Changes in liveweight and behaviour of alpaca dams and offspring following weaning
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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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 1993