Hungry Cria & Mastitis by Lillian Beck
On a beautiful fall day one of our females gave birth to a healthy 22 lb. cria . Up and nursing within an hour, we supplemented with some Pediatric Electrolytes in between. Since we knew the next day we were going to have a severe temperature drop and rain, we wanted to give the baby as much strength and energy as possible. The electrolytes plus the motherís milk gave us the boost we needed. All that week and the next day the cria had a steady weight gain of three quarters to a pound a day. The cria was running and eating grass beside two other cria, who were a month older. Everything looked fine.
A week later we noticed the cria not nursing as long, but it was possibly distracted by the other two friends, who were anxious to run out into the other field. Weight gain for that day was a half pound. The next day, no weight gain , but seems to be nursing. The third day no weight gain, and we noticed that not only was the cria not nursing, the dam does not seem to want the cria to nurse, or is this my imagination? Something is not right here. A cria should double their weight by the end of the first month, and at this rate of the last three days it will not happen.
This is where my nursing experience clicked in. Normally, we would blame the cria for this problem, but there are two involved. I had seen this same thing happen in the hospital, and I could hear the voice of a wise nurse who told me. Do not be in such a hurry to blame that baby. It could be mom!
After checking the cria it was healthy in every respect, that I could see. There was a normal body temperature of 101, there was normal urination and stool. The cria was eating grass and also interested in some grain dust in the bottom of the feed pans. But mom was humming. Why?
Back to mom. We haltered her and by now she was walking around humming and looking at us - like help! I looked at her, and her tits looked normal size ,but on touch they were hot and the back two were hard, with a rock like feel to them. I pressed one of these back two and no milk, and after a second try a thick goo and a slight streak of blood. Definitely mastitis. It was December 24th and now nine in the morning, and you know what that means. A veterinarian canít wait to come on a farm call now, but we were definitely in trouble. After calling our vet and telling him the symptoms , he said he trusted our judgment and would give us a medication if we came right over and picked it up.
Mastitis is interesting in animals. Our veterinarian explained to me some animals will have a favorite tit, or they are lazy eaters and they will first nurse on that favorite tit and not rotate. He suspected that this was the same in llamas. If one of the tits is a little harder to nurse off of then this will compound the effect and a vicious circle develops. When one tit is difficult to nurse the cria will stay on an easier one, so as a result the others are never emptied - milk backs up and the ducts are not emptied. The circulation to that area is reduced, swelling occurs and the tit becomes hot, swollen, and hard. And as I saw, the milk gets thick like goo. You can have pus and blood too.
We began an 8 to 10 day treatment with Gentamycin 100mg. of 3 c.c. EVERY 12 HOURS. This had excellent results for us. Remember it is up to you and your veterinarian what medication you use. I gave her the first IM injection. Dave held her head and talked to her. We had the cria by her side. I applied warm compresses to her tits and, then milked her. A llama has four tits, each of which contain two canals, called streak canals. These streak canals open up into gland cisterns. The milk is collected into these cisterns and then brought down into the bottom sinus which has one single external orifice. These gland cisterns have to be completely emptied.
I had started at the back, to milk her but nothing happened, then I rotated to the two front ones. Then I applied the warm compresses again, and started all over - no wonder the cria had no weight gain. On the second rotation the back two released a little milk and some pus, no more blood though. The front two had milk coming out, obviously the criaís two favorites. I kept this rotation up, warm compresses and milking until I had milk coming out all four tits. In all, a total of five ounces was collected ,really not much milk. The vet had said to try and feed the milk collected off the front two tits, but the cria would have none of it. Interestingly though, the smell of the milk was encouraging the baby to get under the mom. After I was done, we put the cria on the mom, and there was about three minutes of good nursing. We let them back out into the field and did the same process over again in twelve hours. One injection, hot compresses, total milking .The cria was allowed to nurse after each of these treatments and always nursed for 2-3 minutes. There was always more milk coming down into the ducts and ready for the baby. We were told we could give the medication for 8-10 days. We opted for 8 days of medication and then continued for two more days of hot compresses and milking every 12 hours.
The results were wonderful from this treatment regime. The next day after beginning, the cria had a half pound weight gain, second day three quarters, third day one pound, with steady weight gains of three quarters to one pound or so a day. I hope this can help anyone who may have this same problem. Just keep in mind, no or low weight gain can be caused by many things. It could be a failure to thrive cria, ill cria, premature cria, poor sucking reflex, or dam with mastitis .Our dam had smaller tits and the back two were not being nursed which resulted in her mastitis.
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