A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 23, 2008

A Case of Confused Hormones? (Or Perhaps What’s In Those Weeds!)

 

Primeira

Primeira

Male alpaca behavior is such that when an ungelded male alpaca comes in contact with a female alpaca he will usually start to orgle and then pursue her.    I have seen this behavior in little male crias just a few weeks old; it’s in the genes I guess.  Male alpacas will from time to time have wrestling matches, sometimes due to one male stealing the other’s place at the hay rack, sometimes because a beautiful female alpaca is nearby and sometimes just to reinforce their place in the hierarchy of the group.

 

Usually female alpacas are most concerned with eating, sunbathing and mothering their crias.  Occasionally the adult females will join in with the crias evening play session, its quite amusing to see a fully grown female pronging around the pasture the crias.  Of course when a cria is born the girls in the group are all keen to check out the new arrival.  When a male alpaca is brought over for breeding to one of the females it is not unusual to have several of the females come over and sniff him, sometimes following him over to the breeding pen, other times snorting in disgust and returning to the serious business of eating.

 

Wednesday evening as I finished chores TeQueely came over and did her usual dance by the gate, trying to get my attention (at which she was successful) and letting me know that she was looking for a tasty treat. 

 

There are some weeds on our property that I know are safe for the alpacas to eat and which they are particularly fond of, so I stopped to give TeQueely a handful, knowing that if I failed to do so I would be subjected to disgusted stares from her for the rest of the evening (She has me well trained)

 

As I fed TeQueely one of the other girls Primera came to see if she could get a treat too and so I fed the girls some more weeds including a little bit of green tumbleweed that they seem quite partial too.

 

Having given the girls some attention I went into the house to get ready to visit one of the neighbors.  On my way out of the house as I passed the girls pasture I heard a commotion – spitting, squealing and grunting.  Looking across to see what the commotion was I could see that Primera was trying to breed Anya, one of our adult females.

 

Naturally Anya was not too thrilled with Primera’s attention and was letting her know her displeasure by spitting and squealing, but Primera was not being deterred by Anya’s actions.

 

I decided that I should intervene so went into the pasture and pulled Primera off Anya, but Primera was determined to mount Anya again.  After I had pulled Primera off Anya a couple of times I made Anya get up from her cushed position hoping that would help the situation.  Primera though decided that she would give Queen a try and jumped up and mounted her.  I removed Primera from Queen and stood holding her for a while, she was softly orgling (the noise a male alpaca makes during breeding) and was obviously not quite herself.  I stroked Primera for a while to try and calm her and divert her attention, this was quite remarkable as usually Primera will not let you near her unless she is in a catch pen, yet here she was standing quietly allowing herself to be stroked, looking at me with doe eyes.  Having calmed Primera down I felt that perhaps some form of distraction would help and went and got some of the pellets we feed the alpacas and spread them out in the feeding trays.  That did the trick; Primera’s mind went back to thinking about food.

 

This is the first time we have experienced a female alpaca getting amorous over another female alpaca.  I have heard from other alpaca breeders that once in a while they have witnessed that type of behavior but I don’t think it is a common thing.  From my experience working at a dairy prior to raising alpacas, I know that dairy heifers will often mount other heifers that are in heat.  At the dairy where I worked some of the heifers would wear chalk that would rub off on the backs of the heifers they mounted, indicating to the herdsman that the heifer with the chalk on her back was in heat.

 

So all I can think of Primera’s behavior was that Anya must have been in the right part of her ovarian cycle for her to emit a scent indicating she was ready for breeding.  Either that or there was something really strange in those weeds!

 

Rosemary

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