as I watched what Miz would explore.
24 hours old
November 29, 2010 began as any ordinary day at the farm does. “Cria watch” duties noticed Miz acting a bit different than other mornings. Note to self: day 342; today just may be the day!
The weather was on the miserable side: overcast, drizzling rain and cool. Not the best day to be birthing a cria. The weatherman predicted heavy, pouring rain by early afternoon. I decided it better to be safe than sorry. We began setting up the nursery in the barn & gathering the basic necessities, (towels, sheets, hair dryer, navel dip, etc.) so we were prepared when the much anticipated guest arrived. And so we wait…
By 1pm, through my “paca-viewing-hole”, (the bedroom window), I could see Miz exhibiting signs of heavy labor. Time to head out to the pasture. Thank goodness Mother Nature decided to hold back the rain…I guess she really does know best.
Upon arrival, I found Miz laying in the straw, pushing. Not seeing the proverbial “nose & toes,” I had to remind myself to breathe as this process takes time. What seemed an eternity passed…probably only 10 minutes or so. I am seeing only a “bulge” appearing. I assume this must be the nose still inside the sack. Do I help? Do I break the sack so baby can take its first breaths? How long do I wait? How long is too long? Out comes the cell phone for a quick call to the vet. Luckily I didn’t have to intervene. By the time the vet’s office had an answer, the head was out. A beautiful white face surrounded by dark. Already I am trying to determine color. Silly me.
NO TOES! Where are the toes? Again I try to be patient. Miz didn’t seem to be in too much distress, so I take a few deep breaths. Another eternity passes…10 minutes or so. Still no toes. Out comes the cell phone again. As I am dialing, I hear my son exclaim, “The legs are out!” Whew! It won’t be long now, I thought, and we will have our new addition all dry & in the nursery so the rain can pour down.
“Come on, Miz, you can do it! Push, girlfriend!” I calmly encourage her to hurry up. No progress. No call this time, I decided to help just a little. With that little help, we have a cria back to the hips. “Okay, let nature take its course. Certain things need to happen in a certain order…don’t let your enthusiasm cloud your judgement,” I remind myself.
A million thoughts race through my brain. “Patience, Lisa, patience. Oh, why did I decide to raise alpacas? Patience is not my strongest quality. A force stronger than you is trying to teach you patience. I must listen. That must be the lesson I am needing to learn.” Weird, I know.
Back to reality. Eternity again…and baby is still just at the hips. Miz is pushing like there is no tomorrow. I am ready to help again. As she pushes, I notice what looks to be the placenta, protruding on top of the cria. “OMG! Here come everything!” I fear the worst! Then…BAM! A second cria head!
Talk about a flurry of activity at this point! The first baby is not even completely out and we have a second head…and it, too, is breathing!! Seth is texting his dad to tell him of the unbelievable news. As baby #1 hits the ground, (2:44pm) we are scooping it up & heading to the barn to begin the drying process. I leave Seth to this task as I go back to check on Miz & baby #2. This one is progressing as a normal birth should. But the drizzle is starting to get heavier & the rest of the herd is beginning to realize there is something going on. “We need to hurry, Miz…come on girl, you are almost finished…one more big push!” I can be quite the coach…LOL! Eternity again…2:54pm, baby #2 is on its way to the nursery.
The miracle of twins. A rare occurrence in the alpaca world. Very seldom does it happen, especially to be carried to term plus both be born alive. Usually the dam will abort near 7 months, but carry no longer than 9 months. Miz was not overly large so I didn’t give her pregnancy a second thought. She was always ravenously hungry…but what pregnant girl isn’t?
Back to the task at hand. In the nursery, Seth is busily drying both babes. As they lay on top of an opened cria coat layered over a heating pad, I can’t believe how tiny these little creatures are. I could have wrapped them both together in that cria coat…and there STILL be room left over. I take their temperatures. Baby #1: 90* Baby #2: ?? dang battery must be bad in this thing. I sent Seth to the house for a new thermometer. We try again. Baby #1: 90* Baby #2: ?? again! Knowing the digital thermometer’s lowest reading is 89*, I become concerned and begin to lay out a plan in my mind. If the temps don’t begin to rise shortly, we will try the warm water bath I have read about. We continue to dry and take the temps again. Baby #1: 91* Baby #2: 89*. YAY! Progress but still a long way to go!
My husband, Tom, arrives home from work and immediately gets busy. Bless his heart…not much “manly” stuff was left to do at this point; nursery was set up, straw walls were built, Miz was patiently waiting for the cria to begin standing…what is left for a guy to do? So he asks, not “What should I do?” but “What kind of clothes do you want me to get while I’m at Wal Mart?” He thinks of everything at times like this. The answer was obvious and we laughed as I replied, “Anything small!” Off he goes.
In the meantime, Barbara from The Skipping Alpaca stops over to witness these tiny miracles. She offers advice from her experiences with weak and cold cria. Lay a sheet over the top of them to keep the heat in. Why didn’t I think of that? Wow, what a difference! Little babies started to perk up at a quicker pace now. Temps are now closer, but still not in the safe zone. It has been nearly 2.5 hours with no attempts to stand. I give Karo syrup and make 1 last call to the vet before his office closes.
A quiet & patient man, Dr. Hatchett listens carefully as I describe the events and what I am looking at presently. His words, while encouraging and optimistic, bring me to a reality I hadn’t dared venture. He told me the usual, (how wonderful & rare, only about once in every 120,000 births do twins happen, milk the dam as the babes will need nourishment as soon as the temps are ready, etc.), then he added; while they may look normal on the outside, they may not be normal on the inside. Their digestion and bowel movements may not function correctly, or worse yet, at all. Really? How could that be? They appear so perfect. I was NOT going to let this news hinder my efforts. (Not his intentions at all) After all, our farm has faced adversity before and come out on top. Remember Axel? Pacey? Angel & Maggie? This challenge was not going to defeat us either.
Milk the dam. Something I had hoped I’d never have to do. Thank goodness Miz was an understanding girl. I readied a syringe to help with my assignment. (another trick I had read about) Unfortunately I was only able to express a tiny bit. I knew the colostrum was there…I just couldn’t get it! We had to fall back on an old stand-by…powdered colostrum from the cria kit. Not my first choice, but over 3 hours had passed & the babes needed calories. No time to thaw the plasma or frozen colostrum. Each cria “drank” about 1 oz. I do not know how to tube, so a bottle was employed. Feisty little devils, they fought me! A good sign in my humble opinion.
“I’ll give them a few minutes to rest, then I’ll give them some more.” I remember saying. I didn’t want to exhaust them. I also didn’t want to supplement unless ABSOLUTELY necessary as the window for passive transfer is so small, I knew they needed mom’s colostrum…Wait…what’s this? They are trying to stand! I can hardly believe my eyes! The Karo & milk have kicked in, they are warm & looking for the milk bar! HOORAY!! Oh how tiny. Can they even reach? Tears fill my eyes as these miracles search the dark corners for milk. Careful guidance and a very patient mom steered them in the right direction.
Once I have witnessed the milk mustache, I begin to relax. It’s nearly 8pm. We realize we humans are hungry too. We decide it is time to allow Miz & her twins some quiet time to bond. We leave her to tend to her cria, safe within the confines of her nursery inside the barn, protected by our Great Pyrenese and the rest of her herd.
10pm. I make 1 last trip out to check on the wee ones. Both are resting peacefully in the straw, sporting their infant clothes Tom had brought from Wal Mart. I take their temps. Both have dropped 1 degree…uh-oh. I snuggle down with them, cover us all with the sheet and turn on the blow dryer. It’s gonna be a long night. I wish I had brought my cell phone out with me. Remember I mentioned how wonderful Tom is in times like these? Here he comes…to check on all of us…to make sure I didn’t need any help. When I told him my findings, there was no real discussion. He began gathering what he needed to bring the nursery to the garage. We had come this far…no turning back now!!
So by now it is midnight…and still drizzling cold rain. Miz & her twins are settled into their new nursery in our garage. I had joked about this when we talked about the risks of fall cria, but never thought we’d have to make it a reality. Did I jinx us? Who knows…who cares? It is what it is and thank goodness it is. I beam with pride. Not only for the animals taking refuge in my garage, but for my husband and son who stepped up without me having to ask. Thank you both so much!
oh so tiny!
zoom - zoom!
nearing their 1st yr 9-19-11