A Day on the Farm

New alpaca cria Births


The arrival of a new cria on the farm is always exciting but can also be a bit frightening if you have very little experience.

Be prepared:

Gestation is 11 1/2 months for an alpaca or 350 days.  Sometimes crias will arrive 2-3 weeks early without complications and sometimes they can be 2-3 weeks late.

Watch mom for signs of labor.  Not eating, rubbing on the fence, standing then cushing many times.  A swelling in the vulva area, constant straining at the dung pile.  We call it being on cria watch, so around about a month before a due date we stick close to home. Most births are uncomplicated and crias are born healthy, standing within an hour and nursing.

Be sure to have your vet’s number near by and a few things available.  Clean towels, fresh or frozen colostrum, thermometer, betadine and a place to separate mom and baby from the others for a short period of time to give them a chance to bond.  I recommend that mom be able to see the rest of the herd and they be able to see her and greet baby through the fence.

Preparation for Your Newborn Cria
             Preparation is of the utmost importance for ensuring the health and wellbeing of the newborn Cria and its mother.  The major things that are required for preparation are good animal husbandry, proper facilities and equipment.
· Know your animals.  Knowing what is normal for your animals will be invaluable for detecting subtle changes that may become significant problems down the road.  This includes noticing the urination, appetite, drinking, sleeping and fecal output.
· Know your place.  Do your animals consider you a predator or are you the leader of the pack.
· Be attentive.  Your animals should be handled and used to your presence BEFORE it becomes necessary for you to have to handle them in an emergency.  It may be necessary to milk the dam after parturition.  Can you do it???
· Body Condition.  It is absolutely necessary to physically handle (very difficult to objectively judge condition without feeling the animal through the fiber)or weigh your animal at regular intervals.
· Train yourself.  When you halter your animal, are you covering their nostrils, is your halter the right size for the animal that you have?
· Camelids should NOT be eared for restraint
· Can you touch her teats, perineum, genitals, belly etc, WITHOUT stressing the animal?
· Your animals should have access to warm, dry areas such as barns or shelters.
· Your facility should be designed so that it is relatively easy to access all of your animals in case of an emergency.
· You will need easily accessible water and power.
· A scale
· You must have a scale that is accurate down to the ounce or fractions of a pound.
· You must have a scale that is capable of weighing an animal that weighs in access of several hundred pounds
· Feeding supplies
· You should have measuring containers as well as feeding bottles, nipples, feeding tubes and syringes.
· Have colostrums on hand.  It can be camelid, cow or goat.
·  You should have good quality milk replacer available as well.
· Heaters or fans to keep your little one comfortable.  Blow dryers can be handy as well.
· Veterinary supplies.  Have dilute povidine iodine or chlorhexidine (nolvasan) handy for dipping navels.  Thermometers and stethoscopes are good to have.  Do you know how to use them?
· The average gestation length of llamas and alpacas is 346 days plus or minus 8.  Fall matings are associated with a gestation length that is often 12 days shorter then spring matings.
· Nearly all fetuses are carried in the left uterine horn.
· More then 90% of camelid births occur between sunrise and mid-day.  Females that begin labor in the afternoon may represent a possible dystocia.  1st stage labor may difficult to detect.
· The mammary gland begins to enlarge (slightly) 2-3 weeks prior to parturition, the teats may become waxy 3-4 days prior to parturition.
· 1st stage labor– This stage normally lasts less then 2 hours.  Signs may include loss of appetite, restlessness, increased humming, increased visits to the dung pile without urination or defecation.  First stage labor longer then 4-6 hours may indicate impending dystocia.
· 2nd stage labor-Expulsion of the fetus.  The stage begins with the appearance of fetal membranes, fluid or fetal body parts.  This stage should NOT exceed 45 minutes.  Crias often have what is called an epidermal membrane present that functions to keep the fiber dry during parturition.  This thin membrane does not cover the mouth and does not need to be removed.  Placental membranes that cover the mouth MUST be removed if the dam does not immediately remove it.
· 3rd stage labor-Expulsion of the placenta.  The placenta is often expelled shortly after the cria first drinks due to the stimulation of oxytocin release.  It is generally released between 1-6 hours postpartum.  Longer then 12 hours warrants calling your veterinarian.
· Lochia- Redish-brown, gelatinous lochia with NO odor is normal for 7-10 days.
· Failure of Progression
· Persistent labor with no changes in perineum or vulva.
· Fluid sac broken but no cria
· Dam has been pushing, but gets exhausted and begins to give up.
· Metabolic
· Inadequate blood levels of calcium, magnesium, glucose, selenium etc.
· Mechanical Causes
· Uterine Torsion-Generally occur in last month of gestation, but as early as 7 months.  Often manifest as severe abdominal pain.  There are surgical and nonsurgical ways to correct uterine torsion.
· Failure of Cervical Dilation
· Fetal/maternal mismatch-Cria will NOT be coming out in one piece without a C-section.
· Congenital defects
· Malposition
Postpartum Care of the Neonate
             Immediately post partum- It is generally not necessary nor a good idea to interfere with the dam and cria immediately after birth as this may lead to a disruption of the maternal bond.  This can lead to decreased care by the mother.  However, be aware because if any problems do arise it is best to intervene earlier then later.
· Post partum emergencies-
· Not breathing-
· With CLEAN hands clear the nostrils, mouth and throat.
             Peripartum-After allowing time for the mother and cria to bond a quick physical exam should be performed.
· Check for broken bones, heart beating, suckle reflex
· Dip Navel– ONLY dip the navel if you believe that you will be able to dip the navel several times a day for a few days, as you can actually make things WORSE if you do not follow up.
· Let the mother finish up cleaning etc.
Mile Markers
· Should attempt to stand within 15-30 minutes
· Be able to stand within 1 hour
· Attempt to nurse as soon as standing
· If cria does not successfully nurse within 2 hours consider assisting.
· ***Cria should get MOM’s colostrums within 4-6 hours.  EARLY is better!***
· After cria is walking some, move cria and dam to the cria pen.
Physical Exam
· Body weight-Should be taken at least daily.  Alpacas generally weigh 10-20lbs (~5-10kg).  Llamas generally weigh 18-35 lbs (~9-18kg).
· It is not unusual for alpaca and llama crias to lose 0.12-0.25kg and 0.25kg-0.5kg respectively in their first 24 hours.
· After 24 hours the cria should gain that same amount daily.
· Most crias double weight by end of first month.
· Incisors-Should have 4 incisors erupted (otherwise possibly premature.
· Joint laxity/Limb deformities
· Normal temperature, heart, lung, gut sounds?
· T 100-102
· HR 60-90/min (murmurs?)
· RR 10-30/min
***Please call your veterinarian if you have any questions regarding the health of your cria or the mother***

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