Last, but certainly not least, in our alpaca breeding mini-series is gestation, birthing and cria care. Check out part 1 for further information on breeding ages, selecting and housing studs, stud services and registering alpacas with the BAS, or see part 2 for information on the mating process and testing for pregnancy.
How long are alpacas pregnant for?
Alpacas are pregnant for an average of 343 days (11.5 months), but can vary between 320 - 375 days!
What is it called when an alpaca gives birth?
An alpaca giving birth is called 'unpacking' and happens after an 11.5 month gestation.
Do alpacas need assistance when giving birth?
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 as twins are very rare.
What signs do alpacas show when they are about to give birth?
Here are some common signs to look out for when an alpacas is getting close to giving birth:
Few weeks before
'Bagging up' of the udder (milk is being produced, ready for the cria)
Few days before
Dropping of the belly & hollowing in the hips
Withdrawing from the herd to the perimeters of the group
The morning of birthing
Restless / agitated behaviour & can't appear to get comfortable
Visiting frequently and/or straining at the poo pile
Lying with legs to side
Labour has begun
Fluid bag visible
Feet and nose of the cria visibly showing
What items should be in an alpaca birthing kit?
To ensure you are fully prepared for your alpaca to give birth, we recommend that you keep a birthing kit handy in a dedicated bucket or toolbox, clearly labelled 'Birthing Kit' so that it can easily be found by you or anybody else looking after your alpacas. An alpaca birthing kit should contain the following items…
Vets phone number
Iodine (to spray the umbilical cord)
Hibiscrub and bucket (to sterilise hands and utensils)
Alpaca colostrum in case the cria does not suckle within its first few hours or the dam has no milk (Immucol Platinum is the recommended colostrum for alpacas) and bottle with a lamb teat
Stomach feeding tube & syringe
Towel to dry the cria’s body if needed
Cria coat and hot water bottle in case of a difficult birth or poor weather conditions
Scales and a sling to weigh the cria
Bag for bagging afterbirth
Glucose in case of a difficult birth or lethargy
What do I need to do after an alpaca has given birth?
Here is a helpful, but not exhaustive, checklist of things to check and carry out once an alpaca has given birth:
Shortly after birth:
The navel should be sprayed with Iodine solution to prevent infection and helps to dry and seal the cord and check the sex of the cria at the same time
Record their weight and temperature; healthy cria weigh 6.5KG - 8KG at birth and have a temperature range of 36.8°C - 39.2°C
Fastract Jump Start can be given to new born cria, especially those that have had a difficult/lengthy birth
If you need to dry the cria, leave the head & bum area as the dam identifies her cria by smelling these areas
Once essential quick checks have been done, leave the dam & cria alone to bond, as disrupting them too much can lead to one rejecting the other
Within first 4 hours:
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 - call the vet ASAP if suckling does not occur
Check the female has passed the placenta (also known as the afterbirth or cleanse)
Within the first 12 months:
Crias should receive vitamin D supplementations at 1 month and 3 months of age and again at weaning time
Weigh your cria regularly to check they are increasing in weight by around 1.5kg per week in their first 2 months and continue to gain weight steadily thereafter
Wean cria at 5.5 to 6 months old and worm as required
Microchipping should be carried out by 12 months of age
Register your cria with the British Alpaca Society once microchipped
Disclaimer: Fostings Alpacas are not a veterinarian body. Always consult your vet if your are concerned about your alpacas.
Learn how to look after alpacas
This 95 page E-Guide is packed full of information for new and prospective alpaca keepers, covering Alpaca 101, Requirements, Diet & Pasture Management, Husbandry Tasks, Disease & Parasites and an Introduction to Breeding & Cria Care. Download upon purchase so you can dive straight in! For the full contents list and to get your copy, click the image below.