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Breeding in Alpacas Part 3 (Gestation, Birthing & Cria Care)

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

Last, but certainly not least, in our Caring for Alpacas ‘breeding’ mini-series is gestation, birthing and cria care. Check out part 1 for further information on age, studs and the British Alpaca Society, or see part 2 for further information on mating and testing for pregnancy.



Gestation

The hembra can become pregnant at any time as she is an ‘induced ovulator’, meaning that she comes into season as a result of mating with the macho. However, to give cria the best possible start in life, it is recommended to time births between late April – early July, so that alpacas have plenty of sun and grazing available and time to grow adequate fleeces ready for winter.


Top Tip: Pregnancy last for a long 11.5 months, so mating is best planned for around the same month you would like the cria to arrive the following year.



Unpacking

11.5 months after the last successful mating date, a cria will be born. Alpacas usually unpack (give birth) between 7am-2pm. This is because alpacas originate from the mountains in Peru, where the nights are long and cold; paired with the fact that alpacas do not lick their young (unlike sheep and other animals), so cria need time to dry off before nightfall.


Alpacas are rather secretive when unpacking and rarely need assistance, so usually you won’t see the cria until it is already born. A single cria will be born – twins are extremely rare. Signs of imminent unpacking include the dam distancing herself from the herd in the couple of days leading up to unpacking, as well as hollow hips and a ‘drop’ in her belly.



Birthing Kit

To ensure you are fully prepared for unpacking, we recommend that you keep a birthing kit handy in a brightly coloured bucket labelled ‘Birthing Kit’, so that it can easily be found by you or anybody else looking after your alpacas. It should contain the following items…

  • Veterinary telephone number (in case you are not around, and a problem occurs)

  • Hibi scrub and bucket (to sterilise hands and utensils in the event of an emergency)

  • Umbilical spray and clamps

  • Scales and a sling to weigh the cria

  • Towel (to dry the cria’s body if needed)

  • Alpaca colostrum (in case the cria does not suckle within its first few hours or the dam has no milk)

  • Cria coat (in case of a difficult birth or poor weather conditions)



Cria Care

Alpacas usually do not require assistance when giving birth and the cria is usually up and feeding within the hour. However, cria do require the following care…


Immediately after birth:

  • Check the cria has suckled within the first 4 hours of being born, as their immune system will be weak, and they need the colostrum (first milk) from the dam to help build their immunity.

  • Check the sex of the cria and spray the umbilical cord to prevent infection.

  • Weigh the cria. They weigh an average of 7.5kg at birth.


Within the first 12 months:

  • If the dam was vaccinated within 6 weeks of giving birth, the cria will have some immunity against clostridial disease and can be vaccinated with Lambivac at 30 and 60 days old. If the dam was not vaccinated within 6 weeks of giving birth, the cria should receive Lambivac at 1 and 30 days old.

  • Crias should receive vitamin D supplementations at 1, 3 and 6 months of age (or monthly over winter with the rest of the herd).

  • Weigh your cria regularly. They should increase in weight by around 1.5kg per week in their first 2 months.

  • Microchipping should be conducted by your vet by 12 months of age. Once chipped, your alpacas should then be registered with the BAS.



Click here to discover more about us and our alpaca family. You can also stay with our herd at Hush Hush Glamping – click here to find out more!

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