Obviously the subject of alpaca breeding can be addressed from the perspective of a business, or in terms of the ”mechanics,” which we will cover in this article.
Alpaca females only ovulate during the act of mating, conceiving shortly afterwards, which makes artificial insemination difficult. This type of reproduction is called ”induced ovulation” and is stimulated both by the motion of the male and by the ”orgling” noise he makes.
A young female alpaca is ready to be placed with a stud male when she is 14 months of age, or when she has attained 60% of her mother’s weight.
Male alpacas are ready to breed when they are 2-3 years of age, although some are capable of mating as young as nine months.
The selection of the stud male is the critical decision in creating a mating pair as the male has the greatest influence on the quality of the offspring. This why only about 10% of alpaca males are left intact to be herdsires. Most males are gelded and kept for their fibre or sold as pets.
During copulation, the female sits for the male in the kush position. He mounts her from behind. (Females that are not receptive refuse to sit and will often spit at the males to reject their advances.) Because male alpacas are dribble ejaculators, mating may last as long as 45 minutes.
Do not be alarmed if there is evidence of blood at the completion of mating, especially if the female alpaca is being bred for the first time.
Gestation and Birth
The average period of gestation is 345 days, but varies from 330 to 370 days. The best time of year for the young, called cria, to be born is late spring into early summer. If, however, the correct shelters and facilities are in place, many breeders plan births from March through October.
Typically alpaca births occur during the middle of the day and are free of any trouble. The cria should be 5.4-9 kg at birth and within 2-3 hours will be on their feet and nursing. Mothers are quite protective and will not wean their babies for 5-6 months.
Even if a female is nursing her cria, she can still be re-mated 2-6 weeks after giving birth. This means that in planned breeding programs, maintaining multiple pastures to separate the breeding animals is essential.
For this reason, pen mating is often the best method. This requires a space 3-4 meters gated on one side. In good weather, this is easily created with portable fencing in a pasture. The pen sides should be 1-1.5 meters high. In pasture mating, it’s best to choose an area new to both animals.
Seven days after the initial mating, the pair should be reintroduced. If the female refuses to sit for the male, the chances are quite good that she has indeed ovulated and conceived. Repeat this process at days 14, 21, and 28 to confirm the outcome. (Large breeding operations will test via ultrasound.)