The gestation of alpaca is an average of 345 days in Alpaca (11 and a half months) but can be easily shorter or longer than 2 good weeks. Some of our females have a personal gestational average of 360 days! Our farm record is a gestation of 378 days, more than a year; The one who saw the birth of our Beyonce.
As we live in a country with a cold winter, we must plan our births for the warm season (late spring or even summer) to ensure the survival of the cria. We anticipate the birth of our crias from May to September in Quebec. It happens quite frequently that a female is not mated before the winter because the last birth took place too late in the year. In this case, the mating takes place early in the following spring.
Number of alpaca babies per year
Always a single baby! The physiology of the alpaca ensures that the twins are exceedingly rare (even more those who survive!).
When there are twins, the female aborts very frequently at the beginning of the pregnancy, so that the breeder frequently believe in this case that the mating did not work or, more rarely, in the 7th month, when all the organs of the babies began to work.
The live births of twins are very rare. When there are twins, the female often has difficulty breastfeeding the 2 crias and their survival is generally less assured. Breeders don't really want multiple births!
The birth process
The alpaca pull out baby fast enough. The birth of the alpaca is called "criation". Although the work begins many hours before the baby's release, the expulsion takes place approximately in 30 minutes for the experienced females. You have to be attentive because it is easy to miss completely the birth of an alpaca!
However, several indices encourage us to observe more closely a pregnant female approaching her criation; Round-trip to litter, frequent and insistent "hum", the female isolating herself from the rest of the herd... The vast majority of births occur between 10:00 and 14:00, or at least during the day. Deliveries very late in the day sometimes can give sign of difficulties for the coming birth.
Once the expulsion is started, if the cria is in the optimum position, one starts by seeing the nose and the front legs. Birth often takes place standing. This station allows the cria to expel its secretions during its descent, sneezing and coughing.
Once the baby is down, the placenta should follow within the next hour or hours.
After the birth of the alpaca
The baby alpaca weighs between 13 and 22 pounds. He drinks with his mother's nipples for several months and also diversifies his diet with the company of the rest of the herd. Pasture, Hay... then granules, around the age of about one month.
It is weaned about 6 months and then weighs about 70 lbs., roughly half the weight of an adult female. Weaning gives the mother a chance to rest before the next birth as well as the cria to take full independence.
Life expectancy and reproduction
The life expectancy of alpaca is about 20 years. The female can easily have babies up to a fairly advanced age.
The reproduction is done in a very natural way. It is not really artificial insemination in alpaca (the success rate is too low), but quietly, the door opens for embryo transfers.
There is no «mating calendar» in the alpaca even if there are periods in their cycle where females are more receptive. Ovulation (induced) occurs in the presence of the male, thanks to mating.
If the female is not ready to be mated or is already pregnant, she spits on the male to signify her disinterest. If it is ready to be coupled, she laying down to allow the male to mate.
Generally, females are allowed the male to mate about 3 weeks after the birth of the alpaca baby. Pregnancy is confirmed in the weeks following mating with a spit check by placing the female in the presence of a male. If this one spits on the male, she is most likely pregnant!