Handlin’ the weaned

The sight and sound of alpaca dams moaning and fixing the breeder with an accusatory stare and whining cria working on their best Houdini escape route, is upon us. It is weaning time.

Weaning is the separation of mothers and their cria and usually takes place when the cria is five to six months old. Occasionally it might happen earlier if the cria is very large or the mother is in poor condition. Cria that are small for their age often do better when weaned on to concentrates.

Weaning enables the mother to stay in good condition and put her energy into the foetus rather than nursing the existing cria

The majority of cria will weigh between 30 and 40 kilos at five to six months and most will already be tucking into hard feed, eating grass and hay and feeding less from their mothers. It is important for the dams to wean to ensure the healthy development of the foetus as for the first six months it is very small and it is in the last five and a half months that it grows to its birth weight. Weaning enables the mother to stay in good condition and put her energy into the foetus rather than nursing the existing cria.

Leaving cria with their mothers can bring new problems as when the dam births the cria at foot may well try to suckle, depriving the newborn of the crucial colostrum it needs to survive. A new born is no match for a yearling! I have seen this happen even when the older cria appeared to be well and truly weaned and put back into the main female herd. The other problem is the boisterous nature of the young males who may try to mate the heavily pregnant females and generally irritate them.

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