Friday, June 12, 2009

Love is in the Air

Breeding season has come around again for our alpacas. It may not be love in the air...but definitely a strong instinct to procreate. While alpacas are induced ovulators, meaning they can breed and become pregnant year round, we prefer to breed our alpacas between late May and early October. That way, all of our cria are born in the warmer Michigan months. We have already been diligently working on getting our females who are open (not pregnant) bred for spring 2010 crias. Well, when I say we have been really is more like the herdsires have been working very diligently.

There are two methods of breeding alpacas. Pasture breeding, which involves putting one or several open females in with the male for longer periods of time until he breeds them all which is more natural, but can make it difficult to pin point due dates. The other method is hand breeding, which we prefer. We bring a male and a female together in a separate pen or put a halter on the male and bring him in with all the ladies. After he breeds with the female, they are separated. Seven days later we behavior test, which means we bring the male back in to see if the female is interested in breeding. If she did not become pregnant, she will most likely kush (lay down) for the male to breed her again. If she ovulated and is pregnant, she will run, put her ears back, spit, kick and/or scream at the male. Some females show definite signals and are very easy to tell if they are pregnant. In our experience, this has been the older girls who have been through it a few times. The maiden (never had a cria) females will show mixed signals sometimes or kush because they are being submissive, not because they want to breed. If the female shows behaviors that indicate she is pregnant, we continue to behavior test her every 3-7 days. If the females are more experienced, we continue to behavior test them every few days and then get an ultrasound around 90 days. If the female gives mixed signals, we continue to behavior test every few days and then get an ultrasound around 30 days and then again at 90 days to make sure they are maintaining their pregnancies (alpacas have a high absorption rate in the first 90 days, so we always ultrasound them after 90 days to make sure they are still pregnant). I guess it is quite a bit of work for us too.

Here are some pictures from breeding last year. Notice all the females kushed around the breeding and trying to "get in on it" too. When females are open and receptive, they will normally kush near a breeding that is taking place. If they are pregnant, they will either attack the male when he is breeding another female or stay as far away from the breeding as they can. Notice the pregnant females hanging back in the pictures. The open females are all kushed next to the breeding and they like to rub against the male and sniff him while he is doing his business. Very interesting creatures!
What a lucky man to have so many pretty ladies interested in him. The details of the breeding can be a little dirty, so I won't go to much into detail. Luckily, Noah handles this part. He makes sure the the right thing in going in the correct place and then we time how long the breeding takes place. Breedings can go anywhere from 7 to 60 minutes. Our herdsire Smokey tends to keep it around 15-20 minutes, but has gone as little as 9 minutes and 45 minutes at the most. We notice he tends to breed longer with the larger white females. Very strange that he seems to have a preference. Some females only need to breed once to become pregnant and others take a few tries.

So far this year, Smokey has had a few drive by dates (either we drive Smokey to another farm, he breeds with their female, and then we bring him back home or another farm brings their female to our farm, they breed and then she goes home). We have also been breeding him with a few of our boarders, so he has been busy, but has no complaints.

We bred our maiden girl Appalachia to IVF Tribute WSA No Small Change (aka Peso) who is co-owned by Windspun Alpacas and Irish Valley Farm Alpacas. I fell in love with this little macho when he was just a juvenile and knew that I wanted to breed one of our girls to him when he matured. He has the boxy, big boned body type that we love and he is smaller in size. He also has the most amazing coverage and beautiful black, bold crimp. Peso has alpacas such as Acero Marka's Wooly Bully,Panam's Money Maker (deceased) and CPeruvian Silvino in his heritage. Both Apple and Peso have grey sires, so we are excited to see what they produce. The breeding between them went well. Since Apple is a maiden, she has been showing some mixed signals when behavior testing. We feel like she is pregnant, but will be getting an ultrasound around 30 days and then at 90 to confirm. Here are some pictures of Apple and Peso (Apple is doing her flirting prance).
We bred our older girl Lady Liberty to a full Peruvian light fawn, 3/4 Accoyo herdsire, Incan Alchemy of Flying Cloud Alpacas. Alchemy's sire is WLM Camillo who is sired by Caligula. Alchemy's great grandsire is Peruvian Hemmingway. Alchemy's dam is sired by the amazing Royal Fawn, and full sister to Royal Apollo. We look forward to seeing what they will produce. We brought Lady to their farm for a drive by breeding which went well. We bred her over a week ago, and so far, she is spitting off when we behavior test, so we are hopeful she is pregnant. We will probably wait until she is 90 days bred to get an ultrasound since she is easy to read. Here are some pictures of Lady and Alchemy.

We also have a female Bellesa who is currently down in Indiana breeding to the famous Peruvian Macusani. We are hoping for a grey full peruvian cria out of this match. I got an email from Mac's farm this morning saying Bellesa spit off this morning, and she was bred 3 weeks ago, which is a great sign. Here are pictures of Bellesa and Macusani.

We will continue breeding and monitoring our females' pregnancies throughout the summer. A lot of time and effort goes into breeding and behavior testing to make sure our females become pregnant and maintain those pregnancies. We have three more females that are due to give birth in July and August and will be rebreeding them to Smokey after they have their crias if we like what they produce this time. Our goal is to have all 6 of our females pregnant by September this year. It will be very exciting for us to have 6 cria due next year!

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