A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 16, 2007

Sending Maidens for Breeding – How to Make Sure Their Trip is Successful

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpaca Reproduction, Alpacas, camelids, General — alpacalady @ 7:28 am

Yesterday was a crazy day, the phones were ringing non-stop and between, family, alpaca friends and business calls it seemed as if I was on the phone all day.

During one of the conversations I had yesterday an alpaca friend was discussing with me two female alpacas she would like to send to our farm for breeding to our males.  The one female has recently had a cria but the other is a maiden female and her concern was that the maiden female would not be ready to breed when she came here and that the trip would be wasted.

My friend’s comments set me to thinking as to how an alpaca breeder can take steps to try and ensure that a maiden female is ready for breeding prior to sending her to another farm.

Maiden female alpacas can be a little more difficult to breed than those that have already had a cria.  Sometimes while physically ready to reproduce the maiden female does not understand the messages her body is sending her.  Her behavior and actions can sometimes be misleading to the alpaca breeder.

There is quite a bit of discussion as to when to consider a maiden ready to breed.  Some breeders say that the maiden should be 100 lbs, others go more by the age of the alpaca thinking that 18 months is a good age, still others feel that once the alpacas hymen has dissolved the maiden female is ready for breeding.

We usually start to consider a maiden ready to breed at the 18 month point provided that she is also of adequate size (above 100 lbs.) at that point.  When we first started raising alpacas it was common for breeders to start breeding their maidens at 12 months of age, however we heard of many breeders having issues with the dam rejecting her cria, poor milk production and bad birthing presentations (dystocias). 

One breeder gave me her thoughts on the breeding age of alpacas, she considered that a 12 month old alpaca was equal to a 12 year old human, physically starting to be ready to reproduce but mentally not at all ready to reproduce, an 18 month old female would be considered more like an 18 month old girl, having a greater degree of maturity and hopefully resulting in a better bond with the cria and less problems with birthing presentation and milk production.  (Note I personally feel that an 18 year old human female is still too young to have a baby but that’s another subject completely!).

To every rule of course there are exceptions, some female alpacas are larger and more mentally mature at 12 months, others are closer to 24 months or even 36 months before they really mature.

We are fortunate at our farm that we now have sufficient breeding males that we do not have to send our maidens away for breeding, but in the past that was not the case and for some breeders that do not own a breeding male the only option is to send a maiden female away for breeding.

In order to try and establish if the maiden female is truly ready for breeding there are a couple of things the breeder can do.  One is to have the vet perform a reproductive examination of the alpaca.  Typically the vet will check that the maiden females hymen is broken and ultrasound the reproductive organs of the alpaca.  Modern ultrasounds can show a great deal of detail and it is not unusual to be able to see eggs in various stages on the ovaries.  Sometimes blood work is performed to establish if the maiden female is in good health and has adequate hormone levels for breeding.  It may cost a few hundred dollars to do this, but it is good practice and could save the owner hundreds of dollars in transportation and boarding fees.

Another action a breeder can take is to test the behavior of the maiden alpaca using either an intact fiber male that they own, or a breeding alpaca from a nearby farm.  If when introduced to the male the maiden runs hard or spits at the male despite being introduced to him on several occasions she probably needs a little more time to mature before breeding.  If the maiden female doesn’t run but doesn’t cush she is probably getting close to being ready to breed and may just be confused as to what she needs to do.  Of course if you introduce the maiden female to a male and she instantly cushes she is most like ready to breed and should be sent away for breeding pretty quickly.

The steps I describe above a just a couple of simple steps that could save time and money when it comes to breeding a maiden female alpaca and help ensure that her trip away from the home farm is a short one.

My day ended up a little calmer than it began with evening chores going smoothly, an evening walk with two of the dogs (both convinced that the rabbits on our property are just waiting for them) and finally a good long shower to wash away the dirt and the dust of the day!


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