I was driving up the M6 to Cumbria when my phone rang. I answered it, using my hands free device of course, to hear that my newly acquired female had just dropped a wonderful male cria and that mother and offspring were both doing well. For most of us this would not seem particularly earth shattering news about which to write an article but this was something of a surprise to me as, only two days before, this female had been consigned to an outlying paddock to join all the other females that were either empty or not expected to calve down for many months. This was because she had, five days before, dropped a cria which had unfortunately died just as I was about to take him to the vets as we could not work out why he was not thriving. He had been born without any problems although he was rather small; this we put down to the fact that he was probably a week or two earlier than we had anticipated. However his mother showed little interest in him, which surprised us as this was not her first calving and she had been a perfectly good mother before.
The first cria had thrived during day one despite his mother not showing any interest in him. He was bottle-fed and attempts were made to persuade his mother to take more interest. During the second day he began rapidly to go downhill, at one stage he was found in a wet, cold heap and had to be revived in a hot bath and put in front of the Aga. He stayed curled up in the kitchen throughout the Saturday night and on Sunday still did not seem to have much life about him. In desperation we decided to take him into the vet but, having made that decision, he died on us before we could move him. The resultant post mortem showed all his organs were fine and that there seemed to be no logical reason for him to have gone downhill so rapidly.
The mother was then put in a trailer and moved to an outlying field to join all the other females that were either empty or not due to calve for some months. So it was something of a surprise when three days later, and five days after the birth of the first cria, that a small bundle of white fur was found in the middle of this field. In fact it was not really that small and when brought in for weighing it was discovered that this was a 9.8 kg baby and full of energy and ready to live well off his mother. Mother and baby were transported back to the nursery field to join the others and the mother reverted to her normal maternal self, caring for and nursing her new offspring.
What is amazing is that this female had been carrying over 15 kgs of cria inside her without showing any obvious signs that she had this abnormal load inside her. Her lack of maternal care for the first cria was now fully explained as she had obviously decided that she could not care for two offspring and was therefore ready to ignore the weaker of the two for the benefit of the stronger. I am pleased to report that both mother and baby are both doing well and of course the cria is definitely destined to be a prize stud male! Certainly he has already made history as the first twin to be born at Alpacas of Wessex.