Happy Endings – Adopted cria

In my last post, I talked about the sad loss of our first alpaca, Tequila. When she died at age 17, she had at her side cria number 13, Obsydyan. Syd was 6 weeks old and 33 pounds. He was still nursing and very much in need of his mom.
Alpacas have a very strong mother/cria bond. One of the things I love in the evening is to see all the alpaca moms settled around the pasture with their crias snuggled up against them. With winter coming on, I worried about an orphaned cria on his own. Even if we could get him drinking from a bottle (not an easy task with alpaca crias), he still needed a bigger alpaca to take care of him and provide warmth and support.

Syd, after he had decided bottles were a good thing.

We started with the bottle right away to make sure he had sufficient nutrition. We keep Wombaro alpaca milk replacer on hand as well as a bottle with a Pritchard nipple ready in case we need to supplement a cria as they are getting on their feet. We’ve never had an orphaned cria before or needed to start supplementing an older cria so were worried he would not take the bottle. Alpaca crias, unlike some other young livestock, do not like to drink from bottles and can be a challenge to get to hold still, take the bottle in their mouth, and even to get to swallow. Patience (and Syd being hungry) got us past those hurdles, and he began to take some milk. He seemed to like it even more when our vet, Heather Jenkins at Healing Springs Animal Hospital, suggested we try fresh brown swiss cow’s milk. She had worked with alpacas in Peru for several weeks last January, and had observed alpaca crias thriving on this high fat milk. Syd began willingly drinking a couple bottles a day of 8-12 ounces.
Our next task was to find Syd an adoptive mother. Alpacas tend to not let other crias ‘steal milk’ and will fuss at other crias for trying. I had hope that our sweetest tempered alpaca, Ima Joy who had a cria just two weeks before Syd was born, might take him on. I immediately put Ima, her cria Angelica (born Oct 16), and Syd (born Oct 28) into my small fenced in garden next to the house. We set up one of our tents we use for fairs so they’d have a roof to get under. Ima would let Syd nurse if I stood and held her gently, but since she already had a cria she was nursing I had a couple other ideas to try.
The day after Syd was orphaned (Tequila died in the late afternoon right as the sun was setting), we were weaning the last of our spring crias. Thinking that one of the mothers might take on the new cria when we moved her boy into the weanling pasture, we tried to get the mothers to let Syd nurse. Syd was willing to try, the moms, not so much. Ruthie cushed every time Syd would come near. Fran bumped him with her knee and would not let him approach.
After multiple tries, we decided that Ima Joy was our best bet. Her sweet temperament allowed her to stand still as Syd nursed, initially with us holding her several times a day, and eventually without us needing to be near. I knew she had decided to adopt Syd when I looked out the window one night and saw Ima Joy nursing both Syd and Angelica at the same time.

Syd and Angelica with Ima Joy, nursing at the same time (Sunspot and Sunny in the background; Lystra and Lightening Bolt in the foreground)

I am so happy to report that Syd is thriving. He is nursing, taking a bottle a day (he is not near as excited about bottles now), and eating grain and alfalfa pellets for extra energy. Ima enjoys her extra rations too, which help her as she produces extra milk for Syd. Syd and Angelica are both gaining weight, and I love to see this new little family snuggle up at night. They stick close during the day as they roam with the other mamas and crias looking for winter grass.
A sad story, with a very happy ending.

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