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see West Melton

Alpaca Articles

Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.

They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and USA and also through articles on this website and other websites.

Click here for more articles  
 

Caesarian Birth

By Linda Blake Southern Alpacas StudDon and Colin

This is 'The Don" in our Alpaca Gallery, visiting the place of his caesarian birth.  So you know the ending is a happy one - both mum and baby survived. 

However the bit in-between is a bit gory - you have been warned.

During Don's birth, whoever had a free hand picked up the camera and took a photo.  Surprisingly, between six of us, we got a great record we can now share with you.
 

  Caesarian birth is defined as birthing delivery by cutting though the abdomen wall, and is named for Julius Caesar who was reputedly born this way. 

Caesarians are not common in alpacas. We have used them for uterine torsions, where mum rolls and twists her uterus over, screwing tight the mouth of the uterus.  If you can't de-torse her, (by rolling her over while holding the uterus still - very difficult) then the only option left is a caesarian or you lose mum and cria.

It involves an element of risk, at least two vets, plus owners as helpers, and about 5 hours from anaesthetic to cria and mum up and walking.
 

 

 

prepared ready to go

 

 

 

 

 

first cut

This alpaca presented with a uterine torsion late afternoon - she had been trying to birth, complete with contractions, and had made no progress, and an internal investigation gave the tell-tale feel of a twist of the mouth of the uterus.

Vets called, pot of water on to boil up instruments, shearing table inside for the restraining and operating table, and, optimistically, warm towels, hair dryer, cria coat, Anlamb bottle prepared.


ready to cut
Vets arrived, alpaca sedated, up on the table, left side uppermost always for a caesarian, as there is less tissue to cut through here. Drip in to keep her sedated, belly shaved.  We pegged towels on her fibre to keep it out of the way and the area clean, and used a bit of super glue on the drip to keep it in, as it snaked up to the drip hanging from a hook in the ceiling.  Yes, we had operated here before !

Vet Richard keeps a watchful eye on the drip - a full-time job - whilst vet Donald prepares to operate.  The first cut, carefully, through several layers of tissue, and there is the cria ....

coming out

 

 

"You'll need to birth the cria, Linda," said Donald.
"Me ?  How ?"  I was incredulous.
"Same as usual, except through the hole I 've cut", replied Donald.

Well, yes, but there are all these extra bits of gut and tissues and blood and other things I can't identify and they seem to get in the way but, without really even knowing how I did it, I quickly had a cria in my hands, and it was even clean and white, not bloody, coming out of the side of the uterus. Richard reached across to clear its nose and it breathed.Here is the cria

 

  We couldn't breathe a sigh of relief yet - it is but the start.  As I hung the cria upside down to drain its lungs, I had to be watchful of the scissors clamp on the umbilical cord, as the cord had not stretched as in a natural birth, which is what stops the bleeding usually.  drip dry


dry and food

Within minutes of drying it, the cria was struggling to get up, looking for food. 
Although I didn't know it, food was to come from me for a long time! 

  Meantime work continued on mum.  Alpaca owner and trained vet nurse Sarah Frampton was assisting Donald sew up the uterus. Then layer by careful layer of her muscle and tissue, finishing off with a neatly stitched cut.   
sewing upmums finished
  The vets went home, and we watched and waited for mum to come round. Alpacas can come out of anaesthesia with a bit of a fit and throw themselves around, so we always stay with them. By 11pm mum and cria were both well, warm and snug in our gallery.

recovery

Mum didn't think she had had a cria, as she took two days to pass her placenta, and her milk did not come in until then - by which stage the cria was of the opinion we were the food source. Despite keeping them together, rubbing the placenta on the cria and all the usual tricks, mum and cria never bonded, and the cria became a bottle-fed pet.

Both went back to the paddock, and Mum healed up well.     Close-up of scar some months later.

Her next cria was born naturally, and called Triumph ! 

caesarian mumscar close up

 

 

We called the cria "The Don" after both vet Donald Arthur from Selwyn Rakaia Veterinary Services, and the Australian cricketer who died that day.

young DonaldThe cost ?  Well, any life is worth working hard for. But in terms of the operation, Don was a loss-making alpaca from the start.

Don is now well-known for his interest in humans and his willingness to go anywhere and do anything with humans, as he seems to think that he is one !

He visits old folks homes, and dutifully walks around inside the Gallery  "kissing" all the lady visitors who come here on bus groups. And he is great for PR - already he has been on stage, been on TV's "What Now" show, and featured in the advertisement for alpaca duvets.  

And yes, he has been wethered and response trained!

 

Updated January 2009

Nic Cooper and Linda Blake
Main West Coast Road, West Melton, RD1, Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone 0064 3 318-1917 | fax 0064 3 318-1927 | email alpacasnz@xtra.co.nz