Happy 2023 and welcome February and welcome back to the MTA blog! As we have moved into the new year, my mind has turned to new beginnings specifically new life. Baby alpaca are called cria and they are always a joy to have around.
When we began our research into raising alpacas, we visited many farms and asked lots of questions. We got varied answers to most of our questions but answers about birthing cria was one of the most consistent. Alpacas prefer to give birth alone, require little assistance. Our job is to observe, step in if there are issues and assess the cria once it is born. We were told that alpacas give birth between 9am and 3pm. Births outside these parameters usually mean trouble. For most instances this rule of thumb has held true.
Since moving to Tennessee in 2019, we have held back on our breeding program while we settled in. In 2020, our beautiful Crepe Suzette was bred for a late spring 2021 birth. As we were doing afternoon chores, we noticed Crepe Suzette wasn’t inside. It was after 3pm so we went looking for her and found her in the pasture getting ready to give birth. We pulled up lawn chairs and prepared for the wait. The cria was born at 6pm signaling to us that there may be potential issues with either cria or dam. We assessed the cria and settled back in. The cria was doing all the right things but after an hour was still unable to rise. It was time for us to step in. We moved dam and cria to a holding pen inside and began rigorous assessing, milked the dam to get some colostrum in the cria. We suspected sepsis right from the start. We spent the night in the barn, milking Crepe Suzette and assessing the cria. After 18 hours with no improvement and some frantic calls to Mississippi State University Vet Hospital, we made the decision to transport the cria for in hospital care.
After a week of IV antibiotics and vet care, Crepe Suzette and baby Chicha returned home. Despite a very shaky start, Chicha has developed into an amazing alpaca. Almost two years later, she is usually the center of all tours, visiting and amazing all with her friendly demeanor and outgoing personality.
Breeding alpacas has added so much joy to our farm. Even though there are occasional birthing emergencies, the original information holds true. Alpacas don’t need much birthing assistance but we sure are glad we are prepared. And even after all this time, when a cria is born, we all pause to enjoy new life.
Stacey Skildum is a nurse turned farmer, a yarn snob, gardener and fiber artist.