2015 brought us over 20 babies, or cria, as alpaca babies are called. It's always stressful - each breeding is carefully planned so that the best traits of the male will enhance the traits of the female. We look at fiber statistics, conformation, color, and reproductive history. Then we implement the actual breeding at the time when the female will be most likely to conceive. After the initial breeding, you check weekly to see if the female is receptive to the male. If she is, that usually means the first breeding did not "take". So we start again! Ultimately, we are aiming for a productive mating.
Once the pregnancy is confirmed, we wait. And wait. And wait. A pregnancy ranges from 10.5 months to 12.5 months, so we are waiting a long time! Most pregnancies result in single births. Multiple births are rare and if they occur, likelihood of survival of both cria is slim.
Interestingly, most births occur in daylight hours, and most between the hours of 7 am and 3 pm. And, in nice weather! There are exceptions, of course, but we do appreciate the timing of most cria births.
Most alpacas give birth with no assistance, but we do try to be present just in case. Necks and legs are so long, that entanglement is easy so sometimes a little help is necessary. Cria usually weigh between 15 and 20 pounds at birth. Usually they are up and alert right away.
Our role after birth is to be sure the baby is alert, warm enough, starts nursing so she gets that important colostrum from her mom. We are ready to help at any point, but prefer to let the mom and cria figure it all out. Usually we keep the mom and cria in an area where they won't be bothered, but still in sight of the rest of their herd, for a day or so, until we are sure both mom and cria are doing well.
The cria should gain about 1/2 to one pound each day, and we weigh each cria each day to ensure appropriate weight gain. (A livestock scale is one of the most important investments an alpaca farmer can make!)
Once all is going well, we let mom and baby rejoin the herd. That is a wonderful experience... everyone has to meet the baby, kiss her, smell her, and welcome her. Mom watches carefully to be sure no one hurts her baby, and most moms are super protective for days.
It doesn't take long before the new cria is out playing with the other babies, running races, and teasing all the big mamas in the pen. For us, there is nothing better than taking going into the field and just sitting there!
On April 11 we hosted a neonatal seminar with Dr. Cheryl DeWitt. It was a wonderful experience, filled with knowledge and hands-on practice. People came from throughout Missouri. The morning lecture addressed reproductive issues, signs of labor, and cria care. The afternoon "wet lab" gave participants an opportunity to learn how to correct birthing problems that can come up. At the end of the day, we relaxed in the pavilion on our farm, surrounded by alpacas!
Show-Me Ag, a program of KMOS Public Television, came out this year to film shearing day. As a result, Show-Me Ag produced a half hour program on our alpaca farm! Check out the on-farm portion of the show here!
So far, six babies this year! Five girls and one boy... we are waiting for one more, then none til August. In August and September - wow! about 25 more babies coming!
Nothing is as much fun as watching babies play!
June 3 - 120 animals sheared between 7 am and 6 pm! The weather was perfect, shearing crew was awesome, and we had a fabulous group of volunteers to help. Total of 654 pounds of fiber collected! Plus scraps for bird balls! All in all, a great day!
We are really excited that four of our alpacas rate among the top five in the country in various fleece characteristics! After shearing we have histograms done on fleece to identify strengths and weaknesses so that we can make breeding decisions to improve the fiber with each generation.
Last year, Penny, Iron Man, and Fanta all had various fleece characteristics in the top five in the country!
Penny ranked # 5 in Spin Fineness, Iron Man ranked # 3 in Standard Deviation of Micron, and Fanta ranked # 1 in Median Staple Length and # 2 in Fleece Weight.
Cinnablaze, now owned by another farm, ranked # 2 in Standard Deviation of Micron.
Their characteristics and photos will be shared in a presentation by the Alpaca Registry at the AOBA National Alpaca Show in Denver this year.
For those who love fiber, we have yarn ready for purchase from these and all our alpacas!
Our babies are growing up so fast! Little ones from last spring have learned how to walk with a halter and lead, and some are going to shows. Most 2012 babies are now weaned (and yes, there was lots of crying in the barn for a few days!), with a few more to go. It is fun to watch them grow and develop. Each has their own personality. Some quite excitable, and others just don't get ruffled about anything! Love how they come up every night for some nose kisses!
We have been having fun at alpaca shows this fall! Great to be able to get our a few of our alpacas out and show them around, and also to meet people who come to the shows to see and learn more about alpacas. Alani is pictured here, waiting for the show to begin. She left the show with a blue ribbon. We also entered four fleeces in the fleece show, and all four got blue ribbons!
The hot summer is gone, and with the fall season we have new fall babies. This fall we've had a dozen cria, with several more on the way. Some absolutely fabulous little ones. Five are classic grey sired by Peruvian Silver Heat, several are absolutely luscious solid colored babies sired by Pines Edge Peruvian Wyldfyre.
Breeding is beginning for next fall's babies. We're excited about two new herdsires who will be at the farm next week: Pucara Puresuri Tikanui and Wyldfyre. They join Zagato of PVA and GLR Arappaho as our primary herdsires. Tikanui is a gorgeous white male, sired by Pucara Kahuna, and Wyldfyre is a deep coppery brown, sired by MacGyver. Both bring excellent genetics to Hasselbring's Harmony Ranch and we are thrilled to have them in our breeding program.