Alpaca Nutrition News                                February 2008

Preparing for the spring crias

Probably the best way to insure the uneventful delivery of healthy crias is to insure that the mother is also healthy and in good physical condition. Some things to be aware of now, before it is too late to change anything:

    Does the female have either diarrhea or constipation? Either condition may indicate rumen disruption. The temperature in northeastern Kansas this winter has been all over the map. We have gotten as low as -8 F and as high as 62 F within a few days of each other. The temperature has gone up and down many times. This is very stressful on livestock (and humans). The result is usually either diarrhea or constipation. It is imperative to get the dam's digestive tract back in order before she undergoes the stresses of parturition and lactation. The best way to do this is to feed a concentrated probiotic like MSE paste or drench. The probiotic microorganisms protect the dam while her resident microflora re-establish. And the vitamins help replenish those that may have become depleted due to increased requirement or disrupted feeding. Birth and lactation are trying enough for healthy mothers, don't hamstring your females with chronic rumen disruption as well.

Dam's body score - is it significantly above or below 5? Why is this important? Females that are obese have a tendency to have difficult births. This may because of size of the fetus. Large crias can develop when the dam has access to too much grain. Obese females also have a tendency to have problems with lactation. What can you do now?

    Gradually reduce grain, say, over two weeks, and then curtail until after parturition. Grain is concentrated energy, which is stored as fat unless the animal is physically active or nursing. The demand for energy jumps once the female starts nursing. If the grain is minimized during lactation, weight loss will result. The key is to balance the grain so that there is enough milk for the cria, but Mom doesn't start gaining weight. Always have a good mineral mix available. Be aware of supplements that also contain minerals, they can cause mineral imbalances when fed in addition to a mineral mix.

    If the female has a body score significantly below 5, then now is the time to try to get her to gain. Weight gain is very difficult when nursing. It is not unusual for a female to lose weight during lactation. Unless the loss is replaced during pregnancy, this can accumulate. Thin females have difficulty rebreeding. The best way to get a mother in late pregnancy closer to an average body score is to use a concentrated probiotic like MSE paste or drench. Either of these products increases feed efficiency so the dam gets more out of whatever she eats. Either can be top-dressed or mixed into feed.

MSE microbial paste and drench are available at They can also be ordered over the phone at 800-615-0299, M - F, 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. If you have any questions or comments, please write Lark Burnham at


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