Summer in Kansas is hot and humid. Winter is cold. When choosing breeding dates for alpacas, we have to consider the weather. The ideal spring time frame for delivery is April and May and for fall, October and November. Outside these parameters you have to deal with heat or cold in late pregnancy.
This year we had three pregnant females who were bred within a few days of each other. May was the expected window for delivery. In May the weather was already heating up and by June the heat and humidity were here. Despite the heat it seemed that these females did not want to give up their babies! Finally we had one cria born on May 31st and another on June 3rd. Both healthy little females.
Now we were waiting for the third. As usual we had fans in the barn with easy access for the alpacas, but we were concerned about the remaining female. She was hugely pregnant and we were worried about a large cria. Temperatures were in the nineties with higher heat indices. On day 380 when we went to the barn in the early morning she was obviously in discomfort and having spasms in her head and neck. We called the veterinarian who gave her fluids and calcium and the spasms stopped.
The next day she went into labor around 10:00 am. I was following her around the pasture when she chose a spot. Finally a sac appeared with what looked like a brown nose. As more appeared I realized I was not looking at a baby nose but at the placenta. I called the vet. He was at the farm within 10 minutes by which time more of the placenta and two legs were appearing. The vet delivered the cria but I could see immediately that it was dead and had been for some time. As the vet tended to the dam I checked out the cria. It was a female and a lovely dark color, dark fawn or brown. The vet said the placenta had separated prematurely and the baby had probably been dead for about 12 hours.
Loosing a baby is always a huge disappointment and distressing for the mother. We were left wondering why this had happened. Although we may never know the cause, I can’t help but feel that the early heat had some part to play. If we continue to have summers like this we will have to plan our breeding program accordingly.