The cycle of life is an easy lesson learned on a farm.
We were unexpectedly called to our neighbor’s farm a few months back. Our pal, Murphy, the llama, was having some unexplained digestive issues, and they needed extra hands. The urgency in the farmer’s voice, told us we needed to get over there quickly. Although it was just about dark, we jumped on the 4-wheeler and had it full throttle oblivious to the impending darkness on our mile-long lane.
It was urgent. It was Murphy. Hurry.
We arrived to find a 5′ tall vet standing on a stool attempting to clear what she believed was a blockage in a 7′, 300 lb. llama. Although her frame small, her demeanor was enormous and serious. She was already barking orders relaying the urgency of the moment, and the expectation was all hands on deck.
Having remedial vetting skills, a la I have a dog who sometimes needs me to help him with personal issues, I felt somewhat flustered when I was instructed to “hold this tube still”. It was all happening very quickly, but remarkably calmly. It was like a ballet where everyone stepped into position flawlessly. Regardless of my trepidation, I knew I was there to help Murphy, and I held my tube.
As the vet worked, I looked into Murphy’s brown eyes and could see he was a little frightened but happy. He somehow knew we were all there to help him. Or even better, he was just completely out of his mind on tranquilizers.
Thirty minutes later, the vet appeared to be satisfied. She removed all tubes and ties, and within moments, the big guy had his groggy head down in the trough. Whew. Disaster avoided.
The next morning heading out early, we noticed that Murphy was in the back field lying on his side in the sun.
A Fond Farewell
I think some of you may be wondering what it’s like to bury a llama. Well, I can tell you it’s not as hard as you might think. This is one of those times where that ‘community thing’ comes into play. You call your neighbor who owns a backhoe and ask if he can come dig you a large hole. Then you gather a few other strong neighbors and lay your pal to rest. The details are exactly how you’re picturing them so I’ll leave it there.
Unfortunately, a few weeks later, Chief, an elderly alpaca, passed away from old age. Another hole, another burial.
The springtime came, and we noticed a couple of the females looking a little chubby. They’d all be shorn in early April so it was unlikely they were just heavy with fiber. The farmer’s wife noticed what she thought was a broken rib in one of the females but upon further inspection found the rib protrusion to be the hoof of a cria.
Quick Alpaca Lesson – Alpacas are a camelid from South America and similar to their larger sister animal the llama. They are wonderful, friendly animals who don’t bite but spit when agitated by their fellow alpaca. Male alpacas are called macho and females hembra. A cria is a baby.
Alpaca fur is called fiber and is shorn yearly to create soft and non-allergic yarns. Therefore, alpacas do not smell like many other farm animals. The females are always fertile and the males always ready. The gestation period is 11-12 months (imagine). They eat grain, hay and grasses. They are simple to care for and prefer the company of their fellow alpaca. They commune well with other domestic and farm animals. However, they are not a common or recommended pet.
Within a few weeks, we were called to the farm to be introduced to Franklin, a small male, mothered by an older female. He was a delight but being premature, weak and fragile, he was with us a very short time. We grieved and dug a smaller hole.
The call came on a Friday morning in the summertime. It was the farmer’s wife who was alone this particular morning. She rarely called so I quickly picked up the phone thinking there may be an emergency.
We’d been having a lot of rain storms and the power had gone out a few hours before so anything could be awry over there because here no power = no water unless you have a generator.
“Have you got power?!” she asked.
“Can you bring some water down?”
“We’ve got a cria coming!”
Yes, yes, and oh, my yes! We had 4 jugs on our 4-wheeler, and we were flying down our lane to the farm within 30 minutes. When we pulled up we were greeted by the most powerful sight I had ever seen.
Another cria had been born and was being tended to by his mother. He was strong, full-term and healthy. We watched each tiny moment of his life unfold including his first attempt at standing and walking.
Nature is a wonderful giver. Lenny is strong, incredibly soft and just a wonderful thriving little alpaca.