A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 6, 2007

Breeding Males – Is Starting Age an Issue

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Reproduction, Alpacas, Crias, General — alpacalady @ 7:53 am

A recent conversation with some alpaca breeder friends sparked a discussion on whether the age a male alpaca starts to breed is a major factor in assessing his value as a herdsire.   While several attributes are often used to assess a male alpacas worthiness as a herdsire, there has been little discussion as to whether a male who starts to reproduce earlier in life is more desirable than one who starts to reproduce later in life.

Most male alpacas start to breed between the age of two or three.  Some will start earlier and some will start later.  From a production point of view one would think that the male that starts to reproduce earlier would be more desirable than one that starts to reproduce later, but does that trait have an effect on the reproductive capabilities of his offspring?

There is very little written about breeding age in male alpacas, typically the only information available on the subject is that they breed between two to three years of age.

In an effort to gain more insight on the subject I have tried researching it with little result.  Not finding any information on the subject with regard to alpacas I then decided to expand my search to other species to see what was written about them.  Still not much luck I am afraid, but I did find one article on cattle “Age at Puberty and Scrotal Circumference Are Important Factors In Bull Selection” by Dr. Stephen B. Blezinger that makes for interesting reading.  Of course alpacas vary quite dramatically from cattle in many ways including some of their reproductive traits, so it may be unfair to use Dr. Blezinger’s article to make any decisions on the breeding suitability of alpacas.

So the question that still arises in my mind is which is more desirable, a male alpaca that is outstanding in every way but who does not start breeding until the age of four, or a male alpaca that is slightly less desirable in his traits but starts to breed at the age of 18 months?  I really don’t know what the answer is, but it’s an interesting question to ponder and one that could start a really interesting discussion if you tossed it out among a group of alpaca breeders!    At the end of the day until more is known on the subject it probably boils down to the needs and desires of the individual breeder.

My personal suspicion is that as there is very little written on the subject for any species it is not as major an issue as other breeding traits.  

There is so much we still need to learn about alpacas, and as the years progress and much research is done it is interesting to see what is discovered and the changes made in alpaca care as a result of that research. 

Until that time I will continue to assess my breeding male alpacas on an individual basis and let nature take it’s course as to when they are ready to breed.   Alpacas make us slow down in many ways, they prefer to be herded gently and slowly, they carry their cria for a good 11 months, they graze slowly and deliberately, their gentle, easy going ways are one of the attributes that makes them so appealing, so maybe that male who matures later in life is sent to us for a reason and with his own special message that sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for.


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