Days don’t always end at dark


Gently overflowing water trough, found just on dusk 3 February. Home at 9.30pm.

The next day when checking the herd at twilight, my husband found an alpaca giving birth. This is most unusual. Alpaca usually always give birth in the morning, thus giving their babes the day to warm up, stand up strongly and have a good nurse from mum. Over the years we have had very few problems; very rarely we have had to intervene in a birth.

The cria’s head and its left leg were out, so my husband checked that the membrane was clear of its nose and mouth and then settled down to watch.  Both legs often appear at the same time, but first one then the other is not usual. The mum was trying hard, sitting down, standing up, moving about, making cooing sounds, becoming agitated, getting distressed; yet there was no progress.

The rule when monitoring an alpaca birth is that something should happen every 15 minutes. There was no way of knowing how long the birth had been stalled but time was well and truly up. There was no sign of the other leg. So my husband came and got me to help. He gently held the mum while I put my hand inside her to feel what was happening. She was so good, she knew we were trying to help. I found the cria’s right shoulder but the leg was twisted way back, over its body. I tried but couldn’t move it.

We walked the mum down and through the garden gate and into the light outside the back door. We needed expert help so I rang our neighbour who has pulled over 600 calves and delivered 20 of our crias. He wasn’t home. I rang his parents, but they didn’t know where he was. On a hunch, I rang the Gundy pub and found him there. He came around straight away.

My neighbour’s arm is much bigger than mine, so it was a tight squeeze. He found the leg was turned completely back and caught on the mother’s pelvis. He found a foot which thankfully proved to be the front foot, not the back, and eventually manipulated the leg into a place from whence he could bring it forward. Waiting for the mum’s contractions, and over several, he pulled the leg out.  Then on the next contraction, he delivered the cria safe and sound.

Both mum and babe were exhausted. Without help they both would have died. Risky business, life. We all need help once in a while.

We put a coat on the wet baby and left them for the night. But we could still hear the mum humming and talking to her daughter long after we turned out the lights.


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