Why....Winter Births in Texas?
In Texas, winter is the time for babies! Anywhere that winters get cruelly cold, like the alpaca’s native Altiplano in South America, babies (“cria”) are born in the summer. Here, our summers are too hot for an alpaca mom, a “dam”, to be at term with a pregnancy, but winter here is perfect. Alpaca ranchers need to be observant because a wet newborn cria can get dangerously hypothermic if not assisted, dried, and warmed up, but alpacas have evolved the tendency to have cria between dawn and noon to take advantage of the sun. This makes life a lot easier for us. If night is falling and it looks like a dam is going to have a cria, we can put her in the barn and we may find a warm, dry baby in the morning. Cria usually weigh from 14 to 20 pounds at birth and may gain up to a pound a day for the first month, all from nursing. It is important for the alpaca rancher to watch the newborn cria a make sure they are “figuring out” how to nurse and are “latching on”. Once they do so, they will generally be just fine. Alpaca dams are very attentive moms, but the cria have the protection of the whole herd and all the other moms. Some dams will even allow cria to nurse that are not their own. Some cria get pretty chubby this way but they usually burn it off at the races.
Cria are a lot of fun, naturally trusting and curious, and the dams trust their human friends around the cria. Winter is a good time to be an alpaca rancher, too.