Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Bittersweet Week

Ginger (our other Australian Shepherd) knows how to enjoy a warm fall afternoon.  She is somewhere between 15 and 18 years old and I brought her home from the shelter almost 3 years ago.  Her golden years have been enjoyed by all of us (although Rowdy still says he wanted a puppy, not an old dog).

When last I wrote we had just had 2 crias born on the farm.  The first was from a black female, Brooklynn and she had a beautiful black female sired by our black herdsire (stud) Oscuro.  Here they are almost a week later,  both are doing well.

As I was writing last week's post, Sam called to tell me Carmell had delivered a female cria.  Carmell was sold a few years back and we purchased her back when the buyers claimed an inability to keep her pregnant.  So we brought her home and we bred her and put her on a progesterone supplement, injected every 2 weeks.  We stopped the injections about a month before she was due and when she went into labor, she would not dilate.  Her cria was delivered by my vet and it was a very painful, brutal birth.  Carmell has always had kind of a high strung personality anyway and she totally rejected the cria.  She refused to even look at her.  Personally, I did not blame her.  Anyway, long story short, after a few days of trying desperately to get mama and baby to hook up, we gave up and decided we had a bottle baby on our hands.  But, baby had other ideas and began refusing the bottle and snitching milk from other moms any time she could get a chance.  The problem was, she was just not getting enough nutrition with a suck here and a slurp there and sadly, we eventually lost her.  
I decided to give Carmell another chance and re-bred her about 5 months after her traumatic birth.  No progesterone this time.  If she could not carry to term without it, so be it.  So understandably, I was apprehensive when she delivered her second cria last week.  I was at work, so Sam was home to supervise and fortunately the birth was unassisted and normal.  But, was Carmell going to accept the cria?  This was the question of the month.  How is she acting, I ask Sam on the phone.  She is paying attention to the cria, she is humming and clucking to it, which is what alpaca moms do to get their cria to recognize their voice.  But it seems she is walking away from the cria when it tries to nurse.  This is not a good sign.

  The newborn cria has a very strong instinct to look up under a dark place for its source of sustenance.  So a familiar sight is a little cria blundering around underneath mom's front end, rear end and everywhere in between with its little pink tongue flicking in and out as it searches for a teat.  The mother instinctually stands stock still and some will even stretch their rear legs back to make access to the udder easier for the cria.  This is always something wonderful to watch.  No matter how often I observe it, I continue to be amazed at how nature provides these brand new creatures with what they need to survive.  This was not happening with Carmell.  While she was allowing the cria to nuzzle up to her and look around for the teat, as soon as the cria got close to the mark, Carmell would shift her rear end or walk away.  So Sam and I decided we needed to intervene, which involved Sam holding Carmell as still as possible, while I try to put cria up to the udder and get her to latch on.  Sometimes all it takes is for the cria to start to suck and you can almost see a light bulb go off in the new mother's head.....oh, this is what is supposed to happen.  This is not an easy task.  A 150 alpaca can put up quite a fight when she feels threatened, which she does when 2 humans grab her and restrain her.  Our next step is to confine the 2 together in a small pen in the barn for the night and leave a light on.  But we also have to try to get nourishment into the cria.  It is important that they get the first milk, or colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies.   We had some colostrum that we could bottle feed, so that was also in order.  Baby took a full 2 oz of this at about 10 pm.   Sam said she refused the bottle at 1 am when he went out and she refused again at 6 am when I went out.  I also milked some colostrum out of Carmell, which is no easy task, but I noted that she was calming down, despite being confined, which alpacas generally do not like.  The cria seemed active so I was hoping maybe things were turing around.  Newborn crias get droopy and depressed very quickly if they are not eating.  When I went out again around 10 am, I got to the barn door and noticed that the cria was up under mom's front end and mom was standing calmly like she should, so I paused to just watch before entering.  Sure enough, within a couple minutes, the cria found the "spigots" and latched on and began to suck while Carmell stood like a pro.  I don't think I mentioned it was raining, but I took my bottle and I danced across the bridge and all the way back to the house in the pouring rain!  Mama and baby are doing great.

 We have been in the alpaca business for 11 years and unfortunately sometimes we have had to take back alpacas we had sold.  Today's economy has made that necessary once again and I went Monday and brought home 3 alpacas we had sold and their 2 female crias.  So I have some nice girls up for sale for "repo" prices.   

Our garage now has a cement floor!  It is still nice and clean since we are letting it cure for several days before putting any cars in it.  The driveway still needs a bit of work.  It will be so nice not to step out of the car into a puddle anymore!!

I have been busy cooking and freezing squash.  I have about 12 quarts in the freezer and lots more still on the vines.  Need to do a search for squash recipes!  

I finished my socks I was knitting and now I need to finish the sleeves on a sweater I started last spring.  I did one sleeve but it seemed too small, so I am "blocking" it to see if it is the correct size once I do that.  Blocking involves wetting the knitted piece and shaping it to size and letting it dry.  We'll see if I need to  re-do it.  Meanwhile I started a pair of mittens from some of my hand-dyed yarn.

So, you have read the sweet part of my post title.  Now for the bitter part, and it is indeed bitter.
You recall Cheetah, our Great Pyrenees livestock guard dog, wanna-be lap dog, lover of children, gentle giant, from a previous post.  I took him in to the vet Friday to have a suspicious lump on his leg looked at and he has been diagnosed with bone cancer.  Unfortunately, this is an aggressive cancer and the vet said even if the leg was amputated, the cancer usually goes into the chest and lungs and the dog only gets another 6 to 8 months.  This is not an option.  The ulna, the smaller of the 2 bones in the front leg, is involved and not the radius, which is good.  Right now, I am giving the big guy pain medication 2 or 3 times a day and lots and lots of hugs.  Once he seems to no longer want to guard his girls or seems too painful to do so, we will do what must be done.  Cheetah will be 7 in December. 


1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry to hear about the diagnosis for your Great Pyrenees. We have one too, and they are wonderful dogs.

    How wonderful that Carmell has clicked with motherhood!