Female puberty in llamas averages around 12 months, while many males are not reproductively functional until 3 years (Johnson, 1989). Proof of pregnancy is usually indicated by rejection of the male (spitting), but this is not always the most reliable method and should be confirmed. Historically, this has been done through rectal palpitation and progesterone assay. Ultrasound for pregnancy diagnosis in llamas is increasingly becoming the preferred technique, however, due to:
- Instant results
- Early results (under 30 days with an introducer probe) - far earlier than with any other method
- The quality of information gained - not just a yes/no, but any potential problems with the pregnancy can be spotted immediately. The pregnancy can also be monitored throughout, allowing for common problems such as resorption between the 30-60 day stage to be spotted immediately.
Thanks to developments in the ultrasound field, portable ultrasound machines have become increasingly practical and affordable. At Vet Image Solutions, we have been at the forefront of this development. Most recently, we worked with Dr Kowalski to test the Animal Profi at Bluecaps Farm in East Sussex, where we discovered a strong preference in llamas to the introducer probe versus the abdominal scanning method. Llamas appear to dislike being touched on their abdomen area, whereas the minimally invasive introducer probe tends to evoke little reaction.
Draminski have therefore developed a new introducer probe specifically for llamas. This probe utilises Draminski's unique 180 degree imaging technology to give you the same all-round internal view that previously only cattle vets doing full rectal examinations could enjoy. This makes diagnosing pregnancy in llamas which - let's be honest - aren't always in the mood for standing still, several times quicker and easier than with any other scanning method.
Ultrasound is one of the most accurate methods for determining pregnancy in llamas. Due to their size and temperament, however, performing an external abdominal scan is very difficult (requiring the animal to be caged and held by at least one other person), and clear images of pregnancy can only be obtained using this method from 4 months onwards.
By far the easiest and most accurate method for early pregnancy detection in llamas is using the Draminski Animal Profi with its unique 180° introducer probe or the iscan. It is important to note, however, that this is an internal and therefore veterinary procedure, and is not recommended for breeders themselves.