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Elderwood Farms

Classic husbandry with a Southern charm

Austin Swain and Brandon Sigler
6340 Mudville RoadMillington, TN 38053

Preventing Berserk Male Syndrome in Bottle Fed Male Crias

"Go Charlie, Go"

I have been asked to write a blog on my experience on bottle feeding a male cria.  For those of you who do not know, bottle feeding male crias can lead to the male having “Berserk Male Syndrome.”  This syndrome is where the alpaca imprints on the human and avoids the assimilation of other alpacas.  This can become a very dangerous situation for when the alpaca is an adult because they can begin to exhibit dangerously aggressive behavior towards the human. 

To give some background information, Charles (aka Go Charlie, Go) was born about 4 weeks early in the evening and weighed less than 7 pounds.  His teeth were not erupted, which is a sign of being premature, and also his dam (alpaca mother) had absolutely no milk.  Charles temperature would not even register on the thermometer so I rushed him into a warm bath to internally bring his temperature up.  This took about an hour and with the assistance of his adopted brother Batman, our Yorkie.  Luckily, we had some frozen cattle colostrum on hand and began to tube feed 2 ounces at a time throughout the night.   To our surprise, Charles took to the bottle extremely well and by the next day was taking the colostrum directly from the bottle.  Now you also have to understand, the gut begins to become impenetrable to larger proteins that are vital for the cria’s defense system which is why it is important to get enough colostrum to the cria as possible. 

The most unfortunate thing about our situation is that Charles was extremely weak and was unable to stay with his mother but for short periods because we both work full time jobs and Charles had to be fed every 2 hours.  The first week was very “touch-and-go” and there were some days where Charles was having trouble maintaining his temperature even while being on a heating pad.  Charles has been coming to work with me every day for the past four weeks so he can be fed.  Our hope is that as he gets stronger, he will eventually be able to cut down on the frequency of the bottles and potentially stay home with the other crias and begin assimilating with his own kind. 

The point of this blog is how to avoid creating a situation that sets the cria up to develop “Berserk Male Syndrome”.  To be honest, I cannot completely answer that question because when I am given a mission I tend to get too involved and very emotionally attached.  I do not believe I have all the answers to how to avoid the situation, but I do believe I can provide advice that may be of some help to other people. 

Charles never identified his mother, they have absolutely no bond, and she has actually adopted another cria which a maiden rejected.  When I place Charles in the pen with the other dams and crias, he honestly has no interest in interacting with them.  We actually tried to get another mother to accept him by using various methods with no success.  My hope is that as I continue to introduce Charles to the other alpacas he will begin to realize that he is an alpaca and not a pet that can live inside forever.  I have to admit that it is tough as an “adoptive father” to just let him go and allow him to be the animal he is, but for anyone who has been in this situation knows it is best for the animal. 

For those people who want to buy alpacas to bottle feed, I do not want to be a bearer of bad new but you are really setting the animal up for failure.  The only reason Charles is being bottle fed because when he was born his mother had no milk, and the only way for him to survive was for us to intervene and help him.  It is has never been our intention to raise bottle babies, and especially raise bottle babies for sale.  Alpacas are herd animals and thrive to be with their own kind.  Slowly but surely I will begin to assimilate Charles with other alpacas but I want to do it in a safe manner for everyone involved and prevent possible injuries. 

I am not a veterinarian and by no means to claim to be an expert.  I hope that this helps people understand why it is not ideal to bottle feed babies.  When dealing with livestock, there are going to be times when we as humans must intervene, but we must do it cautiously and be as educated as possible to prevent not only harm to ourselves but the animal as well.