James Herriot's books, such as All Creatures Great and Small (the tales of a Yorkshire country vet), had a huge impact on my interest in animals and even though I chose to be a teacher rather than a vet, biology has always fascinated me and vets are some of my favorite people. Our local vet and good friend, Dr. Ashley Keith, has been our hero-on-call many times, but the one nearest and dearest to my heart will likely always be Dr. Norman Evans.
Norm (he calls himself "Nearly Normal Norman") has been an integral part of Seldom Scene's success from the start, and has been worth every penny that we have paid him over the years (and there have been lots of pennies!), saving many animal's lives and helping us learn and move on when things haven't turned out so well. Early on, we had the painful experience of losing two beautiful, black female crias within 24 hours. I was inconsolable, and Dr. Evans sent us a very special book, signed by the illustrator (Nancy Noel) called, All God's Creatures Go To Heaven . I have always treasured it, and have read it to both children as they have experienced losses of pets. He has grown attached to several of our alpacas that he's seen over the years (especially our first female, Machuca), and has a remarkable memory for past issues of interest with our animals.
Aside from being such a kind and compassionate person, Norm Evans is a brilliant vet who has helped to formulate the alpaca feeds being used by most breeders in the US, and is one of the more popular seminar speakers and teachers on alpacas anywhere. He has written several editions of the indispensable Alpaca Field Manual (and apparently has a new rewrite coming out soon). In addition, he is on the cutting edge of skin follicle evaluation via skin biopsies, and has helped us identify strengths and weaknesses of the alpacas within our own herd (Our co-owned herdsire, El Nino's Accoyo Michelangelo has one of the highest follicle densities ever tested, and his offspring are testing very high as well!)I hadn't intended to gush so much about him, but wanted to report on Dr. Evan's visit yesterday to do some ultrasounds, pre-purchase exams for the upcoming Belleau Wood Auction and Carolina Classic Show, and a few other items. Reproductive efficiency has been a vital aspect of growing our herd, so it's important to optimize each and every breeding and he helps us to do that.
There is just so much that Dr. Evans can see via a high-quality ultrasound machine using a rectal probe. Aside from confirming pregnancy, he can often tell if there is infection or scarring within the uterus, inflammation of the cervical rings or the status of the ovaries (Are they there? Are they developed? Is there a follicle that is "ripe" for breeding?). In addition, he can often detect twins (NOT a good thing), or abnormalities within the reproductive tract. It is essential to have a great, strong holder like our farm manager, Jamie, and it keeps things much safer for the alpaca, the people, and the valuable ultrasound machine! Strangely enough, the alpacas object more to being ultrasounded via the outside of their belly than rectally, and the internal probe gives a much clearer picture.
Norm's visit yesterday revealed that some animals need treatment for infection via an intrauterine catheter that he inserts for direct delivery of antibiotics to the uterus, some girls aren't cycling due to having large crias at side which are likely "draining resources", and some are pregnant as we hoped. Although we have detected pregnancies at just a few weeks, here's a shot of one of our best dam's Dulce's cria in utero (skull showing) at about 6 months- she's bred to our newest black herdsire, Snowmass Nova's Private Reserve. We always joke around that it looks like it must be a grey girl with awesome fiber! (Of course not even Norm can make that prediction, nor can he tell the gender).
We are so grateful for the assistance of all of our great vets, but especially to the humble and remarkable Dr. Norman Evans, DVM.