Monitor the progress of the cria. Weigh regularly – daily initially. Plot a chart of weights of all your cria, to notice any different growth patterns. Weigh them weekly until over 30 lbs.
The weight of the cria may drop by 10% in the first couple of days, but once the milk supply is fully in, cria weight gain should be 1/3 to ½ lb per day.
Cria are active, and move and play a lot. Day one they stay close to mom, day two they run away about 10 yards, and by day three they will explore 30-40 meters from mom.
A sluggish cria, resting more, and drinking less, not gaining weight, is of concern. Take its temperature if you have any concerns about its health. Cria should be between 100 F and 102 F for the first 2 weeks. Outside this range, take action – put on a coat, increase feeding and/ or call the vet.
Aim to feed the cria 10% of its body weight daily. Crias are snackers, needing frequent small feeds. Feed at 4 hourly intervals, with 6 feeds a day, from daybreak to late evening. You do not need to feed in the early hours of the morning, as alpacas sleep then.
As an example, a 15 lb cria gets a minimum of 600 mls a day, in 6 feeds of 100 ml.
A plastic bottle with a Pritchard Nipple, is suitable for cria feeding. Keep all cria feeding equipment sterile, as you would for a human baby, using boiling water and a disinfectant.
An exception to this feeding regime is very small frail cria. They may need feeding every 1.5 to 2 hours, around the clock, for the first three days. Get specialist advice and assistance.
Cria head for dark areas to nurse, like shed corners. Put a light on in a shed, so the darkest spot is under mother, as it would be in the paddock.
Make the cria stand to feed, and stretch its neck up to simulate the natural feeding position. This aids the milk to go in the correct stomach.
I find it easiest to achieve this posture by straddling the cria, restraining it with my knees, and having one hand to guide its head back towards me and one hand to hold the bottle.
Make sure the cria sucks, so the milk goes down the throat, not squirted into its airways. Keep the air hole in the base of the teat on the upper side for air to go in and help the milk to go out.
Poor suckers can be assisted to drink. Pop your finger in its mouth, and then slide the teat in. Hold its mouth closed and slowly stroke its throat to encourage it to swallow. This may take three hands initially (a second person to do the throat stroking), but it is possible with two hands. Cria that will not suck can be stomach tube – often a job for your vet.