Alpaca Breeding Made Easy Okay, maybe "easier" is more appropriate!
Notes on Breeding Alpacas
By: Sarah Donahoe
June 10, 2014
Updated May 15, 2018
Female alpacas do cycle even though we've all been told they don't cycle...."just breed them anytime." They have basically a cycle every week. Every other cycle is a dominant cycle which is the one you want to catch. The ovaries take turns developing a follicle. Usually the right ovary has the dominant follicle. My observation is that the more and the longer we leave females open, the more difficulties you will have getting the females bred. So to determine if a female is "cycling" you really need to do behavior testing for at least 2 weeks and really 3 weeks to watch for her changes. And that is for someone who is fairly experienced in breeding alpacas.
Alpacas have all kinds of personalities and this is really evident when I go to breed them so you really have to watch and learn about the female. With more experience, you'll be able to tell fairly quickly when an alpaca has a breeding problem and what that problem is more than likely. Females can get a retained CL without having been bred. They will be aggressive at spitting off, much like they are bred. The CL is releasing progesterone and if you do a progesterone blood test in a female with a retained CL, it will come back elevated, much like a pregnancy.
This is why I don't try to DIAGNOSE a pregnancy with a progesterone blood test. An elevated progesterone level narrows it down to 2 diagnoses and you still need to do the u/s to determine the differential. Progesterone blood levels are VERY IMPORTANT in those females that have difficulty maintaining a pregnancy. I monitor them every one to two weeks through the third month of gestation.
Ovarian cysts are another thing I see fairly often. These females are always receptive. They don't cycle. So they will be receptive every week.
Uterine infections usually present as a female that CYCLES normally, but then at say 3 weeks or so, she is receptive again.
The workup for females with problems getting bred is basically an u/s and blood work.
1. Ultrasound--There are three three things to look for on the ultrasound. First is PREGNANCY--make sure this is ruled out first!!!! Do a transrectal and a transabdominal. The second is Follicles--that's in the simplest of terms a sign of a normally functioning ovary. See if there are any follicles, take a measurement, look for retained CL (they are sometimes referred to as "snowman" because you will see two follicles joined) and the third is the Uterus--look for the lining on the uterus to check for any signs of infection. It should appear clear. Uterine infections are a real problem to deal with. You can't really culture because you need to go into the uterus to obtain a specimen. If you do try and obtain a specimen, it's best not to dilate the cervix with meds but rather try to pinpoint the cycle when the cervix might be open. Overuse of estrogens may cause ovulation inhibition. A single injection of estradiol cypionate (ECP) may affect levels for up to 10 days.And even then, the culture results are frequently inconclusive. On U/S the lining will be thick and the uterus might appear cloudy if there is an infection.
2. Blood work--hormonal profile includes estrogen and progesterone values. I have also drawn estrogen q week X 3 looking for cycle
Estrumate is drug of choice for retained CL. I give it QD X 2D and then BT in 3-5 days. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't work. If it doesn't work, there are a variety of dosaging schedules for Estrumate.
Sometimes you have to "jump start" these females. That's once I've taken a look at the u/s and it looks alright, maybe a follicle is there and I would try to guess when it might be of a nice size. I will encourage the breeding and then give GnRH at the time of breeding. That breeding may or may not take BUT I will then have her cycled and I will be able to catch her in 12 to 14 days and hopefully that second breeding will take.
For suspected uterine infections, generally I end up just treating them empirically with antibiotics. Uterine flushes are another option. Subclinical infections are fairly common and might not show up on U/S. Baytril and Excenel are two good antibiotics to use for uterine infections, given for five days, I try to coordinate it so I breed them on the fifth day of therapy. Consider giving BoSe if you suspect selenium deficiency.
Use the 3 strikes and then look for problem, meaning, breed 3 times and then if not bred, do a workup.
I don't do female breedings 2 days in a row. Many people do for drive by breedings. I administer GnRH at the time of breeding for my drivebys.
Oh........don't forget to check the MALE FOR SPERM!!!!!!!
Rodriguez, Jacobo S., Pearson, Lisa K., Tibary, Ahmed. Infertility and Subfertility in the Female Camelid. Llama and Alpaca Care. Medicine, Surgery, Reproduction, Nutrition, and Herd Health.
Aba, Marcelo A. Anatomy and Physiology of Reproduction in the Female Llama and Alpaca. Llama and Alpaca Care, 2014.
Tibary, Ahmed. Uterine infections in Camelidae. Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow - Issue 3 - August 2001.
Vaughan, Jane . Improving the Efficiency of Reproduction and Breeding in Alpacas. A report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. July 2002. RIRDC Publication No 02/097 RIRDC Project No UCQ-11A.