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Alpaca Pregnancies

Improving the birth rates of alpacas is the aim of a study being undertaken by AgResearch Tara Hills.

Close relatives of the llama, alpacas produce a valuable soft fibre, and attract good prices overseas. Unfortunately, they have trouble maintaining a pregnancy for the first 90 days of gestation, and little is known about the cause of this.

Research associate Ian Scott is using pregnancy scanners and blood tests to establish how much of a problem it is in the alpaca herd at Tara Hills high country research station. He hopes to find out why this problem occurs, in what is thought to be the first study of its type.

Scott aims to monitor when embryonic death occurs and see if there is a relationship between time of death and levels of the hormone pro-gesterone, which has been implicated as being connected with the problem. If a relationship is established, susceptible females could be identified by blood test and treated with progesterone, thus improving their reproductive potential.