Weaning crias is a very controversial subject in alpaca farming. We were told to absolutely wean our crias at 6 months, no exceptions. We feel there is no black and white to this subject.
In an Alpaca business you have many decisions to make to run an alpaca ranch. Weaning crias is one of those things that you must think about and decide what would work for you. We can only share our experience and what we discovered and feel comfortable doing for our alpaca farm. What we do may work for you, too, so it is worth telling our story if it helps one new or experienced owner.
It is important for your cria to get its colostrum from Mom in those first hours. It is full of needed nutrients. The colostrum will start your cria off right. Mothers milk supply, if good, will provide your cria what it needs until they start taking in hay at around 4 months of age. So, never wean a cria before they are taking solids unless it is unavoidable due to problems with the cria or dam.
Many alpaca owners wean at 6 months and/or 60 pounds. Our philosophy is a little different. As long as the dam was doing fine, we let them wean their babies. At least to a point. If they're within 2 months of giving birth, then we go ahead and wean.
We separate Mom and cria for a minimum of one month and usually we leave them apart for 2 months before we put them back into the same pasture.
We found that our Moms usually weaned their crias between 8-10 months on their own. They let their baby know in no uncertain terms that they can't suckle anymore by kicking at them.
Being new alpaca owners, we weaned at the six month mark with our first cria like we had been told to do. Having a small farm, we could not put her out of site of Mom at the time. She was in the next pasture.
This cria cried horribly, paced the fenceline, tried to get through the fencd, and wouldn't eat for about three days. We felt like the meanest humans on earth.
This weaning got us to thinking that a forced weaning at this age was not what we felt was good for our animals. We wanted to do a more natural approach. Interestingly enough, this same alpaca was put back in with her Mom about two months later and all was fine until Moms next cria was born.
We had to remove her from the pasture again because she tried to suckle from Mom and kept jumping on the cria. She had not nursed in 9 months but was attempting it again as soon as Moms milk came in. We can only surmise that this alpaca was jealous of the new cria and had definitely not been ready to wean at 6 months.
We don't know if other alpaca owners experienced this, but it convinced us to try and let the Mom wean her cria or to at least wean at a later date.
This philosophy has worked well for us. Our later crias have a much easier time of weaning. They are not as frantic about being separated. All but one of the crias were weaned by Mom. We did have to wean one cria, but it went much much easier as this baby was barely nursing anyway.
If your dam is in poor condition, then weaning crias earlier would be a necessity. Put your cria out of site of the Mom if you can. Make sure they can not get over, under, or through your fence. We had a livestock fence that we put chicken wire over to keep the cria from getting through or nursing through the fence. You could use 2 x 4 no climb fencing for this, too. Just wire it onto and over the gate.
We halter train all of our alpacas at six months weaned or not. If they are not weaned, we just halter them in the pasture with Mom. Fortunately, our Moms were ok with this.
Every alpaca owner has their own opinion about weaning crias. As new owners, you need to look at the options and decide what is right for you, your farm, the dam, and the cria. This is our experience with weaning our crias. By sharing this experience, we hope we have given you some insites into weaning your alpaca babies.
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