Reproduction, Birth & Babies

Male alpacas reach sexual maturity at about 2 1/2 years of age.  Females are first bred at 16 - 20 months of age.  Like other South American camelids, alpacas do not have a heat (estrus) cycle and can be bred any time of the  year.  An average gestation of 335 days produces a single baby (cria) which is usually delivered from a standing position during daylight hours.  Twinning is extremely rare and rarely compatible with life.

Reproduction

Females are induced ovulators; the act of mating and the presence of semen causes them to ovulate. Females usually conceive after just one breeding, but occasionally do have trouble conceiving. Artificial insemination is technically difficult, expensive and not common, but it can be accomplished. Embryo transfer is more widespread.

A male is usually ready to mate for the first time between two and three years of age. It is not advisable to allow a young female to be bred until she is mature and has reached two-thirds of her mature weight. Over-breeding a young female before conception is possibly a common cause of uterine infections. As the age of maturation varies greatly between individuals, it is usually recommended that novice breeders wait until females are 18 months of age or older before initiating breeding.

Alpacas can breed at any time but it is more difficult to breed in the winter. Most breed during autumn or late spring. The most popular way to have alpacas mate is pen mating. Pen mating is when they move both the female and the desired male into a pen. Another way is paddock mating where one male alpaca is let loose in the paddock with several female alpacas.

The gestation period is, on an average, 11.5 months, and usually results in a single offspring, or cria. Twins are rare, occurring about once per 1000 deliveries. Cria are generally between 15 and 19 pounds, and are standing 30 to 90 minutes after birth. After a female gives birth, she is generally receptive to breeding again after about two weeks. Crias may be weaned through human intervention at about six months old and 60 pounds, but many breeders prefer to allow the female to decide when to wean her offspring; they can be weaned earlier or later depending on their size and emotional maturity.

The average lifespan of an alpaca is between 15–20 years, and the longest-lived alpaca on record is 27 years.