As twilight merged into the darkness of the night sky, there was a little excitement in one of our paddocks last night. Attempting to get one of our Alpacas, Creampuff, to join the others for feeding I discovered that she had given birth to her cria. In the excitement and the looming darkness, I called Kristina over and attempted to have the little one follow us and Creampuff up to the shelter for feeding. We had completed that shelter on Sunday evening in expectation of this cria's birth.
We were fairly excited. Our first Alpaca baby had arrived. The cria's breathing was a little rattly and raspy to my ears but I didn't think too much of it. When Kristina arrived the wobbly little cria made some almost excited steps towards her and nuzzled Kristina's legs.
Noting that the breathing was more laboured and forced than raspy and rattly, Kristina knelt down to have a closer look at our new pride and joy as well as to examine the breathing. In the darkness, Kristina found that something was definitely wrong with the cria's face and went to fetch a torch.
I don't think Kristina was prepared for the shock of what she found. Neither of us were.
When the torch light fell upon the cria's face you could see it was severely twisted, a congenital condition we soon learnt was called "wry face". I'm not going to be posting any photos here but I will say that an animal with it's nasal passage where it's right cheek should be is an unsettling sight.
A twist of > 60° is considered severe. This poor little cria had a twist between 80-90°.
We made some calls to our breeder for some advice and diagnosis. We knew that breathing through the nasal passage was impossible, which meant suckling was not going to happen. Kristina checked the mother's udders and her milk had not arrived. Alpacas deliver milk once suckling has commenced, the absence of milk meant that the cria had not been suckling.
By now the cria was between 4 and 6 hours old, it hadn't eaten, it hadn't suckled. It could in fact do neither and walking was becoming increasingly difficult as the minutes passed. We put a coat on the cria and placed it in the shelter as the cold of a crisp May night closed in.
We watched the cria's condition deteriorite for another couple of hours. There was no suckling despite the attentiveness of it's mother, Creampuff. We were unable to help it suckle, eat or drink.
After much discussion, consultation and expert advice we came to the conclusion that this cria was faced with a long, cold, torturous night as it slowly starved to death unless we intervened.
With suckling and eating not being a possibility for this cria, we summoned our neighbour and his rifle to make the trauma of the night as short as possible for it.
Alapca parents are known to fret and pine for weeks if their cria "disappear". In consideration of this we returned the body of the beautiful, sweet, cria to it's mother so that nature could take it's course and her grief would be as short as possible.
Creampuff has spent all of today and into this evening watching over her little cria, clicking, cooing and guarding.
Once Creampuff has grieved and abandoned the body of her cria, we're going to bury it in the wildlife corridor and plant a tree over it's grave to remember the beautiful little cria and it's brief life as the first alpaca born at our place.