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Changes in liveweight and behaviour of alpaca dams and offspring following weaning

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The effects of offspring sex, weight, age, and level of interaction with the dam on responses to weaning were examined to assist in the development of a weaning protocol for alpacas. In the first study, preand post-weaning activities, and weight change over Days -12-0,0-7 and 7-16 with respect to weaning, were recorded for 20 dam-offspring (hembra-cria) pairs aged 81-200 days. Pre-weaning changes in dam and offspring weights were positively related (P<0.05). Although heavier crias tended to be found closer to their dams than lighter crias (P<0.05) no additional effect of age on the dam-offspring relationship was found. Following weaning, cria growth rates were low over Days O-7 but improved over Days 7-16, and hembra weight change followed the same pattern. Over Days O-2, grazing and sitting activities of hembras and crias were replaced by standing and walking along paddock fencelines, although by Day 2 fenceline activities had decreased (P<0.05). Crias which were more frequently observed at fencelines had lower post-weaning growth rates (P<0.05). In the second study, pre-weaning sucking behaviour, and weight change over Days -30-0, O-8 and 8-16 with respect to weaning, were recorded for 19 hembra-cria pairs aged 124-160 days. During 10 hours of observation on Days -5 and -4, the total duration of sucking by individual crias varied from O-18 minutes, and the mean ± SEM duration of sucking was 1.94 ± 0.113 minutes. Cria sucking behaviour was positively related to growth rate prior to and weight at weaning (P<0.05). As in the first study, pre-weaning changes in dam and offspring weights were positively related (P<0.05). Following weaning, growth rates of the crias were depressed and the hembras lost weight over Days O-8 and 8-16. The changes in growth rate and behaviour in Studies 1 and 2 indicated that weaning can be stressful for hembras and crias. However, there was no evidence from either study that pre-weaning behavioural or physical characteristics were related to the changes.
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Keywords: Animal production; Behaviour; Camelid; Livestock

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 1993

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