Updated: Nov 14
Next up in our Caring for Alpacas ‘breeding’ mini-series is mating and testing for pregnancy. Check out part 1 for further information on age, studs, and the BAS.
Boy Meets Girl
When the males is introduces to the female, there is often a little bit of chase to begin with. If the female is empty (not pregnant), she will sit down in a ‘cush’ position (lying down with her legs tucked underneath her), so that the stud can cover (mate) her from the rear. The male sings/hums to the female during the process, which can last from anywhere between a few minutes up to nearly an hour!
Top Tip: The alpacas should ideally meet after shearing, to avoid the male’s penis becoming entangled in long fleece and therefore reduce the risk of infection.
Mating Methods: Pen Mating
Pen Mating is the method preferred by most breeders, which involves the male coming to the female for mating only. This allows the exact due date of the cria to be calculated and tracked. As female alpacas are induced ovulators, this method works well and is usually very effective. A clean, level area of around 3m x 3m with suitable fencing should be allocated for pen mating.
The female is put into the pen, often with her cria as it usually takes place just 2 weeks after unpacking. The male is then brought in on a headcollar and lead rope, so that he can be removed if the female does not want to mate. If the female is receptive, she will sit down to be mated. You may also see other nearby females come to the fence and sit if they are empty (not pregnant).
Mating Methods: Field Mating
Field or paddock mating involves placing the male into a field with females and allowing them to mate freely. It is important to keep track of who is related to who and make sure all females are of suitable age prior to mating. The male should be removed after a short period of time to prevent him from remating with females that are pregnant – which can lead to abortion.
Note: DO NOT put multiple males in with females as this will cause fighting.
Although field mating may seem like a more natural method, it is important to remember that in the wild, alpacas span miles and miles of territory and males often compete to mate with females. Males in the wild would not have a captive group of females at his disposal so can harass them in a paddock environment!
Top Tip: Cria born in the spring and early summer often grow and develop better than those born later in the year. If the female in question has given birth late in the year, it may be worth skipping a season to avoid any late births.
The Spit Off
If using the pen mating method, the stud can be brought back approximately 14 days later to conduct a ‘spit off’: an alpaca’s version of a pregnancy test!
The female is put into the pen and the stud is brought in on a headcollar and lead rope. The male will attempt to mate with the female. If she sits, she is empty and can be remated, but if she will not sit and instead turns around and spits at the stud, she is pregnant!
A spit off is a pretty reliable method of testing for pregnancy in alpacas. It can be repeated again another 14 days after the first spit off, and at 60 days after the original mating date an ultrasound scan is possible (however, cattle and sheep probs are NOT suitable for alpacas).