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Birthing Help

The birth of a new alpaca cria is one of the highlights of owning alpacas. It can be a traumatic experience for the mother as well as owners who may not have much experience with alpaca birthing.

The Gestation Period.
The gestation period for an alpaca is around 340 days although we have had premature births at 320 days, and prolonged birth at up to 387 days, although beyond 365 days is very uncommon.

The Maternity Paddock.
Because of the uncertainty of the birth, it is advisable to place the expectant mother into what we call a 'maternity paddock'. This paddock is best located close to the house so you can monitor the alpaca on a regular basis. It needs to have shelter and protection from the elements. It is advisable to place the mother in the maternity paddock at around 325 days. If you don't have any other females in with the expectant mother, it may be a good idea to place a female companion in for company (NOT a male).

When they might birth?
During daylight hours is the most common time when an alpaca will birth. It is thought that this is due to their ancestry in South America where it is very cold at night so the mother will birth in the warmer daytime so the cria has time to dry, get to its feet, and find its food source. We have had cases where a cria has been born before 7.00am and after 8.00pm but the majority of births are usually around mid-day.

Signs to tell that your alpaca is birthing.
The most obvious sign that your alpaca may be birthing is frequenting the poo-pile. The alpaca will stand at the poo-pile for extended periods of time, often looking very constipated. The alpaca may also become very restless, sitting down, getting up, rolling around, and generally not being able to get comfortable for longer than 5 minutes and may also go and sit by itself. This is the first stage of birthing and may go on for some time, even up to 3 hours.

If the alpaca is showing the early stages of birthing for longer than 3 hours, it is advisable to call your vet for assistance.

The Birthing Procedure.
The birthing stage will occur when the cria enters the birth canal and should be delivered within 30 minutes of the first sign of foetal parts. A normal birth will be the forelimbs or the head coming out first. When the nose of the cria is clearly visible, if the membrane is still covering the mouth/nose, the membrane should be torn open to drain the fluid so the cria does not inhale it into its lungs. If the alpaca does not make progress within 5 to 10 minutes of this, assistance may be needed, although some alpacas do tend to take their time and may graze or sit down and rest between contractions.

At this stage, either the head or front legs should be appearing. Once the head and front legs are fully out, it is common for them to hang wiggling their head as this helps drain the fluid from their lungs. Should the cria need help in this last stage of birth, 'gentle' traction may be needed to assist the delivery. When holding the legs it is important to pull 'down' (NOT STRAIGHT OUT), which follows the path a cria would take in a natural birth.

It is important to observe but try not to interfere too much and let mother nature do its work. If you have any concerns what so ever, talk to your vet.

The Placental Expulsion.
The placenta, which is the sack that contains the cria in the uterus, should be passed within 1 to 6 hours. It should never be pulled from the alpaca and should be inspected once passed to see that no large sections are missing. Once passed it should be disposed of to deter foxes. If the placenta has not passed after 6 hours you must call your vet for assistance.

When Veterinary assistance is required.
If the first stages of birthing goes past 3 hours.
If the birthing stage goes past 30 minutes.
If the cria is partly delivered and is not progressing further.
If the placenta has not passed within 6 hours.

After the cria is born.
When the cria is born you should wipe the cria as dry as possible with a clean towel and remove some of the membrane. The navel should be sprayed with a 7% - 10% Betadine solution and if still bleeding a sterilised bull-dog clip or peg can be used to stop the bleeding. This should removed within an hour.

The most important aspect is to leave the mother and cria alone so they can bond. If the mother has lost interest, move the cria to the mother or put them in a confined space so they can bond.

If it is a cold day a coat (dog coat) can be used on the cria or the mother and cria should be moved in to a shelter. The cria should be standing within 1 to 2 hours, and should be suckling soon after. It is important at this stage to see that the cria is suckling. If it has not had a drink and is looking lethargic after 4 hour after birth, call your vet for assistance.

Applying Betadine to the navel.

The placenta being passed.
DO NOT try and remove, it will detach in time.
Dispose of once it is on the ground.

Helpfull Birthing Links:
The Alpaca Registry Journal
A Beginner's Field Guide to Birthing Alpacas

Alpaca Maintenance - More information on alpacas

Putting weight on thin alpacas
Fencing for alpacas
How to determine signs of a sick alpaca
Basic first aid kit for alpacas
Alpaca body temperatures
Can cold and wet weather affect alpacas?
Making sense of the alpaca fibre analysis
Rye grass staggers
Taking the perfect alpaca photograph
Facial abscess
Berserk male syndrome
Vitamin D
Constipated crias
Preparation for Winter
Keeping alpaca records
Alpacas need head-space
Testing for parasites
Birthing help
Cutting Toenails
A Working Dog's Guide to Alpacas
Paddock Maintenance
Alpacas for Pets
Alpacas as Sheep Guardians