Alpacas make great additions to any lifestyle farm. As well as producing a luxurious fleece, they make great pets. As with all farm animals, it is important to seek preventative and ongoing care for your alpaca.
Alpacas are infected by both internal and external parasites
Lice and mange affect alpacas. They can be difficult to detect and control depending on the mite. There are no licensed products or doses for treating external parasites in alpacas. Some cattle and sheep doses can be used. Check with Franklin Vets for a recommendation.
Alpacas get the same types of worms as sheep. These include round worm, whip worms, tape worms and liver flukes.
Barber’s pole (Haemonchus contortus) is a potentially harmful roundworm, blood sucking parasite that thrives in moist humid conditions. An alpaca will present with Anaemia due to blood loss.
Barber’s Pole can be a serious problem with alpacas, often causing death. Oral and injectable products only are recommended. Pour-on drenches have not yet been successfully designed for use on alpaca.
Ryegrass staggers occur when animals grazing perennial ryegrass eat large amounts of a toxin produced by ryegrass endophyte, a fungus that grows inside the plant. It occurs in sheep, cattle, deer and horses and the signs are usually seen when animals are disturbed and forced to move. Alpacas are particularly sensitive to this neurological disease.
- Head shaking or tremoring
- Stiffness or high stepping gits
- Falling over.
After a while the animal recovers. Deaths tend to be accidental such as drowning after a fall into water or an injury after being caught in fences.
There is no 100% effective treatment other than to provide plenty of uncontaminated feed and shifting them to a safe environment. This is often hard in a dry summer when the grass is short but grass silage, hay or alpaca nuts will be ideal.
Things that may help alpaca to cope with or recover from a bout of ryegrass staggers include B vitamins, and “Summer Tonic.”
Alpacas are more susceptible to deficiencies of Vitamin D than other grazing animals in New Zealand. Deficiency can be due to inadequate precursor uptake when grazing, or inability to convert precursors due to underlying liver or kidney disease.
The classic signs are abnormally crooked front legs in young alpacas. Other signs to look out for are:
- Sore limbs
- Hunched stance
- Reluctance to stand or move.
Prevention is better than cure. Supplement young, growing animals up to two years of age with Hieject. Cria injections should start at 8 weeks, with a regime prescribed by your veterinarian until two years old.
Cria Congenital Defects
Congenital refers to something present at birth. Because of the small gene pool these “abnormalities present at birth” tend to show up more regularly than in other commonly farmed species. They include heart defects, facial deformities, leg deformities and umbilical hernia. The vast majority of congenital abnormalities are genetic in origin. We do not recommend breeding from these animals if they do survive.
Heart defects are common. Often, affected cria are slow on their feet, grow slowly and are more susceptible to changes in environmental temperatures. They may live for several weeks to months in good conditions, however, stress of any sort will often result in heart failure.