A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 30, 2007

The First 24 Hours

The first 24 hours of a cria’s life are very important.  During that time the cria is having it’s first encounters with the big wide world while the cria’s body is starting to function for the first time on it’s own.

As soon as the cria is born we start our assessment of it.  After years of birthing crias this is now a natural series of observations, but for the first several crias we kept a check list handy to make sure we covered all the essential points.

We like to make our observations with as little disruption to the dam and cria as possible in order to give them the opportunity to bond.  We watch and listen for things such as a low or high body temperature, labored breathing and the activitiy level of the cria.

Unlike humans alpaca crias do not exchange immunoglobulins (antibodies) with the dam prior to being born.  At the moment of birth they are totally dependant on the dam for their initial antibody protection.  The cria will obtain his or her antibody protection from the first milk or colostrum that the dam produces.  For only a short period of time after birth the cria’s intestines are premeable and allow the immunoglobulins to be absorbed into the cria’s system.  So colostrum is a very important thing to our alpaca crias, which is why we focus on getting our dams to produce good quantities of high quality colostrum.

We always check the dam after birthing to make sure she does have a good supply of milk for the cria.  We remove the wax caps from the dams teats and squeeze a little drop of colostrum onto each one to help the cria scent his or her way to the teats.

One of the main sources of infection in alpaca crias is through the umbilical stump, so once we are happy that the cria is healthy and vigorous we dip the cria’s naval in a 7% iodine solution.  We typically will do this at least three times in the first twelve hours.  We also check to make sure that the umbilical cord is not bleeding and that the cria does not have an umbilical hernia.

Another thing we watch for is the passing of the meconium plug.  The meconium plug is the material that was digested by the cria during development.  Typically meconium is darker than the crias regular feces will be while nursing.  The majority of crias pass the meconium plug without problem, but if it does not get passed and the cria becomes impacated it can cause problems.  If we suspect that the cria has become impacted we will administer a mild dish soap and warm water enema

Weight gain is another important factor in monitoring a crias health.  Healthy alpaca crias should gain at least 0.25 lbs. a day or more. We have had several that gain 0.75 lbs a day.  We weigh our crias daily until they get to 25 lbs at which point we weigh them every other day until they reach 30 lbs.  at that point they are weighed monthly like the rest of the herd.

Crias should nurse for a good 2-3 minutes every hour or so, if you see your cria trying to nurse frequently it could be a sign that he or she is not getting enough milk.  If you see this type of behaviour and your cria is losing weight then you most likely have a problem on your hands and will need to feed the cria supplemental milk.

There really is quite a lot to watch out for in those first crucial 24 hours of a crias life, fortunately there are several books available that detail what to watch out for and what to do if you think you have a problem.  These books are invaluable, mine are well used and well read but have paid for themselves many times over.

Rebecca’s little cria that was born on Wednesday is showing all signs of being a healthy cria, she nurses well, is stong and vigorous and had gained 0.7 lbs in weight the day after her birth.  We have had the vet out to draw blood from her for an IgG test, a BVD test and for her DNA registration card.  I fully expect the test results to all come back as good. 

We will continue to keep a close eye on Rebecca’s cria as like all new borns she is a little vulnerable, but hopefully she will not encounter any problems and we will be rewarded with the sight of her playing and growing.



Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: