Alpaca mating

tn_Pc240054Females are able to reproduce for most of their lifetime. Alpacas can produce only one baby (cria) per year as the female (hembra) has a gestation period of 335 days or 11.5 months. The female can be mated at 1 year of age but we prefer to wait another few months until they are more mature. Matings are done any time during the year, two weeks after birthing a cria. Most breeders prefer offspring to be born during spring,summer and autumn months because of the warmer weather. Offspring have a 50% chance of being male or female.

Multiple births are rare and if they occur, mostly both crias die as they are too small to survive. Males get aroused when sniffing out a dung pile of excretions from the ovulating female, smelling the female.

Alpacas are induced ovulators, a mating will make a female produce an egg which goes to the uterus for fertilization by the sperm.

The female sits down to be mated when she is ready. If she is not ready, she will spit at the male, won’t sit for him and will run away. She may also do this because she is already pregnant, this is known as a "spit off". Some times they just don’t like the male and will sit for another male. If the male is not interested in her she is probably pregnant and /or does not produce the right scent. A mating can take about 10 – 40 minutes, the male does not ejaculate once, but merely dribbles semen throughout the mating. Matings can be repeated after an interval of two weeks. Artificial insemination has so far not be successful in alpacas. Embryo transplantation is a possiblitiy.

Pregnancy testing can be done by ultrasound. The ultrasound should be done on the left side of the belly, as the foetus usually develops in the left horn of the uterus. From about 6 weeks a pregnancy is visible on ultrasound. After 6 months the ultrasound is no longer accurate because there is not enough fluid in the uterus.

The alpacas normally give birth during daytime and have the ability to "postpone," the birth up to two or three weeks if weather conditions are unfavourable. With a normal birth the cria will be up and walking within two hours. Alpaca do not lick the membranes from the baby, these fall off when the cria struggles to its feet. They look, and probably are, very unstable on their long legs, but they manage! After the placenta is expelled the dam will allow the cria to nurse the first milk which is very important as it contains antibodies for the cria, its protection against illness and disease. Mother bonding is very important even when you have to interfere during the birth, give baby back to mum as soon as possible and don’t rub off too much of her scent. If all goes well, just leave them together.

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