Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alpaca Tidbits & Fun Facts

Ø      Alpacas are 100-190 lbs as adults, 12-20 lbs when born

Ø      Gestation is 11 ½ months, usually giving birth between 10 AM – 2 PM

Ø      Alpacas are from South America, first imported into the U.S. in 1982

Ø      There are six camelids - Old World camelids are the dromedary (one-humped camel) and the Bactrian (two-humped camel). New World camelids are the llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna.

Ø      Alpacas come from South America where they live in the dry high country called the Alti Plano at elevations up to 14,000 feet.

Ø      Incan Indians crossed a guanaco and a vicuno 6,000 years ago to create the alpaca.  It is the second newest man-made mammal on earth.  The newest?  The mule.

Ø      The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States.

Ø      Alpacas have a three-chambered stomach; combined with chewing cud, this allows maximum extraction of nutrients from low-quality forages.  Food can stay in the first stomach up to 60 hours and ferment.

Ø      Alpacas will chew their food in a figure eight motion.

Ø      Alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed. The resulting offspring are called huarizo.

Ø      Alpacas are often tested for pregnancy using the "spit test".  If a female is brought near a male after being bred and she sits down, she is not pregnant.  If she spits at him, she is pregnant. She usually knows within 4 days of being bred.

Ø      Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. "Spit" is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally the projectile contains only air and a little saliva, although alpacas commonly bring up acidic stomach contents (generally a green, grassy mix) and project it onto their chosen targets. Spitting is mostly reserved for other alpacas, but an alpaca will occasionally spit at a human.

Ø      For alpacas, spitting results in what is called "sour mouth". Sour mouth is characterized by a loose-hanging lower lip and a gaping mouth. This is caused by the stomach acids and unpleasant taste of the contents as they pass out of the mouth.

Ø      Alpacas use a communal dung pile, where they do not graze. This behavior tends to limit the spread of internal parasites.  Generally, males have much tidier, and fewer dung piles than females, which tend to stand in a line and all go at once. One female approaches the dung pile and begins to urinate and/or defecate, and the rest of the herd often follows. Because of their preference for using a dung pile, some alpacas have been successfully house-trained.
Ø      Alpacas make a variety of sounds. When they are in danger, they make a high-pitched, shrieking whine. Some breeds are known to make a "wark" noise when excited. Strange dogs—and even cats—can trigger this reaction. To signal friendly or submissive behavior, alpacas "cluck," or "click" a sound possibly generated by suction on the soft palate, or possibly in the nasal cavity.

Ø      Females are "induced ovulators"; the act of mating and the presence of semen cause them to ovulate. Females usually conceive after just one breeding, but occasionally do need to be bred more than once.  No one has been successful in artificial insemination of an alpaca.

Ø      After a female gives birth, she is generally receptive to breeding again after about two weeks.

Ø      The most expensive female alpaca sold for $180,000 and the most expensive male for $675,000.

Ø      Alpacas are fiber-producing animals; they do not need to be slaughtered to reap their product, and their fiber is a renewable resource that grows yearly to be made into clothing.  Alpacas are used for their fleece, which is as soft as cashmere, warmer than wool, hypo-allergenic, almost completely waterproof.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Alpaca Protection & Guardians - Llamas, dogs and donkeys

Predator Protection

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) doesn’t track the number of alpacas and llamas that die each year, it does keep track of how many U.S. sheep and goats die and the causes of death.  The agency periodically publishes findings in a report titled Sheep and Goats Death Loss.  According to the May 6, 2005, edition, predators killed 155,000 goats during 2004, accounting for slightly more than 37% of all goats that died in the U.S. that year.  Sheep figures are just as astounding: predators killed 225,000 sheep during 2004 (also totaling 37% of total losses).  Small ruminants (sheep and goats combined) were killed mainly by coyotes (60%), dogs, mountain lions, bears, foxes, eagles, bobcats, and other species – such as wolves, ravens and black vultures.  Keeping in mind that alpacas, adults and crias alike, are the same size or smaller than most goats and sheep, you’ll agree that predation is a potentially serious problem, even in relatively populated areas, where free-roaming dog predation poses a major risk.

To protect your herd, you should:
  • Install predator-proof fences.
  • Pen llamas and alpacas (Particularly females with crias) inside very secure fencing, close to your house at night and whenever no one is home.
  • Add guardian animals to your herd dynamics.
  • Preferably, do all three.

Llamas as Guardians

In certain situations, llamas themselves make outstanding herd guardians, but only in low risk locales.  A llama (or even several llamas) can’t effectively repel aggressive packs of dogs or coyotes, much less the big predators, such as mountain lions and bears.  In high-risk situations, guardian llamas are often maimed or killed while attempting to protect their charges.  We have two llamas in with our female and weanling herds.

Donkeys as Guardians

Some farmers prefer donkey guardians.  Donkeys require no specialized training.  And, as they instinctually dislike the canine clan, most will attack dogs and coyotes tooth and hoof.  Since donkeys have keen hearing and good eyesight, dogs and coyotes rarely sneak past a donkey standing guard.

Guardian donkeys must be standard “burro” size or larger; miniature donkeys require guardians of their own.  Jennies (females) work best.  Geldings work well, too, but never keep a jack (intact male) with your llamas or alpacas, as they can be aggressive toward herd mates they dislike and have been known to kill newborn crias.  And not all donkeys are interested in bonding with another species, especially when other equines are within sight and smell.
That said, in one survey (reported in the Colorado State University publication Livestock Dogs, Llamas and Donkeys), 59% of Texas producers who use guardian donkeys rated them good or fair for deterring coyote predation and other 20% excellent or good; and 9% of the sheep and goat producers polled for the 2004 National Agriculture Statistics Serve survey successfully keep guardian donkeys, too.

Dogs as Guardians
For many thousands of years, European, Middle Eastern and Asian guard dogs of dozens of types and breeds have protected herds of goats and flocks of sheep from predation by wolves, bears, jackals, and human thieves.  Eventually, some of those breeds were brought to North America. 

According to Agriculture Statistics Service figures, nearly 32% of American sheep and goat producers use livestock guardian dogs. Because they’ve been bred to be guardians for thousands of years, when bonded with a herd from puppyhood on, livestock guardian dogs require little or no specialized training.  Once bonded with animals to be protected, a guardian dog willingly stays with them and fearlessly protects them twenty-four hours a day.  Several major livestock guardian breeds, especially Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherds, are readily available throughout North America at reasonable prices.  We have had 4 Anatolians over the years, shipping them across country as puppies to protect our herd.  We cannot say enough good things about Anatolians (also called Kangals or Akbash).

There is one major drawback: livestock guardians tend to catnap throughout the day and bark throughout much of the night, because that’s when predators are most active.  This effectively warns most predators away but sometimes causes problems with light sleepers and unsympathetic nearby neighbors.  Over 8 years, we have not had a problem with our neighbors, but be sure to keep an open relationship so that they let you know if there is a problem ahead of time.

In addition, one dog can’t effectively protect livestock from attacks by large packs of dogs or coyotes nor from predators such as mountain lions.  Because we live in a mountainous area, we opted to utilize Turkish Anatolians, as they are one of the only breeds that can athletically fight a mountain lion.  Our female, Cookie, has taken on 4 over the years.  A pair of Anatolians can take on 1,000 acres effectively.  Where heavy-duty predators are the norm, a pair or trio of dogs works best – one to herd your alpacas to safety while the others deal with the invaders themselves.

A word to prospective purchasers:  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  Read. Visit other farms.  Buy from responsible livestock guardian dog breeders.  Show dogs have been selected for beauty and gait, not guardian ability.  Stick with proven adults or puppies from working farms.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Alpaca Medicines & Dewormers

Here is a general guide for alpaca medications and dewormers:

Active IngredientStrengthDespenseDosageDurationTreats
Albon SuspensionSulfadimethoxine12.5% (125 mg / mL)Oral DrenchDay 1: 25 mg / lb.   Days 2-5: 12.5 mg / lb.5 days (For extreme cases, do another 5 days after a 5 day break)Coccidia
BaycoxToltrazuril50 mg / mLOral20 mg/kg1 DayCoccidia,  E. Mac (Eimeria Macusaniensis)
CoridAmprolium96 mg / mLOral10 mg / 2.2 lbs.5 DaysCoccidia
Cydectin Oral Sheep DrenchMoxidectin.1% (1 mg / mL)             or (5 mg / mL)Oral Drench1 mL / 11 lbs.                    (1 mL / 22lbs.)1 DayStrongyles (including Haemoncus)
DectomaxDoramectin10 mg / mLSQ (Subcutaneous)1 cc / 70 lbs.3-5 Days  (Prevention - monthly)Strongyles (including Haemoncus)
DroncitPraziquantel50 mg/tabletOral1.5 mg / lb.1 Day               Tapeworm (Whipworm and Nematodirus give 3 days.) (Tapeworm repeat in 10 days.)
Equimax PasteIvermectin and Praziquantel1.87% and 14.03%OralDial 2 times the body weight1 DayStrongyles, Tapeworms
Ivermectin1%SQ (Subcutaneous)1 cc / 70 lbs.Monthly / Quarterly/ Annually Meningeal protection
LevamisoleLevamisole Hydrochloride13.65% (136.5 mg/mL)Oral2 mL / 100 lbs.1 DayStrongyles
MarquisPonazuril150 mg / gOral20 mg/kg3 DaysE. Mac (Eimeria Macusaniensis)
PanacureFenbendazole100 mg / gOral20 mg / kg                       or 40 mg / kg1 Day (Strongyles)                   or 3-5 daysStrongyles (Nematodirus & Tapeworm - 2 x BW [20 mg/kg]. Whipworm-  4 x BW [40mg/kg].) (Whipworm and Nematodirus give 3-5 consecutive days.) 
Paravac(Herbs)Top Dress on Grain2 mL / 100 lbs.14 DaysCoccidia,  E. Mac (Eimeria Macusaniensis)
Quest Plus Gel Moxidectin / Praziquantel20 mg / mL                and 125 mg / mLOralDial body weight to nearest 50 lbs.1 DayStrongyles, Tapeworms
Safe-Guard Paste              (Not very effective in the SE)Fenbendazole10% (100 mg / g)Oral20 mg / kg                       or 40 mg / kg1 Day (Strongyles)                   or 3-5 daysStrongyles (Nematodirus & Tapeworm - 2 x BW [20 mg/kg]. Whipworm-  4 x BW [40mg/kg].) (Whipworm and Nematodirus give 3-5 consecutive days.) 
Safe-Guard SuspensionFenbendazole10% (100 mg /mL)Oral10 mL / 110 lbs.3- 5 DaysStrongyles
SMZ/TMP         (Sulfa Trim)Sulfamethoxazole / Trimethoprim 960 mg / tabletOral, BID1 Tablet / 50 lbs.Twice a Day for 5 DaysCoccidia (More gentle on the Cria/Juvi gut)
SMZ/TMP Suspension         (Sulfa Trim)Sulfamethoxazole / Trimethoprim 240 mg / mLOral, BID1 cc / 5 lbs.Twice a Day for 5 DaysCoccidia (super for crias)
SynanthicOxfendazole22% (220 mg/mL)         ( 9.06% 90.6 mg/mL)Oral4 mL / 100 lbs.          (8.5 mL / 100 lbs.)1-3 DaysLungworms,  Barberpole worms, Hookworms, Tapeworms (Including Haemoncus and Strongyles)
ValbazenAlbendazole113.6 mg/mLOral6 mL / 100 lbs.1-3 DaysStrongyles, Tapeworms (Whipworms and Nematodirus give 3 days.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cria Milk Supplementation

Cria Milk Supplementation

Most crias require 8-10% of its body weight for maintenance and another 5-8% for growth and gain.  For a 15-pound cria, 10% of its body weight = 1.5 pounds.  If 8 pounds equals 1 gallon, then 1 pint equals 1 pound and there is 16 ounces per pint.  Thus, 1.5 pounds (10%) equals 1.5 pints equals 16 ounce per pint (16 + 8 = 24 ounces) for maintenance.   This is the total sum need for daily maintenance per the alpaca’s body weight.  Thus, the initial formula is 1.6 oz of milk x body weight. Divide this number by equal feedings (4-5) per day for a healthy cria or every 2-3 hours (2 to 3 ounces) in a smaller premature cria. 

Many crias will do little more than hold their own weight at this level and another 5% may be necessary for satisfactory gain.  All formula additions should be gradual.  For example, increase 1% every 3 days in divided doses on the way to 5% above maintenance. That could mean another 20 ounces divided into 4 to 6 feedings.  Hopefully, night feedings (after 10 pm and before 6 am) can be eliminated after 7 to 10 days.  This should be satisfactory since crias do not normally nurse at night.  The cria should be weighed every 48 hours at the same time each day and the weight recorded. Babies should gaid ¼ to ½ lb per day.   Weighing should be done for at least 2 weeks and then two times weekly thereafter.  Start offering a cria grower ration by 2 to 3 weeks of age along with good, green, leafy grass or alfalfa leaves (no stems).  The goal is to be off of substitute milk by 8 weeks of age.  A typical formula and schedule for an 18-pound cria might be 32 to 36 ounces divided into 5 to 6 feedings the first week.  One feeding may be cut every 7 to 10 days, while increasing total volume until weaning at 8 weeks.  While feeding is going on, the cria should be left with other alpacas and, ideally, crias of its own age group for bonding.  Hopefully, a granny alpaca will be available where the cria can steal a little extra nutrition.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Quarantine - Is it Necessary?

Quarantine is defined as voluntary or compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease.  Is quarantine necessary in the alpaca industry?  Yes, in my opinion.  But we need to understand what conditions quarantine and bio-security protect against.  It is my opinion that quarantine definitely prevents the spread and contamination of internal and external parasites such as worms, coccidian, lice mange and ringworm. Common sense tells us that direct contact with sick animals or people or sharing eating or drinking utensils will increase the likelihood of transmission and infection with certain infectious bacterial pathogens.  Quarantine may or may not be effective in controlling viral spread.  It appears to me that some breeders may not understand possible modes of transmission of some parasites and infectious agents.

What are we trying to prevent and what are the sources of contamination?  We can get environmental contamination from feces, bedding, water, feed, rodents, birds, insects, deer and dogs as well as other animals.  Visitors, new her additions, males, females or crias coming in or out for breeding, as well as alpacas returning from shows or sales are all possible sources of contamination. 

What conditions do alpacas contact that we are trying to quarantine?  Rabies can be spread by any alpaca through saliva.  Leptospirosis is spread by deer, cattle, foxes, raccoon, rats, opossums, and drainage. Salmonella and Staph infections are spread by birds, mammals, and reptiles while crypto and giardia can be spread by any species.  Insects like deer ticks can spread lyme disease.  Pasture mites are the intermediate host for tapeworms.  Mosquitoes spread West Nile Virus from birds.  Mosquitoes, biting flies and ticks can transmit Mycoplasma (EPE). Fecal contamination results in the spread of intestinal bacteria like salmonella and E.coli.  Viruses such as BVD, rot virus, and corona virus are spread through fecal pathways as well as other vectors.  Again, protozoa, such as coccidian, giardia and cryptospirosis as well as all intestinal parasites are spread through fecal contamination.

Depending on the above issue that you hope to prevent or control, how is your quarantine set up?  How long do you quarantine? What do you check the alpacas for that are quarantined and how often? Where is your quarantine area located in relation to your non-quarantined animals?  Under what circumstances do you use your quarantined area?  Do you go from your quarantine area to your alpacas with the same shoes and clothes after touching the quarantine animals and their utensils? Do you go through a foot bath?  Do you wear gloves?  Do you use quarantine after a show or do they go back to the herd?  There are questions to consider when determining what you expect to accomplish by quarantine.

I feel that quarantine mainly helps to accomplish parasite control, which is certainly major as most of our drugs that kill worms or coccidian are only partially effective, at best.  If checking for worm eggs or small Emeria sp. coccidia, I would recommend 2 negative fecal checks.  Consider one exam on arrival and another at day 14.  If we find E. mac coccidian where the incubation period is 40-43 days, then I recommend a fecal every 10 days through 45 days. They could result in at least a 6-week or longer quarantine.  That is why many breeding farms insist on 2 negative fecals prior to accepting females for breeding.

Quarantine location is extremely important.  If often witness a quarantine area just across the driveway from the other alpacas.  Could flies and mosquitoes transmit bacteria or viruses across this distance?  Can the wind and dust transmit bacteria and viruses this distance?  The swine industry has proven that the wind can spread active virus particles up to 20 miles.  What about sneezing, coughing and the airborne particles that land in the water, grass or are inhales?  Do you, dogs or other vectors walk across the drive from on pen to the next?  I certainly do not know all of the vectors for bacterial or viral disease transmission, but I realize that it is difficult to build a barrier to prevent airborne transmission.  Certainly the prevention of none-to-nose contact is important, and quarantine accomplishes that.

Most bacterial and viral conditions in alpacas are contracted any time a large number of alpacas are commingled in the same area such as shows, sales, university clinics, etc.  It is my opinion that stress, along with unflushed water systems at some show arenas, and ventilation fans are factors in the spread of certain pathogens responsible for some diarrheas as well as some respiratory conditions. Sometimes the bedding walked on at shows may be the source of alpacas and humans taking pathogens back home to apparently healthy animals that have little immunity or protection.  It is my belief that many breeders who have been at an alpaca show all weekend and probably touched many animals arrive home tired, likely unload in their quarantine area, and walk straight through to check their “at-home animals” with the same clothes and shoes they wore at the show or sale.  While they may not have touched the “at-home alpacas,” it would not be uncommon to feed hay and walk in front of a fan which could disseminate airborne pathogens from the show or sale off the caretaker’s clothing or shoes.

My point is that we need to be aware of possible modes of parasite and disease transmission.  Know your animals and observe their normal and abnormal behavior.  Alpacas are extremely stoic and are often very sick before they show clinical signs.  If there is question, take their temperature, take their heart beat, and observe their respiration.  It is not uncommon for a fecal flotation that was negative prior to stress of transport or a show to be very positive 5 days after stress.  It can be important with some vague sicknesses (colds, snots, diarrheas) to determine if the problem is viral, bacterial, parasitic, or a combination of all.  WE can usually treat an alpaca with a parasite or bacterial issue but only support an animal with a virus.  The veterinarian can often pull blood for a chemistry panel and CBC (complete blood count) as well as a fecal flotation and get an indication if the issue is bacterial, viral, or parasitic before the condition affects the whole herd.

Sickness during and after alpaca shows is common.  It has been my observation for years that diarrhea surfaces during the 2 to 5 days after many shows.  Everyone has an opinion of a potential cause.  When veterinarians do not know the infectious agent, it is often called a virus.  Well, it could be rota virus, corona virus, adenovirus or possibly many other viruses.  The true cause is often never diagnosed and blamed on feed.  Do you research and focus on the many potential causes to find the source of the problem.