September 10, 2012

By: Laurie Findlay

Helpful Hints for the Birthing Season

What do you mean I have 7 cria due in the next 2 weeks!



Box of Plastic Exam Gloves
Novascan Liquid
Vitamin B Complex
Aspirator, Newborn Size
Extra Towels
Extra Sheets
Twice as many cria coats
Hair Dryer
Extension Cords
Radiant Heat
Alpaca Pen set up with food and water
Dr. Pollards Lactating Herb Stimulator
Cell Phone
Vet’s #’s
Neighbor’s Phone #’s
Clear Karo Syrup
Extra Film Canisters
2 Gallon Freezer Zip Lock Bags

These helpful hints are just what they are. I am not an expert but, this was a great help to me when this past month I found I had seven dams due at about the same time and I am alone at the ranch the majority of the time.

The absolute first thing I did was to have a meeting with my pregnant dams and beg them not to give birth at the same time. Thank the Lord they listened and had them a day apart. The month before the seven were due I called my vet and let her know of the impending births. It was nice to know she would not be on vacation and would be available in case any birthing problems should occur. Next, I made sure I had extras of all the items I would expect to use. I also keep them at hand, either in my birthing kit, or in my vet room so when I see a delivery coming I am not running around my house and garage trying to locate everything.

Also, don’t forget to replace items used, like novascan and gloves. We set up a nursery in the back of our barn for newborns. After a delivery, I bring mom and cria to one pen, were we have suspended a radiant heater from the ceiling. It really helps in the cold winter we have here. I have hay, water, and sheets down on the ground ready to dry the cria. I use a hair dryer and have noticed as soon as I start drying the cria and they warm up they begin the suckling motion. As soon as I see that I put the cria coat on or towel and begin to strip the dam’s teats of her plugs. I use a warm moist towel to do this and I haven’t found a dam that doesn’t like the feeling of it. They seem to feel calm once I gently massage their teats.

Once the cria starts looking to nurse it is nice for them not to have to pull the plugs out. We like their first try and nursing to give them good results. If the cria stops suckling, we syringe up some clear Karo syrup and give a small amount orally to the cria. They should get the energy to start suckling again. When the cria is standing I dip the navel with ½ novascan and ½ water in my film canister. Then I sit and watch the cria nursing to make sure they are actually sucking on the teats and swallowing. I then leave them alone to bond. I always give the dam alfalfa hay and her minerals and plenty of water. I find they are really thirsty after giving birth.

One of the things I have observed is sometimes a first time mom does not get the nursing “thing”. Every time the cria wants to nurse, mom just spins around. Since I am alone, I have also let my neighbors know I might be calling them during birthing season in case I might need someone to hold the dam while I put the baby under mom. Keep your neighbors phone numbers programmed into your cell phone.

Vitamin B Complex really comes in handy when a new mom just doesn’t want to get up and nurse her cria. Sometimes as you can imagine the birth is very tiring or traumatic for the dam. We find 5 cc’s SQ of Vitamin B Complex really give mom some energy and boosts her back up so she is willing and ready for her new baby.

I also think it helps to put experience nursing moms next to new moms that have just had a cria. At one time all four of my new cria were nursing at the same time…..peace. Here is a must….don’t forget to put your watch on in the morning. I watch the dam that seems uncomfortable and mark the time. I get everything ready, and keep looking at that dam. Once her water breaks, I get my towels ready and watch her from a distance. Don’t forget, once the cria’s head and legs are out, the dam may rest before pushing again. I will clear the membrane off the cria’s head so it doesn’t inhale fluids. Once the baby drops and after mom has had a chance to sniff it, I gently pick up the cria, swathed in a towel or sheet and carry it up to our barn with mom following. I always face the mom so she can see me taking her baby and will want to follow. I keep track of when labor has started, the length of delivery, when nursing starts and when the placenta has dropped and I add that to my notes on Alpaca Ease (my record keeping program). The next time this dam delivers I will have an idea on how things will go with her.

We have found the 2 gallon Zip Lock bags are perfect for placentas. I write the name of the dam and date of birth of the cria. Like…..Skye cria 3/7/2007, works great when you are dealing with seven births.

Finally you cannot have enough cria coats. I always have extras on hand of all sizes. Suri cria seem to get colder than huacaya cria. I have been know to double coat a cria or put a towel on the cria first with a cria coat over to keep them extra warm.

Remember, don’t panic if things look like they are going wrong. Call your vet and if you have alerted him ahead of time, he will be prepared. I keep my truck hooked up to my trailer pointed in the direction I might be headed in case of an emergency. Update our Alpaca Ease software or whatever you might be using for record keeping. Keep good notes so you can look back next year and have an idea what to expect. Take lots of pictures to show your friends and keep a bottle of wine waiting so you can toast yourself for a job well done. Yes, things might not go smoothly, but most of the times they do and if you are organized and well stocked it will make you feel a lot more confident.

Laurie Findlay
Alpacas of El Dorado