Philip O’Conor from Atlantic Alpacas and  Tony Loveless from The Pet Chip Company discuss microchipping alpacas for ID and security

Microchips are a vital form of identification in livestock. Chipping the animals not only enables the owner to identify a particular animal, but also allows the police and local vets etc to identify an animal by referring to the various lost animal or breeder databases, and thus return the errant animal to you. Microchips are a safe and reliable way to tag your alpacas. They’re easy to implant and, once implanted, are invisible. Should your stock be stolen, you have a much better chance of getting them back. A rustler can’t see a microchip when he takes your beast, but can hardly argue the ownership if the animal is later found and scanned. Eartags are an obvious option, but these can be removed by unscrupulous people. Microchips are the safety net that gives you peace of mind. Also, if you implant a microchip in a cria, you can easily match the cria with its mum if they become separated.What chip? Which scanner?There are many animal implantable microchips on the market, and the main points to consider when choosing are ‘small is best’ and compliance with ISO 11784/5.  Tests have shown that small chips ‘migrate’ less (move less from the implantation site) than larger chips. Alpacas tend to be fairly peaceful animals and I’ve not come across any reports of microchips having moved far. However, it’s worth remembering that they may move a little, so if the chip isn’t where you expect it to be, extend the search area right down the neck and shoulders if necessary.The ISO compliance is a requirement of Defra. It ensures that any complying company’s scanner will read other complying companies’ microchips, so the market is open and can’t be controlled unfairly by one company.All the main microchip manufacturers also supply their own scanners and the Defra ISO requirements mean that they should all read each others ISO chips. However, there’s no requirement to re-chip animals that carry chips from around 2002, so there are thousands of animals that carry chips which may not comply to the new rules. The most likely ‘other’ chips you will come across are the Trovan ID-100 Unique or the Avid Encrypted chip. The latter will almost certainly be in any imported South American, American or Canadian animal.Any scanner you’re offered should read all ISO chips and a few will also read the Trovan ID-100 chip, but the American Encrypted chip can’t be read by most scanners. However, The Pet Chip Company has introduced a scanner called Detect-a-chip which will read all known animal implantable microchips.Philip O’Conor of EP Cambridge says: “We’ve used microchip scanners for many years. They’re a vital tool in our armoury for the identification of alpacas. Ear tags work well, but the microchip is the fall back we need in case the tag comes out.”  Where and how?Although there’s no set place, it’s normal to insert the microchip at the top of the neck near the left ear. Don’t place it in the ear, but in the loose folds between the ears. You will need:a helpermicrochip/smicrochip readerapplicator (implant tool)swabs and alcohol or other disinfectantpaperwork/registration formspen and paperthe desire to do it!First, decide which microchip you’re going to place in the (already caught) alpaca. Then, using a reader, make sure the chip is working. Although it’s rare that they don’t work, occasionally you will find one that doesn’t. Make sure you keep the needle as sterile as you can. Don’t touch or drop it! To insert the microchip follow the points below: 1. Pull up a fold of skin similar to when you inject subcutaneously. The area should be like a tent and you insert the chip into the void inside the tent.  2. Swab the insertion site with either surgical alcohol or iodine.  3. Slide the needle into the area which has been created, between the skin and muscle. Try not to scratch the muscle as this could set up a reaction. 4. Once the needle is in place, slip the microchip into this space and gently remove the needle, making sure the chip has been dispensed from the needle tip. 5. Spray the injection site with disinfectant and read the chip with a microchip reader to make sure you’ve inserted the correct one in the chosen alpaca.6. In the unlikely event that you make the alpaca bleed, swab it clean with fresh water and then treat with disinfectant. The bleeding will stop. Most of all, don’t panic.7. Take the bar code and number and place it on your registration sheet, making sure you have a copy for your own files. Microchips generally come with four or five barcode strips per chip, so file away those you don’t use after writing the tag number of the alpaca it corresponds with. Now, move onto the next alpaca. The first is always the hardest and, yes, they do get easier.

This article is from the May 2006 issue of Country Smallholding magazine. << To order back issues click the link to the left.

Image(s) provided by: