Bottle Feeding an Alpaca

ebenniebottlelookingsmllYou know when you go to a petting zoo and they let the little kids give the calf or piglet a bottle? And the little creature eagerly gulps the milk down and almost knocks the kid over? Alpacas aren’t quite like that to bottle feed.

With alpacas, bottle feeding requires some technique. Sometimes newborn cria need supplementation (via a bottle) because either 1)They are too weak to stand and suckle heartily enough to get enough milk, or 2)Their mom may not have enough milk. Some first time moms don’t get milk until a few days after they give birth.

merrybottlecloseSome cria will stand and allow you to bottle feed them. Others run and you have to hold them while you feed them. There are different ways to hold cria while bottlefeeding. You can kneel astride them (just don’t sit on top of them) or sit “criss cross applesauce” with the alpaca on the ground rather than in your lap exactly. I usually have my hand under the crias mouth (shown above) so that I can keep the nipple from slipping out of the cria’s mouth. This also allows me to gently put pressure on the opening of the jaw to encourage suckling from a cria who is sleepy or uncooperative. Not unlike little tricks we devise with human babies.

girlsbottleAnd, yes, the little blonde girl feeding Bennie a bottle in the top photo is the same little girl feeding Merrie a bottle in this photo.

How did that happen?


  1. I haven’t had the opportunity to bottle feed a cria yet. I thought I would have to feed a cria we had born last spring since mom wouldn’t feed him. I locked them up in a pen together and that seemed to do the trick. She didn’t pass her placenta until several hours after birth. This was not her first cria either. Now, I’ve bottle fed losts of baby calves and that can be quite the experience! I remember getting more milk on me than in the calf!

    Karens last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – My girls tried sneaking into my luggage!

  2. This post is oozing adorable. I want to jump through the screen and help feed them!

  3. I will often lock the mom and cria pair in together til we KNOW that they have the nursing thing down. Some moms I don’t have to, but as the herd has gotten bigger I don’t want anyone to get lost in the shuffle.

  4. That is such an adorable picture. Does she enjoying feeding the alpaca?

  5. Great post! What about the part where all the other alpacas ‘help’ you while you’re trying to bottle feed a cria.

  6. Yes, WhirlyGirl (grey female cria, Merrie’s friend) loves to chew on my clothes while I feed Merrie. Cute & annoying at the same time.

  7. More so when she was little, but even tweens’ hearts melt when a baby alpaca looks up at you with those big dark eyes.

  8. OHH Some very interesting and insightful thoughts. Adding this to my bookmarks. ^_^

  9. Ooohhh…. my husband and I have toothpicks holding up our eyelids. We had a cria born Tuesday and mama, aka Kate the spitter, won’t have anything to do with her cria. In fact, the mama spit her cria so bad that the poor thing was covered in spit. We were afraid baby would get trampled so now we are bottle feeding full time. Any suggestions about what to use? We have her on goat milk in a baby bottle. She is getting about 7oz every 3 or 4 hours now. This cria is going to put us in the poor house! One good thing is that she will grow up to be our tamest alpaca ever and that will be nice since I work with children. Love your blog!!
    .-= ellen´s last blog ..Felting Craft Project for Kids =-.

  10. Ellen, you can switch to cow’s milk. regular AD&E from the grocery store. I add liquid yogurt like activia or keifer twice a day for probiotics for the gut. Also consider cimitedine (sp?) to prevent ulcer in cria that get handled constantly like this. Especially ones that stress. But the good news is cow’s milk from the grocery store works just fine after the initial colostrum needs. Got this tip from a vet who had over 300 alpacas! Good luck!

  11. Bob Alford says:

    We have a 3 week old that the mother started kicking at her when she feeds? This started yesterday. She is still feeding some when her mother is eating if she is very carefully. Any thoughts?

  12. Some alpaca moms are better than others. The ones that do that drive me bananas! Just weigh the cria frequently so that you know he is gaining still. If not, you gotta supplement or get him on grain soon… Makes you all the more appreciative of the great alpaca dams!

  13. HELP I have a baby born Sunday, first time mom. the baby will not stand, we have been bottle feeding but we can’t get more then 2oz down at a time. how much should she be eating at a feeding & how often.

  14. If you have a cria that is not standing within 6 hours you definitely need a vet. Check Dr. Evans Veterinary Field Guide to Lamas for the amount the cria would need to be supplemented. It will vary based on cria weight. Your cria sounds “at risk” and will need veterinary intervention. Good luck!

  15. Katy:
    I have an alpaca who is 2 mos old (dob 6/11/12) his mother died at birth, and I bought him at an auction and he has been bottle fed ever since birth, and I am feedig him goats milk, and he has been chewing on hay and grass. But when should I try to wean him off the bottle of milk? And when can he go to another kind of milk? Any help would greatly appreciated, I like your website and it sounds like you know about alpacas.

  16. We have a baby alpaca born March 15th that appeared to be nursing well initially. He suddenly became weak, letharigic and stopped nursing. Not sure if mom’s milk supply was inadeqaute and we missed it, or that he contracted some infection, he seemed so energetic and healthy 2 days ago!! Found him lying flat today, we thought he was dead!!. We had the vet come out and gave him ointment for an eye infection and some antibiotics by needle in case of some other infection. He’s very skinny.We have him in the house now and on goats milk with some electrolytes in between. I feel so bad that I missed the signs!! Hes not taking much goat milk just a few ounces so far every 3 hours with an ounce or two of electrolytes between. He looks terrible!! Im so woriied he will die!
    How much should they be taking in every 3-4 hours??

  17. Hi Annette,
    I just got your comment, hope your cria is okay. I recommend looking that up in Dr. Evans’ Field Guide for Lamas and Alpacas. That’s what I would do. It will tell you what to do based on the cria’s weight.

    Good luck!

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