When should I re-breed my female?

There seems to be as many theories about when to re-breed as there are breeders. Most breeders have a system which seems to work for them and they will swear by it. I have read articles advocating anywhere from three days postpartum to three weeks.

Over the years we have developed a system which is based on a twelve-day cycle. There is a four-day period at the top of this cycle when the follicles are mature and pregnancy can occur. If you have ever seen photos of the amount of internal damage that can be done to a female llama from repeated breedings, you will understand why we try to breed our females only once. We will field test them forty-eight hours later and if they haven’t ovulated by then, we will let them re-breed. The female knows whether she has ovulated and will most likely spit at the male if she has.

After this field test or re-breeding we have found that there is no point in putting them together until two more cycles. The advantages of this system is that it is easier on the animals and it is much easier on us. When we purchased out first llamas the prevailing idea was that you could breed them at any time as they are induced ovulators. We would breed them when it was convenient for us, when it was a weekend, or a sunny day, or when we remembered. In those days it never occurred to us that it might be inconvenient for the females or that their bodies were telling them that it was the wrong time.

After a few of them threw themselves on the ground and refused to leave their field to go and visit the male, we figured that maybe they were trying to tell us something. This was happening around day nineteen which seems to be the low point on the cycle. These animals were certainly trying to tell us something. Later, when their systems said it was the proper time, they left the field willingly and lay down for the male without any hesitation.

Often people will say that it must be cruel to re-breed them so soon after they have had their babies, but that is the way it is in nature. To assure survival, the guanacos in Patagonia must have their offspring at the same time every year, when it is getting warm in the spring. Nature has set the gestation at 350 days and the females breed again about two weeks later, which works out to exactly a year.

This is how our system works. We will assume that the cria was born today, Assuming that it was a normal birth and there were no complications, we would put her in with the male

Note: If you get “undefined, undefined NaN, NaN” showing up instead of dates in the previous paragraph it means that there is a glitch in the browser you are using. This problem showed up in version 4.6.1 of Netscape. It should display properly in earlier versions of Netscape and does work in Internet Explorer. This also applies to the next page, which draws a chart.

We would field test her on day fourteen, and if she spits you can assume that If she doesn’t spit and the male is interested, then we would let them re-breed.

The cycle goes down now and we don’t feel that it is worth trying to breed them until the proper peak. In fact, we don’t normally put them back together or even field test them until day thirty-six. (day 36).

The next twelve day cycle peaks on day twenty-four so We usually avoid this cycle as we have found that there is more chance of the fetus being re-absorbed and also something seems to happen that causes the pregnancy to go an extra fifteen to twenty days. The cria should be (350 days). If the female shows no sign of delivering then, we are not concerned as this system offers an alternate due date (370 days) which strange as it seems, is later than if we had bred her on day thirty-six.

We have been using this system since 1994 and have had much better results in getting our llamas bred than we had earlier. Taking a reluctant female who is not at the peak of her cycle to an amorous male is no fun and, as well as getting spat on, it can be dangerous if she decides to bolt and run. Occasionally we have had the female drop on the ground as she is going through the gate, which aside from being inconvenient, certainly tells us that she is ready.

If you would like to run a chart for your own female llama, this next page allows you to enter the birth date of the cria and a chart will be generated for you using JavaScript. The cria will have to be at least one day old before the program will work and obviously you can’t have a date that hasn’t occurred yet. If your female has been open for year or two, the cycle may not be exact, but it is a starting point at least.

Note: If you are using the latest version of Internet Explorer, you may have trouble running this chart. The program uses pop-up windows so that you can input the name of the female and the date of the last birth and Explorer does not allow pop-ups. Try using the Firefox browser instead, it is a free download and works perfectly. You might even like it better than Explorer! The program works just fine with Safari on a Mac.

I noticed RainDancer orgling at Llamaryllis the other day, he was standing on his hind legs at the fence, then dropping and “breeding” the ground. The next day Ambasador was interested in her and had his head through the fence, sniffing and orgling. I ran a chart for Llamaryllis to see where she was on her cycle. Take a look at the chart below, she has been open for over four years as we have not been doing any breeding lately.

Extending chart for Llamaryllis from 9/30/98

Day 1519    11/27/02
Day 1520       11/28/02
Day 1521          11/29/02
Day 1522             11/30/02     RainDancer very interested
Day 1523                *12/1/02     Ambassador extremely interested
Day 1524                   **12/2/02
Day 1525 Cycle 127   **12/3/02
Day 1526                *12/4/02
Day 1527             12/5/02
Day 1528          12/6/02
Day 1529       12/7/02
Day 1530    12/8/02

You can also run a chart for your bred female to tell you the best days to field test her with a male to see if she will spit or cluck at him. This is useful as an open female may spit at a male if she is at the low part of her cycle and this can be misread as an indication that she must be pregnant. A wise female knows the proper time for re-breeding and will resist at the wrong point on her cycle.

NEW Chart for checking past breedings This program starts in cycle one and allows you to determine the number of days on the chart. You can run charts for open females with this or use it to check on previous pregnacies. The previously mentioned chart is designed for an open female and runs for thirty days from today’s date.

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Brian and Jane Pinkerton
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e-mail address: brianp@smartt.com

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