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Monday, June 01 2009

This is part of a continuing series on cria care from Double 8 Alpacas.

So the cria has been born.  Now What??

Here is what we do here at Double 8 Alpaca Ranch.

After the cria is out, we try to stay away and let mom bond with the new cria.  Once we see that the cria and dam are bonding well, we then come into the picture to make sure everything looks normal; two eyes, four legs, is it a boy or girl, are the teeth erupted, is there a good suckle reflex, are the teeth erupted?  Assuming all is normal, we will disinfect the umbilicus with a nolvasan solution and set the cria in a nice cush position and wait to see if it stands.  We will set the cria in front of mom, if she's a maiden and doesn't seem at first interested.  It's amazing to see the "it's MY cria light bulb" switch come on when she realizes that this new and beautiful criation belongs to her! The cria is usually up pretty quickly.  It's not abnormal to have a cria walking around in twenty minutes.  Its first instinct is to search for food. It's a good sign to see a cria start suckling when it cushes for the first time.  We know this cria is not going to have any problems finding the milk supply.  While the cria is looking for milk under mom, Bonnie makes the teats ready for nursing.  She pulls off the waxy tips off each of the teats and makes sure there is milk by a gentle downward tug on one or more teat. She will even rub a little milk on the cria's lips, which turns on the "nursing light bulb" for some crias who are struggling to find the milk supply.  If a cria is too weak or is a "stall nurser...aka dum, dum syndrome", Bonnie will milk out 4cc or more from the dam and syringe feed it to the cria.  In most cases, just this small amount will give the cria a burst of energy and it will be able to find the milk supply for its next drink.  We have also had good  luck with IGG test results using this method.   Because crias are born without an immune system, getting the first milk (colostrum)into the cria is very important.  More on colostrum and IGGs in the next blog entry.

So now your new cria is walking and feeding itself.  Now the back end has to start working.  We especially like it when the cria urinates right after nursing, then we know its getting a plentiful supply of milk from mom.  Next we need to see it defecate.  The first expulsion will be meconium.  This is the black or burnt orange, compressed or sticky or even long stringy excrement that has been in the cria's intestines during its time in the womb.  If compressed, it might be a bit difficult for a cria to get it out.  And, it has to come out in order for the intestines to start absorbing the milk that is going in the other end.  If a cria is having a difficult time passing the meconium, you will see it straining at the dung pile, and it even might stop nursing,and seem lethargic.  Most crias will push out the meconium in the first couple of hours, and you might even see additional pieces in the next few bowel movements. We've even seen more meconium up to a day later.  If you have not been watching, there is a good chance you will not find it unless it's stuck to their back leg.  We don't always have time to just sit around watching crias go the bathroom.  What we do is just watch the cria, as is normally the case with alpacas, they will let you know what is bothering them if you just look.  If the cria is straining in the poop position it may be time to intervene.  Our first method is to just take a rectal temperature.  It's good to get a temp any way on the newborn cria, plus a little lube on the thermometer will also lube the rectum and make the cria feel like it needs to make a bowel movement.  But be gentle and don't pack anything in any harder than it already is.  If that doesn't work, we step up to a warm soapy water enema and if that doesn't work, we will give a mineral oil enema.  Just a small squirt should do it.  It isn't always immediately successful, but if you wait, you will normally see it work.  Sometimes you have a cria that is having an extremely difficult time moving the meconium.  In those cases we have used fleet enema, but use extreme caution as this can cause the cria to go the opposite way into diarrhea. I also don't like the way it makes the cria cramp and you will see them really straining at the dung pile, even after they've passed the meconium of fecal matter.  Again a small squirt will do and it is usually immediate.

Next time, we will talk about IGGs and Cria/Dam Vaccinations.

Posted by: Doug Kittrell AT 06:50 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 01 2009

This is the next in a series of blog entries from Double 8 Alpaca Ranch.  Today's topic is Dystocia births. 

Double 8 Remembrance (Remy) hails from our Elvira line of females.  His mother is an Elvira daughter, Hearts on Fire.  You can read about Elvira ->> This was Heart's first cria.   Heart was running a bit late at 358 days gestation, but we were not really worried about that.  She was not in any distress and we saw plenty of movement.  For days, little Remy had been pushing on Heart's anus and had protruded quite a bit under her tail.  All normal things you may see prior to delivery.  On birthing day, Heart showed all the normal signs; a couple trips to the dung pile, rubbing her side on the fence (just as Elvira did),  some scratching at the ground (just like her mom, amazing how similar they are). 

The birth began with the normal nose and toes.  So far so good.  Then one leg came out followed by the head.  What was odd about the presentation was that one leg was much farther out than the other.  The other leg had only a foot, bent at the ankle out. The hardest thing about delivering crias is to just sit on your hands.  But we kept just sitting. Twenty minutes had gone by, no change. Thirty minutes, no change.  It was time to take a look at what was going on.  Bonnie first tried the "traction" method described in the previous blog entry.  This time that other leg did not budge. Maybe it was just stuck at the lip of Heart's vulva.  Some OB gloves and some lube should help.  Bonnie put two fingers in and tried to massage the leg out the opening.  Still no further movement.  Looks like we are going to have to go in and find out what is going on.  First a call to the vet.  Perfect, Dr. Nancy Lee is only ten minutes away (This stuff always happens on a holiday weekend).  Bonnie reaches further into the vulva opening and and tries to unstick Remy. He has one leg folded as if he were cushed and it is crossed under the leg that is sticking out of mom.  There isn't enough room for the leg to unfold and it can't come out unless it gets straightened.  Right on cue, Dr. Lee arrives.  The vet was able to push the other leg up to its shoulder back into the birth canal (where there is more room to manipulate the cria) and then, with both hands inside Heart up to her elbows, Dr. Lee was able to manipulate the leg so that it was parallel with the other leg.  Once both were pointing in the same direction, out came Remy.

This was a hard delivery for Heart.  She was in a lot of discomfort afterwards and stood for a good part of the day and evening.  We administered banamine for the pain and swelling, which helped her relax and cush for the night.  We also started her on antibiotics since both Bonnie and Dr. Lee had to go inside.

A quick word about the cria.  Our veterinarian came out the following day to do our normal dam/cria check, and she also examined the cria's legs.  His leg ligaments seemed to be a bit over stretched.  He must have been growing in the womb with his legs crossed.  When he stood, his legs would just fold inward like a gumby doll. The vet recommended to keep him quiet (leaving him and mom in the 12 X 20 pen for a few days to allow the ligaments to strengthen without doing any damage to the cartlidge) By day four, the legs had started to strengthen and straighten out, and as I look at him eight days after being born, he is a straight as he should be.  The crias tend to bounce back from these things pretty quickly.  Never underestimate their fortitude.

If you would like to talk more about this birth or have any comments please feel free to post a comment or call us at 609-758-7560

-Bonnie and Doug

Posted by: Doug Kittrell AT 06:19 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, June 01 2009

Double 8 Alpaca Ranch is going to be doing a new series of blog entries each week.  The blogs will have information about our alpaca farm pre and post birthing protocol for crias and their dams.  Today we start the first entry.

We've had a short break in between cria deliveries since Oreo gave birth to Double Stuff on Mother's day.  Since then we have had four more boys born on the farm.  And as usual with alpacas, each and every birth comes with its own set of challenges and joy.

First up was the aforementioned Double Stuff.  Stuff's dam, Oreo has always been a sneaky mom, delivering when no one is around or watching.  She normally waits until we go into the house and then runs out to the pasture, delivers the cria and has it up and nursing and walking back to the barn within an hour.  But for this Mother's day, she decided to have a cria in public view.  She started to show signs of labor at 9:30 AM (frequent visits to dung pile, sitting and rolling slightly onto her hip, looking back towards her backend and getting up & down frequently).  This went on for 2 hours.  I was a little worried, because Oreo has never been in labor this long.  I was starting to worry that it was a torsion, but she wasn't rolling violently, only sitting with a slight roll onto her hip...not a back and forth roll and not a laid-out roll on her entire side.  So, our vet asked us to watch her for one more hour and if nothing progresses, she would come out and palpate to investigat the cria position.  Sure enough just before the hour was up, we saw the ball....  It was a normal presentation of "nose and toes".  She started with just a nose and then two long legs popped out of the sac and out the back end.  But this time (Oreo's 5th cria) she had some difficulty clearing the shoulders. The cria hung and drained from mom's backend as is normal, but after a about a 30 minutes of hanging around, we couldn't sit on our hands any longer.  Bonnie applied an ever so slight amount of traction at the same time the dam had a contraction, holding the cria above the knee.  When we do this, Bonnie does NOT pull on the cria.  The object is to just give a little more weight to the cria, while the dam has a contraction so that gravity can do its job. That slight traction was enough for Double Stuff to come sliding out.  He was up and nursing within 20 minutes. Total Gestation - 355 days.  We believe this birth was different than Oreo's normal deliveries, because this cria was a good 5 lbs bigger than her previous average cria birth weights. 

Next up, or should I say out, was Black Jaucque (Jack) out of MKC Belverdere's French Kiss (Frenchy).  Jack's delivery was similar to Double Stuff's.  A normal delivery.  Total Gestation - 344 days.

Third was Double 8 Remembrance (Remy), born on Memorial day. This birth was a slight dystocia which you can read about in the next entry.  So far, all of the births this spring have started with the female showing signs of being in labor around 9:00 AM (one female cushed right next to the dung area, all of them were up & down, cushing and standing near the dung area) ....and most of the cria have been born between 11:30 AM - Noon.


Posted by: Doug Kittrell AT 05:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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