Each llama is different, but generally they go off of their feed on the morning that the baby is about to arrive. Some, however will keep on eating and not show any sign at all. Often they will be uncomfortable and rub on barns or fences. Rolling is another sign. If they start to sniff the ground, that is a sign to start watching pretty carefully. They will usually pick the spot they want to deliver and will circle the area, sniffing the ground. Very often the other animals in the herd, particularly the young males, will sense that something is happening and will try to smell the female’s backside.
In the days and weeks ahead of the birthing a llama will often lie with her back legs tucked under so that her belly is off of the ground. We have noticed that sometimes about a month before the due date that the female may look very uncomfortable and start to gape at the rear end. It seems as if she is about to deliver the cria but then things usually settle down and she goes to the full term. If there is an excess of rolling, rubbing and generally looking very uncomfortable, or if they are groaning, watch very carefully. If you think that there may be a problem it is better to call the vet at this point rather than wait until it is too late.
Even though the llama in the photo above gave birth about three hours after the picture was taken, they can gape like this days or weeks before the actual delivery. Trying to see if anything is happening can be very frustrating, as most of them seem to get very shy about anyone trying to get a look at their rear end. Wrapping the tail with vet wrap makes this process much easier, particularly with animals who have fluffy tails. The best time to check is when they are lying down as they really seem to gape then. They will often lie on their sides as the birth time nears. Binoculars are a big help at this time.
Some of the signs of an imminent birth are that she can’t seem to settle down and will go to the dung pile and urinate a little bit. Then she may wander around some more, and find a spot to lie down. Often they will only lie down for a short time and then get up again and return to the dung pile. She may defecate a bit this time. This behaviour may go on for quite a while. Sometimes they appear to be in a bit of a daze. She will probably be irritable with her ears back and head tilted in a threatening posture if any of the rest of the herd come too close. Most likely she will be humming a fair bit. Her back end will be puffy and gaping, showing red.
Basically you must know your animal’s normal behaviour and if she is acting differently, watch her carefully. Even a couple of months ahead of the due date you should watch for abnormal behaviour, we have noticed uterine torsions this way. The usual gestation period is 350 days but we have had births six weeks earlier and three weeks later. As for the time of day, the standard is between ten and two o'clock and that is often the case. Some of ours have arrived at six in the morning while another waited until midnight. This particular one was a dystocia with one leg back and she had obviously been trying to have the baby for some hours.
This picture shows a llama who is about to deliver her cria in the next few minutes. I was going to take a photo showing how much she was gaping and as I was focusing the camera the baby’s nose peeked out. Basically they will gape a tiny bit less than in the photo. You will likely see some bulging just prior to the delivery.
Usually the nose or the feet will start to come out. This photo was taken very shortly after the one above. In this case the nose came out a bit and then went back in. This happened several times and then a large bubble appeared as shown on the left, below.
No. The first time we saw one it was filled with fluid and we thought that the cria was drowning. Normally it breaks inside and the fluid will pour out. As soon as the feet appear, they will usually poke through the sack and the baby will start to breathe on its own.
The photo on the left shows the nose first while the picture on the right shows the feet first, still in the bubble.
Yes. These two photos show situations that you don’t want. The picture on the left shows the head with only one leg out, while the photo on the right shows only the head out.
In either of these cases call your vet immediately. The problem is that a foot, or both feet are bent back and the baby simply will not get out until they are straightened out.
Relax. When it gets to this point, things are looking really good. Normally the female will be standing at this point and the baby will hang with its head down for quite a while. Quite often this takes fifteen to twenty minutes and the fluids will drain from the baby’s nasal passages. The one thing to do though, is to clear the membranes from the baby’s face to ensure that it can breathe properly.
This page is presented courtesy of
Brian and Jane Pinkerton
29343 Galahad Crescent
Canada V4X 2E4
Phone or Fax: (604) 856-3196
Mount Lehman Llamas Farm Page | Llama Question and Answer Page