What is Dystocia?
The birth of an alpaca baby known as Cria is a wonderful event viewed with excitement and anticipation after a long gestation period of about 345 days. Mom can usually give birth without any difficulty calmly eating grass while things progress at the other end of her body. Sometimes the hardest part for breeders anticipating this moment is to keep hands off and let mom take care of things herself!
A difficult birth known as Dystocia does occur and we all need to be prepared for the signs and symptoms. One of the most common causes of Dystociais malposition of the fetus. Examples of malposition are:
- Retained Head
- Retained Feet
- Transverse (four legs and head extended)
- Upside Down
- Elbow Lock
Uterine torsion is another common problem. This can happen when mom rolls around on the ground as alpacas like to do and can twist the uterus which will prevent the birth of the fetus. Uterine torsion can happen as early as about seven months into parturition but more commonly happens during the last month of gestation.
One of the best ways to know if mom is having difficulty during gestation is to know her habits and reactions. Know her personality. If mom starts kicking at her stomach this could be an indication she is having colic. If mom is the first one to greet you on your arrival in the pasture but hangs back all of a sudden this could be another indication she is in distress.
If you suspect your dam is having difficulty during any of the three stages of labor do not wait to call your veterinarian. Cultivate relationships with your local alpaca breeders. In the event your veterinarian is unable to get to your farm an experienced breeder could be the difference in a difficult situation for your dam and cria.
Attend a neonatal clinic. I cannot express enough how important this is. You will learn:
- Stages of labor
- Signs that ‘something may be wrong’
- What you can do during a malpositioned birth
- Post partum care
- Care of your newborn cria
- The importance of Colostrum
- Indications of problems in new crias such as
- Choanal Atresia (closed nasal passages)
- Heart or lung problems
- Limb deformities
- Wry face
Also you will want to keep on hand a Cria Care Kit. These kits will insure you have what you need for mom or cria during the birthing period.
In a perfect world all alpacas would be born without any of the problems listed in this article. Be prepared and ready to intervene in the event your long awaited new cria comes into this world in one of the above conditions.
Many state university veterinarian schools such as Colorado State University offer alpaca neonatal clinics. Sign up for one today!