My usual way of breeding is to have female alpacas come to my farm and breed where I have control of the situation. Last year, for a variety of reasons some of my customers and I decided to bring my boys to their girls and do mobile breedings at their farm. I made several trips with my males to their farm last Spring, and we thought we had several pregnancies, but later their vet reported that the progesterone test results indicated that only one of the five were pregnant. (Three were maidens)
Well, we had to wait for my males to come back from their Summers away, and then we had the girls come over to our farm so we could be sure to get them pregnant this time. Two of them were very NON-receptive. Then it got really cold so we weren’t really breeding.
Then we didn’t want to give our customers January cria so we didn’t breed in February.
Then I started to notice something. Something alarming. to me.
One of these girls was huge. And her belly was dragging the ground.
Come to think of it, the other one who wouldn’t breed (the pretty rose grey one) was horribly spitty and kinda mean. She wouldn’t even let me into their shelter to put the food into their dishes without spitting green stuff all over me.
This got me thinking. Hard. I called my customer on the phone.
“The pretty rose grey one,” I said, “What was she like before she was bred?”
“Oh, she was the sweetest animal we had,” my friend gushed. “She would come and put her head in your lap before she was bred.”
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
Suspicious that the reason these two females are so big, so grumpy, and the reason they won’t BREED is because they are already pregnant, I called the vet’s office and begged for a quick appointment for an ultrasound for them.
In the meantime, I tried HARD not to think about them delivering a cria up in the front field while no one was there, but checked on them a lot to be sure it didn’t happen without us knowing. (I was kinda scared to know when they might be due…I’m heavy into denial)
Friday Dr. Stewart came by on his way home. I wish you had seen me wrestling that beautiful, extremely pregnant (*oh yes*) rose grey alpaca to get that ultrasound shot to prove without a shadow of a doubt, that, yes, there was a baby in there causing all this consternation!
Dr. Stewart is used to having a vet tech but he was on his way home and had to squeeze me in at the end of the day. I’m used to having a farm manager (or I used to be). But there was no one to help us or to (horrors for a blogger!) hold the camera.
So I will just have to describe it for you. The older one, whose belly is practically dragging the ground, was first. (I know to do easier first) I held her pretty strong and he was able to get a quick look. When the baby is this big you just need to see a rib or a head or a body part to know something is there.
The rose grey girl was like a bucking bronco. I could hold her for a few seconds. But as soon as he put the alcohol on her to use as the conductor (think the jelly they put on human pregnant bellies and how cold it is) she jumped around like crazy. I thought I was going to lose a limb. Had to shake it off several times, breathe and come back for more. I eventually had to tie her halter and we had to go for 3 Loooonnnnggggg seconds.
You know how professional bull riders have to ride for 8 seconds to get a score? We had to hold this beauty for 3 seconds for Dr. Stewart to get an ultrasound reading on her. When we did it, and he got a positive reading – it was the best feeling! I have a terrific bruise to show for it, and am proud as hell of it.
In the end – our friends are thrilled! They are getting two babies – SOON! When we looked at the breeding dates, both are due this month. They came to get them the next day so they can deliver at home.
Our story has a happy ending with these girls being ultrasounded and being diagnosed properly. In the past we have had alpacas misdiagnosed with false positives by progesterone testing when the alpaca had a retained CL (corpus luteum) and no pregnancy, costing the breeder a year of productivity.
Some breeders don’t have access to ultrasound machines. Do you rely on progesterone testing? Have you ever had a problem with it?
Leave us a comment and tell us your thoughts and experiences with progesterone testing for pregnancy diagnosis in alpacas.