At risk Cria

At risk Cria

Do you have a cria at risk?After a wait of nearly 12 months and possibly longer, to lose your cria due to some avoidable issues is a real shame. Here is a useful check list of some of the more common things that could go wrong in the first few days of your new cria’s life. You might follow the advice of one owner who said “If it looks like a serious problem it probably is and have the cria evaluated by your vet”. Sign of a cria at risk –

  • Premature– is the cria early? This may be difficult to assess if the mother was paddock mated. Most Dam’s seem to follow a similar pattern year on year so if the Dam has a history of shorter pregnancies then it would be wise to watch her each year. The normal gestation range is 335 to 355 days and this covers around 80% to 90% of births. But this also means that 10% to 20% fall outside this range. Do bear in mind that a Dysmature cria, one who at full term or possibly longer, yet the incisor teeth have not erupted and is not a normal vigorous cria should also be monitored as an at risk cria and evaluated according to conditions
  • Droopy ears. A common sign of prematurity. It is also a sign of a weak cria as they begin feeding the ears will normally perk up
  • Teeth.You should be able to feel the teeth have erupted through the gums at birth although they may still have some pink membrane over them at this stage.
  • Down on the Pastern.The pastern is the bone from the toe to the first joint of the ankle. Cria’s down on the pasterns will look as if they are walking on their wrist
  • Ability to suckle. When you put a finger in a cria’s mouth you would expect it to suckle. A weak cria will have a weak suck reflex. This could also indicate a cria that is mentally impaired through lack of oxygen or other birth trauma.
  • Cria showing some form of respiratory difficulty. Open mouth breathing, gasping gulping mouthfuls of air or in the extreme no breathing but appears to be alive. Begin by check there are no membranes obstructing the cria then brisk rubbing the body with a towel may be sufficient to stimulate breathing. Holding the cria over your shoulder so that the neck, head and front legs hang down the front of your body will help to drain any fluids from its mouth. In extreme case artificial respiration can be attempted though if the cria has not started to breath by its self the success rate is low.
  • Ability to remain in the cush position. The cria that can not hold itself in cush will probably need medical attention. It is a good indication of the baby’s strength.
  • Low body weight. It is commonly reported that the cria weights for New Zealand alpacas is 6kg to 8kgs. We have commonly had 8kg to 10kg babies. A baby for us at 6kgs is a baby that we will monitor closely and those under 5kgs we consider a cria at risk. Weight gain should be 1 to 1.5 kgs per week. A good rule of thumb is that cria will double their birth weight by 30 days. There are always exceptions to this rule however and last season we had a cria at 11kg birth weight and by 20 days was 20kgs. The Dam had an udder like a cow and fed her baby well.
  • Bleeding from the navel. Some bleeding form the navel can occur but it should be no more than a drip. If you are concerned call your vet.

In the first 6 hours of a Cria’s life you would expect it to be on its feet and exploring its surrounding within the first few hours after birth. It should be alert and actively looking for the udder. You may see it sucking on everything especially dark corners.

By the end of the 6 hours it should have found the udder and learned how to suck. During this time it is sometimes difficult to see if they have actually found any milk. A milk mustache is a good sign. Another clue is the tail; this goes up and over the cria’s back when they are looking for the teat and drops down again when they are actively nursing. I

t may be necessary to help the weaker cria to find the first drink by holding its head under the udder and assisting the cria to find the teat. As soon as the cria has had some milk they will become stronger and able to do this for themselves. Giving a small amount of glucose (a dilution of 60mils of water and two table spoons of glucose) fed by a small syringe can be helpful. You will find the cria starts to suck on the syringe. Take care not to force the fluid in to the cria. We want them to swallow not breath the glucose. I have found this a magic solution for a sleepy cria, it seems to give them that energy boost that they need to have another go at sucking from mum.

Do remember to put iodine on the navel during this period.

By the first 24 hours the cria should be alternating between activity and sleep. If the cria is nursing well it will be actively sucking every 2 to 3 hours and will get all the milk it needs in about 5 minutes. After a good nursing they will often lie down and promptly go to sleep.

If you see the cria nursing every 30 to 60 minutes then it might be a good idea to check the Dam has sufficient milk. During the activity periods you should see the cria exploring its surrounding and interacting with other cria. Pay attention to cria who are not up and running around are listless or are asleep most of the time.

Nursing is important during this first 24 hours because this is the only time the cria can absorb the colostrum Another factor to consider is the time of day the cria is born. Traditionally it has been said that alpacas birth in daylight hours between 10 and 2. If you have a cria born outside these times you have a potential cria at risk.

We are finding an increasing number of Dams birthing in the evening and early morning (ie the cria is up and dry by 8.00 in the morning) Although these cria may have no problems we would still monitor them closely and do not forget the Dam who may have been having difficulty giving birth and need some attention herself.

Certainly an early evening birth we would call the vet, even if this was only for the peace of mind that all is well. Generally alpacas settle down at night and a cria born at the end of the day may not be able to nurse properly during those first 12 hours.

This is not an exhaustive list of the indications of a cria at risk but hopefully some help in assessing you’re cria in the first 24 hours. At risk cria may need monitoring for the first few weeks of life.

Cria checklist

First stand and observe

  • is it breathing normally?
  • is its temperature comfortable not to hot not too cold?
  • is it standing or attempting to stand within 30 minutes? You might have to intervene before the end of the 30 minutes if you consider the cria at risk for other factors
  • is there minimum umbilical bleeding?
  • is it nursing or attempting to nurse?
  • any problems with the legs face or other obvious abnormalities?
  • are the ears upright?
  • overall does this look like a healthy cria?
  • is it bonding to the Dam?

Hands on

  • is the weight within normal range?
  • have the teeth erupted
  • take the temperature if you are concerned
  • apply iodine to the navel you can check the sex at this stage if you haven’t already!

The book Llama and Alpaca Neonatal Care by Brad Smith, K Timms and P Long is an excellent book for your
library and your local vet should be consulted if you have concerns.

Posted: Sun 22 Jul 2012

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