Thursday, April 19, 2012

Alpaca Birthing Season Begins At Hum Sweet Hum

Watched pots never boil.  Alpaca gestation is about 11 1/2 months.  It's a long wait and amazingly, the first 11 months go by really pretty fast but the last couple of weeks before they are due comes to a standstill.  I like to start keeping closer tabs about 2 weeks before their estimated due dates.  Alpaca instinct is to keep it pretty stoic about any weakness.  It is imperative to their survival in the wild not to show it.  They would be first one to be taken by prey if they are seen as weaker.  So seeing signs of labor can be very subtle.  They can even put labor on hold if they feel they are being threatened.  So I try and watch from afar if I think one is in labor.  I pull out my binoculars and watch at a distance or I grab a rake and start raking poop.  They are used to seeing me do that on a daily basis so they tend to not be bothered if I'm raking.  I rake with the binoculars around my neck taking peeks regularly.

There are times when those gals run late.  They must not look at the calendar because I know when I breed them and can do a pretty good estimate but they ignore that and have it when they are darn well ready to have that baby.  I had one that was 364 days into her gestation.  I had second guessed myself into believing she had slipped the pregnancy.  I walked my pastures looking for a stillborn.  I drove myself nutty watching her and seeing any unusual movement as either she was in labor or I used it to convince myself she wasn't pregnant.  Then I would see the baby move and I would take a deep breath and make myself go back to other projects.  I was ready to name the baby Timex because it just was on its own time about being birthed.  But when the time was right, a healthy baby was born with no issues or assistance required. 

Birthing is both exciting and high order anxiety.  Until all is well and baby nursing nicely, I am on full alert mode.  It's been six months since the last birth here so it's time to dust off the neonatal kit and check that all is in order in my box and all my supplies and gear are in place and within easy reach.  I'm starting to watch the mom's tummies to see if babies are kicking and moving.  So fun to watch a leg kick or roll.  The babies start to drop and get into position.  A sign we are getting closer.  Then waiting to hear the dam humming.  Sometimes they start to hum a day or two before birth.  They talk to their babies so the babies know mom's voice.  That is a good sign to step up the watchfulness if I hear an expectant mom humming.  If I can get into position, I try and sneak a peek at the dam's udders to see if milk is coming in but some of my Huacaya's have so much fleece, it's impossible to see under there.

I have notes with the list of possible names written down and add to it.  Some names come so easily and others take time and research to get the one that fits them just right.  I try and follow a musical theme to fit with my Hum Sweet Hum farm name but sometimes a baby just wants to be named something else.

It never gets boring being an alpaca breeder.  New babies on the way, pastures going to be filled with new life and lots of cria races.  I love it!  

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