Compared to many other domesticated ruminants, very little is known about lactation in South American camelids. However, knowledge about milk and milk nutrient intakes in suckling young is essential for giving recommendations on an adequate nutrient supply. Direct measurement of milk production in South American camelids is hardly applicable, due to their short teats of about 2 cm and the low storage capacity of the udder. Therefore, we estimated milk production in llamas by measuring the milk intake in suckling young as an indirect trait. The study was conducted in Germany under temperate climatic conditions involving 11 lactating dams at two consecutive lactation periods (average body mass: 147.7±18.2, mean ± SD). Milk intake was estimated from water kinetics of 17 suckling young using two different stable isotope techniques, namely the isotope dilution technique involving the application of deuterium oxide (D2O) to the suckling young and the ’dose-to-the-mother’ technique involving the application of D2O to the lactating dam. The latter method additionally allows for the estimation of non-milk water intakes of suckling young. Daily milk intakes averaged 2.7±0.63, 2.2±0.60 and 2.0 ± 0.51 kg at 3-4, 10-11 and 18-19 weeks postpartum. Milk intake in suckling young decreased with age when expressed as daily amount, percentage of body mass or per kg metabolic size (P < 0.001), but the influence of age was eliminated when expressed per g daily gain. In suckling llamas, total water turnover increased with age (P < 0.01), whereas the milk water fraction decreased (P < 0.001). With increasing age less water from milk and more water from other sources was ingested. In contrast, the fraction of the milk water excreted by the dam did not change, indicating a fairly constant relationship between milk-water excreted via milk and total water ingested during lactation. Our results show that the stable isotope techniques used in the present study give reasonable estimates of the milk production in llamas. Furthermore, combined with milk composition data, the present milk intake estimations at different stages of lactation can be used to establish recommendations for nutrient and energy requirements of suckling llamas and lactating dams.
- stable isotopes
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout
Purchases are for personal use onlyLearn about institutional subscriptions
Butte N.F., W. W. Wong, B.W. Patterson, C. Garza and P.D. Klein, 1988. Human-milk intake measured by administration of deuterium oxide to the mother: a comparison with the test-weighing technique. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 47: 815–21.
Carmean B.R., K.A. Johnson, D.E. Johnson and L.W. Johnson, 1992. Maintenance energy requirement of llamas. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 53: 1696–1698.
Coward W.A., M.B. Sawyer, R.G. Whitehead, A.M. Prentice and J. Evans, 1979. New method for measuring milk intakes in breast-fed babies. Lancet, 2: 13–14.
Dove H., 1988. Estimation of the intake of milk by lambs, from the turnover of deuterium- or tritium-labelled water. British Journal of Nutrition, 60: 375–87.
Dove H. and S.J. Cork, 1989. Lactation in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). I. Milk consumption and the algebraic description of the lactation curve. Journal of Zoology, 219: 385–397.
Fowler M.E., 1989. Medicine and surgery of South American camelids: Llama, Alpaca, Vicuña, Guanaco. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA, USA.
Haisma H., W.A. Coward, E. Albernaz, G.H. Visser, J.C.K. Wells, A. Wright and C.G. Victoria, 2003. Breast milk and energy intake in exclusively, predominantly, and partially breast-fed infants. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57: 1633–1642.
Holleman D.F., R.G. White and J.R. Luick, 1975. New isotope methods for estimating milk intake and yield. Journal of Dairy Science, 58: 1814–21.
Holleman D.F., R.G. White and J.R. Luick, 1982. Application of the isotopic water method for measuring total body water, body composition and body water turnover. In: I.A.E. Agency (ed.), Use of tritiated water in studies of production and adaptation in ruminants. International Atomic Energy Agency, Nairobi, Kenya, pp. 9–32.
Johnson L.W., 1994. Lama nutrition. In: L.W. Johnson (ed), The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Food Animal Practice Vol. 10, W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, PA, USA, pp. 187–200.
King J.M., 1979. Game domestication for animal production in Kenya - Field studies of the body-water turnover of game and livestock. Journal of Agricultural Science, 93: 71–79.
Marcilese N.A., M.D. Ghezzi, M.A. Aba, R.A. Alzola, H. Solana and R.M. Valsecchi, 1994. Physiological studies in the South American camelid llama (Lama guanicoe f. d. glama). I. Body water spaces and water turnover. Acta Physiologica, Pharmacologica et Therapeutica Latinoamericana, 44: 36–42.
Oftedal O.T., 1981. Milk, protein and energy intakes of suckling mammalian young: a comparative study. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Pouillon C., 2001. Untersuchungen zum Mutter-Kind-Verhalten von Lamas (Lama glama) unterbesonderer Berucksichtigung des Saug- und Saugeverhaltens. Justus-Liebig-Universitat GieBen, GieBen, Germany.
Riek A., 2008. Relationship between milk energy intake and growth rate in suckling mammalian young at peak lactation: an updated meta-analysis. Journal of Zoology, 274: 160–170.
Riek A. and M. Gerken, 2009. Milk intake studies in llamas (Lama glama) using the ’dose-to-the-mother’ technique. Small Ruminant Research, 82: 105–111.
Riek A., M. Gerken and E. Moors, 2007. Measurement of milk intake in suckling llamas (Lama glama) using deuterium oxide dilution. Journal of Dairy Science, 90: 867–75.
SAS User’s Guide: Statistics, Release 9.01. 2001. SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC, USA.
Schneider W., R. Hauffe and W. van Engelhardt, 1974. Energie- und Stickstoffumsatz beim Lama. In: Y. van der Honing (ed.), Energy Metabolism of Farm Animals. EAAP publications, Stuttgart, Germany, pp. 121–130.
Van Saun R.J., 2006. Nutrient requirements of South American camelids: A factorial approach. Small Ruminant Research, 61: 165–186.
Editors and Affiliations
© 2011 Wageningen Academic Publishers
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
Riek, A., Gerken, M. (2011). Lactation in llamas (Lama glama): estimating milk intake and output using stable isotope techniques. In: Pérez-Cabal, M.Á., Gutiérrez, J.P., Cervantes, I., Alcalde, M.J. (eds) Fibre production in South American camelids and other fibre animals. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen. https://doi.org/10.3920/978-90-8686-727-1_22
Publisher Name: Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen
Online ISBN: 978-90-8686-727-1