A neonatal class is highly recommended, but here’s a run down on what you can expect.
Most deliveries require no assistance and everything works out just fine.
Usually the morning the dam goes into labor, they will seem a bit out of it. They may not be eating with everyone and be alone- walking in circles. Some show no signs at all. Others start humming, going in circles, being alone…
It’s easy to miss pre-labor stages. In active labor, you’ll see their nose and two front legs. You want to see progress every 15-20 minutes- and usually once the head and front legs are out, you’ll see the rest of the cria not too long after. Sometimes the dam takes a break after the head and legs are out- dangling them. This is generally ok. If you have sharp fence edges or low water troughs, you may want to remove them.
Once the baby is born, the herd usually comes and greets the baby. If you see the herd gathered outside, good chance they are surrounding a new baby! Depending on the weather, you can towel dry (or blow dry with a hair dryer) the baby. You can dip the navel cord in iodine now or a bit later.
Congratulate mom and watch the baby and the herd. Crias will typically try to cush within 5-15 minutes. If cria is limp after 15 min. and makes no effort, make sure they are warm enough or cool enough (depending on the weather) and start stimulating them by towel drying them more. Touch and massage their legs as well. Most crias are wiggling about and trying to get away from your towel.
They will start trying to stand within 30 min to an hour or so. Everyone is a little different so some will attempt sooner and others a bit later.
Watch for the dam to expel her placenta and check to make sure all looks normal (no tears, etc.) This usually happens within a few hours of birth, but it can take longer. If it is dangling, allow gravity to let it come out naturally- and don’t ever pull as you can tear the uterine wall.
I usually like to put the dam and cria in their own pen area once the greetings are done and mom passes placenta. It’s not necessary and some mom/cria sets I leave with the herd while others get their private area for a day and sometimes longer. I always deliver the hay, water and grain to where the mom is resting since they will typically stay where the baby is- and is usually too distracted to go to the feeder and water buckets.
Next step is to watch the cria figure out nursing. If this is a first time mom and they let me, I will sneak under there with baby and strip the teats to make sure milk is in. Sometimes it’s already in and other times, it takes a bit longer. I want to see them nursing as soon as possible- but you also want to make sure they are getting something (so keep checking until you can confirm there is milk). If you can’t strip their teats, you can listen for the cria to gulp the milk down. If you watch closely, you can usually figure out whether there is milk or not.
Crias instinctively go towards dark corners for the milk, so their chances of finding it in a well lit area are better (think outside pens vs dark barns).
I want them nursing within 2 hours ideally- if either the dam’s milk isn’t in or cria is having trouble and I don’t think the cria got anything at 4-6 hours depending on the situation… I give a small bottle of defrosted colostrum (defrost in warm water, no microwave) to give the cria a boost.
Crias should be weighed daily. They may lose a little in the first few days, but they should start gaining daily. You can continue with the lactation herbs for mom and increase her grain to help her along.