Alpacas Health

Alpaca Stomach

The alpaca has one stomach with three compartments see diagram:

stomach_scanAs you can see alpacas are not really a true ruminant. In reality they have one stomach with three areas dealing with digestion in a similar manner as other ruminates but a true ruminate has separate stomachs.

It is very important to the digestion process that there is constant movement in the stomach particularly in the C3 or the fore stomach were it is critical for fermentation with out it you are in trouble and can develop a colic. Put your ear to the rib cage you should hear lots of gut sounds.

Something interesting to note about the alpaca stomach is that the fore stomach has much more movement than other true ruminants.

You will have layering of food and the movement mixes the food with stomach juices braking down the food and being absorbed and utilized.

There are many things important to this process , stomach bacteria are essential and ph levels which change in the different compartments as the food moves to the lower stomach.

What is Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus BVDV?

Cattle Health: Spotlight On Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus

Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) is a costly disease that affects cattle and other ruminants. The virus has many nasty effects, including fever, diarrhea, respiratory and reproductive disease, abortion, birth defects and death.

BVDV infections may be acute (intense, but short) or persistent–a characteristic that makes the virus particularly difficult to control. Cattle can develop persistent infections (PI) when exposed in utero within the first 125 days of gestation. Once born, they shed the virus, infecting other animals in the herd.

Alpacas can contract BVDV and in most cases can get over the virus as with most illnesses it is the immune weak alpacas that might become very ill and even die from the disease, the young, old or already weak animal.

We are most concerned with the Persistently Infected (PI) alpaca. Most alpacas born with BVDV will die with in a very short time if they make it to full term and are not aborted in utero. In a few cases the cria is born and seems normal and even grows up to become an adult but is a carrier of the virus and spreads it to others they come in contact with.

What can be done about BVDV?

This is were Bio-security comes in and why it is so important.

All alpacas new to the farm or that have been away from the farm must go into quarantine for three to four weeks.

All alpacas on the farm are tested for BVDV.

All newly purchased alpacas are blood tested as part of the conditions of sale. Even if the alpaca may pass the blood test it still needs to go into quarantine.

All alpacas coming to the farm must be tested for BVDV especially females with cria at foot come for breeding.

All cria born on our farm are tested for BVDV as a precaution.

A negative BVD test for a cria certifies that both the cria and the dam are not PI.

A healthy alpaca will eliminate the BVDV within a 2 to 3 weeks period of time.

A female needs to get only 1 negative test from any one of her crias to certify she is not PI (a test performed on her first cria can be presented as proof for herself for all her life).

f a PI cria is left in contact with other alpacas, it will cause abortions, diarrhea and births of other PI crias.  If a female PI cria was well enough to grow and reproduce herself, she would automatically give birth to PI crias

An alpaca will be declared PI only after 2 positive BVDV tests performed 3 weeks apart.

Tests for BVDV are relatively inexpensive as the blood is combined to a maximum of 15 alpacas so you are testing 15 at the cost of one test. So a herd of sixty alpacas will cost only three tests. Not a huge hardship for a bit of peace of mind.

Body Scoring

I think that one of the most important things we as breeders need to understand is body weight, that loss of weight can be early warning signs of possible health issues. In North America we have a tendency to over feed our animals because we care so much for them so I see more of a problem with over weight alpacas than underweight.

We need to have our alpacas at optimum weight for reproduction, breeding, fiber production and able to ward off illnesses. The easiest way to keep track of your alpacas condition is to record it’s body score and don’t be fooled by fleece coverage get your hands on the back bone at the withers put your thumb and index figure on either side of the bone and depending on how close or far apart your figures are is the score. Some people do a one to five score and others do a 1 to ten. One is thinnest and five is obese or using the one to ten scoring five being optimum. It is fast, easy and costs nothing.

Body Score Chart

Body Score Chart