Alpaca Birthing

I have been breeding alpacas for four years. I bought my first three females alpacas in the early summer of 2000 and now have just over thirty. I am self taught and have my personal experiences, reading and clinics which I am glad to share with you on the birthing process. I am not a vet so please do not take me as an expert. If at any time you are unsure of what is happening in the birthing process please call your vet. The vet would preferred you called instead of having him or her having a much tougher job later because you didn’t call.

Although 90% of birthing is straight forward and the mom takes care of everything with no need of your intervention you should be prepared to help if necessary. We have had fifteen births on our farm and out of those we have had to help in only four births if we hadn’t I am sure we would have lost the crias and perhaps the moms as well. I strongly suggest you take any birthing clinic you can. If there are not any near by why not host one your selves or take an on-line course. Let other breeders know you are having one, it’s a good way to meet people and start net working with others in the industry.

Birthing Kit to have on hand and ready to grab, in it you should have

  • vets phone number.
  • towels for drying cria.
  • blow dryer.
  • cria coat.
  • clean shoe lace.
  • 7%Iodine in 35 mm film canister.
  • sterol latex gloves .
  • vet wrap.
  • cria nipples & bottle to fit nipple.
  • red tube with catheter tip (60cc syringe) in case you need to tube the cria.
  • Ky jelly for lubricating.
  • digital thermometer.
  • kept in fridge Oxytocin use only if told to by vet.
  • kept in freezer colostrum alpaca or llama is the best but goat is alright.
  • pen and paper for taking notes.
  • information, diagrams on improper cria presentation and what to do.

Signs of Pre-labor can be

  • the Mammary glands enlarge (called bagging up) up to three to four weeks before delivery but with first time moms may not happen at all.
  • wax on the ends of the teats.
  • the belly takes on a different shape seems to drop.
  • Vagina may look larger, pink,elongated and open.
  • their hip bones seem to stick out more.
  • they seem irritable with lots of humming.
  • they are lying down and appearing uncomfortable.
  • the length of last pregnancy can be good indicator but not all ways.
  • they lose their cervical plug 2-3 weeks prior or hours before delivery.

A wise experienced farmer once told me that unless you see something coming out the back end of the mother there isn’t much you can do. One thing alpacas teach us is patience that is for sure. With gestation period of eleven and half months give or take a month it can be a long wait. The one thing you can do is make sure there is all ways some one around to keep an eye on them once they come into that time frame. I have heard the story to many times of surprise births and the cria might have made it if someone had been there to call for help or just help get a leg straighten out.

Active Labor

One of the great things about alpacas is that they birth around lunch time give or take four hours. I think they developed this because they originate from the high Andes mountains, if a cria is born to early it will freeze and to late it will not be dry in time for night and would freeze. It is very uncommon for alpacas to birth in the evening or during the night but it does happen sometimes. We had a seasoned mom give birth at eleven at night last year. I was late in doing my evening check so I happened along just as her waters were braking which I heard as I could not see in the dark. So we don’t take any thing for granted, from then on we put the near delivery moms in the barn at night.

Stage One of Labor

  • Amniotic fluid leaking from vulva.
  • noticeable bulging and softening of the perineum (genital area).
  • interest of the rest of the herd in her hindquarters.
  • restlessness.
  • lack of appetite.
  • lack of cud chewing.
  • frequent trips to the dung pile, sometimes without peeing or pooping.
  • frequent trips to water trough.
  • rolling.
  • getting up and lying down frequently.
  • increased humming.
  • lying down with hind legs kicked out to one side.
  • kicking at her belly with hind feet.

The period of Stage one labor can last between 1 to 6 hours, but 2 is more average.

Call the vet when

  • you are sure labor has started and nothing is happening.
  • you see a nose and nothing else.
  • the female is pushing nothing is coming.
  • feet pointed up.
  • legs no head.
  • she is rolling for a long period of time.
  • stage one of labor lasting more than two hours.

Stage Two of Labor

Stage 2 labor is the actual birthing process which is pretty fast about 30 to 60 minutes.

You should see a bulge from the vagina which is the membranes or sack you may see feet pointed down and or a noise with lots of fluid around it. You can see the contractions and sometimes the mother may groan and be humming with them. If everything is progressing normally there is not much for you to do but wait. Once the hips are pasted the umbilical cord brakes and out should slid your bran new cria.

The mother may have the cria standing or cushed and perhaps she might get up and down while in the middle of delivering. She may stop and eat grass not to worry all is normal. If you see she is stressed by the interest of the rests of the herd you may want to separate her with few of her friends to keep company in a smaller clean pen. Remember that alpacas are herd animals and get their sense of security from being part of the herd.

Call the vet if you feel anything is not normal or if it is taking to long.

Educate your self on how to birth a cria so you can help if need be. Don’t wait for the vet if your alpaca is in trouble you have to go in and help her out. I am not going to go into how as I am not a vet but you can get some books, take a clinic, do an on-line course and perhaps set up a support network with other breeders in your area. Most alpaca folks are friendly and helpful if you need help call on them.

Stage Three of Labor

After the baby is delivered, the placenta will be expelled. Normally this should happen within the first to six hours after delivery. The mom may appear uncomfortable and may not allow the baby to nurse until it is expelled. While the mom is having a well deserved rest we dry off the cria, dip the cord and make sure the cria is in the sun to dry off, if there is no sun and it is cold we will blow dry. We leave them for a bit to rest and get to know each other. Her friends are put out with the rest of the herd and mom and cria have the pen to them selves.
It is very important that the cria be up and nursing as soon as possible. The nursing will stimulate the passing of the placenta and the cria will get the antibodies from moms colostrum. Once the cria is trying to get up and nurse we come back and wash moms teats and make sure the wax is off the nipples, called clearing the dame. We get the cria sucking and give her a baby suppository to help it pass the black tarry substance which can be very hard to pass and then leave them alone for some bonding time. By this time the placenta is usually passed we examine it to make sure there are no missing sections which could still be inside the mom and cause problems later.
That is about it until the next day when we weight and give shots for both mom and cria. We weight the cria daily for about a month and then once a week for the first three months and then monthly after that.