Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The waiting game

Birthing season for me is both the most enjoyable part of being an alpaca breeder but also the most stressful part of being an alpaca breeder. Its the culmination of a long drawn out procedure which starts with a discussion and a lot of thought about which male to use. Then there is the putting that part into practice, releasing the chosen orgle monster onto the female. The spit-offs, the rematings, more spit-offs, pregnancy scanning, fattening up for winter and then............the long wait.

The long wait is not too bad, it is what we know we have to do. We know there will be a long wait. The problem for me is that we don't know when that long wait is going to end. I know it will end, I keep telling myself that it will end, there will be a birth, maybe it's a control thing, I have no control over that aspect of the whole procedure. I mean yesterday was a glorious warm sunny day. Did we have a birth? No of course we didn't, we need some rain and a cold wind here, that's what normally gets them popping out!

There are five large rotund females in the birthing paddock, four of them are hugely influential figures in the Patou herd, four old hands, four excellent mothers, four females who have done the business for us in the past. The race is on to see who will be first. The fifth lumpster is a first timer, Rosa.

Allow me to introduce them (Please excuse the old photographs).
Firstly we have Bannock, 343 days into her pregnancy, one of our originals and mother to my favourite alpaca in the whole wide world, Lily. Bannock is also mother to Rafiki, another favourite here. Bannock is carrying a Qjori cria for the first time. Bannock does produce for us so we are very keen to see what she will drop this year.

Next is Bobby, resident giver of the green. Bobby is 330 days in and an 'early birther' she is a very stressy hair strigger spit monster and another of our originals. A Mateus daughter, Bobby has produced some crackers for us in the past, Ruby-May, Poppy, Penny and Sabrina have all been lovely females. Bobby is also pregnant to Qjori for the first time.

Then there is Fifi. Absolutely gorgeous and a real favourite. Fifi is also 343 days in and has produced two lovely boys for us so she owes us a female this year. Fifi is the heaviest framed female that we have and she is also pregnant to Qjori for the first time. Very excited about this birth, very.

Another of or big hitters, Poppy. Poppy has been baking for 341 days and is the mother of Roger Resilient who is off to Ireland this week. Poppy is pregnant to Qjori for the second time. Last year she produced Thor (God of Thunder) from a Qjori mating and he looks very promising. This year's birth will be interesting.

Finally the last of the first batch of birthers is Rosa. Rosa is a first time mother and is the fattest alpaca we have. We have tried slimming her down but she just stays fat on grass alone. What can you do? She is 338 days into her pregnancy and if we are to get a problem it will probably be her, having said that she is a big framed girl so she should be ok. She is a Columbus girl and this will be the first Columbus/Qjori cross we have had so we are very interested to see what result we get.

Right must get back to my window, there's watching to be done.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Tentative progress.

Things have calmed down a little here in Patouland, Tuesday's mess has almost been cleared up and it is time to introduce the newest member of the herd to the big wide world.
Ladies and Gentlemen (drum roll please) may I present Patou Una. Yes, as in Una Paloma Blanca, there I've said it, it's out there, we can move on.


Today as the sun is shining Una has been released into the birthing paddock with Victoria who was going a little bit stir crazy. I will get them back in later and they can stay in the shed overnight.

Things haven't gone exactly to plan over the last couple of days and we are still in a high state of readiness here, we have been and continue to observe little Una very closely.

Her birth weight (once I had deducted the weight of the coat) was 6.77kg. After 24 hours that had gone down to 6.08kg. We were not alarmed at this as a 10% initial weight loss is quite common. However, this morning she weighed in at 5.85kg. That set the alarm bells ringing.

It's all a bit odd. Victoria was producing a clear liquid for the first two days (may still be, unable to check at the moment as I am alone) and not the milk that we are used to seeing. We have never experienced this and advice was sought from His Royal Timness and a breast feeding expert friend of Sue's. Not a problem was the verdict.

Una is up and feeding regularly, perhaps too regularly and the weight loss over the past 24 hours shows that she is not getting enough from Victoria. This was further reinforced when I went out this morning with a bottle and she polished off 200mls in five minutes flat.

So we are now into a 2 hourly feeding regime, which if this mornings feed is anything to go by should be a doddle (that's it I've done it now!).
It does raise another question for us. Victoria is now eleven and as I mentioned in an earlier post, lost a premature cria last year. She only has two registered cria. Perhaps she is a problem birther? We will be thinking very carefully about whether to get her pregnant again. She is however a very attentive and loving mother.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A day of firsts!

So there I was lying asleep in bed at home. It was 7am and I was trying for a little lie-in having finished work at midnight. Sue was due to leave for work at 7.15am, that was my time to rise.

Suddenly (is there any other way) the phone rang. Now the phone in our house only rings at that sort of time if there is an alpaca emergency. Sure enough Sue was in the field, out of breath and telling me that Victoria had given birth. Exciting! However Sue added that the cria was nearly dead.

To say that I shot out of bed is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but I did launch myself (no, that's probably still a bit over the top), let's say that I quickly stumbled out of bed in search of some clothes and was on my way down the stairs as I blinked away the nights sleep.

I grabbed the birthing box and hastily pulled on my wellies before shuffling across the road to the field.

To set the scene I should explain that we had been watching Victoria very carefully for the past week. She has been behaving very much like she was going to give birth at any moment. Lots of lying down, lots of squatting, lots of time spent on her own. Last year Victoria gave birth to a solid brown Qjori boy at just over ten months gestation. Sadly he died moments later even though Sue was there and was giving him CPR. So we were on extra special alert in Victoria's case. Today Victoria has been pregnant for 11 months and three days.

Sue was in the shed with Victoria and a very flat cold cria that was indeed barely alive. We raced her into the house and got her in a hot (not too hot) bath, she needed warming up fast. After 20 minutes in some warm water she started to show signs of life. We took her out and dried her off before bringing Sue's hair dryer into action. A few minutes later a dry, warm and fluffy cria was snuggled up where I had been half an hour previously under the duvet with the electric blanket on. She was as warm as toast but still flat out. I gave her a few mls of warm glucose water and we waited. Sue had to go to work so we discussed what plan I was to follow and off she went.

After a few minutes I went downstairs to make a cup of coffee and start to tidy up the house (it looked like the birthing kit, a bucket of mud and a box of towels had exploded).

When I went back upstairs she was trying to get out of bed!

So, now on my own, I had a cria that was trying to escape and a plan that was in tatters! My first instinct was to get her back with Victoria so that despite having had a bath and now probably smelling strongly of me she could bond with her mother.
On the way out I checked that she was a female and had the correct number of holes etc and sprayed her cord with some iodine. I put a nice warm coat on her and weighed her, 7kg on the nose. She was down on her pasterns, her teeth hadn't erupted and her ears were a bit floppy but she was struggling like a good 'un. A fighter, I like a fighter!
Victoria followed me into the shed, (Tsar's dining quarters) and seemed interested in her little cria which was a good start.
Next job was to defrost some plasma and get a stomach tube sterilised. Having done that it was down to getting on with it. She was still lively and had a suck reflex but was completely ignoring Victoria so plasma was the way to go. I cushed her on a bale of hay sat astride her and gently fed the tube into her mouth and down her neck. I could clearly feel the tube going down the left side of her neck indicating that it was in the correct place. I then realised that the syringe containing the plasma wouldn't fit onto the tube. Marvellous, tube out and everything back as it was whilst I stomped across to the house to get the syringe with the big sticky out thing. A few minutes later and that lovely warm plasma was going in nicely. Twenty minutes later and the second 50ml of plasma went in and I left them to it.

I am shortly back off to work but Sue is on her way home to take over. Hopefully she will get hungry and start looking for Victoria's milk (the cria, not Sue).
So a day of several firsts.
The first cria of 2013 in Patouland.
The first time we have ever put a cria in the bath.
The first time we have ever given a cria a blow dry.
The first time we have ever put a cria in our bed.
The first time I have ever tubed a cria.
How about that?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Farewell boys!

I feel that we are getting into the business end of the year and things have been moving on in Patouland.
We now have 5 females hovering at the 11 months gestation mark, we are on full alert here, all systems are on go, the cria coats have been washed, the birthing box has been checked and loaded. Girls, please wait a little longer, but if you can't we are ready!
This month we are saying goodbye to four Patou boys. Three young boys have already gone to a lovely new home just outside Salisbury and early reports are that they are doing very well.
Pictured below at several stages of growth (I forgot to take my camera on delivery day) are Patou Taz, Patou Travis and Patou Troy. Their new owners are new to alpacas and encouragingly have already been on the phone asking for advice. It always worries me when we don't get many questions, I would rather have loads that way I am assured that they are being very well looked after. These boys are and will be getting tip top treatment not to mention lots of cuddles!
 Patou Taz
Patou Travis
Patou Troy.
The other male to be leaving soon is Patou 'Roger' Resilient.
Roger who is a huge favourite here and a veteran of the Patou show team is leaving these shores at the end of the month bound for Ireland where he will be stamping his mark on some lovely females. I am talking to him at feeding time in an irish accent so as to acclimatise him. I don't want him get flummoxed when he meets the irish girls, he is after all flying the flag for the Mighty Patou!

Right enough of this I am off to examine some rear ends!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Looking forwards

When is it going to warm up? Anyone know? Soon?
I am, as I suspect we all are, a bit fed up with this cold weather. Fine in winter but we are now into British Summer Time and it is officially Spring. SO BUGGER OFF COLD WEATHER!!!!!!
A quick Tsar update; poop situation - unchanged. Weight this morning 26.10kg, on the 3rd of February he weighed 17.35kg, which means he has gained almost 9 kilos in the last 2 months. That makes me very happy! He has now been released fully back into the weanling herd. We make sure that he feeds well twice a day and he is still on the Pro-kolin but we no longer worry about him and that is a very good thing.
So much so that our focus of attention has shifted to the forthcoming unpackings. We now have 5 females at over 10 and a half months gestation and some of those are renowned 'early-birthers'. I have been secretly examining various coats and jackets to see whose sleeves will make the best cria neckwarmers. My sleeves are far to big so my outerwear is safe. Sue and Angus however have some very interesting sleeves that I have my eye on if the cold weather continues. Now where are those scissors?
We have a pretty fully complement of females to birth this year, all but one of the first five due are experienced mothers but I am particularly keen to see the results of our first Columbus/Qjori crosses.
Rosa will be the first one which should be around the second half of April and then later on in the summer we have Spirit and Sirrocco (pictured below) who are (and if you know The Clump you will agree) feminine Columbus clones. Aren't they beautiful!