Alpacas are rapidly increasing in popularity with an estimated 45,000 now living in the UK. As a profession, vets’ understanding of these animals has increased hugely in recent years thanks to ongoing research and experience. Historically they would often have been treated as oddly shaped sheep! However these days we have the knowledge and ability to diagnose and treat them as the unique and interesting animals they are.
Here at the Minster Veterinary Centre we have been gaining experience and attending valuable CPD training courses over several years to provide what we think is a very good local service.
Good husbandry is key to the health and well being of any livestock and our vets are always keen to meet with new or existing clients to discuss how best to achieve this. This is one of the most rewarding parts of our job as it helps us get to know you and your herd and ensure they are getting the best possible care throughout the year. A few of the most crucial aspects of this are discussed below, however health planning is never “one size fits all” so please give us a call to chat about the best approach for your herd.
Alpacas are at risk from a group of diseases known as clostridial disease. The bacteria and their spores are ever present on pasture with the ability to survive dormant in the environment for many years. When activated the bacteria multiply quickly, producing toxins which can be rapidly fatal when ingested. Fortunately we are able to vaccinate to protect against clostridial disease. We recommend using one of the 10 strain vaccines and boosting annually following the initial course of two injections. Experienced alpaca owners will often inject their own animals but we are always happy to come out if preferred and it can be a good opportunity for a general check over and catch up.
Alpacas evolved at altitude in the mountains of South America. They are used to high levels of vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. As such they can be prone to suffering from vitamin D deficiency in the often gloomy climate of the UK. Vitamin D supplementation is available in several forms and we recommend using the injectable version at least a couple of times over winter, especially in crias who are particularly at risk.
Just as with antibiotics, there is an increasing problem with resistance to our current wormers. It is crucial that we are responsible in our use of them and it is no longer acceptable to blanket treat alpacas with wormer on the assumption they might need it. Instead we recommend checking a faecal sample for evidence of a worm burden and only treating if needed. This means an appropriate and effective wormer can be prescribed and is often more economical as money is not wasted on unnecessary medication. All faecal tests are run in our in house lab by our resident lab technician. All we need is a fresh sample from a selection of your alpacas, ideally labelled in individual pots.
Tuberculosis is a huge issue in the cattle industry in the UK and is increasingly impacting the alpaca population. While TB testing is not currently compulsory for alpaca herds, it is advisable in certain situations, for example when buying in new animals. If infected, alpacas can be become unwell quite rapidly and spread the disease to others around them. This can not only be devastating to a herd but can also have an impact on neighbouring wildlife and livestock.
TB testing for camelids is done by a blood test and can be carried out by our vets. Please give us as much notice as possible when booking these as permission to test must be gained from APHA and this can take some time!
As mentioned before, every herd is different and all of these aspects should be tailored to your individual situation. Please do give us a call at our Southwell Branch for a more detailed discussion on keeping your alpacas as fit and healthy as possible. We would love to hear from you!