Monday, June 7, 2010

Alpaca Due Dates

Typical alpaca gestation lasts 320 to 370 days. Most farms use day 335 or day 350 as the due date. We use day 350, because we find most of our girls deliver around that time. Kateri and Victoria tend to deliver somewhere in the 340's and Sancha in the 350's. When we were new farmers, we used 335 days and we were so impatient when Lightning wasn't born until day 356 (or 355 or 357, now I've forgotten the exact day, but it was 35something). It was a grooling wait. It's just easier for us to set the due date at 350. We keep eye a month before that date, but don't get too excited until the due date.

I found some interesting stats on alpaca due dates:

The average gestation is 347 days
The median gestation is 345.5 days.
Average birth weight is 17.2 lbs
The gestations that were longer than the median had a negligible (0.49 lb) higher weight than the shorter gestations. There was no correlation between problems and long gestations.
For the births January - June, the average gestation is 350 days.
For births July - December, the average gestation is 344.5 days.
8.7% of gestations are one year or longer.
The shortest gestation resulting in a live cria is 291 days. The longest gestation is 426 days.
The possible cause of long gestation (over 370 days) was unknown in many cases, but in some, sickness or stress mid-gestation seemed like a likely culprit. The stresses were usually extreme weather related. My theory is that the gestation was placed on hold during the stress.

As Maddie goes on and on with her pregnancy, the question comes: should we induce labor, and if so, at what point? There is quite a bit of controversy within the industry over inducing an alpaca. I'm generally one to advocate letting nature take it's course, unless there is a specific medical reason to intervene. I know in humans, inducing has become quite common place. A trend that concerns me. I'm one of those old fashioned people who waited a week past due date with my daughter, waiting for nature. Nature came, but turns out that according to mother nature I'm not built to birth children. In survival of the fittest, we both would have died. If it weren't for emergency c-sections, I would not be here with a healthy 10 year old. So, I do believe modern medicine has it's place. I'm just not sure what place, under what circumstances, it is appropriate for an alpaca.

While on the one hand, I agree, nature usually has a way of doing what is best. The cria may need to grow and thrive for longer in it's mother's womb. Nature knows what this cria needs. I cannot see the cria, I do not know first hand what the situation is. On the other hand, I have heard of cria dying inside the dam, only to decompose and result in the death of the dam. Or a cria born later term that is too larger for the mother to birth (being this was the main issue with birthing my own children, I tend to take this one to heart more than most people would. I know they say nature won't let a mom grow a baby bigger than they can birth, I'd like to point to the two children running around my house as contradiction to that theory. Though at the same time, I would not have wanted to be induced early to avoid this. Healthy and full term by c-section is much more preferable to me than premature). The data I listed above, shows that there is no more instances of problems in later term births. I want to have faith in that. In the mean time, I will be hoping and praying this cria comes on it's own very soon.

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