Saturday, September 05, 2009

It's not easy, being green.....

What part of "I'm PREGNANT" don't you understand????

Here is my Jemma, gooey from spitting off her prospective date.

Spitting you say?? What??!! Yup, alpacas spit --gasp--

There are many types of spit- it's how they communicate. They can't talk using an actual language, so they communicate through body language and, well, spitting. Let's sort them into categories, shall we?

1) There's the "you don't want to go there" fake out spit, where the paca looks menacingly over their shoulder at the other paca (who is usually sniffing under their tail) and lays their ears back. Sometimes this is accompanied by a 'pre-chew' as well, where they chew their cud rapidly to warn of impending projectiles. Usually the annoying paca leaves, but sometimes they persist, whereupon the faker then unloads on the annoying pest.

2) The "this is my space/food/shade/cria (fill in the blank)" air warning spit. This spit doesn't carry any green material, but is only air and is just a warning. But it does come with impressive posturing!

3) The "I'm 11 months pregnant, don't even LOOK at me full-on, full of green- can last up to 10 minutes or until all parties involved walk around with droopy lip and green drool due to excessive 'spittiness'- attack. This is my personal favorite. I have witnessed this every year as my pregnant girls get imminently due and these are pretty funny to behold. I can guarantee you I do not exaggerate when I say it can all start with an innocent look in the preggos general direction. Since alpacas are obligate nasal breathers, the smell from all that green causes the droopy lip and open mouth like the female above.

4) Then there is the "I'm pregnant" spit. You don't even want to know, believe me...

See, alpacas can be bred all year round, they ovulate regularly- and can be 'induced' by the actual act of breeding them. So, we as breeders do what we call behavior testing.

It goes something like this:
Princess to Die For gets haltered up for a date with Prince Charming for the first time and they are introduced.
Princess runs around, flirting and playing hard to get, while Prince tries his darndest to 'convince' Princess he's The Man by chasing her and orgling (the sound males make during this act) and trying to jump on her.

Eventually Princess decides he is the man of her dreams (or she just gets tired of running) and she drops down for a love filled interlude that ideally lasts about 20-40 minutes. Sometimes there are multiple females lined up outside the love nest, and that makes it really easy for us 2 leggers to guess which females are not pregnant, little hussies. :))

7 days pass and we introduce Princess to Prince again. We either get a repeat performance, or Princess spins around the nanosecond Prince enters the arena and blasts him full on in the face with really green spit. Prince can either a) retreat with his dignity intact, or b) continue to pursue Princess in the hopes that eventually his charm and his lovely baritone orgling will win her over. Usually he fails miserably and goes back to the boy's pen covered in green slime where he is greeted like a conquring hero anyway because, well, they are boys.

When we get continued results that end up with the female spitting off the male for 45 days, we ultrasound to see little Junior/Juniorette floating peacefully in his/her amniotic fluid, and then we resort to spit testing every 30 days until about 6 months to make sure the pregnancy doesn't slip. Roughly 345 days later, it's stork time.

Some females I have are as reliable as clocks. They breed once or twice, and then they spit and I know they are pregnant. I don't even have to ultrasound or pull blood.

See the picture above? That was my Jemma, who now lives in Texas. As you can see, she is pregnant in this picture! She was very reliable. So is my Osita. Never has to be bred more than once, even with inexperienced herdsires, and tells me she is pregnant very clearly.
I have never had to ultrasound her in the 10 years I have owned her.

Others, like first time maidens, are not as reliable. They may spit, then drop and continue to spit. Or, run and not drop, but not spit either. Generally first timers get a US on our ranch. By the second time around, they are usually more reliable with spit testing.

The humorous part in all this is the human element. I mean, we take the girls to the boys or however we are doing it this time, and then we monitor the ritual closely.
Well, some of my girls take it closer than I would like. They know me, and trust me, therefore when they are pregnant, they run to me to save them from the big scary Macho chasing them. I am sure you can see where I am going with this... I usually get green myself. It is quite comical, I'm told, to see me ducking and running from said harassed female who in her great desire to flee the pen forgets to turn her head to aim the spit his way, causing me to dodge the great flying green as I go. For the record, while it is only green food that is partially digested, it stinks, stains, and causes me to run around with my mouth open drooling, trying not to breath in the fumes too.

To let you know, my alpacas do not spit on me intentionally for no reason. Occasionally I am involved in a food fight, or domestic dispute through merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the only time I have ever been spit on intentionally was while weighing a female's brand new cria (What are you doing with my baby???!!!) or giving a shot in the butt, and let's be honest, wouldn't we all like to spit at our doctor when that happens to us??

On to my Arwen Undomiel. It is fall 2006, and she is spitting, and spitting... and isn't pregnant. Last real breeding was 9 months ago, and we thought she was pregnant, but no, the ultrasound in August says, not so much.

Now Arwen needs a guy who doesn't get discouraged easily. She doesn't like breeding, and will sometimes spit even as she is dropping for breeding. Enter Luxor- he is a "yes means no" kind of Macho.
In very early August (4 days before the ultrasound to be exact) during a cool spell we had tried her again. She dropped for a breeding! Trouble is, it only lasted 5 minutes... tops. Then she popped up like a Jack in the Box and was done.
Now Luxor is potent, and he has a nice, er, um, "set" but 5 minutes is really not going to cut it. The actual time it takes the male to reach the right spot is pretty long, both in distance and in actual time, not to mention the rest of the act required for pregnancy to result.

So, come October we are thinking, she has got to be open still, and we start trying again in the cooler weather. She is acting so pregnant, and we are unable to convince her she couldn't possibly get pregnant from a >5 minute breeding. So we look over her behavior all year long, and consider she might have a retained CL making her think she is pregnant when she's not, and talk to the vet about using a hormone to dislodge it, but we would never do this without another ultrasound to make sure there isn't really a cria in there. The most common reason for being unreceptive, is pregnancy! Hearing horror stories about breeders who use Estrumate, thinking their female is not really pregnant, and then the next day finding a dead cria in the pasture were not needed for us, we know better.
So here we go for yet another ultrasound.... and lo an behold, she is pregnant!

Ah, the joys of being a breeder. The ups, the downs, the spits and misses. The sting of being wrong....... who knew what we were really in for 10 years ago? Not I.

The moral of the story? When you breed alpacas, wear rain gear and protective face covering, or risk getting covered in green slime..... um, nope, that's not it.......

When in doubt, trust your female and get an ultrasound, or, two or three. LOL, and yes, nearly immaculate conception is entirely possible.
Oh, and Go Luxor!!

Tune in next week for the "How to Drive Your 2-legger Crazy with False Labor" chapter. I laughed, I cried.... it moved me, and it will you too!


cozmic said...
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Rachelle Black said...
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Mousie said...

that's so extraordinary all your stories, we could read you all day and night long...

Mimi said...

hi, I'm new here, linked from your comment on David's authorblog.
I love your alpaca stories, and would like to follow, but can't see a follow button. Help??

Rachelle said...

Hi Mimi,
I don't know what you mean by 'follow'. Is it like on Twitter? If so I don't know if I even have that option with Blogspot.
I'll look into it and find out.

Thanks for visiting :)) Hope to see you again soon!

Shrinky said...

Hey there bonny lass! Ah, she IS preggie - you did say her beau was pretty potent (wink). Whey-hey, congratulations all round, hon.

I can't stop giggling at the picture you paint of bravely trying to dodge all that slime, as you try to play cupid. The things we do in the name of love, eh? Lovely post!

i beati said...

love the spitting education they are all lovely in their own way sa ndy

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Hehehe! Yeah I kno they spit! Hehehe! But I dident kno they had diffrent kinds ov spittin! I'll tell Dilly abowt this post. Sheel like the green refrence. She likes enything bowt alpacas too. She calls them alpaca-larmas.

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Hehe! We went to see some alpacas! Come an see my fotoes!!!

Do yu hav a poover?

i beati said...

running to you to save them that's funny sk

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