Birthing and Neonates

  • A Cure for the Dummy Cria Syndrome: The Squeeze Maneuver

    At the spring Calpaca (California affiliate of AOA), U.C. Davis Professor of Equine Medicine and Epidemiology Dr. John Madigan presented new research on the syndrome of dummy foals, and a methodology to reverse it. Equine neonatal maladjustment is more popularly referred to as dummy foal syndrome. Dr. Madigan's research findings have become known as the "squeeze method". Dr. Madigan is the principle researcher in the "Clinical Trial of the Madigan squeeze method for treatment of equine neonatal maladjustment syndrome." This groundbreaking research has clear application to the health and welfare of alpacas - read on to find out how.More »
  • Alpaca Birthing Sequence

    Alpaca birthing is generally an uneventful process, yet it is one of the more stressful events for new owners. Problem births (dystocias) are unusual in sound breeding animals, but when they do occur it is important to intervene as quickly as possible for the health of both the dam and cria. This pictorial journey is meant to help those that are new to the process. More »
  • Alpaca Neonatal Problems

    Generally healthy, well-fed female alpacas give birth to strong and robust babies. But anyone who has raised livestock knows there are occasional problem births and babies that have a difficult time surviving shortly after birth. With birthing season upon us, it seemed only fitting to find a strong article on how to deal with problem births. There are few ecstasies in life greater than saving another living thing. Brad Smith, Karen Timm, and Pat Long were kind enough to allow the reprinting of ‘Birth to 24 Hours of Age’ from their excellent book Llama and Alpaca Neonatal Care.More »
  • Cesarean Section in Small Ruminants – Part 2: Uterine Torsion and Cesarean Section in Llamas and Alpacas

    Birthing in llamas and alpacas is a rapid process. Studies in South America documented that >80% of crias (neonatal llama or alpaca) are born between 6 AM and 1 PM.1 Stage II labor (expulsion of the cria) occurs over a period of 10 to 15 minutes (range, 6 to 47 minutes).1 Dystocia is an uncommon event in llamas and alpacas. Studies in South America found that dystocia in alpacas (1660 birthings observed) occurred in 1.6% of birthings and that 25% of these occurred in primiparous females. Data in a smaller number of llamas (234 birthings observed) demonstrated dystocia in only 1 female (0.4 %).1 Interestingly, causes of dystocia differ in South America and North America. Uterine torsion is rarely found in descriptions of dystocia in South America. Causes of dystocia in these populations include fetal malpositioning with 30% of those occurring with the fetus in a posterior presentation and 70% in anterior presentation.1 Markedly less information is available documenting causes of dystocia in North American herds.2,3 What data is available seems to indicate that uterine torsion is a common cause for veterinary intervention of dystocia.2,4 The author‘s opinion is that fetal malpositioning is associated with the majority of dystocia in llamas and alpacas and that uterine torsion is over represented in the literature because these cases are more likely to be presented to teaching hospitals for treatment.3More »
  • Dystocia in Camelids: The Causes and Approaches of Management

    Dystocia in the camelids is rare, however the exceptionally long neck and the fetal extremities predispose to flexion of these as a common cause of dystocia. A prolonged second stage of labor, bloody vaginal discharge or colic is the frequent sign of dystocia. The maternal causes of dystocia for camelids include uterine torsion, pelvic immaturity, uterine inertia and cervical dilation failure, whereas the fetal causes described are fetal malpostures and rarely fetal monsters like Schistosoma reflexus and Pero-somus elumbis or fetal dropsical conditions such as hydrocephalus. Dromedary camels must be restrained in a sternal recumbency for examination and vicious animals must be given xylazine (0.25 - 2.2 mg/Kg IM or IV). South American camelids may be restrained by using either xylazine or butarphanol (0.5 - 0.1 mg/Kg IM). Uterine torsion is much more common in llamas and alpacas whereas it is infrequent in the dromedary camel. The methods of dystocia correction by using mutations, fetotomy and cesarean section are described.More »
  • Hormonal Indicators of Pregnancy in Llamas and Alpacas

    OBJECTIVE: To determine concentrations of estrone sulfate in serum, estrone sulfate in urine, relaxin in serum, and progesterone in serum in pregnant llamas and alpacas and to assess the potential of these hormones as pregnancy indicators. DESIGN: Prospective study. ANIMALS: 19 parous pregnant camelids (8 llamas and 11 alpacas). PROCEDURE: Estrone sulfate concentrations (in serum and in urine) and progesterone concentrations (in serum) were determined by enzyme immunoassay. Relaxin concentrations (in serum) were measured by radioimmunoassay. Serum and urine samples were collected daily for the first 30 days after breeding and, thereafter, once weekly until parturition. RESULTS: Estrone sulfate concentrations (in serum and in urine) peaked twice during pregnancy. The first took place 21 days after breeding and the second during the last month of pregnancy. Relaxin concentrations increased at 3 months of gestation to > 20 ng/mL, decreased at 5 months to 5 ng/mL, then increased from 8 months of pregnancy until parturition. Progesterone concentrations were detectable 4 days after breeding and were maintained > 2 ng/mL throughout pregnancy. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The first increase in estrone sulfate concentration over basal values may indicate early interaction between mother and embryo, whereas the second increase may reflect fetal viability. Use of estrone sulfate concentration to diagnose pregnancy in llamas and alpacas is highly dependent on time of sampling. Relaxin concentration in serum is a superior indicator of pregnancy after the second month in the Ilama and alpaca because its existence is suggestive of interaction between mother and fetus, and concentrations are greater than basal values for a long period of pregnancy. Progesterone is not a direct product of the embryo or fetus and only indirectly confirms a diagnosis of pregnancy.More »
  • How to Correct Abnormal IgG Levels in Newborn Llamas

    Triple J Farms has developed a method of monitoring passive transfer in the newborn llama by using a radial immunodiffusion test. To date we have monitored over 300 mother IgG colostrum titers and the next day serum levels of IgG in the cria. By observation of the cria's activity, weight gain, and general health we have determined what we consider to be adequate IgG levels in the 24 hour cria. A cria may not achieve this level due to a difficult birth, poor milk, improper sucking reflex, lowered body temperature, etc.More »
  • How to Deliver a Calf in an Abnormal Presentation/Posture

    Complete with powerful images, this blog post presents various calf abnormal presentations which are very relevant to those in alpacas, and how to manage them in the field.More »
  • Hyperglycemia, Hypernatremia, and Hyperosmolarity in 6 Neonatal Llamas and Alpacas

    Neonatal camelids can develop hyperglycemia, hypernatremia, and hyperosmolarity in response to a combination of stress and inadequate water intake. Clinical signs of this syndrome include a fine head tremor, ataxia, and a base-wide stance of the hind limbs, but biochemical analyses are necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Camelids appear to be susceptible to this syndrome because of a poor insulin response to hyperglycemia; hypernatremia results from free water loss associated with glucose diuresis. Water loss associated with glucose diuresis may necessitate a higher rate of fluid administration in camelids with this syndrome than is typically used for treatment of hypernatremia in calves.More »
  • Labor and Delivery

    We have been fortunate to have experienced almost one hundred births at the Alpaca Hacienda, and every birth is just as exciting as the first. Here, we would like to cover some of the things we have learned about this most amazing, but sometimes stressful time in owning and breeding alpacas.More »
  • Mechanism and Isotypes Involved in Passive Immunoglobulin Transfer to the Newborn Alpaca (Lama pacos)

    Crias, newborn alpacas (Lama pacos), that were almost agammaglobulinemic at birth had a 70% increase in total serum proteins within 24 hours largely because of absorption of gamma globulins from colostrum. Immunoglobulin G was the isotype in highest concentration in colostrum and in serum from 24-hour-old crias. The serum IgG concentration of 10 crias increased linearly (r = 0.97) from a mean of 0.3 mg/ml (+/- 0.1 SD) for serum collected before crias suckled to a maximal mean of 30.1 mg/ml (+/- 8.1 SD) at 24 hours. The 24-hour concentration decreased by half in 10 days. Immunoglobulin M also was absorbed from colostrum and increased linearly (r = 0.99) from a mean of 0.5 mg/ml (+/- 0.1 SD) for serum collected before crias suckled to a maximal mean of 4.2 mg/ml (+/- 2.2 SD) 24 hours after birth. The 24-hour serum concentration of IgM decreased by half in 7 days. Therefore, on a weight basis, 7 times more IgG than IgM was transferred to crias; IgG accounted for greater than 85% of the passively transferred proteins in serum of 24-hour-old crias. Absorption of functional antibodies of IgG and IgM isotypes from colostrum of immunized dams by crias also was demonstrated. Immunoglobulin G and IgM antibody titers to chicken RBC increased linearly to maximal geometric mean titers of 1,139 and 843, respectively, 24 hours after birth. The 24-hour IgG and IgM antibody titers decreased by half in 6 and 3.8 days, respectively. Purified alpaca IgG had a molecular mass of 166 kilodaltons, a predominant gamma mobility, and an extinction coefficient of 14.1.More »
  • Neonatal Care

    Most normal crias will start attempting to stand by ½ hour, succeeding by 1 hour after birth. Once they are up, they start attempting to nurse (usually start trying around 1 hour, succeeding by 3-4 hours). Once the dam and cria have bonded (usually when nursing is established), start dipping the navel with iodine or chlorohexidene 0.5% (repeat 2-3 times daily for 1-2 days) and weigh the baby. Normal (“average”) alpaca babies weigh at least 12 pounds.More »
  • Parasites of New World Camelids

    Llamas and alpacas are host to several internal and external parasites. Few published studies exist on the incidence, prevalence and pathogenic effects of many parasites reported in these animals. Treatment and control is further complicated by a lack of licensed antiparasitic products or specific guidelines on their use, nor recommended dose rates based on efficacy and pharmacokinetic studies.More »
  • Pre-Weaning Morbidity and Mortality of Llamas and Alpacas

    OBJECTIVES: To describe the morbidity and mortality patterns and identify factors associated with morbidity in pre-weaning llamas and alpacas. DESIGN: Cross-sectional observational study of 287 crias born on four farms in Ohio, USA. PROCEDURE: Historical data representing all crias born over a 6-year period were obtained from two llama farms and two alpaca farms in Ohio. Multivariable generalised linear mixed effects regression models were used to identify factors associated with morbidity outcomes. RESULTS: In total, 105 (37%) of the llamas and alpacas had some reported morbidity during the pre-weaning period, and mortality rate was 2.1%. In addition, 51 (18%) of llamas and alpacas experienced morbidity because of infectious disease, and 47 (16%) experienced morbidity during the neonatal period. The three most commonly reported morbidity events were undifferentiated diarrhoea (23%), umbilical hernia (16%) and unspecified infectious disease (15%). Difficult birth was an important risk factor for pre-weaning morbidity in this population. CONCLUSIONS: Camelid veterinarians and their clients can expect that pre-weaning health events are common among crias, although mortality is low. Crias experiencing difficult births may require additional monitoring for health events during the pre-weaning period.More »
  • Prenatal Development of the Alpaca (Lama pacos)

    The prenatal development of the alpaca was studied. An evaluation of the reproductive tract by rectal palpation was described throughout pregnancy. Forty-eight embryos/fetuses were collected from a similar number of pregnant females at La Raya research station, in Cusco, Peru. Fetal data were analyzed by least squares regression. Ninety-eight percent of fetuses were located in the left uterine horn; however, corpora lutea were distributed evenly between the left and right ovaries. The pregnant uterus was within the pelvic cavity until 90 days of pregnancy, thereafter, the uterus was located cranial to the brim of the pelvis within the abdominal cavity. The growth curves of body weight, crown-rump length, vertebral column length, curved crown-rump length were quadratic in nature. The sex of the fetus could be distinguished at 60 days. Hair was present on the lips, eyebrows and tail at 210 days. The body was completely covered by fiber by 240 days of gestation. The mammary gland began to increase in weight only 30 days prior to parturition.More »
  • The Perfect Storm: Case Study of a Septic Cria

    “Sepsis is a severe illness in which the bloodstream is overwhelmed by bacteria”.1 The more accurate diagnostic consequence of sepsis is what is termed Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS). Regardless of the animal SIRS afflicts, the bacteria must have an entry point into the bloodstream and the animal must be vulnerable. In the newborn cria, the entry into the bloodstream is usually the umbilical cord. Invading bacteria also need a susceptible host.2 In the newborn cria, that immune vulnerability is produced when the cria gets inadequate amounts of colostrom, or poor quality colostrom. Camelids are born with a condition called, in medical terms, agammaglobulinemia. This simply means they are born with no passive immunity acquired during gestation. During the pregnancy, the gestating cria attains no temporary source of immunity to common environmental bacteria through the placenta. The entire source of the camelid immunoglobulin (IgG), or temporary immunity, is acquired from the colostrom the cria ingests in the hours after birth.3 The newborn camelid cria’s immunity to infectious agents is completely dependent on receiving adequate and early doses of colostrom.More »
  • West Nile Virus Vaccine

    Blood transfusion would be a potential source in alpacas, however unlikely. The other method that West Nile Virus can be transmitted – at least in horses and in people – is transplacentally, which means a pregnant mother who has been infected can infect the unborn child. Transmission by blood transfusion or across the placenta have not been demonstrated in camelids.More »
  • What Should You Put in the Cria Baby Bottle?

    Conventional wisdom says cow or goat milk is a good substitute for alpaca milk. My research indicates neither of those are the most optimum milk substitute. Recently, we bottle fed a cria for two months with a unique formula that produced good results. I pursued further research to see if my choice of formula had real validity. What I learned may help others with bottle-fed crias.More »