At what age do alpacas start breeding?
Females become sexually mature at around 12 to 18 months of age and once they reach 90 to 100 pounds in weight. Males can display sexual interest from a few weeks of age but are not sexually active or fertile until 18 months to 3 years of age. (There will be individuals that fall outside this age range.)
Alpacas do not have a breeding season and provided they are receptive, females can be mated at any time of the year. Like rabbits and cats, female alpacas are “induced ovulators” which means it is the act of mating that causes them to ovulate.
Alpacas mate in the “cush” (prone) position and if a female is not receptive (already pregnant) she will refuse to sit down and will probably spit at the male. This rejection response, known as a “spit-off” is used in the management of the female to regularly monitor the progress of her pregnancy.
How long is gestation?
The average gestation period is 11½ months, but pregnancies that go for over a year are not uncommon.
Births are generally trouble-free and most occur before the middle of the day. Cria should be 12 to 20 pounds at birth and most will be on their feet and nursing within 2 to 3 hours. The mothers are often very protective and the cria will stay with its mother until weaning at 5 to 6 months of age.
Females are usually re-mated 2 to 6 weeks after giving birth.
Do alpacas ever have twins?
Twinning in alpacas is extremely rare (approximately 0.0001% of births) and should not form any part of a breeding plan.
How do I get started if I want to breed alpacas?
There are a number of things to consider before launching into the breeding industry. It is best to talk to one of the main experienced breeders first, wherever you intend to buy your stock from. You will gain lots of useful information from people who have already done the legwork.
If you are serious it is advisable to develop a business plan (see How to Buy, Breed, and Succeed in the Alpaca Business).
To be able to register your offspring you will need to join the British Alpaca Society (BAS).
Some people buy a couple of wethers to begin with and once they feel confident that alpacas really are extremely easy to manage, they take the next step to start a breeding herd.
For most breeders, they simply want to get going as soon as possible and enjoy the experience as they learn along the way.