One of the best alpacas we have ever raised is SSF Peruvian Silver and Gold (shown above). Born on Halloween a few years ago, she appeared fawn at birth but had a tinge of silver at the skin which grew into a solid grey. She would become one of the most stunning, rare harlequin greys we've ever seen, and was a top seller at the 2007 National Elite Auction. She was purchased by Always Accoyo, LLC in Michigan, and was a multiple champion in both fleece and halter. She had a darling personality as well, and was a favorite of our daughter and her friend- I love the picture below where she appears to be smiling for the camera! The Wrights at Always Accoyo adore her, and have sent me some great pictures as she has matured.Yesterday we had the privilege of welcoming her full sister, SSF Peruvian Silver Belle! CH Peruvian Sahara Rose is her harlequin-colored dam, and Accoyo Maverick is the sire. Although she doesn't have much silver showing yet, Belle has some hints of grey in her prime fleece and has the telltale spots on her face like her dam.
Sahara (who has now had 4 female crias in 4 years) has had a skin issue with her udder the past few times, and we have had to intervene with the crias for the first week or two to make sure they get their colostrum (first milk) and subsequent nourishment. The cria appeared to be slightly early, and isn't quite able to get ahold of her dam's teats on her own, so Paul and I milked the mom every 4 hours throughout the night and tube-fed the cria. Sahara is generally very laid-back and cooperative, which definitely makes the job more pleasant.
Although Paul and I don't communicate that well on some things (like backing a trailer or herding a group of animals), we have developed what I think is a beautiful unspoken communication when it comes to caring for newborns and their dams. At 1:30 AM, we arose to the alarm, drove to the barn, and got the job done while saying barely a word to each other! We have learned to be very calm and patient with a dam and her newborn cria, as a situation like this can cause great stress to both and develop into secondary issues like ulcers, milk drying up, etc. Over the years, we know from experience that it doesn't pay to try to force a cria to nurse, but rather to encourage them by positioning under the dam and then letting go, and that most dams will respond gently if you treat them with respect and patience as they seem to know we're helping.
We will continue to monitor the cria closely and make sure she's attempting to nurse regularly and getting enough nourishment from us for now as she grows stronger and more sharp. We'll also do an IGG blood test to be sure she received the proper immunity from her dam's milk. We will milk out the dam to keep her milk flowing and keep her from either drying up or becoming engorged, and will supplement what we give the cria with regular Vit. D whole milk. Few dams and crias require this kind of intervention, but our 14 years of experience tell us that all will be fine and it will be SO worth it! (See the photo of Silver and Gold's champion fleece below!)
We are winding down our birthing season on a great note... when I told Paul the name I liked for the new cria, he said, "At least it's not Silver Balls!"