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Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.
They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines
in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and USA and also through articles on this website
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By Linda Blake Southern Alpacas Stud
Cria have no antibodies when born, and are
unable to fight infection and disease. Cria obtain antibodies
from their mother’s milk.
The first milk is a creamy sticky milk, called colostrum, with high levels of antibodies in it. A cria’s bowel can only absorb
these antibodies in the first 12 to 24 hours of life.
Make sure that your cria is feeding
in the crucial first 24 hours.
Observe the feeding behaviour
– how often, and if satisfactory. If a cria is seeking milk, it will find it if
it is there. A cria who has found the milkbar will usually curve its tail up,
and will put its tail down once it begins to actually feed.
Check that the cria is getting milk
– look for a milky moustache. If you are unsure, wait until it has been under
mum, then put your finger in its mouth to check for milk.
If a cria misses out on
colostrum, it will be prone to infection. Alpacas can be tested for antibodies,
by measuring IgG levels. A transfusion of alpaca plasma can provide the vital
antibodies if the cria misses out from inadequate initial feeding.
If your cria is
not feeding, assist it.
Ensure the dam's teats are clear of wax,
and milk is flowing. The milk will flow better once the placenta is passed.
You may need to hold the cria
under the dam, making sure it gets to the right
place. If so, position yourself at the dam's rear legs, so when the dam turns
around to check what is going on, it is her cria she sees and sniffs.
alpaca supplementary feed is Anlamb, according to Agresearch, who tested
various substitute milks on alpacas. Make up the Anlamb as for the lamb dose.
(You can as much as
double this amount.) We add
a tablespoon of glucose per 500 ml milk.
Or, use a bottle of milk, including colostrum,
milked from its own mother.
Alpacas are not easy to milk, as they produce milk
little yet often. Milk can be expressed from the teats using a 10ml syringe with
cut-off. Put the
wide end of the
on the udder, and draw the plunger back. Decant
it into a sterile container, out of kicking distance !
You can use colostrum
from, in order of priority, another alpaca or llama, an artificial substitute,
or a cow, goat or sheep. We use Halen New-Born from Halen Health
Keep all equipment sterile - we use Virkon.
Indicators of poor feeding are frequent attempts to suckle (more than once an
hour), weakness and lethargy, sitting a lot, poor weight gain or weight loss,
and no milk moustache after feeding.
Monitor the progress of
the cria. Weigh regularly – daily initially. Plot a chart of weights of
all your cria, to notice any different growth patterns. Weigh them weekly until
over 20 kg.
The weight of the cria
may drop by 10% in the first couple of days, but once the milk supply is fully
in, cria weight gain should be 1 to 1.5 kg a week.
Normal weight gain:
6kg in each of the first two months
5kg in each of the third and fourth months
Cria are active, and
move and play a lot. Day one they stay close to mum, day two they run
away about 10 metres from mum, and by day three they will explore 30-40 metres
A sluggish cria, resting more, and drinking less, not
gaining weight, is of concern. Take its temperature if you have any concerns
about its health. Cria should be between 36.8 and 39.2 C. Outside this range,
call the vet.
Aim to feed
the cria 10% of its body weight daily.
Crias are snackers, needing frequent small feeds. Feed at 4 hourly intervals,
with 6 feeds a day, from daybreak to late evening. You do not need to feed in
the early hours of the morning, as alpacas sleep then.
As an example,
a 6 kg cria gets a minimum of 600 mls a day, in 6 feeds of 100 ml.
bottle, with a lamb teat, is suitable for cria feeding. Keep all cria feeding
equipment sterile, as you would for a human baby, using boiling water and a
disinfectant like Virkon.
An exception to this
feeding regime is
small frail cria. They
may need feeding every 1.5 to 2 hours, around the clock, for the first three
days. Get specialist advice and assistance.
Cria head for dark
areas to nurse, like shed
corners. Put a light on in a shed, so the darkest spot is under mother, as it
would be in the paddock.
the cria stand to feed,
and stretch its neck up to simulate the natural feeding position. This aids the
milk to go in the correct stomach.
I find it
easiest to achieve this posture by straddling the cria, restraining it with my
knees, and having one hand to guide its head back towards me and one hand to
hold the bottle.
Make sure the
cria sucks, so the milk goes down the throat, not squirted into its airways.
Keep the airhole in the base of the teat on the upper side for air to go in and
help the milk to go out.
can be assisted to drink. Pop your finger in its mouth, then slide the teat in.
Hold its mouth closed and slowly stroke its throat to encourage it to swallow.
This may take three hands initially (a second person to do the throat stroking),
but it is possible with two hands.
Cria that will
not suck can be stomach tubed – a job for your vet.
cria with its mother,
and encourage it to feed from her – most will use mum if possible, and may even
run to have a snack from mum after the less palatable human-provided milk. Cria
will eventually reject the bottle if mum is feeding them enough.
As the cria
gets older it will take the bottle front-on.
cria should be kept with the herd, to minimise them imprinting on the human
feeder. It is tempting to pat and cuddle them, but this can cause problems later
as they come into adolescence and adulthood, when they show no respect for the
human that helped them survive.
feeding can follow the Anlamb package recommendation for lambs for the first
three weeks. Reduce down the bottle frequency to 3, then 2, then a single feed a
day as the cria grows. You may like to reduce the quantity and/or the milk
strength over time to wean off gradually as well. Orphan cria need feeding until
4 or 5 months old.
Erik was named for the vet who saved him by caesarean section. The dam did not
bond with her cria, and he was raised on a bottle. A full record of his feeding
was kept and the graph shows his feed.
with the herd, he did begin to get over-friendly, as early as a fortnight old,
and the owners had to steel their heart to keep him at a distance so he learnt
appropriate behaviour with humans. About this time he developed an infection,
and you can see the dip in the graph as he went off his food. He responded to
antibiotics and the food intake went up.
There was a
second dip between weeks 7 and 8 when there was changing frequencies as he moved
from 5 bottles a day to 3 a day. Once on 3 bottles he stabilised again in
intake. By four months old Erik was on two bottles a day, then he was weaned off
to one bottle a day.
In four months
Erik consumed 35 kg Anlamb, 3 boxes of glucose, and 1/2 bottle cod liver oil.
Two milk bottles were used and he wore out one teat.
– small soft drink 500ml size with screw
with a flutter valve - the air hole with ball bearing in it
Anlamb - best
Glucose - for extra energy and sugar
Measuring jars to shake and
make up milk
strainer (ensure no lumps)
bowl, disinfectant solution like Virkon to keep things sterile
similar colostrum substitute in fridge OR
Colostrum frozen in freezer
in small quantities like ice cube tray
syringe to milk the dam
Electrolyte solutions - for hydration
Updated December 2008