Neonatal health care. By Christopher K. Cebra VMD, MA, MS, DACVIM-LA, The Pfefferkorn and Wendorf Professor of Camelid Medicine, Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Corvallis, OR
Newborn camelids, or crias, face the same challenges as other newborn hoofstock, namely having to learn to breathe, stand, and eat within a short period of time. Additionally, their native environment, surrounded by predators and cold, shelterless terrain has led to certain unique adaptations
Pregnancy length is longer and more variable in length than most other domestic hoofstock. Most crias are born 335 to 355 days after breeding, with an average of 342 days. Suri alpacas are reported to carry a few days longer than the average. Healthy crias can be born over a wider range: 325 to 370 days or more. Individual dams are reported to have relatively consistent pregnancy lengths, but this is not always true.
During late pregnancy, the fetus achieves about 80% of its growth. This increases the dam’s requirements for energy, protein, and calcium. The increased requirements can usually be met with high-quality forage and a mineral mix, though dams with poor or declining body condition may benefit from a grain supplement.
Late gestation is also a good time to boost colostral protection through vaccination. Relatively few vaccines are used in camelids, with the Clostridium perfringens Types C and D and Tetanus vaccine being most commonly employed. A single dose given approximately 4 weeks prepartum will allow development of an antibody response in time to augment colostrum. Selenium and vitamin D supplementation and deworming of the dam should also be considered.
Most crias are born in the late morning, and almost all are delivered during daylight hours, presumably to allow the cria to become active before the onset of the cold night
The cold harsh environment of the Altiplano has given rise to a few features of the birth event. Parturition is usually quick, without many early signs. Most crias are born in the late morning, and almost all are delivered during daylight hours, presumably to allow the cria to become active before the onset of the cold night. Prolonged deliveries or deliveries between 4 pm and 8 am are usually abnormal, and should serve as warnings of future difficulties.