You’ve bred your girl, or you bought her bred, and you’ve waited nearly a year and now the time for pending birth is upon you, so how do you know when it’s “her time”. Gestation for alpacas is normally between 335 – 345 days… or longer !Hopefully you have breeding records and you know when she was bred, how long the breeding lasted and any observation following each breeding session such as if she spit off the male or if an ultrasound or progesterone test was done. This will give you an idea of the starting date. When we breed our girls we usually use the last date she bred and before she spit off or ran away from the male. We also keep our records so that we know when each breeding was so that we have a “window” of possible birth dates. There have been several studies done about gestation length and as a general rule the Spring births will go a little longer. It does not seem to matter if the girl is a maiden or a proven mom. The waiting is the hard part and as she gets closer to delivery you get more anxious to see what she’s got in there. Late term females will sometimes act “a little off”.
You may notice she is not eating as much or is eating like a horse.
- She may sit kushed for more time than normal and shift from side to side, often with her rear legs out. She’s uncomfortable. As long as she is eating some and drinking and has normal beans then she is OK.
- She should be gaining weight in the final 60 days as this is when the cria does the bulk of it’s growing. Extra nutrition at this time is advised. When our girls get to the last month we add some calf manna to their grain mix and feed them separately from the rest of the girls.
- Hormonal changes in her system may keep her warmer than normal as well. So if it’s spring and unseasonably warm in your area, make sure to put your fans out for their comfort.
About two weeks before the 335 day mark we begin to feel the alpaca’s ligaments at the base of the tail every morning when we give grain. This gives us a chance to feel what she is like normally. It’s also a chance to spend some extra time with her so that she becomes comfortable with us being close to her and touching her. We will also feel her udder to see if she has begun to produce milk. Once you feel the ligaments on a daily basis you will know when they start to change and soften in preparation for delivery of the cria. Normally our girls will be a little soft a day or two before, but REALLY squishy soft the day of delivery. Here is an article about using the ligaments to detect cria birth.
The day of birth has arrived … as you have now noticed that your alpaca has very lose ligaments. She may be staying with the herd or separating herself from the rest by just a little bit. They may be grazing on one side of the pasture and she is on the other. She is cushed more than normal and not grazing, but sitting there waiting. As she gets up to move around, you may see her tail twitching a bit more than normal. She may turn her head to her back side to try to take a look at what’s going on back there. She’ll sit, shift side to side, stand and walk, graze a little, then sit some more. Some will give birth laying on their side, some will stand and lots of times they will do both.