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Calamity Josephine

Our alpaca life in the Netherlands. By Marieke van Merwijk.

First let me introduce myself, Marieke van Merwijk, my husband Leo, and our four children live in Haaften, in the middle of the Netherlands. We are both vets, running a small animal practice for 15 years. We discovered alpacas 14 years ago when we bought our first two alpacas from a client who wanted to get rid of them. This became a more serious hobby when we met Chas and Rachel of Classical MileEnd alpacas. Since then keeping alpacas, their well-being and health has been a route of trial and error, and is still a learning curve for us.

As vets it not only means taking care of our own small alpaca herd, but also trying to help clients with alpacas in need. Not that we have loads of alpaca clients weekly, but sometimes we do have alpaca weeks, as sick alpacas always seem to come in together. And an alpaca in need is always a challenge, trying to figure out what is wrong with it as they tend to have a range of symptoms that are all alike, not specific for one illness. If we can set up a ‘rescue’ plan this usually also means explaining to owners, sometimes in vain, that they do have to act immediately if an alpaca is behaving differently. When not eating, it becomes even harder to get it back on its feet again.

But I would like to tell about a little fawn female alpaca cria, Josephine she is called, that made us clients of our own practice.

Milk made

She was born with no issues, but from a female who has lost crias in the past. I am strict with my crias and expect them to be looking for milk within half an hour after birth. When it takes too long or when I don’t trust mum’s milk supply, we do have frozen goat colostrum in storage. As we weren’t sure about this girl, she was offered the au bain-marie warmed colostrum, and a day later this was repeated. At the beginning she drank it hungrily and the next day she definitely looked livelier and wouldn’t take the bottle. Usually this means that these cria have found mum’s milk.

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