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Newborn Cria Care PDF Print E-mail

by Country Animal Hospital

1. Most normal crias will start attempting to stand by ½ hour, succeeding by 1 hour after birth. Once they are up, they start attempting to nurse (usually start trying around 1 hour, succeeding by 3-4 hours).

2. Once the dam and cria have bonded (usually when nursing is established), start dipping the navel with iodine or chlorohexidene (repeat 2-3 times daily for 1-2 days) and weigh the baby. Normal (“average”) alpaca babies weigh at least 12 pounds: llamas, at least 18 pounds.

3. Normal babies nurse 2-3 times per hour and for a few seconds to a few minutes per session. They should gain ¼ to 1 pound each day after the first day or so (we want the trend to be upward—losing weight is not normal after the first day or so). Weigh your baby everyday—it’s a good (and cheap!) way to make sure things are going well.

4. Meconium is babies first “poop”—it is very sticky and brown, some babies have trouble passing it, and need the help of an enema (we recommend the human adult sized Fleet enemas-insert carefully into rectum and squeeze just enough fluid in that you get a little resistance—you won’t use the whole thing). Some people routinely give enemas to every cria, others wait to see if the baby starts straining. My feeling is that if you have any doubt, go ahead and give one—we’ve never seen a cria suffer from having an enema, but have seen life-threatening meconium impactions.

5. Colostrum—this is so important for the health of your new baby! Crias get NO immunity in the womb, it all comes in the first 24-36 hours of life from mom’s first milk. This first milk is called colostrum. If mom doesn’t have any, or baby is too weak to suckle properly, you need to provide it. We usually have some of colostrum on hand for emergencies, but it’s not a bad idea for you to have some of your own for “insurance.” Sheep, goat, or cow colostrums are reasonable substitutes for camelid babies. A new baby should get 10-20 % of their body weight of colostrum the first 24 hours (so a 20 lb baby needs 2 lbs of milk which is about 1 quart, divide into 4-6 feedings every 4-6 hours).

6. Failure of Passive Transfer (“FPT”)—this describes what happens when a new baby doesn’t get enough immunity from colostrum. If a cria has FPT, it doesn’t automatically mean she will become ill, but she is much more susceptible to problems. For this reason, we recommend IgG testing new crias at 24-48 hours of age. The IgG test tells us how much immunity the baby got from her colostrum. If it’s too low, we have the option of giving a plasma transfusion to “cover” the cria until her own immune system kicks in at several weeks of age. We recommend this test on all new babies. You have a large investment of time and money in this cria, you want to make sure you prevent problems rather than having to treat them!

7. Temperature—help dry off the baby to prevent chilling. Crias that have low body temperature (hypothermia) use up extra energy that they need. Crias aren’t very good at regulating their temperature and so they may vary widely from 100-102.5F. If your several hour old cria isn’t acting normally, take her temperature, and if it’s consistently under 100 F, warm her up. A couple ideas: Put the baby in a box with the head out, and use a hair dryer through another hole in the box to “shoot” in hot air, or wrap the baby in a plastic bag (with the head out!) and dunk in a warm water bath (you don’t want to get the baby wet).

8. Vitamin injections—BoSe is a form of selenium. Most places in Western Washington are selenium “marginal” so we will often give the babies a little (1/4 to ½ cc) selenium their first week of life. It helps prevent something called White Muscle Disease and helps with the immune system. As with almost everything in camelid medicine, it is controversial. We usually do it, we’ve never seen it hurt a baby and it may be helpful. Vitamin D (usually mixed with vitamins A and E)—this is very important in our area, many crias without Vitamin D supplementation develop rickets, especially the fall/winter babies who don’t get much sunlight while they are growing. We’ve always recommended giving the paste every 2 weeks until there is enough summer sun. Lots of people are now using the injection because it lasts longer, so you don’t have to do it as often. The dose is 1000-2000 IU/kg body weight which works out to about 0.1 ml of the 75000 IU Vit D/ml product for an 10 lb cria. Give this in the first week, repeat every 2-3 months in winter for the first 1-2 years. Many people recommend giving the injections in November, February, and April (take the summer off).

9. Vaccines—even though camelids are said to be immunocompetent (ie able to respond to a vaccine) at birth, we don’t see why they would need vaccines if they are well protected by their mother’s immunity. For that reason, we don’t recommend starting CD&T vaccines until 3-4 months of age. An exception would be if your baby is going off to a big breeding farm earlier in life, you may want to start prior to leaving your farm. CD&T vaccine is given under the skin, we use a 3 cc dose. All babies need a booster 4 weeks after the first, at weaning, then annually.

Info above gleaned from several sources: Fowler’s Camelid book, experience, and from the notes from several years of the annual Camelid Health courses given at various veterinary schools.

As always, don’t hesitate to call if you have questions about this information.

"A friendly reminder: You and your veterinarian are ultimately responsible for the care of your alpacas. All drug dosages should be confirmed prior to using medications unfamiliar to you."