What Is Normal?
After delivery, the cria will usually stand and drink from the dam within half an hour. If the cria is not up and drinking within three hours of birth, veterinary attention should be sought to assess and perhaps give fluids or plasma.
At birth, a cria’s temperature should be between 36.8-38.6°C. A low body temperature is serious and attempts to warm the cria up should be made.
Drying and warming cria using heat lamps, towels, hot water bottles etc are all recommended and well-known treatments.
In the case of low enrgy , IV fluids are often required but early intervention on farm often makes the difference between success and failure. Initial on-farm treatment can include 20ml of 40-50% dextrose (glucose) solution, given orally. Alternatively, smearing honey or golden syrup inside the mouth of a collapsed cria can be a life-saver while waiting for IV fluids.
For the first three weeks of a cria’s life, it has no functional immune system of its own. The colostrum that the cria drinks in the first 24 hours of life contains all the antibodies that it will receive for those first three weeks of its life. If a cria does not get sufficient colostrum, or the colostrum quality is poor, it cannot absorb antibodies properly and the chances of that cria dying are greatly increased. The average death rate in alpaca cria in the USA is 10% within the first three weeks of life. Of these deaths, 90% are due to septicaemia and the cria’s inability to fight infections.
10% of all alpaca cria born have inadequate colostrum absorption in the first 24 hours of life. Cold, stressed or premature cria have a gut absorption rate for antibodies of about 2%, compared with 26% in a healthy cria. Cria that are likely to have problems with either obtaining adequate colostrum intake or having adequate colostrum antibody absorption are called the “at-risk” group.
The at-risk group would include the following:
- Premature cria
- Cria that fail to stand and suckle within three hours of birth
- Weak, cold, slow cria
- Any cria that requires assistance for delivery where the procedure lasted >15 minutes
- Cria born to known “problem females” - these would be those hembras that have had cria die in previous years in the first few weeks of life
- Cria born to old, weak or sick females, especially if their body condition is less than average
- Cria born to females with mastitis
- Cria born to stroppy females who will not let them suckle. Maiden hembras often fall into this category.
The antibodies supplied in colostrum are called globulins (IgG), and these levels can be directly measured by doing a blood test.
Should a cria require additional feeding, it is usually necessary to use a form of milk replacer – there is a special replacer available. If a milk replacer is needed, feed 10% of the cria’s body-weight divided into 6+ feeds over the day. Feeding more than 200ml in a single feed is not advised as spill-over into the intestines can occur resulting in diarrhoea (milk scour).