“Liquid Gold” Photo by Val Newell of The Green Alpaca
Recently I was asked the Question: Have I ever had to milk a female alpaca? And did I have some tips…
Yes, I’ve had to milk an alpaca. Too many times, actually. And it’s difficult. You need 2 people or a chute usually to hold the dam still. I find most alpaca dams don’t have enough milk that you can milk out by hand to sustain a weak cria.
Some alpaca breeders tell of being able to milk alpacas with syringe tips and other rigged things. I am in awe of their patience and their alpacas. I have only had two alpacas over the years who had enough milk that I could do that and get enough milk to sustain the cria. Remember – I also have 4 children, and am currently flying solo with 50 other alpacas. Most of the time I have 10 loads of laundry, a basketball tournament, and a piano recital calling for me, not to mention several little voices calling “Mommy”, and that creepy cat that thinks he’s my boyfriend. So I have to be practical, and I do it a little bit differently.
Back to milking. I always milk out the dam enough to keep her milk flowing, but not enough to make her sore. Christine Navarre, DVM advises that too much milking by human hands can cause the alpacas’ teats to become too sore and may cause her to shy away when cria goes to nurse. (We do NOT want that!) So I milk no more than 2-3x a day.
Because that is usually not going to get me enough milk to sustain the cria, I supplement with local frozen goat colostrum that I keep on hand for the 1st 24 hours, then regular A & D cow’s milk after that (with a bit of liquid yogurt, Activia or Kefir too for the gut) until mom and cria get connected – hopefully REAL SOON!
I always put mom and cria together around feeding time and try to get cria to nurse after each bottle feeding. NEVER giving that up. I keep mom and cria together as a twosome until the bonding/nursing thing is figured out.
Having frozen colostrum around when a new cria is born is critical. Just as important as it is to have plasma (for low IGG or failure of passive transfer).
Ideally we would all have frozen alpaca colostrum, but alpacas are not prolific milkers. When I was new to alpacas and trying to figure out how to find a vet that would work on them the famous vet, Dr. David Pugh told me, “Just tell them they’re just glorified goats. That’s what they are.”
So the next best colostrum is goat colostrum. I buy frozen from a goat farm in my area. I consider them “My Dealer”. I protect that stuff like it’s liquid gold. Because it is. It has life saving properties like nothing else! And I’m so lucky to have it. The fact that they are local means that those goats have built up an immunity to diseases and things in our area. That is priceless. It is infinitely better than buying it from some goats 6 states away. Or giving them powdered colostrum from a cow. (I’m not going to go into why, just trust me. or ask your vet. Either one.)
So, my opinion on the milking is – do a little milking, you will do a lot more bottle feeding. And try HARD, HARD, HARD to connect that dam and cria. Never give up on that. Don’t let them off the hook on that one. Or you will be bottle feeding for 6 months. And nobody wants that. (at least here they don’t!)
And most important of all - GET A DEALER~!
Ask around at the feed store or at your vet’s office – who raises goats? They can often tell you. Goat keepers will often sell you their frozen colostrum. You will feel SO good to know that it is in your freezer. OMG it is such a good feeling to know that it is there!