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Oh what a season!! We waited for several of our girls to give birth for many months. If you visited our farm this late spring 2018 through early fall, we were seemingly on baby watch forever! The babies arrived and all without too much external support, other than my sister visiting from MA who was determined to witness a birth that she was deprived of the previous year. Remembering 2017 when she and I sat in the barn waiting for Julianna to give birth late in the evening one night... only to find out it was just gas! Those girls chew their cud and move the food around from one of their three stomach compartments to the other and how were we to know that it wasn't a baby?? ...we still laugh about staying out in the barn and up too late watching Julianna!
So this past breeding season, we decided not to announce any pregnancies until we had considerable confirmation.
The confirmation process requires some old clothing, the girl you bred and any male alpaca who can elicit emotions from a pregnant alpaca, consisting of a very smelly cud that she spits at anything and everything in her way toward the male trying to breed her again, confined in a small fenced in area with us. It's called "spit testing" and very appropriately named. We got covered with alpaca spit!! We actually hoped we would because if a female spits off at a male 90 days into her 340-360 day cycle, there's a really good chance she will deliver a baby.
By February of 2017 we had enough data (and spit) to support that Julianna, Viola, Tiny and Rambler were indeed pregnant!
Julianna was the first of the girls to give birth on August 23rd at 3 pm in the afternoon. Just as I was telling some farm visitors "..in South America they give birth in the morning, the baby has until the afternoon to stand and nurse and dry off and be ready to run with the herd. So I don't think we will have a baby today, but this is the states...who knows?" As our Stitch and Sip ladies were on the porch knitting, my sister went in the barn to check on Julianna and flew out of the barn screaming incoherently! Afterward she told me she was saying "nose and toes, noes and toes!!"
She found Julianna presenting with her baby's nose and toes coming out! Julianna was laying down on the barn floor, a few other of the girls watching, but not the entire female herd which is how our last two years farm births occurred. We were blind-sighted on all accounts! Julianna was not a first time mom, she knew what was happening and decided the concrete barn floor was cool and wanted to have that baby in front of the fans!
The next two births were also uneventful and exciting all the same. Rambler, the fourth girl we bred, did not turn out to be pregnant after all. A baby alpaca known as a cria is usually born with the nose first and then the toes, the baby stands within an hour or so and are up and nursing. We watch the mama and cria that first day very closely to make sure all systems are working and by keeping them together away from the rest of the girls it supports mom and baby bonding. The rest of the girls in the herd all know well before we do who is pregnant as they can smell the hormones, but they are just as excited as we are to greet that new born baby! After a few visits with the whole herd, with us close by, mom and baby usually stay alone that first night. We wean them back into the herd over a course of three days to resume their place within the herd hierarchy and to show off their little one. Some mothers are more protective than others, but for the most part, the herd is respectful of the new baby, and we can get some rest knowing that they, moms and aunties, take over from here.
Its been an exciting summer and fall waiting and waiting, and now they grow so fast! We are fortunate to have two males and one female. The boys, Max (Maximus) and Bert (Umberto), will stay together with their moms until they start imitating their male herd mates and being able to reproduce... But for now, they and Dany (Daenerys) are enjoying running around the paddock, chasing each other, running from us, and sniffing and exploring as little baby alpacas do! My favorite part of having baby alpacas in the herd is the training I do to socialize them to us humans. I find that if I get real low to the ground, they tend to be less intimidated....sometimes I have to lie on the ground next to them and work on being very quiet....curbing my desire to reach out and touch them so as not to scare them away. Someone has to do it!
We enjoy watching these three new additions to the farm grow! Hopefully you are following us on Instagram or Facebook and enjoying the pictures! Our Instagram pictures scroll onto our front website page for those of you not on social media. Hope you get to meet one of our new babies on your next visit!
Anne, Mike and the all the Herd