Summer is the busy season for alpaca farm

Nueskes expecting 21 cria
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Leader Photo by Miriam Nelson A mama is shown with her 1-hour-old cria, which is the name for a newborn alpaca. Applewood Lane Alpaca Farm just outside of Wittenberg is preparing for 21 births this summer.

It’s been a busy season at the Applewood Lane Alpaca Farm just south of Wittenberg. Summer is when the farm-raised alpacas give birth.

“We bred for 21 pregnancies with about nine suri and 12 huacaya,” farm manager Justin Nueske said, of the two types of alpaca. “We’re still waiting for six of those to arrive.”

Before the birthing season, the farm had 87 alpaca. Nueske said they’d like to have about 100.

It takes some careful planning to breed the alpacas, which have an 11.5-month gestation period. According to Nueske, the best time to breed the females is two weeks after they’ve given birth.

“It’s a hard job getting born, ” said Darlene Nueske, owner of the farm. “The alpacas stand up to give birth, and we want to see nose and toes when the birthing process starts.”

Sometimes the babies, called “cria,” are born close to the barn. But with all the farm’s open pasture, sometimes they’ll go for a more secluded area.

“It’s best to not interfere with the process and let nature take its course.” Darlene Nueske said.

Most cria weigh from 15 to 20 pounds at birth and take about an hour to get up on their legs and figure out how to nurse. The cria stay with their moms until they are 6 months old or about 60 pounds. Then they are introduced to orchard grass.

A sample of the blood is taken from each newborn. Tests verify the pedigree so the alpaca can be registered.

The farm is on track to be a top producer of quality fiber and has already won several awards in nationwide competitions.

Breeders don’t know the cria’s sex until birth. Females can breed every year, so they are more valuable. A male has to be top of the line so it can be sold to other breeders to keep the bloodline going.

Darlene Nueske said the farm tries to keep an equal number of females and males. “We’ve had some mysteries,” she said. “We had farm help who didn’t tell us the males got mixed in with the females.”