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Health & Maintenance

Regular health & maintenance checks need to be done.

 

They include: 

5 in 1 Vaccinations

AD & E Vaccinations

Toe nail trimming

Weights and Body Scores

Drench (if necessary)

 

Vaccinations:

 All drug or vitamin applications should be checked with your veterinarian.

 

5 in 1

Cria require an initial 2 doses of  5 in 1  4 weeks apart

First dose  = 6 weeks of age

Second dose  = 10 wks of age (or 4 wks after first)

All alpacas require 2 doses per year – eg. December & June.

 

AD&E

Cria born between May & September should receive their first dose at 4 wks

(And then continue with the growing animal doses thereafter)

Growing animals require doses in May, July and September.

Pregnant or Lactating females require doses in May/June and then 2-3 mths later

Other Adult animals require 1 dose in May/June

 

Some animals can be susceptible to Rickets and therefore may require doses other than the aforementioned – always seek your veterinarian’s advice.

 

Drench - As alpacas do not tend to graze their dung piles, they rarely require drenching.  If your alpacas do have a worm count or are running with other livestock you can use the following.

 

Cydectin – has been used safely with alpacas.

 

Ivomec – has been used safely with alpacas and is also successful in treating ear mite.

 

Dectomax – has been used safely with alpacas.

 

Checks should be made with agricultural departments in your area to check for worm drench resistance,. 

 

Other vaccines that are useful to have on hand.

Vitamin B1 - Assists if you get Rye Grass Staggers (calming agent)

Vitamin C - Is believed to be of assistance with Snake bite

Penicillin - Used to treat infections.

 

 

Toe Nail Trimming:

What to use:

Sharp garden secateurs or similar – short straight blade

 

How: 

Toe nails should be trimmed flat to the bottom of the foot & level with the soft pad

Bleeding will occur if nails are trimmed too short

Bleeding should stop in a short time.

 

Weights and Body Scores:          

It is very important to keep track of body condition on both cria and adult alpacas.

Cria can be weighed simply using bathroom scales.  Weigh yourself and then weigh yourself holding the cria – the difference = the crias weight.

Adults are not as easy, large animals scales can be purchased but can prove to be costly.  The bodyscore method has been developed to assist.

Keep track of bodyscores and weights as this will help to pick up on illness and extra feed requirements.

 

Eartags:

Brass eartags with IAR numbers and applicators are available from AAA National Office.

Female eartags - Eartag is placed in the right ear.

Male eartags - Eartag is placed in the left ear.

 

The lower edge of the ear towards the base is where the eartag is placed.  Two lines of cartelege  can be felt in the ear and the eartag needs to be placed between the two.

Damage to this cartelege, will result in a permanent floppy ear.

 

Feed & Nutrition:

What can I feed ?

Grass Hay 

Lucerne Hay

Oaten Hay

Horse Muesli

Chaff – Oaten 

Chaff – Lucerne

Bran 

Alpaca Pellets 

Lupins (crushed/whole) 

Oats

Barley

 

When should I feed?

Dependent on farm or herd size – feeding requirements will vary.

Grass hay - Winter & Spring months when feed is green

Lucerne hay - Summer & Autumn months when feed is dry

 

Oaten hay - Good bulking food for thinner animals or feeding mums

Grain mix  - A nice treat to keep them keen & interested

Thinner mums feeding cria

 

Matings

A female alpaca does not have a season or cycle as known in other livestock.  Once they reach sexual maturity they are either receptive or non receptive.  Alpacas are induced ovulators, which means that the act of copulation triggers ovulation.

Ovulation is believed to be triggered by both the penile penetration and the ‘orgling’.  Ovulation will usually occur 24-48 hours post mating and can usually be easily picked up in a spit off at 7 days.  Once the female has ovulated she will be non receptive from days 3 – 10 and if not pregnant receptive again around 12-14 days.

A female alpaca is usually sexually mature between the age of 12-18 months and ready for mating, some larger well grown girls have been known to mature earlier (6 mths).

A male alpaca has a fibro elastic penis, which means that at birth it is attached to the sheath, and can take up to three years to become detached.  Some males detach earlier than others, some animals have been known to be fully capable by 7 mths of age (hence importance of keeping weanling boys and girls separated.)

During the mating process, the alpaca males penis passes through the cervix and into the uterus,  the sperm is placed directly into the uterus.  The hooked tip of the penis scrapes the wall of the uterus, hence some matings will produce a small amount of blood stained discharge.  Alpacas are trickle ejaculators, therefore the shortest of matings, could end up in a pregnancy.

A male alpaca is usually sexually mature at the age of 2 years and ready for work.  (Male alpacas require Veterinary Certification & DNA testing before they commence work as a stud male)

 

From the time of first mating a spit off routine needs to be set.

Step 1 - Initial mating

Step 2 - 14 days – spit female off with male (spitting = pregnant, sitting = receptive) A receptive female would be remated and then repeat spit off in 14 days

Step 3 - Repeat 14 day spit offs until 60+ days (approx. 5 fortnightly spit offs)

Step 4 - Ultrasound or Doppler Scan to confirm pregnancy. (positive – this is when pmt would be made to stud service sire)

Step 5 - Continue to spit off monthly until approx. 200 days approx. 5 mthly spit offs)

Step 6 - Move females to maternity paddock at approx. 320 days for closer observation.

 

After Birthing:

Step 1 - Would usually take place at approximately 14-21 days post partum.

Preparing for a birth

 

What to do before the birth:

  • Prepare a maternity paddock, close to the house so that animals can be easily observed with minimal interference. Move your pregnant girls into this maternity paddock in plenty of time for them to adjust to their new surroundings.
  • Remove previous cria from mothers. The mothers first milk (colostrum) has vital antibodies for the newborn cria, previous cria may drink this if still with their mothers. Males should also be well removed from the females.
  • Ensure that your cria care kit is fully stocked and in good working order.
  • Watch & Wait.
  • What to expect as normal:
  • The birthing process can be broken up into 3 stages.
  • Typical signs of stage 1 are frequent trips to the dung pile, restlessness, 
  • moving away from other animals, rolling, rubbing neck along the ground, 
  • repeated sitting and standing, sitting on one hip. The normal duration of this
  • first stage is approx. 6 hours.
  • Stage 2 is when the foetus enters into the birth canal, and delivery usually 
  • occurs within about 30 minutes. A normal delivery will present head & front 
  • feet first; the feet usually rupture the membranes. If the head is visible and membranes not ruptured tear the membrane with your fingers and delivery will proceed. Short rest phases are also normal, encourage standing every 10 minutes to help to keep the process moving. The cria will hang from the dam for up to 20 minutes, this is important to ensure that the lungs are free from mucous and fluid.
  • Stage 3 is the expulsion of the placenta, this usually takes places about 45 minutes after the birth of the cria. Some dams do not acknowledge their cria until the placenta is passed; others will mother their cria immediately. Humming & clucking by both mother and cria is very normal, alpaca do not lick their cria, the cria will wriggle and remove the membranes this way.

 

When to call the vet:

Common sense is the key, if you’re not sure or if you think its not quite normal – Call the vet.

If in doubt – get it checked out.

OR if any of the following occur, it is possibly time to call the vet.

* Stage one goes beyond 6 hours * Stage two goes beyond 30 minutes
* The cria is obviously stuck or malpresented * Afterbirth is retained beyond 6 hours or only partially delivered

‘Alpaca Breeders Birthing Handbook’ available for purchase from AAA.

NB: This article is written from personal experiences and references (see page 2). It is in no way to be taken as gospel and every alpaca birth is individual and may require varied treatment. Please do not hesitate to call your vet.

 

Shearing:

Alpacas require shearing annually – usually between October and December.

Fleeces should be skirted and sorted and then sent to AAFL for processing.

Shed Preparation: Ensure shed is clear of all possible contaminants

(straw, hay band, string and any foreign objects)

  • Have fleece bags & labels organized and easily accessible
  • Organise staff jobs, brooms and animals.

 

Animal Preparation:

If bad weather, have animals shedded overnight to ensure dry fleeces

Animals can not be shorn wet.  Fleeces cannot be bagged wet.

  • Flick off excess vegetable matter and dust.
  • Sort animals into age & colour groups
  • Shear animals starting from youngest to oldest in colours light to dark.

 

Shed hands & brief job descriptions:

Shearer: Shears animals – some shearers will also vaccinate & do nails and teeth.

Handlers:  Keep animals up to Shearer & drop and tie animals to floor.

Rouseabout:  Pre-skirt fleece on the floor as it is shorn.  Sort pieces & rubbish into bags.

Sorter: Skirt fleeces on table before bagging & weighing.

Weigh all fleeces & pieces and collect data.

 

Medic:

Ensures all animals are vaccinated and nails trimmed before release  (If Shearer does not do it)

 

Preparing a Show Fleece.

Begins at shearing time:

 Make sure fleece is clean – free from vm and as much dust as possible

Use a badminton racket or piece of dowel to clean

Advise your shearer that this fleece will be one of your show fleeces and request him to take a little more time and care with it.

Make sure that your shearing floor is very clean and free from contaminants.

Once shearing starts take extra care in making sure that sub standard fibre is kept well clear of your saddle fleece. If your shearer allows you the time, sweep the floor again before the saddle comes off.

 

Skirting:

Skirting of your fleece takes time.  Do not rush skirting on your show fleeces and do not do them when you are tired.  If you are able it is a good idea to leave your fleece   on the skirting table and return to it again the next day or in a couple of days.

Shake it - Take out ALL short fibres, ALL coarser fibres, and ALL varied fibres.

If you leave these items in your show fleece, yes you will receive a higher fleece weight score but you WILL be penalized somewhere else and more often than not, judges now are    penalizing hard for unskirted fleeces.  Weight is NOT everything.

 

I have seen two ways with which you can roll your show fleece.

  • Lay your fleece on the table so that the tip is facing upwards. Fold your fleece in half so that the edges are together and then roll the fleece and bag.
  • Lay your fleece on the table so that the tip is facing upwards.  Fold the fleece so that the edges meet each other in the centre of the fleece, Fold each end to the centre and bag.

 

Treat your show fleeces with care.

After each show, re-skirt your fleece.  Judges will pull out sections of your fleece and you will often find these in the corner of your fleece box.