‘Hand-rearing orphaned macropods should be done with the unique physiology of macropod lactation in mind to ensure success…’ ‘Macropod Nutrition’,
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Joseph A. Smith DVM, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, USA. Cited from: Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, Nutrition and Behavior of Uncommon Species, 2009.
The composition of marsupial milk changes both in quantity and quality during the growth of the pouch young.
Carbohydrates and protein concentration slowly increase – up to 13% before first pouch emergence then rapidly decrease to approximately 1 %. Protein then slightly decreases after joeys first pouch emergence. There is also a gradual increase in the energy content of the milk throughout and variations in mineral content.
The problem with universal artificial formula is such a large volume needs to be fed to give the animal its caloric requirements. Because the process marsupials use to digest milk is slow, the high volume feeding necessary may result in diarrhoea. The formula also lacks in the levels of protein and fat.
So how do we feed marsupials to ensure they get the high energy requirements and other changes in milk composition during lactation? Wombaroo has been developed to reflect these changes through the growth stages as closely as possible.
The following table highlights just how different the two formulae are.
Source: ‘Medicine of Australian Mammals’ edited by Larry Vogelnest & Rupert Wood, CSIRO publishing, 2008.
Joeys may survive on other formula but rarely thrive. Feeding a universal supplement may also lead to malnourishment and all the problems associated with such. When the larger volumes of universal formula needed are taken into consideration the difference of cost is minimal, especially the long term costs – both to the joey and the carer – that may be incurred in treating nutritional deficiencies such as cataracts and fur loss.
Apprentice Carer! – 5 years