On a farm where animal species lifespans at best, are a fraction of the time human beings normally dwell on Earth, you might think that we become accustomed to the passing of creatures. Surprisingly, we never really do.
Noche Buena came to us at four years of age from an alpaca farm in the Pacific Northwest. She came with one intact male alpaca and a gelding alpaca also. They were our initial starter herd in 1999 when alpacas were a rare thing indeed in our home state of Virginia. Noche's sire had been a very famous alpaca named Peruvian Bueno. Bueno was a white alpaca, but alpacas are interesting in that they can "throw" many other potential colors in offspring, depending upon the alpaca selected as their breeding partner. Our Noche Buena was a beautiful all black girl, which at the time was a rare and special alpaca indeed.
We could not normally have afforded the huge sums of money necessary at that time to start an alpaca herd. However, we had found an alpaca farmer who was also a dentist. He made periodic trips to South America to provide dental care to the indigenous villagers there where his own herd had originated. He needed money for dental materials and so he sold our first three alpacas to us at a bargain. We also paid a fair sum to have the animals trucked across the country by a specialized alpaca transporter.
Noche Buena was a beautiful girl. She was cooperative, and easily handled. She was also a gentle herdmate as we progressively added other alpacas, and other females became her stable sisters. Interestingly, Noche was bred, but never got pregnant or delivered. We could have had a reproductive work up on her, but we declined. We truly believe that the animals that are meant to breed do so easily, and that one that entails an extensive reproductive work-up may result in crias (alpaca babies) with difficulties. Buena was a sister to other alpacas who bred, but never gave birth to any of her own. She was, however, an excellent aunt, and later, an excellent stepmother to an alpaca girl whose mother passed due to astrocytoma.
Buena or Buenita as I used to call her, had a life that was simple and full. She was acquired by us at age four, and remained the rest of her life with us. She was very attached to her herdmates. When we first began to raise alpacas, we were told that they had essentially a fifteen year lifespan. As we grew in our expertise in the care of these animals, more became known about them. We learned that injections of three ccs of dectomax every six weeks would prevent the meningeal worm infection that is carried by the white tail deer in our region. The regime we used in prevention changed many times in consultation with our farm vet as more was learned about these creatures as more of them came to our area. We learned that an injection of Vitamins E,A, and D given going into the Winter would keep them healthier than most other alpacas of the same age. Noche Buena didn't pass at fifteen years as we were told she most likely would. She passed quietly and peacefully just before between four and six am just thirty days short of her twentieth birthday. She had been very well. We noticed the day before she passed that she was cushed (down in an alpaca sitting position) more than was normal. I did examine her, and I did take a few actions I thought might make her more comfortable. It's funny in that even when an alpaca lives a healthy and comfortable life with five extra years added to her life expectancy, that I am still looking for ways to prolong life, if in fact they are comfortable, and still enjoying their days.
We have found that on our farm, with the type of feed, hay and maintainance regime we practice, we expect our alpacas to live to about twenty years of age. Sadly, a number of Buena's dearest friends and family members are also approaching this age, including the original alpacas with whom she traveled to us..
Noche Buena was buried on the farm, and so she is gone from the pasture that was built for her. However, she will never be forgotten. I wonder if Daniel takes care of her now ? I remember how much he loved her. I hope so.