A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 15, 2007

Appearances can be deceptive

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpaca Reproduction, Alpacas, Crias — alpacalady @ 6:30 am

Windrush Moonlight SurpriseSometimes we come across situations that defy explanation.  At the end of last year one of our clients sent two of their alpacas to us for breeding.  One of the two alpacas, Celeste, was to be bred to our junior herdsire Windrush Moonlight Surprise (Moonie), this was to be Moonie’s first breeding and so we were a little uncertain as to how successful it would be.

We bred Celeste to Moonie on two occasions, the first time Moonie was not really sure what he was there for, but we put another breeding pair in the pen next door to Celeste and Moonie and Moonie soon figured out what he was supposed to do.  That breeding did not take as when we put Celeste in with Moonie again she cushed readily, which is a good indication that she was not pregnant and was receptive to being bred. 

For the second breeding Moonie needed less encouragement, but he only bred Celeste for 12 minutes (typically alpaca males will breed for anywhere between 15 – 40 minutes) and still was a little nonchalant about the whole process.   We warned Celeste’s owners that the breeding may be unsuccessful and discussed with them a different choice of male for Celeste if we needed to breed her again.

When we behaviour tested Celeste, she spit hard and ran away from the male, which is typical of a female alpaca who is not receptive to breeding.  We conducted our usual three behaviour tests, each a week apart and each time Celeste spit and run, so now we were hopeful that she was pregnant.

We took Celeste in for an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy at 45 days post breeding.  By this time we were pretty confident Celeste was pregnant as her day to day behaviour had changed from being quiet and mellow to very spitty.   When our vet performed the ultrasound, he looked long and hard but could not see any embryo, in fact he said that Celeste’s uterus showed no sign of pregnancy.

So now we had an alpaca that was telling us she was pregnant, but an ultrasound that was telling us she was not.  

There is a condition called a “Retained Corpus Luteum” (Retained CL) that can cause pregnant behaviour in non-pregnant alpacas.    The hormone progesterone is what causes the non-receptive behaviour in pregnant alpacas.  Without getting too technical a Retained CL means that an ovarian follicle has failed to regress and progesterone is being produced, making the female behave as if she is pregnant.

We now needed to determine if Celeste had a Retained CL.  If she did, we would need to give her a drug that would cause her to release the Retained CL, however this drug would also cause her to abort if she was pregnant.  To help with our diagnosis we had our vet pull some blood from Celeste to check her progesterone levels.  With a Retained CL the progesterone levels are often higher than that of a pregnancy but this can vary between alpacas.

Celeste’s progesterone level came back at 4.8 ng/ml which made us feel that she was in fact pregnant.  We made another appointment with the vet for a second ultrasound and low and behold this time quite clearly we could see that Celeste had fluid in her uterus and there was a little embryo – Celeste is most definitely pregnant. 

So what caused the first ultrasound to be wrong?  That is a very good question.  This is actually the third time we have had this happen at this stage of pregnancy.  Our vet is very experienced with ultrasounds, but he can only tell us what he sees at the time of the procedure and on Celeste’s first ultrasound she did not appear to be pregnant.

So sometimes appearances can indeed be deceptive.  Thank goodness we did our follow up lab work and ultrasound rather than assuming Celeste had a Retained CL and treating her for that condition.  If we had done that we would have aborted the embryo that Celeste is carrying.

Interestingly enough when I spoke to Celeste’s owners to give them the good news of her pregnancy they mentioned that the same thing happened with her last pregnancy, and that it seems that one of Celeste’s daughters also is fooling the ultrasound.

The best part of this is that Celeste is pregnant, and Moonie has now proved that he is ready for action as a herdsire at the farm – now we just have to be patient and wait 11 months to see what the offspring of this pairing will look like!



  1. OK, I have a question – what happens if the retained CL is not diagnosed? Does this eventually clear up on its own, or will the alpaca continue to act pregnant for an entire pregnancy (like a false pregnancy in some animals) or longer?

    Comment by Caroline in NH — March 15, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

  2. […] Theresa has got what is known as a Retained Corpus Luteum (Retained CL).  A previous blog post on March 15, 2007 discussed Retained CL’s.  A very basic explanation of a Retained CL is that the ovarian follicle […]

    Pingback by Not Quite The Result We Expected « A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas — June 9, 2008 @ 8:31 am

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