Friday, April 17, 2009

Update: Cinderella's Tummy Ache

I just wanted to give a quick update on how Cinderella is doing. She is back to normal and chewing cud just like everyone else. We palpated Cinderella's belly to feel the cria as the vet instructed us to do. After a minute or two or palpating, we were able to locate the 7 month old cria. When we pressed into her side, the cria would push back at us. It was very amazing to experience. As a side note, after palpating Cinderella, we tried our girl Lady who is 11 months along in her pregnancy to see what we could feel. Her skin on her belly is stretched so tight because she is so close to giving her due date. There was really no room to push in, but we could feel her cria move by just placing our hand on her belly.

In addition, we got Cinderella's fecal results back from the vet and there were no concerns there, which is great. I am thinking that she probably just gorged herself on the new rich hay and got a bad case of indigestion. Thankfully, all is well with her now.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cinderella's Tummy Ache

I went out to the barn Tuesday night to feed the alpacas their nightly grain and hay. I have been giving them their grain bowls in the barn since it started snowing last year, and it has become habit for them all to run into the barn when I open the door ( I now realize that this was a great "trick" to teach them as it is now very easy to get them into the barn when we need to work with them. Otherwise, they can be very difficult to catch out in the pasture). Anyway, Cinderella would not come into the barn when the grain was put out and the doors were opened. This is not like her. She is normally very excited for food and never one to be alone away from the herd. I thought maybe she got spit on (as she is at the bottom of the totem pole) and refused to come in and eat because she was was clearing the spit from her nostrils. I tried to give her some grain outside, but she did not eat any. When I put hay out, she did not join in the feast either. She just laid down in the doorway with her back legs kicked out to the side. I knew then that something was not right with our girl. We checked Cinderella's temperature and heart rate and both were normal. We checked her vaginal and rectal openings and they looked normal with no discharge. Her bag and teats were normal and did not indicate that she was in labor. We checked her mouth for abscesses, but could not see anything. She also seemed to have control of her extremities so I was not worried about Meningeal Worm. We checked on her several more times that evening and she was not eating and continued to lay with her legs kicked out to the side.

The next morning, she seemed very tired and listless. She kept laying down on her side or with her back legs kicked out. She was not chewing her cud. Her eyes were not bright and alert like normal. She still would not come into the barn for grain and was not touching the hay or water. I noticed her standing over the poo pile several times like she was trying to relieve herself, but nothing came out. I now became worried. These are signs that she is in the early stages of labor. She seemed to be exhibiting these same signs last night and this would be a long time for her to be in stage one of labor though. Also, she is only 7 months pregnant and did not seem to be pushing or straining. We took her vitals again and checked her all over again and everything was normal. I called the vet to see if there was anything we could do if she was in labor. The vet said that there was not really anything we could do this far along if she was in labor and aborting the cria and to monitor her and keep her comfortable. She said that she would need to see our girl if she was straining or pushing and nothing was happening as she could have a uterine torsion (where the uterus twists making it impossible for a cria to pass through the birth canal) or some other form of dystocia (the cria may be in the wrong position for birth and intervention is needed).

Although my initial thought was that Cinderella was in labor, as she was exhibiting many of the signs of labor, my next thought was that she was having some type of intestinal problem. When we check her vitals, there were a lot of loud sounds coming from her gut and we had not seen her poo or pee all day. On Monday, we attended a hay auction (which is really a whole other topic I need to blog about...it was a very interesting experience). We bought 25 bales of high quality hay. It was all green leafy grass unlike our hay that was quickly running out that contained a lot of grass stems. We started mixing this new rich hay in with our old hay. It did not seem to affect any of the other alpacas, but Cinderella may have a more sensitive digestive system than the other alpacas. Despite our mixing the old hay with the new, I think it still gave her indigestion and made her constipated. With this new theory, we decided to treat her with Probios (a probiotic paste that contains micro-organisms that help in digestion) and we mixed Bounce Back (electrolytes) in the water. I called the vet and let her know my new theory and asked her if we could give Cinderella some Banamine for pain. Our vet said that although it did sound like Cinderella could be exhibiting signs of labor, the new hay could have caused colic as well. She suggested we give Cinderella a warm soapy water or mineral oil enema and some Banamine.

We gave Cinderella the Probios, Banamine, and a mineral oil enema as well as mixed the Bounce Back in the water bucket with warm water. We also massaged Cinderella's belly. Although she hated the meds, she seemed to relax when were rubbing her belly. Fifteen minutes after giving her this treatment, she began eating hay and did not stop for almost two hours. She began drinking water about an hour after treatment. We quarantined her near the herd with panels so we could monitor her pooing and peeing to make sure she was going. About 5 hours after we treated her, she pooed. The beans were oily from the enema, but were bean shaped like normal. We scooped some up to take to the vet for a fecal test and noticed that they were much harder than normal.Today, Cinderella is still quarantined to monitor her, but she seems to be doing much better. She has pooed and peed several times since yesterday and is eating and drinking. She is no longer laying with her back legs out and is eating grain. She sits and stands bright and alert like normal. We gave her one more dose of the Probios to help her digestive system get going. We dropped the fecal sample off at the vet, but have not gotten the results back yet. The vet said that we did a great job with our girl and to continue to monitor her. The vet said that she would have thought Cinderella was in labor if she had not known about the new hay and it sounds like she may have had colic. She suggested we palpate the cria by pressing rapidly on her belly several times and wait to see if the cria moves back at us to make sure the cria is doing okay. She said we should try doing this several times during the day as the cria will not move every time.

So after a few days of worrying and closely monitoring the alpacas, Cinderella just had a terrible tummy ache. We will continue to monitor and make sure it does not turn into anything else more serious. I was thinking how strange it is that I know these alpacas so well with out even trying to know them so well. Someone who was not familiar with Cinderella or alpacas would never have picked up on the small signs that she was just not herself. I feel blessed to be able to know my animals behavior so well. Hopefully she will be back jumping and skipping soon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Indiana Alpaca Invitational

Jolly Roger attended the Indiana Alpaca Invitational last weekend with our friends of Oak Haven Alpacas. The show ended up being a level V show and there were many alpacas in attendance. Jolly Roger showed in the Huacaya Full Fleece Dark Fawn Juvenile Male Halter Class and competed with 14 other young males out of some big name herdsires and from some large farms. Again the judge had a difficult time locating JR's testicles. He is younger and still has a lot of maturing to do. He did not make the line up this time and got the gate with 8 other young hopefuls. Jolly Roger was not shorn last year as he was born in the fall. This may have contributed to him not feeling as dense as he still has his cria tips that he was born with. They are very light wispy hairs that cover him and make him look very fluffy. I am glad that Jolly Roger has gotten a chance to show, especially at some really large shows. Since going to show, he has been much friendlier and easy going on our farm. He is now eating grain out of our hands which he was not doing before the shows and staying at Oak Haven Alpacas for a while when weaning. He is definitely much calmer when transporting now as well.

We will be taking Jolly Roger, our maiden Appalachia, and Oak Haven's White Lightning to the Michigan Alpaca Breeders Show and Fiber Fair in Davisburg, MI the first weekend in May. This is a smaller show and we are excited to see how our alpacas do here. Stay tuned in for the results.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cria Watch

It is now April, which means we are on cria watch for our first cria of the year. Miss Lady Liberty was bred to Our Peruvian Snowstorm at Irish Valley Farms May 18, 2008 which means she will hit her ll month gestation mark on April 18th...just a few short weeks away. The gestation period for alpacas is generally 315 to 370 days. It averages 350 days. This is a much wider variable than for most species. The time of year at which mating occurs can affect the gestation period. Longer pregnancies often occur after spring matings and shorter ones can occur with fall matings. Lady went exactly 350 days (approx. 11.5 months) with her last cria which was born in the fall. We anticipate that Lady will have her cria sometime between April 18th and May 3rd, but it could certainly be before or after these dates. We are very excited for the arrival of this cria as we are with all of them. We often daydream about the color and sex of the cria. Lady is dark fawn and Snowstorm is white so we are expecting a cria in the white/fawn range.

We have been preparing for the birth. We went through our cria kit and made sure it was stocked up. We have towels and a cria coat ready. We went over our neonatal manual from the Neonatal workshop we took with Dr. Cheryl DeWitt (it was a great class and we would recommend it to any alpaca breeder). If Noah is not home during the day, I will be going home on my lunch break to check up on Lady. We also check on her throughout the day looking for any signs of labor. With her last cria, she hummed, changed positions frequently, and kushed next to our male at the fence line all day (which is not like her, she is usually spitting at, if not trying to bite our male). We were fortunate enough to watch and video record our last two crias being born, so a few nights ago, we watched both of the previous births. We have been checking Lady's teats as well as she had a horrible case of mastitis with her last cria in which her teats were so enlarged, the cria could not latch on and had to be bottle fed. So far, Lady's teats are normal. Ten days before her due date, we will start giving her Ampicillan injections daily to be proactive as mastitis is likely to come back and we do not want to have to bottle feed this cria. Lady's sides are starting to sink in her belly is hanging very low. The cria has been active as we have seen it moving inside her belly. Her last cria was 18 lbs so it will be interesting to see how large this cria will be.

Here are some pictures from Lady's last birth on our old farm. The cria being born is Appalachia. (Pictures are graphic in nature).
Lady changed positions often which is pictured above.


This is Lady kushing next to our male's fence which was very unusual behavior for her. She began these behaviors in the morning, but did not have her cria until 4pm.

Although it is difficult to see in this picture, Lady's vaginal opening became much longer than normal.

Approximately 10 minutes before 4pm, Lady's water broke and the cria's nose began to appear.

You can see Lady pushing in the picture above as the nose and head push against her back end. The two other maiden girls who were with her were very interested in what was going on with their fearless leader Lady.

Lady continue to strain and push.

As she pushes, the cria's head protrudes.

Seconds after the head protrudes, the feet pop out and Lady takes a look at what is going on with her back end.

After the feet pop out, the legs extend past the elbows which is a good sign indicating that there is no front elbow lock (elbows get caught on the pelvis and intervention may be needed).

As Lady pushes, the cria moves its head, coughing, hiccuping, and making strange noises as fluid drains from its lungs.

The cria Appalachia is a fading fawn. You can see the fawn stripe that starts at her head and runs down her neck, back and tail in this picture.

You can see more of the fawn stripe running down her back in this picture.

The cria was very strong. She was able to hold her head and neck up as she was being born.

I think the crias tend to look like dinosaurs when they are born. Luckily, they dry off and get fluffy and cute!

OUCH! The cria hits the ground. As the cria leaves the birth canal, the umbilical cord rips which causes the blood in the picture. If there is an excessive amount of blood, there may be something wrong which may need medical attention. Some blood is normal from the umbilical though. It was less than 10 minutes from the water breaking to the cria being on the ground in this birth.

The cria flails as she attempts to right herself. She is still really looking like a dinosaur.

The cria takes a rest as mom checks her out. As you can see, the cria was born in the poo pile.

The cria gains strength and attempts to sit up. Mom is very protective over her new cria and spits at the maidens as they try to greet the newest member of the herd.

The cria sits up and begins drying as mom continues to check her out.

Less than 10 minutes after hitting the ground, Appalachia was up and walking around. She weighed 18 lbs and was very strong.

Appalachia takes her first steps.

After walking around for the first time, she lays down for a short nap. We checked her out, weighed her, and put nolvasan on her umbilical stump. We monitored her to make sure she passed her first stool and urine as well.

About 2-3 hours later, Lady passed the placenta. It looked like a big purple jelly bean coming out.

Here is the placenta after it hit the ground.

We unraveled the placenta to make sure it was intact and nothing was left in the dam.

Appalachia is dry and fluffy.

Appalachia attempts to nurse. Lady encouraged her by pushing her under her to her udder.

This birth was a few years ago and the first cria born on our farm. Little did we know at the time that our dam had horrible mastitis. Her nipples were enlarged to the size of golf balls which can be seen in this picture above. When her teats became enlarged a month or so before her due date, we assumed it was her milk coming in. We were not aware that it is the bag that fills up and her nipples should have been about the size of a woman's pinkie finger. This was a huge learning experience for us. Lady ended up having blood in her milk and had to be on antibiotics (to fight the infections), vitamin c injections (to reduce scaring), and banamine (for pain). She also had to be milked out several times a day, which was not an easy thing. We tried dried colostrum for our cria, but her IGG was still low and she needed a plasma transfusion to boost her immune system. She was also bottle fed for 5 1/2 months. We got fresh goats milk from a local goat breeder. So, if you ever are in need of mastitis help...we are now experts on the subject. Lady's teats never went back to normal completely, even after she dried up. They are still somewhat long, saggy, fleshy, and leathery. So far, her teats look "normal" for her with her current pregnancy. We are hoping we won't have to go through what we did a few years ago with Lady.

Baby rests while mom stand watch. Can you believe that cria fit inside her dams belly a few hours ago.

It was a beautiful fall day.

We learn something new with every birth! We hope we get to see some of our births this year.