I bought my first Alpaca at an auction in 1994. In fact, that was the first time I had ever bid at an auction as well. Entering a steep learning curve I asked lots of questions from everyone to learn as much as possible. The alpaca community was much smaller then, we started to meet together for dinners, once a month. Everyone bringing a different course. Great fun and plenty of opportunity to meet other enthusiasts and pick their brains for information.

I learned that alpacas have a gestation period of eleven and a half months. That they have their babies during daylight hours and choose fine days. All these facts were based on the their inbred clocks, the survival of the fittest and the necessity of coping with the demands of the high Andes climate. It all sounded very logical. Other animals that I had bred seemed to follow set rules, giving me no reason to question nature's timetable.

The gestation period of eleven and a half months, (335 days) brought my Pinkles date to November 19th . So I began to arrange my schedule as much as possible to be around at that time. A couple of engagements before that date could not be avoided. With one I was able to come home in the middle of the day to check on Pinkle. I had her in a paddock with a companion wether. This was overlooked by neighbours so I was able to telephone them during the day for progress reports. The second occasion I had a friend come to be here whilst I was in Sydney for the day. The 19th passed, so did the next week. I enlisted the help of a more experienced breeder to come and examine Pinkle to confirm that she was still carrying the baby. Yes, that part was certain. With help I could feel the knobs of knees or feet through her belly. That part at least was certain.

Some temporary work came up, a few days. I didn't want to miss a chance to earn some extra cash for Christmas. After all, the non alpaca people were telling me, Alpacas have being having crias for centuries in the mountains with probably no one to help, it was natures way, let them get on with it, don't interfere. Yes, but they didn't cost what my alpaca had! I took the job, but it was a good job it didn't need too much concentration, I was on edge the whole time. However it did give me the chance to buy in a stock of food which had become quite low in the pantry. Another three weeks went by. I am quite sure that Pinkle got quite tired of me sitting in the shade under a tree with the binoculars handy keeping a close watch.

On the 21st of December there were dust storms, it was host and windy. Still no sign even of Pinkle's udder developing. One of my cats needed to be bathed "officially" the next day at the vets, ready for export to New Zealand. I couldn't put it off the export/import rules were inflexible. The morning was wet, a blessed relief. I raced off to the vet with the cat. On returning to find Pinkle still quietly grazing. A couple of hours later the phone rang to inform me the cat was ready for collection. Off to Dickson to collect her. Returning, after being away only three quarters of an hour, I found Pinkle humming away to a soaking wet rose grey male cria. He was shivering and wet through with rain. I towelled him dry and put on a waterproof dog coat. He weighed 6.5k. he was soon nursing. All appeared well, Aureate's alpaca herd had just begun, thirty-four days later than scheduled. So two of the rural myths about the timing of both, length of gestation and state of the weather, were dismissed. He was named by the friend who had taken a turn in watching. Rainard, for the weather, and as a pun on Reynard, for fox as he appeared the colour of a fox, which he lost at first shearing and became just grey.

Since then I have read Escobar (Escobar, R.C. Animal breeding and reproduction of American camelids 1984 )who states " 337 days in Huacaya; 337 in multiparous females; 338 when offspring is male; 340 days in Suri; 339 days in primparous females; 339 when the offspring is female". He also allows variability 12.7%.

But then my baby didn't conform to those statistics either.

Diane Royal
October 2001.



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