On Monday, February 4, 2008 we lost our first alpaca. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that alpacas are livestock. Yes, the IRS recognizes them as such, but our hearts do not.
Cheyenne was 5 months old and as I write this, 18 days have passed since we lost her and what’s most frustrating is we will never know exactly what it was that caused her death. On Thursday evening, February 1st, I went out to feed the alpacas and found Cheyenne laying down and not willing or able to stand up on her own. Jon and I rushed her and her mom, Lady Diamond (Lady Di), into the barn and quickly called our vet. Cheyenne layed and nibbled hay while I talked with the vet. While talking to him, we found that her body temperature was dangerously low and mom’s milk had dried up. We’ve seen Cheyenne nursing off and on all the time, apparently not receiving any nourishment at all from nursing. She was never interested in the grain we feed all the other moms and babies but since she was still nursing, we didn’t think much of it. At our vets advice, we put little Cheyenne in a warm bath to try and raise her body temperature. It was working, but very slowly. While this little gorgeously fleeced critter lay weak in our bathtub, Jon called K-State where they have a fantastic camelid veterinary program and one of the industry’s most respected alpaca vets on staff and talked with one of the vets on call that night. They wanted us to bring her in as soon as we could. I dried her off the best I could and we wrapped her in a big, warm towel and loaded her and mom into the back of Jon’s minivan. The drive to K-State took over 2 hours. Once we arrived, a vet and two students went to work on her immediately giving her an IV for fluids etc. She was severely dehydrated and malnourished. Jon and I went home a couple of hours later once we realized there was nothing we could do to help and that she was in the best vet hospital around and in good hands. They called us twice a day with updates on her condition and to let us know what they had been doing to help her. Her condition never got better. She died early Monday morning. The vet that had been in charge of Cheyenne’s care called me Monday morning with the bad news as I was on my way into work. I couldn’t believe it. I really expected her to get better. I turned around and made my way home bawling like a baby the whole way. Even today as I write this more than two weeks later, I get goose bumps and feel the heaviness in my heart as I re-live these days of praying for my little alpaca to come home and go on to live a long, healthy and productive life on our farm. Cheyenne was one of the best quality alpacas we had and we had high hopes for her. They did a necropsy (an autopsy for animals) and found what I had already mentioned (dehydration, malnutrition) & they noted hypothermia, and ulcerations from her throat all the way through her intestinal tract. They had 4 possible causes for the ulcerations but we have eliminated all of them. So, we will never know. We’ve had an unusually cold and snowy winter this year and without the proper nutrition, she had a hard time keeping her body temperature regulated. I know I will be sure my babies are eating grain very early on, in case mom’s milk dries up again in the future but that doesn’t explain the ulcerations (which I suspect is why she wasn’t interested in grain…that would have hurt going down!)
Cheyenne’s registered name was Shady Creek’s Diamond of Cheyenne. We have decided to breed her mom back to the same sire, in hopes of a similar quality alpaca. Whatever sex it is, it’s name will be, “Shady Creek’s Spirit of Cheyenne.”
Until next time…