Don’t. Stay out of the way and let nature take its course. Wait for the baby to fall out on its own. Of course if the area is muddy or sandy, we often will put a towel down for it to land on, but more often than not, the mother will move and the cria will miss the towel anyway.
If it is a large cria, and there is no further progress you may have to help a bit as sometimes the shoulders are too wide to get through the pelvic area. This area is rectangular in shape so if the shoulders are turned to forty-five degrees there is a little more room. It is best though to let the mother complete the delivery by herself.
The first thing we do is to put an iodine- or Chlorhexidine-based dip on the umbilicus. If there is a lot of bleeding from the umbilical stump we would put a pad on it and call the vet. Normally the cord seals itself and everything is fine but it is important that it stays clean. Check for a hernia around the umbilical cord. Re-dip the navel later in the day and again the next day.
Mom will be hungry and deserves a little extra at this point. She will also be very thirsty and they will often drink a bucket of water overnight.
Check the cria’s plumbing, making sure that all the parts are there. You should watch to see if the cria urinates and defecates. The tiny beans are hard to spot on the ground but if you check their back legs sometimes there will be some stuck to the wool. If there is no sign of fecal matter, an enema is recommended. Check to see if the teeth are erupted, and check the suck reflex. A little of mom’s milk on your finger should produce a suck reflex and stimulate the baby to look for the source.
There will be little booties on the cria’s feet to keep the feet from poking through the uterus. Leave these on and let them come off by themselves.
We normally have towels and dry off the cria a bit, but if it is a sunny day, we let nature take its course. If the weather is wet or cold, we use a hair dryer to dry off the cria. Because some of the older crias may play rough, we usually separate mom and baby from the rest of the herd for a while and let them bond. That way we can also monitor whether the cria is nursing. It is vital that the baby gets some colostrum within the first few hours. If you put the mother and baby in a stall, be sure that it is well lit as the cria will go to dark corners looking for a place to nurse.
There are wax plugs on the mother’s teats and we usually take these off. The crias will often suck on the mother’s legs before finding the teats but once they find them, normally they will get enough milk. We always have colostrum and milk in the freezer in case we get one whose milk is slow coming in. The amount of milk that the baby should get each day is ten percent of its body weight.
Weigh the baby at birth and weigh it each day until you are sure that it is gaining weight. Sometimes they can fool you by making sucking sounds but they are not getting milk or are not on the nipples properly. They will usually lose a bit of weight the first day but then they should gain at least half a pound each day and usually they put on about a pound a day.
The photo on the left shows the afterbirth just starting to appear. They are surprisingly large, the one in the photo below on the right weighed twelve pounds.
The placenta should be expelled within four hours but usually appears shortly after the birth. Let it fall out naturally. Do not pull on it! This can cause serious problems. Make sure that the entire placenta comes out. If you are not sure that it has, save it and have the vet check it. Occasionally a small piece of placenta is broken off inside and this can cause infection and will inhibit a re-breeding.
Just enjoy having a new cria. Get your camera out. Phone all of your friends. E-mail them photos of the new baby.
This is the most rewarding part of owning llamas. The cria in this photo is only a couple of hours old and already knows where the milk supply is. Notice that the mother has been previously shorn, which makes it easier for the cria and also lets the owner see what is happening as the baby is trying to nurse.
If you think there are problems, don’t wait.
Phone your vet.
In the next couple of days you might notice some drainage from the female. The photo on the right shows what it could look like. This was a couple of inches across, usually it is smaller that this, but it it perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
This page is presented courtesy of
Brian and Jane Pinkerton
29343 Galahad Crescent
Canada V4X 2E4
Phone or Fax: (604) 856-3196
Mount Lehman Llamas Farm Page | Llama Question and Answer Page