After 18 years you might think we have seen it all, but occasionally we get surprised. Of course the best surprises are the cria (baby alpaca) that pop out unassisted when you briefly run to the house for lunch, thinking “nothing is happening”.
Alpacas are induced ovulators. This means that the female does not ovulate any eggs (oocytes) until she has been bred by the male. The act of breeding stimulates hormonal events inside the female which result in ovulation and hopefully conception. Estrous cycles include a period of receptivity to the male and a period of definite non-receptivity to the male.
Most females, after reaching maturity at 18 months to 2 years will produce one cria a year throughout most of her life.
Alpaca Gestation is 11.5 months to a full year. The cria usually weigh between 13 – 22 lbs and seem to be all neck and legs. Twins are extremely rare as there is just not enough room for two to develop properly in the womb. The newborns are referred to as CRIA. They are called a cria until they are weaned at about 6 months of age. They must receive the mother’s first milk, called colostrum to build their immune system.
Male alpacas reach sexual maturity at 2 1/2 to 3 years of age, and sometimes not until 4 years of age.
Alpacas generally give birth during the day, we suspect it is instinctual, because it can get pretty cold in their native land (Altiplano, South America) at night, thus birthing during the day would increase their survival rate. If they experience stress (poor diet, periods of extreme heat & humidity etc.), they can actually delay fetal development for up to another month or so.
We usually have between two and six cria birthed at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm each year. We try to have at least two born at the same time so they can play and grow together. When they get excited and run, they sometimes do a little wind dance or “PRONK” as they run. It is a delight to watch as all four legs are gracefully working together to hop about the pasture.
We host 5 open houses a year at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm where you can meet the gentle alpaca up close and learn more about them and their gorgeous fiber. For more information on the Open House Schedule, click here.