Actually, you DO NOT WANT to imprint your cria to humans. He needs to imprint on his mom and realize that he is an alpaca. We did some imprinting by accident, and we have since fixed the problem. Here’s what happened.
I was going to the barn to prepare Merry’s evening bottle when I saw this cria. He had just been born. His dam (alpaca mom) dropped him and walked off. She really did not read the book on alpacas and birthing. She had him around 6:30pm and they rarely birth this close to night. So the poor dear was already a bit confused, bless her heart.
Penelope was a first time mom and sometimes they will do this. I think Penelope would relate to those ladies who don’t realize they are pregnant and suddenly give birth. I guess Penelope didn’t understand the ultrasounding, the kicking inside her belly, and what it was going to mean to “pass” the little thing that had been inside her.
When this happens we usually pick up the cria and bring it to the dam for her to smell. They usually sniff it and realize that it has something to do with them. Generally, we will put a cria in a stall with it’s mother for a couple of days while they get the nursing thing worked out. I like to see 2 days of weight gain before I let them back out into the bigger herd where the cria might get confused and try to nurse on every female he comes across. Other times the dam and cria bond so well and the cria is so aware of everything that I don’t have to separate them at all.
In this case, Penelope walked away and it was going to take more intervention on our part to connect this momma and baby. My daughter was with me and loved that she could help with the new baby. I asked her to stay with him and dry him off while I got their pen ready. A bond began to form.
The cria began to try to nurse. On anything. Her shirt, face, towel, whatever. He tried it all. We wound up having to bottle feed him that night because his mom still needed some convincing that it was her job to do that. (It took her a day and a half and some coaxing, but she finally came around and is now nursing him.)
When my daughter turned to leave the field, this little cria trotted right after her, as if SHE was his mom. Since we had to bottle feed him, the idea that humans were the milk source was confirmed in his mind. In the pen with his dam, he ignored her and kept trying to get out of the pen to be with the humans. When we walked by, he tried to get close to us.
The moral of the story is to refrain from getting TOO lovey with new cria. They are adorable and huggable. If you must hug them, try to do it AFTER they’ve bonded with mom. This was an unusual occurance, I haven’t seen this happen before so I wanted to share the experience.
I consulted with another alpaca breeder who has dealt with alpacas who don’t like to nurse their cria, at least initially. Her advice was to always let/make the dam be the first to feed the cria and also to feed the cria the bottle very close to mom’s udder so that he associates the location of the udder with food.
It turned out that Penelope had some udder edema. We milked her out and gave her some anti-inflamatory medication. Once the edema subsided and we left them alone together overnight, she did much better and allowed him to nurse.
Leave a comment and tell us: What imprinting experiences have you seen? Were they good or bad?