Mating, Pregnancy & Birth
Boy Meets Girl
When it comes to breeding, the hembra (female) comes into season as a result of mating with the macho (male), as alpacas are induced ovulators. Alpacas mate sitting down in a 'cush' position, and the stud male covers the female from the rear. The male sings/hums to the female during the process. This can go on for a few minutes up to nearly an hour! Females can be mated as soon as 2 weeks after giving birth! Many breeders use 'pen mating' which sees the male coming to the female only for mating. This can be done with your own stud quality males (bear in mind housing logistics) or by requesting stud services of another alpaca breeder. Breeding can occur at any time of the year, but UK breeder best practice is between March and October so that young are born in better weather with the chance of some sun on their backs before winter comes.
Testing for Pregnancy
To determine pregnancy, breeders often use a very reliable natural pregnancy test called a 'spit-off'. This involves the male being brought back to the same female at 2 and/or 4 weeks after the last mating date. If the female spits at the male and does not sit, this is usually a positive indication of pregnancy. However, if the female sits again, this is a negative indication of pregnancy. After 2 months following the last successful mating date, it is possible to arrange a veterinary ultrasound to confirm pregnancy if needed.
The female is pregnant for 11.5 months.
Due to their origins in the mountains with cold, dark nights, most alpacas give birth during the morning. This gives the cria enough time to dry out before nightfall. This is especially important as alpacas do not lick their young when born, which often speeds up the drying process in other animals.
An alpaca giving birth is known as an ‘unpacking’. Most females give birth to a single cria and twins are very rare. Alpacas rarely need assistance during the birth, and they can show almost no signs of giving birth!
If you are interested in keeping alpacas, we recommend visiting a few alpaca keepers (covid-19 restrictions permitting) in order to discover first-hand how herds are managed and cared for. You can also receive some much-needed advice and guidance, and may even get some personal experience in handling them. We offer valuable guidance and support to individuals considering keeping alpacas; just contact us for further information.