That was a question that was recently in the search terms that refer people to my blog. As someone is out there looking for that information I thought it would be nice to write a little about it.
Alpaca crias in utero can be lively little things. We ultrasound our pregnant alpaca girls at about 45 days post breeding and by that time the embryo is quite a good size on an ultrasound screen. Often we see the cria moving around. I still remember when we ultra-sounded Theresa when she was expecting Asteroid. Asteroid floated into view on the ultrasound screen and almost turned and waved at the camera so as to say. It was the funniest thing and turned out to be quite typical of the sort of thing Asteroid did once he was born. As Asteroid was and still is quite the character.
Alpaca crias do most of their growing in the last trimester of the pregnancy, prior to that they are really quite small and so often you do not see much movement. A 90 day fetus is usually around 3 – 4 “ in length so you can see how it would be difficult to see movement from that size fetus as it is carried in an adult alpaca.
To a certain extent the amount of movement seen depends on the size of the cria and the size of the dam. If you get a large cria in a medium to large sized dam you will probably see the cria move around the five month gestation point. If the cria is smaller then it may be six months or later until you see the cria move. We have found that if you have a large cria in a small dam it can be hard to see them move at all – there just isn’t much room to move I guess.
When our Clarissa was expecting her first cria she was huge quite early on in her pregnancy. I kept looking for the cria to move but only saw it move once and that was toward the end of the pregnancy. Clarissa is not a big girl and her cria was a good sized boy when he was born.
Our girl Bjorn is a good size and always has crias that weigh around 20 lbs. With Bjorn’s current pregnancy we have wondered if she was fooling us on her correct breeding date. Although our records show Bjorn due to have her cria in September, Bjorn was so large and her cria so active we wondered if an earlier Spring breeding may have caused the pregnancy, but we have passed the due date for that pregnancy and Bjorn is still pregnant so it looks as if she has another 20 lb. Plus cria on the way.
It is good to watch for the unborn crias move. Its fun to do and also helps you know which girls are carrying their crias to term. We have always been told that it is easiest to see movement on the dam’s left side as alpaca females usually carry their cria in the left uterine horn, but we have seen crias moving on both the right and left side of the dam (and it was definitely cria movement not just cud chewing movement). We find a good time to go cria watching is in the evening when the girls have had a good feast on the hay and are cushed and relaxed for the evening. As we walk through the pasture we take a minute or two to watch each pregnant girl and are often rewarded with the sight of cria movement. Sometimes if you shine a flash light at the back of the dam’s abdomen, the light from the flashlight will stimulate the cria to move – just don’t do it too much or you will get a grumpy dam telling you to let her rest in peace!
So a short answer to the question “When can you first see a cria move” would be around the five to six month point of gestation and in some cases maybe even a little earlier.