With cria safely on the ground, it is easy to think that the hard work is over, but now the watch must begin to ensure that they get enough good quality colostrum from their dam to ensure development of a health immune system, and that coveted upwards growth curve!
Colostrum is the vital, antibody rich first milk from the dam. It kickstarts development of the cria’s immune system. Cria must consume 10-20% of their bodyweight in the first 24 hours of life (over two hourly feeds), with a golden window for absorption of vital antibodies in the first 8 hours.
It can be difficult for a cria to feed if they have had a tough birth, or they’re a bit low in energy, have a poor suck reflex, are premature, or otherwise compromised. The dam also can affect colostrum availability – she may not have produced enough (and quality can be variable), could be suffering from mastitis or could simply not be interested in feeding the cria. This is rare, though will need planning for, just in case.
After 24 hours, cria are unable to absorb antibodies adequately through their gut, which is why compromised cria are often subject to plasma transfusions to get their immune systems back on track. If you do not have plasma from your farm available to you for transfusion, goat colostrum is the next best alternative to camelid colostrum, though you must take care to source it from a farm that is free from communicable diseases such as Johnes disease. You can also purchase commercial goat milk if you do not have another colostrum source.
If you are trying to ensure antibody absorption in the first 8 hours by ‘tubing’ a cria, it is best to get a demonstration of tube feeding from your vet ahead of time. They can teach you how to make sure that the feeding tube is in the right place and give you confidence to attempt it when you need to keep a cool head. They will demonstrate to you how the oesophagus (food pipe) runs down the left side of the neck, and ensure that you keep the cria’s head in an upright (but not extended) position when you pass the tube. It is not recommended to repeatedly tube feed cria, as it can irritate the oesophagus, and after the golden window is over, you may wish to move to bottle feeding if the cria is still not feeding from the dam. Bottle feeding can be a frustrating process, but must be conducted patiently, allowing the cria to get to grips with the teat, and not forcing milk down them (so as to avoid aspiration of milk). Lamb teats or slightly older human baby teats have the ideal sized apertures to ensure a good milk flow.
If you are ever concerned about a cria’s energy level, it is always recommended that you speak with your vet, but if you wish to have a pick me up with some energy and vitamins to get cria up and interested in feeding, supplements like CriaBoost may help.
CriaBoost is an oral paste for new born cria, with Omega 3, prebiotics, vitamins B1, B2, B6 , B12, D3 and A, trace elements and glucose. These ingredients work to support the gut and boost energy and appetite. This can help the cria develop more enthusiasm for further feeding, which in turn reduces the work you need to put in and the risk of mastitis of an under-used dam!
All you’ve got to do is give 6ml into the mouth within 12 hours (preferably as soon as possible after birth) and monitor your cria’s response. You can also give it to cria at stressful times such as moving, weaning or when recovering from diarrhoea.
We would be more than happy to advise on use and administration of CriaBoost and talk you through cria care at any time – just give your local practice a call!