Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pregnancy Test

There are several ways to pregnancy test alpacas, however, no method it completely fool proof. I've heard of farms that do a progesterone test. From what I understand this is not that accurate, as it can indicate pregnancy, but if the alpaca absorbs the fetus, that is not detected. I've heard absorbing rates as high as 25%. Another method is the "spit test". This is where you take a girl you think is pregnant and put her in with a male to breed her. If she is not pregnant she will kush to breed. If she is pregnant, she will spit at the male and won't let him near her. Though this is not fool proof, because a girl could act pregnant when she isn't. Some girls just like to spit and might spit at the male, but not be pregnant. Farms have relied on this method only to have no cria ever be born. Another method is through ultra sound. Now this sounds like a great way to do it, but surprisingly, it is very difficult. I've heard many farms say their vet either does not offer this service, or is not very good at it so readings aren't accurate.

In our first year with alpacas, they came bred. We already had confirmed pregnancies, which resulted in Lightning, Shelby and Tehya. The second year we opted to have ultra sounds done. We are very lucky in that not only does our vet do ultra sounds, but she is very skilled at reading them. This ended up in the births of Lily, Pocahontas and Cavalier. This year we had 4 girls to bred. We opted this year to use the spit test. The benefit being it's free. The ultra sound from the vet costs about $30 plus the office visit fee. We did spit test our girls last year too, and after witnessing their breeding twice, we feel we have a good grasp of how they act when pregnant and when they are open. The exception being Maddie who is a maiden. Not only are we not sure what her behavior is, she's new to it too.

We relied on the spit test and felt confident all our girls are pregnant. This past weekend J decided to feel their bellies to see if he can feel the cria. I tried too, but he's the trained nurse, I couldn't feel anything but a round belly. He tried Maddie first. While Maddie is due (day 350) the end of this month, it's not obvious she's pregnant:



J wasn't sure if he felt anything on Maddie, so he tried all the other girls. Sancha we know has to be pregnant. Just looking at her you can see her big belly, and if you watch, you can see the cria move:



Sancha doesn't like to be touched so she did spit at us, but J could feel legs moving inside there. He predicts another very big baby for Sancha (the two she has had on our farm have been 20 and 21 pounds). He then felt Kateri. He was shocked how pregnant she feels. She isn't due until later, but he could really feel her baby. I do think she carries the baby out more than many of them. J then felt Victoria who is due last of our girls and he could feel a cria in her. Then he went back to Maddie to see if he could feel something now. We were a bit worried she might be open. He said after feeling the other three girls, he knew right where to push to get a response from the cria (if you push in the cria, it should push back). He said then he could feel the cria, so she is pregnant. The cria was more up in her ribs and hidden than the others, but he could feel some legs. He expects her cria to be smaller, more around 15 pounds (closer to average size). But then Maddie is smaller and so is the sire, Smokey.

Since we had each girl caught to feel the cria, we decided to also body score them. We are in the habit of doing this anytime we get our hands on them. The first year we didn't realize how thin Sancha had gotten. It was not a good situation. Now we body score them any chance we get to make sure any change is quickly detected. We did realize that Maddie has gotten a little thin, and Victoria has put on a little too much weight. Now we will separate them at meal times (grain). Victoria will have to eat alone (which we have done in the past, more recently I tried letting her be with the others in hopes it would work, but clearly that didn't). The skinny girls, Sancha, Kateri and Maddie will eat together now:



and Victoria will be alone so we can limit her grain:



We also are going to start giving Maddie lactation herbs (we'll start in a week or so). Being a maiden, it's common for them to be slow to get their milk in. We've heard that lactation herbs really help, so we are going to do that. We know our other three moms have plenty of milk. J already ordered the herbs and we have them ready to add to her food. I'll have to read when we need to start adding them.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What lactation herbs do you use?

Thanks.

Beth

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