In alpaca farming, the breeding and birth of crias is a process that requires patience on the part of the alpaca farmer.
The pedigree of the alpaca must be known. You may choose to breed the female you own with a choice stud. You may also want to grow both genders. In-depth knowledge of pedigree nuances will give you the know-how to avoid alpaca with inherently bad dispositions or physical defects. An alpaca that does poorly in a breeding test could instead produce fleece for the fiber trade. You should never breed subpar alpaca.
Health, fleece micron and fertility are hereditary traits. Only breed animals of confirmed pedigree. You must study your alpaca before purchasing. Straight backs and legs, small heads and faces and a weight between 130 and 170 lbs (59 and 77 kg) are all signs of a good breed. When you are a member of the ARI, you can register your alpacas’ offspring worldwide. You will be able to sell your alpaca for much more if they are registered.
• Females can begin breeding at 1 year. Males are sexually mature at about 3 years old. Start with a pregnant female so that you can experience pregnancy and care before males are introduced into the herd.
• Females may completely lie on their sides when mating. An average mating session may be 20 minutes long. A pregnant female or one who does not want to mate will hiss-spit at the stud. Females rarely misbehave. Place the pair in an enclosed area to observe whether the mating activity is successful. Expose each female to only one male to exercise control over your registration and breeding program.
• Alpaca females are perennially fertile. Allow targeted females to be approached by studs 11 months prior to when you want crias to be born. Gestation lasts 11 1/2 months. Crias born in the springtime have thicker fleeces. To prevent cria fleece from growing too rigidly, shear crias at 3 months of age.
Alpaca evolved as mountain animals and engage in parturition or unpacking, as giving birth is technically called, in mid to late morning.
A female who is about to unpack will seem a little uncomfortable, separate from the herd and hum to herself. She will begin to lie down and stand up. The head and forelegs of the cria will become visible. This stage of birth may last up to ninety minutes. A delivery complication could lengthen the process.
When crias are born, remove the plug from the mother’s teat so the crias can suckle. Crias should stand and move around within 15 minutes. Crias can be bottle fed if necessary, but weaning usually takes about 24 weeks.
There are few activities as rewarding and satisfying as those surrounding alpaca breeding and the birth of crias. Cuddly little crias are a joy to have around the farm when engaged in alpaca farming.