Caroline has twins!

Alpaca twins are very rare but it appears our girl Caroline defied the odds and had twins last weekend. It all started Friday afternoon when I arrived home from work. I had been keeping an eye on Caroline who was bred to Snowmass Legacy Gold last summer (a herdsire co-owned by Cas-Cad-Nac Farm and Tripping Gnome Farm) and was now about 330 days into her gestation. Knowing Caroline was nearly full term I immediately went to the barn to check on her. Standing next to Caroline was a newly born white cria and within about 10 minutes Caroline passed her placenta further indicating the birth had occurred recently. As with most alpaca owners, the first thing I did was check on the sex of the cria – a female! While checking the sex I realized the cria was truly tiny weighing just over 8 pounds. For comparison, most alpaca crias weigh at least 12 and as much as 20 pounds or more when born – so 8 pounds is very small. I immediately wondered if it could be a twin but seeing no other crias I went about my business of making sure the cria was fully developed and interested in nursing. Caroline and the cria spent the night in the barn resting and bonding. Things got more interesting the next morning when our daughter said there was another cria in the pasture. But how could this be – our only other pregnant girls were not even 300 days into their gestation which is too early to be delivering a healthy cria. Sure enough, in the pasture was a fawn cria who was completely dry (indicating it had been born some time earlier and had had enough time to dry). After checking the sex – a boy – I recognized two things about this new cria. First, he was also tiny weighing barely 8.5 pounds and, secondly, none of our girls were paying him any attention. Not knowing who the mother was I decided to herd everyone into the barn where I could watch and wait for the mystery mother to pass a placenta and thereby give herself away. After a few hours with no placenta passed I realized it wasn’t going to happen. Perhaps the placenta had been passed earlier in the pasture and our trusty guard dog made a snack of it. We will never know but now we had a bigger problem – a cria getting weaker and no mother stepping forward to let it nurse. I started to supplement the cria with whole milk and a touch of Karo syrup and started to worry about having a bottle baby that requires nursing every 2 to 3 hours 24/7 – not something my wife or I were excited about! We decided our only option was to try and get Caroline to adopt this new cria so I isolated Caroline with the two crias. With the help of our vet, we gave Caroline a uterine flush and poured the discharge on the new cria’s back in the hopes that Caroline would recognize the scent and accept the cria as hers. At first, Caroline refused to let the new cria nurse so I bottle fed him the first day and through the first night. Much to our relief, when I went out for chores the next morning Caroline was allowing both crias to nurse simultaneously! Since then things have progressed nicely with both crias gaining weight every day and appearing to be quite healthy. As time has gone on we’ve come to realize that this new cria is almost certainly Caroline’s cria too – making them twins. Our other pregnant girls are still carrying their crias and there are no indications that any of our maidens had an ‘accidental’ pregnancy that we were unaware of. To solve this mystery definitively we’ve sent in blood cards to the Alpaca Registry where they will analyze the DNA to confirm that Caroline is the dam and Legacy Gold the herdsire. We’ll keep you posted when these results are in. In the meantime here are a few pictures of the twin crias and Caroline.

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