Friday, December 28, 2007

The barn is buzzing with energy!

What a day... so many things to write about today.

It started out before I even left the house this morning. I was standing in the kitchen getting the carrots for the rabbits as I do every morning and as I looked out the window I could see our alpaca Noodle laying out in the middle of the pasture by herself. I thought this was odd so I watched her for a second. She soon got up and walked over the the poop pile with her tail up and then walked off still with her tail up.

I went into the living room where Neil was stoking the fire and said "Hey, Noodle is in labor!". Now, Noodle is the same alpaca that was due anytime after 12/15 but didn't look pregnant to me nor have I felt any fetal movements and two days ago was untrasounded as open. So, Neil responded with "Really?" I headed out to the barn to work on chores while keeping an eye on Noodle. When I feed the rest of the girls (alpacas) Noodle did not come in from the pasture. I walked out to look at her and her vulva was dilating so it confirmed my thought. I went in a fed our cow Riona as she was still separated out with her new calf, but some hay out for her and the alpacas and went and peeked at Noodle again. She had already progressed so much that the cria's nose and front hooves were out. I headed up to the house to get the camera and to let Neil know that if he wanted to see the birth he had better get outside soon.

By the time Neil got down to the barn I had gotten Noodle in from the pasture and the LGDs out as they were far too interested in the bits that were sticking out already. Within 20 minutes our newest cria was born. A medium fawn girl with vicuna markings (a lighter underside). She appeared healthy enough but she was tiny! I estimated at about 10lbs. A normal cria weight should be about 12-16lbs. I got her dried off, as it was pretty chilly outside with a strong wind, and got her fleece cria coat on her right away. Once Noodle got a good sniff of her I moved them both into the barn and gave Noodle some breakfast.

Neil went back to the house to check on the kids while I busied myself with the rest of my chores and keeping an eye on the little cria to make sure she was doing OK. At about an hour old the cria began trying to stand up and with a little help for balance started looking to nurse. Noodle on the other hand didn't seem to want anything to do with nursing and would continually move away from the cria every time. This was odd as she was such a good mom to her last cria and nursed him until he was 10 months old. I ended up holding Noodle's head so that she would hold still and let the cria nurse and get that all important colostrum.

Later in the morning it was decided that we should let Riona and her calf out with the other cows to get some exercise. I also needed to muck out their stall and this was easier done without them in it. Well, that lead to a 45 minute physical struggle between Riona and Cherry Blossom, our boss cow. Blossom has always pushed Riona around but now that she had a calf to protect Riona wasn't backing down as easily. They pushed, shoved and chased each other till they were exhausted.

Meanwhile, I cleaned out the barn and Neil got started making space for his saws so he could start siding the goat barn. We both worked on stripping the chicken wire off the outside of the goat barn on the sides Neil was working on today. This was a frustrating job as there was a gazillion staples holding it on and they all had to be individually cut with wire cutters. I made sure at least every hour I went in and held Noodle while the cria nursed. It gets dark here about 5pm and Neil was trying to get the front of the goat barn done tonight as the goats had made a hole in the chicken wire covering it and could get out at their leisure.

We were working by flashlight by this time and Neil was just nailing on the final panel of the day when we heard alpacas screaming! I knew it was Peter and Sid our two mature intact males. The thing is they were in adjoining pastures so shouldn't be able to get to each other. Neil and I ran over to the screaming and found Peter on top of Sid and the two were struggling to get up. By flashlight Neil and I quickly assessed the fact that the two of them had entangled themselves in the electric string fencing. It was caught in Sid's mouth around both their legs and necks. The fencing needed to be cut and fast. I stayed with the alpacas and tried to keep them calm and from not struggling further while Neil ran to the barn to get the wire cutters. Once the wires were cut they both got up and walked away... mouths hanging open from constant spitting and screaming. By flashlight I tried to see if either had any serious injuries but I just couldn't see that well. Both of them were walking with no visible limp and we had no blood on us from handling them so I hoped they were OK for the night. I am just so glad that that happened when it did and not 30 minutes later when we would never have heard them up at the house. I hate to even think of that outcome.

After that burst of adrenaline Neil went up to the house while I did the evening chores. Once up at the house Neil and I looked at each other and agreed that was just too much emotion for one day.

I made one final barn check at 10pm to hold Noodle again for the cria to nurse. Everyone else seemed settled in for the night.

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