A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

September 16, 2007

What Price A Breeding?

Fall not only brings to us cria season, but also a new breeding season.  In the Southwest the fall offers a window of opportunity to breed the alpacas once the temperatures start to fall and allows us to plan for crias to be born following the heat of summer the following year.   Planning for crias in the fall does mean that we also have to be prepared to deal with heavily pregnant dams in the summer, but we have set up our farm so that we can keep the dams comfortable and we are naturally more observant of the girls as they reach the end of their pregnancy.

Along with our own girls, we also will have outside alpacas coming here to be bred in the fall.  The typical alpaca breeding contract offers the services of the male alpaca, plus a free agistment/boarding period (in our case 90 days), the confirmation of the pregnancy by ultrasound or progesterone test and a live cria guarantee.  The typical stud fee for a male alpaca is between $1500 – $2000, although there are some studs that are offered at a lower price and some at a much higher price.

For those who have never handled breeding visiting alpacas on their farm the breeding process can seem quite simple and they wonder why breeding fees cannot be lower.  They deliver their alpaca, they go home and await good news and then return to collect their alpaca so what could possibly cause the stud fee price.  The owner of the herdsire however knows that there is much more involved in the breeding process.

First biosecurity must be considered, all alpacas coming into our farm are quarantined for three weeks, and are required to have a negative fecal test and a negative BVD PCR test.  The quarantine pen is specially set up for that purpose and we tend that pen last when doing chores to avoid contamination.  While we make every effort to follow good biosecurity practices there is still an element of risk in bringing visiting alpacas onto your farm.

Often when an alpaca arrives for breeding she will have a very young cria by her side, so in addition to caring for the dam we are also responsible for caring for the cria.  Some crias do just fine; others may show signs of stress following traveling or just from being away from their buddies at their home herd.  As a crias immune system takes a while to develop they are vulnerable to bacterial and viral infection, so during their stay with us they are under close observation.  We weigh all crias daily until they are 25 lbs at which time we go to weighing every other day until they are at least 30 lbs.  after that we weigh them monthly unless there is cause for concern.  It is not unusual for us to have to treat crias for diarrhea or parasites such as coccidiosis during their stay, and depending on the age of the cria we may have to take them through the process of being introduced to grain during their stay.

We often receive requests from the owner of the dam and cria to microchip their cria for them, perform other routine blood work, or in some cases even halter train the crias.  All tasks we will happily do if we have sufficient time, but “time is money” as the saying goes so there are additional charges for performing these tasks.

The majority of the time the visiting dam breeds on the first or second attempt.  We supervise every breeding to ensure that both dam and herdsire are safe during the process.  Following breeding we then check the dam on a weekly basis to see if she is non-receptive, by the time she is approximately 30 days pregnant we look to schedule the ultrasound or progesterone test.  Once the dam is confirmed pregnant we notify the owners and discuss when the dam will be ready to travel.  In most cases we recommend that the dam is 60 days pregnant before she travels, by that time there is a greater chance of her holding the pregnancy.  It would be a shame for an owner to travel a dam all the way home to find that the stress of the journey has caused her to absorb her pregnancy and they need to make the trip back again.  For the sake of a small wait that scenario can be avoided.

Occasionally we get a dam that is difficult to breed or has other health issues that her owner was not aware of.  An unhealthy alpaca is unlikely to get bred easily and so health issues need to be taken care of promptly.  Alpacas that are difficult to breed is a whole other topic, but that situation usually results in the dam being with us for a longer period of time than her owner expected, and some veterinary treatment to assist the dam with getting pregnant may be required.

Of course as with everything else there is the dreaded paperwork, accurate records need to be kept so that the owners have that information available to them for future reference.  We also like to keep the owners updated on a regular basis on the progress of their dam.

So as you can see there is more to a breeding contract than just a breeding.

It’s always interesting to have other dams visit your farm for breedings, it is a chance to see the quality of alpaca that other farms have and with their individual personalities it is always fun getting to know the visiting dams and their crias.  It is a great feeling knowing that the dam’s owners have selected your herdsire to enhance their breeding program.  Every cria that is born as a result of a breeding from one of our herdsires is a part of our alpaca family and we enjoy hearing of their birth, seeing their pictures and learning of their success in the show ring.



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