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Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.
They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines
in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and USA and also through articles on this website
and other websites.
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By Linda Blake Southern Alpacas Stud
When wee Ella was born, she had been two
years in the making, using the latest scientific knowledge, using progesterone
implants, with Ebony, her mother.
Ebony, being a maiden, was more difficult
to get pregnant that first time.
After several tries, Ebony got pregnant
in the summer, but she lost it within the first month. And this happened
Our experience has shown that a maiden
female who does not get pregnant in summer, will often fall pregnant in
spring, with the natural cycle of the seasons.
Come spring, Ebony spat
off at 14 days as pregnant, but at 28 days, she sat for the male – not
pregnant. We were to go through this process several times
- pregnant at 14 days, but not holding it for the second spit.
Our philosophy as stud masters is to be
as natural as possible, but if after three matings the female is not pregnant,
to intervene. The odds are 50:50 for a female getting pregnant in
any mating, which makes it 50% likely after the first mating, 75% likely
after two matings, and 87.5% likely after three matings. Research
in Australia bears this out.
Ebony came back to our farm, and her mating
programme became more intensive. Mating, a spit to check for ovulation
at day 7, a spit to check for pregnancy at day 14, and so far, so good.
She was ovulating, and she was getting pregnant.
raises upon mating, and continues to rise if ovulation occurs, and keeps
rising if pregnancy occurs. If pregnancy does not occur, the progesterone
level begins to drop around day 12/13, and the female becomes receptive
to mating again about day 14.
We begin 3 day spit-offs at day 14, 17, 20
…and, analysing our mating and spit-off records over two mating seasons,
we found that Ebony was losing the foetus at around day 17. Female
alpacas all have a natural cycle length, which varies both individually,
and over time. It seemed that Ebony’s was around 17 days.
“Time to get intensive, “ said Nic.
“Let’s look at artificially raising the progesterone level to see if she
can keep the foetus past day 17.”
We’d already checked
that Ebony was in good health, including internally. She was an acceptable
size to mate, being over 40kg. The vet used our speculum to peer
inside and see if all appeared normal in looks and size, and to double
check that she had no internal infection..
To raise her progresterone, in true Kiwi
fashion we improvised – with sheep vaginal implants. We used “Eazi-breed
CIDR” which has 0.3 grams of progesterone per implant, and followed the
instructions for sheep.
The implants are narrow and long, with wings.
These are inserted with lots of lubrication on a special applicator, that
folds the wings back initially, and once inside the vagina, the wings spread
out, keeping the implant inside.
The scheme was day 1 mate, day 7 spit for
ovulation check, day 14 pregnancy spit, and zap a progesterone implant
in before the crucial lowering of progesterone at day 17. Day 28
– pull out the implant, and insert a new one, as they last about 14 days.
And the waiting began,
because with increased progesterone, we could no longer check for pregnancy
the usual ways - Ebony would spit off a male, and also return a high progesterone
At week 12 we scanned. It’s nerve-racking
looking at a scanner screen. More fluid could be seen in the uterus,
which is the result of higher progesterone, due to pregnancy, or a retained
corpus lutem, or due to implants ! The question was, which ?
We looked for any body parts - nothing
more could be seen.
Our hearts sank. What to do ?
Stop the implants, and risk that she was carrying a cria, and the reduced
progesterone may mean she aborts ? Or carry on with the fortnightly
procedure for another 9 months, with maybe no result ?
There was no loss by continuing with the
implants. At the worst, we could start the whole thing again in spring.
Spring arrived, and
Ebony was now 8 months along in her “pregnancy”, maybe. This time
as the image came up on the screen, we could see an even more enlarged
uterus, lots of fluid, but no cria outline. Then maybe, just maybe,
a leg bone, as a long straight line appeared fuzzily on the screen.
Obviously we were going to continue the
The last implant was due to be inserted
in late November, and left for a month, to run down the progesterone gradually.
Progesterone drops prior to birthing, and the hormonal changes open the
cervix for birthing to occur.
The vet was keen to
scan again. It is much harder to see a cria at this late stage of pregnancy,
as the cria and mother’s body are so close together. Again, we could see
very little that showed us a positive pregnancy.
Bernice the vet suddenly jumped up from
her crouched position by Ebony’s flank.
“It kicked me”, she exclaimed. “There
is a live cria in there.”
We could do little but wait and watch for
the last few weeks.
When Ebony finally went
into labour, we all had our eyes glued on her, looking for any signs that
she needed assistance.
A black head was quickly followed by two
black legs. Then a bigger push and the shoulders were through, followed
by the rest of the body sliding out – and there was a cria. Alive.
Kicking. Normal. And a female.
As we watched Ebony fussing over her cria,
we felt a relief from the tension of many long months of concern.
Another life - and all the effort was worth it.
And next time all was well - Ebony got
pregnant first time she was mated, 14 days after birthing, and presented
another lovely black female cria 11.5 months later.
Updated January 2009