Mating & Pregnancy

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Alpacas can be bred at any time of year, but more difficulties (for the new-born) are likely to be encountered in winter, or the heat of mid-day summer, so many breeders in New Zealand try to get their females to give birth in either Autumn or late Spring.

Females are usually mated for the first time according to weight and age – however many owners have no way of weighing their alpacas, so mate a one year old and hope for the best. We have heard that USA vets are reporting a large increase in alpacas requiring birthing assistance and 80% of these are first time mothers – indicated they may have have been bred at too young an age. Many US vets are now advocating that females not be bred until they are 18 months to 2 years of age; we feel this is a good policy.

Alpacas are normally remated 2 weeks after giving birth, with the highest proportion of successful matings occurring at this time. Alpacas are “induced ovulators” – they are stimulated to ovulate by the act of mating. The male “orgles” (sings) to the female during the act of mating and it is believed that this also encourages ovulation. A female ready to accept a male will “cush” (sit down) and allow the male to mount her. One who is pregnant will run from him and if he is persistent, spit at him. This is called “spitting off” and is a useful tool in determining whether a female has previously ovulated, or is pregnant.

In NZ, pen mating of alpacas is the most common method – the female is taken to a mating pen and the desired male released with her. Most females will initially dodge the male, then those who are “open” (not pregnant) will cush, while those who have ovulated or are pregnant will spit him off. Another method not so commonly used is paddock mating – where the male runs loose in the paddock with the females. This method is only successful when you have a large number of females to be mated to the same male.

Confirmation of pregnancy can be determined in several ways. First is the “spit off”. Most females are “spat off” one or two weeks after mating. This is not proof of pregnancy but indicates whether the female has ovulated. An additional spit off is done at 4 weeks, and this is usually a good indication that the female is pregnant. Forty days after mating, a blood test can be done to confirm pregnancy. Ultrasound scanning is another device to determine pregnancy.

Gestation is normally around 11½ months, but cria can be born full term up to a month prior to their due date, and not be overdue 4-6 weeks after it! Most gestational tables work on a term of 11 months, but most breeders report 11½ is commonly expected. Alpacas have a reputation of giving birth on sunny days between 10am and 2pm, however births can and do occur in bad weather, early mornings or late afternoons. Often these are the births most likely to cause problems, either in the actual birth, or the ability of the cria to thrive immediatelyfollowing parturition. You should keep a close eye on any alpaca due to give birth!

For more detailed information, see Breeding Alpacas.