Originally Written September 11, 2017
Many of you have asked about Pearl and her story, so I figured it was time to post about it!
When we purchased our Alpacas back in April I knew Queen Elizabeth was pregnant. Her due date was set for around September 15 or so. An alpaca's gestation is typically about 355 days.
On Wednesday August 16, 2017 I had scheduled the vet to come out to our farm and just do a general checkup on our animals. Since I knew QE ( short for Queen Elizabeth) was due in a month I wanted to make sure all was well. We have never had alpacas or any farm animals for that matter, so being prepared was on the top of my list. I had watched several alpaca birthing videos on youtube and I had spoken to a few people but that's about it. It is said that 90% of alpaca births require no intervention, I was hoping that would be the case.
The vet was scheduled to come at 10am. At around 9am I decided to go out to the alpaca. Usually by that time I see them grazing in the pasture but on that day they were not. I found that odd and for that reason also went down to look at them. When I approached I saw they were all gathered around each other and QE was on the ground. I found that odd. At this point I did not have my contacts in yet so my vision was definitely not 20/20. Upon approaching closer I saw what looked like a white pouf on the ground. I thought to myself " no way, that can't be a baby, it's not due for a month!" Well, it sure was! A tiny baby alpaca who appeared to have JUST been born! She still had stuff all in her mouth and nose and my nurse instincts kicked in! I cleaned her nose and mouth with my hands, she was breathing but appeared very weak. I immediately called the vet to ensure she was coming. She said yes, and to keep her warm and stay with her. I ran to the house, grabbed a towel, and came back. Dried the baby off and then waited.
See pics below of when I first walked up to the baby.
I couldn't believe it!! I had all these plans for September and all of a sudden the baby was here. I was NOT ready. I have realized though that God's plans are never our plans and we must always trust Him. What an amazing coincidence that the vet had been scheduled to come out the same day the baby was born. It's like God had that all planned out for me. The vet arrived. She was amazing and SO helpful. She immediately told me the baby was definitely a premie. No teeth, little hooves were not fully developed and ears were fallen down ( all signs of being premature) Concerns that would come along with that are a weakened immune system, undeveloped lungs, and being underweight. Baby weighed a whopping 7.5lbs!! SO TINY!! Alpakita, our little 5 month old Alpaca weighed 17lbs when she was born! Normal birth weight is 12-20lbs. Sweet baby was way underweight. On a happy note though it was a GIRL! yay! First baby born on the farm and a little girl. I was so thrilled but yet so worried.
QE seemed to be in a lot of pain. Unable to really move and was panting and appeared so uncomfortable. The vet gave her antibiotics and pain medicine. A huge concern was the fact that baby must drink milk from mom within a couple hours after being born. Same as human babies the colostrum is super important to help them survive and give them the adequate immune boosting benefits. However since the baby was a premie and mom was SO uncomfortable there was no milk yet. My sweet dad ran to the tractor supply store to buy some cow colostrum. He brought it back to me and we mixed up a tiny bottle for the baby.
The vet mentioned I must feed the baby about 2 ounces every 2-3 hours round the clock in order for her to survive. I would also have to ensure mom delivered the placenta within 4-5 hours after the birth. On this particular day my husband was out of town, my mom was out of town, and although my dad was helping as best he could I felt quite overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring of this tiny baby all by myself. By the end of the day she had gotten up walked around, but could barely hold herself up. Mom had no milk, I checked and kept trying to milk mom to get something out. Nothing. I learned more about God and His love for us that day than I did in a long time. I had so many plans for when this little alpaca would be born and she came a whole month early. Baby girl was a fighter. Seeing her try to learn her way around was the cutest thing ever! I was so worried though. QE and her were having a hard time bonding, I was afraid she'd be cold, what if the other alpacas hurt her, then I realized I was trying to do it all myself and not trusting in His protection and power. I was so humbled. God made this beautiful little creature and He would would care for it. Baby girl was in His care, as are we when we put our trust in Him.
Picture above is about 6 hours after she was born. For the next two days until Friday I kept watch on her and fed her every 3 hours. I felt pretty sleep deprived. On Friday QE finally started getting milk! I was so excited. However, baby girl was so weak she could not stand to nurse. So I would hold her up to mom and try to get her to nurse, while supplementing her with bottles of formula. 24 hours after her birth I switched her to regular whole cow's milk. I also mixed it at times with a little bit of yogurt to give her some probiotics. I had never researched and read so much to learn what on earth to do with this baby than I did that week.
Friday afternoon I came up to her and took her temperature. Baby alpacas cannot regulate their temperature for the first 72 hours so you have to make sure they stay between 100-102 degrees. She was 103.7. She was also very weak and lethargic. Not moving and not wanting to drink from her bottle. This change happened during the course of maybe 3 hours. I immediately called the vet. I was afraid we would loose her. It all literally happened so fast. The vet came and by that point baby girl was not responding and shaking pretty badly. I was so sad. After 2 days of caring for her and feeling she was better I felt we were taking steps back. Vet said it seemed like an infection due to her being a premie. So she gave her antibiotics and left me with 10 days worth of antibiotic shots to give her.
I felt so overwhelmed again. I continued to pray. For the next 3 days I fed her every 3 hours round the clock. Getting up at 2 am and 5 am was quite crazy. I don't have children of my own but I felt for a moment like a new mom feeding her infant. However, a new mom would at least be in her warm home and not have to walk down the hill to the barn, with bugs and flashlights:)
Finally by Monday, her and QE were bonding more and more. She was getting strong enough to get up and nurse herself! I would only have to prompt her to eat every so often. Mom seemed great too! Baby Alpacas should gain between 1/4-1/2 a pound a day. By week 1 she was 10.6lbs! Growing and jumping around. I continued the antibiotics for 10 days and supplemented as needed. Now she is a day shy of 4 weeks old! She is almost 17lbs and doing amazing!! What an experience! I am so grateful to God for His protection over these sweet animals. I only hope I can care for them and love them the best I can. We have had such fun watching her grow and run around. The animals are truly a blessing and I look forward to many more moments with them. There is so much more I could say about her birth story, but this blog post is getting super long. I I will end with her name which is Pearl. My sister in law recommended it and I loved it immediately. She is white and fluffy and Pearl just suited her. I then remembered there was a story in the Bible about a pearl. It is found in Matthew 13:45-46. It talks about how the kingdom of heaven is like a Pearl. Something of great value. A man once he found that Pearl sold everything he had and bought it. What a beautiful significance. We should constantly be seeking that Pearl, longing for God and His kingdom. I hope our sweet baby Pearl is a reminder of that to us.
I leave you with a few more pictures of her:)
NOTE: Almost a year and a half after I wrote this blog post we found my sweet Pearl had died overnight one morning. She had been healthy up until that point. It was devastating, but the joy she brought us for over a year was worth it even when she was gone. She was a sweet little one and will be forever missed.