Llama Reproduction

Llamas have some unique reproductive traits and physiology. Females are non-seasonal breeders and can breed year round. Females are induced-ovulators without a regular estrus cycle. They ovulate in response to the stimulation of breeding and open females are thought to be in a state of constant follicularization until bred. During breeding, the female will assume sternal recumbency with the male mounted behind. A breeding will typically last 20-45 minutes with a protracted ejaculation by the male. This extended contact plays a role in the induction of ovulation. They typically conceive a single embryo and if mulitples are conceived, they will typically resorb in the first two months of pregnancy and the female will be open for rebreeding. Surviving twins are rare. The average gestation period is 11.5 months with a normal range of 11-12 months.

Birthing is typically in daylight hours with 90% born between the hours of 7:00 AM and 2:00 PM. During labor the female may graze or lie down, but will stand for the actual delivery. The baby's impact with the ground initiates breathing and clears the newborn's airway. The mother will stand by being quite protective and maintain a constant humming, but will not touch the newborn. The baby will thrash about until it gets its legs drawn under it, assuming sternal recumbancy. The baby will also maintain a constant humming through this process. Once sternal recumbancy is attained (typically +/- 5 minutes), the neonate will begin to stand and the mother will position herself so the baby can follow the line of her abdomen back to the udder positioned between her hind legs. The humming plays an instrumental role in guiding and stimulating the baby to nurse as well as playing a subsequent role in mother/baby identification.

Normal llama babies (crias) are born with a high level of maturity and strength. Many babies can run with their mother as soon as they have stood and nursed (1/2 hour). Normal birth weights range from 25-40# with the lower end of the spectrum typical for primiparous females. The first milk is colostrum which is essential in imparting antibodies to the neonate for immunity against various pathogens. Llama milk is very rich and concentrated (nutrient dense) and they do not produce large quantities. The babies nurse frequently after birth and will decrease frequency as they begin maturing. The mother will be rather protective initially and less so as the baby gains independence. Lactating females will typically breed back as early as one month after delivery. Young llamas are able to forage for themselves +/- 6 months without need for supplemental nursing. Age of maturation for young llamas will vary greatly from 2-4 years of age.

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