So, you have a couple of alpacas on your lifestyle block. You sit down and think to yourself, I don’t know a thing about these cute creatures. All I know is that they like grass and they eat hay when I toss it over the fence. We’re here to help! This article will provide some information on the basic care and husbandry of alpacas.
Look through the welfare code. Camelids are very social animals and will be a lot happier in a group. They must always have at least one companion animal. To avoid severe behavioural issues later in life, Crias (baby alpacas) must be raised in the company of other camelids and human social interaction must be minimised.
Alpacas are highly evolved to consume high fibre feeds, and they ruminate (chew their cud) in order to process it. Their diet must be at least 20% fibre and they generally don’t require a high quality supplementary feed, they can get by on a short lower quality pasture and some hay. Supplementation with feed, such as alpaca pellets, becomes more important during pregnancy when energy and protein demands increase, if an animal is in poor condition and needs to gain weight or if pasture supply is limited. Remember fresh water must always be provided.
Common health issues
This article outlines the common issues we see. If you have questions or notice your alpaca is not itself, please call your nearest Anexa Vet clinic.
- Worm burden / Barbers pole: Faecal samples should be taken every four to six weeks after weaning to monitor worm levels. If worm eggs are seen in these samples, your Vet will recommend an appropriate drench. High worm burdens can be very detrimental to your alpaca’s health, and if left untreated, it can lead to death. We recommend drenching all alpacas in December/January with an appropriate drench to prevent barbers pole. This worm feeds on blood and is a killer.
- Facial eczema: is generally seen between the months of January to May, when the soil temperature increases and moisture is present. Facial eczema is caused by a fungus that lives in the pasture. When ingested by your alpaca, spores are released which damages their liver. Signs such as lethargy, swollen face and ears, skin peeling off and the animal trying to hide from the sun may be noticed. Alpacas are more sensitive to facial eczema when to compared to other species, meaning this disease often results in death. Ring us to discuss ways of preventing this from occurring in the summer.
- Lameness: Footrot is very common this time of year due to the wet muddy paddocks. The best way of preventing this is to provide dry areas for your alpaca so that the feet can dry out. If you notice your alpaca is becoming lame, treatment may be required so please give us a call.
- Rickets: Alpacas are susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency. This leads to a variety of signs including abnormal leg angles in Crias, or reluctance to stand due to pain. This can be prevented with yearly to twice yearling injections with Hideject.
- Clostridial diseases: Come in and ask us about the different clostridial diseases. Most of them are fatal. Please vaccinate your alpaca with 5in1 or 6in1.
Vet procedures we offer include drenching, vaccinating, foot trimming, castration, facial eczema prevention and, we can obviously come out to treat your sick alpaca. Keep in touch with us, we’re here to work with you to keep your camelid friends happy and healthy.