A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 7, 2009

So Which Handsome Prince Created Sleeping Beauty?

 

 

Sleeper Enjoys Some Hay

Sleeper Enjoys Some Hay

I finally got around to sending in the last of the fall cria ARI registrations the other day. With the online registration complete, I mailed in the crias blood cards for DNA analysis for parentage verification. We often wait before sending in our ARI registrations for a few reasons. First we want to make sure that the cria makes it through the first few months of life. You hate to think of losing a cria but if does happen then it is usually within the first 30 days of its life. Some may argue that it would be useful to have the cria registered for the national herd records, but at the end of the day economics comes into play and to me it does not make sense to pay to register a cria who is no more.

 

Another reason we hold off registering our crias is that sometimes they change color as they mature. We have had several crias who start off beige at birth and change to white by the time they are six months old. Our Kanika looked to be dark brown or bay black when she was born but by the time we came to shear her she was the most beautiful true black. A client of ours delivered his dam to us for breeding with her white cria by her side. When he came to pick his dam and cria up he was surprised to see that the cria’s fleece was no longer white. The fleece looked white from the outside but when you parted the fleece the fiber inside was a definite light fawn (and no it was not staining from our red dirt!). Crias definitely can change color.

 

So often our crias are five or six months old before we register them, sometimes even older.

 

The registrations I sent off the other day were for Chandra and Sleeping Beauty (whom we call Sleeper) and they are both definitely older than six months. Interestingly in my herd book I show that Chandra and Sleeper could both have been conceived on the same day November 11,2007. I say “could” have been conceived on the same day because when it came to their birth dates there was quite a bit of difference. Sleeper was born on September 27, 2008 and Chandra was born on October 17, 2008. Chandra’s birth date is in the range of her being a full term cria. Sleeper would have been a little premature (and that was the note I had in my herd book).

 

Going back a little further in the herd book I could see that Sleeper’s Dam Keeva bred about three weeks prior to the November 11 breeding, so maybe that was the breeding that resulted in Sleeper, if so that would mean that Sleeper’s sire is our herdsire Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure rather than our herdsire Tobiano – hmmm…

 

My records show that we had tried breeding Keeva to Treasure but the breeding didn’t seem to take. As Treasure was in his first breeding season we didn’t like to force the issue and so decided to put Keeva with Tobiano instead at the next breeding attempt. Tobiano and Keeva bred without a problem and from then on Keeva was not receptive to any male alpacas, so we assumed that Keeva was carrying a Tobiano cria.

 

Thankfully when you go to register a cria you have the option to list two potential sires, and so that is what I did the other day. I personally feel that Sleeper is Tobiano’s cria, she has certain traits that I have seen before in his offspring and Keeva as an experienced dam is not likely to cush for a male when she is already pregnant.

 

Now we will wait and see what Sleeper’s DNA blood card reveals – is she a Treasure cria or a Tobiano cria? Time and DNA will tell.

 

Rosemary

January 7, 2009

Time To Celebrate – Little Man Makes It!

Little Man aka Windrush Peruvian Tonka

Little Man aka Windrush Peruvian Tonka

 

To 30 lbs that is!

 

Clarissa’s cria who we fondly call Little Man has finally passed the 30 lb. mark.  When he was born in October he weighed in at only 11.5 lbs.  Little Man had a slow start on the growth curve, sometimes only gaining 0.1 lbs in a day compared to the other crias who were happily gaining 0.5 – 0.75 lbs. per day.

 

Clarissa has been a good milk producer in the past and so we are not sure why Little Man was so slow to grow.  We increased Clarissa’s feed to help her produce more milk, which did help a little but still reaching 30 lbs. took a long while for Little Man.  I guess when you start off tiny the road to size is an uphill one.

 

We do not expect that Little Man will ever be a big alpaca.  His dam Clarissa is on the small side as is his half sister Willow.  We are still waiting conformation on Little Man’s sire; he is either an on time offspring of Travesura’s Altiplano Treasure or a premature offspring of Windrush Moonlight Surprise.  Just looking at his bright, bright white fleece and feeling it’s almost waxy handle I suspect that Treasure may well be Little Man’s sire.  Treasure has won best brightness awards in fleece shows as well as blue ribbons and championship ribbons in both fleece and halter.  As Little Man’s body style develops he is looking more like Treasures stocky, compact stature than Moonies taller, longer frame.  We will just have to wait and see what his DNA tells us.

 

We did delay in sending Little Man’s blood card in to the Alpaca Registry for DNA testing, only because we could not decide on a registered name for him.  Little Man is a broad chested, heavy boned young man, a compact alpaca in miniature and we were not certain that to give him a registered name of Windrush Little Man was the right thing to do.  Thankfully Regina Dart of Llano Soleado Alpacas came to our rescue, when she said Little Man looked like an alpaca Tonka toy and so that is how Little Man has come to be registered as Windrush Peruvian Tonka (but he will always be Little Man to us!).

 

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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