Monday, November 3, 2008

Waiting...and wondering

Waiting for the much-anticipated birth of a cria can be a little bit like watching paint dry... or waiting for the result of a heated presidential election! As the days tick by, you imagine the best and worst-case scenarios. Will the next president raise taxes, incite more war, help to improve the economy, or move our country forward? Will the cria be an amazing female with the exact color and exquisite fiber you hoped for? Will it be a phenomenal male with herdsire potential, the next Legacy or Michelangelo? Or... will the dam have trouble and lose the baby, or even die herself (a highly unlikely outcome).

Alpaca gestations are normally 347 days on average (around 11.5 months), though at our farm they average longer in the spring and shorter in the fall (closer to 11 months or 335 days). Nobody knows why this happens, and there are exceptions, but I do start watching earlier in the fall. Hot summer gestations tend to be longest, which is one of the reasons why we avoid breeding for late summer crias- we believe it is just asking for problems (weakborn crias, prematurity, lack of milk in the dam).
On the other hand, some females just seem to "bake them" faster! Shiva recently had her cria at just 328 days; he was over 15 pounds and appeared full-term in every way! This has been a trend with her, so we always know to start watching earlier than usual.

Many breeders have stories of watching their pregnant girl non-stop, and finally being desperate enough for something at the store that they take a quick look before leaving with no indication that the dam is going to do anything, then returning to a fully-born cria! I do believe that some females (especially distrustful imports, whose protective instincts can be more fully intact), can somehow "hold back" until they feel the time is right (ie. nobody around). This is one reason why we love the 4 barn cams we had installed at our newest barn- we are often watching via the internet (at the house, wherever) but the alpacas don't know it! We can also replay the video to see if everything looked normal, when/if the cria nursed, etc. which has proven invaluable since we started using them last winter.

So... here I am waiting and watching for Eyecatcher to have her cria (shown above calmly chewing cud, no signs at all), now at Day 344, (as well as anticipating a hotly contested election!) Will it be a winner... or a loser? As with the election, I am most of all hoping for a smooth and healthy process which will ultimately result in a good outcome for all! (Though I can still wish for an awesome grey female cria and ___________ for president!)

Later this week I will share some of the signs we watch for that tell us that a cria is imminent.... NEWSFLASH! I may lose all credibility, as I was just informed by our farmhand that Paris has just had a healthy female cria at Day 332, never showing a sign! Yeah, finally our male streak has ended!

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