A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

March 28, 2008

A More Comfortable Queen

I am happy to report that Queen is doing much better.  She had a more comfortable day yesterday with no need for any more shots or treatment.  I will probably give her another dose of MSE drench today just to be on the safe side.   MSE promotes healthy rumen function in alpacas and due to its vitamin and enzyme content it is good for alpacas who are under stress.  I usually give my pregnant girls some MSE during their last couple of weeks of pregnancy and immediately after birth; it seems to help them bounce back from the birthing process quicker.

I will also treat Queen to another photonic red light treatment, I am sure she will not be fully appreciative of the special care, Queen is not a hands on alpaca, but I want to make sure that she receives the best care we can give her.

Queen spent much of yesterday eating hay and ate her pellets as she normally does.  She is still lying around quite a bit, but considering how big her unborn cria seems to be that is hardly surprising.

On checking my records I can see that our computer program has based her due date on 359 days, which was the length of her previous pregnancy.  A typical alpaca pregnancy is 345 days so she could have the cria in early May.  As large as Queen is though, I would not be surprised if she ends up having the cria early so we will need to be prepared for that.  Queen’s last cria Velvet was 14 lbs at birth and Queen looked enormous when she was carrying Velvet too, but she did not show any discomfort during that pregnancy.  The cria Queen is carrying is the same breeding as Velvet (Queen and our herdsire Windrush Jennifer’s Zindel) and so far Zin’s crias have all been a nice size, ranging from 14 to 18 lbs.

Hopefully Queen will not have any more bad days between now and giving birth, and hopefully she will hang onto her cria until closer to her due date!

Rosemary

January 24, 2008

Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A Young Male Alpaca

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpacas, camelids, Crias, General — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 7:12 am

Blast NursingThe day weaning of Velvet, Blast and Athena has been going well, and the little group now is quite happy to head over to the pen where they spend their day.  They barely pay attention to the location of their dams in the next pen and usually spend most of the day at the hay feeder, with the occasional break for a chase around the pasture or a quick nap.

In the evenings when I let the weanlings back they are less concerned to dash immediately to their mothers to try to nurse.  Poor Velvet lost nursing privileges the very first day of day weaning, she tried, but Queen wanted nothing to do with her.  Athena was able to persuade Rebecca that she still needed milk for the first few days, but of late Rebecca is less cooperative about Athena trying to nurse, in fact Athena’s recent attempts have been unsuccessful.  And then there’s Blast, dear sweet little Blast who finds his dam Clarissa and the nurses and nurses and nurses.   I swear if they were in a cartoon Clarissa would be reduced to a withered little pile on the floor by the time Blast has finished with her.  If that weren’t enough Blast is now so big that he has to cush to be able to nurse from Clarissa.  I hate to tell Blast this but it’s time for the nursing to stop.

The weather over the next two days is supposed to be atrocious, with freezing temperatures, freezing rain and snow.  Not a good scenario for weanlings to spend their first night away from their dams.  I have seen crias spend all night sitting by the fence line when they are first weaned, and that is the last thing I want when the weather is so wintry.  The beginning of next week though is supposed to be warmer, with daytime temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s.  With that in mind I am scheduling those days to do the final stage of weaning by keeping the weanlings away from their dams overnight.  They’re not going to be happy, and I will have an anxious couple of nights watching over them to make sure they are not stressing out too much.  That final step is necessary though.

I am confident the weanlings will be fine with their new situation after a couple of days, but I feel of the three of them that Blast will take it the hardest.  But that is often the case with male crias who seem bound and determined to nurse for the rest of their lives!

Once the final step to weaning has been taken I will leave Blast in with his weanling pals, but then of course in time he will need to be moved over to the pen of young male alpacas.  That will most likely be just as tough on him, as he will then be in a pen of completely strange alpacas.

Usually we have more than one male cria being weaned at a time and so they go to the young males pen as a pair or more.  This year though we were blessed with more girls than boys and so Blast is the only male in his peer group.  Zeus is the next male cria to be weaned, but that will not be taking place until at least March, possibly later, and I cannot leave Blast in with the females for all of that time.

What I may end up having to do is put the weanling girls back in with their dams.  I can then bring a couple of the smallest young males over to be with Blast for a few days before taking them all together as a group back to the young male pen.  At least that will give Blast a little while to get acquainted with a couple of his new pasture mates.  Over time Blast will get used to his new environment and will eventually join in the wrestling and rough housing that takes place between the boys.   It will be a little stressful for him at first though, but sometimes it’s just hard to be a young male alpaca.

Rosemary

November 19, 2007

This Week Will Be Better!

I am sure we have all had times in our lives when it seems as if nothing goes right and the last couple of weeks have been like that for us.  Vehicles breaking down, cats getting injured, a kamikaze beta fish and our poor little pomeranian dog Toby having a serious reaction to his annual vaccinations – we had enough problems in the last two weeks to see us through the rest of the year!

I remember as a teenager there was a similar period when everything seemed to go wrong.  At that time our family used to read our daily horoscopes in the newspaper and according to the horoscopes my problems had something to do with Saturn aligning with Mars, with the way things are going I bet you that those two planets are aligning again (actually I won’t bet you right now because the way my luck is running I would lose!).

As life’s problems go I realize that ours are really small on the grand scale of things, we have our health, we have a roof over our heads and we have a lovely herd of alpacas to bring a smile to our faces amidst our woes.  I will admit that I am still very worried about our dog Toby, his condition is very serious and while he has made a little progress over the weekend it is very little progress.  Toby is 12 years old and we have had him since he was 9 months old, he is my office buddy curling up behind my chair as I write this blog and usually growling at me if I have the audacity to move before he is ready to do so.  He usually is a lively, happy–go-lucky little dog who spreads joy wherever he goes, so is hard to watch him being so quite and depressed.

So this week will be better, I’ve made my mind up to that and I won’t have it any other way.  My plans to have some time working with the crias went out of the window last week, so they are going to fly back in again this week and cria school will recommence. 

Of course this week also contains one of my favorite holidays – Thanksgiving.  I love the fact that Thanksgiving brings together family and friends without the commercialism that has unfortunately become attached to Christmas.  It is a great time to slow down a little, take a look around and be truly thankful for all that we have.  I really would be quite happy to have Christmas just like Thanksgiving, no material gifts just the gift of spending time with those who mean the most to us both two legged and four legged.

So this week will be better, we will get back into the regular routine of doing chores and working with the alpacas, with a brief interlude for a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast on Thursday.  Naturally we will still have to do chores on Thursday, but what better way to work off Thanksgiving dinner!

Rosemary

October 27, 2007

Help – I’ve lost my baby!

I often tell people how important it is to know your alpacas well, I feel that knowing how each one behaves on a daily basis and understanding their individual personalities is crucial to the health and happiness of the herd. 

Knowing your alpacas well also makes you more aware of when they are trying to communicate something to you.  Alpacas can’t hold a conversation with humans the way one human would with another, but they are smart animals and they can devise their own ways of communicating with you.

If you are reading this and think there is no way an alpaca can communicate his or her needs with a human, then I ask you to read on and perhaps you will change your mind. 

When alpaca crias are first born they are on their feet within a short while after birth.  They have evolved to do this over hundreds of years to ensure their survival.  Usually once the cria is on its feet there is a very short time before the cria finds its dam and then nurses.  Scent goes a long way toward helping a cria find it’s dam, and an instinct to search out the dark or shadowy areas helps the cria find it’s way to the dam’s udder.  You sometimes hear of alpaca crias who try and nurse from a dark corner in a stall, or from the shadowy area underneath a wall-mounted feeder.  Those crias have found a dark or shadowy area (albeit the wrong one) and their instinct tells them that they should find an udder there (they won’t and that’s why it’s important not to put crias in solid sided stalls and to remove wall mounted feeders from a stall until after the cria has found its dams udder a couple of times.)

We monitor our newborn crias closely and make sure that they nurse well from their dams, we also give the dam and cria time alone in a stall to bond.  Once the cria has dried off, nursed a few times and is steady on it’s feet I then allow the dam and new cria to join the herd.  There is always great excitement among the girls when a new cria joins the group with much sniffing of the new arrival and sometimes even a little nudging and licking.   During that first day or two of life the crias eyesight is still not completely focused and sometimes the little ones can lose track of their dam as she moves around the pasture.  Given time the two will find each other, but if I am out in the pasture and see a new cria looking for it’s dam then I will gently herd it in the right direction and make sure the two reunite.

Our latest cria Kanika is a little bit of an independent girl and it has not been unusual for us to find her quite a distance from her dam Chai.  Chai is a good dam but she loves her food and will often have her head buried in the hay feeder.  Periodically she comes away from the hay and will search the pasture to find Kanika and check on her and when Chai’s udder is full she will make sure Kanika nurses.

Yesterday following morning chores we had some girls that we needed to breed.  While I was supervising one of the breedings Chai came up to me and hummed a little.  Now Chai is not really a hands on alpaca, she will readily come up to you to steal fruit from you if you have any, and at feeding time she is more than ready to get her head in the feed buckets but apart from that she prefers to interact with other alpacas.

When Chai came up to me the only thing I had in my hand was a lead rope, I thought she thought maybe the lead rope was something to eat and so held it out for her to sniff and check out, but the lead rope was not what Chai was interested in.   Chai stood directly in front of me and again hummed and I wondered what it was that she wanted.  It was a bit early for her to be interested in breeding so I didn’t think it was the male alpaca in the breeding pen that was getting her interest.  I waited a little longer to see if Chai was just hopeful that I had food and would wander off once she realized that I didn’t have anything to give her, but Chai remained in front of me staring at me and giving a little hum every now and then.

Then I realized that I could not see Kanika anywhere nearby and that the reason for Chai’s attention to me was that she had lost her baby.  Looking around the pasture I could see Carissima and Zeus over by the large blue barn so I thought that Kanika was most likely with them but may have gone into the blue barn where Chai could not see her.  I started to wander over to the blue barn and called for Chai to come with me which she did.  Having reached the barn I checked inside but there was no sign of Kanika.  Chai was now right behind me looking inquisitively into the barn, when she realized that Kanika was not in the barn she again stared at me and hummed. 

I thought of other places Kanika could be, I checked the alleyway between the fence line and the large blue barn but there was no sign of Kanika.  I checked all of the feed pens and the area around the big bale feeder to no avail and all the time I was checking Chai was following behind me, when I stopped Chai stopped, when I walked Chai walked.  The last hiding place I could think of was the alley between the small blue shelter and the fence, surely Kanika had to be there, but there was no sign of her.  Now I was starting to really get worried, where could Kanika possibly have gone?

I thought back to our activities that morning and realized one of the last things Ric did was walk out of the gate with a heavily loaded wheelbarrow of poop that needed dumping.  Perhaps Kanika had followed him out of the gate without him realizing.  I looked around outside of the pens but could not see any signs of a cria and Chai was still following close on my heels also looking for her cria. 

I started to call Ric who was in the house to see if he had any ideas where Kanika could be, I was now worried that she had somehow wandered off from the farm but was baffled as to why she would do that and how that could happen as we are so careful with opening and closing gates on the farm.  Just as I was dialing the house from my cell phone I walked back to the front of the small blue shelter and then noticed a little piece of dark cria fleece sticking out from under the hay feeder, there she was!  Kanika had fallen asleep under the hay feeder and then had become surrounded by the other girls who were busily eating out of the feeder.   Kanika was still asleep under the feeder blissfully unaware that Chai and I had been looking for her.  I felt bad waking her up but it was more important that she be reunited with poor Chai who had been worried as to where her cria was.  So the two were happily reunited.

What interests me about this situation is that Chai actively sought me out to help her.  She could have just wandered about the pasture on her own looking for her cria.  Most likely if I had seen her doing that I would have realized something was wrong and checked on her.  But Chai instead chose to come to me and in her own way told me that something was wrong.  It took a while for me to understand what she was trying to tell me but she got her message through eventually.  I firmly believe that Chai either thought I had her cria (she is used to us taking Kanika every day to be weighed and knows we always bring her back) or remembered that I had herded Kanika to her during those first couple of days when Kanika and Chai would become inadvertently separated.

I am sure had I not been in the pasture this morning Chai would have eventually found Kanika, it just would have taken her a lot longer to find her and in the meantime she would have become quite distressed.  But Chai didn’t choose to look for her cria alone, instead she came and found me and followed me as I worked my way around the pasture looking for Kanika.  I didn’t have any food with me at the time to cause Chai to follow me and this is very unusual behavior for Chai – so can alpacas communicate with humans?  I know what I think the answer is, but I’ll let you make up your own mind.

Rosemary

October 26, 2007

We have a name!

Kanika

After our usual discussion of several names we have arrived on one for our new cria, her name will be …………..Kanika.

It didn’t take us too long to name her this time.  Ric found a web site with hundreds of different names with not only the country of origin for the name, but also the meaning of the name.  As Kanika is a very dark brown we were looking for something that made reference to her dark coloring.  When we are picking alpaca names we always bear in mind how easy the name is to pronounce, after all, if we cannot pronounce the name how can we expect someone else to and if our girl (or boy) has just won a class then we want people to be able to remember the name of both our farm and the alpaca in question.

The name Kanika is of Kenyan origin and means black cloth.  While our Kanika is not really black and more of a rich chocolate brown we are still not 100% convinced that she will stay that color and wonder if she may become more of a bay black as she grows older.  If Kanika does get darker as she ages some of her fleece may well find itself into some black cloth one day.

Kanika is already up to 16.4 lbs that reflects some good daily weight gains and the quality of Chai’s milk.  Chai has always been a great milk producer and she is going a great job with her cria again. 

Yesterday Kanika spent most of her day sleeping in the sun, nursing and having the occasional frolic around the pasture.  Carissima and Zeus have been a little slow to invite Kanika into their play sessions, but by yesterday evening she was leading the crias in a full gallop around the pasture. 

We received Kanika’s IgG results back yesterday too, which at 1500 were enough to satisfy us that she will be fine and will not need a plasma transfusion.   So little Kanika is looking good and progressing well and we will look forward to watching her grow and develop.

Rosemary  

October 23, 2007

Back Home and Look Whose Here!

Chai’s New Cria     Chai’s New Cria Face On 

I made it back safely from Louisiana, my flights were good and I had no trouble making it to the airport on time.  On the drive back to the airport I was again amazed by the Causeway that runs 26 miles or so over water, it was interesting to see the skyline of New Orleans emerge as I drew closer and I couldn’t help but think what it must have been like on the Causeway during Hurricane Katrina. 

I arrived home at 1 a.m. on Monday morning, Ric picked me up at the airport and was ready to tell me how awful the weather had been (high winds, dust and cold) and that Chai still had not had her cria.  Later that morning though it was a different story as we realized during morning chores that Chai was in labor and a cria was on its way.

Chai had a very typical alpaca labor, the first sign I noticed that she was sitting in a different place than she usually sits first thing in the morning and that she had her weight on one hip.  A little later Chai took herself away from the herd and lay down for a while with her neck stretched out and then rolled.  Shortly after that she started visiting the poop piles and straining but no poop was forthcoming.  When Chai moved away from the poop piles and lay down again I approached her gently and lifted her tail.  I could see that her vulva was puffy and that her udder was full.

By the time we fed the girls the cria’s head had not yet presented, but again Chai’s behavior was unusual as she lay down immediately after she ate.  Usually Chai mooches about the pen once she has eaten and waits for her bucket of hay to be delivered, but today instead she lay down and the next thing we knew there were two feet and a head.

The delivery continued on and within a few short minutes we had a cria on the ground, a gorgeous chocolate brown girl.

It was not exactly the best weather for a cria to be born into.  The morning was cool (about 40 degrees) and the winds were blowing at 20-25 mph with 30 mph gusts – brrr!  I had gone into the house to get towels and my cria kit once the cria’s feet and head had presented, while Ric stayed with Chai.  I grabbed more towels than usual and the hair dryer as I knew with the cold wind blowing we were going to need to work fast to prevent the cria from getting chilled.

While I worked on drying the cria, Ric moved some of our portable pens into the small shelter and set up an area that would be more sheltered and warm for Chai and her cria.  He also set up a heat lamp and an extension cord for my hair dryer. 

It took a little while to get the cria dry and warmed up but with some vigorous towel drying and then the use of the hair dryer we were able to get there.  Once the cria was warm she started trying to stand and within a short while was nursing from Chai.

As the day was so cold once we had the cria completely dry we put a cria coat on her.  It’s important to make sure a cria is completely dry before putting on the cria coat or else you stand the risk of trapping in moisture that can make the cria colder rather than warmer.

We were able to let Chai and her cria out for the afternoon to allow the cria to run around and stretch her legs.  We feel it’s important for crias to be out running around as it helps keep their body temperature up and stimulates their newly born bodies to function properly.

So our last cria of the fall is born and Chai did a great job giving birth and producing yet another pretty daughter, that’s three for Chai so far.  Later today our vet will be out to draw blood from the cria for her IgG test and BVD PCR test, we have also asked him to run some routine bloodwork on Chai who had shown some joint soreness in the latter part of her pregnancy.  Chai has seemed quite a lot better since delivering her cria, but we don’t want to make any assumptions about her health and want to make sure everything is working as it should be. We’ve had a great start to the week, now if we can just get the temperature to go back up and a soft rain to fall we will be really happy.  We can’t be too greedy though as life has just presented us with a beautiful chocolate brown cria, so for now we will take that little gift and enjoy her as she develops and grows.

Rosemary

October 21, 2007

Fiber in Folsom

Saturday’s Wild and Wooly Alpaca Expo went well, the attendance from the public was down from last year but with local elections going on, one of the largest craft fairs in the US taking place just up the road and the Louisiana State University Football team playing in Baton Rouge there were plenty of other distractions in the area.  There was a steady stream of people all day and who knows what today will bring. 

During the day I got to meet several alpaca breeders from the Louisiana and as always it was good to get together and exchange ideas and learn from each other. 

The Expo had a small fleece show and I was able to spend some time in the fleece room, which is always time well spent.  The judge was Shannon McConnell from Illinois, who with the fleece judging now over will today be giving an educational seminar on what judges are looking for in the show ring.  

My fleece skirting seminar seemed to be well received, it was a much more condensed version than I usually give but the attendees said that they learnt a lot and hopefully they walked away with more confidence in preparing their fleeces for showing. Today I will have to be mindful of the timing of my presentation as I have to make sure that I get to the airport in time to return my rental car and catch my flight home.  Hopefully I will find my way back to the airport easier than trying to find my way out of the airport area. 

I did speak to Ric today, no news on Chai to report and today the weather in Clovis is forecast to be windy and very cold so the chances are she will not have her cria today as alpacas usually birth in fine weather.  We really don’t want a cria being born on a cold windy day so let’s hope she holds onto her cria until a warmer day. 

When I spoke to Ric he was getting ready to do some unexpected work – he discovered water leaking from our well house while doing morning chores.  Not a good thing, let’s hope it’s something that’s easy to fix! 

Rosemary

October 19, 2007

Preparations for Fall Breedings

Now the cooler weather is here it is time for us to start breeding the alpaca girls who are open (not yet bred).  Most of our girls were bred for spring crias but there are a few who still need to be bred.  Clarissa birthed later than expected in the spring and we were unable breed her back due to the heat, Carina and Zoie have not long had their crias and are at the point when it would be good to breed them back.  Keeva and Cinnamon did not get pregnant during the spring breeding season.  Keeva had a bad dystocia the previous winter and was given a good break after that to let her recover and Cinnamon is a maiden female who we tried to breed in the spring but was apparently not quite ready for breeding.  Cinnamon has now turned two so we are optimistic that she will become pregnant this fall.

We have made our decision as to which herdsire will be bred to each girl and so will now start the breeding process.  Before breeding the girls though there are a few things to take care of.  Clarissa and Carina were due for vaccination and so we vaccinated them yesterday and will wait a few days before breeding them.  We used to vaccinate our pregnant girls two weeks prior to delivery of their cria, but recent studies show that some female alpacas get stressed over the vaccination process causing them to go into labor early.  We don’t want to risk losing a cria, but do need to make sure that the girls get their booster shots and so have taken to giving the vaccinations in the period between them birthing and breeding.  So far this has worked well and we have not seen any disadvantages, the dams do well and the crias born fromthe breedings subsequent to the dam’s vaccinations have good IgG results.

After Keeva’s dystocia we had her examined by our vet to check that she was still reproductively sound.  Our vet found her to be in good condition considering all that Keeva went through but did have to remove one small stricture of scar tissue in the birth canal.  We have also run a uterine culture on Keeva to make sure she does not have a uterine infection.  Low-grade uterine infections can occur in female alpacas and often the alpaca does not show any symptoms of having an infection.  The infection is often enough to prevent a pregnancy though. 

With Keeva’s results back and looking good and the vaccinations completed we will now be able to start to breed the girls.  

I am traveling to Louisiana today to attend the Wild and Wooly Alpaca Expo, according to my travel information I should have access to the Internet from my hotel room and should be able to squeeze in a blog entry or two.  Ric will be staying home on “cria watch” with Chai, her due date is Sunday and her past two crias were both born exactly on the due date so the chances are Ric will be busy with a new cria this weekend.  I hate to miss the birthing of one of our crias, but at least Ric can be home to man the fort.  You can bet I will be waiting for my phone to ring on Sunday with good news! 

Rosemary

October 13, 2007

Friday Fog

Foggy DawnAs we get further into fall there are signs of change appearing all around us, the light is softer, the leaves are starting to fall from the trees and of course the days are getting shorter.  This fall has been dry and warmer than usual, yesterday evening at 5:30 pm it was still 88 degrees Fahrenheit and rain has not been seen around here for a while.

On Friday morning though we woke up to fog, so there was moisture somewhere in the air.  As I looked out at the girls pasture to check on Chai, our girl who is due to have her cria, I was taken with the sight of the sun rising behind the fog.  It really was a striking sight and I tried to capture it with my camera, the photo in this blog is the best I could do but hopefully it will give you an idea of how beautiful the dawn looked.  If you look really hard you can see the girls sitting around in the pasture, they all had a good coating of dew and looked as if they were wearing special sparkling blankets.

Chai has been a little more mobile the last few days.  She is still stiff in her joints and we had a consultation with our vet as to what we should do about her.  Our vet has advised us to draw some blood for a CBC (Complete Blood Count) and also a Chemistry Panel.  He is a little concerned that she may have a pulmonary condition that causes traveling joint pain, but of course without blood work or an examination it is hard for him to diagnose Chai correctly.  Usually I would take Chai in to the vets for examination but as she is so close to having her cria I don’t want to put her under any undue stress.  Chai is not really a hands on alpaca and I feel that the stress of a trip to the vets and any subsequent action would be too much stress for her and cause her to go into labor early.  Our vet feels that as Chai is not getting any worse we can safely wait a few days until she has her cria and then draw blood from her.  As we have him come out to draw blood from the cria for IgG testing at 24 hours post birth it will be an ideal opportunity for him to examine Chai at the same time.

I am a little encouraged that Chai has been more mobile, but still feel that there is something going on with her that we need to get to the bottom of.  Chai’s cria is certainly lively enough and we see a lot of cria movement particularly at night.  We check on Chai about once an hour until we go to bed.  When Ric did the “Chai check” late on Thursday evening he could see Chai’s cria kicking hard and could hear poor Chai grunt every time the cria kicked.  I am sure Chai is more than ready for the cria to be born and be kicking around the pasture rather than kicking her!

Today a cold front is due to roll into the area, bringing the temperatures down to the 70’s, sometimes a front can also trigger births as the air pressure changes so maybe Chai’s cria will decide it is time to make an appearance into the world.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Rosemary

October 10, 2007

The Tale of A Male – From Dud to Stud!

I learned last week of an interesting situation regarding a male alpaca.  This particular alpaca will be three years old later this month.  He was sold as a breeding male and his new owners were very excited to add him to their herdsires, he had won some really nice ribbons in fleece and halter and really complemented their breeding plan.

When the new owners purchased the alpaca he had not yet been used to breed a female.  Not too long after they had purchased him they discovered one of their females had managed to work her way into his pasture and was being bred by him.  (The male alpaca is a good looking boy and the female alpaca must have decided that he was the one for her as it took her a bit of effort to get into his pasture).

It turned out that the accidental breeding was unsuccessful in that the female alpaca did not get pregnant as a result of that breeding.  The new owners of the male alpaca then started to expose him to some of their females during the spring breeding season.   The male alpaca did all the things a male alpaca should, he showed interest in the females, he mounted them, made the right “connection” with them and orgled during his breedings – everything was looking good except that none of the females became pregnant.

The new owners were understandably concerned that their new herdsire was for some reason unable to reproduce.  They had taken good care of him; the weather was not yet hot so heat stress was not thought to be a problem, so why was this male not getting the girls pregnant?  Fortunately the new owners of the alpaca had a good contract, and the seller of the alpaca, while disappointed was willing to work with the new owners to resolve the situation.  The seller consulted her vet and he suggested testing the sperm of the male alpaca to see if he had a low sperm count.  The seller was willing to take the alpaca back and refund his purchase price, but naturally wanted to make sure he was indeed non-reproductive before doing so.

The time came to test the male, and coincidentally at that time the female who had worked her way into his pen earlier had given birth to her cria from a different breeding and was ready to breed again.  (DNA testing confirmed that the alternative herdsire was definitely the sire of the new cria).   The new owners veterinarian suggested that they bring the male and the female alpaca into his clinic allow them to breed and then a sperm sample could be obtained from the female alpaca.

The test went ahead as planned and the results showed no sperm in the sample taken.  The new owners were naturally disappointed and contacted the seller to inform her of the news – the male alpaca was a dud, he would never sire a cria.

The seller started to make arrangements to take back the alpaca and refund the purchase price.  She understood that when you sell an unproven male there is always a risk that he will not be able to reproduce, she had covered that scenario in her contract and being a responsible and ethical alpaca breeder she was ready to honor her contract. 

But then something happened.  The new owners of the male alpaca went to breed the female alpaca to a different male and she was not receptive.  They had waited about 60 days before breeding her and when she spit off at the male they really had to wonder – could she be pregnant?

Off to the vets went the female alpaca.  The new owners of the male alpaca didn’t remind the vet that this was the female they had used for the sperm test preferring to wait until after the ultrasound.  The vet performed the ultrasound and immediately found an embryo, the female alpaca was pregnant and her only exposure to a male had been the “dud” alpaca.  When the new owners reminded the vet that this was the female that had been used for the sperm test he was very surprised, so surprised in fact he checked the female again with the ultrasound and quite clearly could see that she was pregnant!

So what happened, we have to ask?  How can a male alpaca with no sperm manage to impregnate a female alpaca?  The vet who did the testing is experienced with camelids and yet this pair of alpacas was defying the results of his test.  

Could it be that the alpaca produces sperm intermittently allowing for times when there is seminal fluid that does not contain sperm.  Camelids have some traits that are unique to them; one of them is that when the male alpaca breeds he “dribbles” sperm throughout the whole breeding.  This is one of the reasons that alpaca breedings take so long (anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes), however it is thought that semen quality is uniform throughout the breeding process.

Having done a little research on this situation the one phrase that kept coming up is “it is difficult to collect semen from camelids”.  The technique that was used by the vet to collect semen in this instance is the recommended technique, however in all the references I found on this subject it was also mentioned that alpaca semen is very viscous making it hard to handle and it is difficult to determine parameters such as sperm concentration and motility.  So perhaps the handling of the sample after collection was the issue, but so far I have not found a good and definite explanation as to why in this particular case there was absolutely no sperm in the sample.

At the end of the day though there is a happy ending, the male has now proven himself, the seller does not have to take back the male and refund the purchase price, the new owners get to keep the male they like so much and get to look forward to a cria next year, and that female alpaca who worked so hard to get into that male’s pasture has finally had her date with her dream boy.  Maybe she knew all along that her stud was definitely not a dud!

Rosemary

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