Friday, June 25, 2010

Spit testing

We've joked about an EPT test that we could use to test pregnancy, but the fact is, there isn't one for alpacas. There are several ways to test. One is the "spit test". This is where you bring a male to the female, and the male will try to breed her. If she responds by acting mean and crazy (running, spitting and kicking), then she likely is pregnant. It's called the "spit test" because often the female will spit at the male. If the female is receptive to breeding, they are open (not pregnant). This is not always reliable, because a female can be ornery even if not pregnant. Also, a female can think they are pregnant (such as if they have a retained CL - this is when an egg is released to be fertilize, and sort of sticks there, but actually never was fertilized), or if the female is just plain confused (which can be a problem with maidens). Another method is a progesterone test. I've heard there are several problems with using this one. One is that a retained CL could raise the progesterone, yet the female is not pregnant. Also, progesterone fluctuates throughout pregnancy and is not a definitive test alone. Another options is ultra sound. This sounds like the perfect option, but reliability depends on the experience of the vet doing the ultra sound. Many vets are not experienced enough to accurately read the u/s. It also can only be done at certain points in the pregnancy. It's surprisingly difficult to find a pregnancy on an alpaca, even with an ultra sound machine. Also, the down side is this means a vet appointment, and expense. Our vet is very good at doing ultra sounds, so if we do opt to have one done, at least we are getting an accurate one done. I have heard of several farms going in together to buy an ultra sound machine. They train each other in how to use it. That way they can do ultra sounds, but don't have to pay vet fees each time. Our first year as alpaca owners,, we had our vet come to our farm to ultra sound our pregnant girls. Over the years though, we've relied more and more on the "spit test" method. Our foundation girls are extremely easy to read in a spit test. We know how they act when open, and when pregnant. Maidens are more difficult and Maddie was a bit of a challenge for us last year. But we were right, she was pregnant. Though the down side to this method is that we could believe a female to be pregnant, but if she's not, we could end up losing out on a year of breeding. While this is more likely to happen with the spit test method than the ultra sound, at this point, this is a risk we are willing to take. Of course if someone were to buy one of our bred females, we would take her the the vet for an ultra sound confirmation. But for our own farm purposes, we feel very confident in our spit test.

One interesting thing with alpacas is that the female can get pregnant, but then absorb the pregnancy. This can happen even a couple months into the pregnancy. For this reason, it's important to re-test a female to ensure she has held onto her pregnancy. We spit test periodically. Anytime a female is bred, we let the male spit test all the other pregnant females first.

So far this year we have bred Tehya to Navigator, Cafe to Georgio, and Sancha to Greyt. Tehya appeared to take on the very first try. Cafe took two times, as did Sancha. J spit tested all of them today, and all these girls appear to be pregnant. He also tested Snickers, who came bred to Conan. She also appears to be spitting off.

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