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Newborn alpaca makes debut on Westmoreland Fair’s first day

September 1, 2018
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A newly born baby alpaca, who was at the time unnamed, sits down next to her mother, a seven year-old alpaca named Copper, at the opening night of the 64th annual Westmoreland Fair on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Mt. Pleasant Township. Copper gave birth to the baby shortly after the fair officially opened, at 4:45 p.m.

Copper may not win any ribbons at this year’s Westmoreland Fair, but she delivered something more precious for her owners.

At 4:45 p.m. Friday , less than an hour after the fair opened to the public, the 7-year-old alpaca gave birth to a 17-pound daughter, with three other female members of her herd and their owner, Sarah Heenan, nearby in a barn on the fairgrounds.

Heenan said on Friday evening the unnamed infant alpaca, called a cria, was “doing great. She did get up on her feet and has nursed a few times.”

Heenan and her family have been raising alpacas for their fleece for about four years on the Export farm where they also have dairy goats.

Copper was more than two weeks overdue for her delivery, with the gestation period for an alpaca averaging 350 days.

“Our vet induced her yesterday,” Heenan said Friday. “We were under the assumption it should take her five to seven days to deliver, and it did not. She had other plans.”

Heenan said she probably won’t show Copper at the fair as she’d originally intended before the expectant mother missed her due date. Still, Copper and her daughter attracted plenty of attention from fair visitors passing their stall. “It’s been a constant flow,” Heenan said.

It’s the second year Heenan has brought alpacas to the fair.

“Last year we did a lot of explaining about the difference between alpacas and llamas,” she said. “This year, the excitement is for a new baby alpaca in the barn.”

While the two species are related, alpacas are about half the size of llamas - which are more often used as pack animals or for guarding herds of sheep.

Usually, it takes about six months for a mother alpaca to wean her young. Copper and her daughter were just beginning their bonding process Friday.

“We brought some curtains, so we can close them and let her have her own space,” Heenan said.

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