Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bottle-feeding update

We won't have to bottle-feed Lisa's cria until she's weaned! Hooray!

We may, however, need to supplement her with a bottle during the day.

The little girl began nursing on her own on Sunday night. Light bulbs were flashing that whole day, but that evening was the first time we saw Lisa stand still as the baby connected with the teat. We heard satisfying slurping sounds, and afterward, the baby refused the bottle.

We watched her nurse again on Monday morning, she refused the bottle, and she maintained her weight overnight, so we let them out into the beautiful June sunshine. Lisa hadn't quite figured out how to defend her baby from the larger cria, and sometimes wandered off to graze, leaving the little one alone, but she is a teen-aged mother. She is much better about this today (Tuesday).

The long day outside must have been quite exhausting for the little baby, though, because we discovered when we weighed her that night that she had lost 1/2 pound since breakfast! Oops. Tuesday morning, she had maintained her weight overnight, and had a marathon nursing breakfast, and refused the bottle again. We let them back out into the fields with the herd with a little trepidation.

If she loses weight again today, I will give her a bottle (if she'll take it), and call the vet in the morning for advice. She is very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and bouncy, just as a cria should be, so I am not too concerned.

Here are some things we tried to get Lisa to let the baby nurse:
  • Kept an older dam in the stall with them
  • Moved a nursing dam into the stall next to them
  • Milked the dam to stimulate Oxytocin and so we could include mother's milk in the bottle feedings.
  • Held the dam while letting the cria walk beneath her (some new dams are afraid of things under them or near their backends)
  • Held the dam while directing the cria towards the udder/nipples.
  • Expressed some of the milk from the nipples and rubbed it on the baby's nose/let her lick it off our fingers.
  • Bottle-fed only after we tried the above.
Some things that were suggested to us, but that we couldn't or didn't try:
  • put the placenta back into the stall (it was already in the freezer at this point)
  • put the dam of the new mama in the stall with them (Grandma was on another farm being bred)
This whole experience will be part of a future Paca Talk episode, to be sure. We have learned a lot since Friday night!


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lisa's Cria update

Lisa's Cria, June 27, 2009

The vet says everything is great, except mom is being a dummy about nursing. He showed us a couple techniques to try to get the light bulb to turn on, but until then, we're doing hourly feedings. Our goal is to get the baby girl strong enough that she can follow her mother around and finally nurse on her own.

The timing couldn't be better for this. I shudder to think what would have happened if the baby had been born while I was teaching, for example.

Well, anyway, I'm going to supervise my human baby. Maybe I'll go to bed when she does and make DH do the night feedings? THAT will be popular. :)


Worth the Wait

Lisa has finally had her baby! Hooray!

9:55 PM
14 lbs., 13 oz.

I checked on Lisa and Dawn just before we went out to dinner in the late afternoon yesterday. I noticed that Lisa finally had a milk bag and her vulva was longer than usual, and jiggly. But she didn't seem to be in any discomfort, just grazing away.

When we put the animals away last night (the girls and babies sleep in the barn), Lisa looked...off to me. I decided to come back and check on her in an hour, and I'm so glad I did. When I got back out there at a quarter to ten, Lisa's baby was already head and feet out! The birth was uneventful except for the time. (Nearly all alpaca births happen during daylight hours. New moms don't always read that memo).

There is a caveat, of course. Lisa is a new mom, and she is a bit clueless. She won't stand still so that the baby can nurse. I was out in the barn with them until 11:30 last night, and then went out at 2:30 a.m. to see if the baby had nursed. The cria was moving around very well, but so was Lisa.

At 6:30 a.m. it was still apparent that the baby hadn't nursed. She was going to the corners of the barn and licking the walls. Cria seem to try to nurse off of the darkest place they can find. In a field during the day, this would be under momma. In a barn, there are lots of dark places.

We made up some colostrum mix, and I've been feeding it to the baby, though I haven't been able to get much down her. The vet is coming late this afternoon to help us out. This is a strong baby, so I'm not too worried, but I wish Consuella, Lisa's mom, were here to give her some guidance.

Pictures soon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Paca Talk #10 -- Alpacas in the News for 6/26/09

Paca Talk #10 is "Alpacas in the News" for June 26, 2009.

We cover a study on endophytes in ryegrass, the new AOBA Veterinarian Forum on the AOBA website, a fungus that makes alpacas go blind in Australia, and the Grass Mud Horse makes another appearance. Plus, Farm Shout-Outs coast to coast!




Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shearing Day recap

That went a lot better than we expected.

Those of you who listen to Paca Talk, our podcast, might remember Episode #2, when we talked about what a mess Shearing Day 2008 was. We didn't have a babysitter for our 7-month-old, and had to put her in a playpen in the garage with us after she woke from her nap. She wasn't happy about that and hollered for a long time as we worked. Not a good time.

Manjula, June 22, 2009

Manjula, June 25, 2009

This year, we put a lot of work into organizing the workflow. This was partly because we added three steps to the routine: we wanted to get weights on all the animals because we now have a livestock scale, we needed to give everyone worm medication, and we needed to trim toenails. These things needed to be done on shearing day because a few of the animals (the "Big Boys" as we call them) are not easily caught in their big, open feild. Whenever we DO get a hold of them, we need to perform some maintenence on them.

Anyway, besides our workflow plan, we also recruited three people to help out: my mother to babysit, a friend to pick up fleece, and another friend who is thinking of buying alpacas. (By the way, volunteering on an alpaca farm during shearing, vet trips, training days, etc. is an excellent way to learn the ropes. I've never heard of a farm refusing this kind of help). The shearer also brought two helpers instead of only one. While this cost us more money, it was worth it because it saved our backs.

Here's a picture to confirm that this is dirty, dirty work:

Here is a picture of the shearers at work:

So, in short, if you have enough people, you can get through shearing day without a whole lot of hassle.

Now I just have to figure out exactly what I'm going to do with 52 pounds of fiber.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shearing day

Gaw, I'm tired. I'll fill in the details later, but here are the vital stats:

Total clip: 52 pounds of fiber
Most fiber off an animal was Milhouse with 7.8 pounds.
We had three ladies show up to help, which was great!

Everything went really smoothly, especially when compared to last year. Maybe we CAN learn from experience!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paca Talk's Alpacas in the News! #1 Posted


Alpacas in the News is our new weekly segment of Paca Talk. We simply cannot do Paca Talk any more frequently than our current 4-6 week schedule, but I wanted to put more material into the feed. One day as I stood in the barn wishing an alpaca would just give birth already, I came up with the idea of doing a weekly, five-minute alpaca news cast.

This first cast is 10 minutes long, but that's because I explained the new cast and I went back a month for material. For the rest of the summer, I'll be posting weekly updates to the Alpacas in the News. We will also be posting Paca Talk during its regular-ish schedule. We'll see how the new cast is faring in September and decide then whether to continue it in the fall.


p.s. Lisa STILL hasn't given birth, and Dawn is due now, too. *Garh* I wish they would just read the schedule already.

Monday, June 15, 2009

We're on Etsy!


I've just opened a shop on Etsy.com, a mraketplace for handmade products or materials for said handmade products. I've only got one item listed so far (a beautiful fleece of Milhouse's), but over the next few days, I'll post a few more fleeces and what yarn I have. I'd love to move some of the fleece especially, since shearing day is almost upon us, and I'll just have more to store or pick and ship off to the spinnery.

Please check out the store in the next week or so. As I say on the page, I'll ship any amount of fleece, so don't let the price of a whole fleece keep you from trying us out!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

I can't believe it, but...

Lisa is STILL pregnant.

My informal poll of my alpaca friends shows that many alpacas are holding on to their spring babies for an extra 3-4 weeks! Since we pasture-bred El Barto and Lisa, I cannot pinpoint her conception date, but it was no later than June 1, 2008. That puts her at 379 days.


Alpacas are normally pregnant for 11 1/2 months, or around 340-350 days.

She is so late, that she may have her baby around the same time as Dawn, who is due June 19. I don't really expect any surprises from Dawn, who is 14 and drops her cria within a day or two of her due date.

You just never know in this business.

The other big question mark is what color the cria will be. By my guesstimate, there's a 75% chance we'll have a white baby, since both Barto an Lisa are white. However ,this is the daughter of the dam who just had a black baby from Barto, so we could get a brown or white, too.

This is like Christmas, except you have no idea when Santa will decide to slide down your chimney...only that he will.


Monday, June 01, 2009

It's alive!

Lisa is still holding on to her baby, but I know for a fact that it is in there.

A couple nights ago, I had Charles grab her and I palpated her belly. Not only did I feel bony baby parts in there, I think I felt its little nose. It felt like the baby was nibbling on my hand through Lisa's belly!

I can't decide if that was creepy or awesome.

It wasn't so hot today, so Lisa was much perkier than she has been since the heat wave began a week and a half ago. She did not spend the day following the tree shade as it moved around the tree, as she has the last week. She'll be so relieved when we shear on June 24.