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.

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