A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

June 30, 2009

Meconium Matters


Meconium or rather the passing of meconium from a cria really does matter, a point that was reinforced at the farm recently.

Following the birth of Shiimsa’s cria Rio all seemed well.  We found a good sized meconium plug in the pasture the following day, Rio was lively and alert and gaining about a pound a day.

The following day though Rio had a large weight gain, Shiimsa was producing lots of milk so the large weight gain was not too out of keeping with our expectations.  Rio was still looking good, running around the pasture with the other crias despite the high temperatures.  I kept and eye on the crias throughout the day for signs of overheating and was pleased to see them taking frequent breaks in the shade, napping and nursing from their dams.

At evening chores though it was apparent something was not right with Rio.  He was squatting funnily with his rear end.  I watched him, he did not appear to be straining to poop, but Rio was obviously uncomfortable.  In addition to the squatting, Rio would also hang his head down and then eventually cush – he was not a happy cria.

Having seen the meconium plug in the pasture we were dubious that a blockage from meconium was the problem, but whatever the problem was it was bothering Rio’s hindquarters.

We took Rio’s temperature and it was slightly elevated, but in a young cria even a slight elevation can be a red flag. 

Of course Rio’s problem appeared outside of the hours of the veterinary clinic, while his condition did not appear life threatening it was concerning.

Our first suspicion was that Rio perhaps despite us having found a meconium plug in the pasture Rio had retained a piece of meconium.  This would prevent him from being able to poop properly and could cause him discomfort, it might also explain the larger than normal weight gain.  We gave a shot of banamine to help keep his temperature down and to help him relax, we then gave him an enema to see if he would pass anything.  The banamine seemed to provide Rio with some relief and a little while after the enema was administered he stood up and started to strain.  First Rio passed a black thin sticky stream that did look like meconium, and then he passed a much harder lump.  This harder lump was about the size of a large peanut, but it was definitely hard and large enough to have caused a blockage.  Once that hard lump had passed Rio continued to pass what appeared to be normal fecal matter.

It took a couple of hours before Rio was looking truly at ease again, but by the morning he was back to his usual self, chasing around the pasture and nursing up a storm.

Our thoughts are that a small piece of Rio’s meconium did not pass when he passed his meconium plug.  That small piece was enough to prevent Rio from being able to pass poop and as he ran around in the heat he became a little dehydrated making that piece of meconium hard and not easy to pass. 

It is always important to monitor young crias to make sure that they pass the meconium plug; sometimes it is hard to find the plug in the pasture especially if you have long grass.  Often once the cria has passed the plug you will see some evidence of fecal matter on the crias rear, but not always.  A crias behavior can let you know a lot about how he or she is feeling which is why it is important to get to know your crias.  If a lively happy cria starts to become lethargic or uncomfortable that cria is trying to tell you that all is not well. 

We were fortunate that Rio’s problem was easily fixed, if he had not shown improvement as quickly as he did we would have called out the vet, even after hours.  Crias can deteriorate quickly when they are not well and often time is of the essence when it comes to treating sick crias.  In Rio’s case meconium certainly mattered – even if it was just a little piece causing the problem.


November 8, 2008

The Case of the Missing Meconium

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, Cria Care, Crias, General — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 6:56 am

Nazca Sitting Pretty

Nazca Sitting Pretty


After a cria is born, one of the things we watch out for is the passing of the meconium.  Meconium is usually thick and tarry, sometimes dark and sometimes greenish in color.  It is made up of cells from the crias intestines and secretions, mucus and swallowed amniotic fluid.


Sometimes the meconium will be passed within hours of birth, other times it takes a little longer, but it is important that it is passed or else there can be problems with the cria.  A cria who has not passed its meconium can become lethargic and uncomfortable. 


When we do not see a cria pass it’s meconium then we keep a close eye on that cria and if there is any doubt that the meconium has passed we will give the cria an enema.  But sometimes crias manage to pass meconium without you seeing or finding it and such was the case with Kimmie’s cria Nazca.


Nazca was a nicely vigourous cria when he was born; he gained weight on his first day and showed a good curiosity in things around him.  Not having seen Nazca pass his meconium or even attempt to pass anything I kept a close eye on him to make sure he was not having any problems passing the meconium.  I also checked the poop piles and pastures for evidence of meconium.  Newborn crias often don’t go to the poop piles for their first week or so of life and tend to go just where the urge takes them!


By the end of Nazca’s second day I still had not seen any evidence of him having passed his meconium.  I had taken to checking under his tail, as often there will be a little evidence there that something has passed, but Nazca was as clean as a whistle!


At the end of Nazca’s second day he was joining in with the evening cria races and could hardly be considered uncomfortable.  He was galloping full speed with the other crias, not something that is undertaken by a cria with a stomachache!


To this day despite my best efforts I still have not seen Nazca poop or pee.  The little guy must be doing so as he is nearly a week old and would most definitely be in distress by now if he were unable to pass anything.  But Nazca’s behavior and steady weight gain tell me that things must be working just fine.   So I will just accept that sometime shortly after birth Nazca managed to pass his meconium and that all is well and then I will enjoy watching him zip around the pasture with the other crias.  Life as a cria is good!




May 15, 2008

Crias are so distracting!

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , — alpacalady @ 7:17 am

Whenever we have a new cria born I pretty much write off the next couple of days.  I know I won’t get much done, for newborn crias are very distracting.


The day crias are born we keep them under a close watch to get a feel for their behavior and energy levels.  A healthy cria will be up on it’s feet within the hour and while their legs will initially be shaky and maybe a little stiff, by the end of the day they should be moving well and active.  We also watch to make sure that the cria is nursing well, checking that the cria is actually latching on to the dam’s teats and displaying a milk moustache indicating that the cria is getting milk.  Crias can do a really good job of looking as if they are getting milk when in fact they are not.


It’s important to know if the cria has passed its meconium plug.  The meconium plug usually consists of a black sticky mass, although sometimes I have seen meconium plugs that are more of a dark green in color.  If the cria doesn’t pass the meconium plug it can result in the cria being uncomfortable and developing a stomach ache.  If we do not see either the plug being passed or signs that the plug has been passed (poop on the crias rear or finding the plug in the pasture) we will usually administer an enema to get things moving.


Then there is the task of making sure that the older crias do not get too rough with the newborn cria.  Crias are naturally drawn to other crias and want to play, but sometimes the play can get a bit rough and it might be necessary to intervene.  Often the newborn crias dam will see off any boisterous crias but if she is feeling sore or tired from birthing she may not do that on the first day.   An extra bucket of hay can be a good distraction for the older crias, or occasionally it might be necessary to restrict the older crias access to the new cria.  Usually by day two the new cria has found his or her feet and can easily out run the new play mates.


Finally there is just the joy of watching a new cria explore its new world, it’s a time that I will never tire of, a time that is worth putting away the demands of the world for a day or two for with each cria that time will never be repeated.



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