Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Care for a Cria

A cria is a baby llama or alpaca. They are born after an eleven to twelve-month gestation. Generally no special care is needed, the young cria stands and drinks on its own and can be left with its mother. Often delivery happens in the daytime and with the mother in a standing position, always alert to danger.  Here are steps on how to care for the mother and cria.

Newborn Crias

Supervise to see that the newborn cria is breathing and is able to stand and nurse on its own. Try not to interfere as this can be stressful to both animals, however if the cria is unable to nurse after two hours you may want to assist.
The newborn's naval should be dipped in seven percent iodine.
Be sure mother and cria are not in the hot sun, or bad weather. Ideally they should be kept in a large, clean, stall or small pen for the first few days.
You may want to weight it to monitor growth and condition, however this is not necessary, and most people simply leave the mother and cria on the pasture.
The baby should pass meconium (first stool), but if it is straining may require a enema (rarely needed).

If there are problems

If the mother refuses to allow the cria to nurse she may need to be restrained to allow the cria to suck, and monitored to see if she will accept it. If she does not, the cria should be removed and bottle fed.
If the cria is too weak to drink on its own it should be given something to drink to boost its energy. This should be its own mother's milk (llamas can be tricky to milk) or goat colostrum. Goat colostrum may be purchased from a goat farmer, veterinarian, or livestock feed store.
If the mother does not accept the cria, or has died, the young one will need to be bottle fed regularly. In addition to the goat colostrum for its first day, the following meals should be of goat replacement formula. In the first day it should be fed every three hours, and every six hours over night. The following day meals can be every four hours with a six hour stretch overnight. It will need to be kept in a stall for the first few days to enable catching and to keep it safe.

Author's llama and young cria

General care for mother and cria

The mother llama, or alpaca, should be fed a healthy diet, and given plenty of water. She will probably need a good drink especially after giving birth. After delivering, her grain should be reduced for the first 12 hours to reduce risk of her developing mastitis.
The mother and cria should be checked several times a day, signs of a weak cria (sleeping, standing hunched) should be investigated as it may not be getting enough to drink.
Female llamas and alpacas do not produce a lot of milk, you will not see a large udder on the mother, as such the cria must drink several times during the day.
After the first couple of days try to handle the cria for short periods of time each day as this will help it with social skills towards people.
Do not hesitate to call a veterinarian if there are any other concerns.

Weaning can take place around six months of age.  Gelding/castration can take place anytime after 4 months of age, and ideally before 2 years of age.  The age at which a male llama, or alpaca, is castrated will affect his further development.

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