Born in the Ditch

One of the big “benefits” I had, being full time on the farm, was that I was flexible in my time and was able to help out at my children’s school and their field trips. I made sure all the animals were well taken care of  in the morning before I left. I have to admit, I am not really a morning person and do a lot of things “on auto pilot”. I have my routine and everything goes just fine. When the routine gets disturbed and the brain is not fully awake, things tend to go “not that fine”.  Here the story:

horsefarmMichael and I left bright and early one day for a very exciting end of the year school trip to a horse farm. The children were taught how to saddle the horses, their basic care and after a few rounds in the arena, they all were able to go on a trail ride. Us parents were there to help out when needed but mainly enjoyed a beautiful summer day and watch our children having a great time.


At lunch we all gathered in the dining hall and were just ready to have lunch, when the owner of the farm came over and was asking for me by name. Now you must know that this was before cell phone era! She told me my real estate agent had called her and that my alpacas were on the road!

Wow, slight panic attack now! My car was parked at the school, the school trip would go past regular school hours and we would not be leaving for another couple of hours. People started to offer help immediately. I got a car ride back to the school, hoped in my car and was “flying home” to our little farm in no time. I parked the car and my daughter, Anna who had beaten me home on her school bus, came running back from the barn shouting: “Mom, Mom there is a baby in the ditch!”

A huge semi truck was blocking the country road so the alpacas could not go up to the main highway! There they were, my whole female herd was munching grass along the country lane, enjoying their outing. They had already a little poop pile in the middle of the road, obviously they had been out for a while.


The baby had not been born long, it was still wet. I picked the cria up and carried it back to the barn for closer inspection. It looked just fine and I put it in the hay and was ready to herd some alpacas back to the barn. This angel of a truck driver was still there and tried to help us herd them back. But these girls had no intention to go back and evaded the three of us constantly.

Finally I came to my senses and realized we can’t herd them but I could lure them. Back I went to the barn, not for feed but for the cria. I wasn’t sure yet who the mother was, there was too much running and chasing going on. I showed the alpacas the cria and mom, Penny, came running immediately. Sniffing her little one, giving me dirty looks for touching it and followed me back to the barn and the pasture. All the other females followed her and I only had to put the cria down, close the gate and watch Penny nursing her baby.


So what had happened. They got out quite easily. I hadn’t locked the gate properly. I assure you, alpacas find every unsecured gate and take advantage of it. The truck driver had seen them on the road and as nobody was home, had called the number on the “For Sale” sign in front of the farm. My agent had figured out that I must be on that field trip and, as she is a local farmer herself, made the connection with the horse farmer.


Magic of small town and rural living!

The cria was a beautiful white girl. If it had been a boy I would have called him Ditch, but she was far to innocent looking to get such a harsh sounding name. We named her Daisy for her late grand mother.

I don’t think I thanked this angel of a truck driver properly. I was rather flustered and upset and did not ask for a name. If you ever read this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your help was surly needed and greatly appreciated. Thank You!

Sheena – Outmaneuvering me.

Sheena was part of our foundation herd of alpacas. Her registration papers said she was born in Australia in January 1992 and was imported to Canada, Alberta. Her journey was not over yet and she took another trip to Ontario, Briers Run Alpaca, and finally to our farm in September 2004. She was now 12 years old and bred to Royal Peruvian Black Star, who was also part of our foundation herd.

Alpacas have a gestation period of 11.5 months, give birth between 9 am and 3 pm and hardly ever need any help. These are the things we had learned from other farmers and Sheena’s due date was end of June 2005. I was ready for this big event. Our first cria born on our farm and I wanted to be there to witness this miracle of life.

By June 20th I probably started to walk out to the pasture a few times a day, just to check if I could see any movement of the baby and to make sure that nothing was bothering her. Sheena was very shy, maybe her long journey made her a bit more suspicious of humans. She looked irritated by all the attention she got from me. However, she had started to accept food from my hand and I thought we were making progress in the trust department.

I had reorganized my daily tasks, so I would not be away from the farm for more than 2 hours. I checked in the morning at feeding time around 9 am and would be back for noon the latest. On June 24th 2005 Sheena ate with the herd and there was no suspicious behavior. I went shopping and was back out in the pasture by noon. And there she was with cria aside. He was all dried up, on his feet, standing beside his mother and I am sure they both had a little smirk on their face – got you! I named him Sir Winston.


winstonShe must have had her cria right after I left the pasture to have him dry and standing up like that 3 hours later. Usually alpacas giving birth that day don’t come for breakfast and stay a little to the side of the herd. They are a little cranky, walk a little, roll a little, just to get that baby into the right position and move things along the days before the event. That is what the books say and my mentors explained to me at the time.

Well, Winston was not Sheena’s  first baby and she had everything under control.

She did it again the following year. Winston got a sister and this time she gave birth outside “business hours”. The cria must have arrived around 7 am. Alpacas usually give birth between 9 am and 3 pm, giving the cria a chance to gather their strength and be up an running before night fall. An important skill when you need to survive in the wild and keep up with the herd. Her name, how could I ever forget, Dawn.

It was 3 years before I saw a cria born on my own farm!