Echidna milk composition changes significantly as the young ages. Echidna Milk Replacer Early Lactation is specially formulated for unfurred juveniles, when they would normally be carried in the mother's skin fold (less than 30 days of age). Juveniles at this age are prone to disease and mortality and should only be attempted by experienced carers.
Furless echidnas can be roughly aged based on body length as outlined in the Wombaroo Echidna Growth Chart. Body weight is not a good indicator of age because this can vary greatly with body condition and level of dehydration.
Success in hand-rearing furless echidnas greatly improves if they receive Impact Colostrum Supplement within a week of coming in to care. Refer to "Directions for Marsupials" under the Impact feeding guidelines.
Making up Milk
To make 100mL of milk: Mix 21g of powder (3 scoops) to 85ml of warm water.
To make 1 litre of milk: Mix 210g of powder to 850ml of warm water.
Add half the water to the powder first and mix to a paste. Then add the remaining water and mix thoroughly. Pre-boil the water to ensure that it is sterilised. If the water is too hot it can cause the milk to curdle. If it is too cold then it will be difficult to disperse the powder. Wombaroo contains elevated protein and fat levels, so the milk needs to be well mixed to prevent it from separating out. An electric whisk can be used for mixing larger quantities. Milk can be stored in the fridge for a day or can be frozen for up to two weeks. It is useful to make up milk in larger quantities and store it frozen in small portions (eg ice cube trays), so that the required daily feed volumes can be easily thawed out. Once thawed out, discard any unused milk, and wash feeding utensils thoroughly.
Warm milk to about 30°C and feed from the palm of the hand or a shallow rubber bowl. Thorough washing of hands and wearing of powder-free disposable rubber gloves may be useful to reduce the risk of contamination with micro-organisms. Very young echidnas may not suckle well and could require tube feeding if they have not ingested sufficient milk after three days in care. Digestion of milk is slow, so the contents of the stomach need to be fully emptied before the next feed. We recommend to feed at 36 hour intervals for early lactation echidnas. This time frame may be further extended as the animal gets older. Note that the Wombaroo Feeding guidelines give average daily feed volumes, so multiply this by the number of days between each feed.
If the young is showing signs of dehydration (eg during hot weather), give extra drinks of water between feeds. Echidnas dehydrate rapidly if not maintained under optimum husbandry conditions. In particular, carers often keep echidnas at too high a temperature, which can cause dehydration. It is important to provide housing where temperatures do not exceed 30ºC. Consult your veterinarian or specialist wildlife carer for further information about husbandry and feeding of young echidnas.
Refer to the Wombaroo growth charts for guidelines for echidnas. Weigh young regularly (before feeding) to verify weight gains and determine the volume of milk to feed. Overfeeding milk can cause diarrhoea so feed the suggested volumes in our tables.
Transitioning from Early to Late Lactation milk
Milk transition refers to when the young is changed from the early lactation milk stage to the late lactation stage. It is important to transition young at the correct age to ensure they are getting the proper nutrition for their stage of development. Note that milk transition is dependent on age and not body weight, as underweight animals still need to be transitioned at the correct time. Gradually transition milk at 30 days of age by mixing decreasing amounts of Early Lactation with increasing amounts of Late Lactation over 2 to 3 weeks. This transition occurs just before the emergence of spines and begins when body length is approximately 115mm and body weight around 90g, although body weight may be highly variable at this time. This is outlined in the Wombaroo Echidna Growth Chart.