Last year was extraordinary; no one could have expected what hapenned. Without doubt, it has been a time of worry and sadness and a year we will never forget. However, the wonderful thing about animals is that they have no idea whether it’s Covid or Christmas, and for that we have been most grateful. As long as they have grass, hay, carrots, and water our alpacas are happy!
2020 was a year of change for our alpacas as our herd of eight grew to ten and we had the excitement of seeing the birth of two boy cria. The alpaca birthing process is called ‘unpacking’. The word cria means ‘create’ in Spanish. Also, while mentioning Spanish translations of alpaca names, the females are called ‘hembra’ and the males, ‘macho’.
Naturally, we had read up on what to expect and received lots of fantastic advice from the breeder, Spring Farm alpacas. Perhaps the easiest bit of advice was from one of the books I read which said all you need is binoculars and some rope. The binoculars are to watch the birth from a distance and the rope to tie your hands, so you don’t interfere! As mostly, alpacas know what to do and will just get on with it. Afterall, they manage in the wilds of South America without any help.
Alpacas instinctively unpack their cria from late morning to early afternoon which enables the newborn to dry off, then learn to stand and suckle before the daytime temperature drops. Pollyanna was our first to unpack her cria and she was perfect in her timing. An alpaca pregnancy lasts 11 – 12 months. We had her due date as 12 May and exactly on that date at 11am under our large Oak tree in the field she began to unpack her gorgeous copper-brown fleeced suri cria who we named Bosky. It was magical to watch. The late morning sun shone down on Pollyanna as she easily pushed out little Bosky who then rolled in the dust to help remove his sack. She allowed us to watch and was fine with me helping to dry him off and dip his umbilical cord in iodine. I know, I didn’t tie my hands or stay back with binoculars!
The birthing process only took about 20 – 30 minutes. Then it took about 2 hours for Bosky to figure out how to stand up after lots of cute wobbly attempts. Within 3 hours he was feeding from his mum, with her making lovely cooing noises to encourage him. It was a magical to watch mum and baby bonding and feeding.
Priscilla, our black huacaya, took a different approach. Her cria arrived two days before the due date and she managed to slip him out while I was in the house. I had only left the field for one hour after their breakfast and looked out of our window to check on her only to see all the alpacas crowding round a little black fluffy thing that was already up and wobbling around. We missed the whole unpacking process! Treacle slipped out happily into the world on 2 July.
The other new experience for us and our alpacas was starting Afternoon Teas with Alpacas, we started our new Covid venture as B&B was just too difficult. When lockdown lifted and throughout the summer, more than 200 people visited us to meet our alpacas and feed them carrots which they loved. But more on that in another blog!
The next unpacking excitement will be in the summer of 2021 when hopefully Pollyanna and Suzette with provide us with two more gorgeous cria.