It seems rather surreal that we are in mid April already, with today being Inferno’s due date. I think at this point I am definitely feeling more excited than I am anxious, although this is likely to change!
Having had three children myself, I know what a slog pregnancy can be, but it is even more so for alpacas. These girls have eleven and a half months of pregnancy to endure, with a gestation range of 320-380 days being the norm. That is a long wait, for both them and us! So even though today is Inferno’s due date, and we are poised ready, we could have a bit of a wait yet.
Presentation of the cria in utero
Unlike many other animals that birth during the evening or the early hours of the morning, alpacas take a more civilised approach to giving birth. Most alpaca births (but not all) will occur between the hours of 8am and 2pm, some in the later afternoon, but never at night. This is believed to relate to their natural habitat in the Altiplano of Peru and Bolivia, where giving birth during the warmer daytime temperatures would give the cria a better chance of survival. For this reason, the mother alpaca will not lick her baby after the birth, which therefore leaves a thin membrane covering the cria’s fleece, protecting it from the elements that it would encounter in the wild.
The newborn alpaca will weigh between 6-10kg, and should be sitting in a kushed position within 10 minutes of birth and be attempting to stand within an hour. Quite amazing!
Despite alpacas being domesticated by humans, it is important that they are allowed to exhibit their natural behaviours as much as possible, especially when birthing. We may have our ‘cria box’ packed with sterile gloves and powdered colostrum, but in an ideal situation, they won’t be required. An experienced alpaca breeder told me that the three most important things I’d need for birthing season would be a pair of binoculars, a chair and some rope. The chair to tie myself to and the binoculars to keep an eye on the birthing alpaca from a distance! It would be safe to say that unless absolutely necessary, human intervention during the birth should be kept to a minimum.
Another exciting aspect of birthing season is planning ahead for the following year’s cria. By looking at our breeding females objectively, we can see how we may improve on them by breeding them to a suitable male.
After careful consideration, we have chosen our stud males for later this year, having assessed the girls on how we can improve on their progeny’s genetics. Houghton Daybreaker and Churchfield Bedrock will be visiting our girls on the farm this year.
Houghton Daybreaker is a Double Supreme Champion Male with 7 championships to his name. Churchfield Bedrock is the Rose-Grey Best of British Champion. It is hoped that these male’s genetics will have a positive impact on our herd, improving on our bloodlines and quality of our breeding stock. They certainly look the part!
For updates of this year’s cria births, please go to Cria Watch where you can find out all about our new arrivals!