Preparing for your newborn Cria
Preparation is of the utmost importance for ensuring the health and wellbeing of the newborn Cria and its mother. The major things that are required for preparation are good animal husbandry, proper facilities and equipment.
· Know your animals. Knowing what is normal for your animals will be invaluable for detecting subtle changes that may become significant problems down the road. This includes noticing the urination, appetite, drinking, sleeping and fecal output.
· Know your place. Do your animals consider you a predator or are you the leader of the pack.
· Be attentive. Your animals should be handled and used to your presence BEFORE it becomes necessary for you to have to handle them in an emergency. It may be necessary to milk the dam after parturition. Can you do it???
· Body Condition. It is absolutely necessary to physically handle (very difficult to objectively judge condition without feeling the animal through the fiber)or weigh your animal at regular intervals.
· Train yourself. When you halter your animal, are you covering their nostrils, is your halter the right size for the animal that you have?
· Camelids should NOT be eared for restraint
· Can you touch her teats, perineum, genitals, belly etc, WITHOUT stressing the animal?
· Your animals should have access to warm, dry areas such as barns or shelters.
· Your facility should be designed so that it is relatively easy to access all of your animals in case of an emergency.
· You will need easily accessible water and power.
· A scale
· You must have a scale that is accurate down to the ounce or fractions of a pound.
· You must have a scale that is capable of weighing an animal that weighs in access of several hundred pounds
· Feeding supplies
· You should have measuring containers as well as feeding bottles, nipples, feeding tubes and syringes.
· Have colostrums on hand. It can be camelid, cow or goat.
· You should have good quality milk replacer available as well.
· Heaters or fans to keep your little one comfortable. Blow dryers can be handy as well.
· Veterinary supplies. Have dilute povidine iodine or chlorhexidine (nolvasan) handy for dipping navels. Thermometers and stethoscopes are good to have. Do you know how to use them?
· The average gestation length of llamas and alpacas is 346 days plus or minus 8. Fall matings are associated with a gestation length that is often 12 days shorter then spring matings.
· Nearly all fetuses are carried in the left uterine horn.
· More then 90% of camelid births occur between sunrise and mid-day. Females that begin labor in the afternoon may represent a possible dystocia. 1st stage labor may difficult to detect.
· The mammary gland begins to enlarge (slightly) 2-3 weeks prior to parturition, the teats may become waxy 3-4 days prior to parturition.
· 1st stage labor– This stage normally lasts less then 2 hours. Signs may include loss of appetite, restlessness, increased humming, increased visits to the dung pile without urination or defecation. First stage labor longer then 4-6 hours may indicate impending dystocia.
· 2nd stage labor-Expulsion of the fetus. The stage begins with the appearance of fetal membranes, fluid or fetal body parts. This stage should NOT exceed 45 minutes. Crias often have what is called an epidermal membrane present that functions to keep the fiber dry during parturition. This thin membrane does not cover the mouth and does not need to be removed. Placental membranes that cover the mouth MUST be removed if the dam does not immediately remove it.
· 3rd stage labor-Expulsion of the placenta. The placenta is often expelled shortly after the cria first drinks due to the stimulation of oxytocin release. It is generally released between 1-6 hours postpartum. Longer then 12 hours warrants calling your veterinarian.
· Lochia- Redish-brown, gelatinous lochia with NO odor is normal for 7-10 days.
· Failure of Progression
· Persistent labor with no changes in perineum or vulva.
· Fluid sac broken but no cria
· Dam has been pushing, but gets exhausted and begins to give up.
· Inadequate blood levels of calcium, magnesium, glucose, selenium etc.
· Mechanical Causes
· Uterine Torsion-Generally occur in last month of gestation, but as early as 7 months. Often manifest as severe abdominal pain. There are surgical and nonsurgical ways to correct uterine torsion.
· Failure of Cervical Dilation
· Fetal/maternal mismatch-Cria will NOT be coming out in one piece without a C-section.
· Congenital defects
Postpartum Care of the Neonate
Immediately post partum- It is generally not necessary nor a good idea to interfere with the dam and cria immediately after birth as this may lead to a disruption of the maternal bond. This can lead to decreased care by the mother. However, be aware because if any problems do arise it is best to intervene earlier then later.
· Post partum emergencies-
· Not breathing-
· With CLEAN hands clear the nostrils, mouth and throat.
Peripartum-After allowing time for the mother and cria to bond a quick physical exam should be performed.
· Check for broken bones, heart beating, suckle reflex
· Dip Navel– ONLY dip the navel if you believe that you will be able to dip the navel several times a day for a few days, as you can actually make things WORSE if you do not follow up.
· Let the mother finish up cleaning etc.
· Should attempt to stand within 15-30 minutes
· Be able to stand within 1 hour
· Attempt to nurse as soon as standing
· If cria does not successfully nurse within 2 hours consider assisting.
· ***Cria should get MOM’s colostrums within 4-6 hours. EARLY is better!***
· After cria is walking some, move cria and dam to the cria pen.
· Body weight-Should be taken at least daily. Alpacas generally weigh 10-20lbs (~5-10kg). Llamas generally weigh 18-35 lbs (~9-18kg).
· It is not unusual for alpaca and llama crias to lose 0.12-0.25kg and 0.25kg-0.5kg respectively in their first 24 hours.
· After 24 hours the cria should gain that same amount daily.
· Most crias double weight by end of first month.
· Incisors-Should have 4 incisors erupted (otherwise possibly premature.
· Joint laxity/Limb deformities
· Normal temperature, heart, lung, gut sounds?
· T 100-102
· HR 60-90/min (murmurs?)
· RR 10-30/min
***Please call your veterinarian if you have any questions regarding the health of your cria or the mother***
Camelid Plant Poisonings
Llamas and alpacas are generally very good at avoiding strange (and possibly poisonous) plants. However, there is always the possibility of a feed additive or a nonselective eater that can result in ingestion. This article is a LIMITED selection of poisonous plants that you may encounter. Much of the information provided is taken from an article presented by Dr. Murray E. Fowler, DVM at the 2009 UC Davis Camelid Symposium.
General information: Oleander is an ornamental shrub that is often planted on freeway medians or decoratively as a wind or visual break. It is not ingested by most animals in the “live” state. FOR GOOD REASON! Most often it is eaten by animals when trimmed leaves and branches are either dumped or blow into the pasture and are consumed dry.
Identification: Oleander may have blooms of red, pink or white. The leaves are long and slender with secondary leaf veins that run perpendicular to the axis of the leaf. The dried leaves of the oleander and the eucalyptus appear nearly the same. However, you may notice that the eucalyptus leaf (below right) has secondary veins that run at more of a 45 degree angle to the axis of the leaf.
Toxic Principle: Oleander leaves contain cardiac glycosides. Cardiac glycosides cause degenerative lesions in the heart and electrolyte disorders. The action is similar to the drug “digitalis” which is used for its actions upon the heart. The lethal dose, depending upon the size of the animals, is between 1 and 4 large leaves.
Symptoms: The symptoms of oleander poisonings may include diarrhea (often bloody), colic, cardiac dysfunction and dyspnea. Most often the only symptom is rapid death!
Treatment: In the unlikely event that an animal is diagnosed with oleander poisoning the first treatment is gastrotomy and removal of the leaves from the stomach. Treatment is rarely successful as the heart is often damaged beyond repair.
General Information: Rhododendrons are a member of the heather family of plants. There are literally hundreds of members of the heather family and MOST are NOT poisonous (i.e. blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries) . Some of the other poisonous members of the heather family include Rhododendrons (Rhododendrons, western azalea, California rosebay), Kalmia (alpine laurel, mountain laurel, lambkill, sheepkill, dwarf laurel, bog laurel)…
Toxic Principle: Rhododendrons (and its “cousins”) contain complex glycoside, andromedotoxin or grayanotoxin.
Symptoms: The symptoms of poisonings include anorexia, coughing, choking, retching, foaming at the mouth, vomiting, colic, paralysis, depression, groaning, muscle twitching and death.
Treatment: Supportive care and activated charcoal.
General Information: A number of different plants contain compounds called pyrrolizine Alkaloids. These include groundsel (senecio), fiddleneck (amsinckia) and Comfrey. Senecio and fiddleneck are common weeds in alfalfa and oat hay fields and if proper care is not taken they may be baled into the hay.
Toxic Principle: The toxin in these plants is a liver toxin. The toxin may take weeks, months or years to cause effect as it is toxin of accumulation. It will gradually begin to cause liver dysfunction/nonfunction.
Symptoms: The symptoms of poisoning are neurologic symptoms, incoordination, tremors, icterus, recumbency and eventually death.
Treatment: There is no true treatment of this poisoning as the liver damage is nonreversible.
General Information: Sudan grass is a major forage source and occasionally used as a hay feed. Heavy fertilization (nitrates) or accumulation of nitrates in low areas of fields can cause toxic levels of nitrates in the hay as Sudan grass is a “nitrate accumulator”. Sudan Grass is also a cyanide accumulator.
1. Nitrate is converted in the stomach to nitrite. Nitrite bonds to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells and decreases its ability to carry oxygen.
2. Cyanide poisons the energy production pathways of cells.
1. Difficulty breathing, brownish “chocolate” blood, collapse and death.
2. Excitement, tremors, “Cherry” red blood, difficulty breathing, convulsions, death within 15-30 minutes.
1. New methylene blue IV.
2. Sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate.
Note: There are MANY other poisonous plants that could be listed, however they are beyond the scope of this publication.