Uinta Alpaca

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Twister, a few hours old.
All alpaca ranchers at one time or another have some experience with birthing moms that find themselves into a jam. It is not a question of IF, it is a question of WHEN.

This year was my turn. As moms approach their birthing dates we start watching them carefully. We watch for any clue that today might be the day. Are the moms eating well, are they restless, are they uncomfortable, are they separating themselves from the herd, are their bodies changing, getting ready for birth, are they more vocal or are they walking around with their tail up. All these things are clues that we try to understand.

Alpacas have very long or very short gestation, which can drive a person a little crazy. Gestation can last anywhere from 315 to 370 days, where at anytime they will likely produce a healthy baby, better known as a cria.

Twister - I had been watching Twisters mom , RR Aliyah for a few days. Something was not right and it had me worried. Her behavior was off and I was feeling worried because I suspected what was happening but didn’t want it to be so. She was obviously uncomfortable, which in and of it’s self was not unusual. What had my worried was that it wasn’t the normal uncomfortable. She was always laying down every time I turned around. Never in the same spot but always laying with her hind end up against something. She was always eating or chewing her cud which are both good signs. What was bothering me was the position that she was laying in. She always had her hind legs pushed out to one side. However she was not restless or getting up and down frequently or rolling which are all signs of what I thought was going on. So in my mind I was waffling back and forth.

Does she have a torsion?

A uterine torsion is where the uterus is, you guested it, twisted. When it is twisted it is like a bread bag. The bag is twisted at the top with the bread secured inside. You can’t get the bread out until the twist is released. This can be fatal for the mom and the cria if not diagnosed.

Long story short, the weekend was approaching and I could not get rid of this nagging feeling. So at the very last minute I called my veterinarian. As usual they were booked solid. But they appreciated my opinion and worked me in. They are an hour away so I loaded mom up, with a friend and off we went, to the vet. As I waited for the vet I had this conversation going on in my head. “Better safe than sorry.......I will feel so dumb if this is a false alarm......what a waste of money.........what a waste of time......do I want to put this mom through this exam.........better safe than sorry”, repeat over and over.

Finally it was my turn, so a walked outside to the trailor with the vet. When we climbed inside I knew what had to be done. The vet would need to palpate this poor mom on the inside. Her body had not softened to prepare for delivery and the vet was going to need to feel for the twist on the inside. Big hand, little alpaca, I felt so bad....

I held mom and the vet went to work, we were silent while he tried to confirm my suspension. He looked up at me and simply said, “SHE IS TWISTED”. Relief washed over me because I followed my gut, I was right, I was right!

Then we had to undue the TWIST! This is done by laying the mom down, then while the vet holds the uterus in a steady position, from the outside with pressure , we roll the mom in the direction of the twist and try to unwind it. It took us 4 times to straighten everything out and then that was it and I was on my way home. I felt happy, worried, triumphant and back to worried.

The big question was, WAS THE CRIA STILL ALIVE? Had I waited to long to seek help? Mom was not due, 345 days for 3 weeks. I was going to have to be patient! I am not a very patient person. This was going to drive me crazy.

2 days later Aliyha went into labor! I was so excited and worried. Was this baby alive? As mom was pushing the cria out I watched for any sign of life. Then I saw it, it’s tiny nostrils flared, IT WAS ALIVE! Then this little tiny cria hit the ground, SO SMALL was the first thing in my head, so early. I dried her off, moved her out to the sunny pasture and watched. She was weak and so slow to start to try. When she did start to try she twisted around on the ground and kept laying on her own head with her neck twisted under herself. I kept having to untangle her. But finally she did and seemed A-okay. Later when I weighted her she weighed 9 pounds. So little, but perfect. Then I had to name her, I had a list of names for this years crias but the only thing that I could call her was Twister. ??