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Breeding and Birthing

by GLAA members Lorrie and Randy Krause of Alpaca Acres (retired)

Birthing

The foretelling signs of imminent birth vary from dam to dam, but can include frequent cushing then standing, hanging around the dung pile, dilated vulva or any change in behavior. A normal unassisted birth usually takes about 45 minutes once started. It begins with the cria's nose peeking through the vulva. Next, the fore paws should emerge. Then, the entire cria. Dry the cria off in cold weather. Make sure nasal passage is clear and the cria is breathing freely. Cria should be nursing and standing on own within six hours post-partum. Dip the navel in iodine solution once a day for three days.

Now for dam care. Pacing, getting up and down, spitting and screaming are a normal part of the birthing process. After birth, the placenta should be expelled in its entirety within a couple hours post-partum; the dam may be uncomfortable nursing until then. Remove waxy plugs from dam's teats with warm wet cloth. Check for vaginal tears and monitor for signs of infection. Flushing your females' genital tract within the first three days after birthing can be beneficial to her reproductive health.

Unless you have been trained on how to deal with these situations, contact your veterinarian immediately at any signs of stress or abnormal presentation in cria or prolonged and excessive straining by dam.

Cria Care

A healthy cria will be up and on its feet in less than an hour after birth. It's important for the cria to begin nursing on its own, so many breeders will separate other alpacas from the new mother and cria and minimize other distractions. Most mothers and crias work it out on their own, but ocassionally will need help.

Once the cria is up and nursing, routine care includes administering innoculations and monitoring feces, also recording the weights of growing crias. They should gain between 1/4 and 1/2 pound per day until approximately 35 pounds where their weight may temporarily plateau. Special diet and supplements may be needed for winter crias that are lacking appropriate levels of sunlight exposure.

IgG Testing

Blood is sometimes drawn from crias at 24 hours; the results will indicate the amount of antibodies absorbed by the cria during the passive anti-body transfer from the dam during the first few hours of nursing. This test may be indicated in crias that have trouble nursing or if the first nursing occurred over six hours post-partum, a first-time mom, or in any other instance where consumption of colostrum is not suspected. Some ranches perform this test on a standard basis in all crias in order to record a starting blood plate. Consult with your veterinarian to conclude test results and if further action is required such as blood transfusion. On our farm, we routinely test our crias on the day they're born.



Weaning

Weaning can be stressful for cria and dam. Ensure both are in optimal health at this time. Although cria has been grazing on hay and pasture, the rumen is not functioning 100% until about 3 to 4 months of age. Weaning can begin anytime after about 50 pounds but not before 3.5 months. Hopefully, cria has shown an interest in feeding on the pellets. There are several methods to wean; the two most popular being cold-turkey and gradual separation. The cold-turkey method is simply removing the cria out of sight of the dam for at least 1 to 2 months. Gradual separation involves separating the cria from the dam during the day, but allowing them back together over night or separating the cria and dam but within eyesight of each other. A third method is to let the dam wean the cria by kicking it off. Realize that the cria may continue to nurse as long as there is a source. And, the dam may continue to produce milk as long as there is a demand for it. At some point, lactating may become a burden to the dam and begin taxing her health. Choose a method that works best for you and your individual alpacas. One method may work better for one set of cria and dam than another.

Breeding

Female alpacas are ready to breed when they reach 75% of their adult weight which usually occurs between 12 and 24 months. Sexually mature females are induced ovulators and do not exhibit estrus cycles typical of most domesticated animals. If not pregnant, a mature female is almost constantly "open" or receptive to breeding. Males mature more slowly typically becoming ready to breed between 2 and 3 years of age. Since a few females have become pregnant as early as 6 months and some males may be precocious as youngsters, it is important to separate open females and intact males soon after weaning at 5 to 8 months of age.

Progesterone levels are at their lowest in a female between 14 and 21 days after a cria is born. This is an ideal time to re-breed her. If she had a normal parturition, has no infection, vaginal bleeding or tears, introduce her to a male at 14 days postpartum. Leave with male for one week or rebreed every three days. Behavior test the female at 21 and 35 days postpartum. If she was not receptive (did not cush), the next step to verify pregnancy with either an ultrasound or progesterone test. Repeat pregnancy verification at 60 days. If at anytime pregnancy is not indicated, return her to the male to be rebred and start the process again. Some females may need antibiotic uterine flush or hormone injections to become pregnant in certain situations such as infection or being open for an extended period of time.

Breeding is done in the prone position and takes at least 15 minutes since the male dribbles, rather than ejaculates, semen into the female uterus. While breeding, the male makes a continuous "orgling" noise and occasionally moves his front legs along the sides of the female. The mating process induces the female to ovulate so she can become pregnant.

The gestation period is approximately eleven months and almost always results in the birth of a single, healthy baby called a "cria". A cria usually weighs between 10 and 18 pounds and stands and begins to nurse within minutes or a few hours of birth.

 

Alpaca Gestation Table

Average Gestation - 335 Days

Date
Bred
Approx
Due
Date
Date
Bred
Approx
Due
Date
Date
Bred
Approx
Due
Date
Date
Bred
Approx
Due
Date
Jan 1 Dec 2 Apr 1 Mar 2 Jul 5 Jun 5 Oct 3 Sep 3
Jan 6 Dec 7 Apr 6 Mar 7 Jul 10 Jun 10 Oct 8 Sep 8
Jan 11 Dec 12 Apr 11 Mar 12 Jul 15 Jun 15 Oct 13 Sep 13
Jan 16 Dec 17 Apr 16 Mar 17 Jul 20 Jun 20 Oct 18 Sep 18
Jan 21 Dec 22 Apr 21 Mar 22 Jul 25 Jun 25 Oct 23 Sep 23
Jan 26 Dec 27 Apr 26 Mar 27 Jul 30 Jun 30 Oct 28 Sep 28
Jan 31 Jan 1 May 1 Apr 1 Aug 4 Jul 5 Nov 2 Oct 3
Feb 5 Jan 6 May 6 Apr 6 Aug 9 Jul 10 Nov 7 Oct 8
Feb 10 Jan 11 May 11 Apr 11 Aug 14 Jul 15 Nov 12 Oct 13
Feb 15 Jan 16 May 16 Apr 16 Aug 19 Jul 20 Nov 17 Oct 18
Feb 20 Jan 21 May 21 Apr 21 Aug 24 Jul 25 Nov 22 Oct 23
Feb 25 Jan 26 May 26 Apr 26 Aug 29 Jul 30 Nov 27 Oct 28
Mar 2 Jan 31 May 31 May 1 Sep 3 Aug 4 Dec 2 Nov 3
Mar 7 Feb 5 Jun 5 May 6 Sep 8 Aug 9 Dec 7 Nov 8
Mar 12 Feb 10 Jun 10 May 11 Sep 13 Aug 14 Dec 12 Nov 13
Mar 17 Feb 15 Jun 15 May 16 Sep 18 Aug 19 Dec 17 Nov 18
Mar 22 Feb 20 Jun 20 May 21 Sep 23 Aug 24 Dec 22 Nov 23
Mar 27 Feb 25 Jun 25 May 26 Sep 28 Aug 29 Dec 27 Nov 28
    Jun 30 May 31