Alpacas are mammals and like virtually all other mammals, alpacas do not lay eggs. Alpacas are what is known as “induced ovulators”, which means that it is the act of mating that causes them to ovulate.
Ovulation occurs within 48 hours and the egg is then fertilized. The fertilized egg may be found in the uterus seven days after mating and implants at around 30 days. The average gestation period of alpacas is approximately 11 and a half months.
Generally, births are trouble-free and mostly occur before the middle of the day. Female alpacas are usually re-mated 2 to 6 weeks after giving birth.
Now that we know that alpacas do not lay eggs, let’s take a closer look at how they reproduce, methods of breeding, and more.
How Do Alpacas Reproduce?
At the age of around 12 to 18 months, female alpacas become sexually mature. While male alpacas can display sexual interest from just a few weeks of age, it is not until they are 18 months to 3 years old that they become sexually active.
The way that alpacas mate is that a female will get into the “cush” position, which is when the alpaca folds its legs under its body. If a female is not receptive to the male’s advances, though, she will refuse to sit down and likely spit at the male.
Unlike some other animals, alpacas do not have a breeding season. As long as a female alpaca is receptive, she can be mated at any time of the year.
Two Different Methods of Breeding
There are two breeding methods: pasture breeding and managed breeding.
Pasture breeding is when a male is placed in a group of females. Managed breeding involves introducing a male to a female within an enclosure, which better allows for control of the mating time.
Signs That Birth is Near
You can tell when a female alpaca is approaching parturition through a few physical signs, including relaxation of the vulva, a slight increase in the size of the mammary gland, and loss of the cervical mucus plug.
Behavioral changes are also common, including obvious signs of discomfort, isolation from the rest of the herd, and frequent looking at the animal’s own tail.
In alpacas, birth can be divided into three stages.
Stage 1: The first stage in which the cervix relaxes and uterine contractions commence to propel the fetus into the birth canal can last 2-6 hours.
Stage 2: Uterine contractions increase in frequency to aid expulsion of the fetus. Once the head appears, delivery is usually completed quickly. Female alpacas usually give birth in the standing position. This stage usually takes 30-45 minutes.
Stage 3: Within 2 hours of birth, the placenta is usually expelled
Alpacas give birth to one cria at a time. Twin births are exceptionally rare, accounting for just 0.0001% of all births.
What Happens After Birth?
Like any good mother, alpacas are very protective of their young, which are called cria, and stay with their mother until weaning at 5 to 6 months of age. A typical cria weighs 10 to 20 pounds at birth.
These crias start trying to stand just 30 minutes after birth, and it takes them just 1 hour to learn how to stand. Once they are up, they start attempting to nurse 2-3 times per hour and for a few seconds to a few minutes per session, gaining 0.25 pounds to 1 pound per day.