Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Maddie is the nickname for KSF Midnight Masquerade. I think of Maddie as our first baby. She wasn't born on our farm, but came to our farm right upon weaning. She was the first little one we had here. She was such a cute cria too.

Maddie is the second mom due on our farm this spring. While she is due after Sancha, it is very possible she could deliver before Sancha. Sancha tends to have long pregnancies. I've already started watching Maddie a little closer (which translates into: I sneak out to the barn to take a peek at her to see if she is in labor at various times throughout the day, and take any behavior to mean birthing is imminent). And being a maiden, we are worried how her milk will come in. We've started her on lactation herbs, to be proactive and head off any lactation problems.

This is Maddie's first time being bred. We bred her in May of 2009, when she was 20 months old. There are a lot of opinions on when to breed a girl for the first time. Most farms breed their girls somewhere between 15 and 24 months of age (sometime between age 1 and 2). Some farms set a firm rule, like when they hit 120 pounds or when they are 2 years old they will breed them. We decided to base it on each individual girl, to do what is best for her. Maddie's birthday is in September. I did not want to have her due in the fall. For one, the fall can be cold, and hard on a little one. I think that is especially hard for a maiden mom. Another reason is that each year their due date gets pushed back a bit. They are pregnant for 11 to 12 months, then rebred 2 weeks later. So if they deliver at 11.5 months exactly, and are rebred exactly 2 weeks later, they would have the same exact due date. But, many of ours go longer than 11.5 months, and sometimes they don't take on that first breeding and/or it takes longer than 2 weeks to arrange the breeding date. I guess it's possible the following year due date could move forward or stay the same, but we've found on our farm that the date moves back a bit each year. So if we bred her in September, then slowly over the years the due date would inch into October and maybe even later. It's not good in our climate to be having cria that late in the year. We knew we did not want to wait until she was 2 (in September) to breed her. We felt better with a spring birth, so we bred her last May. With a May birth, even if the due date over the years slowly inches in June it's still perfect for our climate.

We bred Maddie to Smokey, a modern dark silver grey. She did not take on her first two breedings, so she bred 3 times (this is not uncommon for a maiden, sometimes the act of breeding is what starts their cycle so they can get pregnant the next time they are bred). Another time I can go into what induced ovulaters are. We do keep in mind that it's possible she did actually take on one of the earlier breedings, so her due date could be earlier. Based on her last breeding, and based on 350 days gestation, she is due May 28th.

Due dates for alpacas can range significantly. Anywhere from 335 to 370 days is considered normal. We find most of our girls deliver pretty close to day 350 (Sancha usually a few days after, and Kateri and Victoria a few days before). We also have heard that spring cria tend to be later, and fall earlier (this may be a survival thing, in the spring it's best to wait for warmer weather, whereas in the fall it's better for the cria to be born and moving around before the cooler weather hits). Being this is spring, we figure later rather than earlier. But really, since Maddie is a maiden, we don't know what her typical is. This week she hits day 335, so it could be any day now.

Maddie is a true black, meaning her 2 color genes are black. So we know she will pass black onto her cria. Maddie has the white spot gene (notice the white spots on her extremities). She has a 50% chance of passing on the white spot gene. Now if 2 parents pass on a white spot gene, a blue eyed white (BEW) alpaca results. These are not ideal, because often they are also deaf, and possibly blind, which is a birth defect that is not responsible as a breeder to pass on. I think of a BEW as an albino. They are not *really* white. They appear white because they have no color pigment due to the genetic defect. For Maddie, this means we need to be careful in breeding her, not to allow her to be bred to an animal with a white spot (including a tuxedo grey). Smokey is a modern grey, meaning he has no white spot, and is not tuxedo. So there is no chance of creating a BEW.

The color genetics of greys isn't as clear cut as the typical 2 color gene theory (where the light color is displayed and the darker color is secondary). Not only do we not know, but even the experts don't completely understand grey.

I've heard many different theories on what should happen when a modern grey breeds (modern grey is what Smokey is considered).

I will break it into 3 theories on how the grey will factor in.

Theory One: it's all black
One theory is that a modern grey breeds like their base color, and are very unlikely to have grey offspring. This would mean Smokey is basically a black, with 2 black genes. Black bred to black should always create black:

bb x bb = bb (no matter how you do it).

So in this case, we could completely expect a black animal out of Maddie.

Theory Two: grey in the background
I just found out that Maddie's mother was created by a tuxedo light silver grey bred to a black (I love the search ARI).

Maddie is black, so she had to have gotten a black gene from each parent. But what if grey isn't a simple color, and instead attaches to another color. So, for example, if Maddie's mother passed on a black gene color with grey attached, it might not show outwardly on Maddie (it would be covered by her other black gene), but might be something she could pass on (recessive gene). If Maddie passed on a black gene with grey attached, and Smokey did the same, the cria would be a grey color. If this is the case, 2 recessive grey genes would make a grey animal (so Smokey being grey, would have 2 grey genes). In that scenario, it's possible for Maddie and Smokey to create a grey cria.

This match up would be harder to write, because the grey gene would be attached to the black. I could show this as bg (b=black and g=grey attached).
Smokey (bgbg) x Maddie (bbg) (meaning, Smokey has two black genes with grey attached and Maddie had one regular black gene and one black with grey attached)

bgbg x bbg = bgb, bgbg, bgb, bgbg
bgb = black cria
bgbg = grey cria

So in this scenario, there is a 50% chance of a black cria, and a 50% chance of a grey one.

I recently read an article stating this is not the case, grey doesn't hide and then get passed onto an offspring (it's not recessive). This article indicated that it doesn't matter that Maddie's grandparent is grey. And since this article was written by someone I have found to be quite knowledgeable, I tend to believe them over my little theory here. But, until something is proven, I still look to it as a possibility.

Theory Three: Black and Grey
Another theory on how this work is that Smokey has a black color gene and a grey color gene. In this scenario, if Smokey passes on black, the cria will be black, if Smokey passes on grey, then the cria will be grey. Maddie would always pass on black.
Smokey (bG) x Maddie (bb)=
bG x bb = bb, Gb, Gb, bb
bb= black cria
Gb= grey cria

In that scenario, there is a 50% chance of black, and a 50% chance of grey.

This is actually how tuxedo grey does work. Each breeding has a 50% chance of the grey being passed on. This has been observed in the offspring.

In modern greys, they are not finding that they have 50% grey offspring like the tuxedo. But, they do have some grey cria, so it's more than the 1st scenario. The second scenario doesn't seem to hold up either, though. That also gave 50% chance of grey. I think that the modern grey color is newer and only recently become popular. I think it will take some time for them to figure out how this all works.

To be honest, I am not sure which theory I believe to be true. All along we've sort of assumed that Maddie's baby will be black, because we know the modern greys are less likely to produce grey. But we left it open that the cria *could* be grey. I am curious to learn more about how grey genetics work. We have several modern greys, so I know we will see and learn at lot first hand in the next couple of years. We also keep up on what other people are seeing and learning on their farm, and in the study of alpaca genes.

With any of these outcomes, (because Maddie has a white spot) there is a 50% chance of this cria having a white spot. There is always a 50% chance of a male cria and 50% for a female cria. So, if we say the outcome is 75% black and 25% grey (which is what people claim they are seeing with the modern greys), that also translates into:
37.5% black with white spot
37.5% black solid (no white spot)
12.5% grey with white spot
12.5% grey (no white spot)

Based on how Maddie has been acting, I don't think it will be long before we see this cria first hand and know for sure what color, and sex, it is.

What I think is nature's cruelty is that about the time a girl is due with her first cria, is about the time they lose their teeth and their adult teeth come in. So here is Maddie, with spit lip, and her teeth starting to come back in:

This will be Maddie's first baby. For her offspring, we are planning to use the theme of "mystery darkness and night". This could be names like: Phantom, Midnight Moon, Shooting Star or something along those lines. I am a little worried as the years go by we might have to stretch this one a bit. But it seemed fitting for a girl named Midnight Masquerade, who's sire (father) is Midnight Rider, given the fact we most likely will breed her to dark males for dark offspring.


Noah and Jillian Schwander said...

Ha Ha! I love this line from your post "which translates into: I sneak out to the barn to take a peek at her to see if she is in labor at various times throughout the day, and take any behavior to mean birthing is imminent". My birthday was this week and Noah got be some binoculars so I could spy on our preggo girls from the house! Unfortunately, sometimes they are hiding behind the barn and I have to sneak out to look for "signs" still. I always return to the house to report to Noah that I in fact saw some strange behavior and I am sure they will have the baby soon. I have been doing this for 3 weeks now on our farm and still no cria!

Out of Smokey's 9 cria currently on the ground, he has thrown 5 blacks (2 with patterns/white spots and 3 solid blacks. The rest have been fawn or brown. He was bred to a lot of black girls last year, so we will see what they produce this year!

cara said...

That is interesting about Smokey's babies. I'm going to be keeping a close eye on this years crop of cria. I find this all so interesting.

We have been watching Maddie closely. It started on Saturday when J said she was acting weird. I told him she was fine, but then I started noticing things too. By Monday, she was holding her tail up and straining by the poop pile a lot. I think if Tuesday had been warm, we might have seen a cria. But, then that cold rain came and I'm sure stopped any form of labor.

Noah and Jillian Schwander said...

OMG....Lady was acting the same way today! She has constantly been over the poo pile and pushing with nothing coming out. She has also been laying down a lot and not chewing cud. I thought for sure she would have it today, but things have seemed to slow down this afternoon. I know we definitely saw "signs" this morning...and definitely not the made up ones! Hopefully we will have some cria before shearing! The weather Friday is supposed to be decent...maybe then???

I also wanted to let you know that another Smokey cria was born out of a black dam (with a grey spot) this morning at Windspun Alpacas. She looks to possibly be dark fawn vicuna or maybe brown. I thought for sure she would be black! I will send you some pics and details.

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