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 Can a cria grow too fast?

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kimgleason Posted - 09/25/2013 : 12:06:14 PM
Hi all:
It is a curious question, indeed. I have a cria orphaned at 8 weeks old due to tragic loss of the mother. Cria was doing great up to that point. I consulted Norm Evans and some breeder friends about starting to bottle feed a 2 month old and what formula to feed. We had never been faced with bottling a cria that old, however, all sources recommended to try since a cria's digestive system is not very efficient for solid feed at that age. Per recommendations, we chose whole cow milk, 3X/day feedings as much as the cria wants. She is now a whopping 60 lbs and just turning 4 months old. I am somewhat concerned that she's growing too fast for tendons and ligaments to keep up with bone growth. Any thoughts? Or am I just really lucky to have a solid, well nourished, well adjusted young lady on my hands?
Kim Gleason, PhD
Dancing Horse Farm
13   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
julieandken Posted - 11/28/2013 : 09:54:42 AM
More specific to your question:
In humans you can get Marfan's syndrome

which is associated with tall stature and loose ligaments, among other things.In addition to Abe Lincoln and Michael Phelps, I suspect that there are currently 2 NBA basketball players who have had open heart surgery to correct the aortic aneurysm (something very serious) associated with it, and playing very well.

I don't believe that you're likely to see evidence of it in the cria period and it is inheritant as a dominant gene, so one of the parents would be affected. Also it would be far more likely to manifest in length rather than weight, and they are usually quite thin.

Ken Rosenfeld, MD
Renaissance Ridge Alpacas
Mount Aukum, CA
916-715-5722 Julie cell
916-715-5605 Ken cell
julieandken Posted - 11/28/2013 : 08:58:01 AM
We have had cria at that weight at 4 months, as well as some that are 25 pounds lighter. I think that it will be useful to have an actual "normal" growth curve that shows centile scores graphically and allows the breeder to plot the trajectory of the cria's growth so as to get more meaningful information, such as the effects of environment.

You will soon be hearing about "The Alpaca Coalition of America" and this growth curve will be the husbandry committee's first project.
In addition to asking those of you who can be convinced to participate, to provide weight entries for cria growth, so that we can establish those "normals" in the American alpaca population, we will have a questionnaire that, we hope will be able, over enough time and datapoints, look at the influence of region of the country, huacaya/suri, color,gender, maternal weight gain, clinical parasite infection, birth order, type of pasture, herd density, birth events, birth order etc, etc to see if we can eventually "tease out" ,more substantive information, eventually.

This has been a very helpful strategy in humans. Obstetricians have been able to plot realitively accurate fetal weight estimates in utero and determine when a baby is not growing well (intrauterine growth retardation/restriction). Pediatricians have done it for ages with children to identify failure to thrive. When you do the early identification, you can start looking for associayed factors and causes out of your database.

I also believe that within the herd, the cria (and aging alpacas)are the most environmentally vulnerable are the "canary in the coal mine" giving a potential window into the general herd health, and might be able to alert the breeder to keep a closer eye on the other members of the herd, especially if more than one cria is "plateauing" in the growth trajectory.

I'm hoping that we can get as many of you as possible to enter data into our study. More to come soon.

Ken Rosenfeld, MD
Renaissance Ridge Alpacas
Mount Aukum, CA
916-715-5722 Julie cell
916-715-5605 Ken cell
Christiane Posted - 10/28/2013 : 09:31:32 AM
Interesting topic, and I have to add, we had our first bottle baby this year. The farm from which it came was feeding him yoghurt, half and half and whole milk. They have been in business much longer than we had and had successfully used this formula. We had trouble keeping him from loosing weight and he had several visits to the vets before we finally got him straightened out. Vets told us to put him just on plain cows milk. We did that and he has now gained weight like a normal cria and is doing very well. I think, it is like people, you just have to find out what will work in a specific case.

Christiane Rudolf
Tanglewood Farm
19741 Victory Lane
Fayetteville, Ohio 45118
(513) 875-2533
kimgleason Posted - 09/28/2013 : 1:11:56 PM
Thank you all for your input. I posed this topic in hopes of getting us all to sit back and think about all the things we are doing. While it is true that everyone has different management practices for their individual herds, and true that alpacas come in all shapes and sizes, and true that there are different views on supplements, vaccines, ect, it is fact that a 60 lb 3 1/2 month old is not the norm in my herd. That alone was reason for posing the question. I can add that we have been breeders for over 8 years, and that my doctoral degree is in physiology which makes this even more intriguing to me.

I'd also add that in 8 years and countless bottle fed babies, we have not had one in our herd with our practices with our genetics lines that has grown like the current orphan. Also, here's some real food for thought: we have NEVER before used whole cow milk to bottle feed a cria. This was a suggestion by Norm Evans (personal communication)and a friend breeder of one of the largest farms in the country, based on the age and size of the cria when the mother died. We had previously used the typical formulas of goat milk, yogurt, ect. It occurs to me that it is possible the whole cow milk we are using, which is not organic, may contain a higher level of IGF-1 and may contribute to this particular cria growing so unusually fast in my herd. We have numerous full siblings to this pairing with 4 month weights in the mid-40s. So, I ask myself, why is this cria so different? And the only thing that comes to mind is that we changed our typical management practice with this cria, to bottle entirely with whole cow milk. Hmmmm...I am having the cow milk analyzed just for curiosity sake. I do not believe that it is harmful in any way, other than as stated, bones grow faster than ligaments so may be something to watch there; and this may turn out to be so good that we change for all future bottle fed cria.
My intention here is to just to get us to think about our management practices and the effects they may have. Thank you again to all who shared!!
littlewing Posted - 09/27/2013 : 7:22:13 PM
I responded to this original post because the owner was concerned about her bottle fed cria weighing too much possibly causing joint and ligament damage either during growth or in the future as a mature animal.

She then states that the supplement info I supplied were not relevant to her initial question. Now I see there is a warning as well about the misuse of vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin A+D and correct dosing of BO-SE or MU-SE shots are VERY relevant to healthy joint growth in all livestock, not just alpaca. I have personally seen and ACQUIRED alpacas from other breeders who showed obvious signs of Rickets. I never said in my post that we should OVERDOSE our animals, common sense here please, but Vitamins and minerals ARE important if you wish to maintain a healthy herd.

I have never had any problem with administered vitamins, orally as well as injected. In fact most of my cria are extremely vigorous, reproductively vigorous, and have strong frames and good bone. Let's not forget where alpacas come from. They have evolved being practically irradiated by sunlight, it is so strong and close on the Altiplano. All livestock benefit from A+D let alone the Andes alpaca. Farming here for the last thirty years won't change centuries {actually more than a 1000 years if we include the Pre Incan Yaral...}of evolution, let alone plain common sense, and good husbandry with proper farm management.

Amanda Schwab
Little Wing Farm
6327 Jefferson Mill Rd
Scottsville, VA. 24590
#434 286 3931
Christiane Posted - 09/26/2013 : 11:42:03 AM
I forgot to add, that I think larger crias tend to grow faster, so I would not worry about your cria gowing too fast. I don't supplement my animals unless they need it for some reason. They get hay and grass(when that is available, and good grain . I think oversupplementation of minerals and vitamins is not good for people or animals. Ditto for over vaccinating.

Christiane Rudolf
Tanglewood Farm
19741 Victory Lane
Fayetteville, Ohio 45118
(513) 875-2533
Christiane Posted - 09/26/2013 : 11:38:12 AM
I think a lot depends on their genetics. I have some that are relatively small adults, and they tend to produce relatively small offspring as well. My larger animals tend to produce larger cria, so, from my perspective of ten years in this industry, I think, like people, if the parents are large, the offspring will be as well, Ditto for smaller ones. All of my siblings, myself included, are tall, and our parents were tall. Most of my cousins are tall as well.
Personally, I like the bigger animals because they produce more fiber, but, on the flip side, they also eat more.

Christiane Rudolf
Tanglewood Farm
19741 Victory Lane
Fayetteville, Ohio 45118
(513) 875-2533
Felicia Posted - 09/26/2013 : 07:14:26 AM
A bit of growth comparison from 'Down Under'. We record all our crias weights monthly from birth to 4 months, and then at weaning. The average weight at 4 months is 58lbs. In fact our biggest was 71 lbs. We're lucky not to have had to bottle feed so all have been 'natural' growth.
The crias have all gone on to be well formed with no joint problems.

If your cria is from large parents then perhaps it's just growing normally, according to it's genetics. I know our 'giant' has a really big father.
Just a thought.

Hyde Park Alpacas
Tallarook, Victoria
tortkid43 Posted - 09/25/2013 : 9:33:50 PM
I'm trying to get ahold of my friends in Peru, Chili, and Bolivia to find out if they have an answer for cria growing too fast...! I am also gonna ask if anyone is interested in knowing the answer to what happens when one of our alpacas refuses to eat custom blended grain during the moonlight on the 5th of every month...But 1st I am going to sit down and have a glass of wine and ponder the thought of the mammalian species and the impact of spoiled alpacas who worry us to death..!

Mike and Maggie Carabajal
Rancho De La Luz Alpacas
Elgin, Tx
jillmcm Posted - 09/25/2013 : 6:08:25 PM
We've had plenty of cria that size here, including one right now - I'd be delighted with that weight gain on an orphaned cria, frankly. None of our bigger, faster growing cria have had any bone or joint issues as adults, and several have had cria of their own.

Jill McElderry-Maxwell
Bag End Suri Alpacas of Maine - ¡BESAME!
Pittsfield, ME
(207) 660-5276 (cell)
littlewing Posted - 09/25/2013 : 6:00:43 PM
Maybe you should contact Chris Cebra, an alpaca researcher, if he can't tell you he can point you in the right direction. I am answering your previous post from a husbandry standpoint.

We have weaned crias at 6 months who weighed 90lb so 60 lb at 4 months just doesn't sound too big frankly...

Amanda Schwab
Little Wing Farm
kimgleason Posted - 09/25/2013 : 5:15:10 PM
Thank you for your kind response, Amanda, however my question is not about supplementation, but rather about rate of development in crias. In most mammalian species, including humans, the rate of adolescent growth can have lifelong impact on joints and bone diseases that superficially appear to be adult onset. I'm not aware of any research on alpaca rate of development, specifically how it relates to bottle feeding. When we bottle feed, that intervention causes a disturbance in the normal growth pattern of that alpaca-regardless of genetics. Many bottle fed cria I have seen tend to have a more stunted growth, but otherwise are healthy, happy and fine. I have not encountered the opposite whereby a bottle fed cria displays an accelerated growth pattern. Most would agree that a 60 lb 3 1/2 month old cria is not "normal". I wondered if anyone with a similar giant bottle fed cria developed hip/joint/pastern problems later in life. Just a thought......
littlewing Posted - 09/25/2013 : 2:26:38 PM
I have had great success with whole cow milk as well. I have never had trouble introducing grain to all my cria, not just the rare bottle kids...

I have never had a problem arise from weight, with milk "piggy" kids. If they are getting grain I just cut it back. I wouldn't cut back the milk until it is time to gradually! wean, incorporating an alpaca formulated grain ration. I do however make sure they have an A+D shot at birth. I also use a vitamin paste {ADEB12} monthly available at Valley Vet. You expect them to need A+D supplementation if they are Fall cria but I find they need it if they are born in Spring too, they spend time under the fans in the barns {no sunlight...} with their dams when the sun starts getting stronger, here in VA.

Amanda Schwab
Little Wing farm
6327 Jefferson Mill Rd.
Scottsville, VA 24590
#434 286 3931

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