Sunday we lost one of our stud males, Fred.
Every year a few of our animals die. It’s the inescapable statistics of scale. Some of these deaths are easier than others.
Fred was not our first stud male, but he was probably one of the most successful. He was purchased on short notice, a little fellow originally imported from Australia with lovely soft brown eyes. He sired many cria, and passed through genes that helped our herd.
But at nearly 18 he was starting to slow down. We don’t know how long he’d been feeling crook, camelids are so stoic they hide their illnesses too well. But when we were bringing Fred and the young boys up for shearing, he was having a tough time of it, having to pause and rest every few steps.
Anaemia, quite severe.
We didn’t shear him, knowing if he was going to have any chance we had to keep him warm and happy. I treated him as best I could for his anaemia, but to no avail.
On Sunday it was clear he was fading. He was gasping for breath, his thin blood incapable of providing him enough oxygen.
Tam and I got him out of the paddock, though we had to assist his walking by carrying most of his weight using a towel slung beneath him. To our surprise he hopped up into the trailer, a good cooperative soul to the end. We expected him to promptly sit down as we drove up to the yards, but he stood the whole way, then hopped out and walked in on his own. We’d brought him up so I could take him to his final appointment with the vet on Monday.
Then we left, off to shear alpacas all day. When we returned, he had died.
Normally an alpaca dies sitting. It is natural to sit when you feel weak and sick. We find them on their side, with the neck curled back in the posture of death. It’s how we expected to find Fred. He’d been mostly sitting in kush for days, rarely standing, as the anaemia took its toll.
But I could tell from the way he lay that he’d died standing. His heart stopped, and he toppled over.
Did he know his death was coming? Did he stand up to face it? We’ll never know, but he certainly left a mark on our herd, and in our hearts.
RIP Cedar House Frederick 2.2.96 to 3.11.13