Last year we concentrated all of our matings into a six week period so that birthing would be over in the same time frame and summer could be enjoyed without endlessly staring at the rear end of various alpacas.

Well we are just over a week into the ‘birthing period’ and so far we have had six cria, all wonderfully colourful, the dark side has returned with vigour to the Patou herd after our dabbling with the lighter end of the spectrum last year. We only used two males last year; Wimmera Skies Class Act of Reddingvale (now resident in France) with eight scanned pregnant to him in November and the awesome Toft Timogen who has twelve cria due.

All wonderful then, what a lovely time we have to expect from birthing this year. But alpaca breeders know that it never runs as smoothly as we hope. Never. And so it was this year when we had the first five births and not one of them made it to 11 months gestation. All ‘one mating only girls’, so no quibbling about due dates. Apart from one they were all remarkably well cooked so no problems. Therefore in no particular order here are the first six:

Patou Columbus, a Timogen boy from Patou Spirit, who as soon as he could stand ran off from his mother and started exploring the field, hence the name.

Patou Galaxy, a Class Act female from Patou Minstrel. Big and slow initially (until we settled on Galaxy her name was Dimwit) but doing very well now. Oh, and totally gorgeous!

Two Timogen boys, Jetstream (Black Beauty) and Boomerang (Patou Waikiki), always together and a blur most of the time.

Next up is Patou Mackenzie¬†a Timogen girl from Patou Bijou, named in honour of our visiting vet student Harrison Mackenzie who helped me warm her up. I hadn’t planned on showing him the upstairs or Sue’s hairdryer but hey ho needs must.

Here she is with her mother, looking every inch the dream team. She may be my favourite. Am I allowed a favourite?

And so we come to number six. I was so glad that I wasn’t alone. On Harrison’s last day here we observed that Patou Penny was behaving oddly in the morning, possibly in early stages of labour. Now I know most breeders claim to have ‘Hair-trigger spit monsters’ within their herds but the title was really designed for Penny. She hates everything. She can’t bear to be near other alpacas let alone humans. Anything, apart from her current cria, that enters her personal space (approximately 12ft radius) promotes a gurgling, growling, low screeching followed¬†instantly by a mouthfull of vile smelling spit. She is one of my favourites, she has attitude, she has personality, I never move as fast as when I am around Penny when injections are required, she keeps me young. She is deeply misunderstood.

So when it became apparent that Penny was in labour but not progressing a very brief discussion took place between me and young Harrison. Trying to justify not doing anything quickly became impossible. She was starting to show signs of distress. We would have to go into the ‘danger zone’. We don’t have any NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suits here but if we did this would be the moment to unpack them.

What happened next was a bit of a blur, a quick plan was formulated and when Penny lay down we sprung into action. Harrison was holding on for dear life at the front end, the danger end, whilst I was up to and beyond my elbow trying to ‘sort things out’ at the rear end. The noise was deafening. The size of my hand and forearm probably didn’t help! After a few minutes I had a head and one front leg out and was rummaging for the other leg. Finally it was found and carefully pulled forward. I then helped the cria into the world and we retreated. Immediately I knew I had to go back into range to check the cria and spray the cord. Penny must have been slightly dazed as I went in under her radar and did the necessary. Thankfully a beautifully healthy black Timogen female was the result, What a buzz! We looked so smug standing just out of range watching her almost instantly getting to her feet. I think there may have been a high-five involved.

All gaining weight nicely, Penny dealt with, fourteen to go, happy days!