Fort Ethier Alpaca Beauties
Female alpacas are called dams or hembras. First
breeding can take place at about 12- 18 months of age. Most are at least 100 pounds.
Some don't breed until the 'girl' is near 24 months. We try to time all so
that the babies are born in the spring or early summer, but they can be bred
anytime of the year- depending on the weather of the area.
The gestation period is 11 ˝ months or around 350 days. They can be rebred about 2 - 3 weeks after delivery.
Baby alpacas are called cria (cree-ah). They weigh between 13 & 20 pounds at birth & generally arrive unassisted. The majority are born during daylight hours - about 9 am to 5-6 pm. It is felt that in their native lands, birthing earlier in the day allows for the cria to have time to fully dry, stand, nurse & be ready to go with the herd as the day changes to the chilly night. Most often they are up walking within an hour. It does not take long for them to discover where Mom’s ’milk bar’ is! These babes love to run & play. They start to sample the grass &/or hay at an early age- sometimes within days of birth. They generally nurse until they are 5-8 months of age. Most 'mothers' wean their babies - occasionally this takes a long time & we will separate them.
Male alpacas are called machos, studs or sires. Their breeding life begins between 2 & 3 years old. When breeding, they have a distinctive ’orgle’ vocalization. Breeding is done with the female down in a kush position & often lasts over 15 minutes. A few days after breeding, the female is again presented to the male. If she runs, kicks or spits at him- she is bred. It is a good idea to repeat this ‘spit- off’ for a period of time as some females become open in the early stages of pregnancy. Blood progesterone testing or ultrasounds can also be done to confirm pregnancies.
What curious critters! It is fascinating to watch ALL when a new member is born. Each one has to have their turn to check out the cria and welcome them into the herd. They collect at the fence when company comes - someone new - "Do we know them?" Children are most welcome in the paddocks. My grandchildren have kinda grown up with the herd or maybe it is the other way around!
They are quite intelligent. It does not take them long to learn the farm's routine - or non-routine, as it is often around here. Tis funny to see them watch as I bring up the trailer. They take note of who is being haltered, loaded & driven away. The welcome home after a show is like a reunion. Again, each from the trailer is greeted and checked to see if they are new or have come home.
Halter training is generally not difficult. Once they accept the halter, the leading, standing & being checked over goes quite well. Many times, we are in sync after about a week of daily sessions that last around 20 minutes a time. I make sure to touch each in the manner of show ring needs - this seems to help keep them calm when the judge checks them in the ring - they have a good idea what is going on.
They are calm & gentle. I enjoy going out into the paddocks for any reason! It is a relaxed & soothing time for both the four legged critters & this two legged one!