A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

November 28, 2007

Spring or Fall?

Sandia and MerrilyYesterday we behavior tested several of our girls who are on our fall breeding schedule. For most of them that was the second behavior test since breeding, but for one of them it was the first behavior test since breeding.  The girl in question is a proven female but the male we are using is so far unproven.  If our girl does indicate that she is pregnant on the next behavior test we will probably not use the male that we have been breeding her to until the spring.  He is a young male and it might just be a case of needing a little more time to mature.  The female however is proven and usually gets pregnant quickly so we may just try one more breeding to a different male.

By this time of the year though it is a bit of a dilemma whether to breed our female alpacas or whether to wait until spring.  With alpacas having an 11 month gestation any breedings that we do now will result in early to mid November crias, which is something we would rather avoid.

Our fall breeding season is very short ranging from late September to mid November depending on the weather.  We don’t want crias being born in the heat of August and we really would rather not have any crias born past October 15, but once in a while a girl will go longer than the estimated 345 days and we get a late fall cria.

The problem with late fall crias is that not only do they not receive as much sunlight, which is a factor in the healthy development of their bones and muscles, but also they are at risk of being exposed to the cold.  Typically our weather gets colder and wetter from late October onwards.  With a spring cria however as it grows the days will be getting longer and the weather will be getting gradually warmer.

We are fortunate in New Mexico that at least our fall weather still includes some sunshine unlike the North West states which tend to have overcast skies for most of their days during fall and winter.  So for New Mexico, fall crias are not as much of a problem as for other parts of the United States but still consideration must be given as to whether it is wise to have crias born during cold weather.  A newborn cria in particular can become seriously chilled in a very short time after birthing.

Many alpaca breeders worry about the loss of production time when they leave a dam open (unbred) for a period of time.  As with any business time is money and for every month an alpaca dam is left open she is, to a certain extent, losing money, however if you factor in the health of the cria and the higher risk factors with fall or winter crias the financial loss may be significantly reduced.

Some alpaca breeders also worry that it will be harder to get the dam pregnant if they leave her open for several months.  We have not yet found this to be the case, we have had several occasions when we have chosen to leave a dam open and so far have not had any problem getting those dams pregnant again.

We will be testing our girl again at the beginning of next week.  If she cushes when introduced to the male (indicating she is not pregnant) we will most likely breed her to a different male, but that will be her last chance at breeding for the fall season.  If that breeding does not take, we will leave her open until the spring and she can enjoy winter without the demands of a growing embryo.  Fingers crossed though she will reject the male again when introduced to him next week and we can look forward to a cria from that breeding next fall.

Rosemary

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