John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Breeding Systems

Breeding systems are basically limited to only three approaches. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. "hand breed" is the most common system, and the least natural, while "pasture breeding" is relatively uncommon and also the most natural.

Hand Breeding

In hand breeding, one female is brought to a male (or vice versa) at a specific time and they are allowed to breed while the handler waits and then removes the female (or male) once breeding is complete. Both animals are usually kept on a halter. This is by far the most common breeding management practice among alpaca breeders.

This method is better for management because exact breeding dates are known and the handler has more control of the animals. A female who is not going down for a male can be removed rather than forcefully bred. The risk of infection in the female and damage to the male's penis from wool can be decreased by taking preventative steps at the time of breeding. Knowledge of exact breeding dates leads to better estimates of due dates and makes pregnancy diagnosis easier and more accurate. Due dates are also more accurate.

Hand breeding does take more time for handlers who prepare for and are present throughout the breeding. It also may create a situation where breedings are forced upon a female who is not ready to be bred. It may be a female who is not at the appropriate point in her follicular waves (who won't ovulate anyway) or a female who has not finished puberty and is not physically or mentally ready to be bred. Some young females may appear to be accepting of the male's advances, but it can be because he is aggressive and she is overly submissive, not because she is ready to be bred. In addition to a lower rate of ovulation and pregnancy, forced breedings can cause trauma and infections in the reproductive tracts of females which could render them infertile in the future. Alpacas used in hand breeding need to be halter trained and comfortable in the presence of people.

Pen Breeding

In pen breeding, one or more females are placed onto a confined pen with one male somewhat unsupervised for a period of time (usually at least a few days). The amount of time the animals are placed together is determined by the handlers.

The smaller pen allows relatively close supervision of activities between the male and the female(s). It is a more natural situation than hand breeding and the alpacas can decide when it is the appropriate time to breed. The only exact dates that you will always know is when the first and last possible exposure to the stud was (when you put the females in and when you took them out).

Better facilities are necessary so there is a small enough area and it is safe and comfortable for breeding anywhere within that area. The stud may learn to be more aggressive to any new females who are added to the pen and he is not under the control of a handler. Handlers will need to check on the breeding animals more often to possibly catch them in the act for a more exact date or to be sure there are no problems. Early pregnancy diagnosis by progesterone testing is more difficult because exact dates are not known.

Pasture Breeding

In pasture breeding, one to many females are placed in a pasture setting with one male until the females are determined to be pregnant and removed from the pasture. The females are usually in the pasture with the male for more than one month.

This is the most natural breeding situation and completely allows the alpacas to determine the optimal time to breed. Because of this there are fewer breedings for each pregnancy (the alpacas are more efficient) which will decrease the risk of reproductive tract trauma or infection. It involves much less time from the handlers to manage the situation and the alpacas do not have to be trained as well.

There must be adequate pasture space to give females room to get away from the male if they are not ready or for the male to get away from the females once they are pregnant and actively rejecting him. The handlers will have no specific breeding and due dates and pregnancy diagnosis must be done on a more regular basis. There is an increased risk of trauma to the male's penis unless the female's tails are kept wrapped and the male is shorn.

 
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