Oh farm life. It is here to test us!
Recently we had an alpaca called Toblerone, who give birth to a healthy bouncing baby girl cria. Toblerone looked at her cria and went “No thanks! Not my Monkey. Not my Circus. Not my cria.” and walked away. By the way ‘cria’ is the term used for baby alpacas.
The cria knew Toblerone was her mum (they know from the smell) and tried for a couple of hours to drink from mum but Toblerone was not having anything to do with it. She would kick at the cria and walk away. I think she thought the cria was some sort of alien life force that was evil and very strange!
Alpaca babies are normally up and walking in about 1 hour and should be drinking within the first 2 hours. I watched the pair very closely for the first 2 hours and then I stepped in.
Now let me start this next bit by telling you that it does not matter how often you handle your alpacas they will always think of you as a predator. Its instinct. Built in. Predator and prey relationship. Humans have eyes in the front of our heads – we are predators that eat meat like dogs, cats, wolves, bears and foxes. Alpacas have eyes on the side of their heads – they are prey animals like sheep, goats, horse and cows. Predators eat prey animals – simple as that. The reason I am telling you this is it will help explain what happened next….
Well after getting Toblerone and the little one into the holding pen we grabbed Toblerone to see if she had milk. As you can imagine she was not very happy with two predators (the scary humans) grabbing her, holding her and touching her, especially underneath her soft belly. She was also not happy with the alien creature (her cria) being in the same pen as her. All the time I swear Toblerone was saying to herself – ‘not mine, not mine, not mine….get that alien thing away from me’!
A ‘delight’ of alpacas is their ability to spit up their stomach contents, which is fermented grass with stomach juices. They don’t do it very often but they can. Alpacas really only have a couple of means of protection – running or spitting. Because we were holding her, running away was off the table, but spitting was differently on the table. And that is exactly what she did. Alpaca stomach contents is nasty green sticky stuff and I reckon it takes at least 3 baths to get rid of the smell. You actually need to nearly scrub off your skin to get the smell off. The joys of alpaca farming.
Toblerone is a maiden mum so I forgive her a little as she was not sure what to do with her cria and she was very upset with being held. The good news is that she did have milk and we just needed to ‘bond’ the new mum with her baby. They were penned together, with a couple of older females for a few days. I had to feed the cria powdered colostrum mixed into warm water about 5 times per day over the two days just to make sure she was getting enough fluids, as I was not sure if she was drinking from mum yet. Every feed I would then push the cria towards Toblerone – hint hint mum!! Well it took 2 days for Toblerone to ‘”get it” and now the cria is feeding from mum!
Farm life is here to test us but the joys of seeing mum and cria bonded is wonderful and far outweighs the tests, and the occasional spit!