Alpaca Cria Care

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A baby alpaca is called a cria. The average gestation period for alpacas is 350+ days. The best time of year to have female alpacas give birth is either spring or early fall.  The birthing date is hard to anticipate so be prepared in advance. Close to the due date it is recommended that you move the pregnant female to a pasture close to the house so you can monitor the female’s progress. The males should be kept in a separate pasture so that they don’t harm the female or cria when it is born. Crias are normally born during the morning or into the early afternoon and will usually be born with no required intervention. Births in the late afternoon or into the evening may indicate a problem.   

There are three stages to a cria birth:

Stage 1- outward signs of birth are not always obvious. Look for discomfort, frequent humming, and frequent visits to the poop pile, wandering away from the herd, and frequent lying down and immediate getting up. 

Stage 2- contractions will begin as the fetus enters the birth canal. The cria should be born approximately 30 minutes after this begins (with first time females it is normal if the time goes a little over). The cria may “hang” for up to 20 minutes -this is normal and helps with initiating lung function. 

Stage 3- the placenta should be dropped 45-60 minutes after birth. You want to check the placenta to make sure it is intact and has no holes in it.

Complications that can occur:  

  • Stage 1 has gone for 4-6 hours with no signs of progress.
  • Stage 2 extends longer than 30 minutes
  • There is a malpresentation- less than two front legs, no head (twisted back), or a tail showing (breech birth)
  • The placenta is retained more than 6 hours after birth. It should be expelled in one piece. You want to remove the afterbirth and dispose of it appropriately as it contains harmful chemicals if consumed.

 You should call a vet immediately in any of these cases.  

Things you need to do: 

  • Rub cria briskly over the head and body with a towel and remove any remaining birth membranes from mouth and nose. If air temperature is cool you may want to use a hair dryer to dry the cria.
  • Using a small jar or plastic film container, dip the umbilical cord in disinfectant (iodine) within the first few hours, this will dry the umbilical cord and helps prevent infection.
  • If it is cool outside the cria may require a coat to keep it warm. You can buy cria coats or you can use bubble wrap packing material. Put this over the back and secure it under the belly with adhesive tape. Do not cover the tail because it is a major scent area. The bubble wrap works just as well as a coat.
  • Recording the following information can help you check the development of the cria:

 1.   Weight – Have a birth weight of 14-20 pounds. Daily weighing of the cria will provide feedback. Crias generally gain weight at around 7-8 ounces per day and should double their birth weight in one month. 

2. Temperature and Respiration – The cria should have a normal temperature between 100°-102° and also have easy respiration. 

3. Feeding – Be attempting to nurse within 1 hour and nursing within 4 hours. The cria will not nurse if his/her temperature is not in the normal range. 

4. Behavior – The cria should be active almost immediately, sit up in the kush position within 5-10 minutes, be attempting to stand within 30 minutes and standing within 2-3 hours. The initial bonding between cria and mom is vital. Observe the development of both mom and cria and watch for sings of healthy progress in the cria. 

Premature crias can be best identified by:

·         Lack of dental development

·         Lack of energy

·         Difficulty with breathing and/or poor poop muscle tone

·         Lax leg tendons

·         Floppy ears 

Fully developed crias have correct dental development when you can just see the tips of the central incisors erupting through the gums. 

Cria that have been in utero for the correct length of gestation but arrive in an immature state are called dysmature. 

Both premature and dysmature crias should be observed very closely and may require intervention if they are to survive. 

The first milk from the mother is called colostrum, which is thick and creamy and provides the newborn cria with essential nutrients and the only source of antibodies to help prevent infection. The cria must nurse 12 hours after birth to gain maximum benefit from the colostrum.  Initial nursing is often the reason for the afterbirth to be expelled from the mother and will aid further production of milk supply.  High quality nutrition for the female before and during birth will ensure good milk production and supply. 

Twin births are very rare. If this does occur one of the crias might not survive and they will be very small. 

Weaning: Many females will wean their cria on their own. There are also a lot that don’t.  The average age for waning is 6 months unless there are adverse conditions like: 

·         The mother is in poor condition – (wean early around 5 months)

·         If cria is growing well and is spending a lot of time grazing – (wean early around 5 months)

·         It is the middle if winter – (delay weaning if you live in a cold region, at around 7 months) 

Successful weaning is best achieved with cria and mother out of sight and earshot of each other. Do not wean the cria in isolation. Let it run with other weanlings.

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29 Responses to “Alpaca Cria Care”

  1. Molly Says:

    is it possible that acria born a little too early, can still be in breech posistion , like a human. That stress could have brought on teh cria’s birth and it was still in breech position?

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  4. Thora Madhavan Says:

    Alpacas have soft wool, that is in great demand right now. It is not itchy like sheep wool can be, and is quite often used to make baby clothes it is so soft. Besides, being cute and cuddly looking, they can be a great investment in the United States right now.

  5. Mulch Says:

    Thanks a lot for this, I am greatful for the info

  6. Dale Haydon Says:

    how long is it after birth that the cria will start pooping.

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  9. pam Says:

    How much weight should a weaned cria be gaining per day/week? We have a bottle fed cria who was born late June and has done great but now going into our second month of winter seems to be backtracking a little.Would beginnig to give hime one bottle a day as a booster be helpful to him,we,ve been trying to get him to eat rain but he does not seem to like it,everyone else does.Are there other suppliments we can offer him or are there injectables we could be or should be using? We still have at least 4 more winter months to go and I want to make sure he’s doing allright,my gut instinct sais he needs something extra right now.He does eat alot of hay,grasses and alfalfa mix.Any suggestions would be helpful,thanks

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  15. Ellen Wood Says:

    observered my mother on her hind quarters coming down nearly on top of her cria. i saw her do this twice this morning. is she teaching her something?

  16. Paula Says:

    We were given two alpacas we didn’t know until today that one of them is pregnant. She has now given birth her other son is present, what do we do?

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  24. Elina Says:

    Dear alpaca friends, My sister have 4 alpacas. One of those are only 3 days old and she has been difficulties with breathing hole time. We have tried to get help to her but animaldoctors dont know alpacas here in Finland. She has got antibiotics and some kind of liquiwits becose she cant eat enought. She tried to eat from mother alpaca but after short period she cant breath and she needed to stop eating. We have took milk from mother alpaca and give it to baby alpaca but we dont know how much milk she need per day? and how often? can we give her anything else? any of doctors here dont know what is the wrong with her? Sometimes is is wild and ok and sometimes not. And breathing is sometimes better and sometimes she breath with mouth open and not good. She has got antibiots. Could you please help if you know how we can help this cute babyalpaca.

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  26. Sue Says:

    Thank you very helpful is it possible to get the cria and mother to join up after 24 hours. I’ve been bottle feeding so far mom won’t nurse baby???

  27. Cindy VanDenBoom Says:

    My adult female blue eye is deaf and is about 15-17 years old. She has not let the baby nurse her yet. I gave the cria colostrum supplement and she are eagerly! I’m worried they are not bonding. It’s been three hours. They are in a shelter logic tent with fan and water source. It’s going to 99 today. I don’t want her to perish. Any ideas? Please and thanks so much in advance!! Alpaca love!
    Cindy Van Den Boom

  28. Travis Curran Says:

    We have alpaca and one gave a cria we didnt even know she was with cria. We dont know what to do. Its winter and cold in grass vallet. Can you give me info to help cria survive? Also the mother is a weak and not flowing colo milk

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